Well its nearly the end of the American Election but the anxiety it is causing amongst the population is getting higher. In the American Psychological Association annual “stress in America” report, half the people surveyed (52%) said the election “is a very or somewhat significant” source of stress in their lives. It will probably not end even after the election as the nasty comments between the two sides will continue, blaming each other for various events. Even in England the National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has reported that there has been an increase in reported anxiety from children concerning world affairs, including the American election. These children are constantly hearing the insults and worries which each side projects on their opponent.
John Cameron, who is the head of the helplines at the NSPCC, told the television news channel CNBC that “uncertainty about what will happen in the new world” is increasing the anxiety for the children. Children are overhearing their parents discussing global issues and the 24 hour news and internet access are increasing children’s exposure to such topics. Old and young are being bombarded with negative images and views of the world and its affairs. This causes emotional stress to a certain degree for all concerned.
So what is the answer so we and our children do not stress out concerning these elections?
Not all problems or issues are necessarily from global matters, sometimes people are troubled by community obligations or business/school stresses and anxieties which seem to flood their lives. Noah is the paradigm of dealing with problems which seem to wash you away.
The answer to the flooding water of all the different international, national, local and personal concerns/stress/anxiety is the command Noah received of “come to the Tevah (ark)”[i]. The founder of the Chassidic movement, the Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov, explained that in Hebrew the word “Tevah” can be translated as “ark” or as “word”. Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov therefore explained that the Torah is instructing the individual when you feel that you might be washed away with the stresses and issues around you, then you should enter the words of Torah and Tefillah (prayer). These words when said with intention (i.e. you are actually in the words) will protect you and your family from being overwhelmed by the flooding waters around you.
How though do these words help a person? As soon as we get up in the morning, we are supposed to say a short prayer “Modeh Ani” which thanks G-D on giving back our soul. Then we go on to thank him for giving us what we need by saying a number of blessing e.g. for clothing the naked etc. The question is why do we need to say these blessings? We already have the clothes to wear and I already thanked G-D yesterday for giving them to me!
The answer lies in the deeper concept of creation. Creation was not a onetime event which occurred many thousands of years ago but is an ongoing process. The original process of creation was not changing one substance into a new one, like making a silver vase out of a block of silver but instead a creation of something from nothing. Such a radical change needs to be fuelled constantly as otherwise the universe will revert to its original state. An example of the need for constant input would be from a light bulb, which in order to shine constantly needs electricity to stimulate it but when the electricity stops, the light will immediately revert to its original nature, with no light. The universe also needs to be constantly created so it will not revert back to its state before creation.
This concept is practical as we see with a story of Rabbi Yase[ii] where he used to prayer that G-D should give him food, even when the food was prepared in front of him. The obvious question is why did he pray if he had the food there anyway? The answer is that the Rabbi Yase understood that the world around him cannot exist by itself, it constantly needs and relies on the G-DLY energy which is creating it, to exist. It is only that G-D in his goodness is renewing the world constantly. It therefore makes sense that Rabbi Yase prayed for his food even when it was before him. The food which was before him had now been recreated and Rabbi Yase was asking that as G-D is renewing his food, he should renew the food to the extent that he should have what he needs. (As people see in actuality that the food can be prepared in front of them but then someone spills it on the floor or it does not fill their needs, although at other times it has etc).
The same is true of the purpose of our daily prayer which is not just asking for our needs but giving us a recognition of what is the reality of the world. Prayer when put in the context above, gives the individual the view of the world that it does not have an independent reality but is constantly reliant on G-D Almighty. The whole of the universe then is seen as playing out its purpose of creation, which is to reveal G-Dliness[iii].
After prayer one can go into the world and does not have to fear or be stressed from any overwhelming issues. Unlike before prayer when the world was seen as a scary independent existence, now the world, including its leaders is understood to be completely reliant on G-D. People after prayer comprehend that events globally or locally will not happen on their own and there is a good G-D who is behind the scenes. The anxiety for a child or adult of “what will happen in the new world” will disappear and the adults will reinforce this in the way they talk in front of the child. They understand that the world will progress despite what anyone might think or say, towards a G-Dly goal, who is behind the scenes. [iv] As the saying goes the hearts of kings is in the hand of G-D.[v]
Nevertheless, there can be times when the child or adult for some other reason cannot take in this different positive view of the world. The individual might feel anxious or stressed out for various reasons and so it would important for them to speak to an orthodox trained therapist who will help them with their therapeutic techniques.
Yitzchok Kaye BA, Pg. Dip., Msc is a trained, qualified Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, who also specializes in other therapies. He helps individuals and couples with their challenges and issues. He has been a practising therapist for a number of Counselling Organisations but now has his own private practice. He is available around the world via Skype. He can be contacted at Yitzkaye@gmail.com