Read CHAPTER VI. Moods of As a Matter of Course, free online book, by Annie Payson Call, on ReadCentral.com.

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.

Why is it not clear to us that to set our teeth, clench our hands, or hold any form of extreme tension and mistaken control, doubles, trebles, quadruples the impression of the feeling controlled, and increases by many degrees its power for attacking us another time?  Persistent control of this kind gives a certain sort of strength.  It might be called sham strength, for it takes it out of one in other ways.  But the control that comes from non-resistance brings a natural strength, which not only steadily increases, but spreads on all sides, as the growth of a tree is even in its development.

“If a man takes your cloak, give him your coat also; if one compel you to go a mile, go with him twain.”  “Love your enemies, do good to them that hurt you, and pray for them that despitefully use you.”  Why have we been so long in realizing the practical, I might say the physiological, truth of this great philosophy?  Possibly because in forgiving our enemies we have been so impressed with the idea that it was our enemies we were forgiving.  If we realized that following this philosophy would bring us real freedom, it would be followed steadily as a matter of course, and with no more sense that we deserved credit for doing a good thing than a man might have in walking out of prison when his jailer opened the door.  So it is with our enemies the moods.

I have written heretofore of bad moods only.  But there are moods and moods.  In a degree, certainly, one should respect one’s moods.  Those who are subject to bad moods are equally subject to good ones, and the superficiality of the happier modes is just as much to be recognized as that of the wretched ones.  In fact, in recognizing the shallowness of our happy moods, we are storing ammunition for a healthy openness and freedom from the opposite forms.  With the full realization that a mood is a mood, we can respect it, and so gradually reach a truer evenness of life.  Moods are phases that we are all subject to whilst in the process of finding our balance; the more sensitive and finer the temperament, the more moods.  The rhythm of moods is most interesting, and there is a spice about the change which we need to give relish to these first steps towards the art of living.

It is when their seriousness is exaggerated that they lose their power for good and make slaves of us.  The seriousness may be equally exaggerated in succumbing to them and in resisting them.  In either case they are our masters, and not our slaves.  They are steady consumers of the nervous system in their ups and downs when they master us; and of course retain no jot of that fascination which is a good part of their very shallowness, and brings new life as we take them as a matter of course.  Then we are swung in their rhythm, never once losing sight of the point that it is the mood that is to serve us, and not we the mood.

As we gain freedom from our own moods, we are enabled to respect those of others and give up any endeavor to force a friend out of his moods, or even to lead him out, unless he shows a desire to be led.  Nor do we rejoice fully in the extreme of his happy moods, knowing the certain reaction.

Respect for the moods of others is necessary to a perfect freedom from our own.  In one sense no man is alone in the world; in another sense every man is alone; and with moods especially, a man must be left to work out his own salvation, unless he asks for help.  So, as he understands his moods, and frees himself from their mastery, he will find that moods are in reality one of Nature’s gifts, a sort of melody which strengthens the harmony of life and gives it fuller tone.

Freedom from moods does not mean the loss of them, any more than non-resistance means allowing them to master you.  It is non-resistance, with the full recognition of what they are, that clears the way.