The Kabbalah Approach to Mental Health

Kabbalah and Psychology: Anxiety Relief – The Kabbalah Approach to Mental Health – Part 22 – Positive Thinking: Sweetening within Separation

After coming down from meditative prayer, the person may now actively ignore his anxieties by replacing his evil thoughts with positive ones. Particularly efficacious in this regard, of course, is the contemplation of ideas from the Torah, especially those that engender feelings of holiness, purity, optimism, and happiness. Thus no room will be left in the mind for evil, confusing thoughts.

We may not be able to stop thinking, but we are at liberty to choose about what we think. The power of positive thinking to bring about good and negative thinking to bring about bad has been documented repeatedly. There is no reason not to utilize this potent tool to improve the quality of one's life in general and mental well-being in particular.

Left to its own devices, the mind will by default tend to fill itself with negative thoughts that spring from its unrectified subconscious. It is therefore necessary to consciously occupy the mind with positive, wholesome thoughts. The best and most potent source of such thoughts and attitudes is the Torah itself, as it is written (Psalms 19:9.): "The precepts of G-d are upright, gladdening the heart."

Diverting the mind from the problem by immersing it in the study of the Torah may seem like a form of escapism, since the problem remains unsolved and the person is only postponing having to deal with it. The efficacy of this technique, however, lies in the fact that the Torah connects the person studying it with G-d, the giver of the Torah. This grants him the spiritual power necessary to face his problem optimistically.

A person may react to any given situation optimistically or pessimistically. The objective facts of the problem are the same, but the way he responds to them are his choice. The Torah tells us (Deuteronomy 30: 19): "I have placed before you life and death, blessing and curse…. Therefore, choose life!" Choose to be optimistic.

The classic illustration of this is the following story in the Talmud, Berachot 60b. told of Rabbi Akiva, the pillar of the oral Torah:

Rabbi Akiva was once traveling, and he came to a certain town. He looked for a place to stay, but was refused everywhere. He said, "Whatever G-d does is for the good," and spent the night in the open field. He had with him a rooster to wake him up, a donkey, and a lamp. The wind blew out the lamp; a weasel came and ate the rooster; a lion came and ate the donkey. He said again, "Whatever G-d does is for the good." That same night a band of robbers came and carried away the inhabitants of the town; he, however, was spared. Had the lamp not been blown out, the robbers would have seen it and gone after him, too. Similarly, had they heard the rooster or the donkey, they would have gone after him. He said " Did I not tell you that whatever G-d does is for the good?"

Rabbi Akiva's ability to envision all that happened to him optimistically derived ultimately from his devoted immersion in the study of the Torah. And indeed, the numerical value of Rabbi Akiva's statement, whatever G-d does is for the good, is identical in Hebrew to that of the word Torah.

The sub-phase of sweetening within separation is when the person actively fills the empty void of his mind with positive thoughts of Torah and/or optimism.



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