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Mood And Disposition

The sum total of all the feeling accompanying the various sensory and
thought processes at any given time results in what we may call our
feeling tone, or mood.

HOW MOOD IS PRODUCED.--During most of our waking hours, and, indeed,
during our sleeping hours as well, a multitude of sensory currents are
pouring into the cortical centers. At the present moment we can hear the
rumble of a wagon, the chirp of a cricket, the chatter of distant
voices, and a hundred other sounds besides. At the same time the eye is
appealed to by an infinite variety of stimuli in light, color, and
objects; the skin responds to many contacts and temperatures; and every
other type of end-organ of the body is acting as a sender to telegraph
a message in to the brain. Add to these the powerful currents which are
constantly being sent to the cortex from the visceral organs--those of
respiration, of circulation, of digestion and assimilation. And then
finally add the central processes which accompany the flight of images
through our minds--our meditations, memories, and imaginations, our
cogitations and volitions.

Thus we see what a complex our feelings must be, and how impossible to
have any moment in which some feeling is not present as a part of our
mental stream. It is this complex, now made up chiefly on the basis of
the sensory currents coming in from the end-organs or the visceral
organs, and now on the basis of those in the cortex connected with our
thought life, which constitutes the entire feeling tone, or mood.

MOOD COLORS ALL OUR THINKING.--Mood depends on the character of the
aggregate of nerve currents entering the cortex, and changes as the
character of the current varies. If the currents run on much the same
from hour to hour, then our mood is correspondingly constant; if the
currents are variable, our mood also will be variable. Not only is mood
dependent on our sensations and thoughts for its quality, but it in turn
colors our entire mental life. It serves as a background or setting
whose hue is reflected over all our thinking. Let the mood be somber and
dark, and all the world looks gloomy; on the other hand, let the mood be
bright and cheerful, and the world puts on a smile.

It is told of one of the early circuit riders among the New England
ministry, that he made the following entries in his diary, thus well
illustrating the point: Wed. Eve. Arrived at the home of Bro. Brown
late this evening, hungry and tired after a long day in the saddle. Had
a bountiful supper of cold pork and beans, warm bread, bacon and eggs,
coffee, and rich pastry. I go to rest feeling that my witness is clear;
the future is bright; I feel called to a great and glorious work in this
place. Bro. Brown's family are godly people. The next entry was as
follows: Thur. Morn. Awakened late this morning after a troubled night.
I am very much depressed in soul; the way looks dark; far from feeling
called to work among this people, I am beginning to doubt the safety of
my own soul. I am afraid the desires of Bro. Brown and his family are
set too much on carnal things. A dyspeptic is usually a pessimist, and
an optimist always keeps a bright mood.

may be grateful music to our ears when we are in one mood, and
excruciatingly discordant noise when we are in another. What appeals to
us as a good practical joke one day, may seem a piece of unwarranted
impertinence on another. A proposition which looks entirely plausible
under the sanguine mood induced by a persuasive orator, may appear
wholly untenable a few hours later. Decisions which seemed warranted
when we were in an angry mood, often appear unwise or unjust when we
have become more calm. Motives which easily impel us to action when the
world looks bright, fail to move us when the mood is somber. The
feelings of impending peril and calamity which are an inevitable
accompaniment of the blues, are speedily dissipated when the sun
breaks through the clouds and we are ourselves again.

MOOD INFLUENCES EFFORT.--A bright and hopeful mood quickens every power
and enhances every effort, while a hopeless mood limits power and
cripples effort. The football team which goes into the game discouraged
never plays to the limit. The student who attacks his lesson under the
conviction of defeat can hardly hope to succeed, while the one who
enters upon his work confident of his power to master it has the battle
already half won. The world's best work is done not by those who live in
the shadow of discouragement and doubt, but by those in whose breast
hope springs eternal. The optimist is a benefactor of the race if for no
other reason than the sheer contagion of his hopeful spirit; the
pessimist contributes neither to the world's welfare nor its happiness.
Youth's proverbial enthusiasm and dauntless energy rest upon the supreme
hopefulness which characterizes the mood of the young. For these
reasons, if for no other, the mood of the schoolroom should be one of
happiness and good cheer.

DISPOSITION A RESULTANT OF MOODS.--The sum total of our moods gives us
our disposition. Whether these are pleasant or unpleasant, cheerful or
gloomy, will depend on the predominating character of the moods which
enter into them. As well expect to gather grapes of thorns or figs of
thistles, as to secure a desirable disposition out of undesirable moods.
A sunny disposition never comes from gloomy moods, nor a hopeful one out
of the blues. And it is our disposition, more than the power of our
reason, which, after all, determines our desirability as friends and

The person of surly disposition can hardly make a desirable companion,
no matter what his intellectual qualities may be. We may live very
happily with one who cannot follow the reasoning of a Newton, but it is
hard to live with a person chronically subject to black moods. Nor can
we put the responsibility for our disposition off on our ancestors. It
is not an inheritance, but a growth. Slowly, day by day, and mood by
mood, we build up our disposition until finally it comes to characterize

TEMPERAMENT.--Some are, however, more predisposed to certain types of
mood than are others. The organization of our nervous system which we
get through heredity undoubtedly has much to do with the feeling tone
into which we most easily fall. We call this predisposition
temperament. On the effects of temperament, our ancestors must divide
the responsibility with us. I say divide the responsibility, for even
if we find ourselves predisposed toward a certain undesirable type of
moods, there is no reason why we should give up to them. Even in spite
of hereditary predispositions, we can still largely determine for
ourselves what our moods are to be.

If we have a tendency toward cheerful, quiet, and optimistic moods, the
psychologist names our temperament the sanguine; if we are tense,
easily excited and irritable, with a tendency toward sullen or angry
moods, the choleric; if we are given to frequent fits of the blues,
if we usually look on the dark side of things and have a tendency toward
moods of discouragement and the dumps, the melancholic; if hard to
rouse, and given to indolent and indifferent moods, the phlegmatic.
Whatever be our temperament, it is one of the most important factors in
our character.

Next: Permanent Feeling Attitudes Or Sentiments

Previous: The Nature Of Feeling

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