“When things go hard with you, when everything seems to go against you, when you are thwarted on every side, when the sky is dark and you can see no light, that is just the time to exhibit your mettle, to show of what stuff you are made. If there is anything in you, adversity will bring it out. What a man does in spite of circumstances, rather than because of them, is the measure of his success ability.” – Orison Swett Marden, Every Man a King
Here is a truth that can be hard to swallow: Circumstances do not dictate our mood. How can they? Our mood is in our mind. We own it. But, not only do we blame other people or situations for our feelings, we even blame situations that have not yet occurred and likely never will. “I don’t know how we are going to make it till the next paycheck…” or “I’m sure this is what they meant when they said…” or “I am worried about what people will think if I…” For some men these thoughts come on uncommonly often and strong and it may feel as if you are under attack by your own mind. That may not be far from the truth.
Our minds actually create ruts to which the fastest path of thought travels. This is done through protein synthesis and is what occurs when we relate circumstances to emotions, memories to judgment, and develop habitual thinking. The good news is that the mind has great plasticity and we are able to change our default thought patterns and take our moods captive.
– The following article is referenced heavily from Orison Swett Marden’s book Every Man a King. It is an excellent book, imparting straightforward and practical advice one is only likely to get from grandparents who lived under the old and tried rules of life and are not afraid to place blame for life’s troubles squarely on the person experiencing them. –
What is a Mood?
“A character is a man who knows what he wants; who does not allow his temper and moods to govern him, but acts on firm principles.” – Treu
For clarification purposes let’s be clear as to what constitutes a mood or moodiness. Feelings of anger, self-pity, morose, despondence, lack of will, self-doubt or defeatism, all fall within the category of emotions of which I am speaking. They all circle closely around depression and lead to a state of general unhappiness. They are also persistent. Loosing your temper or being sad, as an occassion may warrant, are not the same as being in a “mood.”
Moods are also a problem of a convenient life. They are not a new thing, but as we have the time and privilege to laze in our moods and still make a living and have comforts that rival that of kings a century ago, it has become much easier and even socially accepted to allow our moods take the helm of our life.
The Enslavement of Will
“No man who is at the mercy of his moods is a free man. He only is free who can rise to his dominion in spite of his mental enemies.” – Orison Swett Marden, Every Man a King
Our moods seek to enslave our will, our desire to become the man we admire and live our life as a man, confident and sure of himself. Therefore moods are the enemies of ourselves residing in our conscience and often having free reign with our lives. Marden continues:
“If a man must consult his moods every morning to see whether he can do his best work, or only some unimportant task during the day; if he most look at his mental thermometer when he rises, to see whether his courage is rising or falling, his is a slave; he cannot be successful or happy.” – Orison Swett Marden, Every Man a King
How to Master Your Moods
“How different is the outlook of the man who feels confident every morning that he is going to do a man’s work, the very best that he is capable of, and that no mood or outward circumstance can hinder that accomplishment. How superbly he carries himself who has no fear, no doubt, no anxiety.” – Orison Swett Marden, Every Man a King
Take responsibility for your feelings
“Man is naturally a lazy animal, and when things go hard with him the temptation to slip over or get around the difficult place is very strong. But this is not the way to kill the dragon that dogs your footsteps and robs you of your happiness.” – Orison Swett Marden, Every Man a King
Once we recognize that our feelings are ours, owned by us, developed within our own mind, we can no longer look to blame circumstances and other people for how we feel and how we respond to those feelings. Even when our mood comes on through a strong remembrance of our own past failings or very real hurt that was enacted upon us, we ought not let it rule our lives. What happened in the past should serve to bolster wisdom or compassion and other virtues, not to be used as a divining rod which we follow and trust to lead us to something good.
Take your thoughts captive
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
“It requires a strong effort of will, but the only way to conquer any fault is to think persistently of the opposite virtue, and to practise it until it is yours by the force of habit.” – Orison Swett Marden, Every Man a King
Our thoughts are simply that, a thought. When we let it run wild, when we brood over our situation, when it becomes grown and we have allowed it to steer our way it becomes something powerful. We can develop a habit of recognizing those thoughts and replacing them with correct thoughts. Notice I didn’t say “replace them with thoughts that make you feel good when you really have a lesson to learn here.” Thinking correctly is key; not excusing emotions or as a defense mechanism for anything critical of your character.
Act as you desire to feel
“There were all kinds of things I was afraid of at first, ranging from grizzly bears to ‘mean’ horses and gun-fighters; but by acting as if I was not afraid I gradually ceased to be afraid.” – Theodore Roosevelt
There are a many axioms that we have likely adopted in modern society that run contrary to truth. Statements such as “You cannot change who you are” or “If it feels right then it must be right” are really just excuses to allow us to avoid the hard work of becoming a different kind of person. When we see people who are successful, therefore, we assign them some special attribute such as having a Type A personality or good genes, or just being lucky. We should recognize that confidence and intelligence are not given at birth; at least not in enough measure that it would be unobtainable by just about anyone. Just as you would exercise to become strong, before you are strong, begin doing the right things and you will grow into them.
As Marden states:
“‘The only cure for indolence is work,’ says Rutherford; ‘the only cure for selfishness is sacrifice; the only cure for unbelief is to shake off the argue of doubt by doing Christ’s bidding; the only cure for timidity is to plunge into some dreadful duty before the chill comes on again.'” – Orison Swett Marden, Every Man a King
Theodore Roosevelt is such an excellent example of someone who put this into practice and shows us what is possible by simply refusing to be burdened by negative thoughts. His whole life was an example of how to strengthen your resolve, your will, to overcome the challenges set before you.
I firmly believe that these “moods” come on us from unseen forces; really from the spiritual realm. That is far too deep of a subject to cover in a post and may sound a bit spooky to some.
Here is one final quote from Marden that speaks to this:
“When you are the victim of vicious moods, just say to yourself: ‘This is all unreal; it has nothing to do with my higher and better self, for the Creator never intended me to be dominated by such dark pictures.” – Orison Swett Marden, Every Man a King
However you tackle your moods, the main point is that you can take them on and put them where they belong. Perhaps thinking of Teddy Roosevelt on a moose will provide a bright spot.