Has it ever happened to you that when you smile at the person you’re talking to, he or she smiles back? Have you noticed what happens when someone close to you is sad and tells you why? What happens to sports fans when their own team scores a goal? You can find the answers to these questions in a phenomenon called emotional infection or emotional infection. Let’s see what that means.
Every time we interact with someone, the mechanisms of emotional infection begin to roll. It doesn’t matter if it’s your partner, friend, or co-worker; your habit of interacting affects your relationships.
Therefore, as Daniel Goleman said, we each have a great influence on the feelings of the people we interact with on a daily basis, either positively or negatively. But what are the mechanisms that make all this happen?
Emotions are contagious
How the bus driver or your spouse greets you at the beginning of a new day can make you feel abandoned, bitter – or valuable on the other hand. Although emotions are invisible, they are as contagious as viruses. A lot is happening beneath the surface.
Emotion transfer is a rudimentary, unconscious process that has a lot to do with the survival of our species. Mechanisms are part of the emotional dance that people use to synchronize with each other by copying each other’s facial expressions. It all starts with a smile, an angry look or tears. All you have to do is see someone express emotions so you can start showing signs of exactly the same emotion.
While we are all genetically programmed to infect emotions, some people are better at transmitting emotions or receiving the emotions of others. They are hypersensitive, like emotional fungi that absorb all the emotions around them. They may be particularly sensitive.
But the coin also has another side. There are also people who are unable to feel emotions, such as psychopaths. But what are the mechanisms that emphasize emotional infection?
The role of mirror cells in capturing emotions
There are cells in our brain that, according to Goleman, act as a kind of “cell wifi” to connect with other brains. They take what we see in other people and reflect it inside us. Hence the name “mirror cell”. They are neurons that are responsible, for example, for when you become sensitive while watching a movie. They shock you when someone gets hurt.
When mirror cells are activated, they trigger the same active circuits in the brain as the person you are looking at. This is how you feel like you feel, even if you don’t really experience it naturally. So these are mirror cells and other parts of the brain, such as the brain island, where we find an explanation for a phenomenon called emotional infection.
But who sets the emotional tone of the group? According to various studies, no one is the most emotionally expressive of all if the group is equal. On the other hand, if it is in the context of a workplace or school with power differences, the top person in the room is the one who determines everyone else’s emotional state.
Empathy vs. emotional infection
When people hear about emotional attachment, they sometimes automatically associate it with empathy. While they have some similarities and are sometimes similar things, they are not exactly the same thing.
Empathy means putting yourself in other people’s shoes, contemplating their views and feelings. It’s a real art that not everyone knows how to use, but it would be very helpful if they could.
But putting yourself in another person’s shoes doesn’t mean breaking away from your own feelings. It just means that you are present and trying to understand him.
On the other hand, emotional infection means making other people’s emotions their own. Basically, you can’t avoid feeling their feelings on your own.
Think of empathy as if you were going into water and catching emotions as if you were drinking a glass of water. In the first case, you do it to experience and understand how the liquid feels. But in the second case, you do it and it becomes a part of you.
However, that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t need both sometimes. Sometimes, if you want to be empathetic, you need a small dose of emotional infection. As long as you can avoid “capturing” your emotions.
Emotional infection is not a bad thing. While it takes away some of your freedom, if the catching emotions are positive, then the more the better! Who wouldn’t love a contagious laugh scene?
Finally, here is an interesting video on the subject (in English) and a question for you: what feelings do you want to convey to other people?