Dassy Chein, Cedarhurst, NY
MyLife Essay Contest 2018
People always say if you think good it’ll be good. Science shows that when the brain processes positive thoughts, a person will have increased lifespan, lower rates of depression, and reduced risks of death from cardiovascular disease. But what if you just can’t get yourself to do so? After all, it’s easier said than done. So how do we bring ourselves out of the deep dark sadness we’re engrossed in and achieve happiness?
There is a well-known story from the Tzemach Tzedek. One day a man came to the Tzemach Tzedek asking for a blessing for his ill son, the Tzemach Tzedek replied: “Tracht Gut, Vet Zayn Gut!” — Think good and it’ll be good. Once the man went home and started thinking in a more positive matter his son’s condition improved and he achieved a full recovery.
According to Chassidus, thinking good can only truly work if the person has complete faith in Hashem. Saying and thinking that everything will be ok and work out isn’t enough; we have to actually believe it and the way to do that is to believe in the ultimate source of good, Hashem. We need to trust that Hashem will do what is good for us whether we deserve it or not because Hashem does good for his people no matter what.
According to Dr. Daniel Schonbuch, author of Think Good and It Will Be Good, studying Torah can be a tool for overcoming anxiety. The second section of Tanya is Shaar Hayichud V’haemuna. This section of the Tanya focuses on the posuk that says וידעת היום…כי ה׳ הוא האלקים בשמים ממעל ועל הארץ מתחת אין עוד. “And you shall know…that Hashem is the G-d in the heavens above and upon the earth below there is none other”. The lesson it comes to teach us is that there is no true existence other than G‑d, and all created beings are completely nullified in relation to Him and are united with Him. Understanding this concept enables us to dwell less on ourselves, as separate entities from Hashem, and come closer to the understanding that everything in this world is essentially G-d’s will. Dr Schonbuch believes that by learning and thinking about G-d, and working on our faith and trust, one can even overcome depression and lead a full, happy life. He has found that relinquishing control to Hashem is even able to extend the gains of therapy in achieving better mental health. In volume 4 of Igros Kodesh of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, in a letter to a Chossid about strengthening his faith, the Rebbe writes that through increasing in his connectedness to Hashem, he will more easily recognize the good.
But how do we achieve the level of faith, of thinking good, to the extent that we actually change outcomes? The brain is a muscle just like any other muscle in your body. When someone wants to build their muscles, they need to work hard. They go to the gym consecutively and work every day to slowly build their muscles. The first day they start with the smaller weights and slowly they are able to lift heavier things. It doesn’t take one day, it takes lots of time, effort, and patience to finally achieve the thing you want so strongly. Although its hard and sometimes you may feel like it’s not worth all the pain and suffering of working your muscles so hard, you still push yourself to do it because you know that this is what’s good for you. Same way with the brain, one must slowly start training his brain to switch from the negative mindset to a more positive one. It starts slow, first you have to try and block the little and seemingly unimportant things that irritate us and remember that these things don’t carry enough importance to drag us into a whirlpool of negative thinking. Eventually after slowly conquering the little things your brain will be trained to automatically take things in in a more positive way. Once a persons mind is trained to do so thinking good will have a true and real effect. With this we have reached the ultimate goal, to truly think good so that everything will really turn out good.
The Gemara in Berachot states: כשם שמברך על הטוב כך מברך על הרע–Just as one blesses Hashem for the good, so too should one bless Hashem for the bad. We learn this from Iyov, who, despite experiencing devastating losses of his livestock, fields, home and even children, never protested or cursed Hashem. In the end, Iyov’s life actually turned completely around and he had revealed good. Does this mean that all of Iyov’s losses were “good”? There are two aspects to understanding this. One is that when something happens that we see as bad, we must remind ourselves that this is from Hashem. We must practice Tracht Gut Vet Zayn Gut, exercising the TGVZG muscle. Although we cannot necessarily see or understand the good in that situation, we must constantly work that muscle. The second aspect is that we need to understand that not necessarily will our good thoughts change the outcome…what they will change is our openness to the idea that “Gam Zu L’tova”–“this too is for the good.” In the aforementioned letter from Igros Kodesh, the Rebbe says that our own evaluation of what’s good and what is not good cannot be relied upon. When we strengthen our bitachon, our faith in Hashem, we then can begin to see good much more clearly. Meaning that situations which we previously thought were “bad” now become more obviously good to us.
When we preach the Tzemach Tzedek’s words, “Think good and it will be good,” what exactly will be good? Our outlook will be good. That is what will change. And this is what enables us to see Hashem’s goodness in everything.