How to Use Chassidus to Change your Negative Mindset for the Good
MyLife Essay Contest 2018
Unfortunately, we all know at least one person who is severely depressed in our lives. Whether it be your classmate, neighbor, best friend, or maybe it’s even you. When one is depressed and going through a hard time they get stuck in this deep but shallow mindset of self-hate and doubt. This makes one have an extremely hard time seeing the bright side of life, and having the will to live it. Chassidus teaches us the best way to heal ourselves when we our going through a difficult time .
When dealing with our negative thoughts, many people will go to therapy in hopes of getting back to a stable place. When therapy fails, some resort to trying a prescribed drug given by a doctor in hopes to change the chemical reactions in the brain. But why go through all of this when the answer to your problems is right in front of you?
It has been proven over and over again that by just thinking about something, you can cause your brain to activate neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that are constantly changing the patterns in your brain to react differently to different situations in your life.
So it’s simple! If we want to change our mindset for good, we need to start at the power center of it all – the brain itself to produce long lasting change.
The Alter Rebbe discusses in Tanya the famous concept of “moach shalit al halev”, means literally “the mind rules over the heart.” Our mind has the ability to change our thoughts and feelings from negative ones to positive ones and has complete has the power to overrule any emotions we currently are feeling.
The brain has the power not only to control the heart and to determine what feelings and desires will be applied in life and which will be rejected and repressed, but also has the power to create certain feelings and desires and completely eliminate other emotions and desires. For example, a person wants very, very much to smoke a cigarette. The mind can first prevent a person from fulfilling his will – despite his intense desire. But it can also completely eliminate the craving for smoking and even turn it into a cigarette disgust. And this by looking closely. A person who observes properly (as Hasidism teaches) the damage caused by smoking, can turn his feelings toward smoking into a desire for distaste. Because the brain has the power to control the heart completely.
We can use this method of “mind over heart” to explain how one can get to this place of the mind controlling the heart and apply it to everyday life.
Through the teachings of Chassidus we learn that in order to control our negative feelings, we first need to let our minds control us. Since we now know when one thinks sad thoughts they become sad. Furthermore, when one thinks happy thoughts they will so too become happy. According to the Tanya Perek יא the brain symbolizes the mind, that is, its intellect, and the heart symbolizes the dimensions of man.
With this information we can apply this concept to our daily lives. In order to see change, we must take the steps to make change occur. We can use the example of a girl who dislikes to eat healthy, but her doctor said she needs nutrients food in fruits and vegetables. She can go about this and be upset about every meal she has or she can take the route Chassidus says to take.
That instead of being upset about the situation she chooses to tell herself everyday that she loves eating healthy and she feels good. Even though that might not be true in the beginning and she is lying to herself, eventually she will come to enjoy eating healthy.
We can apply this concept into almost every situation that we face. So if you’re feeling sad and depressed with almost no hope for the future, you too can try to think the most positive that you’re capable of during that moment and let that positivity come into your life consistently until you see the progress you’ve made.
There is a famous story told of Rabbi Moshe Meizlish. During the Napoleonic War, the Alter Rebbe sent R. Moshe to spy on for the Russians. Because he was fluent in many languages, French officials requested his help and he was able to get access to very important information. But he got too close and Napolean accused him of being a spy and he said he wasn’t. When a person is afraid, usually their adrenaline causes their heart to race very fast. But Reb Moshe was so much in control of his thoughts and feelings and actions that he was even able to control the rate of his heartbeat.
We have to remember that when we focus on positive thoughts it leads to positive results. The Chovos HaLevavos states “the essence of bitochon is the serenity of the person who trusts”. When one puts trust in Hashem’s hands, we are knowingly believing that Hashem will take care of us and always has a plan; no matter how much your struggling, Hashem will be there. By having the “bitachon” (trust) that Hashem will save you from whatever struggle you may have ,you are accomplishing the ultimate and the most important step in changing your mindset forever.