We struggle to imagine a different emotion than the one we currently swamping our system. When I am sad, I think sad thoughts. When I am happy, I think happy thoughts. Our current mood influence perceptions and our perceptions solidify the mood. However these emotions are fleeting. They come and go as we interact with the world. We feel life.
When we feel down, it’s difficult to consider future joys. We get stuck in the current emotion. Dreary days lag on, inviting dreary futures. We feel the weight of hopelessness closing in and pulling us further into the abyss.
Much of the well-being advice is very antidotal, ignoring the dilemma of mood altering perceptions. Anxiety and fear flood the the brain, interfering with the balancing regulations of the pre-frontal cortex. Implementing advise, largely a function of the pre-frontal cortex (executive functions), are strained when cognitions are blurred by overwhelming emotions.
Emotions are Fleeting
Feeling affects are fleeting. Jumping to work to alert the system of danger. Once they warn and the threat subsides they can resume normal functions. However, as the arousal settles, cognitive functions begin, ruminating on the event, keeping the moment alive.
Itai Ivtzan Ph.D. explains we experience a fleeting nature of happiness when it is associated with feeling affects rather than a more eudaimonic picture of joy. He wrote that, “hedonic happiness, in its essence, is a brief experience of joy and pleasure which quickly fades away” (2016).
We must breath in and enjoy passing joyful moments while We calming more distressing arousal. A healthy practice is to have several emotional soothing techniques available. Activities that we automatic employ without much cognitive coaxing. Even in moderate states of arousal, implementing a new regulation practice is difficult.
Be Patient; Let the Fleeting Emotions Pass
Once our system has settled, if the problem still exists, such as a dispute with a partner, we can re-approach with our cognitive functions back on-line to find a creative solution or properly consider the problem against other priorities.
There are many top-down practices that calm emotions. We must explore different avenues to find the best practice for us. Albert Bandura wrote, “having a serviceable coping skill at one’s disposal undoubtedly contributes to one’s sense of personal efficacy” (1977). We need serviceable tools to calm our system, establish safety, and open our mind to address vexing problems.
Life’s full of ups and downs, successes and failures, pleasure and sorrows, happy beginnings and sad endings. It’s the nature of the rich experience of living. Hold on with patience when life’s not going so well, calm your mind, and implement change. Even sadness, we can maintain hope of a better future—even though we can’t envision exactly how the future will be.
Bandura, A. (1977) Self Efficacy: Towards a unifying theory of Behavior change. Psychological Review, 84(2), 191-215.
Ivtzan, I. (2016) Why Is Happiness Fleeting? Psychology Today. Published 3-25-2016. Accessed 12-4-2021.
Van Der Kolk, B. (2015). The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. Penguin Books; Illustrated edition.