6.28.2012

Emotions: More Contagious than Bacteria

The stars aligned for me to attend a yoga workshop last weekend (my first formal yoga class since before Em was born!) The instructor was a sweet and profound woman named Dr. Uma Krishnamurthy, who splits her time between Eugene, Oregon and India. The class was supposed to last two hours, but went three instead, and I didn't mind one single bit.

Dr. Krishnamurthy specializes in yoga psychology (I didn't even know there was such a thing), so we spent a lot of time simply sitting on our mats and drinking in her wisdom. One of her insights was that "emotions are more contagious than bacteria and viruses." 

She told a story about a patient who suffered from exam anxiety. The discovered cause of the problem: the patient's best friend also suffered from exam anxiety. So, once this patient was cured, she asked Dr. Krishnamurthy, "Should I cut off my relationship with this friend?" I sort of thought the answer might be yet, but it wasn't. Uma instead suggested that her patient try to transfer her positive emotions to her friend, and to reflect the newly discovered light within her. A few weeks later the patient returned, happy to report that her friend was also cured of her exam anxiety.

I loved that story. It seemed especially pertinent, because not a week prior, I'd written this in my journal: 

"I realized something. I can't help but adapt the moods of the people around me. Which is why I can't handle having an ornery baby. I can't be big and patient and sympathetic. Em's crankiness just makes me cranky." How's that for ironic? (I just had a frightening thought. What if in fact I am the ornery one, and Em's just picking up on all of my negative emotions?)

Uma's suggested solution for this problem was awareness. We often unconsciously pick up the emotions of those around us. Sometimes I think I'm in a bad mood, and then realize it's not me, it's actually my husband who's in a bad mood (and vice versa, I'm sure). But if we're aware of this tendency, we can put a stop to it. We can choose not to engage the negative emotions, and even more so, try to radiate our own positive emotions.

Now the trick is how to do that in the middle of your child's tantrum...