WHAT IS EMOTIONAL AMPLITUDE
Amplitude is the degree of variation in response. Your emotional amplitude is the amount of variation in your emotions – the degree to which you suffer mood swings.
WHY DO WE SUFFER FROM MOOD SWINGS?
There are two main reason why our moods vary – internal reasons, and external reasons.
Firstly, internal: inside your body are a host of chemicals competing for predominance. The way they work is often to feed off each other. One hormone will counter stress by numbing you. It may also, in the process, knock out other stimulating hormones. This will cause a deadening effect. Eventually the absence of stimulating hormones will encourage a counter-reaction: having been held back, your stimulant hormones will bounce back with a vengeance, knocking out the deadening hormones. Off you will go into action and stress. And so on, in a cycle.
Secondly, external: outside your body are a host of events. These, too, feed off each other. One event will delight you, because it brings you something you feel you need, such as recognition, resources or reward. Another event will upset you, and because it comes after the delightful event, the upset will be all the more pronounced. You will find yourself on a roller-coaster of ecstasy and despair.
WHAT CAN WE DO TO MODIFY THIS EFFECT?
We may not want to exclude all emotion: emotions represent our physical sensitivity to ourselves and events. But we may want to prevent the mood swings being so extreme that they upset our ability to see clearly, and to help others. What use would a radio telescope be if it got so excited by what it saw that it fell over?
Firstly, we can tend to our internal emotional amplitude. Meditation is an extremely effective way of doing this. When we first meditate, we can fall asleep, because we swing from anxiety to the other extreme. Eventually, our body learns to operate within a narrower, more peaceful response framework. Others will notice that we are calmer in company, and therefore more helpful and attentive.
Secondly, we can tend to our external patterns of events. The things we can’t control, we can learn to be patient with. The things we can control, we can learn to organise our response to. For example, if you notice that, in your life, triumph and disaster seem to follow each other in a pattern (partly because of your emotional perceptions!), then you can organise your diary to balance things out. This is why, for instance, games are so good. They counteract the ups and downs of life, with new ups and downs, which make the other ones less destabilising. The football fan knows this. They forget the weekly ups and downs by getting involved in a harmless Saturday game.
Do my emotions happen in serious swings? Does this affect my mental health?
Internally, do I tend to my inner self, giving it the discipline and resources to manage itself mindfully? Or do I simply let loose, and allow my emotions to run wild unmanaged?
Externally, am I a victim of the mood swings caused by the usual triumph-disaster patterns of life? Do I manage my weekly diary so as to protect myself from too much dependence on outcomes in one area? Do I take measures to stop myself getting narrow and obsessive about one particular person or thing?
What is my emotional amplitude? If my mood swings are uncomfortably wide, am I learning how to manage them wisely?