Are emotions infectious?
It’s very apparent that fear is indeed infectious: it appears to be deliberately created by some politicians to suit their own ends, and then fed by a media that openly sells more papers when the front pages cause us to question our security. Grief similarly – who remembers the outpouring of emotion for instance over Princess Diana’s death? And the recent Alfie Evans story saw hospital staff being intimidated and abused simply for turning up to work: the protestors were driven by anger, but whose anger, and at what exactly?
What about the emotions that have a more positive manifestation – happiness, faith, patience, love: how do we express these in our lives, and when we do so, are they similarly infectious? I suggest you try it and see! Even a little bit of cheeriness can go quite a long way, maybe a wee chat with someone in the checkout queue or standing at the bus stop: I’ve been experimenting with this for some years and highly recommend it, but it’s often easier to create a bond over misery (“Isn’t it cold today?”) than happiness (“I’m choosing to be happy regardless of the weather, how about you?”).
There is undoubtedly a generational shift in how we deal with emotions: when I was a kid they simply weren’t talked about or processed openly. If ever I expressed my (totally justified!) anger at my little brother’s behaviour I was taught that it’s not acceptable to express emotions and that for family life to go smoothly we all just had to ‘get along’. This unexpressed anger and resentment easily led me into a blame, shame and guilt mindset which I feel the imprint of today and am still working to unpick. My parents had lived through WWII and I suspect this partly at least explains the unwillingness to explore emotion – there was so much unprocessed trauma in the generational psyche that it was too overwhelming to acknowledge and instead was swept under the carpet. Today I see some shining examples of parents coaching children in emotional intelligence and it gives me great hope for the future lives they will create.
This leads me to ask: what is the significance of emotions, and what part do they play in our fulfilment as human beings? One perspective is that our Head-brain processes mental energy – good at detail, planning and strategising; our Body-brain processes physical energy – our somatic awareness, physical presence and capacity for work (in the broadest sense); our Heart-brain processes emotional energy which gives us the power of connection, of understanding and of momentum. Each of these 3 brains has it’s own style and speed of processing: the conditions that suit one are often not favourable for one or other of its partners. I know for instance that if I have a big decision that involves planning and strategising, I will do so with more fluency if I take my body for a walk, a run or other physical activity. If I don’t it gets twitchy and interferes with the Head! My Head can function quite well with suitable background music but my Heart often needs silence to be heard. For the wellbeing of the whole it serves us to get to know and honour our own energy-processing styles.
Seeing the power of the emotions, knowing that we may not be very skilled in processing and expressing them and that denying, hiding or repressing them doesn’t serve us in the long run either – what can we do? Try the 6-stage exercise below and see what you learn:
- Acknowledge what you are feeling
- Accept it is yours, even if you see it in relation to another
- Allow yourself to be with it without trying to change either you or anyone else
- Be with your breath while you do this; it helps the other Brains to accept your feelings
- Be open to the insights you may receive
- Assimilate the totality of your experience
If you are trained in the Inka practice of eating heavy energy or Hucha Mikuy I highly recommend that you find any opportunities to practice it, always starting from this place of acceptance and non-judgement, neither for yourself or others. To give one recent experience, when I returned from South Africa I found 2 of my friends engaged in a standoff that seemed irreconcilable. I tried the usual mediation and got nowhere so I set about Hucha Mikuy instead, with the result that within 3 days the energy shifted and communication and flow has returned to the relationship. It’s a super-powerful tool and I’m happy to train anyone in doing it – it really is a tool for transformation.
Einstein said: “Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another.” The emotional energy has great power, so let’s engage with it creatively and with purpose: to help us move towards our aims and goals, to find fulfilment in these miraculous human lives we have been gifted.