site logo

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
ricket, 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.