Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Shevat 5761 - January 31, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family
On the Subject of Black Clouds
by Varda Branfman

From her upcoming new book of poems and essays, "I Remembered in the Night Your Name"

"Deliver me, Hashem
for the waters have reached until my soul.
I am sunk in muddy depths without foothold;
I have come into deep waters
and a whirlpool has swept me away" (Tehillim 69:2-3)

How to Combat the Blackness and the Bleakness of the Black Cloud

It appears like a black wisp far away on the horizon. You hardly register it in your field of vision. But then it can only be seconds before it puffs up into an enormous black cloud that races over to you and completely fills your private space.

A black cloud is not simply a variety of cloud that indicates impending storm. A whole other creation, it is a force field of concentrated negativity. A person in a black cloud cannot see over, under or around it, cannot see before it or beyond it. In practical terms, a black cloud can make you want to run away from the dishes, the house, the family, and the whole life. There's no rationalizing it away or negotiating with it. Inside a black cloud, a person can believe that life is one long litany of sorrow, compulsive behavior, failure and defeat.

If a husband happens to come home in the middle of a black cloud attack, he can suffer a torrent of complaints, miserable dramas, and threats made out of desperate thin air. And if he or his black-clouded-over wife fall into the trap of believing any of it, then the black cloud can quickly turn into a black hole big enough for two. A black hole is more treacherous than a black cloud, because, as its name suggests, the black hole is such that the whole arena of one's life can be moved into it for long periods of time.

The point is not succumbing to the black cloud and its sponge of lies in the first place.

Although black clouds appear to materialize out of nowhere, their formation can usually be traced to a stray thought where you either passed judgment on yourself or someone in your vicinity. Perhaps you walked past a mirror and caught a glimpse of your reflection. Instead of finding something to like, you winced. Instead of befriending yourself and taking note of all your endearing qualities, you were repulsed. Instead of seeing yourself with compassion and love, you chose to be unforgiving. The black cloud was now firmly entrenched. But even at that point, the slightest loving thought or gesture of forgiveness would have caused it to evaporate.

(The next time you see yourself in the mirror, at least you can smile, even if you can't think of anything nice to say. And even if the smile seems forced, keep on smiling and forgiving until the crisis passes, and you realize that this is someone you would like to get to know.)

If you feel constantly bombarded by negative thoughts that seem random and unconnected to your own inner dialogue, you may be attracting general negativity. As soon as you become conscious of the existence of black clouds, it is likely that the new understanding will naturally repel much of the negative energy.

Early Detection

The most effective strategy against black clouds is early detection. First, you need to firmly believe that the negativity is based in illusion and lies. Once you can reject those stray thoughts immediately, then your aim is steady, and you can shoot those black clouds down ever before they can touch you.

But once a black cloud has puffed up in all its black fury, then another, a more subtle strategy is required to remove it. The first step is the self- realization that anything you do or say from the midst of the black cloud is suspect. Don't forget for a moment that you are no longer acting as a free agent. The blackness and bleakness of the black cloud has gained a foothold in your consciousness and so, everything is tinted black.

What works better than a frontal assault to uproot the invader is to create an environment that is unfriendly to black clouds. Try to sing, or at least put on some of your favorite music. Try to dance to the music, and if that seems impossible in your black state, then just move your arms, hands, fingers, eyes. Movement of any kind is unsettling to a black cloud.

If you feel totally immobilized, it may help to take a nap or go to bed early for the night. Black clouds need to be constantly fed by negativity and nurtured by belief. If they aren't fed, they begin to weaken. You can't feed them while you're sleeping, and so, even that totally passive activity can succeed in removing even a substantial black cloud.

"Stay still and let the destruction pass."

Tehillim, formal prayer, and our own personal prayers are foremost in our arsenal of weapons against black clouds. Reciting Tehillim creates light, and these noxious heavy black clouds just slink away in the presence of light. However, a person may feel so defeated and depleted by the black cloud that there isn't enough motivation to pick up a siddur or Tehillim. Then, a cry to Hashem out of the depths of pain, even from the very bottom of a black hole, can turn everything around so that the ensuing light and joy is in direct proportion to the experience of despair. [Tears help.]

While in a black cloud, a person may turn to food or acquiring things as an attempt to drown out the black cloud blues. The black cloud remains in force, and an additional cloud of compulsive eating or shopping descends. However, there are no formulas. To consciously prepare and eat a good meal or buy something on a shopping outing that fulfills a real need doesn't feed the clouds. Taking the time to [like and] nurture yourself can effectively frighten away a black cloud.

Developing Resistance

When you face yourself with honesty and compassion, then any physical action can chip away at the black cloud. Hanging up the laundry, for example. Feel the positive effects of moving, the fresh air in your lungs, and the smell of clean clothes stretched out in the sun. That might lead to your wanting to stretch out your limbs in the sun, breathe deeply, and remember how good it is to be alive.

You will recognize the strategies and words of affirmation that work for you. This happens once it becomes crystal clear that you and the black cloud are separate entities, and it is simply illusion that positions you as one and the same. You will develop a resistance to black clouds and a distinct aversion to their presence, also a sixth sense that helps you to recognize when they have enveloped others in your proximity.

When you look at the words of Tehillim, you can see how Dovid Hamelech pointed to his enemies and implored Hashem to destroy them. You will identify with the exaltation and exhiliration he expresses when Hashem rescues him and delivers him to a place of safety. The words of Tehillim begin to resonate in your heart with your own truth of battling the black clouds and hoping for deliverance.

[Ed. Sometimes a brief bus ride and/or an invigorating walk home can shake off the black-widow cobwebs entangling you. And, as Varda suggests, you can say your Tehillim -- right on the bus, or by heart, walking!

There is an excellent support group for women who find depression coming on. NITZA is a postpartum group of mothers that meets once a week and also has counselors to help, guide, support, listen and advise. Call Ahava Winston at 02- 533-2811 - just to talk it out.]


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