How to Deal With Contagious Emotions

Maybe you’ve had this happen:

A loved one, a friend, a significant other, a family member is in a rut.

They’re feeling depressed.

Or they’re feeling hopeless.

And as you talk to them about it, you start to feel the energy leaving your body.

Instead of cheering them up like you intend to, you find yourself falling into the same black hole they’re stuck in.

It’s like the emotion is contagious.

And even if you heroically try to make both of you feel good, instead, by the end of the interaction, you both feel worse.

It’s pretty common. It’s the downside of being empathic and compassionate.

And to be sure, I’m not saying you shouldn’t be empathetic or compassionate. Those are essential qualities for the health of any relationship, and for any individual. And even in this specific example of the contagious emotion, I’ve been on both sides of it. I’ve felt myself getting sucked into other people’s negative emotions, but I’ve also been in such negative states myself, that I could see others get discouraged from trying to help me.

In those cases, I did my best to quarantine myself.

But in the cases where I tried to help people, I’ve always had a harder time setting those boundaries.

I think a lot of people do.

After all, you don’t want to appear unsympathetic or uncaring.

But the fact is, you can’t really care for someone else unless you’re feeling healthy.

You can’t save someone from drowning if they pull you down into the water, too. They’re not trying to do it. It’s just a reflex. But you need to protect yourself against it.

Similarly, you need to protect yourself against contagious emotions — especially if you want to help the person.

That doesn’t mean becoming cold and distant.

Though unfortunately, that’s what a lot of people resort to.

It simply means being able to tell which emotions are yours, and which aren’t, and being willing to keep your own emotional health as a priority.

Otherwise, you can get stunned and thrown off balance just because someone else is having a bad day.

This kind of healthy boundary setting is a big part of training your mind to be both strong and flexible.

It’s how you keep yourself moving in the right direction without becoming so rigid you eventually break.

Now, it’s nice to have that kind of advice, but the real question is, how do you become someone who has the ability to be strong and flexible in those situations?

Beyond the “what,” you need the “how.”

Otherwise it’s all too easy to just fall back into old patterns when things get emotionally charged.

If you want to learn how to make that transformation—and make it permanent—I give the roadmap in my “Bionic Mind Manifesto.” If you want to check it out and see if it speaks to you, you can get a free copy here:



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Riley Holland

Riley Holland

Personal development and self-transformation coach. Get my free mobile app and hear my “Bionic Mind Manifesto” audiobook at