Bad Mood > Good Mood

by Christopher Lovejoy on January 17, 2021

I’ve been playing with the idea of making a serious study of euthymia as being integral to micro realizations of ultimate fulfillment. Euthymia comes to us from the purveyors of reason and logic, cultivated and celebrated during the Golden Age of philosophy in Ancient Greece.

Other such words from this golden era include areté, entheos, eudaimonia, and hērôs.

In modern parlance, euthymia is a clinical term applied in association with mood disorders, simply defined as “a stable mood or state of mind.” We can add some juice to this term by adding this qualification: “euthymic people experience stable feelings of buoyancy or tranquility.”

Apophatically speaking, euthymia is a state of mind without disturbances in mood. Euthymic people display marked tendencies to be resilient under stress; that is to say, marked tendencies to be resilient in the face of, and in response to, all manner of acute or chronic stressors.

Unfortunately, these definitions and qualifications miss a crucial point.

To truly tap the power of euthymia, let’s start with a bit of etymology.

Thymos (pr. thigh-moss) refers to the fire in the spirit of humanity that ignites and inflames the best and worst in all that human beings can say and do in search of recognition and glory by asserting themselves aggressively in pursuit of, or in support of, causes both noble and ignoble.

Adding the prefix -eu (pr. you), which connotes goodness, righteousness, and fairness, simply tames the fire, so to speak, in favor of good and noble causes. More than a mere mood or state of mind, euthymia is a calm, clear inner knowing and feeling that has tamed the fire within.

A euthymic leader, for example, is one who can discern the difference between someone “under stress” and someone “under duress,” who can be assertive without being aggressive, and who can be certain that a well-earned recognition for a job well done is but a pleasant afterglow.

euthymia, n.

a calm, clear inner knowing and feeling
that can stay the course with finesse
guided by a central integrating purpose
cultivated through the root of being

Many states arise from euthymia, most notably …

* buoyancy (in essence, “keep the faith, stay the course, and keep it light”)
* equanimity (in essence, “calm and clear in the face of adversity or difficulty”)
* tranquility (in essence, “free of agitation” as it applies to state of being)

Many interesting issues and questions also arise …

1) what does it mean to be “under stress”?
2) what does it mean to be “under duress”?
3) is being and feeling “under stress” normal?
4) what happens when one is “under stress”?
5) what causes the feeling of being “under stress”?
6) what can one do when “under stress”?
7) what can one do when “under duress”?
8) the difference between distress and eustress?
9) can one embrace and embody eustress?

Vital Distinctions by which to Live and Breathe

The distinction between distress and eustress is vital, having to do with a feeling of certainty that arises around a locus of control that supports buoyancy, equanimity, and tranquility ~ “I remain in control to the extent to which I can handle stress calmly and clearly, with certainty.”

We know that certainty and responsibility are symbiotically linked, the one dynamically reinforcing the other; we also know, at least intuitively, that it is often best to slow down and proceed with care and caution when feeling overwhelmed by provocation, temptation, or obligation.

If distress (“bad” stress) is associated with a failure to heed these inner knowings and feelings, then eustress (“good” stress) is associated with a masterful management of conditions and circumstances that would have us bring these inner knowings and feelings to a ripened fruition.

nota bene:

mastery is mastery of communication (expression, negotiation, persuasion ~ to name a few)

Even more significant for the times in which we live is the distinction between stress and duress.

Suppose “I feel the pressure” in “rising to the occasion” where no intimidation or coercion is involved. If, in rising, I meet the stress and strain of this pressure with a steady, stable mood of buoyancy or equanimity, then, by definition, I am no longer “under stress;” stress is under me.

Distress becomes eustress; the source of the stress and strain becomes a welcome catalyst for growth.

In other words, hardship becomes flowship.

By way of contrast, suppose “I feel the pressure” to give my permission or my consent to acting “under duress:” as an agent of free will, I am “carefronted” or confronted by authority (moral or legal) with intimidation or coercion to compel my compliance or obedience, respectively.

To be sure, these are fine distinctions, depending on the situation.

When does communication (e.g., an attempt at negotiation or persuasion) become intimidation and when does intimidation become coercion? When does rightful communication become wrongful intimidation and when does wrongful intimidation become unlawful coercion?

If I feel at all offended by a communication, or by a pattern of communication, is it not possible that I am being harassed? And if I feel at all harassed by a communication, or by a pattern of communication, is it not possible that I am being intimidated? And if I feel at all intimidated by a communication, or by a pattern of communication, is it not possible that I am being threatened?

And if I feel oppressed, have I not already acted “under duress” with my own consent?

“I Am More Than My Feelings”

In a fuzzy relation or situation, what does one do when one suspects that one is acting “under duress”? More ominously, what does one do when one suspects an entire family, group, company, organization, government, institution, nation, or group of nations is acting “under duress”?

By way of response, here are five suggestions that come to mind:

One, cultivate, with love, trust, and care, a permeable buffer between your feelings and the feelings of others. For sensitives, this cultivation is indispensable in harsh public spaces where people tend to be fascistic and narcissistic (cold ‘n bold, loud ‘n proud, critical and controlling).

Two, stay calm and get very clear about your own feelings. Am I feeling offended, harassed, intimidated, or threatened, or am I just feeling triggered? Am I “falling into distress” or . . . am I “rising to the occasion with eustress”? Am I “acting” under stress or . . . am I acting “under duress”?

Three, lay claim to your birthright of “being in a good mood or state of mind, more often than not,” whether this typically shows up for you as buoyancy, equanimity, tranquility or, if you’re especially fortunate, serenity. Educate yourself on the differences; explore their nuances.

Four, be the change clarity and harmony you wish to see, hear, and feel in this world at this time. Commit yourself to the Four Agreements; employ the wisdom of Epictetus, Seneca, Musonius Rufus, and Marcus Aurelius; embody the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Last, but certainly not least, carefront tyranny responsibly ~ preferably, with clarity of vision.

No matter who you are, no matter what you do, no matter where you are, “education is freedom.” Although practical wisdom can only ever be experienced to be incorporated, we nevertheless study it to break through unwelcome and unwanted patterns of emotion and behavior.

Consider what you do out of rote memory or routine. If it serves you well, keep it; if it’s turning you into a puppet, robot, or zombie, give it the boot (easier said than done, I know). For any pattern or routine in your life, keep asking yourself: is this really the best way to do it?

By the way, why do I do what I do?

Are the reasons you discern in keeping with your safety, sanity, or serenity? For your own sake, or at least for the sake of those you like or love, know why you do what you do, and then do it for a good reason, the right reason, or for a reason that is fair or fine for everyone concerned.

Bearing in mind that “feelings are not facts,” we all have our own reasons for being who we are, for doing what we do, for having what we have; any concerted attempt to impose or enforce reasons on anyone without adequate basis in fact, logic, and truth invites the risk of disaster.


Innerstand at last
that you have something in you
more powerful and divine
than what causes the bodily passions
to jerk you around like a puppet;
what thoughts now occupy my mind?
is it not fear, suspicion, desire,
or something like that?

~ Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 12.19 (a modern translation)

Perceive at last
that thou hast in thee something
better and more divine
than the things which cause the various affects,
and as it were pull thee by the strings;
what is there now in my mind?
is it fear, or suspicion, or desire,
or anything of the kind?

~ Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 12.19 (a classical translation)

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