I was at my dentist yesterday, and he was showing his assistant the most unbelievable gratitude that I've ever seen. He said 'please' and 'thank you' almost constantly, and told her how much he appreciated every trip she made back and forth, and every item she handed him and took away and cleaned up. He told her how she made a world of difference to him. He made her feel like she was as important to the outcome of my procedure as he was. She was glowing from it. It was so beautiful to watch, and it was also an important reminder to me, that I need to thank Hashem everywhere, every time, for everything. I started doing it right there in the dentist's chair, with all that dental stuff still hanging in my mouth and water spilling everywhere and all the drilling noises . Thank you Hashem...
At its core, happiness is gratitude. We are called 'Yehudim' or Jews, because that's the Hebrew word for people who give 'thanks.' The Gemara defines us as the creatures who speak to G-d (in thanks). Thanking is what makes us happy. And the opposite - whining, complaining, comparing - makes us sad.
Instead of constantly complaining and moaning about our spouses, we need to thank for them. That's what a young lady called Chavi is doing - and it's really starting to make her much happier in her marriage. All the terrible stories of perpetual singledom and all the horrible divorce statistics have spurred Chavi on to start thanking Hashem that she even has a husband. She no longer cares to measure her husband against other husbands. She has invested her prayers in the husband that Hashem gave her and it's paying off.
But we don't need to stop at just thanking Hashem for the 'tangible' things, or obvious 'goods' that have. We can even thank Hashem for the anxiety and depression we have. It's a message from Heaven, too. Instead of hanging up on the message because we don't like what it's trying to tell us - give G-d a minute, and listen to what He's trying to say.
The solution is hidden in the problem
A big part of the reason that I developed Emuna Therapy and Emuna Coaching is because so many people throw in the towel when they realize that they can't make their emotional problems go away. Sure, they ameliorate for a week, or a month or even a year - but without G-d in the picture, the 'cure' or 'relief' is only ever temporary.
This can be an incredibly demoralizing realization, and a further source of anxiety and depression - if we aren't dealing with these issues the 'Emuna Therapy' way. But Emuna Therapy says that thereis another way of dealing with anxiety and depression at their root, and making them a permanent thing of the past.
Simply, by accepting G-d's will. Who made me feel anxious or depressed right now? Hashem did. I tried and can't just will it away or pray it away. Why is Hashem making me feel so down? Because He wants me to learn something from it.
He wants us to see that we can have anxiety or depression and that we can still live with it, and still be happy and still feel safeat the same time. Just because you feel depressed right now, about a particular issue or concern, it doesn't have to permeate every aspect of your life. You can be concerned and worried and yet carefree and playful at the same time.
True, it's not the best scenario. Let's be honest and say we'd love to be happy and content 24/7 - but we're just not there yet. So what? We don't have to buy into the 'all or nothing' concept our Yetzer Hara is trying to fill our heads with. Even if we're still quite depressed, and only a bit happy - that's the best we can do right now, and it's great. We have to love and accept the level we currently have, and to understand that this is what G-d wants for us right now - and it's the very best it could be.
So you don't have complete emuna yet? So what! All that means is that you'll have some anxiety and depression mixed in with your joy and happiness. Don't make yourself more depressed by telling yourself that you 'can't ' be depressed. Depression is also a message from Hashem.
Depression doesn't have to be the knock-out punch for everything else in your life. Once you realize that depression doesn't have to be a funeral march, and it doesn't have to kill you, you'll be the happiest, highest-functioning, most optimistic depressed person you ever met. With Hashem there are no rules that restrict you from being very happy while you are still depressed. Don't believe anything that you ever read or heard to the contrary. Remember, that we are entering the World of Emuna, where everything is run by Hashem, and anything is possible.
The same basic ideas applies to anxiety, too. Why are we anxious? Usually, because we are faced with a plethora of choices, from what to make for supper, to which person to marry, to where to send our kids to school. Each of those choices leads to a set of consequences, some obvious, and some hidden, some positive, and some negative. We are all scared to death of making the wrong choices, and having to live with the guilt of "ruining" ourselves and our families.
As our responsibilities multiply, so do our choices, and so does our anxiety - particularly when our bubble bursts, and we make a wrong choice, and we realize just how much of a mess we are potentially making.
People usually deal with all the anxiety from their 'overchoice' in two ways; either they switch off, or they become terrible control freaks, trying to minimize the 'unknown', and all the risks that come with it. If we're honest, we can see that neither of these two options is really dealing with the root problem.
What's the root problem? That we don't believe in G-d, or if we do, that we don't really believe that G-d is running the world, and that every minute detail of our lives - including the 'hard' situations we find ourselves - has been tailor-made by Him, and is ultimately all for our very best.
Or to put it another way, the root problem is that we aren't living in the World of Emuna. People with emuna have confidence in the decisions they make, because they know that even if it turns out to be a 'wrong' decision, it's still going to lead them to a good place.
What's more, people with emuna know that G-d is behind everything, so they make much more effort to put G-d in the picture right from the start, and to include Him in their decision-making process. When a choice has been Divinely-inspired, it's usually the right choice. And even on those rare occasions when it doesn't work out the way you hoped, you still know that it came from G-d, and it will ultimately be all for the best.
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Dr. Zev Ballen, Psy.D. has been a practicing psychotherapist for more than 30 years. He is the founder and developer of Emuna Therapy, a faith-based method of counseling based exclusively on the teachings of Rabbi Shalom Arush. Dr. Zev has the endorsements of Gadolei Yisrael such as the Nikolsburger Rebba, Rabbi Yitzchok Fagelstock, Rabbi Shalom Arush, and Rabbi Lazer Brody. You can see Dr. Zev's live video broadcast every Wednesday at 5pm Israel time here on breslev.co.il. You can write in with questions to Dr. Zev at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can call him at: 845-362-8600 (US) or 054-840-9499 (Israel). Dr. Zev resides in Jerusalem, with his family, where he learns in Rav Arush’s Kollel and maintains a part-time private practice. You're also welcome to visit Dr. Zev's personal blog, Emuna Therapy.