There are times when we find ourselves in a bad mood and cannot fully explain why. Even when we think we know, we may not have the full story. But if we take the time to look back over the period during which our mood changed, we can discover precisely when, how and why the situation shifted. All we have to do is examine events closely and accept what we find.
In this post I give two examples. The first tells how my client and I worked together to uncover the full story behind an everyday shift of mood. The second concerns the influence one person had on an entire group during my training 10 years ago.
Both examples have one thing in common: without the acknowledgment and subsequent examination of the change in mood, everyone would have remained oblivious to what had happened. The feelings would have persisted and those involved would have missed the opportunity to learn something important about themselves, about others and about how we interact. All of which are fundamental aspects of personal development.
Matthew (not his real name) was clearly not as relaxed as he normally is during the sessions. He began by saying that everything we had been discussing lately was going well, but he looked tense and his face betrayed his dissatisfaction. We talked it through and by the end of the session we had our answer and Matthew felt relieved and free of the annoyance of the previous two hours. More importantly, he was now aware of exactly how he had created his own mood. This allowed him to take responsibility for it and let everyone else off the hook.
Like detectives we went back over the chain of events, looking at every detail. Feelings play a large part in such investigations because when something makes sense we feel a sense of harmony with the discovery which is unavoidable, unmissable. Matthew identified the ‘when’ quickly. With it came a realisation and a feeling of certainty. But they soon faded. There was still something missing. We had identified the time of the shift but there was more to learn. Here are the salient points:
After an empowering day with his family Matthew spent the evening at a restaurant in the company of two very good friends, one of whom was back home on a rare visit. At one point the conversation turned to the improvements Matthew has made in his life in recent months. Earlier in the day his family had commented on the positive differences they have seen and over dinner he prompted the closer of the two friends to confirm the same. The friend was reluctant to do so, but that’s his way and it was normal behaviour for him. Nevertheless, Matthew felt let down, disappointed and a little angry.
The more we talked, the more it made sense. The reluctance of the closer of the two friends was normal behavior. Why get annoyed with him? And on reflection Matthew saw that the other friend would not have been receptive to the subject anyway. The setting and the company was not conducive in the way it had been earlier in the day with Matthew’s family.
Still there was one more piece of the jigsaw to find. Eventually, we got there. It related to the kind of manipulative behaviour which many of us display because we are unable to ask directly for the strokes (TA) we need. Matthew’s request for confirmation of his development had not been a straight one.
Later that week, the two close friends met again and Matthew asked for the kind of feedback he had sought in the restaurant. This time he asked in a straight, non-manipulative way. His friend stated clearly that there has indeed been a positive development over the last few months. It was a more suitable setting and the request had been clear and straight.
The technique of working meticulously through the details to discover the source of such shifts had been very useful during my training. It crops up again and again in my journals and a recent, albeit low-key example can be found in the last line of the recent post, ‘Drawn into Gossiping’, which states, ‘The phone call may well have affected my back too.‘
Karaj’s comment to me on that line was, ‘Yes. I am glad you are making connections.‘ That is essentially all we do when we look for the cause of our worry, our mood or in that particular case, a signal from our body in the form of pain.
The investigative method was especially valuable during a long workshop in August 2001. Halfway through a 19-hour session, something happened during one of our feedback sessions which left the entire group unable to give the level of feedback we normally gave. Here is a paragraph from my journal entry for that day (the full entry is published under, ‘The Effects of Negativity’):
‘We moved onto Dev, who read his homework out very clearly. Despite his clarity, every one of us was stumped for something to say. Karaj gave us a break but when we returned we could still not offer Dev any feedback whatsoever. Karaj gave us a further half hour to work out why we could not respond to Dev. We sat outside on the promenade and could not come up with an explanation as to why all of us had been affected in the same way.‘
Eventually, having worked back meticulously through all that had happened in the previous two hours, we discovered the cause of the problem. It had been the negativity from one member of the group which had cast itself over us like a net, robbing us of our ability to connect with each other. And we hadn’t even noticed. It took Karaj’s intervention and facilitation to guide us all to the answer. It was a serious issue, the consequences of which kept us busy until 4 o’clock in the morning.
As soon as we realise something has changed, we are in a position to look back and discover the source. We have all the evidence we need to work out when, how and why it happened. And having done it once, playing detective can become irresistible.