I am finding out how often I experience protective anticipatory moods.
There’s a part of me that makes sure I feel disappointment, long before the events about which I might feel disappointed have taken place. I can feel anticipatory disappointment – a kind of flatness and emptiness – before spending time with people I care about, before a special experience which I’ve been looking forward to, before teaching, before travelling. I’ve been feeling a special kind of anticipatory disappointment in the run up to the elections on Thursday here in the UK.
And there’s a part of me that can make sure I feel anticipatory shame. Before speaking in public, before sharing my deepest inner experience with others, before asking for something that I want or desire, before making a stand for something that matters to me.
The more I care about something – the more significant it is to me – the more often I’ll feel one of these. And the more often they’ll have me tune out or hold myself back.
It has been revelatory to spot this process at work – to disentangle how I’m feeling from how the world is. Because while these anticipatory moods are related to the world, they’re not so much of the world. They are, more accurately said, an attempt by protective inner parts of me to shield me from the more potentially public kind of disappointment or shame that comes from engagement with the world or with others.
Let us do the shaming or disappointment first, these parts say, to spare you a much worse kind of shame or emptiness.
As is so often the case, simply seeing these parts for what they are (and honouring their ultimately unhelpful attempts to protect me) has them relax, giving me a much better chance of bringing myself fully and courageously to the world.