Maintaining a Buoyant Disposition
MyLife Essay Contest 2018
The mandates of the L ‑ rd are upright, rejoicing the heart, (Tehillim 19:9)
In recent years, the “power of positive thinking” has gained a lot of popularity. Research has found that there are many, very real health benefits linked to optimistic attitudes. Chassidus displays how maintaining a cheerful disposition can alter physical reality. If two people are wrestling with each other, the stronger will overpower the weak. But, if the stronger person lacks vitality, he will lose.(1) Chassidus explains “Three T’s” which provides clear guidelines and insights that can help reach the goal of having a good spirit.
- Trust in something higher than you
- Think realistically while eliminating negativity
- Transmit positive thoughts
1)Trust in something higher than you.
The first step in the direction of an optimistic life, begins with placing your trust in the infinite G-d who is everlasting. Since He is the G-d will all abilities, He has the power to make your situation however He finds fit which is always for the good. When someone is pessimistic, it essentially derives from a certain degree of lack of trust in Hashem. The Alter Rebbe explains(2) that Hashem created the world because He desired to have a dwelling place in the lower realms. The Tanya explains, that not only did Hashem create the world, but He is actually recreating the entire world every single second in contrast to a craftsman who creates his pottery and is able to step away from it afterwards. If Hashem is so capable of directing all the infinitesimal details of the world, then He is certainly able to and will help you in your situation. On a practical note, every single second that Hashem is recreating the world, He is virtually making a conscious decision to have you in this world, at this very moment in time, and in the situation in which you find yourself. This idea in Chassidus is known as Hashgacha Pratis.(3) Since everything happens for a reason, you must have the belief that everything that happens, is governed by Hashem which can only lead to positive experiences.
Hashem promises:(4) “I made you, I will carry you, I will sustain and deliver you”. Think about it. If Hashem promises that He will deliver you, can a small issue affect Hashem’s promise? King David said, “I fear no evil because You are with me”(5). As a result of his trust, he was able to overcome all of his many challenges he faced in his lifetime. After thinking positively, you will be able to fulfill the verse: “Make me hear joy and gladness”.(6)
2) Think realistically while eliminating negativity
When dealing with depression, a very central theme of therapy will deal with eliminating negative thoughts through distraction(7) and thereafter thinking only constructive thoughts. Since Hashem is the ultimate epitome of goodness, there is no room whatsoever for sadness or worry(8) and therefore it has to be eliminated completely. Through being involved in something greater and of more importance, like being immersed in chassidus, you will basically be distracted from these negative thoughts and won’t have time to entertain any of them.(9) ’ There are some mental health issues that exist in actuality and then there are those matters whose entire existence is based off the person who is thinking about them. Through thinking about them, they are being fed life as well as existence. These are much easier to get rid of either by an outside intervention, like being distracted with other activities, or by one’s own resolution to cease the negative thoughts.(10) The Tanya says(11) that if the matter is really pressing, it is necessary to set aside an opportune time later on in the day or week to deal with the issue. After giving some thought to them at the opportune time, it is necessary to combat the negativity by abandoning those thoughts and replacing them with it’s complete opposite which is joy.(12)
It is much easier to give nourishment to your pessimistic thoughts than your optimistic ones. With hard work and persistence with working towards your goal, you will get there. You mustn’t become afloat to your challenges, yet you should acknowledge that they are there, deal with them and after dealing with them, you block out any further negativity. The Rebbe used to refer to Handicapped soldiers as “exceptional”. He told them that with the deprivation of a limb, came the powers to overcome limitations. The Rebbe didn’t ignore the challenge, yet viewed it as a step in the positive direction. Think like a mountain climber. See the large, threatening mountain ahead of you, and find the best route possible to get to the top. The Rebbe taught us to be a realist, yet approach the facts of existence from a perspective of optimism and confidence.
The Rebbe would say, “Don’t refer to a finishing time as a deadline as it connotes death yet refer to it as a due date as it connotes birth”. The due date is there, it is just our perspective on how we wish to perceive it.
3) Transmit positive thoughts
Most people are as happy as they make their mind be. A famous teaching of the third Chabad Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek was, “Think good and it will be good”. That is, the mere exercise of positive thinking, generates positive results.
The Baal Shem Tov would say(13) that when a Yetzer Hora tries to persuade a person to sin, it desires more for the depression after the sin than the sin itself. Meaning, the depression can cause more spiritual harm than the sin. If depressed thoughts can be so detrimental, how much more so on the affirmative.
The Zohar says, that the face we show below will create the face(14) Hashem shows above. As a water reflects a face , when we show a happy countenance, Hashem will show us in return His happy countenance with positivity. Thinking good doesn’t only affect our thoughts, but it has the ability to affect the outcome of a situation as well.
The Zohar(15) says that one should only repeat a dream to friends, and not enemies, since they will have favorable thoughts and the dream will come to satisfactory fruition. This is illustrated in the Torah when Yosef told his dream to his brothers. Since they didn’t like him, and therefore had a negative outlook on him, it took twenty two years for his dreams to happen. Even if you don’t really think so, convince yourself that everything is truly good, and then the bad will be absorbed and redirected into the good. The good will then become more evidently revealed to the physical eye(16). The world is full of wonders but man takes his little hand and covers his eyes and sees nothing(17). There is so much good in the world out there, you just have to change your perspective to be that of a positive one and your whole demeanor will transform. We say in Davening everyday, “Fortunate are we. How good is our portion, how pleasant is our lot”(18). We have to take this verse literally by contemplating and focusing our attention towards the positive.
Placing our complete trust in that which is beyond human limitations, makes us unlimited in allowing us to drawdown only positivity into our lives. When you begin to think positively, you create a channel for blessings to come down and a vessel for the blessing to enter into. This is why positive thinking can actually change the reality of situations if you truly believe it and not just mouth it. As a result of having trust in Hashem, we are fully able to transform our thoughts and thereafter transform negative situations to inherently good ones. Consequently, Through thinking positively, we will be able to truly fulfill the Torah’s commandment to serve G-d with, with joy and with gladness of heart.”(19)
1 See Tanya. Chapter 26
2 Tanya, chs. 33 and 36, based on Midrash Tanchuma, Parshas Naso, sec. 16.
3 The idea that G-d is watching the happenings of The world every second so therefore everything happens for a reason.
4 Yeshayahu 46:4
5 Ibid. 23:3
6 Ibid. 51:14.
7 The rebbe mentions this countless times in his letters to people struggling with negative thoughts
8 see Index at the back of the Tanya
9 (From a letter of the Rebbe, dated 7 Adar, 5717)
10 (Igros Kodesh, Vol. XIV, p. 22)
11 Chapter 26 of Tanya
12 From a letter of the Rebbe, dated 25 Menachem Av, 5718
13 Tzavos HaRivash, ch. 44.
14 Proverbs 27:19
16 See Tanya, Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 11
17A famous quote of the Baal Shem Tov
18 Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 17
19 Devarim 28:47.