No, this isn’t about a contagious illness but you can catch it quicker than a cold. Its the ‘Mood Flu’.
I’m referring to how one bad mood can infect everyone in its path just like a small atomic bomb flattening everything within its radius.
It’s like you have no control or will power to fight it and without warning (seemingly) it consumes you. When you’re infected you can feel irritable, moody and impatient (just like the real thing) showing most if not all of the signs and symptoms.
I have experienced this from both side of the fence, and perhaps you have too; observing the silent stealthy mass engulfing everyone in its path one by one compared to being engulfed yourself only to notice it way too late.
In practice I often hear clients share stories such as this….
Your partner arrives home after a challenging day and walks in with a ‘don’t talk to me’ expression plastered all over their face. When you ask how was their day they reply with an impatient grumble that alerts you to the realisation that regardless of the type of day you’ve had it doesn’t compare (or that’s the feeling you may get) and already you’re showing signs and symptoms of catching the Mood Flu. Shortly after that, all present and accounted for begin to show changes in behaviour, vocal pitch and tone, facial expression, body language and any happy demeanor turns to impatience, frustration perhaps even anger. The potential for conflict just went up and there is very little understanding, compassion or patience to be found.
Just like that, the whole house has been put under quarantine until further notice and it spread in less than 5 minutes.
This example similarly can occur in every setting, waiting in the shadow to pounce and infect everyone – lol, I know a little dramatic however you get my point that it can be all too consuming.
Science tells us that this phenomenon is called ‘emotional contagion’ or ‘social contagion’ where we adopt or become influenced by that around us and become part of the occurrence.
This is not limited to just bad moods either. This phenomenon isn’t biased. You may recall an experience similar to simply hearing or watching someone having such a good time, smiling and laughing that you start to smile or laugh too…..it’s contagious right!
How does this occur?
It occurs through the activation of ‘Mirror Neurons’ located towards the front of the brain. These neurons have assisted in the acceleration of human evolution and are integral in the teaching/learning process.
For example if you’ve ever been camping and set up a camp fire with children helping out or just watching they will be able to repeat the process relatively easily because they watched. These are ‘mirror neurons’ at work. The activation of mirror neurons is not limited to visual stimulation though believed to be the most effective trigger.
Mirror Neurons are part of a complex process which includes the ability to adopt, imitate and emulate others thoughts, feelings or intentions; they are the physiological basis for empathy which allows one to understand what another may be experiencing.
However empathy can quickly turn into sympathy including but not limited to feelings of being frustrated, questioned, bothered, offended, disappointed, rejected and disconnected depending on the circumstances and the habitual nature of the situation reinforces the behaviour.
So how can you separate yourself from catching the mood flu? How can you honour and maintain your own ‘self’ when infection is imminent?
Practice…..it is with practice you will refine your skill to observe your otherwise ‘normal’ behaviours in response to others.
Perhaps more importantly it is crucial in the process of ‘honouring’ yourself that you understand why you are the way you are. To know, understand and appreciate your individual qualities, traits and mannerisms will formulate a strong foundation in the regulation of your reactions and responses to others.
Knowing this about yourself is incredibly useful in any situation whether it be home, office, sport or social and will prove to guide and support you in all areas of your life rather than shouldering the burdens of those around you.
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