watching moods shift

Adam . ., modified 6 Years ago.

watching moods shift

Posts: 613 Join Date: 3/20/12 Recent Posts
some unorganized observations:

My practice right now seems to be all about "moods," watching them shift and change, seeing how they affect me and others, and trying to come out of unhappy moodiness whenever it arises. Moods seem to basically be just "pockets" of energy that I hold back from whatever situation I am in. They express their energy mostly through thinking, and they can switch the topic of that thinking given some external trigger. Sometimes they just seem to lift and I can suddenly give myself to whatever situation I am in, sometimes they stick around longer than it seems like they should and I try various practices to come out of them. One thing I try is to simply remember that they are temporary and that I wasn't in one a little while ago and I won't be in one shortly, also I try to just cut off whatever thinking they are engaging in, or to just observe their energy in my body. I also notice that sometimes when a mood has been sticking around for a while and I have been observing it and trying to dissolve it that it might actually be that my thinking about the mood and trying different things on it is what is keeping it going. I think that sometimes I am just thinking about moods and about being present to dissolve them and not actually doing it in a way that really has a strong effect. Sometimes it also seems that the willingness to escape the mood is absent and that is confusing. When they are really strong then sometimes that leads to my priorities changing and the only thing that matters is getting out of the mood, and in that case I can just direct my attention to the present and away from the thoughts and that does the trick.
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Not Tao, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: watching moods shift

Posts: 997 Join Date: 4/5/14 Recent Posts
This sounds very similar to my practice.  You wrote out a lot of the observations I've made too, haha!  Kind of fun to meet a fellow traveler.  Here are some things that might be useful:

I've noticed that my moods tend to be caused by a few reliable specific things.  One is a sense of urgency, like I don't have time to do what I need, or there is some deadline I must meet, one is a discomfort with my environment, and one is a feeling that I need to protect my social standing.

You can change these moods by reasoning through the cause and realizing the mood itself isn't useful.  For example, I used to worry about time a great deal - I felt like I was going to run out of money, or I wasn't going to finish the projects I wanted to do.  After a bit of thinking, I realized that this mood, specifically, was preventing me from doing the things that would prevent the negtive outcome I was imagining.  I was prevented from working hard because the anxiety itself created such an aversion to work.  This made it much easier to let go of the anxiety.  It's like the observation you made that we hold on to our moods.  A good way to look at it is probably that these moods are actually caused by us to help us to remember to do something or act a certain way.  If you can delegitimize the purpose of the mood, it is much easier to let it dissolve because you won't feel like it's important.  For me, the key is allowing myself to trust my future self to handle whatever situation arises.  That way I don't have to rehearse for anything.

Another thing that might be useful is something the stoics talk about.  They realized that almost all of our anger is caused by other people, and the source of our anger is the feeling that we've been insulted.  This has to do with the "social hierarchy game" we play.  We are constantly monitoring our place in a kind of social pecking order, and when we feel someone is making a move to a position above us (usually by putting us down or comparing us negatively to themself) we feel we must protect our position by creating our own insults.  This often plays out in a very subtle way.  They came up with a brilliant solution to this - insult pascifism.  By simply refusing to play the game, there is no need to struggle to keep your place, and insults have no effect.  Their advice is twofold - if you are insulted, you can simply go on as if nothing happened, but if you must respond, you can insult yourself worse than the person who insulted you did.  It sounds a bit odd, but it works well in practice.  You'll never feel flustered or angry, and you won't feel the need to ruminate about the past, simply because you've decided that your position doens't matter in any way.

My second reason above might me more idosynchratic to me, but I realized a lot of my physical tension and discomfort came from being uncomfrotable where I was physically. Just realizing this one seemed to help diffuse it, especially if I intentionally touched things I thought were dirty, or I let myself really embed the space I was in.  This is also related to how others might see me in a specific situation, as well - like I might feel it's nescessary to be "on my best behavior" or to adopt the personality and attitude of the people around me.  This relates to the point above, though, and letting go of the idea that other people must recognise some level of worth or merit makes it easy to be content in social situations - even when other people are very negative.

Finally, it seems that adopting an attitude of trust and benevolence, as well as curiosity, makes it much easier to diffuse the negative moods.  It's like you said, the rumination about the moods often is what perpetuates them.  If you can work through the cause of the mood without trying to change it actively, that seems to be the quickest exit.  A good combination of acceptance and reorganization of beliefs and priorities.
Adam . ., modified 6 Years ago.

RE: watching moods shift

Posts: 613 Join Date: 3/20/12 Recent Posts
You can change these moods by reasoning through the cause and realizing the mood itself isn't useful.  For example, I used to worry about time a great deal - I felt like I was going to run out of money, or I wasn't going to finish the projects I wanted to do.  After a bit of thinking, I realized that this mood, specifically, was preventing me from doing the things that would prevent the negtive outcome I was imagining.  I was prevented from working hard because the anxiety itself created such an aversion to work.  This made it much easier to let go of the anxiety.  It's like the observation you made that we hold on to our moods.  A good way to look at it is probably that these moods are actually caused by us to help us to remember to do something or act a certain way.  If you can delegitimize the purpose of the mood, it is much easier to let it dissolve because you won't feel like it's important.  For me, the key is allowing myself to trust my future self to handle whatever situation arises.  That way I don't have to rehearse for anything.

Don't you sometimes try to do this and it completely doesn't work though? The other day I was having a bit of insomnia and i kept trying to consider the fact that staying up worrying would only make things worse, it really seemed to have no effect at all though. It's times like that when I attempt a "body-focus" strategy. I think insomnia is probably the best example of the type of emotions I really have trouble with. It's the ones where I really have a strong sense of not wanting it to be there, a really strong logical understanding that it isn't helpful, but it tenaciously hangs on or gets even worse... This happens in a very similar way with depressed feelings, i know it only makes things worse but it just won't budge. Kind of like a chinese finger trap as someone once mentioned on the DhO. It's emotions like those where I simply concentrate away from the thoughts and emotions until they subside, but they are quite tricky.
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Not Tao, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: watching moods shift

Posts: 997 Join Date: 4/5/14 Recent Posts
Yeah, I hear ya. emoticon I think the reason it worked for me was because I truly believed it at the time, which can be hard to do.  Like, you might understand perfectly that the feelings are in the way, but unless there's a visceral understanding - like that kick in the stomach, "oh, yeah!" type thing - then it probably will just make you feel worse to ruminate about it.

The main problem is the rumination, so once you understand you don't need the emotion, it gives you permission to forget about it.  Actively forgetting becomes the key at that point.  When it comes back into your head, you can allow yourself to let it go, you don't have to give it any more of your time.  This might repeat a few times, but eventually it stops coming back.

It's helpful to "get the message" as well.  If you can allow the feeling to present all of the fears connected to it without trying to stop them, it tends to relax the emotion itself.  I like to think of it like this: a mind with negative emotions is in the middle of a debate.  Things like fear and anger happen when one part of the brain is trying to ignore another part of the brain.  If you let the emotion through and let it present its case, then it won't feel the need to shout anymore.

There's something very powerful about opening yourself up completely like that.  It feels a bit raw at first, but then the emotions settle down and you realize you were able to do it without turning away from things.  Old stuff comes up, but it doesn't have the emotional component - you've already gone through the emotion, so it's behind you.  It's very freeing to realize you don't have to run away or fight with yourself anymore - you can just let the mind do its thing.  Just consider, what's the easiest thing you could do when you feel trapped by a bad mood?  If you're trying to hold the feelings away, you're adding a struggle on top of the bad feeling.  If you focus in on it and let it take you over, you're just feeding it.  Instead, you can just let go of control and allow it to give you the full message.  I've been suprised by what my feelings had to say on a number of occasions, and it ended up being much easier to diffuse them than I thought.  Like, I used to think I just had this formless anxiety hanging over me that came from nowhere.  After letting it in and examining it, I realized it was actually a kind of OCD where I was trying to avoid touching certain things.  I never would have imagined that was the cause of my problem before, but now it's easy to let go of it right when I notice it.  I just touch the thing I was subconsiously avoiding, haha.  Like I said before, that's probably ideosyncratic to me, but I'm sure everyone can make these kinds of discoveries.  If you're having trouble with an emotion that keeps coming back, there's probably something repressed that's trying to get out.

It's a delicate dance though.  Very tricky, like you said. 
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Ian And, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: watching moods shift

Posts: 785 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Adam . .:
some unorganized [but insightful] observations:

My practice right now seems to be all about "moods," watching them shift and change, seeing how they affect me and others, and trying to come out of unhappy moodiness whenever it arises. Moods seem to basically be just "pockets" of energy that I hold back from whatever situation I am in.

They express their energy mostly through thinking, and they can switch the topic of that thinking given some external trigger.

Sometimes they just seem to lift and I can suddenly give myself to whatever situation I am in, sometimes they stick around longer than it seems like they should and I try various practices to come out of them. One thing I try is to simply remember that they are temporary and that I wasn't in one a little while ago and I won't be in one shortly, also I try to just cut off whatever thinking they are engaging in, or to just observe their energy in my body.

I also notice that sometimes when a mood has been sticking around for a while and I have been observing it and trying to dissolve it that it might actually be that my thinking about the mood and trying different things on it is what is keeping it going. I think that sometimes I am just thinking about moods and about being present to dissolve them and not actually doing it in a way that really has a strong effect.

Sometimes it also seems that the willingness to escape the mood is absent and that is confusing.

When they are really strong then sometimes that leads to my priorities changing and the only thing that matters is getting out of the mood, and in that case I can just direct my attention to the present and away from the thoughts and that does the trick.

It's emotions like those where I simply concentrate away from the thoughts and emotions until they subside, but they are quite tricky.

All of these are very good observations. The fact that you are aware of these events at their subtle level of arising speaks well for your practice. The fix that you are seeking involves gaining wisdom with regard to each of these events as they arise and realizing that these events have nothing to do with a "me, myself, or I." If you can get to the point where equanimity is applied each time that one of these events arises, you will begin to see, with wisdom, the origin of the event and realize that you do not have to identify with it

It isn't so much that you apply equanimity (consciously), but that the impression of equanimity arises on its own due to wisdom with regard to what is occurring, because you see what is occurring with insight and comprehension of what it truly is. Sometimes, though, in the beginning of learning and practicing this, you may have to apply equanimity consciously in order to keep yourself grounded (i.e., not let yourself fly off the handle emotionally one way or the other, but realizing that maintaining an even and balanced mental keel is best). Yet, eventually, once your mindfulness has become more developed as an ongoing present-moment process, equanimity will arise on its own as you see, with insight, the origin of the factors that led to the arising of the mood, and therefore see the mood for what it truly is and are able to let go of it.

With wisdom, you will see that the event is merely a mental formation, created in the mind and triggered by an outside occurrence from which you associated a feeling (vedana) of either pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral liking, disliking, or neutrality toward the occurrence. Once you are able to reach down and become mindful of this level of subtlety and insight in your practice, these moods, when they arise, will not last very long because you will have seen through their illusion and realized that they are not real and have no substance. They will disappear of their own volition.

This is difficult to explain without bringing up an example that one can relate to. Because, until one makes the initial breakthrough in insight, everyone reacts differently to various stimuli. Meaning that you may or may not understand the example being pointed to. Yet, I will endeavor to provide an example similar to what I am speaking about.

Let's say that you just got fired from your job, and that event gave rise to a feeling (vedana) that was unpleasant with regard to the event. That unpleasant feeling, in turn, gives rise to negative emotions and a perception of (identification with) depression over the event. If you allow that negativity and depression to overwhelm you, you will not be able to deal effectively with finding a solution to the event.

This is where equanimity enters the picture. If you can see where this feeling and these negative emotions had their origin, you can begin to deal equanimously with the matter. The unpleasant feeling and negative thoughts are merely mental formations which you can either identify with (i.e., hold onto) or let go of. If you let go of these, then you will be able to deal more effectively with the aftermath of the event, which is to locate new employment.

By being able to see with clarity (wisdom) the arising of these negative elements in your perception, you are able to resist identification with them and thus lessen their effect on you. That is, these moods will be less likely to arise, and you will be able to get on with your life in a positive manner.
Adam . ., modified 6 Years ago.

RE: watching moods shift

Posts: 613 Join Date: 3/20/12 Recent Posts
Ian, I didn't see this post until now but thanks for the comments and suggestions... I was just coming back to this thread to give a little update.

This "watching moods shift" seems to be even more central to my practice than it was when i first wrote the thread. It has continued to become clear that moods are something "secondary" and that they will just move around as they do... they aren't really as big a deal as I had long thought they were. I had previously used mindfulness, equanimity, acceptance, whatever as means to get rid of emotions but it seems now that this is actually an approach that unavoidably gives energy to the emotional center. No matter what the method, if the intention is about getting rid of one side of the emotional spectrum you are going to be stuck with lots of suffering. So lately with "watching moods shift" I have just been trying to observe what mood is present, just to get some perspective on it. In this way rather than the perception being "the world is shitty" the perception is "there is a shitty mood present."

If i notice that I am excited, depressed, worried, nostalgic, hopeful or whatever other emotions that I don't have words for, then I am suddenly slightly more peaceful. Noticing that this peace is something that has come and will go can bring even more peace, while expecting that it will come or believing that i know how to make it come will just create more conflict. It is kind of a paradoxical practice in that way... it has become a bit more experientially clear why many have recommended "do nothing" as a spiritual practice. I can see that I am not fully ready to trust the impermanence of moods/emotions because I want to always be happy... but it is becoming obvious as a general principle that I have to be orienting myself toward an underlying "already present" peacefulness rather than constantly arranging the unpeaceful conditions into more peaceful ones.
John Wilde, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: watching moods shift

Posts: 501 Join Date: 10/26/10 Recent Posts
Adam . .:
Ian, I didn't see this post until now but thanks for the comments and suggestions... I was just coming back to this thread to give a little update.

This "watching moods shift" seems to be even more central to my practice than it was when i first wrote the thread. It has continued to become clear that moods are something "secondary" and that they will just move around as they do... they aren't really as big a deal as I had long thought they were. I had previously used mindfulness, equanimity, acceptance, whatever as means to get rid of emotions but it seems now that this is actually an approach that unavoidably gives energy to the emotional center. No matter what the method, if the intention is about getting rid of one side of the emotional spectrum you are going to be stuck with lots of suffering. So lately with "watching moods shift" I have just been trying to observe what mood is present, just to get some perspective on it. In this way rather than the perception being "the world is shitty" the perception is "there is a shitty mood present."

If i notice that I am excited, depressed, worried, nostalgic, hopeful or whatever other emotions that I don't have words for, then I am suddenly slightly more peaceful. Noticing that this peace is something that has come and will go can bring even more peace, while expecting that it will come or believing that i know how to make it come will just create more conflict. It is kind of a paradoxical practice in that way... it has become a bit more experientially clear why many have recommended "do nothing" as a spiritual practice. I can see that I am not fully ready to trust the impermanence of moods/emotions because I want to always be happy... but it is becoming obvious as a general principle that I have to be orienting myself toward an underlying "already present" peacefulness rather than constantly arranging the unpeaceful conditions into more peaceful ones.


Good move, if you ask me. Recontextualise feelings by accepting the totality of the situation in which they arise. Then deal with the situation (if there's anything left of it). Trying to directly manipulate emotions from within problem-space is just such a waste of energy, in my experience.