Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Dr. Yael,

I read the letter you wrote to your readers two weeks ago about the importance of a calm home and it really resonated with me. You see, I was brought up in a home with a very negative atmosphere and it seems I have recreated it by marrying a woman who never has anything positive to say. Thus, my children are growing up in the same toxic environment I did and I don’t know how to change things.


Can you help us?

A Reader


Dear A Reader,

Thank you for writing.

As we have discussed many times, the only thing we can control is how we react; the only person we control is ourself. You have already taken the first step by recognizing the negativity you espouse and wanting to change.

Having hakaras hatov, appreciating the good people do for us, is one of the easiest and best ways to become more positive. You have to train your brain to learn to recognize all of the good in your life – both the large and the small things.

Now, this is not an easy thing to do. However, the more you do it, the more natural it will become and, before you know it, you will find positivity to be the primary force in your life.

Let me show you how it’s done: Every week, as I look through this magazine, I appreciate the quality of the articles, including the hard work of the editor and proofreader and the graphic work, which makes the writing shine. I look forward to reading it.

Thank you, Chumi, Jodie and Mati for making my column, and all the others, as professional as possible, with your keen editing and great graphics.

That was easy. I ask you, if you truly appreciate the brachos in your life? Your family and friends? Think about each person you come in contact with and reflect on anything nice this person does for you.

Remember, “A positive attitude is contagious, but don’t wait to catch it from others. Be a carrier.” Carriers of a positive attitude attract more friends and create closeness in their own families. If we focus on the positive traits of others it will make them feel validated and cared about.

And, because Hashem treats us the way we treat others, we want to give people the benefit of the doubt and look away from hurts and insults whenever possible. It is not easy, yet like everything else, the more we do, the more it becomes second nature to us.

In last week’s inbox there was a letter from “Life Experienced” to a previous letter-writer who had shared the hard time she was having with her in-laws. It was filled with wonderful ideas about having a positive attitude and building a healthy relationship with all extended family members. Clearly this is a topic that hit home for many.

Unfortunately, there is much relationship-based pain today and the only way to overcome it is with a focus on being positive.

As with you, the negativity emanates from childhood and it is very hard to change our imago, the manner in which we were raised. Yet, it is key to a happy life.

I know you are probably reading this and thinking, “Changing the way I think is so hard, how can I be positive when I have so much negativity in my life?” Yet, you can. Therapy can be helpful as is surrounding yourself with positive people.

Please find the power to emit happiness to others. Exercise, learn Torah, be complimentary and focus on your own immediate family’s positive qualities. This will help you become a more positive person. Life is a journey, try to enjoy it by being loving to others and appreciating the good things that Hashem has given you.

“A beautiful relationship does not depend only on how well we understand someone, but on how well we manage our misunderstandings.”

We all have challenges. You choose how to manage yours. 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 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 and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at