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Dear Readers,

The following essay was written by Annette Amelia Mandis.

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Shifting Gears While Facing Life Obstacles

When life journeys present previously unimaginable dilemmas, Hashem gifts us with the element of choice. The main character in Megillas Esther was a sheltered young Jewish woman who was suddenly uprooted from her home and placed in a harem with ravishing beauties competing to become queen. Totally against her will, her entire universe was transformed. Her new reality required pleasing a totally demanding, selfish and powerfully dangerous husband. She was thrust into a great upheaval. When faced with such a huge challenge, Esther chose to turn within, to fast, pray, and beg Hashem to provide her with the power of persuasion. By recreating herself, she found favor in King Achashverosh’s eyes and elevated her life purpose, saving countless Jewish lives.

As a young girl, could Esther have ever imagined that her future path would involve such a drastic metamorphosis? Hashem works in mysterious ways. As Esther’s circumstances drastically altered, she opened her eyes to a sea of new possibilities.

In current times, each of us confronts our own life challenges. Do you recall occasionally feeling doubtful about which choice was best during a challenging crisis? Confusion may cause a state of feeling frozen with indecision. Various alternatives, each with specific advantages and disadvantages, create conflicting feelings – fire and ice. Inner ice melts as you recall helpful past solutions during difficulties, easing your future path through life’s curves.

 

I thank Annette for her essay. I believe her premise is correct. We all face challenging times and need to find the strength within ourselves to overcome them. Most of us are much stronger than we imagine, and only recognize this when we do stand up strong in a difficult situation. Not all of us will find a solution to our problems, but there is strength to be found in accepting and coping to the best of our ability when that happens.

I think that most people look around and think that they are the only ones struggling. Unfortunately, that isn’t so. Some of us have hidden tzaros, others have ones that are more obvious. The trick to overcoming these challenges is to remain optimistic and positive. This is very hard to do while going through a challenge and, of course, we will all have moments when we break down and feel overwhelmed. Nevertheless, remaining optimistic will carry us a long way through a difficult life event.

Optimism makes us happier, more popular, and more prone to positive outcomes. Research has shown that being positive brings about a positive cycle that leads to happy changes in one’s life. Just as there is what we refer to as a vicious cycle, there is also something called a virtuous cycle. Being positive will attract more people to want to be around you, which will give you a support system and create a more positive atmosphere. Additionally, being positive makes you feel happy, which increases your endorphins and makes you feel better. Feeling better will help you believe that things will get better, which will help you find ways of getting out of the challenging situation, if possible, or making peace with it.

If by nature you are not a positive person, you will have to work hard to become one! The first step is to realize how valuable being positive is and how much it will help you. Once you understand its value, you will be more determined to work on being positive. It is hard work to consciously drive out negative thoughts and you will need that determination to help you succeed!

You have to have a plan and be willing to actively chase away any negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. Then you will have to actively seek out the silver lining in any situation that comes your way. This will be hard at first, but with a lot of practice, it will become second nature. It’s also important to recognize and appreciate the little things.

Of course, challenges will still be hard and unwanted; however, a positive outlook will go a long way to making things easier.

Hatzlocha!

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Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to deardryael@aol.com. To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at www.jewishpress.com and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at www.dryaelrespler.com.