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Six basic moods

ASIC MOODS Recently, we had the amazing Jen Louden teach us for two days as a part of Supercoach Academy. To my delight, she presented a model from the field of Ontological coaching I had not come across before of how the primary moods we all live in are created and maintained.

While we have as yet not been able to uncover the origins of the model (please let me know if you know!), I’ve been playing with it since then and wanted to share some of my initial thoughts and experiences. (Please note, these are my own insights and may or may not correlate to those of the originator…)

According to this way of thinking, human beings live in six basic moods – peace, ambition, wonder, resentment, resignation, and anxiety. Each of these moods is in turn constructed by the acceptance or denial of three basic elements: Facticity – the agreed upon facts of the situation Possibility – what could still happen or change Uncertainty – what is not yet known Acceptance of these three elements leads to positive moods and emotions; denial of them leads to negative moods and emotions.

Here’s a quick visual to make it all a bit simpler:

Let’s quickly go through each of the six moods by looking at them in pairs of opposites:

1. Peace vs. Resentment

Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer begins with the words “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change”. What cannot be changed? The facticity of the present and the facticity of the past. You cannot change the details of what has happened or what is happening (though you can certainly change your story about them).

This leads to an age-old debate – is it better to accept the things we cannot change or to “rage, rage against the dying of the light”. While there is no ultimate answer to questions like these, there are consequences to each choice. When you rage against what is, you live in a mood of resentment. While this can lead to action to create change, in my experience it more often leads to bitterness, burn out, and resignation.

On the other hand, when you accept things as they are, you not only experience greater peace, you recognize that in many cases the best thing about the past is that it’s over. The moment you accept that what is, is, you stop trying to change what’s done and free up your energy to create a better future.

Which leads us to our next pairing…

2. Ambition vs. Resignation

Contrary to popular opinion, acceptance doesn’t lead to resignation. Resignation is actually created through the denial of the possibility of change. “What’s the point?” resignation tells us. “Things are never really going to change – not in this economy, not with these politicians, not with me being the way that I am.”

But resignation is just a story. Changing what is yet to come is always possible – and with an acceptance of that possibility comes a mood of ambition, or empowered hope. Ambition says, alongside George Bernard Shaw and Robert Kennedy “I see things that never were, and say ‘why not?'”

When we live in possibility, we naturally find the energy to move forward. We recognize that when there’s a way, there’s a will – the will to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes until we have created what it is we want to create.

In fact, the only things that can crush that will over time are the impotent denial of what is, the abandonment of hope, and the fear of the unknown. Which leads us to our final pairing…

3. Wonder vs. Anxiety

One of the shifts I notice most often in my coaching clients is from fear of the unknown to an excited anticipation for what is yet to come. When we see ourselves as helpless victims of the system, society, or a heartless and unforgiving fate, the unknown is our enemy, and we fight anxiously to control everything in a desperate attempt to delay the inevitable.

Yet as we begin to see ourselves as the creators of our experience, the unknown becomes a blank canvas and a continual revelation – one opportunity after another for wonder, possibility, insight, and learning. It’s not that nothing bad can ever happen – it’s that we recognize that however bad things may get on the outside, we are still only ever one accepting thought away from a deeper feeling of peace and a deeper understanding of what it means to be alive.

One of the other teachers on the Academy, the wonderful Mandy Evans, said something which stuck with me and speaks to the possibility of living an ever more wonder-full life:

“Most people are afraid of the unknown, so they develop beliefs about things to make them feel safe. I love the unknown, so I don’t need beliefs.”

There’s an amazing simplicity to all of this – we know what we know, and we don’t know what we don’t know. If we try to deny this, we live in moods of anxiety, resignation and resentment. To embrace this fact is to choose a life of wonder, ambition, and peace.

With love,

Micheal Neill



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