Have you ever not realized you were in a low mood?
Have you had the experience of feeling like you were thinking straight only to realize later that you weren’t?
Have you become comfortable with the feeling of being in low-grade suffering, thinking it is normal?
I have had all of these experiences.
It is incredible how invisible a low mood can be.
I remember having a conversation with Angus once about one of our daughters. I was upset but thought I was crystal clear. I was telling him what I thought we should do. I can’t remember what the actions were or what her infraction was at the time, but I remember him asking me if perhaps I was in a low mood. I told him with all sincerity, “No, I am fine. I am thinking clearly. THIS??? is what we should do.” Fortunately, he didn’t believe me and managed to extricate himself from the conversation without me blowing up.
The next day when I had settled down and was in a genuinely good mood, I could see the folly of my ways and the error in my judgment. I had been reactive. I was taking my reactive thinking seriously, and from that vantage point, the consequences I wanted to meter out look appropriate and justified. In the light of a new day, however, I saw they were punitive and extreme.
I write this because we all have blind spots to our low moods. I still have them, but the more I wake up to the state of mind I am in, the better I can take care of myself.
Low moods aren’t unhealthy or wrong. They are a normal part of the human experience. The feeling of a low mood is feedback to take our foot off the gas so we can nurture ourselves.
What happened to me is that I got used to living in an unhealthy normal of low mood. I knew what depression felt like, but I was oblivious to my chronically stressed-out anxious state being a low mood. I thought this was normal. If you had asked Angus, he would have told you I was stern and critical at these times. That would have felt unfair to me even though it was accurate. I couldn’t see it.
The problem with not seeing I was in a low mood and mistaking my state of mind for normal is that I would trust my distorted thinking. I would feel unsatisfied, and instead of recognizing that was a reflection of my state of mind, I would look for things to hang my dissatisfaction on. Often the hook I would find was Angus hence, why he experienced me as critical and stern.
My blind spot took a toll on our relationship and made it seem like we had relationship problems when the problem was that I didn’t recognize when I was in a low mood.
I didn’t see this until my mood improved, and I felt the difference. Then I knew what it felt like to live in an open-hearted way with a feeling of inner security and an abundance of love and compassion in my heart. Me getting better at recognizing when I was in a low mood was a game changer for our relationship. And, of course, my shift positively impacted my relationship with Angus. Me showing up in a kinder, more loving way brought out the best in him, and he changed. Not because I needed him to change to be happy; it just happened. The emotional climate of our relationship shifted.
And I know I have blind spots to my low moods now too, but I live at a healthier normal, knowing more health is always available, but I don’t need to strive for it or seek it out. My attunement to feeling good will continue to deepen so that I become more clued in when my heart isn’t open, and I am suffering.
The most significant healing for me was not in my relationship with Angus; it was in my relationship with myself. My inability to notice when I was in a low mood and suffering meant that I did not meet myself with kindness and compassion when I needed it. It also meant that I would keep my foot on the gas and use doing as a way to avoid feeling. I did this innocently, not realizing it, but if I had slowed down and gotten more present with my experience, I would have felt my suffering rather than projecting my discontent onto Angus.
Now I am better at taking care of myself in general. I live in a more peaceful feeling within myself than I used to, and I notice when I start to get stressed out and anxious sooner. I am also better at taking responsibility for my emotional experience. Hence, I feel less critical of Angus and better able to ask for what I want from a genuinely heartfelt place rather than trying to get my needs met through judgment and criticism. That never worked well.
I invite you to your internal experience, especially, when you feel critical or judgmental toward your partner. Allow yourself to slow down and feel your emotions. Let yourself be informed by what your nervous system is communicating to you. Tuning in to your experience will help you to hold space for your suffering rather than react to it. It will also allow you to meet your needs and return to inner stability. Meeting yourself with love is how healing unfolds.
Here is some inspiration from Jeff Foster in that regard:
if abandonment is the core wound
the disconnection from mother
the loss of wholeness
then the most potent medicine
is this ancient commitment
to never abandon
to discover wholeness in the whole-mess
to be a loving mother
to your insides
to hold the broken bits
in warm open awareness
and to illuminate the sore places
with the light
The ability to hold space for our emotional experience, to make room for it with love and compassion, to be open and to soften around it allows our nervous system to discharge and recalibrate. Being able to hold space for ourselves in this way and feel the power of our capacity to self-regulate is empowering.
It doesn’t mean that you have to do it alone, you can ask your partner or others for support, and you will be much more likely to receive a favorable response when you reach out in vulnerability and honesty.
That was my experience. It wasn’t that Angus couldn’t be emotionally supportive and loving toward me when I was in need. It was that I tended to reach out from a hostile state of mind because I didn’t realize I was in a low mood. I thought I needed him to be different so I could stabilize. It was a genuine relief to realize that me feeling better had nothing to do with him. I just needed to understand how to take better care of myself when I was in a low mood.
Our whole relationship changed when I learned how to take better care of myself so I could regulate.
This post was originally published on https://www.therewilders.org/.