“The weather and my mood have little connection. I have my foggy and my fine days within me; my prosperity or misfortune has little to do with the matter.” —Blaise Pascal
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead to an understanding of ourselves.’ —Carl Jung
The fog of a mood
San Francisco’s foghorns were mounted on the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937. In the early hours of a foggy morning, particularly in the summer, you can hear their cry warning skippers of land. If they were to be removed, disaster would occur, and thousands of ships would sink. The sound of a fog horn is low and travels a good distance with a hum that’s repetitive. Could our moods be a similar warning system? Might it be a suggestion to reflect on what is happening at a deeper level? We then could call this an invitation to change.
Unlike clouds in the sky, fog, like a mood, descends and envelops you, occluding the real weather. Fog is also gray and white in nature so it mutes or whites out color and color is often a symbol of feeling. When you are in a moody fog you don’t know what you are truly feeling, you can’t see very well, and more importantly you’ve lost control. Moods hijack deeper feelings and in this way they are more akin to a possession. Moods cheat us of our deeper feelings and a close word to fog, ‘pettifogger’, means one who cheats.
Any lover knows when their partner is in a mood. It’s the moment they are lost to any real intimacy. Moods are often negative, destructive, and can sour an entire room of people or a whole day. When you notice this behavior in your partner you might feel like you have to ‘walk on egg shells’ or ‘make sure they’re okay’. It’s a terrible feeling to be around and a terrible feeling to be in. It is helpful to know when your partner is in a mood but the real trouble is in learning to see it in yourself.
What is a mood?
Moods often have an aggressive quality. They tend to express themselves in behaviors that needle, bite, or strike. They can also appear to be whiny, grumpy, martyr-like, or irritable. Moods are contagious and can trigger something similar in another person. This contagion causes couples to fight over the same things again and again. Or both partners may say things they wish they hadn’t. Moods, if not investigated to their root feeling are often a main precursor to poor relationships. They can also lead to destructive coping mechanisms, like addiction. Moods deepen with exhaustion or intoxication. They also can trick you. For instance, you may be in an irritable mood but with awareness and reflection you can begin to connect with what is underneath. You may be surprised as to what you find.
What do you do with a foul mood?
If you catch yourself in a bad mood, take a minute to recognize it—even say it out loud, ‘I’m caught in a bad mood’ and share this statement with someone. In this moment the mood is already losing its fogginess. This is where mindfulness practices are said to change people. This is also where a deep psychotherapy helps because moods take you out of deep experience. If you find your partner in a mood don’t confront it with your bad mood. That just makes matters worse and try to remember that you can also be caught in one too. Instead, experiment with trying to meet your partner at a deeper level by saying something like, ‘You seem like you’re having a bad day…Can I help?’ Be sincere rather than saying ,’You always vent your problems on me and I’m tired of being your punching bag!’ Do you see the difference? One swats away the other’s struggle while the other offers a compassionate hand. It’s a wonderful experience to have a partner who can receive your mood and not be activated by it. With patience these fogs can lift and the couple can resume and maybe even laugh about the moodiness. Mindfulness is fire for fog. It also heats up the ocean and burns the fog off.
Another helpful way to work with moods is to consider the purpose of the fog horn. When a fog horn is built it is in a consistent fog zone. Fog horns don’t move from location to location—they are permanent fixtures. I believe we have the same fog zones in ourselves, which I understand as complexes. A complex is a part of ourselves that has split off from our control and can take us over. Complexes may include but not limited to fears of abandonment, power, fear, persecution, paranoia, and trauma.
You can’t completely remove a complex but you can lessen its effect. To work with a mood try mounting a psychic fog horn to give yourself some space to catch or warn yourself. Engage the mood and be curious about something deeper for when a fog horn speaks it says, ‘Beware skipper! A rocky bottom approaches.’
Fog, and mood, is an invitation to go inside and reflect. Some San Franciscan’s love the fog. It’s a defining characteristic in their identification with this city. I’ve heard people say they feel a connection with soul when they experience the fog. It can be eery, beautiful, and giving. The mighty Redwoods thrive in this condition and have done so for millennia and walking the forest floor of the Redwoods wouldn’t have that sacred feeling without the fog’s embrace. In this sense fog can be a blessing, a protecter, even a nurturer. It turns down the weather and opens up to a quieter space. Feeling foggy or in a mood is an invitation to drop deeper. I hope you’ll be inspired to accept this invitation and learn more about yourself—through psychotherapy or another practice.