Mood Log: Exposing the Triggers of Self Defeat

Even though self defeating  actions and feelings seem to appear out of thin air, they always have a trigger. Most of us would not think of analyzing and dissecting every mood change on a daily basis, if we did our emotional triggers would be forced out into the open like moths to the light of reason.

A trigger is our interpretation of an event that generates a thought which creates an emotional wave disrupting our neutral disposition. For example, we may hear a song that leaves us feeling depressed, an off the cuff comment from a co worker causes us to explode or while working on a task or project we suddenly feel hollow, useless or angry. Let’s call an event a “trigger moment” and the thought a “trigger thought”. The trigger moment can be internal like a thought or memory or external like hearing a song or the smart ass co worker’s comment.

Imagine you’re trying to fall asleep and you have a nightmare that you will wake up in hell, however you don’t believe in hell so you roll over and fall back to sleep, even though the “trigger moment” was a dream, your interpretation of it as meaningless resulted in it simply as a harmless dream. However if you do believe in hell and that dream upsets you, that is the “trigger moment” based on your perception of it. The subsequent thought of fear, shame or guilt is the “trigger thought”.

Keeping track of emotional triggers even for one day will reveal patterns in our thoughts and actions. You might be shocked at how often a negative thought will come at you, especially if you are doing something you don’t want’t to do. (I have experienced one every 15 or 30 seconds at times.. usually ignored but still irritating)



Date Time: Do not let this over whelm you, try it while at home or at the office for a little while, if need be give it a rest for a few days… the only way it fails is if you refuse to do it at all.

Mood Change: is how you feel in that moment, was there a change? Often we are feeling many things. stressed, bored. worthless, lonely, despondent, sullen…

What Where Who: is your immediate surroundings and who was there, what you were doing, weather, at the office, in the warehouse.. ambient conditions… anything of note in your settings

Self Talk Thoughts: what words did you use to interpret and process the emotions. I don’t want to do this. it’s a waste of time, people walk all over me. i have been disrespected, I don’t think I can do this.. did you see a good or painful memory come up, you feel it’s catastrophic

Accept Avoid Impulse:  describe your initial impulse: become angry, take a nap, smoke a spliff, have a beer or a shot, eat a gallon of ice cream, drain the bank account on roulette, burst into flames. Self defeating behavior is called into action to alleviate the uncomfortable emotions. Procrastination, tardiness, failure start or to complete anything are also avoidance tools to remove us from the uncomfortable situation. Avoid and Impulse always work together. Avoid removes you from the situation and impulse often will try to desire to medicate it away. If you feel negative impulses, that is normal, that’s what we do… we always have the choice to replace the impulse or ignore it  

Acceptance by replacement:  This is extremely important because life is upsetting at times. If you look at your log and realize your feelings and emotions are valid then the worst thing you can do is invalidate them. Depression, loneliness, grief, sadness are normal reactions to difficult situations. Accepting the way you feel will often bring a sense of peace and hope knowing these things don’t last forever. However if one realizes the emotions are coming from the accusing judging self talk voice, it’s time to replace those with honest, true evaluations of yourself in the situation.

Acceptance in our example: While golfing with Joe Biden the person changed from excited to lonely sad and restless. He mentions he has lost 5 balls, hates golf, losing and should have stayed home with the kids. His impulse is to throw the clubs in the lake or focus on how much he loved his kids. Even though we don’t know him, we can imagine that losing at golf, plus 5 golf balls(“Trigger Moment”) triggered the feelings of loneliness, sadness and restlessness. How did he interpret the feelings about his shitty golf game? I suck at golf, I hate losing and I could be with my kids right now. (Self critical/Shame) Well, who is gonna feel good with all that going on? If he replaces his self defeating thoughts with good thoughts about his children, replaces his thoughts about his game with ones like, it’s good to be out here with the squirrels and birds, fresh air and all that, and accepts that he’s always sucked at golf… he stands a good chance of not throwing his clubs in the river.

                              Reviewing Your Mood Log Will Change Your Behavior

Analyzing Your Analysis:  

Our subconscious is a virtual storehouse of memories painful and wonderful, it is also where are fears and defenses are stored among other things. At any given moment our inner mind is constantly uploading data from our past for our safety. A trigger is an alert from our subconscious that it has detected something harmful based on data it has stored from the time we were born. The problem is our mind has misrepresented  the dots. When a fear comes at us quickly it is up to our conscious mind to scan it in a flash and determine whether this (happening now) is like something that was painful in the past. Most of the time our subconscious alert has gotten it wrong. It is up to us to sort through the mistaken thinking and replace it with the truth.This is one reason why our fears almost never come true.

In a short time you will see patterns in the mood log. You may recognize that your impulse is to repeat an old self defeating behavior when conflicted. Also, your thought patterns may include putting yourself down, shame of unmet expectations. the feeling of being controlled when you do not want to do something, or longing for a time when things were better. Exposing the darkness is always scary and disturbing, however a fear that is not defeated will never leave.This mystery is on the verge of being solved.

The Good News

What is more upsetting than falling in the same hole over and over? It’s maddening and hopeless. The first time you understand the pattern, you will experience hope. The first few times you replace a thought or behavior you will experience a little joy. It won’t take long for these replacement thoughts and actions to become automatic, then you realize that you are not a victim of phantom mood swings and behavior, you will realize that you are in control no longer bounced around by triggers and negative emotions.

Please download the Mood Log and Good Luck…     Mood Log Download

About B.F.C.

What has caused me the greatest pain has become a great gift and comfort to others. A lover of theology and philosophy who also teaches anger management. I don't think out of the box... for me there is no box. I am a rebel and always ask "Who sets the rules? A rebel in our culture.. has empathy, compassion and understanding for those who are "hand cuffed" by shame and made to feel they don't fit in and never will. Wisdom and love are often counter intuitive to the flow of the culture, If that is the case, I don't think I want to fit in. "When you aint got nothin.... You aint got nothing to lose" ~Bob Dylan
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