Mirror, mirror, in my brain

 “…imagination lets us live in the past and in the future, and by escaping the present moment we can use our memories of the past to predict what will happen in the future; ie: I know from past experience that fire burns skin, so I know inside my minds-eye that if I stick my hand into a fire I will lose my flesh. This is so instinctual we don’t even recognize it’s constantly happening with every symbol that we’re perceiving in our day-to-day moments. But it is this ability that allows us to navigate the complexity of our society. Even more exciting is the fact that this skill also works with emotions, not just situations.

The premise, again, is quite simple: When we see someone experiencing an emotion ( be it anger, sadness, happiness, etc), our brain “tries out” that same emotion to imagine what the other person is going through. And it does this by attempting to fire the same synapses in your own brain so that you can attempt to relate to the emotion you’re observing. This is basically empathy. It is how we get the mob mentality, where a calm person can suddenly find themselves picking up a pitchfork against a common enemy once they’re influenced by dozens of angry minds. It is our shared bliss at music festivals, or our solidarity in sadness during tragedies.” (1)


Such an important bit of knowledge. Think on this the next time you get stressed out in a situation: remember that people are watching you and will mimic your neurons. 

It can work the other way too: if you have a confrontation, be aware of how your own brain and body are trying to mimic their frustration. Own that, learn from it to understand where they are coming from, but don’t let that emotional mirroring seep into with how you approach or resolve the problem. Again: their neurons are watching yours – modeling cool, calm behavior is necessary to get them to trigger their own neurological mirroring. Articulate your empathy through direct words “I can see how you are frustrated by this and here’s why I can see that…” But everything else should be how you want them to act: cool, calm, and professional.

1. From:  http://soulanatomy.org/the-neurology-of-happiness-how-complaining-is-literally-killing-you/