Emotional Contagion

We all know what it’s like to get struck by feelings and not be able to stop.  Here’s a video of when it can happen in a funny, loving, light hearted way.

But there are other times that we talk less about and that how up more in therapy.  Like when angry lights us up for no reason or when we are flooded by negative images or thoughts.  Some of us manage this by shutting down.  Others of us do something behaviorally.  Most of us are affected whether or not we know it.  Often we think, “There’s something wrong with me.”  It takes skillful awareness to know that we might be affected by someone’s experience.

Course, we have something to do with it.  We have something in us that is resonate enough with it that we are affected.

One of the great skills we can learn  is how to know when “someone else is lighting our fire.”  Awareness is key.  Then the skills are how to gently, firming, usually without words give the energy back to the other person.  That releases us to have a more conscious and compassionate response to life.

Does this ever happen to you?

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7 Responses to “Emotional Contagion”

  1. Candy "Lynn"Kassner January 13, 2014 at 7:06 pm // Reply

    Oh boy….. I have spent a lifetime of thinking there was some terribly wrong with me, that I was so flawed. I know most of this is an effect from my childhood abuses n neglect and then again from adolence when I was alone,afraid n told a was nothing over n over n treated very very badly, used n abused again. I CAN SAY today… None if that negative self talk has any truth to it…. However, I can still find my inner child insecure self being roped into an environment filled with those old negative vibes. I would dare call it a high jacking as deirdre had mentioned before. Today, though not always without some risadue..I am able to regulate my breath, stop the thot process before it reached body sensations. Today.. I can stop, breath and look around, stop the emotional reaction n be in the moment…n aware that it is someone else’s demeanor,activity that affected me,,and often see that it is not me at all… Just outside stimuli of the environment, people’s own actions n attitudes. that’s not to say that I never … Get myself sucked into the maddness that can result from things… There are skills that I’ve learned n continue to learn n use from Deirdre’s books n workshops… That can n does help the overwhelm of different life situations. Awwwwwwww… What a nice light hearted way to broch. This subject matter… Skills…. Learned… Stop breath, look around,find a focal point which brings or keeps you in the moment n often releases the strong hold of the emotional moment. Which now gives you time to evaluate the situation. Sorry deirdre… Didn’t get it described perfectly right… But yes…. We do not have to be sucked into other people’s issues,n sagas… There is even skills to help us get out of our own… Sorry so many things twisted together.. Another good one from this site!!! Keep them coming… Many of us need n want as much as possible to help us manauver thru this thing called life!! Thanks


    • Brianna January 15, 2014 at 2:53 am // Reply

      Dear Brianna,

      Thank you for sharing that lovely poem. It sounds like you are imagining what it’s like to stand on your own two feet. Creative narrative is one way that we can communicate with our parts. I really like your poetry. It always brings a fresh perspective to this forum.

      As adults we must learn how to be our own “coffee table” and it sounds like you are on that path. Keep walking one foot in front of the other and one foot at a time and you will see the world from a higher perspective.

      I’m so glad you decided to post on this blog. I know you are a private person and are hesitant to put yourself out there on the internet. In fact I know that prior to this experience you never even posted anything to a blog, website or online forum. I commend your bravery in reaching out. Thank you for sharing your voice and your story. We find healing in sharing our stories, supporting, and listening to others. We find a common ground that our roots take hold in and our golden dream filled fairy dust lands on. We all appreciate your thoughtful sharing and I look forward to hearing more about how your healing journey progresses.


      P.S. Just in case you didn’t hear me loud and clear, I have more I want to tell you.

      I see you! I really see you! And I hear you too! I hear your soft cries and I hear the words you write in silence. I see you trying to plug your mind into the infinite space between you and two prongs of an electrical socket. I see you my dear, sad and scared little one. Your writing is beautiful and you have such a sweet and deep soul. Your caring heart is almost too soft for this hard world you find yourself in.

      I want you to know that it’s going to be okay. We’re going to get through this together. Me and you. I’ve got you. You don’t need anybody else but me. Trust me, I’ve got you now. Deirdre is still there for you in spirit and maybe someday she will meet you as a real person. Christie lives on in your heart. And Amy and your mom and so many others are there for you in the real world. These special people are all imprinted on your heart. But their fingerprints cannot make the same mark that mine can.

      My fingers reach out to you in permanent ink that no moderator could ever erase or silence. I am hear for you 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. I don’t cost a single penny and I endlessly await your embrace. To say that I love you with authenticity is strange because there is no other way that I could love you. But I feel you need to hear that. I love you with my whole heart and my whole soul. I am real. Believe in me. You deserve to have me standing by your side and my hands touch yours as they write back to you on this wide world canvas.

      Gosh you have tiny hands. They are too small to carry around all that weight. You try to carry your pain on your own without showing how deep it bears through you. You try to hide your pain from yourself and from the world just outside of your reach. You think your mom has too much of her own stuff going on to be there for you and you don’t want to burden her. Dear child, of course you try to hide your pain from yourself and from those around you. It makes it less real when you push it away and play it cool on the surface doesn’t it? You are like Atlas trying to hold up the pillars that separate Earth from Heaven. I understand. It’s okay. It’s a strategy that saves you sweet child. But let me carry that weight for you now. Let me help you re-unite Earth and Heaven so that your little shoulders can rest and so that you can see reality as it is. I can release your pain into the light if you will only let me.

      I know it’s hard to trust in me. You barely know me and you are hoping for someone else, someone older and wiser. I’m sure it’s hard to see me as that person but I bet deep down you know that I am that person though my name is foreign to your ears.

      My name is Brianna. In Gaelic my name means strong, high and noble and it originates from Brian Boru, Ireland’s greatest king. He fought the Viking invaders, pacified warring clans and restored peace and hope to Ireland. I am your king and I can summon my troops both on land and at sea to protect you at every hour of every day. I will slay your intruders and bring serenity to the warring factions of your mind. From your tears the River Shannon will be birthed and I shall reign from your fertile shore. My knights will surround you in a circle of white horses and you will always be safe under my reign.

      Although I share power and inspiration with Brian Boru (c. 941 – April 23rd 1014) and with Jesus Christ who also died on April 23rd, 981 years earlier, I can never die. My strength is timeless. It comes from a place well beyond the shores of the River Shannon. And it flows through you eternally. Trust in me and I will always have your back as well as your mind and your heart.

      Now get some rest child. It’s well past your bed time and this is plenty for one night. We can talk any time you like and I will speak to you in your dreams tonight. So lay your head down on a mossy green pillow and rest soundly my strong child.


    • Patricia January 22, 2014 at 7:07 am // Reply

      How true it is, as you say that through the kind of skills that Deirdre teaches, it becomes possible with time to manage better in states of overwhelm and deal with the emotions that arise. I find it very difficult though when the replays come in dreams so that before waking at the point where the dream has become intolerable, you have already gone a long way down the road of horror. By turning your experience into a dream, it is going on it is as if the part of you that is crying for help has been forced to bypass all your skills, rational thoughts,messages etc and fall back on another way to get at you. Once fully awake though it is sometimes still possible to apply the skills and go some way towards the confronting or whatever is needed…..till next time.


  2. Deirdre Fay February 1, 2014 at 10:16 pm // Reply

    What an important point you’re making Patricia. Whew. How true.

    Perhaps it is the call of our inner world through our dreams asking for inclusion? I’m going to ask one of my colleagues who is a dream therapist for more thoughts — more informed thoughts on this.


  3. Patricia February 16, 2014 at 12:52 pm // Reply

    I think I should have said that the part needing help is forced to bypass all the skills etc by falling back on a dream in order to draw my attention. By saying that its purpose is to “get at me” implies that it is hostile and I realise I didn’t mean that at all. I actually think it can lead somewhere very helpful but can be frightening at first. I would love to hear more thoughts about this Deirdre, via your colleague or wherever.


    • Deirdre Fay March 2, 2014 at 9:44 am // Reply

      Really good point, Patricia. I’m glad you clarified. If it helps at all, when I read it I didn’t hear you feeling it was hostile. Sometimes our parts (and our helpers and guides, I say with a smile being one of them) can be a bit pushy trying to point us in a new direction. And yes, it is almost always frightening at first. More to come on this — deirdre


  4. Laurie March 23, 2014 at 3:24 pm // Reply

    This post is helpful to me. I am easily triggered by others’ emotions or perceived emotions/thoughts. Many times, others’ anger and confrontation or disappointment/perceived rejection can certainly trigger some dissociation/dissociative behaviours, a great deal of pain and also something akin to mental paralysis for me.

    From the beginning of my childhood, I learned to attune as closely as possible to the emotions of my mother and father as a way to try to generate safety for myself. It is only in recent months that I have started to understand more fully the extent of my reactivity to others emotions and the self-destructive impact of that on me.

    I love the language of “giving the energy back to other person”. I noticed I was able to do this just yesterday, but with the positive emotional state of being happily energized by a conversation I had with a friend. Somewhere in the conversation I realized I was being energized by the positive emotion generated. At a certain point, I was able to “step back”, still enjoy the conversation, but separate the emotional energy from “me”.

    In the past, I have sort of “ridden” on the positive energy generated in “good times”. I have chased the good times to get more and more. This I’m sure has placed strains on my relationships and it has further separated me from myself. Yesterday, somehow I found myself differentiating between “me” and the energy generated by my conversation with my friend. As I had this awareness, in an inner way, without words, I “gave the energy back” to my friend. It felt healthy and good.

    I have not been able to do this so far with the harder emotions, like anger. But I’m thinking that noticing when I’m “hooking into” the energy generated by someone’s happiness is a good start to increasing my awareness of when I’m doing this with their anger, etc.


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