Miriam: Vivian, thanks for seeing me. I’m not doing well. Life isn’t fair. Yosef’s depression is ruining our lives!

Vivian: Good, sweetheart. What’s the scenario?

Miriam: He has been walking around the house a shadow of himself, acting scared of me like I may suddenly hurt him. Every word of encouragement I say, he hears as criticism.

Vivian: What would you like your life to be like?

Miriam: We could actually live fabulous lives. He could be a spiritual mentor, and we could write inspiring books together, lead Jewish teen groups and change people’s lives. Instead, we are both useless. He is depressed and so am I, so we are both useless to humanity.

Vivian: Let’s put it on a “judge-your-neighbor” worksheet. Is it true that “he is ruining our lives”?

Miriam: Yes.

Vivian: Can you absolutely know it is true?

Miriam: Yes, I can absolutely know.

Vivian: What sensations come up for you when you say that?

Miriam: I want to jump out of my own skin, my stomach feels like a million pounds.

Vivian: Ask your inner child, when was the first time you experienced this belief that “he is ruining our lives.”

Miriam: I am 4 and in the backseat of the minivan. We are going to pick up my Dad’s friend who is a musician and nail gunned his guitar to the wall. “He lost it,” my Dad said with a sigh to my mother. “He could have done something with his life, and now he is being evicted with nowhere to go; he ruined his life.” That was the first time I learned that someone could ruin their life.

Everyone always told me I had so much potential and could really be something. When they would say that, I imagined the broken guitar on the wall, and I would close my eyes and hope I wouldn't mess this up.

Vivian: Good. Any other past images?

Miriam: We were married for a few months. I asked Yosef if he wanted to help lead a group for Shabbat. He looked down at the floor, as if to say, all I can do right now is stay self-regulated. Anything more than that is like asking me to climb a mountain. I remember feeling that he was so pathetic. We could go make a difference in people’s lives, but we couldn’t because it was some insurmountable task for him. That’s when I first believed this thought that he is ruining our lives.

Vivian: What is the scariest, worst-case scenario that comes with this thought?

Miriam: I am 50, we don’t have any children, and Yosef is just managing to learn and pray. I have to walk on eggshells to make sure that I don’t rock the boat and throw us both under water.

I have an exciting life, but it is limited. I can’t travel or really tell anyone about his inner world because who would possibly understand.

Vivian: Isn’t it amazing to see what a spell this one thought can cast on us?

Miriam: Yeah, as soon as I think about it, it takes over entirely and I can hardly breathe.

Vivian: What is the payoff you get from believing this thought?

Miriam: I get to be in his business. I don’t need to focus on my life and my dreams and hopes and opportunities because I can just be sucked into the vortex of him ruining our lives.

I get to play the helpless victim. There is no need to try because he is busy ruining our lives.

Vivian: How do you treat yourself, when you are over there in “his business”?

Miriam: I pity myself. I feel disgusted and angry with myself for putting myself in this situation. I look back at myself and hate that younger me for being so stupid.

Vivian: How do you treat him?

Miriam: He is my captor. I try to convince him to get better, and my encouragement soon turns into frustration. My forced smiles of positivity that “we will get through this, just go do something with your life,” hurts him. It cuts him like razor blades. I watch myself destroy any fight he has left with my double-sided swords of encouragement. I hate myself for not being able to fix this.

Vivian: Who would you be in that exact same situation, looking at him, without the thought?

Miriam: That’s hard.

Vivian: Just see yourself as a woman standing in the kitchen. Are you safe?

Miriam: No!

Vivian: I know you are feeling sensations, just take another look. A woman standing feeling sensations.

Miriam: OK, yes, I see that.

Vivian: Are you safe?

Miriam: Without the thought, yes. There is nothing exciting happening, just a woman standing feeling sensations and a man lying on the floor feeling sensations.

Vivian: Amazing! Can you feel the space around you in the room?

Miriam: Yes, it is G‑d filling the space around me, holding me, protecting me.

Vivian: Now go between feeling the sensations inside and the space surrounding you. Who are you without the thought?

Miriam: I am free. I can go do anything I have ever dreamed of; there are no more ties weighing me down, causing me to remain trapped in the house.

Vivian: Let’s turn it around, sweetheart.

Miriam: I am not furious with Yosef because he is not ruining our lives. That’s a hard one.

Vivian: You don’t need to believe this new thought; we are just trying it on.

Miriam: Well. He is triggering me so hard that I need to call you and do my work. I can’t think of anything else.

Vivian: Is it possible that a certain vision of your lives needs to die for the one G‑d intended to be born?

Miriam: Wow, he isn’t ruining our lives. G‑d knew Yosef would suffer from depression and put that into the calculations. It’s part of the plan that G‑d has for our lives, the adventures that we are meant to have, and the lives we need to touch. Yes! He isn’t ruining our lives; the lives we are meant to live.

Also, he is ruining our lives, but thank G‑d! He’s destroying the life that my ego thinks we need to have. He kills that all the time. My ego thinks we are supposed to be this perfect couple, relatable and cool, rock stars with perfect lives. Well, Yosef has shattered that, thank G‑d. Who needs to live a constipated perfect existence like that? Count me out! It’s too much pressure and just a facade.

So, he is ruining our lives, and he isn’t ruining our lives. He is making sure that we are relatable.

Here’s an example: Yosef and I connected with this 20-year-old at a Purim party.

Yosef realized that the man was dysregulated, and he was helping him to do self-regulation techniques. I realized that the man was about to have a full-on panic or rage attack, so I said to him, let’s just go. We didn’t stay to be a part of the Purim meal because we understood that the mitzvah of the moment was this guy’s mental health. We got him to walk outside in the cool air, which helped him regulate. Yosef told him that he understood what he was going through, and we sat silently with him on a bench under the moonlight.

The man wanted to do something special for his grandfather’s yahrzeit. Yosef told him to relax, choose any mitzvah, and it will be a powerful elevation for his grandfather’s neshamah. He settled on going to talk to G‑d by himself in the empty shul. As the full Purim moon shone down on us in this cosmic moment, I remembered that it was also my Zaidy’s yahrzeit and I realized that we had already done something special—helping another person. We returned to the bench and I looked at my husband in awe.

Now I get it, he is ruining our lives. The lives we were never supposed to live—the one in the neat little box. He isn’t ruining our lives—the one we were sent on this real raw soul mission to live.

Vivian: I love what you found. Turn it around again.

Miriam: I am ruining our lives. Yes! I look at our life and I judge it so hardcore. I am ruining it with my judgement on it.

Also, in my mind, I watch these terrible horror movies of how our lives will end up, so in my mind I am constantly ruining our lives.

Vivian: Now, is it possible that it isn’t “our lives?” Is it his life and your life? “Our lives” are an invention of the ego here, to make you the victim, and him the captor.

Miriam: Let me try it on, I am ruining my life. Yes, by believing it is our life. And not giving myself space to be in my own business. And then I go and hurt him because it’s our life so his business is my business and so I need to fix him, so I can exhale this breath I have been holding for six days.

Vivian: That’s living your turnaround dream. Keep on reminding yourself to come back to your business. The movie clumps it into one; keep distinguishing between your life and his life.

Miriam: But it’s sad that we are living separate lives. I want to be his wife.

Vivian: Are you a kinder wife to Yosef when your business is tied up with his or when you stay in your own business?

It’s the same man lying on the floor. The question is do you want to be in his business and suffer, or step back into yours and do you work?

Miriam: I hear you. I am asking him to stop believing his thoughts and go have a good day. So I need to live that. And I can’t if I am over there on the floor in his business.

I feel like we just did surgery without anesthesia. I love you, Viv!

Vivian: I love you too, doll!

The dinner table was set and tea lights flickered, and the umami smell of brown rice and adzuki beans wafted through the air.

“I want to thank you,” I said.

“For what?” Yosef asks hesitantly.

“For being you.”

“What are you talking about? I just wasted an entire week.”

“I also believe that thought sometimes, so I hear you. But thank you for being you.” I respond, and then a moment later I ask, “Yosef, can we go to Sara’s for Shabbat?”

My stomach lurches. Why did I ask? I know he will say no. Going somewhere new gives him anxiety. I hear the voices begin in my head, He is ruining our lives, why can’t he just be more open. I know this old movie. OK, I tell myself, “I am ruining our lives.” Yes, I am making us unadventurous in my head before he even responds.

He isn’t ruining our lives. We will be at the exact Shabbat table we are meant to be at. I am ruining my life by living in Yosef’s business.

“Will it make you happy?” he asks.

“You make me happy, and, yes, it would make me happy to try something new,” I answer.

“Sure,” he says with a smile as he plays with a match to make the flame rise higher.