Sometimes I get in a strange mood for no obvious reason and can’t seem to shift it. Vague moods like melancholy, low level anxiety, the blahs.
When I get like this—out of sorts—I use a technique I found in one of Michael Neill’s books, and it goes like this:
I’m feeling X…
And that means X…
That’s it. Simple. And so effective for identifying the actual emotion, what triggers it, and the story built up around it. Silly, unimportant—gone!
Getting to grips with what’s really bugging us, what we’reactuallyfeeling, can do wonders. For instance, the emotion of anger could actually be resentment, which could actually be fear of humiliation.
Then the ‘Because…’ illuminates. Someone raised an eyebrow and it reminded you of a teacher who used to do that and made you feel inadequate or humiliated. Triggered!
‘And that means…’ We build up stories around everything that happens to us. They can be supportive, or unsupportive. Usually not true. We can change the story. Delete!
Or frequently some small event sets off a chain of thinking that culminates in a sour mood. It was that weird film I watched last night that put me in this state. Reminded me of someone I used to know. What happened to him? Oh, he died in a car crash. Mood! Gone!
A missing piece?
At times however, there seems to be something missing, a further step needed for those stubborn emotions that won’t let go.
I found the missing piece, the elusive next step, in a book by Thich Nhat Hanh, the well known Vietnamese monk and teacher.
Thich says we first need to identify, acknowledge, and recognize what is causing our suffering.
Here’s the key (that made me sit up). We need to look deeply at the emotion and discover “the kinds of nutriments that have helped it come to be and continue to feed it.”
Ah. Bingo. There we are. How am I feeding and nourishing this negative story? Until I stop feeding it, the emotion’s not going anywhere.
How do we nourish emotions? That part is easy—TV, Internet, social media, books, people we hang out with, gossip, politics, news.
But also there’s our constant self-talk that reinforces the negative story and keeps it alive and kicking. Just waiting to be triggered.
Next time you notice that story repeating itself in your mind, simply say, Not now! And bring something more positive to mind.
Cut off the feed and the emotion cannot thrive.
This always works for me.
So, to recap:
I’m feeling X… (emotion, really drill down)
Because X… (trigger)
And that means X …(story you tell yourself about it)
And I am nourishing this by X… (What is keeping this story alive)
Try it and let me know how it works for you.
PS If you would like help dealing with negative emotions then I can help! I have over 20 years’ experience coaching people to let go of stuff (technical term) that’s not helping them.
Contact me here and we can discuss booking a 1 hour, online session. Easy, no fuss, affordable.
If you live in San Miguel de Allende we can meet one-to-one in a private, open air setting.
The other day I woke up in a melancholy mood. “The bittersweet melancholy of another new dawn”, as my poet friend Scott Hastie expresses it so nicely.
I rarely get depressed, and then not for long, and I’m usually an upbeat, positive sort, so a melancholy mood felt strange. I didn’t know what to do with it, quite literally. I felt out of sorts, kind of off balance. Why, I wondered? Nothing bad was going on in my life, and all was well.
Have you had this happen?
As I examined it more closely I realized it was due to several things, all unrelated. I had watched a disturbing film the night before, several people had unsubscribed to my list (turns out they were on the wrong list), the sales on one of my books was down, and a client had cancelled her appointment due to illness.
Big deal! None of it important or earth shattering. Each on its own something I wouldn’t even blink at. Yet I had managed to pull them all together into a rather unpleasant tale and was unconsciously sending this charming message to myself—Nobody likes me, Everybody hates me, I think I’ll go and eat worms!
As soon as I woke up to this, it all went away and I was fine. No worms were harmed in the writing of this.
It got me thinking. While I was indulging my melancholy outlook, I got nothing done. The day was blue, I was blue, and nothing was going to get accomplished in that state.
What is a mood?
A mood is a generalized emotional state, which forms your attitude, and colors how you look at the world. Your frame of mind so to speak. So we have cranky, sour, melancholy moods, as well as peaceful, optimistic, blissful moods, and oh, don’t forget that seriously general mood, the blahs.
Every mood is a narrative,
…a story we have concocted around what is happening in our lives. Frequently it’s not even current stuff, but something triggered from the past. So we can get grumpy about something that happened 20 years ago without even knowing why.
We are not conscious we are creating the tale. We only feel the mood.
Our moods are more important than most of us realize. Successful people have control of their moods. They don’t let them take over and ruin their day. They push back against the dictator and create empowering moods.
Unhappy people don’t have control over their moods, which are usually of failure, or defeat, or inadequacy.
Moods rule our lives and dictate the kind of results we get in life. Mood matters.
The good news is you can control your mood and can always choose a useful one.
I use a technique (from Michael Neill) for mood control THAT WORKS EVERY TIME! It’s only 3 steps, so I encourage you to memorize it. You never know when it will come in handy.
This is how you dig out a bad mood and drag it blinking and snarling into the light of day. Leave the good ones alone. They are working for you.
Here we go. When you have a strange mood, and you don’t know the cause, complete these 3 sentences.
1) I’m feeling…….
(List all the words you can think of to describe your mood. Get as specific as possible. Remember, moods are general so home in on it.)
(List all the possible triggers that come to mind. It’s usually more than one.)
3) Which means…..
(Aha, here is the story, the narrative. What nonsense are you telling yourself about these events?)
When you look at the narrative you have uncovered, usually a blatant and silly generalization of unlinked occurrences, you can simply spin it. Find a new story, unlink the causes, and reframe all of it.
Every mood is a narrative.
Every narrative can be rewritten, so if you don’t like the mood, change the story.
Honestly, this is deceptively powerful and effective. Please try it.
If you would like help identifying and exposing some killer moods then contact me for a session either online or in person here in San Miguel de Allende. I’d love to help you make this work. Remember, if you don’t control your moods, then your moods control you! Contact me here.
I woke up the other morning feeling out of sorts. Not depressed exactly, just a feeling of restlessness, as if something wasn’t right.
Nothing especially negative going on in my personal life: dogs were well, husband happily preoccupied with his stuff, I could lose a few pounds and exercise more, but hey, what’s new?
So I had a good hard look at work. Ah, oh yes. Very clear what’s happening.
May/June in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where I live, is typically the hottest, driest time of the year, so the town just clears out while most of the ex-pats head to the beach or back to the homeland. My usually busy client schedule emptied overnight. From having to juggle where to book people one week to zero the next, I was somewhat disconcerted. Either they had all left town or they all decided en masse they hated me. I’m banking on the former. Either way, my calendar was pretty spartan all of a sudden.
Plus my business and training partner had left town for a month, so no workshops planned, friends had fled, and I had been revamping my books, they weren’t ready, so no books to advertise or work on for the moment. I seemed to be in a state of waiting, my normally busy life on hold.
In other words, things had ground to a halt, or to use a better metaphor, I was in the doldrums!
I love the origin of the term in the doldrums
Do you know where this term comes from? Bear with me. It’s quite illuminating.
The word doldrum means dull and slothful. To be in the doldrums is an archaic maritime term, which refers to certain areas in the ocean near the equator. These areas are hot and humid and the wind can sometimes disappear completely, trapping sailing boats for periods of days or weeks on end. It was a sailor’s nightmare.
Kind of like San Miguel right now. This boat was stalled.
These areas were nicknamed the doldrums by 18th century sailors, because getting caught in them was so dull and boring. If you got stuck in the doldrums you would be unable to move forward; marooned at sea in the middle of the tropics. If the winds were too long in coming, you could get depressed and stir crazy; worse, you could die from thirst or hunger.
Most dreaded it more than a storm.
Can you picture it—stifling heat, unrelenting sun, absolutely no breeze of any kind, no sounds of any kind, and the air perfectly still? You could go crazy just thinking about it. Imagine getting stuck there with no way out and no idea when the breezes would start again. “As idle as a painted ship, Upon a painted ocean.”
Yes, I can imagine it only too well.
Colloquially, in the doldrums came to mean a state of inactivity, mild depression, listlessness, or stagnation—a general state of low spirits. A pretty apt metaphor for how I was feeling at the moment. There was no wind in my sails and I felt as if I was drifting on a sea of gloom without an oar. Just like Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner.
So, who survived the doldrums?
Sailors who kept their spirits up, their sails trimmed and their ships in tip-top-shape—that’s who. They took advantage of the quiet time to prepare themselves for the breezes. And when the wind eventually blew, they were ready. A good sailor can use the tiniest breeze to get moving and out of danger.
Who didn’t survive? The sailors who allowed themselves to sink into fear and depression, who felt disconnected, cut-off, adrift. They focused on their fear, and would sink to the bottom of the ship, drunk and depressed. And when the breezes came, they didn’t feel them and lost their chance of escape. They weren’t ready.
So, ahem, at the risk of stating the obvious…
When we feel like there’s no wind in our sails, and nothing much is happening in our lives, embrace it! Trim your sails and get your ship in order.
Clients will come back.
Workshops will resume.
Books will finally be ready for marketing.
Life will crank up and splutter into action again.
In the meantime, I’m exulting in my freedom. I’m enjoying my enforced quiet time reading, researching, writing, de-cluttering. I’m spending hours just sitting in the garden with my dogs, sitting on my roof at sunset, bingeing on Netflix (a special skill of mine), and just being. I’m in bliss. Trimming those sails…sort of.
Enjoy your summer. Welcome those slow periods in life. They can be your most productive.
Retirement can bring on a feeling of the doldrums. If you are retired and feeling at loose ends or stuck, you might enjoy my book, The Retirement Rebel: How to get your life to work, when you don’t have to available on kindle and in paperback on amazon. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07D6TWXP8.
This is an updated and revised version of How to Beat the Retirement Blues.
If you like it, I’d love, no, adore a nice review. Indie writers are so dependent on reviews to get our books noticed, so your review matters. Just go to the book page and click on where it says “Would you like to leave a review?” I’ll be so grateful I’ll treat you to tacos next time you’re in town
I invite you to visit margaretnashcoach.com for more books, articles, and other sail trimming ideas you might like.