A floating ascent, a drifting, a lifting and a releasing of the emotional ethers; something of this occurs within us perpetually. The inflation and deflation of mood balloons is a necessary concomitant to sensory contacts. Such balloons may be breathed into life by a trace of some abstracted thought, by a triggered memory, by a bodily sensation of pleasure or pain, by a taste, a scent, a sound. Or they can be inspired by the cyclical rhythms of our bodies, by lunar phases, or by a poignant anniversary perhaps. Many are the ways for a ballooning of our moods.
And yet we identify some as ‘being moody’, or others perhaps as ‘coolly self-possessed’. This is to misunderstand the ubiquitous nature of moods and mental states generally, both of which engage ceaselessly in the conditioned and conditioning interplay of human sentience. The confusion comes about in the conflation of the tonal qualities of psychical states with our habituated responses to them. Another way of expressing this is in terms of the degree to which we indulge our mental tonalities; the extent to which the self-entity inhabits our mood balloons.
All of that which is under discussion here applies to the healthy individual; and it must be accepted that clinical states of depression, anxiety or morbidity are issues of a different order, and which may well need addressing with the aid of medication, talking therapies, or both. Still, there are many instances of normatively healthy people who seek to deny free expression to their moods and mental states, instead choosing to view them as somehow indulgent displays of solipsistic self-concern. Here, we see a defensive response to any inflation of mood.
Elsewhere, it’s often erroneously thought that the psychologically mature, or those spiritually advanced, exhibit an equanimous repose in the face of emotively charged situations. Whilst it is so that, at a certain point in our development, we may gravitate towards a philosophising disposal of the effects of genuine adversity and elation, this is something of an intermediate stage of our maturation. It is the region within which awareness of our internal response mechanisms is sharply honed and perspicacious, and yet balanced too much in favour of this objectivity.
Once equilibrium is gained between our understanding and whatever situation we are faced with, then the biasing towards objectivity recedes and we ‘become the situation’, so to speak. Rather than maintaining an aloof and dryly intellectualised witnessing, which is false, we observe with an exquisite intimacy. Here then, for example, tears may flow freely in the presence of others’ suffering. The mood balloon inflates rapidly and is met with no resistance from the intellect as emotions are hoisted aloft, so allowing complete engagement with life, ourselves and others.
What does not recur in this more balanced scenario is any self-induced perpetuation of moods or states of mind. And it is by just those means that the ballooning of moods becomes challenging, causing distress, anxiety and so forth. The self-entity interjects with the idea ‘now I am this; and so it is that I suffer’. So there’s a becoming here that, whilst not in fact actual, grants an immersive quality to such unpleasant states. In identifying with emotions in selfhood, our awareness is hijacked and engulfed in a draining, cyclical vortex of perpetuation and indulgence.
What then, is the wiser response to any perfectly natural occurrence of mood balloons? One answer consists in a passively non-resistant mode of observation; this means not exerting a controlling influence which merely sustains our sense of selfhood and so with it any mood balloon. It’s not easy to passively allow deeply negative feelings to exist, as the urge is to obliterate them by means either of conflict or distraction; and whilst this may have some limited efficacy, it’s no long-term curative, at best serving only as a partial expedient – a head-in-the-sand approach.
So much of our angst is perpetuated in the identification of selfhood with emotions; as if believing, quite literally, that ‘I am in a mood’. No mood contains any ‘self of me’, nor can it ever. Yet understanding this intellectually alone no more than partially ameliorates negative feelings. Dwelling in contentedness amidst our mood balloons requires insight into our illusory self-construct and disentangling conditioned responses from arisen feelings. From here, concerns are allayed as to their inflation; we see them as natural colourings of our airspace, and all is well. Pop!