Dec 6, 2009

Increase the Light

If you read frum English publications, and there are many these days and that's wonderful, you will notice that they publish the "psychological/emotional/mental issue of the week." I am inclined to think that it is psychologically detrimental, as well as damaging to our spiritual health, to be exposed, on a regular basis, to abnormal situations.

I think that children as well as adults, need to be fortified with that which is healthy and true and good, and be as underexposed as possible to that which is unhealthy, false and bad.

I think that educators must be very wary about teaching the dangers of abnormal eating practices to young girls, for example, for their good intentions might backfire! For children who weren't aware that food could be regarded in such a sick way, it gives them ideas they never entertained on their own!

When 11 year olds tease each other using the words bulimic and anorexic, I think this should be setting off warning bells in the minds of well-intentioned teachers and parents, who think exposing children to the abnormal behavior of very few individuals is beneficial.

I am concerned not only about publicizing eating disorders, but about numerous issues that have been exposed to the frum public, seemingly with positive intentions. I wonder whether the approach backfires, and the more talk there is about children at risk, the more children at risk there are; the more talk there is about eating disorders, the more people are discovered to have them; the more talk there is about spousal and child abuse, the more abuse there is; the more learning disabilities are discussed, the more children are diagnosed with them; the more mental illness is described at length in popular magazines, the more people discover they have these illnesses.

Is it that pre-existing problems are being exposed and dealt with, OR that talking about it, dwelling on it, and teaching about it, INCREASES THE NUMBERS? Maybe it's both.

The media knows that when they report some awful teen incident of suicide or violence, there is the "copycat" effect. An article in Scientific American, Feb. 2001 said:

“Less obvious, however, are the circumstances under which social validation can backfire … An example is the understandable but potentially misguided tendency of health educators to call attention to a problem by depicting it as regrettably frequent. Information campaigns stress that alcohol and drug use is intolerably high, that adolescent suicide rates are alarming and that polluters are spoiling the environment.

"Although the claims are both true and well-intentioned, the creators of these programs have missed something basic about the compliance process. Within the statement, “Look at all the people who are doing this undesirable thing, lurks the powerful and undercutting message, “Look at all the people who are doing this undesirable thing.”

"Research shows that, as a consequence, many such programs boomerang, generating even more of the undesirable behavior."

I maintain that by spending our time and energy reading and talking about how to positively change ourselves, about good marriages, about healthy eating, about teenagers accomplishing wonderful things, etc. - in other words, “light” - we will accomplish a whole lot more than focusing on the “darkness”. This is not to say there is no darkness. It's not about denial. It's about zeroing in and highlighting the good, in order to increase it, which simultaneously diminishes the darkness. 

The secular media inundates us with negative news.  If you listen to the news on the radio in the morning you can start your day with a fire, rape, robbery and some international problem.  No wonder then that we feel the need to read articles about combatting depression!  Let there be an effort to keep it 80%-20% in favor of the positive in our frum publications so we can face the world fortified with simcha and bitachon!


  1. The other day I went to a levaya of an elderly holocaust survivor who left several generations of frum descendants. The hespedim were very life affirming because the nifteres had lived an exemplary life. She had been the mother, grandmother, and great grandmother that we all wish to be. Unfortunately we have to wait until someone passes away to make an example of their life.
    Scandals sell, where as life affirming stories are not as popular.
    By the same token though, I do know of plenty of sick situations in the frum community that seem to fester until they rupture. Until someone makes an issue out of abuse, eating problems, learning problems, suicide, etc, the frum world shoves it under the rug. Eventually the mountain under the rug makes the house collapse.
    There are more people today that are opting for a less restricted frum lifestyle, as obvious from walking down the street in many frum neighborhoods and seeing the drop in tznius observance. These people want an easier life but may also be reacting to stresses in frum life that have not been adequately dealt with.

  2. "Until someone makes an issue out of abuse, eating problems, learning problems, suicide, etc, the frum world shoves it under the rug."

    Has making it an issue reduced the problems?

  3. How would it help anyone not to discuss issues that are affecting families? For example shidduch problems have been addressed and for some, it helped them get married.
    An organization now exists to help victims of child molestation. Would it be better to ignore the problem and figure that by ignoring it the problem would simply disappear?
    Special schools and organizations exist to help with learning problems and it is important to parents whose children are affected to know what to do.
    The problems may not completely go away but at least they are being dealt with.

  4. Does talking help? At what cost - are there negative results too?

    And then it seems like some people think that merely talking is helpful.

    The choices don't have to be to either talk and write about it, on and on, or do nothing.

  5. If no one wrote about the issues, how would those seeking help know where to turn?
    Negative results? To some extent the recession may have been made worse by reporters saying that people were spending less because it may have caused people to spend less.
    Op-eds from disgruntled individuals generate negativity but sometimes it is something that needs to be said. The negative results could be that people with opt to have less trust in yeshivas, shadchanim, etc. The positive result could be a resolution to change a bad situation.