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April 23, 2019

What comes to mind when you hear the word mood?

For many of us, it isn’t good. The assumption is that it’s a bad mood- one to avoid, tip toe around, make better.

How does this happen?

Why do I hear on a weekly basis that spouses fear their partner’s mood?

How did we get to the place that

· We feel responsible for it

· We need to fix it

· Or we need to stay away until the cloud has blown over.

I will start by describing mood- there is an entire category of diagnoses related to mood disorders. Perhaps we can blame the many iterations of DSM’s* for labeling mood as a disorder. Is the presumption that we are to be in good mood and if not we are in a disordered mood?

Let me be technical, briefly.

What is a mood disorder? Your general emotional state or mood is distorted or inconsistent with your circumstances and interferes with your ability to function. You may be extremely sad, empty or irritable or you may have periods of depression alternating with being excessively happy. 

The length, depth and duration of the ‘mood” is what is of consequence.

As children many of us didn’t learn how to emotionally regulate- which is simply, understand and manage our own moods.

When we are small children and we don’t get our way, we cry, pout or scream. We are disappointed, we want what we want. Your parent understands your distress, voices their understanding of your dilemma (does not give in) and displays empathy. As the kid, you have a greater chance of learning that being upset is okay, being sad is too. ‘I may not always get what I want and my parent gets me.”

As I mature, I don’t need to pout, or scream or make it everyone’s problem. I learn how to manage my own mood, ideally in healthy ways.

Instead many of us were reprimanded, told we were selfish, or otherwise shamed for our feelings. As a result some of us grow up to be pouty, grouchy, irritable people who confuse those around us and certainly don’t like how we feel. Or we assume we should always display happiness and hide how we feel.

We all know folks who don’t act their chronological age whether it be temper tantrums, road rage, making a scene in a restaurant.

Mood disorders are indicators of possible other problems- labeling a mood as good or bad isn’t useful; noting that your loved one is grouchy, irritable, troubled is a way to say ‘I see you,’ ‘I am concerned,’ ‘Is there anything I can do?’

Whether we had parents who managed our feelings well or not, it is now our responsibility. Others cannot do it for us.

Ultimately it is our job to:

Understand our own mood(s)

Get to the origin- if it is longstanding;

Decide if it is relevant for today.

Seek out a trusted friend, pastor or therapist.

It is an act of maturity and personal responsibility to get to emotional regulation. You and your loved ones will benefit.

* DSM is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual therapists and psychiatrists use for diagnosing.

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