Emotions Are Contagious
You wash your hands before you eat, cover your mouth when you cough, get regular check ups, perhaps a flu shot, and take many other steps to keep your body healthy, but what about your emotional health?
The truth is emotions are contagious. If you are surrounded by pessimistic, unhappy, or possibly even mean or vindictive people, you are going to “catch” an unhealthy emotional bug. The opposite is also true. If you are surrounded with friends who are positive and encouraging, your chances of being happy are much greater.
The problem is when we get caught up in a relationship with someone, whether it be romantic, a co-worker, family member, or a friend, sometimes we have difficulty viewing it objectively, so how do we know when a relationship is bad for us ?
Your Relationship Check up
If you suspect you may be in an unhealthy relationship, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the person self-centered, rude, or inconsiderate? You deserve courtesy and respect.
- Is the person jealous of the time you spend with other people? You deserve a wide range of relationships.
- Does the person criticize or try to discourage your personal goals, dreams, and desires? You deserve to live your best life.
- Is the person controlling? Do they insist everything be done their way? You deserve to make your own decisions.
- What kind of relationships does this person have with other people? Are they arrogant, mean spirited, prejudiced? Do they like to gossip and stir up trouble? You deserve a relationship with someone with good character.
- Does the person invade your privacy, insist that you check in constantly or take them everywhere with you? You deserve your own space.
- Does the person come to you with complaints and problems but neglect your needs? You deserve support.
There are other questions you could ask, but these will point you in the right direction.
If You’ve diagnosed an unhealthy relationship
Every situation is different. You should consider your circumstances carefully and perhaps arrange a consultation before you prescribe treatment, but here are some possibilities:
Stop the Bleeding
If the person is family, a spouse or romantic partner, or another relationship that is important to you, perhaps you can work out your problems. If you don’t have good communication skills or the relationship has deteriorated to the point where you need it, perhaps counseling with a therapist will help.
Maybe you can’t salvage the relationship the way it is, but you can continue with a different set of rules. Set new boundaries. For example, family dinners are going to be very difficult if you and your brother in law can’t stand each other. Agree to keep your distance. Maybe you were best friends before, but now you can’t stop fighting. Move a step back and become polite acquaintances.
Time for Major Surgery?
If the relationship is very bad (and trust me I know they can be very bad), you may have to make a clean break. It’s best if you do it as peacefully as possible, but if a person is consistently interfering with your ability to live a good life, you owe it to yourself to end it. Leave. Burn the bridge behind you, and don’t look back. If the person is really scary, get help from people you trust. The process may be painful, but you will be better off in the long run.
take your emotional vitamins
Once you’ve identified the bad relationships in your life, you can focus on your true friends. Interacting with kind and supportive people is like taking a vitamin every day. They’re good for your emotional health.
Notes from the Author
If you’ve wondered why my posting has been erratic, my depression has been getting worse lately, and I haven’t been able to write. My ankles were swollen and making it difficult to walk, , so my husband made me go to the ER where they diagnosed hypertension. As if I needed another pill…
One problem I’ve had with my mental illness is distinguishing the pains caused by my depression and anxiety from symptoms of something else that needs to be treated. For example, the doctor asked if I’m having chest pains or a sick stomach. Well of course I was. It’s called a panic attack! Or is it a heart problem? Uh oh.
I’d actually like to dedicate this post to my little sister. She’s not a blood relative. She’s my sister of the heart. She’s just gone through a breakup and is very angry, but I think she is also very brave.
If you’re a nerd like me and want to read about research on emotional contagion, here you go. It’s an academic paper in pdf format. Yes, I read the whole thing.
Also, it’s World Suicide Prevention Week. Read about it here.
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