As a Matter of Course

VI.

MOODS.

RELIEF from the mastery of an evil mood is like fresh air after having been several hours in a close room.

If one should go to work deliberately to break up another’s nervous system, and if one were perfectly free in methods of procedure, the best way would be to throw upon the victim in rapid sequence a long series of the most extreme moods. The disastrous result could be hastened by insisting that each mood should be resisted as it manifested itself, for then there would be the double strain,–the strain of the mood, and the strain of resistance. It is better to let a mood have its way than to suppress it. The story of the man who suffered from varicose veins and was cured by the waters of Lourdes, only to die a little later from an affection of the heart which arose from the suppression of the former disease, is a good illustration of the effect of mood-suppression. In the case cited, death followed at once; but death from repeated impressions of moods resisted is long drawn out, and the suffering intense, both for the patient and for his friends.

The only way to drop a mood is to look it in the face and call it by its right name; then by persistent ignoring, sometimes in one way, sometimes in another, finally drop it altogether. It takes a looser hold next time, and eventually slides off entirely. To be sure, over-fatigue, an attack of indigestion, or some unexpected contact with the same phase in another, may bring back the ghost of former moods. These ghosts may even materialize, unless the practice of ignoring is at once referred to; but they can ultimately be routed completely.

A great help in gaining freedom from moods is to realize clearly their superficiality. Moods are deadly, desperately serious things when taken seriously and indulged in to the full extent of their power. They are like a tiny spot directly in front of the eye. We see that, and that only. It blurs and shuts out everything else. We groan and suffer and are unhappy and wretched, still persistently keeping our eye on the spot, until finally we forget that there is anything else in the world. In mind and body we are impressed by that and that alone. Thus the difficulty of moving off a little distance is greatly increased, and liberation is impossible until we do move away, and, by a change of perspective, see the spot for what it really is.

Let any one who is ruled by moods, in a moment when he is absolutely free from them, take a good look at all past moody states, and he will see that they come from nothing, go to nothing, and, are nothing. Indeed, that has been and is often done by the moody person, with at the same time an unhappy realization that when the moods are on him, they are as real as they are unreal when he is free. To treat a mood as a good joke when you are in its clutches, is simply out of the question. But to say, “This now is a mood. Come on, do your worst; I can stand it as long as you can,” takes away all nerve-resistance, until the thing has nothing to clutch, and dissolves for want of nourishment. If it proves too much for one at times, and breaks out in a bad expression of some sort, a quick acknowledgment that you are under the spell of a bad mood, and a further invitation to come on if it wants to, will loosen the hold again.

If the mood is a melancholy one, speak as little as possible under its influence; go on and do whatever there is to be done, not resisting it in any way, but keep busy.

This non-resistance can, perhaps, be better illustrated by taking, instead of a mood, a person who teases. It is well known that the more we are annoyed, the more our opponent teases; and that the surest and quickest way of freeing ourselves is not to be teased. We can ignore the teaser externally with an internal irritation which he sees as clearly as if we expressed it. We can laugh in such a way that every sound of our own voice proclaims the annoyance we are trying to hide. It is when we take his words for what they are worth, and go with him, that the wind is taken out of his sails, and he stops because there is no fun in it. The experience with a mood is quite parallel, though rather more difficult at first, for there is no enemy like the enemies in one’s self, no teasing like the teasing from one’s self. It takes a little longer, a little heartier and more persistent process of non-resistance to cure the teasing from one’s own nature. But the process is just as certain, and the freedom greater in result.