What do We do Now? – Parshat Shelach
Where do we pick up the pieces? Stuff happens to us throughout our lives. Some of it is good. Some of it isn’t. The parts that are good give us joy and the strength to do more. The stuff that isn’t has the capability of sapping our strength, draining our energy, sending us reeling into depression, making us feel stuck and even preventing us from being motivated to do anything.
This must have been what the people of Israel felt like in the story recounted in this week's parsha, Parshat Shelach. On the cusp of entering the Promised Land, they are told that due to their behavior, they would not be entering the land but rather would die in the wilderness. This is their new fate. The Torah recounts that the nation mourned terribly.1 Some people tried to fight that fate and enter the land immediately but they failed terribly. The fate of the nation was sealed.
We find that the very next section in the Torah is quite unusual. Before He even tells them of what He wants from them, God says: "when you come to the land." God immediately allays any concerns about His future plans for the Israelites. Your people will, in fact, enter the land. Rashi says: "Here He tells them they will enter the land."2 The people could have gotten caught up in the depression of the pronouncement that they will not enter the land but God offers them a different focus. Instead of letting them get caught up in mourning their fate, He offers a prediction that helps them deal with their terrible fate of wandering in the desert. They (well, okay, their wives and kids) will enter the land – and their life as a nation will continue there.
This is a well-known practice called 'Dereflection' first coined by Dr. Viktor Frankl.3 It is used by therapists world over to help people deal with depression. "It is dangerous to encourage focus on the ego or to arouse self-pity in suffering people," says Dr. Elisabeth Lukas.4 Instead of focusing on the depression, let us focus on the wellness of the person, their strengths. In lay terms it may be called, 'taking one's mind off a topic'. But that would not be enough to help. Dereflection also includes a positive direction. . It gives a renewed sense of movement forward. Let us find their interests. Let us find what will comfort them. It will not fix the past - but it will help us continue living in the present and to build a way for the future.
We cannot always change our fate. We can change how we deal with it - whether weakly or with strength. Sometimes we may need professional help to help us move forward and not stay in the stuck position mentioned above. But it is doable. And even just knowing that it is doable can give us strength to move forward.
Have A Great Shabbat!