Far more than we are inclined to accept
and sometimes even realize,
we are creatures of mood:
that is, our sense of our value as human beings
is prone to extraordinary fluctuation.
At times, we know how to tolerate ourselves,
the future seems benevolent,
we can bear who we are in the eyes of others
and we can forgive ourselves for the desperate errors of the past.
And then, at other points, the mood dips
and we lament most of what we’ve ever done,
we see ourselves as natural targets for contempt,
we feel undeserving, guilty, weak
觉得自己软弱无比 一错再错 一文不值
and headed for retribution and disaster.
But it can be very hard to grasp
what causes our moods to shift.
A day that started with energy and hope
can, by lunchtime,
end up mired in self-hatred and tearfulness.
A sure sense that we’ve finally turned the corner
and are on the way to better things
can be replaced at speed
by an alternative certainty
that we are a cosmic error.
We cannot, it appears, ever prevent our moods
from being subject to change,
but what is open to us all
is to learn how to manage the change more effectively –
so that our downturns can be ever so slightly more gentle,
our sadness more containable
and our inconstancy less shameful in our eyes.
Here is some of what we might learn to bear in mind
around our capricious moods:
First, realize our vulnerability.
We should acknowledge how vulnerable our moods are
to being perturbed by so-called ‘small things’.
We belong to a species of extreme
but also fateful sensitivity;
we shouldn’t expect to be able to appreciate a Mozart aria
or a Rembrandt self-portrait on the one hand
and then, on the other, stay unbothered
by the downturned corners of the mouth of a lover
or the slightly distant gaze of a would-be client.
We shouldn’t berate ourselves
for how thin our skin is;
we should adjust ourselves to the full consequences
of our extraordinary openness to experience.
Unless we take vigorous measures to edit our social lives,
we can too easily find ourselves in the company of people
who, though they may call themselves our friends, are –
in terms of what they do to our moods –
no such thing.
Beneath a veneer of kindness,
these people are the bearers of latent hostility,
or priggish moralism.
To start to be a friend to ourselves
means learning to take a scalpel to our address list
in order to edit out all the dispiriting impostors.
The one great solace for a low mood
is the right sort of company:
people who know how to reassure us
that we still belong,
that sadness is to be expected
and that our errors never put us beyond compassion.
These consoling souls will have suffered,
they will have hated themselves
and they will have learnt how to laugh
at the absurdity of being human.
when we show them our low mood,
they will know how gracefully
to take that most essential next step of friendship:
accept our flaws
and display one or two of their own.
Maddeningly, some of why our moods shift
is that we inhabit a body.
But because it’s so humiliating to have to accept
that our ideas about ourselves and our lives
might be dependent on bodily factors –
like how long we slept,
how much water we’ve drunk,
what viruses we might be fighting in the background –
the temptation can be to insist that our ideas
must solely be the offspring of reason.
But it would be wiser to interpret that
most of what passes through our minds
is in some way dependent on
particular things going on in our bodies.
At points, it isn’t that it’s all over
and that we’re the worst person on earth,
it’s just that we may need to lie down for an hour
or urgently have a glass of orange juice.
Moods are proud, imperious things.
They show up and insist that they are telling us total certainties
about our identities and our prospects –
perhaps that our love lives will never work out
or that a professional situation is beyond repair.
But we always have an option of calling their bluff,
of realizing that they are only a passing state of mind
arrogantly pretending to be the whole of us –
and that we could, with courage,
politely ignore them and change the subject.
We might recognize but not give way to the mood
and put a bit of distance between it and our conscious selves.
We might at times even do precisely
what a mood commands us not to do:
like see someone rather than cede to shame,
比如 与其让羞愧得逞 不如去见那个人
or show our face rather than give way to paranoia,
or go out for a walk rather than
fold our limbs into a fetal position.
While we are being rocked by a dark mood,
we should strive to keep a little light on,
the light of sanity and self-kindness that can tell us,
even though the hurricane is insisting otherwise,
that we are not appalling,
that we have done nothing unforgivable
and that we have a right to be.
We can strive to keep ourselves plugged in
to a small pilot light of kindness
until a larger sun is ready to rise once more.
Not only do difficult moods insist that they are correct,
they also seek to convince us that they are permanent.
But our sense of self is naturally viscous;
we are condemned to rise and then fall,
to flow and then ebb.
We are, as a reality and as a metaphor,
largely made of water.
So we shouldn’t allow a misplaced ideal of permanence
to add to our sorrows.
Though we may be unable to shift a mood,
we can at least realize
that it is only ever such a thing
and that, in the inestimable words of the prophets,
with the help of a few hours or days,
it too shall pass.
Our Emotional Barometer is a tool
that can help us to more clearly explain our moods.
Click the link on screen now to find out more.