Watch how your emotions and moods play a part in your dramas.
He doesn’t ask about your day in the way you were hoping for…
She doesn’t say to you how brilliant your contribution was to this morning’s meeting…
He doesn’t tell you he loves you at the moment you wished he would…
…and you become angry, resentful, or sulking; overtly or quietly, with loud demonstration or with a roll of your eyes, with a slouch of your back and shoulders, or with silence.
Are you actually, truly, angry or resentful or resigned?
Or could it be that this mood that’s swept upon you is itself a way in which you keep the drama going?
Because each mood tells a story to you and to others, casting you and them in roles that call for particular kinds of action. These moods, in particular, establish you as the wronged one, with the other person as wrongdoer. And, because moods are public even if you’re doing your best to hide them, you’re instantly affecting the other person, calling from them a new kind of response, even before you speak.
If you get the response you wish for – an apology, an admission, an offer, loving attention – does the mood subside?
And if you don’t, does it deepen, continue, heighten?
Moods are not just occurrences that sweep over you unbidden but actions in which you are involved. And as you observe this you might start to see that they are rarely simple reflections of what is happening, but a way in which you act to have new things happen.
I think this is what Robert Solomon means when he tells us that our emotional responses can be cultivated, made more sophisticated – more truthful – over time. It’s an important project, for each of us, to find out how what we’re feeling is not some simple unquestionable truth but also a way that we’re involved in keeping our dramas going, and in getting what we want in indirect and often confusing ways from the people around us.