Emotional Wellness – Know What You Have 

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In Brain Lock, Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz introduces the concept developed by 18th century philosopher Adam Smith called the “impartial spectator.”  All of us carry around an impartial spectator. It watches us like a fly on the wall. Using this impartial spectator, we can observe ourselves objectively, and describe our own thoughts and feelings, e.g., “I’m feeling lazy.” But we wonder: If we listen and give into that feeling, is that us? If not, then who is talking? What are these two forces?  

 Along similar lines, in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People Stephen R. Covey instructs his readers to project their consciousness upward into a corner of the room and watch themselves, almost as if they are someone else. To view themselves in their mind’s eye and then identify their mood: What are you currently feeling? What is your current mental state? This ability, called “self-awareness,” is uniquely human. Only a human being can think about his own thought processes. Animals have no self-awareness.   

 It follows that if we can think objectively about our thought process, that thought process is not us. We are not our feelings, thoughts, or moods. This also affects how we see other people. It helps us judge them favorably, and it helps us to judge ourselves favorably, as well. If we are about to make a biting comment, we can hold ourselves back and say, “I’m not sarcastic. That acerbic remark is just an urge I need to restrain.”  

 Rav Wolbe discusses how the concept of daat, of knowledge, is necessary for any acquisition, whether physical, emotional, intellectual, or psychological. We cannot really own something unless we know it is ours.   

 The following true story illustrates this point.  

 Toward the beginning of World War II, a wealthy man approached Rav Chaim Kreiswirth, later rosh yeshivah and rav in Eretz Yisrael and Belgium, and asked for a favor. “The chances of me surviving this war are close to nil. But you are still young and you just might make it, and I know you are a responsible individual.   

 “Recently,” he continued, “I transferred all my funds to a Swiss bank account. Please memorize the following numbers, the numbers to my account. If someone in my family makes it through and you meet up with him, please give him the information.” Rav Chaim, who had almost total recall, committed the numbers to memory and eventually wrote them down.   

 Decades later, Rav Chaim took note of an unkempt beggar in his neighborhood. Something about him looked familiar. He asked the man for his name and, indeed, it was the son of the wealthy man! Rav Chaim quickly filled him in on the story and gave him the numbers to the account in Switzerland. Overnight, the beggar went from rags to riches.   

 In truth, as Rav Chaim highlighted, though he was living like a pauper, this individual was a millionaire all along. Yet he never knew.  

 If we possess no knowledge of our assets, then they are not really ours. When we are aware of who we are, then we actually have ourselves.  

 Picture all the forces inside us like a jackhammer. A jackhammer is very powerful. It can quickly and efficiently chisel its way through hard surfaces, such as asphalt highways and rock walls. Yet it is very heavy and unwieldy. It must be gripped tightly or it can wreak havoc. Our mind is also very powerful, with all kinds of thoughts competing for our attention.  

 When we daydream, we are letting go and not controlling our thoughts. But when we take hold of the “jackhammer,” and our daat is in control, we can start “drilling” with it and there is no end to what we can achieve.   

 We must become aware of the forces inside of us, as well as our ability to control them – that is our daat. Let your daat decide what it wants to hold onto, and what it wants to let go of.  

 Remember: You are not your thoughts. For example, if you notice someone performing an action that is beneath your standards, instead of lashing out at them or even thinking negative thoughts, hold yourself back and say, “I am not judgmental. That critical thought is just an urge I need to restrain. Instead, I will give this individual the benefit of the doubt.”