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Choose Connection: Read When Overwhelmed With Negative Emotions

Updated: Mar 22, 2023

My husband jokes that I am a “stormy sea.” One minute I am calm and happy, then I am frustrated, then disappointed, then tired and cranky, then happy again. Everyone experiences a rollercoaster of emotions at one time or another, but for women, that rollercoaster tends to go faster, take more turns, and leave the station more frequently.

When we feel any negative emotion—anger, hatred, jealousy, sadness, fear—we are in what Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe, a Rabbi from the 20th century who is best known for teachings on character development, referred to as “the world of disconnection.” By definition, we cannot be happy when we are feeling a negative emotion because we cannot feel a positive emotion at the same time. The world of connection—where we experience happiness, love, confidence, inner peace—and the world of disconnection are mutually exclusive.

We can only be in the world of disconnection if we choose to. Remember, we cannot control what happens to us, only how we react to it. So ideally, we would not allow external events to put us in the world of disconnection. But realistically, it is difficult to control our emotions. We know that it is possible because the Torah commands us to feel certain emotions at different times of the year. Still, even though we don’t want to go there, sometimes external events put us in the world of disconnection.

Let’s say your friend did something hurtful and all of the sudden you’re feeling anger and sadness that is ruining your day. Or your co-worker did something that made you feel frustrated. You just can’t get out of the funk. You don’t want to be around anyone—you just want to curl up in bed and be left alone. Sound familiar?

What can we do to get ourselves out of the world of disconnection during those times? Use your spiritual GPS.

Yes, you have a navigation system that can get you back on track to your destination in the world of connection. This tool is taught by one of my teachers Sara Yoheved Rigler and is based on the teachings of Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe.

To use the spiritual GPS, you need to first recognize that you are in the world of disconnection. Then, you need to want to get out of there. Rigler describes being in the world of disconnection like sitting in a dirty public pool. Yes, you can sit in there as long as you like, but why would you want to? But she acknowledges that sometimes we just need time to stew, and suggests giving yourself the maximum time you need to feel your pain before using this tool.

When you decide you are ready to leave the world of disconnection, you should do an act of giving. Any act of giving, verbal or physical, says Rigler, can get you back into the world of connection. Even something as simple as an apology is an act of giving. The act of giving does not have to be for the person who offended you; you can give to anyone to reconnect.

When we give to others, we are forced to get outside of ourselves and our egos.[1] In addition, saying something kind or completing an act of kindness connects us to goodness, which infuses our lives with a powerful positivity.[2] Giving is so powerful because G-d is the ultimate giver; He sustains our every need on a constant basis by providing us with goodness in various forms. When we give goodness to others, we are emulating G-d, and become connected to that goodness.[3]

So back to that friend who hurt your feelings… Try asking her what her plans are for the weekend. If you don’t want to speak to the friend who hurt your feelings right now, call a family member you’ve been meaning to catch up with or give a stranger a compliment.  The Torah says that in prioritizing acts of giving, you should start with yourself then branch out to your family, then your friends, then your community, and so on. You will be amazed at how these acts of giving can lift you out of your negativity.

Rigler teaches that every decision comes down to a decision of connection or disconnection. Choose connection. And when you find yourself in the world of disconnection, give to help you get back to where you want to be.

Resource Suggestion (for married women): The Kesher Wife Club

[1] Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller and Sara Yoheved Rigler, Battle Plans: How To Defeat the Yetzer Hara, p. 41-42.

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

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