Much of ‘positive psychology’ has its roots in Judaism.
Special To The Jewish Week
Tal Ben-Shahar wasn’t always an authority on happiness. As Israel’s youngest squash champion, he derived no lasting happiness from his athletic feats or fame. Later, he was no happier as a student of philosophy and psychology at Harvard. Then he discovered a newly emerging field. Unlike traditional psychology, it did not dwell on neurosis, depression or anxiety, but stressed mental wellness over mental illness.
I can’t look at our cover photograph without smiling. I wonder where these people are now; their expressions of joyful anticipation stay with me.
As the Days of Awe, the High Holy Days, approach, I like to think that these are also days of optimism, as we are reminded of our resiliency. I admire those who manage to be optimists all year round. When I asked my late friend Ellen Kahn, one of the most optimistic people I’ve encountered, about how she stayed so positive, she said that she worked hard at it.
From a psychological perspective, loss is one of the most common dynamics in human life — everyone experiences it — but psychologists are at a loss to define it. We can easily describe loss — the feeling of emptiness when something dear to us is taken away. And mourning, an important mechanism, is the process by which we try to overcome the feelings of loss.
On a northern Atlantic shore, I discovered how to mourn—and honor—my brother.
The first thing that happened the morning after my brother Eric killed himself was my sister and I told our father. It was early in the morning, so we let ourselves into the house where our father had been living alone since our mother died five years earlier. He sat on the edge of the bed, confused and half asleep. He said, “That stupid idiot.”
No matter how familiar you are with death, it’s impossible to be prepared for the loss of your mother.
Death is the subject I deal with daily as the executive director of the Hebrew Free Burial Association, in New York. HFBA arranges approximately 350 burials a year, and at least twice a month I am in one cemetery or another as part of my job. But my work didn’t inure me against the profound sadness I felt when my mother, Dorothy Koplow, Chaya Doboh bat Meir v’Breindl, died in the summer of 2010, at the age of 90.
Obituaries and what they tell us about the dead and about journalism today.
Ari L. Goldman
The first murder in the Bible comes in Genesis 4 with the rivalry between Cain and Abel. “And it came to pass when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him,” we are told.
But the first obituary in the Bible comes in the next chapter, when the text notes that Adam died. Genesis 5 begins, “This is the record of Adam’s line,” and what follows is a brief review of his life, ending in “All the days that Adam lived came to 930 years; then he died.”
For many of Madoff’s victims, the financial loss continues to trigger aftershocks.
When Richard Shapiro discovered that his entire pension plan, along with millions of dollars he had saved over the years, was wiped out at the hands of Bernard Madoff, he fell into a deep depression.
“I basically didn’t leave my bedroom for weeks,” says the 58-year-old who was then a semi-retired real estate developer. “I went into complete emotional shock. I was fear-struck that I was going to be bankrupt and lose my home. I was in a state of panic.”