Have you ever been really excited about something and shared it with someone who wasn’t and had their reaction bring you down?
Or noticed that when you are around someone who is confident and upbeat, you start to also feel more positive?
This happens because as humans evolved to be a social species, we developed mirror-neurons. These allow us to feel what other people feel, especially when we invest in the relationships and have strong attachments (like parents and children, close friends, couples). This is how we can pick on when someone close to us is “off” more than someone who we don’t know very well.
We need mirror neurons because we tend to like people who we believe are similar to us and share our world view. This means we like people more if they laugh when we laugh, and less if they laugh when we cry. In fact, we are more likely to experience rejection when others have a response that is opposite to our own. This may not sound like a big deal, but since we are social creatures, even the possibility of rejection, especially by people who matter to us because we have invested in those relationships (parents, partners, friends) or because we have to be around them (e.g., work or family) feels scary and even dangerous to us, our hearts start to race, we get sweaty – just at the thought of it! In short, we don’t want that.
We use these mirror neurons to guide a lot about our social interactions, to learn more about this, watch this great video about why we laugh by Sophie Scott.
So what do we do when we do not have the good fortune of healthy tribe? A tribe who can uplift us when we need it?
Well, we can use PSEUDO-TRIBE. We can find stories and bits and pieces about other people who inspire us or who are like us in some way and use that as a short term solution. (See the blog about Shomi, Netflix for some of the pitfalls of this).
Some examples would be quotes about persistence when we feel like giving up, reading angry blogs about cheating partners when we are angry and hurt, or reading inspirational autobiographies or documentaries about under-dogs who despite all odds succeed and make a difference in the world!
Another way we can do this is through EMOTIONAL ANCHORS. Engage in an activity that makes you feel good,to settle yourself. For example, one of our sons is quite good at math, so when he is distressed by something- he does mental math!
Another way is to go to a place where we feel stronger, visit our grandmother’s kitchen or a special place in the woods or by the ocean.
Others will anchor to a past experience, they will recall a time they did something they were proud of and connect this to a physical cue, a gesture like straightening their back or touching their palm, rotating their ring. This works best if it is a cue you can subtly do even while in conversation with others, so you can call on your courage whenever you need it! The more you connect the times you emotionally feel confident and proud (the times you have chosen yourself and felt stronger for it), with this physical cue, the more powerful it will be when you notice you are feeling low and need a boost and call on it!
Ideally, it is important that we can use these strategies in the absence of a healthy tribe to support us in the short term, but they work best when used in addition to the support of our healthy tribe!