A bad mood is often the result of one incident cascading out of control. That’s all it takes. One thing happens and we let it take over our mood.

Like what? Well, I’m not talking about major events like getting fired, broken up with or losing a loved one. Those require bigger responses.

I’m talking about things like getting in a fight with your spouse/significant other, your boss being a jerk or somebody making a snarky comment on your Instagram page. It’s things that upset you and can drag you into a daylong funk.

The key is preventing that one incident from burrowing into our psyche and dragging us down. How do we do that?

Resisting the egoic force

As I’ve written many times before, it’s mainly about resisting the powerful egoic force that BEGS us to go along for the ride down to our lower selves. It’s not easy.

I’ve talked to many people about this and they all say the same thing: That force is near-irresistible AND there is so little time to keep our wits about us and resist its allure.

Your wife throws a cheap shot your way and you have less than a second to NOT respond by throwing an even cheaper shot her way and ruining your day, week, month…or marriage! That ring a bell with anybody?

So there’s the preamble. Now onto what can help us in that infinitesimal amount of time we have between incident and explosion.

My lap-swim induced inner brawl

It’s a three-word admonition I learned from the great Mickey Singer, my favorite spiritual teacher. I’ll explain it by relating the inner jujitsu match I had with myself yesterday at the lap pool.

First, I hate swimming laps. I’m a terrible swimmer, the second slowest of all time, behind my dad who was so slow he looked like he was going backward when he swam.

Shellacked by my 11 year old daughter

Here’s how slow I am. My eleven year old daughter had to swim 100 yards in under a minute and forty seconds to qualify for the junior lifeguard program. So for the hell of it, I tried doing 100 yards all out. My time? 2:10. My eleven year old daughter? 1:30.

So why do I do it? Because it’s a fantastic workout. Good cardio and great for my body that I trash on a regular basis on the tennis court.

Yesterday’s swim was more important than usual because I’d pulled a quadricep muscle on the court. In other words, swimming was my only option.

No open lanes makes David a dull boy

I arrived at the pool at my tennis club to find that all four lanes were occupied. In four years this has happened maybe twice. And I’m such a bad swimmer that I never ask others to share a lane because it could be harmful to their health.

So that meant I had to wait, something I’ve never been good at. After a few minutes I saw an older woman exiting the pool. Yes! No. Because two buddies were sharing a lane next to her and one of them slinked right over to snake her lane.

Which meant more waiting. As I sat in a tiny white folding chair, the seething process got underway:

“Damnit. Just my luck. The one day I really need to swim is when there are no lanes.”

“When are these idiots going to finish?”

“Come on, they’re not idiots. They’re just getting a workout in…”

Early on in this inner battle, when the low seethe starting morphing into that white hot feeling in my lower self that desperately wanted me to dive below to get that egoic party started, I remembered Mickey’s three magic words:


That’s all I told myself. Don’t touch it. Touch what? That white hot force begging me to go for an egoic joy ride.

That’s what Mickey advises people do when that force beckons to us. Whether it’s that lousy comment from your wife or your boss, relax immediately. All over. Then summon all your will to not TOUCH that energy. Just relax, lean away from it and watch it.

I kept saying those three words. Relaxing behind that energy. And it worked…

Open my eyes, repeat the process

Then I’d open my eyes, look at all the lucky lane winners, start to feel myself getting worked up again…Then I repeated the process.

Ultimately, I gave up and went home. But I felt okay about it. I successfully prevented myself from “touching it.” The result was that my mood remained stable.

Had I allowed myself to dive down that rabbit hole my mood would undoubtedly have soured, possibly for the rest of the day.

The takeaway

The next time something upsets you and you feel that white hot energy tempting you to follow it, give this method a try. Again, all you have to do is:

-RELAX, immediately. Everywhere in your body, but especially the head, shoulders and chest.

-LEAN AWAY from that egoic feeling.

-Say to yourself, “Don’t touch it!” Keep repeating it until you feel fully relaxed and the feeling has dissipated.

Life’s too short to let things ruin your day. If this method resonates with you, put it in your quiver with your other mood-saving arrows.

Thanks for reading.