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Oceans and Emotions

Debra Coe (c) all rights reserved

To me, there is a lot of rich symbolism in the Book of Mormon. One part that I have thought about often and pointed out to my children is when Lehi and his family are traveling on the boat to America. As they begin, the sailing is smooth and they make good progress. The Liahona is working and their spirits are high. Later, as the journey continues, negative attitudes set in while Lamon and Lemuel try to make everyone on board the ship likewise negative and unhappy. Nephi is tied to the mass and no pleading on the part of their parents seems to make any difference. A great storm that matches the emotions on board the ship arises. Rain pours down, thunder crashes and the waves rock the boat violently. Determined to hold tight to their negatives emotions and feelings, Laman and Lemuel refuse to untie Nephi. For four days they go on like this. The direction of the ship is no longer governed by those on board, but rather by the cruel waves and wind. They did not need to concern themselves with making any progress on their journey at this point because it was all they could do keep from drowning. No reasoning or logic would change the minds of those so determined to cause unhappiness. Finally, the storm becomes so violent that fear causes their hearts to be softened, Nephi is released, and the winds again became calm and the boat is able to progress toward the promised land.

I see this drama of the boat played out often in individual lives; the people on the boat being our families, wards, etc. or even just our own individual lives and the struggles we have within. When we have good moods, positive attitudes, and clear directions as to how to attain our goals, progress is easily made and the sailing is smooth. But when the prevailing attitude is negative, the storm that is created shuts down much of our very ability to progress or even control our direction as we just try to keep from drowning. It is amazing to me how many times we like to cling to those negatives thoughts and attitudes just as Lamon and Lemuel did for several days.

Recently, I was reading about all the effects that our mood alone can have on just our ability to learn and the ability of those around us to learn. When we are in a good mood, we think clearly, have insights, and are optimistic. In this mode, learning is a joy and something we do to further our understanding of the world and improve our lives. But if our mood is negative, we no longer see or think clearly. Learning becomes an obstacle which is difficult to get through. Rather than insights and understanding, we have difficulty seeing logically which causes further frustration. While positive moods can be contagious, it seems that it is only negative moods that are able to spread in epidemic proportions.

For years there have been many books written about the simple of art of memorizing facts. I started reading some of these while I was in High School to help me with school work. In all the books I read, there was one common theme, connect what you need to memorize with something silly. The sillier the better and the more you will be able to remember it. I had no idea at the time why this worked, but I certainly noticed that it did work for me. I now realize that it worked because humor helps more than anything else to open up our minds and change moods. There is a direct connection between how we feel and our mind's ability to perform.

In short, in our homes we create a atmosphere that creates teaching moments or one that keeps them away. Teaching moments occur only when we have positive states of mind. Unteachable moments exist in negative states of mind. Humor along with the ability to laugh at ourselves, to see the positive in any situation, and find fun ways to correct situations and to teach any topic will make the difference as to whether we are able to teach our children or not. So much has been written about giving children and ourselves a good self esteem and the effects this has on ones ability to learn. However, what we fail to realize is that self esteem comes more from our mood and outlook on life. It is not having others tell us how capable we are, it comes from us feeling positive. Good moods give us a sense of power and ability to get over any hurtle. Negative moods encourage dysfunctional thinking of all kinds.

Imagine someone shouting at you while they tell you just how great you are and how they know you can learn easily because you are so very bright. They shouting and negative tone alone will dismiss the words spoken. Contrast this with holding a child on your lap smiling and laughing and telling them you know they cannot read, do addition, etc. The child in this upbeat frame of mind and feeling very loved and cared for will usually gladly add, read a book or anything you said you did not think they could do and laugh as they prove you wrong. The difference has nothing to do with the words spoken but the mood that is created. If you want to open up great learning ability, enhance self esteem, encourage healthy thought patterns, and increase the number of teaching moments in your home, increase the humor; work constantly and diligently to always have a good mood yourself and to share that mood with everyone else in your family.

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Last modified: November 14, 1999