Have you ever noticed yourself feeling fine and then walking into a house or office or classroom and fairly quickly for no apparent reason you begin to feel agitated, anxious, angry, sad or stressed? This can result from many different scenarios but one possibility I would like to acknowledge is the notion of Second Hand Stress. Our brains are wired for connectivity, that is, we all have embedded technology designed to pick up and respond to the emotional states of others. This is related to mirror neurons produced in various areas of the human brain. Neuroscientists such as Marco Iacoboni (UCLA) suggest these neurons form the basis for our human capacity for empathy. We are literally able to feel the emotional states of another.
I have noticed that we often pick up the emotion at a sense or body-level and then our narrative mind or "thinking mind" can begin creating a story to explain that emotion. This is how we can "take on" another person's feeling state. You can see how this amazing instrument of empathy when not understood can lead us to undue suffering.
This mechanism can fuel compassion fatigue and burnout. For Mental health professionals involved in one-on-one work this can wreak havoc on your own mental health. The practice of mindfulness has been shown to improve positive affect, immune function, stress reduction, symptoms of anxiety, depression and substance use disorders and relapse prevention....essentially our clients. A randomized controlled trial in Germany explored the impact of mindfulness training for psychotherapists on the quality of treatment. The results suggest the promotion of mindfulness in this population positively affects the course of therapy and
the treatment results in their patients. The journal article is available at Evidence-Based Mindfulness Research section of the University of Wisconsin website. CLICK HERE
If we have trouble committing to a mindfulness practice for our own benefit, how about for those who spend time in our space; our children, loved ones, clients??
All the Best,