In a recent newsletter from Clarity International by Gary and Cathy Hawk a comment grabbed by attention, “When does anxiety seem to have more power over enthusiasm?” I pondered that question because my friends describe me as a normally enthusiastic person, easily excited by life. And, for the most part, it is true. However, if I find myself setting up house in the village of anxiety, worry, and distress then I know it is time for me to look around to see the company I’m keeping. Who are my neighbors in this town called Anxiety?
While researching the work of Mark Matousek, author of Ethical Wisdom, for an interview (which you’ll be hearing in January), I ran across the interesting fact that emotions are contagious. It all has to do with “mirror neurons” which you’ll hear more about in the interview. It pays to know how you are feeling and know the emotional tone of the company you keep. Matousek writes, “We feel enlarged by displays of goodness. . . Heroism and aspiration make us aspire; witnessing courage can help make you brave; feeling hope in a world freighted with obstacles, despair, recession, and naysayers helps to make human life not only bearable but noble. We say to ourselves, if they can do it, why can’t we? . . . There is a connection between the contagion of elevation and idolatry toward unusually selfless people.” Elevation makes us more generous and loving.
And that is what keeps me going with the work of New Dimensions. It allows me to keep company with people who are “enthusiastic” about life. They live in an elevated state of awe and wonder, which leads to hope for the future. You might ask yourself the same question, who are your emotional neighbors? Do they lift you up with their contagion of enthusiasm, or bring you down with their constant griping, and doomsday scenarios? I think you can guess which emotion helps us to see a wider landscape of possibility and which one supports a tunnel vision with fewer options.
By Justine Willis Toms