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Zeigarnik Effect’s Spiritual Side to Completing Tasks

A Kabbalistic look at leaving projects uncompleted and tasks undone

In her 1927 doctoral thesis, Bluma Zeigarnik stated that people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks. There are many implications to what is now known as the “Zeigarnik Effect,” but recently I was discussing with a friend the implications according to Kabbalah.

9551870313_7a261bbbb1_zPhoto Credit: Flicker.com


Locating the Spiritual Source

As explained recently, the Zohar states “As above, so below.” So after being introduced to this theory related to memory, I went to this class on memory according to Kabbalah. Since the class presented an entire partzuf (the full array of sefirot) for memory, the challenge was to find the appropriate sefirah.

As Zeigarnik’s theory relates to the successful completion of tasks this indicated a probable correspondence with the sefirah of netzach (victory). Netzach’s Hebrew root nun-tzadik-chet (נ-צ-ח) links it with words that share the same root, including “eternity” (nitzchiyut –  נִצְחִיּוּת), and “orchestration” (nitzuach – נִצּוּחַ). Thus netzach indicates the sense of initiative and persistence necessary to overcome opposition and complete tasks successfully.

Before we quote some of the netzach section from that class, let’s first add two prefatory remarks:

The first is that the class presented segulot (spiritual remedies) to improve memory according to Kabbalah. So whereas the Zeigarnik Effect put forth a result based on observation, by connecting the effect to the spiritual cause, instead of observing the relationship between memory and tasks, we can actually improve our memory over the long-term.

The second prefatory remark is that since we follow the “As above, so below” paradigm, from beginning with the Divine Wisdom behind the theory Above, we then can begin to offer other solid enhancements to the effect for physiologists, scientists, marketers, etc… “below.”

Now let’s quote from this Kabbalah class:

If I give up, I stop eating, like in certain psychological diseases when people have no motivation to do anything so they also don’t eat. When a person has no motivation, the segulah is to eat because it’s an opportunity to make a blessing. The blessing is valuable in and of itself, but it’s about remembering the future, having a destiny, an objective in life. Keep on eating, as the Ba’al Shem Tov said. Especially simple Jews, they have to keep on eating. Like the Ba’al Shem Tov sent his students to see simple Jews eating. If you love your friends, your spouse, you remind them to make their blessings. In the Oral Torah, the laws of blessings, is a segulah to strengthen memory.

Zeigarnik Effect 2.0

We’re already gone way deeper and further in our explorations. What we are now saying is that a person with a low desire to live will have a low Zeigarnik Effect. Therefore in marketing for instance, the first thing a marketer ought to keep in mind is that they should promote material that is inspiring and encourages people live happy and fulfilled lives (In the spiritual source from quote above, this was indicated by saying a blessing both before and after eating). Even if marketing doesn’t overtly make mention of Kabbalah, at least the marketer should be versed in the source for their advice Above. And when the clients ask where this novel advice comes from it is then praiseworthy that the marketers should answer truthfully. That it came from reading an article on marketing based on Kabbalah. Hopefully over time, in addition to improved marketing tactics, both marketers and their clients will also begin to say blessings before and after eating as well.

To-Do Lists

As mentioned above, there are implications to the Zeigarnik Effect beyond marketing. For instance is it a good idea to compile daily to-do lists or not? According to what we now presented it all depends on what’s in the list. If thinking about completing these tasks leads a person to feel happy and fulfilled, then its a good idea as his or her memory/recollection will also increase until these unfinished tasks are completed. But if the list is comprised of things that don’t lead to these feelings, then it would be better to either not create the list, or better yet, attempt to make tomorrow’s list vastly different.

About the Author
Yonatan Gordon is a student of Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh, and co-founder of InwardNews.com.
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