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  • Alisa Avruch

When logic just isn't enough.

Sometimes your brain and your heart just can't seem to get along. It happens, oh, probably hundreds of times a day - when you KNOW you should be acting a certain way - but you're not able to convince yourself to actually do it.


I recently performed a rather remarkable thought experiment on myself - and I'm finally ready to share it.


I'd been doing some research on the power of visualization - about how it can help you to internalize ideas and effectively re-wire your brain, by concretizing the emotions and behaviors you would ideally like to experience.


In particular, I was fascinated by the ideas brought down in the spectacular book Battle Plans, by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller (Gottlieb) and Sara Yocheved Rigler. In it, the authors describe varying methods from Torah sources, for fighting the Yetzer Hara.


One such method included creating a visualization for Mr. Hara himself.


Take a minute and think - what does the yetzer hara look like when you're in a conflict? When you're indignant and annoyed, and you're sure you're in the right?


Does he appear as the sophisticated, cool guy with the sarcastic sense of humor, egging you on? The well dressed gentleman with the self-righteous, all-knowing airs, pushing you to the eye-rolling, voice-raising, silent-treating reactions that seem so deliciously justified? Hmmmm?


But what if you consciously re-created him? What if you turned him into a laughably lame caricature? What if, instead of the debonair, suave image of the enticer, we could learn to identify that voice as coming from a ridiculous, despicable, or absurd character? Now how attractive does his advice sound?


Oh, right, so you want to hear about my experiment, right?


So here's my story. But before you read it, I should warn you about one of the fascinating things about visualizations. When you get deep into them, they sometimes take on a life of their own. And they can go in a direction you didn't actually plan or expect.


So... I was annoyed at something my husband had done. It was really a minor thing. And I KNEW it was silly to hold on to it, and I KNEW it was unnecessarily putting me in a nasty mood. I tried to let go of it, but I Just. Couldn't.


Before I went to sleep, I suddenly got a picture in my head of a homeless man I had seen on one of my infrequent trips on the NYC subway. He was disheveled and unshaven, with newspapers tucked inside his ragged clothing to keep warm, mumbling endlessly to no one in particular (and no, he didn't have an earbud in his ear).


And I thought - there he is. There's my yetzer hara.


And in my mind, I handed him my package of annoyance.


When I woke up, I visualized getting off the train. And as I headed past him towards the door, he glanced at me and held out the package he held in his hand. And said "You want it back?"


But that wasn't all. To my surprise, he added, "it's gonna cost you a dollar".


And that was it. I was cured.


I can't say I've never gotten annoyed, upset, or indignant at my husband since then. But I've started to evolve a deeper sense of where those feelings are coming from - and where they take me.


And mostly, that they are almost never worth the cost.


Would you like to experiment with the power of visualization? You can copy mine, or try out one of you own. I'd love to hear about it!

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