TO MANAGE MOODS
We are used to thinking of good or bad moods as unchangeable facts,
as events that strike us and that we can't do anything about. We
have seen that sometimes these moods stem from psychological baggage
we carry from our past. We saw this while talking about the instinct
In the 1970s, Bandler, the American psychologist, discovered that
even moods could be influenced in a positive way, intervening not
on ideas (which psychoanalysis does), but on ways of thinking. Put
like this, it sounds like a bunch of bullshit, but let me explain.
We all do this, without being aware of it. In every moments, we
choose which operative modalities our brain should follow (Bandler
called them submodalities).
For example, there are those persons who in the morning, when the
alarm clock goes off, motivate themselves to get up, by thinking
how great they will feel when they arrive at work on time and how
many interesting things they will do throughout the day. There are
those who instead get out of bed pushed by a threatening inner voice
that enumerates all the disasters that will strike them if they
do not leap out from under the bedsheets.
Obviously, by using the first motivation, we will be less likely
to commit suicide by eating 800 kilograms of rotten herring and
onions with peanuts butter and jelly (at least we will be less likely
to do it before reaching the age of 37). Is it possible for a person,
who uses terror-inspiring incentives to get up in the morning to
realize his error and to start motivating himself in a gentler manner?
Yes. In order to do it, you need, as usual, to use an idiotic method.
You need to "dialogue with yourself". Ask your threatening
inner voice to talk more slowly, with a lower and sweeter tone.
Incredibly, this inner voice changes in order to please us. This
way, one can modify the mood with which one gets out of bed, not
by forcing oneself to think about different things, but by intervening
on the submodalities that produce moods. Once again, we act using
an "on the rebound" technique. And once again, when the
irrational mind understands what you want, it follows your wishes
right away. Waking up with positive thoughts becomes automatic.
I know that I haven't yet convinced you. How can it be that by "dialoguing
with myself", I will obey myself? Well, it isn't really all
that strange... But let's look at the matter more closely. Let's
try an experiment.
Excuse me for asking you: try to remember a sad event that still
bothers you when you think of it. Notice how it comes back to you.
Most likely, the images appear to you as you saw them when the unpleasant
episode took place. You relive the scene first-hand. The film -
recordered by your brain - is shown again just as it is, in colour
and with the volume turned up.
Now try to remember a joyful event. Probably, you will see it again
as if you were at the movies. You see everything as if you are looking
at the scene from the outside, from far away, becoming a spectator
of yourself. By remembering things this way, one makes the most
of negative memories and waters down positive memories.
Try to do the opposite. Relive the negative event from the outside,
keeping it in the distance, removing the colours and lowering the
volume. The negative sensations will seem less strong to you. If
you still feel it however, try to imagine yourself in the projectionist's
room while you look at yourself seated in the audience, watching
the screen on which the images of the memory flow. Try to let the
film run quickly forward. Then watch the entire film again backwards,
and then forward again at normal speed. Does the charge of negative
emotion begin to diminish?
Now try to take a pleasant memory. Look at it again as if you are
reliving it. Dress it up with nice colours. Add bright lights. Scatter
sparkling little stars in the air and give it an exciting musical
soundtrack. Does the pleasant feeling of remembering increase?
If you repeat this operation for four or five positive memories,
and an equal number of negative memories, your instinctive mind
will understand that this is better and, with the usual automatism,
it will see to the repositioning of all your memories in the most
Your past will not change, but you will derive a slightly more positive
balance from it, and this will encourage greater optimism.
But this is certainly not the element that interests us most. If
all of it amounts to a memory make-over job, perhaps it wouldn't
be worth it.
Trying these experiments is fundamental, because by managing
our memories, we drastically modify our perspective of our mind
without being aware of it.
After having experienced the modification of the submodalities of
memories, whenever something happens, I will consider the fact itself
as only a part of the event. I will be conscious that my mood does
not depend only on what happens, but also by how I assimilate it,
interpret it and memorize it. The mere event becomes of relative
importance. It is no longer the whole, but only a part. I learn
this way that if I cannot act on events, I can manage my relationship
with the facts.
This awareness changes the perspective from which you look at things.
When your love rejects you, even though you are in despair, you
keep some room to move. Your view isn't completely taken up by the
event, if you are aware of the operative submodalities that your
brain uses. Automatically, you devote a part of your attention to
observing that the most intense suffering is caused not so much
by the fact, as by the thoughts that you construct around it, by
the form of these thoughts.
For example, jealous people always find some detail of the betrayal
that will amplify the gravity of it. "You did it with my best
friend!" "You did it with my worst enemy!" "You
didn't tell me!" "You were so insensitive as to have told
Actually, there is no such thing as perfect betrayal.
No matter how you betray a jealous person, he or she will fly into
a rage like a kangaroo whose tail has been stepped on. The suffering
itself for the rejection that we read in the betrayal isn't enough.
We amplify it, looking for the most unpleasant details in the event.
It might seem trivial said like this but when it starts to happen,
you realize that it is a very profound change.
As events happen, your curiosity sets in motion a detached and imperturbable
attitude, which doesn't seem affected by the events. There are a
few of these inner voices inside us -three, to be exact.
The paranoiac, quick, authoritarian, hyper-rational and threatening
voice, which is the expression of the instinct of survival. The
dreamy, childish, hopeful, wishful voice, the one that you indulge
in while you laze in bed in the morning. It is the voice the expresses
itself in moments of flux, the voice of the unconscious.
Finally, there is the detached voice. Oriental
people call it "the observer". It is the expression of
a sort of mechanical personality, which acts as a communicator between
the rational and irrational mind.
can say that it is the rationality of the unconscious or the irrationality
of the conscious. It has a stabilizing function.
In moments of danger, such as in job stress, it is able to repeat
and to suggest operative modalities previously learned. Like the
two other inner voices, it has a life of its own. All three are
beyond the control of our rational ego. They say what they want
to and there is no way to silence them. And it is the "observer"
that attributes value to events.
BY LEARNING TO ATTRIBUTE VALUE
(or to enrich yourself with new passions)
Where does the pleasure to read, to listen to music, to paint,
to grow cabbages, to tap by dance, to help blind people cross the
road or to ruin one's afternoons punching oneself in the face with
someone pretending it is boxing, come from?
Why is it that some people have a lot of relaxing and enjoyable
passions that fill their lives, and others aren't amused by anything
and wouldn't smile even if their hands were crushed by a chest of
gold that has dropped on them from the sky?
It is well known that the fundamental passions of life spring in
the early years. I love drawing because my father used to draw with
me with my brushes and little tubes of tempera. I like the Romanesque
style because my father would take me to Romanesque churches and
would say to me: "Look how beautiful it is! Do you see how
possessed this monster is? And this yellow? The painter had a lot
of nerve using this yellow here." I like to breathe deeply
because when I was frightened my grandmother would tell me: "Breathe
deeply!" and then she would smile and caress me.
This is how adults teach children to appreciate things.
Children like it because they feel considered and loved. They experience
it as play and as a gesture of attention. It is also well known
that the more parents cultivate passions together with their children,
the easier it will be for the children to discover new passions
in adult life. It is as if they have exercised a muscle that gives
them the strength to fall more easily in love with the world.
The same thing happens with feelings. People who love others a lot
have been loved a lot themselves and they have learned, together
with their parents, to appreciate others, to recognize their worth
and to enjoy convivial times with them.
Given that the appreciating of experiences is an acquired talent,
it is possible to learn to create new passions for oneself.
It's incredible but true. Even a depressed grouch can become an
enthusiastic fan of international chess matches, to the point of
having real mental orgasms when his idol checkmates the opponent.
How is it done?
As usual, it is a matter of using a dumb trick. You need to use
"the observer". Every time it so happens that you are
having fun, devote five seconds to the observer and tell him:
«Register that I'm having fun»
usual he will say, polite and detached: "This situation is
fun!" He will say it in a voice as inexpressive as Frankenstein's,
but the effect will be the same. Every time then that you find yourself
again in a similar situation, you will remember that it is fun.
The enjoyment received casually the first time will be reproduced
In this way, you will avoid repeating, as often happens, the error
made by the lady who, after an evening of laughing, joking and dancing,
carelessly spilled coffee on herself and exclaimed: «What
a shitty evening!»
other words, the zest for life depends largely on the ability to
identify and record the memory of positive experiences in a profitable
and useful way. And to feel again, with each new similar experience,
an enjoyable synthesis of the pleasure experienced the previous
times. Thus by cultivating a passion, one derives a pleasure from
it that gradually grows stronger with time and practice. There is
a reference to this in The Little Prince by Saint-Exupery, when
the fox asks the Little Prince to "tame him".
Those who are depressed are so not because life hasn't given
them a chance to experience moments of joy, passion and satisfaction.
Anyone who hasn't experienced anything pleasant in his or her existence
is probably dead already.
The problem of the depressed and the pessimistic is that they haven't
learned to cultivate positive experiences. They only jealously guard
their cosmic rotten luck. For this reason, people run away from
them as if they were professional farters.