The Ba'al Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement, taught that the world is a mirror and that we are constantly receiving messages from our Creator through the various people we meet or the stories we hear. I take this idea very seriously. Thus, I racked my brain for months wondering why I had to hear a bizarre question from a neighbor who asked me how to help her sister, whose husband takes their children's temperature three times a day. Yes, you read correctly. Morning, noon and night, he checks to see if their temperature is normal. If not, it's off to the emergency room.

How does this apply to me?

Morning, noon and night, he checks to see if their temperature is normalNothing came to mind until I was talking to a couple with serious marital problems and it suddenly occurred to me that they are driving each other crazy by constantly taking each other's "emotional temperature." They check in not three times a day but at least three hundred times a day! They constantly wonder, "How is s/he feeling right now? Seems a little down? Maybe s/he doesn't love me? Does s/he love me? How much? More than yesterday? Will it last? Will s/he fall out of love with me? Will I fall out of love with him/her? Does s/he think of me? What does she/he think of me? Why hasn't s/he called yet? Why does s/he call so often? Is s/he comparing me with someone who is happier, smarter, richer, thinner or more successful? What can I do to satisfy his/her needs? S/he didn't appreciate the gift I gave. What am I doing wrong?"

This mental angst results in obsessive questioning and requests for reassurance, "You seem sad/angry. Did I do something wrong? Is it my fault? I bet you're upset with me. Talk to me. Tell me how to make you happy. Tell me what you're feeling. I can't stand when you're in a bad mood. I feel like a failure when you're not happy. Please be happy, if only to reassure me that I'm not a failure."

In addition to monitoring others' moods, many of us engage in obsessive self-monitoring, e.g., "Gosh, I'm a little down. How come? What's wrong with me? Everyone else seems so much happier and together, especially the smiling people in the advertisements. So if I'm in a crummy mood, it must mean that I'm not normal. Am I overworked or underworked? Is it my marriage, my hormones or the weather? Since normal people are happy all the time, if I'm not happy, I'm not normal. I can't go on like this. Maybe I'm crazy?

If I were more successful or less hormonal, I wouldn't have these moods. Maybe it's my wife's/husband's fault. Maybe it's my childhood. Maybe I'll never stabilize and will spend my entire lifetime on an emotional roller-coaster. How awful! I better call a doctor and get those meds everyone's talking about. But then, I've heard about all the side effects of the meds and if I get numb, I'd feel awful about not having any feelings."

If the reader was shocked at the idea of a father taking his children's temperature three times a day, how much more shocking is it to realize that many of us are taking our own and other people's temperatures far more often! Modern therapy encourages people to engage in obsessive self-analysis and mood-monitoring, as if it's perfectly normal and necessary to get an inner weather report or check on others' level of happiness. G‑d forbid, we should experience sadness and anxiety, as if these feelings indicate insanity.

When people marry, many feel as if they were given an imaginary thermometer under the chuppah, the marriage canopy, and now have the right to check their spouse's moods or talk about their own moods whenever they feel like it. But no sane person wants to be hounded by a spouse who needs constant reassurance or approval. In any event, such reassurance is never enough, as this leaves the dependent on in a state of anxiety, thinking, "I didn't get my fill of reassurance today. Oh, dear. I'm scared. I knew it wouldn't last."

When we over-monitor, we make people nervous, which makes them pull away or get angry, because no one likes to feel controlled. To stop this obsessive behavior, we must first recognize when we are doing it. The next step is to learn self-soothing tactics to deal with the unknown. The truth is that we have very little control over our moods and whether other people like us or not or what they choose to do with their lives. There is no real security in this world. People can suddenly reject us or can be so overwhelmed with their own issues that they seem to not care. When we are dependent on others for reassurance, approval or understanding, we remain suspicious and insecure. When we stop speculating, monitoring and controlling, we open up a space for others to feel more secure in our presence and free to develop truly caring relationships.

When we are dependent on others for reassurance, approval or understanding, we remain suspicious and insecureIt is surprising how freeing it is to stop the temperature taking, to stop speculating about your own moods and other people's thoughts and feelings. It helps to use the word "release" – i.e., release people to be who they are and find their own path. Release yourself to feel whatever you are feeling. It is perfectly normal to want to know how people feel or how they feel about us. We feel instinctively scared if the temperature plunges below zero or is way above normal. It is not pleasant to be around people who are icy cold or overly irritable and temperamental. But we must release the anxious speculations about the everyday ups and downs.

Whatever amount of love and appreciation we give to others is our choice; whatever we get is G‑d's. It is not possible to make people love or like us. Each of us must learn to release the narcissistic urge to nag for more, to pressure people to share, to ask interrogation-like questions or engage in anxious speculation and excessive analysis of our innermost intentions or unconscious desires. Our moods will fluctuate our entire lives; it's no big thing. Getting too wrapped up in the internal weather reports means we do not have time for more important endeavors. We gain confidence when we learn not to lecture, meddle, question, beg, monitor or evaluate. Of course, we can politely ask, "Can I ask how you are? Do you want to talk?" If people do not want to share, we can "release" the desire to control what is impossible to control, i.e., other people's hearts. This frees up time to develop our talents, do kind deeds and contribute to society.