My husband has said for years that I set the tone for the house. When I first heard this, I was incredulous, and felt burdened. It was like the weight of my family’s mental state was squarely on my shoulders. Over the years, I have come to view this quite differently. He wasn’t saying what I thought I heard, which was, ‘It’s all my fault.’ He was just noticing a phenomenon that is totally true. Emotions are contagious. Before we dig into that concept, I want to address emotions in general.
Emotions are neither good nor bad. They just are. I hear a lot of folks identify emotions such as joy, happiness, and peace as good emotions, and anger, frustration, and sadness as bad emotions. Emotions are just information. Some are more charged than others, but joy can be just as terrifying for some folks as anger is to others. The more charged an emotion becomes, the more information available to you. Emotion is telling you something.
In addition to telling you something, emotions are highly contagious. Have you ever noticed someone walk in to a room and completely suck out all the air? Have you ever walked away from a conversation where you started out feeling one way, but left feeling another? Emotions are like the Norovirus – highly, highly contagious.
It is worth our time to begin to notice what is going on here, and take steps to choose our responses. To begin with, it is important to know your emotional state at any given time, and recognize that it could impact those around you. Walking in to a meeting charged with anger from a situation earlier in the day can greatly affect the outcome of that meeting. Alternatively, addressing others from a place of joy may bring about unexpected outcomes that are more positive. Many of us walk around unaware of our current emotional state, or may know, but don’t really know what to do about it. This puts us in to a victim mentality, tumbling along at the whim of whomever happens to be around us. It is disempowering, and can leave us confused and agitated. It may mean we pick up others’ emotions, and don’t even realize it.
The good news is, each of us has the ability to make a choice. We are not at the whim of those around us. We get to choose. It takes practice, like anything new, but it keeps us making empowered choices.
- Identify your current emotional state. What is going on in me right now?
- Notice if you are picking up on another’s emotional state. If you are, is this an emotion you want to catch? If no, you have a choice. Recognize what you are feeling is not your own emotion. Leave that emotion where it belongs – with the other person.
- Name your emotion. For thought starters, check out The Plutchick Wheel
- Knowing your current emotional state, keeps you in the driver’s seat. Ask yourself, “How is my emotional state impacting not only me, but those around me?” If I am in a total funk, perhaps I am spreading that around to others. If I am in complete joy, that may be something worth spreading.
- Make the choice that aligns with your needs. Remember, you are in control of you. You get to choose your next move.
- Take action.
The bottom line here is that we own where we are, and we have a choice on how we want to proceed. I may not want to catch someone else’s emotion, and I don’t have to spread my own.