Do you get in a mood and have a hard time getting out? Does your moodiness seem to descend on you for no particular reason? Do your family, coworkers or friends consider you unpredictable? Do you find yourself often brooding for extended periods of time?
Moods can obscure our experience for hours, days, weeks, or even longer. Left unattended, they shape our personalities and determine the quality of our lives. We think that we have no control over our mood swings but the truth is quite the contrary. We create them with our thoughts and so we can create a different mood or dissolve the one we are in if we but chose to do so.
You get in a mood when you have an emotional reaction to a specific event and don’t process your sadness, anger, or fear physically and constructively. Here’s an example. A client, Sam, considered himself moody and agreed that it would take over for days at a time. When he came into my office yesterday, he said he currently felt alienated from his wife, keeping her at a distance.
From Irritable Crankiness to Mood Disorders – Here are five steps to getting the upper hand over your Moodiness
1. Trace back in time to identify when the mood began by looking at various past time frames and determining if you were feeling it then. No matter its magnitude or duration, something upsetting happened that triggered your feeling. It could have been as simple as an edgy interaction, an intense argument, or change of plans disappointment. Pinpoint the event by asking yourself, “When did I start feeling like this?” or, “When was the last time I remember feeling okay?”
Sam asked himself, “How was I feeling three weeks ago when my friends visited from out of town? How about last weekend at the wedding? How about Friday evening?” As he checked in about how he felt at various points in time, a light bulb went off in his head. Sam realized his mood started Sunday evening after his wife made a snide comment about how he never did anything around the house. At the time he didn’t say anything, but pulled away emotionally and started feeling distant. Voila. That was the culprit.
2. When you identified exactly when your mood started, process the event emotionally. That means, cry if you feel sad and hurt; move your anger out of your body if you’re miffed about her misperception; and shiver if you feel scared, anxious, or afraid. When Sam acknowledged how much it hurt to be judged so harshly, he knew he was on the right track.
3. Restore your perspective. When you’re in the thick of things, your thinking can become skewed. Ask yourself, “What’s the larger, objective reality?” Look for a broader view to get out of a myopic state. What would a neutral third party say about this situation?Sam told himself the following: “I love my wife. That’s how she talks when she’s angry and not speaking up about something. I need to not take this personally. Just don’t respond to her ‘yous’ and you don’ts. Be the matador and let them go flying by.”
4. Consult your intuition on whether you need to say or do something to resolve the event. Determine what it is, that is, ask yourself questions such as “What’s the high road?” “What will get us feeling connected again?” Get specific. What specifically do you need to communicate? To whom? What points need to be covered and what request for a change do you need to make so that the future will hold more joy, love, and peace?
Sam realized that it was not too late to initiate a conversation about his wife’s comment if he just stuck with how hurt he felt, because he had made an effort to really help out around the house for most of the day. Because he wanted to feel more loving towards her, he realized that he needed to speak to her about what happened, being sure to restrict their conversation about just the hurtful comment and not as a time to revisit past grievances.
5. Follow through and you will find that your mood will lift and you’ll feel more joy, love, and peace. That means get clear about what your best guess is about what you need to do. When Sam talked to his wife after dinner that night, much to his surprise she told him how bothered she had been by what she had said, but decided to pretend she didn’t say it rather than apologize. They agreed that in the future they would talk about little upsets without delay.
Rewind Back to the Source of Your Mood Swing
It’s easy to fall under the spell of a negative mood but equally easy to change it, if you trace back to find the specific event that triggered it, and deal with just that specific event. It’s almost like magic, but better.