I made a discovery a few months back, and it’s one you need to know about.
I discovered that the history behind the everyday objects that surround you is controlling your thoughts, moods, and emotions, and you probably aren’t even aware of it.
Something that has this much power over how you feel needs to be fully understood, and I’m writing this post to help you do that – to help you understand the power of the everyday objects around you and how they influence your mood.
I Am A Strange Loop
About 6 months ago I read a book called “I Am A Strange Loop.” The book is as weird as its title suggests, but it’s got some clever ideas in it, and if you like to read you should check it out.
In the first chapter of the book, the author tells the story of an encounter he had with his mother. This encounter took place a few months after the author’s father had passed away.
Even though several months had passed, both he and his mother were still grieving. He had lost his father, and she had lost her husband of many years.
During the encounter at the heart of this story, the author and his mother were talking over the kitchen table, sharing their grief.
As they talked, the mother was holding and examining an old photograph of her deceased husband, and in her grief she stated that the old photograph was useless and meaningless – just an old piece of paper.
Her son replied to this, and it was his reply that led to the discovery I made about the objects around us and the power they have to control how we feel. So here is his reply:
“In the living room we have a book of the Chopin études for piano. All of its pages are just pieces of paper with dark marks on them, just as two-dimensional and flat and foldable as the photograph of Dad — and yet, think of the powerful effect that they have had on people all over the world for 150 years now. Thanks to those black marks on those flat sheets of paper, untold thousands of people have collectively spent millions of hours moving their fingers over the keyboards of pianos in complicated patterns, producing sounds that give them indescribable pleasure and a sense of great meaning.
Those pianists in turn have conveyed to many millions of listeners, including you and me, the profound emotions that churned in Frédéric Chopin’s heart, thus affording all of us some partial access to Chopin’s interiority — to the experience of living in the head, or rather the soul, of Frédéric Chopin. The marks on those sheets of paper are no less than soul-shards — scattered remnants of the shattered soul of Frédéric Chopin. Each of those strange geometries of notes has a unique power to bring back to life, inside our brains, some tiny fragment of the internal experiences of another human being — his sufferings, his joys, his deepest passions and tensions — and we thereby know, at least in part, what it was like to be that human being, and many people feel intense love for him.
In just as potent a fashion, looking at that photograph of Dad brings back, to us who knew him intimately, the clearest memory of his smile and his gentleness, activates inside our living brains some of the most central representations of him that survive in us, makes little fragments of his soul dance again, but in the medium of brains other than his own. Like the score to a Chopin étude, that photograph is a soul-shard of someone departed, and it is something we should cherish as long as we live.”
I thought his words were wonderful, and I’m sure they gave some comfort to his mother. His words also helped me to see several of my own photographs in a very different light.
To think of photos of people I’d lost as “soul shards” was a profound idea to me, and it changed the way these photos made me feel: they’d once made me feel sad, bittersweet, but now those same pictures made me happy, almost joyous.
This story that the author told of his encounter with his mother made a big impression on me. So big, in fact, that these ideas stayed on my mind for some time.
And here’s where my big discovery came.
How the History Behind an Object Has the Power to Control How You Feel
Because of the story in the “I Am A Strange Loop” book, I was now seeing the photos of people I’d lost in a very different way.
I was finding pleasure in looking at these photos, so I started placing them in more prominent positions around my house so that I’d see them more often.
The result? I was thinking about these photos a lot. Specifically, I was thinking about:
- the people in the photos
- the places in the photos
- the occasions in the photos
- the stories behind the photos
- the history behind the photos
Everything was positive in these photos. I loved the people in them, I loved the memories they had captured, I loved the occasions they reminded me of, and so looking at them and having them on my mind felt good.
But what really struck me was the history behind the photos.
These photos were just pieces of paper, and would be meaningless to anybody who didn’t know what was behind them.
But for me, these photos had real history behind them. And just a glance at the photos was all the time it took for all that history to come rushing back.
And I didn’t need to consciously remember the history behind the photos. I didn’t have to cast my mind back and sit reminiscing for extended periods of time.
The history behind the photos just kind of washed over me whenever I looked at them. It was as if a moment’s glance at a photo would leave me with a new mood, one that came on me instantly without my being aware of it.
And that mood would positively affect me for minutes, even hours.
This was a big realization for me – that pieces of paper, inanimate objects, had history behind them that could affect my mood.
So I started to expand my thinking, asking new questions. Did all objects have histories behind them? If they did, were all the objects around me affecting my mood the way the photos were?
It didn’t take long for me to realize that the answer to both of those questions was yes.
Pretty much all the objects around me had histories behind them, and so those objects were affecting my mood – just like the photos were.
How the History Behind an Object Determines Your Moods, Both Good and Bad
When I’d first noticed that the objects around me had the power to affect my mood, I’d never considered that the changes they caused could be negative.
All I knew to start with was that the photos I was looking at were lifting my mood, improving it.
But once I saw that all the objects around me had histories behind them, I quickly became aware that objects could have a negative effect too.
Here’s how this works in a nutshell: all the objects around you affect your thoughts, your emotions, and your moods, and it’s the histories behind the objects that determine if your thoughts, emotions, and moods are improved or made worse.
- objects with positive histories improve your mood
- objects with negative histories worsen your mood
You keep hearing me refer to objects, and everyday objects, and you might be wondering what I mean by that.
It can mean anything – literally any physical object that you see or interact with where you live, work, exercise, anything.
Here are a few examples so you can see that I really do mean anything:
- childhood possessions
You could name any object and it would belong on that list. And almost every object you name would either have a positive history or a negative history.
I’m sure there would be some objects that would have a neutral history, one that was neither positive or negative.
But for most ideas, the history would be positive or negative.
Let me show you exactly how this works – how these objects with positive or negative histories affect how you feel.
An Object with a Good History
I have a photo of my cat Scoobie on my chest of drawers in my bedroom. I had him for 17 years, I loved him lots, and he passed away 2 years ago.
For a long time after he’d gone, it hurt too much to linger on his memories or on random thoughts of him. But now that time has healed the wounds and the memories are no longer raw, remembering him makes me happy.
So now, every time I wake up in the morning or go to bed at night, his photo is often the thing I see.
When I see the photo, I don’t consciously do anything, and I don’t intentionally have any thoughts at all. But here’s what happens anyway:
- I’ll see the photo, just a glance, nothing more
- he’ll be on my mind for a moment
- a montage of memories of him will flash through me
- anything negative on my mind will give way to positivity
- my mood will improve, even if only slightly
- my improved mood will remain for several minutes
I’m unaware of all the things in that list that happen to me in the moment, but they do happen. When I force myself to take note of what happens, everything on that list above takes place.
And that’s how something as simple as a photo with a positive history can improve my thoughts, my emotions, and my moods.
It’s also important to note that when the above sequence of events happens, there’s no place for negativity.
You can only ever be in a positive or negative state of mind at any one time, so while the photo causes me positivity it is also preventing me from having any negativity inside me at that moment.
That’s a big deal, because if you can create enough of these positive moments during the day then the negativity never gets a moment to get in.
An Object with a Bad History
I had a terrible time at school when I was a teenager. I had no friends, I was bullied, and things were always bad.
One of the worst things about that time in my life was the 2 times per week that I had to play rugby with the school team.
I would get singled out during the game to be tackled hard, and it would usually end up with the whole team piling in on top of me so that they could all get a hit in.
I would get called names throughout. I would get singled out in the locker room before and after the game, physically and verbally. My clothes would get thrown in the shower.
All the stuff that asshole bullies do.
Anyway, all this stuff happened 18 years ago. But for some crazy reason I always kept my rugby shirt from back then.
I’m nostalgic by nature, apparently even for the stuff that reminds me of terrible times, because I’d never thrown that rugby shirt out and for many years it hung in my closet with my other clothes.
I didn’t ever stop to think that this was causing me any harm, but that changed not long after I made the discovery that I’m talking about in this post: that the objects around you have the power to affect your mood.
I quickly realized that the rugby shirt I’d kept all those years had a massively negative history associated with it, and that every time I saw that shirt hanging in my closet I was being affected in a negative way.
The reaction this shirt caused was very similar to the reaction the photo of my cat caused, except this one was purely negative.
Here’s what would happen when I saw that shirt in my closet, and all this would happen without me thinking anything – it would all be automatic:
- I’d see the rugby shirt, usually just out of the corner of my eye
- a montage of unpleasant memories would flash through me
- anything positive on my mind would give way to negativity
- my mood would worsen
- my worsened mood would continue for several minutes
It’s important to note that during all these events and for some time afterwards, there would be no place inside me for positivity.
Remember how I said that you can only ever be in a positive or negative state at any point in time? Well that’s true here too, so that stupid shirt hanging in my closet left no room for positivity inside me for several minutes every single day for years.
Everyday Objects Have the Power to Change How You Feel
I’m hoping by now you’re starting to see the power of the objects around you, and how they all have the power to change your thoughts, emotions, and moods.
The 2 examples I just gave you will hopefully demonstrate just how these simple objects really do have the ability to make you feel great or terrible, depending on the histories behind the objects.
But is there a way you can actually make use of all the ideas I’ve shared with you in this post? A proactive way to improve your thoughts, emotions, and moods using the power of the objects around you?
Actually, there is, and it’s really simple.
I call it “The Object Inventory,” and it’s a great way to make sure that you’re surrounded by as many objects with a positive history as possible, while at the same time eliminating as many objects as possible with a negative history.
The Object Inventory
Step 1. Process 5 Objects a Day
Each day, starting from today, randomly process 5 objects around you. These objects can be in your home, your place of work, your backyard, anywhere you spend time.
All you need to do to “process” an object is:
- look at an object
- think about the stories behind it
- ask yourself what images it stirs in you
- ask yourself what emotions it causes in you
- ask yourself if the object’s history is positive or negative
Processing 5 objects a day should only take you a few minutes, and the rewards will be worth it.
Step 2. Surround Yourself with Objects with a Positive History
When you encounter an object with a positive history in your daily processing, place that object in a prominent position.
The more you see objects with a positive history the more benefits you’ll get, so keep them where you can see them.
Step 3. Get Rid of Objects with a Negative History
When you encounter an object with a negative history, get rid of it.
Most of the time, throw it in the trash like I did with my rugby shirt. Or, if it’s an object that you can’t or don’t want to throw away, place it in the attic or the basement, or put it in storage.
Just get it out of sight and out of mind so that it no longer causes you even a single moment’s negativity.
Step 4. Maintenance
After a few weeks of processing, you’ll get through all the objects that surround you, and you should then have all the positive objects in prominent positions and all the negative objects should be gone.
When you reach that stage, it’s all about maintenance.
And all that means is that you stay alert and aware of the objects around you, either old objects that resurface or that you missed in your processing, or new objects that make their way into your life.
Ditch the negative stuff, and surround yourself with the positive stuff.
The result will be frequent exposure to objects with positive histories and infrequent exposure to objects with negative histories.
And that’ll mean far more positive moments in your day than negative ones.
I really do believe that the objects that surround you are one of the most dominant forces in your life when it comes to your thoughts, emotions, and moods.
And the great thing is, when you develop an awareness of the power these objects have, as you’ve now done, you give yourself the ability to control how you feel in a way you’ve never known before.
So use what you’ve learned – keep this stuff in mind:
- keep yourself open to the idea of the objects around you having a huge impact on the way you feel
- start to care what objects are around you at any given time
- stop subjecting yourself to unnecessary negativity that objects with negative histories can cause
- complete “The Object Inventory” to take full advantage of the power that simple everyday objects have over you
- make it a habit to never let an everyday object make you feel bad ever again
I hope this post helps you. It was a hard post to write because it’s a weird concept to get your head around and there was a lot of personal stuff in there for me.
But I enjoyed writing it anyway, and I really do hope you use the ideas I’ve shared with you.