It can be difficult to be around people who are grumpy, cranky, disappointed or frustrated.
Many of us are somewhat (if not extremely) sensitive to other people’s moods—but the reality is that we are only responsible for our own emotions.
The simple answer to learning how not to be affected by other people’s emotions is to become more aware of our own mood and emotions—but this can be a difficult reality to accept for a couple of reasons: First, because there is so much that goes on around us that is uncomfortable; Second, because it can be so easy to blame this discomfort on external influences.
The more we learn to take responsibility for our own moods, the more we understand that we choose how we want to feel.
Yesterday I was on a pleasant scenic drive. I personally was in a good mood. I was enjoying the leisurely feeling of the day and the chance I had to kick back and relax. However, the person in the back seat of the car wasn’t having the good time I was having.
They were in a bad mood.
The more I realized that the person in the back seat of the car was in a bad mood, the more my thoughts starting rotating between the following three states:
- Wishing the person wasn’t with us.
- Feeling like it was my fault the person in the back seat was having a bad time.
- Thinking this was a bad way to spend the day.
All of these three thoughts were uncomfortable to me, and very quickly I felt myself also slipping into a bad mood.
But then I employed mindfulness.
I employed mindfulness in the form of inquisitive curiosity. I checked in with how I was really feeling. And what I noticed was I was actually feeling good. I had no discomfort in my body, I was enjoying the location I was in and I liked the people I was with (despite the bad mood) and I had nowhere else I wished I could be.
Basically, there was no reason for me to feel bad.
There might have been a reason for the person in the back seat to feel bad, but that was really none of my business, because it was their experience. So I sent them love and compassion with my own heart and mind and returned to being in a good mood, pushing aside the thought forms that were telling me the experience was something negative when in reality it was not.
I instantly saw that the kindest thing I could do for myself, as well as the other people in the car, was to bring my attention back to my own experience of enjoyment.
Everyone has the right to be in a bad mood if that is the way they feel, and by not feeling responsible for other people’s bad moods we give them the space to feel as they need without more negativity being directed towards them.
Self-awareness is the key to being less affected by other people’s moods and emotions. Completely accepting that we are only responsible for our own emotions can free us from literally hundreds of hours of being dragged down by other people’s issues that are likely none of our business to begin with.
When we aren’t aware of what we are experiencing, we become entangled in the experiences of the people around us. When this happens, we can easily find ourselves obsessing about other people while ignoring our own needs.
Our purpose in life isn’t to fix anyone else, make anyone else feel better or prevent anyone else from having discomfort. Most of us are utterly confused and mystified about our own path, so how can we possibly know for sure what other people need?
We need to focus on our purpose as this: to become intimate with our own being.
Through developing the inner understanding of our being we are more able to stand firm in our own knowledge or our momentary needs. Then when the going gets tough—like when we’re around a person whose mood could affect us—we know how to tune in with how we actually feel, instead of how our thoughts are telling us to feel.
This is a solo journey, but we share it with billions of other humans. Learning to not be thrown off by other people’s moods and emotions through mindfulness, self-awareness and gentle self-inquiry is one of the healthiest things we can do for ourselves, as well as for others.
Author: Ruth Lera
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Natalie Jordan/Flickr