Have you ever watched a film that made you feel as though your soul was somehow dirty afterwards?
Have you ever finished a novel with the vague feeling that somewhere along the way you lost something of spiritual importance?
Have you discovered a method for ridding yourself of that "icky" feeling and reclaiming your previous emotional state at once?
I have. And, although the following five steps are not the only way to rid oneself of a bad (movie) feeling, they are the quickest and surest way of doing so that I've discovered thus far.
1. State the emotion clearly--starting with the dominant emotion first.
For example, let's assume you have just seen a horror movie--like Friday the 13th. You leave the theatre with a strong sense of discomfort, a feeling that can last for hours and perhaps (intermittingly) for days or weeks.
The first step to get the feeling out of your system quickly is to state in a clearer way what it is exactly that you feel. In this case, the answer may be that you feel an underlying though vague sense of fear (as if you were haunted).
2. Identify the dialogue or action that caused the emotion.
Continuing with the above example, you might point out that the world portrayed in the movie is one where the innocent are not only semi-retarded but also completely helpless against evil. At the same time, the evil character is ever-present, all-powerful, and unkillable. The feeling of being haunted, you conclude, comes from being in this sort of universe--a world where one can't escape from evil no matter how hard one tries.
3. Re-affirm the world as it is and the proper place for humans in it.
"People as a whole are not like those shown in the film," you might say--noting that your fundamental view of mankind should not be defined by the lowest common denominator.
More importantly, in this world as opposed to the one experienced while watching the film, the innocent do not have to fear any sort of all-knowing, all-powerful, and unkillable being.
The innocent and the good move forward confidently from one destination to the next, their days are spent peacefully, and when they are tired they sleep soundly. It is the evil characters by contrast that stumble through life--they are the ones condemned to spend long days crouched in fear and long nights with no rest.
More importantly, in this world as opposed to the one experienced while watching the film, the evil have to fear an all-knowing entity--one that can not be vanquished except with their own life: their consciousness.
No matter where they go, or how much they try to deaden their senses (with liquor or with drugs), as long as they are alive they will be haunted by the awareness of something horrible, ever-present, and evil: themselves.
The way that horror films portray good and evil (along with the emotional consequences of both in a person) couldn't be more wrong--it's a completely upside down view in fact. No wonder so many people feel so "shaken up" spiritually after watching one.
4. Repeat the above steps for any other emotions experienced.
For example, perhaps while watching the film you kept the full context of the situation in mind.
In other words, you were aware that "it's just a movie" and that the whole idea that a person can die and come back to life is utter nonsense (because it's biologically impossible). Thus, you were never truly scared but still got that vague sense of uneasiness--as if you were haunted--by having spent so much time in that world.
To the extent that you kept the above facts in mind or focused on other issues--like the quality of acting in the film--another emotion you may have experienced is boredom. (Actually, judging by the reviews at Rotten Tomatoes this was the dominant feeling!)
Here again, simply repeat the steps. Name the feeling, identify what caused it, and--using specific examples--show yourself that people are not always boring and neither does life have to be.
5. Choose the appropriate (art) antidote--and enjoy the well-deserved emotions that result.
After the above four steps you know a lot more about the causes of certain painful emotions--and are thus in a better position to avoid the films (or other works of art) that might lead to them.
You also should more deeply understand the causes of pleasurable emotions--and are thus in a better position to find the films (or other works of art) that might lead to them.
The underyling sense of fear, you may notice, has gone--but wouldn't it be better if this could be replaced with an opposite emotion?
Part of that work has already been done, when you mentally showed how one view was incompatible with reality as it is and another, more positive view, is philosophically consistent.
The fifth step is to strengthen and re-affirm the above examples and conclusions--using specific works of art that are chosen for the specific purpose of eliciting desirable emotions.
Because they completely eradicate undesirable emotional "ailments" by replacing them with their opposites, I call the above artworks art antidotes.
When chosen properly, not only should the undesirable emotion be gone, but you should be truly excited about living in an awesome world--where material success and undiluted happiness and romantic love are possible (even to-be-expected, by those who work hard for them).
If you haven't identified the artworks you like, the emotions they tend to elicit and why--stay tuned. I'll be sharing a ton of the art antidotes I use, and which you can as well, to combat boredom, fear, anxiety and so on.)
Also, for more on this, check out a post I wrote called 8 quotes from Mind Over Mood on changing how you feel.