Yes, emotions are contagious. Theories vary as to why and how emotions transfer from a scientific perspective. Some feel it has to do with neurons in our brain that fire to mirror other peoples emotions. So it may not be within our control but if we’re aware we can be such a force for good! Imagine how cold a world it would be if we were not able to understand others emotions and others weren't able to connect to us in a meaningful way.
We automatically mimic others facial expressions, body language and tone of voice and detect possible emotions behind them. That, in turn, creates a cascade, a ripple effect in us. The body / hormone / emotion connection is real. If you're all by yourself and smile, a signal to produce happy hormones triggers in the brain and we feel lifted. Go ahead, smile! Observe and notice the effect on your mood. Pretty amazing, huh?
You can change your own mood by just a smile or a frown. So if we "pick up" or mimic the physical expression of others, our body then creates the mood to match the physical expression. Does that make sense?
Emotions are also transferred through social media, phone calls and video chat through what we see and hear.
Both positive and negative emotions can be transferred. That’s really good news! Our association can lift our mood and we can lift others. Since we want to be there for others when they’re down or in need, how do we show true empathy? Is empathy simply absorbing others emotions? Or is there more to it?
One study observed children mimic the emotions of others around them. For example, if the facilitator of the study cried the child might cry, simply absorbing the emotions of the facilitator. Other children in the study would comfort the facilitator of the study. Emotional intelligence and emotional regulation dictates that move beyond simply absorbing the emotions of others but that we are able to process the emotions, recognize the other person is separate and take positive action to offer genuine comfort.
In scripture this is called brotherly affection. There’s no actual word in the Bible for empathy but the concept and principle is brotherly affection and love. So real love is not just absorbing the emotions of others. In reality that doesn’t do much for the other person anyway does it? It doesn’t do much for us either. We pretty much shut down, now stuck in a quagmire of emotion.
Real empathy is much deeper and beyond just feeling the emotion of another person. It’s understanding what that other person might be feeling but takes it further in finding out what that other person needs and offering what we can to comfort a person. It goes beyond assuming what the person needs but actually finding out the need. It doesn’t break our boundaries or push us beyond our capacity. Rather it allows room for us to fulfill a need for someone else in brotherly love. Someone with good boundaries will receive with gratitude and appreciation what comfort we have within our capacity to offer.
How exactly we absorb emotions may be up for debate but since there is no debate that we are influenced by others moods and emotions, choose associates wisely! Good internal boundaries supports the ability to empathize and offer comfort without “losing yourself” in the pain of others.
That’s one of the key concepts in my complimentary 21 day challenge
I took one of my best live workshops and broke it down into manageable bites
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