What’s behind those unwelcome moods?

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The value of ‘negative moods’?

‘Oh! So that’s it… How wonderful – what a relief. So it’s okay if I have a negative mood! And I thought I must always feel good. It’s been such a strain…’ she *said.

It was during one of our NLP Practitioner Programmes and we’d been discussing how unpleasant emotions can be valuable insights into how we can improve the quality of our lives.

She had attended an NLP course elsewhere that taught the importance of always being positive and that to experience a negative mood was a sign that she wasn’t using NLP properly.

Don’t get rid of negative moods…

..at least not too quickly and because they are useful. Aiming to avoid feeling unpleasant moods is a quite understandable objective in approaches, including NLP, to living a more fulfilling and enjoyable life. After all, remaining in an angry, depressed, or panicky mood isn’t much fun.

Nevertheless to briefly stay with and experience a negative mood is useful. After all, the mood didn’t come out of the blue. We didn’t inhale it. We didn’t ‘pick it up’ like a bug or virus. An unpleasant mood is the result of how you or I have been living our life recently: how we have been thinking, responding to anchors, or communicating with others.

By simply getting rid of the mood we avoid responsibility for how we have created it and, more importantly, learn nothing from our experience. And if we are not prepared to learn from our experiences we are going to repeat them.

Treat negative moods as ‘messages’

Negative moods can be treated as messages or indicators about our lifestyle. Let’s say you feel impatient, tetchy, irritable. You snap at friends and ignore acquaintances. You’re going about things in a preoccupied and unfocussed manner. Now, once you recognise this mood or it’s brought to your attention by others the temptation is to begin changing it for something more positive.

But by immediately ‘changing states’ and putting yourself into a completely different mood you’re missing the opportunity of learning from the experience – of learning what the mood can tell you about yourself and your thinking and your reactions .

Negative moods and Kaizen

  • Bad moods can be great – if we treat them as ‘messages-to-be learned-from’ about how we are living our lives
  • These messages are encoded in an obscure language called ‘feelings’ so we need to learn how to decode them
  • Developing the habit of decoding these messages increases our awareness of how we are managing our lives and interacting with the world
  • This increases awareness and alertness can create an empowering Kaizen-style approach of ‘continuous small improvements’ in how we go through our day.
  • When we attempt to deny or ignore or suppress an unwelcome mood we are, in effect, rejecting important messages from the unconscious part of our mind -so we’ll keep experiencing the same moods in response to the same triggers, over and over again.

How to decode?

To do this effectively you need to combine an attitude or approach with skills.

Attitude: Feeling angry or guilty or impatient with yourself for having slipped into a negative mood may be a common response, especially in people who have done some NLP.  However this won’t be nearly as productive as exploring the negative mood and its origins with a sense of curiosity and interest: Isn’t this interesting! I’ve been feeling irritable all morning… I wonder how I managed to do that?  I wonder what I’ve allowed to get under my skin earlier this morning?  What was on my mind? Who or what have I been thinking about?

Skill: Once you have acknowledged and welcomed the mood as a useful message put it aside – change your state and:

  1. ‘Trackback’ to just before the mood occurred. Then come forward to the point when you first experienced the mood.  Do this a few times – running backwards and forwards between the ‘mood okay’ to ‘mood negative’ moments.
  2. Identify exactly what you were responding to: a memory, a thought about something in the future, a response to your surroundings?
  3. Identify what you need to do to decrease the likelihood that you’ll experience this mood in the future.

Decoding Guilt

As an example of how to ‘ adecode’ a the message let’s take feeling guilty. Guilt can often be an indication that we have failed to meet or uphold certain standards – whether our own or those of others. So, to decode this message, that you might consider:

  1. What’s behind this guilty feeling? What rule or standard have I transgressed?
  2. Is this rule or standard my own – or one that was imposed on me?
  3. Is the rule one that is appropriate for me in my life today or one that I picked up years ago and forgot to update?
  4. Do I need to take action – or can I set it aside and get on with my day?

Other coded messages…

Attempting a definitive list of moods and the reasons why we might get them would be pointless: people respond to things in their own unique and individual ways. However, to get the ball rolling, here are just four moods along with a some common messages which they can carry.

  • Anger: often can be an indication that someone is transgressing or not meeting our standards.  Or that we are transgressing or not meeting our own standards.
  • Lethargy: can be an indication that we aren’t motivating ourselves or are underestimating our ability to deal with or cope with something – or are not looking after ourselves physically.
  • Panic: is frequently the result of a period of sustained stress – and can often occur after, rather than during, the period of stress.  Can also be developed through poor breathing or eating habits.
  • Jealousy: can be an indication that we don’t have a high level of self-esteem and are conjuring up ‘worst-case scenarios’ of the other person having a better time away from us than with us.



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