It’s really not all that unusual for me to be sat cruising in the car, chilling out and listening to one of the several hundred thousand tracks I call my music library.
I take great inspiration from all forms of creative work – film, books, art, photography and yes, music!
The thing that really draws me in to great music is the unique position, or emotional content that it portrays. Sure, every now and then we all like to just unwind with some simple pop, or have a boogy to a banging beat. Other times, like the enjoyment of a fine wine or painting by a master artist, you need soul food and inspiration. Something to elevate your thinking to a new level, and maybe this is to escape yourself and become a little bit more hedonistic for a moment.
Thusly, I’ve been following a Band called “Icon For Hire” for some time now. Their story is an interesting one… separating from their label due to creative differences, up to running a successful fundraiser for their latest independent album, raising about three quarters of a million dollars! Some great work and fantastic fan service has enabled them to continue their creative endeavours in the way they best see fit.
Icon For Hire write a lot about mental health and wellbeing! So I was re-awakened to a topic they discussed on a track called “Background Sad”. Before we even get into the topic, can you relate?
There must be periods in nearly everyone’s lives where they can describe their mood as “background sad” – this is living each day in a grey, monotonous way, not seeing any pleasure of enjoyment in anything… potentially whilst even being surrounded by things they enjoy or people they love.
To quote Icon For Hire from their song “Background Sad”…
“I got pages and pages of documentation I keep
Looking for answers and patterns I’ve hidden in me
Don’t need the world in my hands
Think I’d be happy with halfway content
I should grow up and shut up
I’m probably wanting too much”
I’ve touched on this issue in the past, whereby we assume that it’s OK to be where we are, and to reject the idea that we are worthy of more happiness, more fulfilment, more love, whatever it is.
Considering the possibility that situations can be improved, let’s take a moment to consider what background sad could be, and why we don’t necessarily have to be a victim of it.
It’s common knowledge that everyone is experiencing all sorts of different emotions throughout the day, often led by the experiences of the day and how they manifest in the mind, or conjure up past feelings and emotions to become alive in the present. A never ending flux of experiential energy coursing through our brains at a speed that our consciousness can’t keep up with. It’s hard to regulate and manage for even the most dedicated and experienced practitioners of mindfulness.
Background sad is not quite so reactive. It feeds on a deeper routed thought pattern that can relate to feelings of inadequacy or lack of fulfilment or worthiness. It could even be due to trauma, loss, regret, guilt or a myriad of other possibilities that are far too numerous to list here. Plus, personal experience is not something that can be categorised or catalogued. It is just that, personal experience! It belongs exclusively to you!
But I believe that background sad can be made more manageable with mindfulness. I like to think of the mind in terms of a set of weighing scales, and it’s our job to balance the scales in order to live a reasonable and manageable life. Too much in either way and things start to get unbalanced. This applies to too much of the good stuff too – it’s not necessarily true what they say, you CAN have such a thing as too much! Too much of what you want, leaves you empty and unable to satisfy yourself. Too much of what you don’t want leaves you shattered and exhausted. So I like to aim for something in the middle. The best place to fight back against background sad!
So how to we go about balancing these scales?
OK, well this will vary from person to person, but essentially, being present on what matters most to you, and continually seeking, appreciating and acknowledging that thing, will ultimately lead to the mind having more tolerance for things that upset you. That will require work.
I don’t believe that we are predetermined by biology to be either happy or sad, I cannot believe that. But rather we are all affected by the world around us in different ways, and that experience can either be easy to live in, or hard. There are no guarantees in life, there are no yard sticks by which to measure. Life is life, experience is experience. Give one hundred people a book to read on self help, get one hundred different opinions and outcomes in their lives. Such is the nature of our diversity and it pays to be cognisant of this!
So your mental scales will have a completely different set of weights on it to the person nearest and dearest to you. The key is not to compare, but rather to assess the weight that is dragging you down, learn about it, be curious rather than afraid. Ask yourself hard questions, become all knowing in regards your own negative experiences. Once you understand a thing, you can change a thing!
The next stage is to balance this out with your positives, and learn to be ever mindful of them. Keep them as close as possible throughout the day, learn to live in them and be absorbed by them. Balance the scales through diligence of thought and becoming master of your thoughts.
I promote the understanding of our difficulties, rather than obfuscation, hiding or pretending they don’t exist. Welcome them into your life as a part of your lived experience. Own a piece of that reality and learn to become curious about it. Get one step ahead of your thoughts and feelings so that you can be one step ahead of background sad.
Once mastered, you will be able to acknowledge negative thought patterns without being subjected to the emotional storm. The emotions will never go away, and you need them! But when tempered with positive thought patterns and acceptance, in balance, you could well start to feel OK again!
Begin the journey towards “background glad”!
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