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04/06/2020 05:58:38 PM


Rabbi Eitan Zerykier, LCSW

Home Remedy
With Rabbi Eitan Zerykier, LCSW


I know you sent in a question from "someone" about the impulse to collect sports memorabilia for charitable causes due to childhood trauma, but I have been thinking about resilience and growth in the face of severe difficulties. So, I am going with that one, sorry.

Let's start with a study by Professor Jeremy Yip from the University of Georgetown and Stephen Cote from the University of Toronto:  During an election year, students at Yale were asked how angry or elated they would be if their chosen candidate lost or won. Similarly, students at Duke were asked how excited or disappointed they would be if Duke won or lost in an upcoming game against their archival, UNC.  In both studies, the same students were polled the day after the election and the game, respectively.  They found that the level of emotionality students felt was completely different than their own predictions.  What they found was that the results of an event itself - whether decidedly "good" or "bad" in their minds - did not influence their mental state.

This seems to explain a lot of human behavior.  How often do we think the all-you-can-eat buffet is a great idea?  Usually only for the first 18 minutes or so. And the black-Friday gym equipment we are *certain* we will use, which summarily become an extension of our closet or storage shelves?  What about all the miserable celebrities or lottery winners?  Weird, no?  In the end, we tend to think that our future emotion state is going to be either much better (motivated, excited, or elated) or much worse (depressed, anxious, or somber) than it turns out to be.  

Then what actually makes people feel the way they feel?  And how can we make better decisions?

It turns out that, according to the study, how we "perceive, deal with, and explain to others" our experiences will determine how we will emotionally respond.  

Have you ever been to a little league game and watched a child who strikes out storm off crying? You might think he or she is just not good at the sport and so they are regularly disappointed and frustrated. Yet there that kid is back for more punishment the next season. But we also know there are kids who are athletically adept and make it to the championship – lose that game, throw a tantrum and quit playing.  They have every reason to keep at it and try again, but they cannot get back on the field. 

What conclusion can be drawn from these two samples? Is there a correlation between poor reactions at every level of the game and - vice versa - resilience at every level?  It turns out there is.  

What differentiates the responses is their perception, and the story they tell themselves about what happens when they play, and why they are playing. Players who play only to win, inevitably carry around resentment, disappointment, and a perception of inadequacy.  Why?  Because it is impossible to win every game ever played.  It is also impossible to ever be the best at anything.  There will always be someone better, if not immediately, then very shortly after a winning moment.  On the other hand, players that play in order to become better at the game find consistent enjoyment, fulfillment, and growth whether winning or losing. Ironically, in fact, losing actually helps them understand how to be better, and instead of crushing their spirit, provides useful information on how to win next time!

What does this mean for us, now, during this time period?

I look forward to hearing back from you…

By: Rabbi Eitan Zerykier, LCSW

Wed, May 25 2022 24 Iyyar 5782