Research has proven that our relationships play a pivotal role in our physical and mental wellbeing. We strive for connection, and we yearn to feel felt by the people close to us. Relationships interact with our brains and shape not just our mind but also our bodies and without a doubt our lives.
Psychotherapist Daniel Siegel, coined the term interpersonal neurobiology, the concept of how human beings influence and affect one another.
We experience that deep sense of being when we are empathically and authentically accepted by another person The feeling of being safe and loved is the most soothing feeling one can experience.
Human Brain is a Social Organ
The human brain is the social organ of the body and its healthy development requires positive interpersonal experiences.
However, when key people in our lives make to feel worthless, unlovable, unwanted, inadequate and deeply flawed our neurological mechanism gets disrupted. We find ways to repair our impaired sense of disconnect we feel within ourselves and the world at large by compensatory behavior. We try to soothe the pain in our hearts with addictive and destructive compulsions.
Or we become codependents and doormats – easy prey for predatory narcissists. We tolerate bullshit and over-accommodate people and situations that are seriously bad for us. Our neurological make-up pushes us to seek a connection – even a bad one is better than being alone. What is worse we usually end up in relationships that have a strong resemblance to our abusive childhoods. Our limbic brain fools us into thinking that familiarly is family.
Interpersonal Neurobiology and Mirror Neurons
Evolution shaped us to be intricately social creatures. From the time of infancy, we’re innately directed to be highly attuned to those around us—first to our mothers and/or primary caregivers and later to our peers and the larger community. Complex neurological patterns guide our instinctual process of observation and emulation.
Even though we may not be feeling negative, just being in the presence of a toxic person triggers our mirror neurons to feeling shitty about ourselves. Our mirror neurons don’t only “learn” when we perceive the actions of other people but “absorb other people’s emotions, feelings and attitudes as well.
Not Genetics But Interpersonal Neurobiology
Moreover, being around depressive or mean people over a period of time slowly changes our own brain pattern. Remember neurons that fire together wire together. Many a time it is not genetics that makes ‘like mother like daughter – it is the effect of our interpersonal neurobiology at work.
Stay long enough in any situation whether good or bad you unwittingly pick on the emotional state of those around you – particularly the people who have or seem to have more power.
Emotions are contagious – We SEE, We FEEL, We BECOME. From a happy vibrant child, I became a sad, broken and depressed adult. It has been a long, difficult path to changing my childhood paradigm of negativity and hopelessness.
How Emotions are Contagious?
During our toxic childhoods, there was no way we could get away from our abusive caregivers. However, as adults, we do have many options. We can choose how we deal with negative people and learn how to protect our minds and our wellbeing.
The best choice is staying away from high conflict kind of individuals or groups. If that’s not possible put up strong boundaries – stick fast and don’t budge. Keep your interaction to the minimal. Don’t try to win arguments with these people. Stop trying to please people or tolerate their bullshit.
Moreover, people don’t change just like that and definitely not if you allow them to continue to treat you bad. Last but most important don’t internalize their treatment of you. Remember, how someone treats you has nothing with your self-worth but rather with their own toxicity inside them.
Remember, daily negativity is contagious, don”t fool yourself thinking your brain is strong enough to remain unaffected by it. I lived through years of abuse till one day I realized my reality had become dark, depressing and gloomy.
Positive thinking is useless if the people around you treat you badly and consistently undermine your self-worth. If that”s the case better to stay alone and get a pet.
Be smart, stay safe, beware of the company you keep. They can impact your life for better or worse.
Image Source: Pixabay
When to Walk Away: Finding Freedom from Toxic People – Gary L. Thomas
Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry – Albert Bernstein