Elan Javanfard, L.M.F.T.
The Power of Perspective: A Psychological Exploration
By: Elan Javanfard
In this week's Parasha, we encounter an intriguing narrative that sheds light on the human psyche and the importance of perspective. As we delve into the psychological aspects of the Torah, we uncover valuable insights into the human condition and find guidance for our own lives. This Dvar Torah aims to explore the interplay between psychology and Parashat Shelach and to glean wisdom from the intersection of these two.
We encounter a pivotal moment in the Bnei Yisraels’ journey through the wilderness. Twelve spies were sent to scout the land of Israel, exploring its bountiful resources and assessing its inhabitants. Upon their return, they presented their findings to Moshe and the entire nation. However, the reports differed significantly, highlighting the critical role of perspective.
Ten of the spies conveyed a negative and demoralizing perspective, emphasizing the challenges and obstacles that awaited them. Their focus on the perceived difficulties overwhelmed their faith, leading to despair and discouragement among Bnei Yisrael. On the other hand, Yehoshua and Kalev, the remaining two spies, maintained an optimistic perspective, emphasizing the land's richness and urging the people to trust in God's promise.
From a psychological standpoint, this episode highlights the concept of cognitive biases that affect our decision-making processes. The ten spies exhibited various biases; namely, negativity bias, confirmation bias, and groupthink.
Negativity bias refers to our tendency to give more weight to negative information. Confirmation bias leads us to seek and interpret information that confirms our existing beliefs. Groupthink occurs when the desire for conformity hinders independent thinking.
Yehoshua and Kalev, on the other hand, displayed a more balanced and optimistic perspective. They were able to counteract these cognitive biases by maintaining a growth mindset and remaining open to different possibilities. Their ability to resist the negative influences of the group demonstrates the importance of individual resilience and the power of constructive thinking.
As we reflect on this narrative, we can draw important lessons for our own lives.
- Awareness of Cognitive Biases: By recognizing and understanding the cognitive biases that shape our thinking, we can guard against their negative influence. Creating self-awareness helps us challenge our own biases and make decisions that are more informed.
- The Impact of Perspective: Our perspective significantly influences our emotions, behavior, and overall well-being. Adopting a positive perspective can empower us to overcome challenges and approach life with optimism.
- Cultivating Resilience: Yehoshua and Kalev's ability to maintain their positive outlook in the face of opposition exemplifies the importance of resilience. Building resilience equips us to navigate difficulties and maintain a balanced perspective, even in challenging circumstances.
- Community and Support: The narrative reminds us of the significance of surrounding ourselves with individuals who uplift and encourage us. By seeking out positive influences and engaging in constructive dialogue, we can strengthen our own perspectives and support others in their journey as well.
The story of the spies provides us with an illuminating exploration of psychology and its connection to the human experience. Through the lens of cognitive biases and the power of perspective, we gain insights into our own minds and find guidance for personal growth. By creating self-awareness, cultivating resilience, and adopting positive perspectives, we can overcome challenges, support others, and journey towards creating a more fulfilling and meaningful life.
May we strive to apply these lessons from Parashat Shelach to our own lives and contribute to the betterment of our communities and ourselves.
Elan Javanfard, M.A., LMFT Elan.Javanfard@gmail.com
Elan Javanfard, M.A., L.M.F.T. is a Consulting Psychotherapist focused on behavioral health redesign, a Professor of Psychology at Pepperdine University, & a lecturer related to Mindfulness, Evidence Based Practices, and Suicide Prevention. Elan is the author of Psycho-Spiritual Insights: Exploring Parasha & Psychology, weekly blog. He lives in Los Angeles Pico Robertson community with his wife and two children and can be reached at Elan.Javanfard@gmail.com.