Gaining Control

By: Rabbi Yisrael Baron

 (Published September 11, 2012 Sunny Isles Beach Community Newspapers)

Before they built those tall buildings in Sunny Isles Beach, I would love driving over the William Lehman Causeway at a fast pace. There was this point, just before the top of the bridge, where you could see nothing but the sea on the other side. It felt like once you went over the top, you would fall into the sea. It was my own mini roller coaster.

Did you ever drive over the edge of a hill, at breakneck speed, not knowing what awaits you on the other side? You may do that on a roller coaster and love it, but in real life having more control is preferable. We would rather stick to a boring routine than step out into the unknown.

We all want to control our destiny. But let’s be honest. Can we? Is it possible?

Yes. It is possible to control our destiny to a certain extent. On the other hand, there are many things far out of our control.

The first element to gaining control is to use the gift of visualization. Humans have the unique ability to see themselves from the outside, if they chose to. Humans can, with their imagination, go out of themselves and see themselves from afar in their mind’s eye. You can visualize not just yourself; you can visualize your relationships with other people. You can also visualize how you use your time and how you interact with physical objects in the space around you. Then, after taking into account where you are, you can begin to imagine and visualize where you want to be. Then, finally, you can plan how to move from where you are now to get to where you would like to be.

Not always can you realistically get from here to there, but nevertheless, you can control how you react to the current situation around you. No one outside of you has control over the way you take in the world around you. Dr. Victor Emil Frankel, the famous holocaust survivor neurologist and psychiatrist, describes in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, how he would not allow the Nazis to take away his dignity. He did this by exercising control over one of the few choices left to him as a prisoner. He made a conscious choice to visualize meaning, even in his dreadful situation.

Can you imagine being sold into slavery by your own brothers? After they thought about killing you? This story actually happened to Joseph as told to us in the Torah. While Joseph had no control over his reality as a slave, he chose not to carry any hate, anger, or vengeance. Though a slave, no one could force Joseph to feel like he was the underdog.

Joseph had his own version of the story. From his perspective, the way he visualized it, he was there for a higher purpose. Joseph believed that everything that happens in life is from the One Above and is only for our good and benefit. If we are able to hold on to that belief, despite that it may appear otherwise, we can be fortunate enough to see it with our very own eyes — just as Joseph, who was steadfast in his trust of G‑d’s plan, merited to see how all his pain and suffering was actually for his own benefit. Joseph had every reason in the world to blame everyone and even G‑d for his problems, yet he still held on to his faith in a benevolent G‑d who runs the world. Eventually, he was granted the ability to validate his beliefs to the world when he became Viceroy of Egypt. He was now at peace with himself, and those around him as he held no grudges. “You may have intended for bad,” he tells his brothers, “but G‑d had other plans, for the good.”

Do you catch yourself expecting to have the perks of being a winner, while you perceive yourself, and project yourself to others, as the underdog? That simply doesn’t work. Instead, take inspiration from Joseph, who visualized a higher sense of purpose even within his most challenging moments.

Many people, at their moment of opportunity, let the opportunity pass by. They don’t have the perspective to see the opportunities that they hold in their very hands. It is sad to see it. They don’t suffer as a result of other people on the outside. Actually, it is from the inside that they begin to crumble. They are insecure with themselves which causes them to fall into the trap of jealousy, lust and seeking honor. In Ethics of our Fathers (4:21), it says that these three aforementioned things destroy a person. It corrodes the very vessel which contains it. Thus, when people play the role of victim, they actually tear themselves down. In short, to maintain control even in the most challenging times; we must visualize a higher reality of purpose.

Did you ever noticed, how when the roller coaster ride comes to an end, everyone is yapping and talking as they recount all the details of the ride? At that point, they can even replay the short ride in their heads, in slow motion. The experience took on meaning; precisely because it was challenging. Don’t hide your head in your lap as you come over the top of that roller coaster of life. Putting your head in your lap doesn’t make your situation change; it will only give you the illusion of safety. If you take it all in, face your fears by visualizing a higher reality of purpose, and embrace your situation, you will come out of it a stronger and deeper person which has gained more control!