by Hanna Perlberger
In this post, Hanna Perlberger, author of A Year of Sacred Moments: The Soul Seeker’s Guide to Inspired Living, blends Torah, ancient Jewish wisdom, positive psychology principles, and the insight of contemporary thought leaders.
One sure way to make people avoid you is if by continuing to live in the past and refusing to move on from a painful experience. Finding out that your spouse has been cheating, for instance, will certainly garner sympathy, but if it’s been years and the infidelity is still an ongoing complaint, your circle of friends may whittle down to like-minded whiners. Even the Book of Ecclesiastes urges us to move on. “To everything, there is a season” can be seen as a Biblical exhortation to “go with the flow.”
Many Jews, however, recite daily the Six Remembrances, one of which is to “remember the day when you went out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life.” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 16:3) We’ll be doing this at great length during the Passover Seder this week. So what’s to be gained by reflecting on it every day?
In the portion of the Torah called Va’eira (Exodus 6:2–9:35), God tells Moses the four ways that He will redeem the Jewish people. So redemption is not a one-step process. Exiting the narrow spiritual confines of Egypt paves the way to go towards the expansiveness of connection and service to God. Leaving negativity is not an end unto itself but a precursor to embracing positivity. Nor is redemption a one-and-done event, but rather an inquiry and reflection into the false mental constructs that can enslave us for our entire lives.
To make the positive changes you want for yourself and your relationships, it might help to look at how we can interpret, through the lens of positive psychology, each component of the four-step redemptive process as described in Va’eira.
1. “I shall take you out from under the burdens.”
This phrase refers to God stopping the hard labor. While the Ten Plagues occurred over a period of time, the physical burden of slavery came to an end before the Jews left Egypt.
Commit to stopping.
Select a negative behavior you want to shift that is challenging but doable. State your goal in the positive. For example, instead of saying that you want to stop yelling at your kids, you would say that you want to show more patience and love. And you have to genuinely, full-out commit to stopping the unwanted behavior and not repeating it. (Of course, you won’t be 100 percent perfect, but you can’t merely pay lip service to this.)
If you find yourself, however, unable to stop repeating old patterns, honestly check whether you have placed a high enough value on the change you want to see. How important is it, and what would be possible for you and your relationships if the troublesome issue were handled? What could you be, do, or have in your life if you made this change? How would you feel? Take the time to imagine this as being real for you.
2. “I shall rescue you.”
This refers to God taking the Jews out of the very land of Egypt.
Avoid temptation and come up with an if/then strategy.
If you can avoid the place or circumstances that tempt you, you should. Weight Watchers has a great saying to remind people to avoid buying groceries that contain forbidden food items—“Don’t bring your enemies home with you.” But seriously, the key to adopting any new behavior is having a strategy for dealing with what inevitably gets in the way.
Take time to think about the obstacles that trip you up, both externally and internally. Think about the ways you give yourself permission not to honor your goals, and how you justify yourself. And then make a plan: When those obstacles threaten to derail you, what will you do or say to yourself to overcome them?
3. “I shall redeem you.”
This refers to the deeper levels of our mental schema. It’s one thing to take a Jew out of Egypt but quite another to take Egypt out of the Jew. The Jewish people had to be rebuilt from the ground up, essentially upgrading their operating system, to unlearn the internal constructs of slavery and understand what it means to be truly holy.
Look under the hood.
“Fake it till you make it” is a methodology whereby, if you keep doing something externally, eventually it will become a valid internal reality. I’ve never had much luck with that. If you are having real difficulty in realizing your goals, you may need to get to the root of the hidden beliefs and the fears that are blocking you. Unless you tune into the whispers of your inner voices, you can get very frustrated and not even know why.
Having trouble making a positive change doesn’t mean you are a loser or incapable of change, but that you need to figure it out, and I stand for the proposition that it’s all figureouttable.
4. “I shall take you to Me for a people.”
God’s purpose in taking the Jews out of Egypt was to give them the Torah and create a new relationship between man and God.
Step into your higher purpose.
Remember, in the movie The Matrix, when the humans finally won the war against the machines, they all broke out into a frenzied delirium? And then what was supposed to happen? Freedom is not the same as a free-for-all.
On my desk sits a framed quote from Thoreau: “Be not simply good; be good for something.” As you incorporate a new positive change in your life, it’s not a stand-alone idea. If your goal is to be more loving in a relationship, for example, then see how many different ways you can make a person feel cherished by you. Look for the means to broaden and share your process and purpose. Allow it to evolve into higher and higher goals. Create a vision. Live with purpose. Make a difference.
Hanna Perlberger, a graduate of CiPP, is an author, attorney, spiritual teacher, and coach. She speaks to people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning. and spiritual engagement. Hanna’s newly released book, “A Year of Sacred Moments: The Soul Seeker’s Guide to Inspired Living,” guides readers through an interactive journey of ancient Jewish wisdom and positive psychology. For more information or to subscribe to her weekly blog, please visit ayearofsacredmoments.com