Image by Tú Anh
Narrated by Marie T. Russell.
Do you get in a negative mood and have a hard time getting out? Do your lingering feelings seem to descend on you for no particular reason? Do you find yourself often brooding for extended periods of time? Anxious? Frustrated? Depressed? Hurt? Serious?
Our overpowering feelings can obscure our experience for hours, days, weeks, or even longer. They can persistently dominate our awareness. Left unattended, our moods shape our personalities and determine the outlook we have on life. We may think that we have no control over our moods but the truth is quite the contrary. We can create a different mood or dissolve the destructive one we are in; if we choose to do so.
A lingering feeling begins when you have an emotional reaction to a specific event and don't constructively process your sadness, anger or fear. Not only is identifying your emotion necessary, but you need to resolve the event that caused the emotion and resulting feeling. This resolution happens when you speak your truth about the event.
I have a lovely client who would describe herself as depressive, something that she was familiar with since being a little girl. Recently she'd been feeling pretty darn good, having left a toxic job. However, when I checked in with her last week she said she had been feeling pretty bleak since we last spoke.
I asked her when it started and with some prodding, we discovered it was ever since she had labored to cook a special meal for her mother and mom didn't like it. In a hurtful tone she complained that the meal was basically inedible -- some was overcooked and other dishes barely cooked at all.
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Her cutting words had sent my client into a downward spiral where she spent the next days feeling worthless, hopeless, and generally bruised. It was a familiar experience, having spent much of her life there.
Once we had identified the specific event that had triggered her mood, we were in business, because I've learned that once we resolve the emotionally upsetting situation, the overshadowing negative feeling "magically" disappears.
We started by figuring out how to resolve the situation so she could get back on track. It was clear that she needed to tell her mother about her experience regarding what had transpired. So we started to construct her communication, following the Attitude Reconstruction model of using "I"s (talking about yourself), specifics (not over-generalities, like always or never), and kindness.
With some probing, it was clear she felt anger and sadness because she had made quite an effort to make a nice meal and the only comments were negative.
We start to construct her communication: "When you said the meal was terrible (the specific event), I felt incredibly angry, disappointed, and sad (my feelings and emotions), because I had put a lot of effort into trying out a new recipe (why I felt the way I did). Your comments about my meal actually put me in a tailspin and I've been feeling terrible these last couple of days.
Having identified the specific situation, and her feelings about it, she was ready to state her request -- for that specific upsetting event and in the future.
"What I'd like is for you to compliment me on some aspect of that dinner, especially my time and effort to make a special meal for you. And in the future, when you feel unhappy, I'd really appreciate it if you watched what you said to me, because I easily get my feelings hurt and I'm really sensitive. I thrive on praise and kind words."
End by appreciating something about the person. "I love you to pieces and thank you for hearing me out."
I told her that she might need to lovingly repeat what she said, because sometimes we have metaphorical wax-in-our-ears and aren't initially receptive to another person speaking their truth. So it's important to lovingly and calmly repeat your communication until you have the feeling that it's been received.
The client exclaimed, "Why didn't anyone tell me that it does no good to keep repeating my old tapes about how terrible I am. It's so much easier handling the SPECIFIC upsetting situation. I feel like I'm learning how to speak up confidently. Now I will feel complete with what happened and I can let it go, rather than to have it fester for days, weeks, or months."
When I checked in with her the following week, she said she had delivered an abbreviated version of what we had worked out and it was well received. She felt better almost immediately. Going through the long version of her "I" had clarified her thinking about what she really wanted to say. She could then modify it to suit the occasion. She said she felt her relationship with her mother had subsequently deepened! Victory!!! All praise to the power of speaking up constructively.
Five Steps to Get Out of Your Funky Attitude
- Trace back in time to identify when the funky attitude or mood began by looking at various past periods in time and determining if you were feeling it then.
No matter its magnitude or duration, something upsetting happened that triggered your mood or pervasive feeling. It could have been as simple as an edgy interaction, an intense argument, or a change of plans disappointment. Pinpoint the event by asking yourself, "When did I start feeling like this?" or, "When was the last time I remember feeling okay?"
- When you identify exactly when your mood started, process the event emotionally.
That means, cry if you feel sad and hurt. If it's anger you're feeling, move it out of your body by pounding, stomping, or pushing against something fixed and indestructible. Finally, shiver if you feel scared, anxious, or overwhelmed.
- Restore your perspective.
When you're in the thick of emotion, your thinking can become skewed. After you constructively attend to your emotion(s), you can ask yourself, "What's the larger, objective reality?" Now you will be able to look at the event from a broader perspective, and hopefully contradict your original myopic view. Ask yourself, what would a neutral third party say about this situation?
- Consult your intuition on whether you need to say or do something to resolve the specific, upsetting event.
Ask yourself questions such as "What's the high road here?" or "What will get us feeling connected again?" Get specific. What exactly do you need to communicate? To whom? What points need to be covered. And finally, what request for a change do you need to make so that the future will hold more joy, love, and peace?
- Follow through and your attitude will lift and you'll feel more joy, love, and peace.
Get clear about what you need to do to feel resolved (step #4), and do it. Plan out what you want to say, refrain from blaming and talk only about yourself. Practice. Be prepared to repeat your communication with love until you're certain it's been received.
It's easy to fall under the spell of a negative mood but equally easy to change it. If you trace back and find the exact moment that the mood was triggered and deal with just that specific event, it's almost like magic, but better.
©2021 by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.
All Rights Reserved.
Book by this Author
Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life
by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.
With practical tools and real-life examples, this book can help you stop settling for sadness, anger, and fear, and infuse your life with joy, love, and peace. Jude Bijou's comprehensive blueprint will teach you to: cope with family members' unsolicited advice, cure indecision with your intuition, deal with fear by expressing it physically, create closeness by truly talking and listening, improve your social life, increase staff morale in just five minutes a day, handle sarcasm by visualizing it flying by, carve out more time for yourself by clarifying your priorities, ask for a raise and get it, stop fighting via two easy steps, cure kids' tantrums constructively. You can integrate Attitude Reconstruction into your daily routine, regardless of your spiritual path, cultural background, age, or education.
For more info and/or to order this book, click here. Also available as a Kindle edition.
About the Author
Jude Bijou is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFT), an educator in Santa Barbara, California and the author of Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life.
In 1982, Jude launched a private psychotherapy practice and started working with individuals, couples, and groups. She also began teaching communication courses through Santa Barbara City College Adult Education.
Visit her website at AttitudeReconstruction.com/