External influence, emotional contagion

External influence, emotional contagion

It is not always “just us”. Our perception, state of mind, thoughts, decisions, and resulting actions may be influenced by the emotions of others (partners, co-workers, even indirect participants). E.g. a contagious fear can permeate our state of mind, provoke biases, especially if we are susceptible to its influence and share similar emotional proclivities, like being prone to anxiety. Even people with good intentions, who we consider our “support network”, may contribute by agreeing with our destructive tendencies or sharing their own unresolved problems.

Sometimes it is easier to notice the impact after the contact rather than during the meeting, phone call, or digital interaction. We may experience state-of-mind changes, emotional “aftertaste”, non-ecological thoughts, even physical discomfort. The influence may last for quite a while unless we attend to our problems that resonated. We make sure there is no fertile soil for others’ issues to land and feed on: monitor our emotional hygiene, look out for mutual predispositions and address them. When we are ready, we can help others improve their mental well-being too.

Helping ourselves before helping others

Sometimes, despite our best intentions, we become the source of emotional contagion ourselves. If our own issues are unresolved we inadvertently impact others. Hence, it is worth checking our state of mind before and in the process of trying to help someone – especially if we are adamant there is something wrong with them. If we feel strongly about the state of mind of another person, we cannot force them to calm down first. Our agitation will not help them subdue theirs. Maybe just suppress it, hide it for a while. But our authentic balanced and soothing presence may help them tune in. Obviously, if it is not merely demonstrated for a brief moment while suppressing our own agitation.