Do Our Bad Moods Really Have Anything To Do With The Outside World?
Think back to the last time you were in a bad mood. Do you think it was “caused” by something around you that was going on? Chances are, you probably do. But I’m going to share a story that will illustrate that it is actually the exact opposite of what you might think.
Our bad moods are caused by our internal state.
They really have nothing to do with the outside world whatsoever. Now at this point you may be shaking your head and completely disagreeing with me. “But what about when my child talks back to me?” you might be asking. Or when you get a flat tire that makes you late to a very important meeting. Or your spouse leaves the toothpaste cap off – AGAIN. What about those times?
Your bad mood has NOTHING to do with those events. Nothing.
Let me explain.
Have you ever heard of Viktor Frankl? He was an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor. He survived his time in the concentration camps by trying to find personal meaning in the experience which gave him the will to live through them. He said that finding meaning in one’s experiences is the way to fulfillment. This is what I teach parents all the time, albeit on a much less dramatic level. Can you find meaning in your child talking back to you or your spouse leaving the cap off the toothpaste, or getting a flat tire?
Can you find a reason these things happened, or find something good that can come out of them? In the case of your child, can you uncover the reason they are talking back? When we look for the meaning and the good in a stressful situation, it can change our entire experience of that situation. Just as Viktor Frankl did during his time in the concentration camps. If Viktor could survive with such a positive attitude, surely it is possible for us.
Becoming a detective
If you can discover the reason your child is talking back, it puts your focus on being a detective who is trying to uncover something instead of being a victim of your child’s disrespectful behavior. Thus, your experience of the situation changes. Can you see how that works?
I have an alternative example to share with you. This week is the last full week of summer for my kids. I have found myself feeling grouchy and irritable and thinking that summer needs to end NOW! After a few days of feeling this way inside, it occurred to me to look around at my environment to see what is going on that could be “making” me feel so irritable.
I looked to each of my kids. They were all happily involved in what they were doing – reading, playing video games, playing with friends. Day after day. Not one of them was cranky, irritable, whiny or anything of the sort. In fact, they were all perfectly happy. It was me who was in a state of suffering.
This realization was shocking to me. I suddenly understood that my irritability was completely generated from my own mind. It had nothing whatsoever to do with anyone else. To anyone on the outside looking in this week, my family looked happy and content. But inside of me, a storm was brewing.
Finding the solution
Once I realized this, I wondered why I was having such a reaction. It didn’t take me long to realize that over the summer I had gotten away from a daily meditation practice. Because I work so hard to stay in a peaceful state, I was able to continue in that state for most of the summer, but this week is when it all unraveled.
I knew what I needed to do; start meditating immediately. I am happy to say that it has been three days since that realization and three days in a row that I have meditated, and I already feel back to my usual self. And my kids remain happy and enjoying their final days of this summer.
Have you ever had a similar experience?
What realizations did you have?
How did you work yourself out of that state of suffering and back to a peaceful state?
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