Latest update: August 15th, 2013
Dave and a friend were on a camping trip. At one point Dave began hurrying to prepare dinner. When his friend asked why he was rushing, Dave remarked that it was getting dark and there were things which needed to be taken care of before nightfall. The friend realized that Dave did not know he was still wearing tinted sunglasses and it was making Dave believe it was much darker than it really was.
When we are feeling low, our perspective is often like that of Dave, and our interactions with others will reflect that “darker” misperception of reality. To make matters worse, part of our low mood may create an impatience to “talk things out” or “get to the bottom of things” right away. Resisting that temptation can be the difference between a successful resolution of an issue or a trail or resentment and regret. As Dr. Richard Carlson puts it: “Your own moods can be extremely deceptive. They can, and often do, trick you into believing your life is far worse than it really is…When you’re in a good mood, relationships seem to flow and communication is easy. If you are criticized, you take it in stride.
“On the contrary, when you’re in a bad mood, life looks unbearably serious and difficult. You have very little perspective. You take things personally and often misinterpret those around you, as you impute malignant motives into their actions…
“The truth is, life is almost NEVER as bad as it seems when you’re in a low mood. Rather than staying stuck in a bad temper, convinced you are seeing life realistically, you can learn to question your judgment. Remind yourself, ‘Of course I’m feeling defensive (or angry, frustrated, stressed, depressed); I’m in a bad mood. I always feel negative when I’m low.’ A low mood is not the time to analyze your life. To do so is emotional suicide. If you have a legitimate problem, it will still be there when your state of mind improves…”
9. I Can Choose To Accept Life On Life’s Terms.
Many of our arguments are often the result of our being upset that events are not unfolding the way we would like. Our car breaks down and we yell at the mechanic who promised us the car was fixed. We miss a deadline at work and take out our frustration on our spouse when we get home. A child comes home with a bad report card and we lash into him or her for not doing better.
Dealing with the difficulties of day-to-day life, large and small, cause us to feel various degrees of anger – depending on much of our vision of how things should be has been disturbed. But such an emotional state doesn’t solve the problem and often makes it worse by damaging relationships and hurting those we love the most.
Rabbi Abraham Twerski is a doctor who has worked with alcoholics for many years and believes that each of us can exhibit the behavior of an addict in times of stress. While we may never act out by misusing a substance, our anger can seem as addictive as alcohol or drugs when things don’t go our way. In that sense, we can benefit from the suggestions in various “12 Step” programs. An oft cited passage from the primary treatise outlining the plan of Alcoholics Anonymous can be quite helpful if we remember it before our emotions take over:
”And acceptance is the answer to ALL my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation—some fact of my life—unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly as it is supposed to be at this moment.
“Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in G-d’s world by mistake…Unless I accept life on life’s terms I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitudes.”
10. By Acting More Peacefully With Others, I Can Help To Achieve Peace With Israel And The World.
It is easy to feel frustrated when confronted by global problems, including Iran’s nuclear program or terrorism. We may support particular political, economic or military options we think can make a difference. But deep down, we realize that our true source of protection is G-d. Practical measures are certainly necessary, but their success or failure ultimately depends on Divine assistance. As Rabbi Yaakov Solomon wrote shortly after the 9/11 attacks:
About the Author: Gary Tolchinsky works at a consulting firm in New Jersey. He is a graduate of Columbia Law School, where he studied mediation and alternative dispute resolution. He is on the Advisory Board of the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry and is founder of the website jewishbooksforpeace.org. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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