You may have already guessed that your feelings, reactions and behaviours are affected by the people around you.
What you may not know is that neuroscience explains this phenomena – by way of Mirror Neurons and Emotional Contagion.
These had survival value to our 'tribe' in years gone by, and were an important messenger of how we should then behave with others. Whether to connect and bond, or to fight or flee.
Our brain cells are called neurons and some of these are called mirror neurons. They reflect back to our brain the emotional aspect of something we are seeing and hearing.
We then have a 'reaction' based upon that vicarious emotion – as if we were feeling it for ourselves.
If we watch a sad, frightening or joyful film we are affected by it on different levels. The cells in our brain and body become awash with chemicals - similar to what would happen if we were actually in that situation.
Perhaps you've encountered a nasty, angry, sarcastic or condescending colleague or boss, aggressive and hostile bullies, or - for too many people - a frightening and cruel parent. Their feelings and behaviours infect and 'contaminate' us like toxic germs.
Over time they even affect the way our brain wires itself, and how we then see and feel about ourselves!
In expanding upon this concept of being affected by other people's moods, emotions, language and behaviours, there is also the 'emotional contagion' we feel from other people.
This can cover a whole range of emotions, from violent aggression through to love, kindness, compassion, empathy, joy and sympathy.
For instance the jubilation of the sports crowd, the national outpouring of grief and mourning for a loved public figure, the high energy of a fighting mob. These can sweep us along and cause us to behave differently than we would if we were alone.
When we witness acts of loving kindness and compassion we are moved to do something similar ourselves.
It makes both the giver and receiver feel good!
Your own acts of kindness affect not only the recipient, but also create a ripple effect around them.
So, it's worth thinking about who has affected and influenced your feelings, moods and behaviours recently.
Who has shaped your brain without you realising it?
Who will you now choose to stay around and who you will distance yourself from?
Being aware of not only how we behave and why, but the wider impact upon another person, upon society and upon the world should persuade us all to always act with compassionate kindness... and that ripple effect starts with being kind and compassionate to ourselves!
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy) MIND HEALER & MENTOR
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