Are you ever having a wonderfully good day, you walk in a room and someone’s bad starts hijacking your emotions? Can you walk into a room and feel it that two people were just arguing, even though they are smiling at you right now? Well, dear reader, that’s Emotion Hijacking!
This is such an interesting and important topic that I could have an entire 90 minute class dedicated on this subject alone. Because we did not discuss it tonight, I wanted to take a few minutes to address it here. What are they? Why does it make a difference for me to know about them?
What is a Mirror Neuron? It’s a neuron in the brain that fires off when it witnesses something happening to someone else. Have you noticed that you’ll often cross your legs when the person you’re talking to crosses theirs? Or if someone scratches their head you have a sudden itch and need to scratch yours? My favorite: I always hold my breath when I’m watching a movie and the actor is under water, I hold my breath with them as if I can keep them living a little longer under there – it’s not conscious, I don’t realize I’m doing it until I start realizing I’m running out of breath. Do you do that?
So, now you know that you have this crazy set of neurons causing you to subconsciously play copy cat with the other people in your life – but what does it really mean to you?
Well, it means that you have empathy. You can put yourself in their shoes.
You can even use it to your advantage to control them (sort of) – please do this benevolently with kindness and love.
How do you do this, and with whom, you ask? With your children, with your spouse, with all the people in your life. Emotion hijacking is a tool that I use to calm down my child and spouse when they are feeling frustrated, disappointed, angry, etc. I use my inner calmness to emotionally hijack them so they can start coming into a clearer place for thinking.
When you walk into the room and someone is having a bad day, they’re grumpy and they grunt at you – your mirror neurons pick up on it and you have an instinct to grunt back, and be grumpy that they made you grumpy. -OR- You can hijack their grump. You can plug into their mirror neurons and get them to copy you and your good mood.
You can’t get someone to go from zero to sixty, but you can get them from zero to ten, then maybe to thirty, and so on until after a little while their cruising down the highway of your good mood.
Be kind. Smile. Ask if they need to talk. Give them space if they ask for it, but do something kind for them such as bringing them a glass of water, a blanket for their lap, or a snack. Just a gesture that respects their boundaries while offers their mirror neurons something to latch onto.
Are you going to let other people hijack you into a bad mood, or will you be the one to make their shift? It takes practice to learn to disallow others to take control, then more practice to be strong enough to take them over. Anger is such a powerful emotion that it’s easy for us to become hijacked.
Having the self-awareness to know what’s happening and the intention to decide what mood is going to rule truly makes all the difference in your relationships. Try little experiments here and there on coworkers and family members, try to get their mirror neurons to mimic your good mood. Can you think of a few things to try?
Written by Jessica Wilkerson, M.A.
You can find this, and other articles by Jessica Wilkerson at www.jessicawilkerson.com/blog
If you would like to schedule an appointment with Jessica, you can contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (530) 921-5122.
Jessica works for Chico Creek Counseling as a Marriage & Family Therapist Registered Intern #IMF69783 under the supervision of Joe R. Taylor, LMFT #MFT46406.