Psychologists have studied the way we think, and they've discovered that whatever we think about the most frequently, that's what we think is the 'truth'. To put it another way, the ideas and thoughts we are most familiar with seem the most "true" to us, whereas we will question less familiar or frequent thoughts, and ask a lot more questions about whether they are really true.
Let's see how this works in practice: Let's say that you're someone who is used to thinking a lot of negative, discouraging thoughts. You read something, or you have a discussion with someone which explains how great it is to talk to G-d every day, or adopt a more spiritual approach to living your life and solving your problems. This is a new idea, a new way of thinking. All of a sudden, the negative thoughts that you are so familiar with kick back in, telling you: "I don't know if I can do hitbodedut (personal prayer); I don't know that I could keep Shabbat; I don't know that I could give money away to charity every month…" Because you are so used to thinking in the negative mode, you are much less likely to start questioning or challenging those thoughts.
But it doesn't have to be like this. Once people realize that thoughts don't necessarily make something true, they open a window of opportunity to start thinking in a new, positive, helpful and optimistic way.
The reality of our life is our soul, or our neshama. Whatever is going on inside of us - that's really the only reality we have to deal with. You might be going bankrupt, and have no money to pay the rent - but you don't have to worry about it. You've been to a tzaddik, and you've been told you'll see miracles in your financial situation very soon? Don't worry about it now, and believe in the blessing you just received! Put the downpayment down on the new apartment you want to buy, and think positively.
How many worries have we all had, about so many different things, that never materialized? Why let all those "phantom" worries poison our inner reality?
Any negative, discouraging thoughts that we have don't come from G-d, so why do we insist on listening to thoughts from the 'other side'? After all the broken promises to do better and to be better; after all the chances to improve and change and fix things that we muffed - we are still alive and healthy. G-d is still giving us another chance, and another chance, to do it again, and this time, to do it right.
We have a very clear choice to make. Either, we can listen to falsehood, which is all negativity, discouragement, despair, and disillusion, or we can listen to truth, which fills us with hope, and joy and makes us feel alive.
A strategy for dealing with negative thoughts
We all know that negative thoughts are extremely unhelpful to us, but what can we do to stop them?
The first thing to do, as soon as the discouraging or negative thought comes into our mind, is to immediately derail it. "This thought is not from G-d! G-d, my King. G-d, please lead me on Your path, and show me what's true. I want to go Your way, G-d, let me hold on to all the "good" that there is in myself and the world. (or whatever else has given you a boost) - but let me go further and break free from these discouraging, depressing thoughts once and for all. Master of the World, please give me the tools to free myself, when I get stuck!"
All of us meet forks in the road, and come up against situations where we simply have no clue what's best for us. To take that new job, or stay put? To move community, or rebuild here? To marry that person, or not? To try a new way of eating, exercising, living, praying - which way? What's best for me? Whenever we get to a fork in our own personal road, Hashem is more than happy to tell us which direction to take. We just need to ask Him.
This is another great tool we can use for overcoming negative thoughts. Again, as soon as the thought surfaces in our minds, we can catch it, and say: "That's negative! That's not coming from G-d. G-d, what do You have to say about this? How do I get encouraged and hopeful again?"
This is the point where a lot of psychologists will start jumping up and down and saying that this is "thought suppression". There have been a lot of psychology studies done on this subject, and they generally all show that the more we try to suppress a particular thought, the more it comes back and bites us even harder the next time.
According the laws of the natural world, and the strictly scientific way most psychologists look at things, they are completely right. According to natural laws, and all the tests being done in psychology labs around the world, you can't successfully suppress thoughts. But in Emuna Therapy, we're not limited to the natural world. We're going above natural laws, to get G-d involved in the healing process.
When a person following the Emuna Therapy approach says: 'that thought is coming from the Dark Side, it's not a real, holy thought' - they are making that thought completely disappear. Hashem is the only reality here, and He just made that thought disappear. We're not suppressing anything; rather, we just got a whole bunch of Heavenly help, or siyatta dishemaya, to completely take that thought out of our personal picture. It's not buried somewhere deep down, ready to attack us again even harder the next time - it's completely gone.
The other guy who isn't following the Emuna Therapy approach, he's got a problem with "thought suppression", because he's still looking at his thoughts as though they are real, and that he has a real "mental demon" that he has to deal with. Again, if he's trying to deal with that demon without having Hashem in the picture, then after he "suppresses" his thought the demon is going to come back; and he's going to bring his bigger brother with him.
But for us, those mental demons don't exist anymore. They are a mirage. As soon as we tell Hashem that we are true to Him, and that we are loyal to Him, and that we know He is the only reality in our lives, then those negative thoughts simply disappear. We know that they are fake; that they are a mirage that G-d Himself created, for our own good. If G-d hadn’t gone to all the trouble of giving us these issues, these mental demons, then spiritually, we could get very lazy and fat.
Remember, Hashem's seal is truth. The more we uncover truth and get close to truth, the more we get closer to G-d Himself. If we weren't continually tested and challenged by falsehood, then we wouldn't be trying to search for what's true in our own lives and circumstances. We'd never do the necessary work to come to our own conclusions about what is "true", and as a result, we wouldn't constantly be looking for G-d in our own lives.
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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.