The purpose of moods

When you start to see how your moods are purposeful, rather than experiences that just happen to you, you can open up new worlds of possibility.

For example: can you tell what resentment does for you?

Or, better said, what are you doing for yourself when you keep resentment going?

This can be a fruitful exploration because, on the face of it, the poisonous part of resentment is much more obvious than its benefits. But look more closely for a while: when you are sure that you’ve been wronged, particularly if you don’t feel you have much direct possibility for redress, resentment is actually a quite effective way of maintaining your self-esteem. It casts you in a superior position to your opponent, and moves you (at least in your own experience) from powerless victim to vengeful justice-seeker.

Many moods have a similar purpose – maintaining self-esteem or protecting something that matters to you.

Take anger, which keeps what you most care about hot and fiery and central in your attention, making sure you and others do not forget it.

Or resignation, which has at its heart a conviction that what you want to happen cannot be made to come about, however hard you might try – perhaps a preferable story to the alternative in which your inability to change things is because of a fault or deficiency on your part.

When you see that every mood has its own intelligence, its own set of priorities, and a particular something that it’s working on bringing about, you can start to ask yourself

Is what this mood wants the same as what I want?
And – is maintaining this mood really the best way to make it happen?

Which gives you a new kind of choice – one that treating moods as just ‘something that happens’ can never bring about.

Photo Credit: x1klima via Compfight cc

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