I used to feel responsibility and fear of other people’s bad moods and negative emotions.
But like everything in my experience, how I feel is not determined by circumstances (including the circumstance of other people being moody). How I feel is determined by my thoughts about circumstances.
For example: “he’s in a mood again!” feels pretty bad. I could sit, tense with anxiety, because I think someone expressing unhappiness or frustration is the foreshadowing of angry outbursts and cruel attacks on bystanders like me.
And in most cases I’d be wrong. Not just wrong, but blinded to the many positive aspects of the other person’s experience of contrast, blind to the value it holds for them and me, and at worst unwittingly contributing to the outcome I fear.
For all I know they might look up from their moderate feelings of frustration to catch me staring sidelong at them as if they are something horrible.
For all I know, my fearfulness contributes to their sense of dissatisfaction and overshadows the ease and happiness that is there even in the midst of a bad mood.
And for all I know the reality might be entirely benign. A moment’s contrast amidst a sea of calm, but I fly off in panic and stick the label “bad mood” over the whole day.
Is the bad mood in them or in me?
I don’t really know how other people are feeling, but if I’m sensing a dark and foreboding mood then that mood is active in me too.
Even if someone is in a bad mood, how does that effect me?
No, a bad mood is just another circumstance, and it’s my resistance that makes it seem so dire.
It’s therefore within my power to ease my thoughts and find relief, either by changing the subject of my focus or by telling a new story about it.
What is a bad mood?
What is a bad mood after all, except misaligned thoughts creating negative feelings.
The person in question is experiencing contrast, and their emotional guidance tells them their thoughts are out of alignment.
It’s actually nothing to do with me, anymore than my emotional guidance is the “fault” of others.
In fact my guidance is telling me, in my fear of others’ moods, that I have the wrong idea about them. Other people’s moods can have no impact on me, because other people do not create my experience.
Other people do not decide what thoughts I will think, what stories I will tell. Other people do not control my perception and focus.
When I was a child people’s bad moods scared me because I thought they were about me, reflections of my self giving rise to anger and malice in others. I interpreted their moods as judgement, and anticipated a terrible punishment to follow.
Now I’m an adult and I understand how things work. Other people’s negative emotions are not about me, but about their own thoughts, stories and perceptions.
Change your perception
I’m lying here on the couch and my wife is watching a video with headphones on, and it sounds like she’s sobbing her heart out.
Except she’s actually laughing her arse off, quietly so as not to wake the baby.
My thoughts lead me to hear crying before I hear laughter (don’t worry, I checked) and that’s just a matter of practice and momentum.
What kinds of thoughts can we have to help soften our experience of others’ emotions?
People are happy most of the time. People are usually in a good mood. People have their own emotional guidance to help them find alignment. People have their own inner being to call them always towards happiness and joy.
Sometimes people get stuck in their resistance but it’s okay. Being stuck just increases their desire for freedom.
And if people are resisting, and feeling really strong guidance, I hope they get it. I hope they heed the call. I hope they learn to feel good too, as good as I feel right now.
I’ve had my own resistance too. I’ve dug my own hole deeper than it ever needed to be, and that’s how I understand now that it was never necessary to increase my suffering.
I can really relate to people in a state of resistance feeling strong guidance, and that’s why I feel good for them. I know the joy and the trust and the ease and the freedom that flows to them, even though right at this moment they are looking away from it.
I know how good life can be for them, and with that loving intention I can let them go, knowing that they will find their answers too. Knowing that there’s nothing really “wrong” about a bad mood.