Thursday, December 11, 2008

You're Always In A Mood, Whether You Like It Or Not

I've been moody lately.

Me at 4:30 heading to the gym: Boo-hoo, life is pointless, I'm just a speck in the universe : (

Me at 7:30 having a cocktail: dum-dee-dum, I love my new cute shoes, cuteoverload is so awesome, and I wonder what's on the radio?

People like to talk about moods as if you can be "in a mood" or not be in one but that actually makes no sense. It's like talking about whether there is weather. There's always weather.

Just like you're always in a mood. Sure, some moods are more extreme than others and when you say you're moody you really just mean that your moods are shifting a lot or unpleasantly extreme. It doesn't mean you're in a mood as opposed to not being in one.

This wouldn't matter except that the whole concept of the no-mood mood infects how we think about "normal life."

For instance. People will tell you that if you're going to make an important decision in your life, you should wait until you're in a quiet, reflective state of mind, rather than in any particular mood.

But if you think about a quiet reflective state of mind as a mood, you wonder, what's so great about a quiet reflective mood over any other kind of mood? After all, sometimes you have to get all fired up in anger, or all passionately miserable, or all jublilantly excited, to really commit to something. What makes those decisions any more arbitrary than any other decisions?

When you're all wound up, the quiet reflective mood seems so boring and dull. Who would want that to be the representative of their true self?

The most you could say in answer to this, I think, is that for some people the quiet mood is more like an average of moods than any particular mood. But for a lot of people that just isn't true: they're so seldom quiet and reflective that this doesn't really reflect their mood average at all.

Also, you sometimes hear people trying to say that what a person really cares about, really values, is what they care about and value when they're in a quiet reflective state of mind—when they're not in any particular mood, they would say.

It has a kind of comforting plausible sound. But if you think of a quiet state of mind as a dull mood rather than no mood at all, then it doesn't make any sense. What's so great about a dull mood?

If you think about the hormonal basis of moods, it's even more puzzling. Famously, women are thought to change "moods" with their menstual cycles. But if you look at the hormone changes of women throughout a month, it's not like there's three weeks of one thing and then a week of another and then "back to normal." It's more like choas: there are several different chemicals, and they go up and down in all kinds of ways.

So when someone says "what you really care about is what you care about when you're not in a mood," I always think, "Is that the ovulating no-mood? The pre-menstrual no-mood? The post-menstrual no-mood"?

Or as a woman can I never be expected to be in no-mood until childbearing years are over? You see how peculiar it is.

Anyway, it reminds me of how adults always think of teenagers as being in some wacky non-normal frame of mind, and themselves as normal. But if you remember being a teenager, probably you thought you were normal and that adults were always half-sleepwalking.

Maybe we are. Who's to say? Just don't think you're going to make a more "accuarate" assessment of the situation just because you're "not in a mood." You're always in a mood. Whether you like it or not.

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