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.
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Let me tell you a story.
Years ago, when I had about a decade of life-coaching experience under my belt, I took a course in advanced coaching to step up my game.
I was enjoying this course up in Northern California, among the Redwoods in Sonoma County. I’ve always figured that if you’re going to spend a couple of weeks training somewhere, it may as well be a nice somewhere, so there I was.
It was a rigorous course and a big part of the training was running mock coaching sessions with various partners, that is, other participants on the course.
On this particular day I had a very experienced coach I was partnering with. He was a bit daunting for me; I had a lot of respect for him and was, I confess, a little anxious to impress him.
We went through our session, taking turns coaching each other and the idea was to give helpful feedback.
His sage advice
At the end of my turn as coach, he had four words of feedback for me: “You’re working too hard.”
Ack. How embarrassing. Internally I bristled, while externally I thanked him for his comments. But in my head I was busy making excuses for myself. Of course I came across as working too hard, trying to impress. It was an unnatural situation and I knew I was being critiqued, yap, yap, yap.
He then went on. “Let the client do the work, not you. That’s not your job. Just let go and relax. You have a strong personality; don’t let it intrude on your coaching.
You just need to find your Zen place.”
My Zen place…
Those words made me reel with a confusion of emotions, but I knew what he meant.
I was familiar with Zen. I had been fascinated with it as a college student, had read all of Alan Watts’s books, had devoured Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and generally joined in the zeitgeist of all things Zen of that era. Zen was trendy in my day.
Zen is best known for enabling a state of relaxation, zero fear, being totally present and undistracted.
‘Unfazed’ as Alan Watts described it.
Unfazed. What a great word—the essence of cool, undaunted, unperturbed, undismayed by circumstances. Non-reactive. In control of your emotions and able to handle criticism. Bullet proof.
The perfect place for a coach—and anybody for that matter.
My partner was urging me to find that state of calm, the Zen state of coaching, where everything flows and so much is happening.
This book is the tale of my subsequent odyssey to become a better coach and trainer.
It’s fun, and short—you can read it in less than 2 hours—and reveals 5 insider secrets I discovered about coaching that helped me step up my game. I believe you will find these secrets very practical in many contexts, not just coaching.
Come along with me as I set out to find my Zen
Enjoy the chapter on A Coachable Cat
Discover what they don’t teach you in coaching college
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I’m kind of embarrassed to admit this, but I’m a news junkie. There. It’s out.
I know, I know, the news is all fake, or toxic, or slanted, and designed to elicit strong emotions in us so we will get addicted and read more. Manipulative. Forcing us to form opinions.
I know all the arguments—we need to keep our minds clean and clear and we attract what we think about. And I am in total admiration of those who avoid the news entirely in order to remain unstressed and calm.
And yet I still turn to news hubs before doing anything constructive. It’s like a drug for sure. I love tuning in for the first time in the day. What’s new? What’s going on? Anything exciting?
Gives an initial high but then is unable to deliver on subsequent doses, like the first cigarette of the day. Or so I’ve been told. I don’t smoke, drink, take drugs, or even coffee; but the news? Forget it. I’m so there.
And as a result I do spend quite a bit of my time dealing with unpleasant images in my head and feeling outraged over injustices I can never do anything about.
I have a friend who has detoxed from the news completely and doesn’t know what I’m talking about half the time. On the one hand I admire her discipline, but on the other I don’t really want to be like that. It seems like escaping.
You see, I don’t really like to think it’s an addiction despite what I said earlier. I prefer seeing it as a challenge. A challenge I don’t want to run away from. You can try to live in a bubble, but eventually something will burst it and you still have to deal with all those emotions.
What I want is this—to be able to scan the headlines, dip into an article here and there and remain calm and untroubled by it all. I want to be able to handle it. To be up to date, informed, but unperturbed.
I want to be in control.
I just want to be able to observe, and avoid taking sides or reacting. In other words, not play the game the media is playing, trying to manipulate my mind and emotions. I don’t have to. Then I’m free.
I don’t HAVE to form opinions about everything I read or listen to. I can remain neutral if I so choose.
This leads me to the title of this blog, ie Two Lines That Sum up What I Believe.
The other day I was re-reading the poem Desiderata by Max Ehrmann, and two lines grabbed my attention and literally made me gasp. It summed up perfectly what I deep down really believe about life, the news and world events, and all that other stuff that seems designed to keep me agitated. They are towards the end of the poem. Here they are:
“And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”
There. That’s my opinion on all of it. I’m going to stick that line somewhere on my computer to remind me all is well and will develop in its own time without my help.
I will keep an interested eye on things, and act where I can, while remembering it’s all working itself out as it should. Unfolding.
I know that deep down, this is what I believe. This is a work in progress and I’m not there yet. But now I have a strong vision and intention of where and how I want to be.
What sums up your beliefs? Does this help you with something?
Let me hear from you. If you like this blog and would like more like it, or if there are other subjects around personal development you’d like to discuss, let me know. Please. I love getting feedback from you.
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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 was at the beach the other day watching a glorious sunset. Breathtaking.
The waves were gently breaking against the rocks on the beach, the water was aquamarine, there were fluffy clouds in the sky catching the pink light, and flocks of birds were flying somewhere, who knows, to sleep?
A few pelicans were still fishing and would swoop and crash dramatically into the water whenever they saw prey.
Sounds sublime, huh? And yet there I sat, melancholy, and not knowing why.
Then if occurred to me. I was feeling that I ought to be feeling all kinds of spiritual and uplifting emotions. That I was connected, enlightened, with some sort of witchy incantation to the setting sun on my lips. Or standing in some sort of yogic posture with a shamanic fire burning luminously, bidding farewell to the fading day.
No, instead, I was feeling irritated and a bit restless, and annoyed with myself for wasting this beautiful moment. That I ought to be feeling or doing something different.
Ought to. Ought. Roll it around in your head. Is that word ever welcome?
The other day a client was bemoaning the fact that she felt overwhelmed by everything she had to do and it spoilt her joy and wellbeing. She worked on her business from home and had a million ideas and responsibilities that needed to be acted on.
Ever been there?
I remarked that yes, we can be overpowered with too many things to do all at once. And too many things all at once frequently means whatever we are doing, we feel we ‘ought’ to be doing one of the other many things we need to do. We never feel we are doing what we should be doing and the result is frustration about not being good enough, or organized enough, somehow.
On the same beach holiday mentioned above, I was enjoying an afternoon alone on the balcony of our hotel room, reading my kindle, enjoying creative thoughts and making notes. Then suddenly my internal voice pitched up yapping ‘you ought to be down on the beach enjoying it while you’re here! You shouldn’t be doing this stuff when you’re in this lovely setting!’ Dang. There it was again.
Ought, ought, ought. That word trying to wriggle in and spoil my peace of mind. Telling me I’m never doing the right thing—there’s always a million other things that are better, more productive, good for me. Anything but this, Sunshine!
But I caught it this time. Drop kicked it over the balcony and into the sand.
Start noticing if the word ‘ought’ comes into your thinking. It does with me, often. I’m now noticing when I feel I ought to be cleaning the kitchen when I’m sitting on the veranda. Or I ought to be thinking about lunch when I’m working on this blog. Or I ought to be taking the dogs out for a walk instead of whatever I’m doing (now that’s probably true!).
Don’t talk to me about the treadmill. I always ought to be on that.
I’m dropping that word. Or at least taking note when it rears its ugly head. Banishing it. I invite you to join me in this experiment.
Just say no to any oughts that creep in.
Instead, give yourself permission to focus on whatever you’re doing and rebelliously give it your complete attention. Sit and bask in the sunset just for the beauty of it and lounge on the veranda with a book for as long as you like and feel good about it. Have a glass of iced tea and thumb your nose at even the slightest notion that there’s anything better to do.
The irony is you’ll become more productive, more focused, feel more peaceful and able to enjoy whatever you’re doing.