First of all let’s get one thing straight — No-one can make you feel anything (like angry, sad, afraid) — but they can rapidly influence how you feel.

You probably already know that how you think affects how you feel, and vice versa, and that repeated patterns of thinking and feeling affect how the brain becomes ‘wired up’.

Your feelings are not only a response to your environment and other people, they also involve your perceptions, views, values, boundaries, bodily sensations, your own mood, stress and energy levels at the time, and even the smells around you.

Your emotions aren’t necessarily or automatically under your conscious control.

There’s also a super highway to the brain which affects our mood, and this process is known as Emotional Contagion.

Emotional Contagion

There are Mirror Neurons in our brain which cause us to be affected by the emotional component of what we’re witnessing in the actions of others.

We can all ‘feel’ something — a mood, an intention or an atmosphere — even before we’ve had time to consciously register it.

Apparently our sub-conscious mind has processed this input at least seven times faster than the conscious mind can!

This has innate survival value — even though we might not be able to escape from a threat at the time, at least we can and do register it.

Emotional contagion describes the process of being ‘infected’ by the emotions of others.

It’s seen in the jubilation of the winning sports crowd, the rage of the fighting fans, and the national mourning for the death of a much loved public figure. We feel swept along with the emotional atmosphere.

It also exists in the workplace, school and home — with people in either a position of power, authority and control, or of vulnerability, weakness and compliance.

In many situations we can’t escape or avoid this threat to our emotional state, and the next best thing is to remind ourselves of what belongs where.

When I worked in the civil service many years ago, I’d often feel the atmosphere of the open-plan office suddenly change when the aloof, arrogant, domineering and imposing figure of the CEO cast his corpulent shadow across the filing cabinets. I felt his presence even before I’d turned to see him there.

Such was the impact of the ‘energetic frequency’, or vibration, he was emitting.

He evoked dominance and fear — like an autocratic bullying parent — in the simpering and often sycophantic ‘children’, or minions, beneath him.

How to prevent setting up emotional contagion yourself.

We are all responsible for the ‘vibes’ we put out there — particularly now that we know the extent to which others (staff, colleagues, peers, family) are rapidly affected by them.

We need to remain aware of what we are energetically and emotinally projecting out into the atmosphere (as well as what we might be projecting onto another person or situation which isn’t truly there; but is instead a reflection of our own ‘stuff’ from somewhere else with which we ‘overlay ‘ the present time, person and scenario).

This isn’t about burying or repressing your feelings — which is an unhealthy thing to do. It’s more about taking responsibility for what you’re feeling and for not passing this on to others — who may be more affected and influenced by your emotional ‘germs’ than you are.

You aren’t responsible for the feelings or well-being of others (unless they’re a child), but you are responsible for what you give out, and your verbal and non-verbal language. Particularly now that you know how this affects people’s feelings and the atmosphere around you.

Let’s not forget the science here too — that of P.N.I (Psycho-Neuro-Immunology), and Epi-Genetics. Our repeated feelings, thoughts, sensations and behaviours influence our cellular D.N.A., how our body functions and even how our genes are expressed!

There’s also the additional aspect of how we are influencing the personal past of other people.

If someone doesn’t know the reason for the unpleasant mood around them, they may be emotionally triggered from their own childhood to assume the blame for it — and then behave as if this were the case in the present time.

When emotional contagion works in our favour

The best use and influence of emotional contagion is to find people who are on our ‘wavelength’ — those who it’s good to be around, those who light up a room with their presence, kindness, compassion, humour, thoughtfulness, courage and generosity.

You may not be able to change your boss, colleagues, or family members but you don’t have to breath in their emotional germs — or sneeze out any of your own over other people either!

Maxine Harley

(MSc Psychotherapy)


Therapeutic self-development mentor for professional, executive and business women who want tounderstand and manage their emotions, boundaries and behaviurs — to FEEL better so they can BE, DO and HAVE better!

Originally published at on June 3, 2015.

Originally published at