Yom Kippur

The Psychology of Change

Rosh Hashana, our new year. See the vast chasm between our New Year and the New Year celebrated around the world. Ours is a solemn time of introspection and self-improvement for the 3 books are open and we all want to be inscribed in the book of life. The New Year everyone else celebrates includes wild partying and getting drunk; the difference is astounding.

True we want to be inscribed for life but why is it difficult for many of us to feel the fear that indeed there are no guarantees for the next year? Why don’t people actually invest in trying to have a better year this up and coming year? I’d like to understand along with you what’s going on inside us and then we can proceed.

Some people feel a paralyzing fear during this time. A feeling of powerlessness and despair, “what can I do to change already? I’m not able to or worthy of changing.” These feelings can even come from the thought that changing may mean giving up things we aren’t prepared to give up. But how do we deal with these feelings?

Let’s touch on that feeling of despair that tells us we just can’t change. Stop a moment and think: Is it really true I never succeeded when facing a major challenge? We can assume that you had successes in the past facing great challenges. Now bear in mind, in the times you succeeded, what was the motivation that propelled you to success? It probably was fear of something or some frustration you weren’t willing to put up with that pushed you to change.

A person makes changes only when he feels distress

You should realize that the greater the frustration, fear or the threat the more fuel you have to initiate change. On the other hand, the greater the change that needs to be made and the more you need to give up, the more incentive you will need to make the change.

At this point you should ask yourself, “Why do I want this change? What will I gain from it?” Think of how important it is to you to come close to G-d and to overcome anger, haughtiness, desires and other bad character traits and how your life will look if you change on those areas. The more you feel that this is a central value in your life, to that extent you will feel it give you strength and readiness to change.

Don’t forget that changing your character traits doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a gradual process and it’s healthy to do it gradually. Don’t be hasty, it’s far better to remind yourself to take many small steps and slowly progress to your goal and you should value yourself for every smallest step forward that you take.

So now, if you think about it, it’s not true that you can’t change. It may be true that without sufficient motivation or if we don’t believe in we can change, we won’t make the changes we’d like. But if we realize that we can change and we are ready to change then connecting to the feelings the Days of Awe and repentance engender will be far easier. We will do what we can to change.

Now think of giving up on something you’re not quite ready to give up for this change. It’s true that it’s very difficult to give up things you connect and are addicted to. But if you think: “I’m giving up on this to come closer to G-d because listening to what G-d wants is important to me and I understand that this will help me build my life properly” then when you think about these things you’ll be more ready to give up those things and move on to the changes you want to make. And even if you’re not totally convinced you want to give up on those things when you come closer to G-d you will feel the emptiness of those things and then they will be easier to give up.

This is the opening of the eye of a needle that G-d asks us to open to let Him in. Start the process, come close bit by bit and G-d will open the entrance of a great hall for you. The things hard to give up won’t pass through the eye of a needle but with our newfound closeness to G-d we’ll feel that entrance of a great hall open through which even a giant semi-trailer of  desires and negative character traits can pass through.

May your New Year be filled with Happiness!

May you all be inscribed for life!


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