B1 Intermediate US 58 Folder Collection
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Far more than we are inclined to accept and sometimes even realise, 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
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 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 own eyes.
Here is some of what we might learn to bear in mind around our capricious moods:
Realise 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.
Edit Social Life 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,
deadly competitiveness, self-absorbed hysteria 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 such
dispiriting impostors. Vulnerable Friendships
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. Most
importantly, 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. Honour the Body
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 – how long we slept, how much water we've drunk, what
viruses we are fighting in the background – the temptation can be to insist that our
ideas must solely be the offspring of reason. 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. Disrespect a mood
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 realising 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: see someone rather than cede to shame, show our face rather than
give way to paranoia, go out for a walk rather than fold our limbs into the foetal 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 unforgiveable and
that we have a right to be. We can strive to keep ourselves plugged into 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 fall, flow and ebb. We are, as
a reality and as a metaphor, largely made of water. 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 realise 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 now to find out more.
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How Best to Manage Your Moods

58 Folder Collection
Annie Huang published on February 27, 2020
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