Other people’s bad moods

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.

introverted Feeling

Introverted Feeling is a really weird function.

It’s the dominant function of INFP and ISFP; it’s also the auxiliary function of ENFP and ESFP.

I’ve read and listened to lots of descriptions of introverted Feeling (Fi), but hardly any of them feel right to me.

To me, Fi is like an inner landscape of a strange world with diverse terrain. The things that happen in the real world are mirrored in this inner landscape.

So when something happens that you don’t like, it feels as if the inner landscape has become a kind of dark, arid, and rocky mountainside where you’re struggling to find your footing.

When something arduous and oppressive happens, it feels like you’re mired in a horrible swamp, up to your waist in thick mud.

When something unexpected and wonderful happens, it feels like you’re suddenly in a beautiful mountain valley on a warm spring day.

These changes in feeling can be rapid and intense, and they can occur without you even leaving your room.

In an ideal world, a healthy Fi dominant person would use this inner landscape to navigate the real world. We would make choices and seek out directions that take us to good-feeling places in our inner landscape, and avoid actions and circumstances that take us to bad-feeling places.

But as mentioned in my previous post, Fi is extremely hard to describe, especially when we’re young.

We all assume from a young age that everyone else is like us on the inside. So when people act in ways that make us feel really bad, we assume that they also feel bad, but that somehow feeling bad doesn’t matter.

At other times we are explicitly pressured to act according to external parameters that conflict with our Fi, and we are also pressured to provide non-Fi justifications or explanations for our own choices and actions.

Not only do we get cajoled into situations that feel bad, but being forced to justify and explain ourselves also feels bad, as it denies the integrity and authenticity of our introverted Feeling.

Someone calls you and says “Can you please do this for me?”…and your Fi presents you with an endless, stagnant swamp you’re being asked to cross.

But what do you say?

You can say “No”, or “I don’t want to.” But some people won’t be satisfied with that.

Can you say “Doing that for you would feel like being plunged into a foul and interminable swamp”?

I don’t think that would go over too well.

But “I don’t feel like it” sounds capricious and flippant.

So what do you do?

You look for “reasons” or excuses that explain and justify your refusal.

“I’m busy that day”, “I have things to do”, “I’m overloaded at the moment.”

It’s not that these things aren’t true, just that it’s not how your mind works.

You haven’t sat back and thought “Can I help them? No, I can’t because I have too much to do already”.

So you end up having to translate your Fi into a reason that is completely un-Filike.

Over time you develop the unpleasant feeling of being a foreigner in your own country, translating your inner world into something that others deem acceptable.

The good news

Ah, but there is some good news.

The good news is that once you understand your Fi, and the lesser functions that are undermining or inhibiting it, the path to feeling good again is relatively simple.

I’ve discovered that so long as I recognise the interference of Si (intrusive memories, adherence to customs, past experience, old habits and sensory immersion), and the interference of Te (the demand for outcomes, explanations, efficiency, and step-by-step planning), it’s possible for me to take whatever I’m currently feeling and simply change it.

I might be presently mired in a swamp or stuck on that barren, rocky slope, but if I remove the hindrances I can fly in an instant to an idyllic forest, or a sublime mountain peak.

I can go somewhere magical in that inner landscape. I can let my feeling be the substance of my conscious experience, rather than some unhappy by-product of external forces and conditions.

I can – as terrifying and counter-intuitive as it might sound – let my Fi be the guide to my choices and direction in life.

And in that capacity, it really does feel like something miraculous. It really does feel as though “feeling good” has the power to substantively change my experience of life.

 

Acceptance: spiritual and mundane

An immediate reaction to the spiritual practice of acceptance is to think of examples where people really shouldn’t accept their reality.

People in abusive relationships, victims of crime and mistreatment, exploitation, unhealthy situations generally.

We think of these examples because “acceptance” is often understood in a non-spiritual context to mean simply putting up with something, not resisting, not changing.

In this mundane sense we can say that great leaders of social change like Gandhi or Martin Luther King were significant precisely because they did not accept the status quo, did not accept the received wisdom, and instead fought for change.

But in a spiritual context acceptance was the secret behind the success of the Indian independence movement and the civil rights movement. Gandhi in particular excelled because he first accepted the reality of British rule and the legitimacy of the British governance of India. He accepted that there was some truth to the British claim that India could not govern itself, that it lacked the political organisation, seriousness, and moral responsibility for self-governance. That is why he eschewed violent means of protest, because he wished to make the moral character of the Indian people an irrefutable reality.

This conflict between the mundane and spiritual aspects of acceptance arises because human beings are autonomous and reflective. We can choose how to act, and we can reflect on our actions, reactions, and intentions in a self-aware way.

This is important because when we come to accept reality, we need to realise that our reality includes not only the things in our environment, but also our reaction to that environment.

If I get angry at my home always being messy, the mundane form of acceptance would be to try to feel okay about my home being messy, to stop getting angry at this undesirable state of affairs. This is a mistake, because it ignores or rejects the reality of my pre-existing emotional, mental, and physiological response.

The spiritual form of acceptance begins with accepting both the messiness of my home, and my anger at this state of affairs. It means accepting the whole package, the whole experience, the whole reality.

If I do not accept my anger, then I am merely fighting with myself in denial of reality.