The following came into my inbox today from Breaking Christian News. It speaks of a phenomenon with which you may identify. Take a read, go back to the original article, think about occasions when you yourself have experienced this mirror effect and how you may or may not have dealt with it… you might find it instructive.
As well as the recommendations given below, I’d also suggest doing a literal handing it all over to Jesus, praying for the person, and asking for protection from taking on-board the other person’s pain.
I hope this is helpful to someone.
Why Stress is Contagious and How We can Override the Mirror Response
Aimee Herd (Oct 31, 2013)
“When someone dumps emotional toxins on you, you can choose not to accept the incoming by catching yourself when the bogus, catastrophic story of stress goes off and activates a wave of stupefying emotion.”
A recent Huffington Post article notes the natural tendency in people’s brains to mimic others’ emotions, in the case of stress; to our detriment.
No doubt you’ve noticed how other people’s emotions and actions can often be contagious, such as yawning or laughing.
Apparently our brains are hardwired to do so, as Italian scientists in the 1990s discovered. According to the report, our brains contain “mirror neurons,” which are brain cells that mimic the actions or emotions of others.
While this quality is often harmless or even somewhat therapeutic in the case of laughter; the mimic reflex becomes more of a problem when it comes to stress and fear.
The report notes that stress “suppresses the immune system, lowers the good cholesterol, increases the bad and…can lead to any number of illnesses and conditions.”
So, how do you counter your body’s natural tendency to copy another person’s emotions?
The HP report states:
The key to resisting the emotional contagion of stress is overriding the double-team autopilot of the stress response—reacting before you think—and your mirror neurons. When someone dumps emotional toxins on you, you can choose not to accept the incoming by catching yourself when the bogus, catastrophic story of stress goes off and activates a wave of stupefying emotion. Instead of latching on to the fear or panic because it’s in your head, contest it by reframing the irrational story to what’s actually the reality.
Instead of mirror neurons reflecting stress, you can use them as a tool to better understand why a person is going off, and, as a result, why you don’t have to.
I would add that saying a quick, silent prayer, inviting God to help you handle the given situation may help the most, as well as a quick prayer for the person you’re trying not to mimic.
There’s also a lot to be said for breathing—it’s highly underrated! Stepping back before you respond; taking a few minutes to breathe deeply, giving your brain maximum oxygen with which to work, can only help.