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Source: As A Matter Of Course
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
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
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
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
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.
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