Emotional Hijackers

Posted on Wednesday 19 April 2006

Polimom’s Adorable Child (AC) had a tough time in school last year. She and her Best Friend Forever (BFF) du jour kept getting into trouble, picking on younger kids, and defining exclusionary cliques that were deliberately designed to hurt feelings. Needless to say, the parents of those kids – and the school – were singularly unimpressed with AC.

Polimom was beside herself. The entire situation was so unlike AC, who was granted such a sunny disposition that I nicknamed her “Sunshine” years ago. Further compounding the situation was an odd tendency – by everyone - to focus on AC as the source of the problem.

It wasn’t until I got to know that BFF better that things came into focus; AC was mirroring and internalizing BFF’s fundamentally negative outlook. Since AC has overt “leadership” qualities, the dynamic was being completely obfuscated, but once I got a handle on the cause, there were (as ever) a number of ways to approach and undo the problem, and things are fine again.

“So”, you say, “Why share this story out of left field? What do little girls’ ugly tendencies have to do with the larger world?”

Glad you asked!

Between one thing and another, we’ve seen a number of instances recently where people (read: bloggers) have been able to bring their readers into their own poisonous negativity. (My posts on this here, here, and here.) What has bothered Polimom the most about the entire phenomenon is how easily these angry flame-throwers can send others into an equally heated (or worse) attack mode; basically an internet mob mentality.

Last night, I went to bed pretty sure they were all nuts — and while I’m not convinced otherwise this morning, at least I can connect a couple of dots via an excellent post by Kathy Sierra at Creating Passionate Users. Basically, she says:

  1. People learn from watching others because we’re hard-wired to do so via mirror neurons. This is the root of empathy.
  2. Emotions are contagious; negative emotions are easiest to catch.
  3. Happiness (i.e.: positive emotion) leads to better health overall.

Oh. That would seem to explain rather a lot, yes?

Of course, you’re unlikely to catch this ugliness if you’re paying attention (unless you started there…)… so at eight, AC can probably avoid this problem now that she knows about it. Polimom isn’t too worried about that anymore, although I expect we’ll revisit.

However, adults who consider themselves to be rational individuals, but find themselves foaming and raving at a stranger on the internet because of something they read elsewhere might want to spend a bit of time reading Sierra’s piece. Otherwise, they might not realize they’ve allowed someone else’s irrational anger to hijack their emotions.

Knowledge is power, but it only helps if people acquire it.

9 Comments for 'Emotional Hijackers'

  1.  
    April 19, 2006 | 7:52 pm
     

    Well, Polimom, you must have the ability to read my mind today. I have found myself doing just what you are describing. I knew I went over the edge a few days ago when I made a rather vulgar comment (with stars instead of letters!) on someone’s blog, which is not like me at all. I started my blog, as you know, to be creative and as a therapy after K. Somehow I have let myself be pulled into a vortex of negativity, or maybe it’s just my inappropriate reaction. I don’t know. All I know is I have resolved to stop comments on blogs for a while and chill out. The whole post-K thing is getting too obsessive for my liking. So this will most probably be my last comment for quite a while….Peace, TM

  2.  
    April 20, 2006 | 5:26 pm
     

    TM -

    No, there’s a real vortex to watch for – it’s not just your inappropriate reaction. The way I try to keep smilin (though it doesn’t always work) is via those links I have under “Polimom’s Daily Reads”. A full half of those are for comic relief ….

  3.  
    July 12, 2006 | 10:20 am
     

    [...] Not only that, but I knew better! I wrote about this in April with a piece about AC, and the snake-swallows-tail negativity cycles (with emphasis). However, adults who consider themselves to be rational individuals, but find themselves foaming and raving at a stranger on the internet because of something they read elsewhere might want to spend a bit of time reading Sierra’s piece. Otherwise, they might not realize they’ve allowed someone else’s irrational anger to hijack their emotions. [...]

  4.  
    July 12, 2006 | 2:22 pm
     

    As you well know, I’ve had my dark moments too. Maybe it’s time for a steady diet of this:

    HappyNews.com — All the News That’s Fun to Print

    :-)

  5.  
    July 12, 2006 | 6:35 pm
     

    Ah yes…. that’s MUCH happier! Thanks, forester!

  6.  
    July 12, 2006 | 6:47 pm
     

    If not a steady diet, forester, at least a helping now and then, to cleanse the palate.

    ~EdT.

  7.  
    Rhonda Plumlee
    June 26, 2007 | 9:24 pm
     

    I agree that negitive people tend to contaminate those around them. My mother has been staying with me for nearly a month. She is very negative and never has a nice word to say about anyone unless it is to their face. Over the years she has critized all my friends, finding something wrong with every friend of mine she has ever met. This month has been a struggle for me to stay positive with her living under my roof. I have even brought this up to her and she claims I am just picking on her and I don’t really love her. My friends have stopped coming over while she is here. She has affected my brother to the point where he refuses to see her. It is sad, but the emotional damage she is causing me and my family, I think I am going to have to limit my contact with her.

    It is nice that there are people out there posting positive blogs, I need it… as I am sure there are others like me in my situation who can use some positive information in their lives.

    Thanks

  8.  
    uknow
    September 4, 2007 | 12:24 pm
     

    basic Q why are negative feelings/words/actions easier to trust

  9.  
    Ann, England.
    March 13, 2011 | 7:10 am
     

    Thank you for this Polimom, and especially for your very nice and veeery short precis of Kathy Sierra’s blog. :-) .

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