Friday, August 26, 2005

Mood and Emotions and Temperment

Believe it or not, neuropsychologists and other mind people, have yet to figure out the concept of mood. At first look, moods are simple. We say things like: "I'm in a bad mood" or "I'm in a great mood" or "Nothing can bother me today" (a subconscious challenge to all bosses, it seems), etc.

But moods are not so simple. While emotions are our inward feelings coming out (showing on our face or physiology with increased heart beat), moods seem to be the back-drop upon which emotions play out.

For example, I might wake up and end argue with my spouse about whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher. Still fuming, the drive to work does nothing to calm me. On this angry-mood back drop, my friend tells me the most exciting news. After years of trying she is now pregnant and everything is great! Under normal circumstances, I would be jumping up and down with delight, giving hugs, and offering a free lunch. This day though, it seems that I must force myself to be happy.

The opposite can happen too. Feeling great, I go to work and hear that there will be lay-offs. Ugh. I should be more worried, but I just can't muster it today. My co-workers look at me like I'm some kind of loon.

And then we have our temperment. Moms will swear a baby is born happy, a "prickly pear", quiet, shy, etc. My experience confirms this. My kids have changed little since birth. One was quiet and determined. One was shy and screamed bloody murder in strangers faces. One was active and jovial. They are still young. Science, too, confirms that people gel around 25 years old tempermentally. We change little over time and cement as we get older. This is not a bad thing. Can you imagine marrying someone who morphed from a quiet homebody into the life of the party? Big temperment changes like that might cause problems.

The bottom line? Emotions do not spontaneously occur in a vacuum. Our temperment and mood often form the stage setting for the emotional display. A bleak dark day is unlikely to produce a zippy response to teasing. More likely, the bad-mood Betty will be sarcastic or sullen.

And here is where character comes into play. We may feel bad. We may well have been wronged. Our character, though, determines how we convey our feelings. Do we transfer our irritation instead of dealing with the source? Do we justify our bad attitude when we have the ability to change it?

We may be born a certain way, we may experience irritating conflicts, we may even be angry, but we can always choose to behave in a way that honors another person.
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