This site is English – get used to it…

Psychology | Virtuous and Vicious circles



We tend to feel relaxed when we are with people we trust and we produce specific hormones like oxytocin; the hormone associated with feeling empathy.  Looking at the above picture might make you feel relaxed but taking a walk somewhere like that is more likely to have the desired effect. Then when you get home and are with other people, your relaxed state is likely to rub off on them.

This ability to influence other people is because we all have a tendency to copy each others moods. You go home relaxed and you are likely to have a relaxing influence on your family; go home angry and everyone becomes angry and stressed. The former is a virtuous circle and you positively relate to one another and the latter is a vicious circle as you annoy and irritate one another. The virtuous circle makes us empathic, we can observe the way others feel and relate to it. It seems this ability to be empathic is one we share with many animals and certainly with other primates. Even dogs appear to have the ability to be empathic, greeting their owners when they return home with a tail wagging happy mood! I saw a orangutan in a video earlier rescue a baby bird from drowning, handling it very gently. Was that empathy? Scientists have even noticed empathic behaviour in mice and rats when they have seen other mice and rats in distress.

We have the ability to make all around us relaxed and happy, but do we? What makes us turn up for work stressed and moody? Whose fault is it that we work so far away from where we live? Whose fault is all the traffic on the journey? Empathy appears to be based on our ability to copy the behaviour of others that we observe. We see anger, we get angry. We see happy and we feel happier. Road planners sitting in offices don’t see or feel anything about the roads they plan. Could this be a problem? Maybe they need to experience the traffic lights, speed humps and God awful lane markings for themselves during the morning rush hour?

What if we treat people with charity and try to understand what they feel; will they copy our behaviour and be nice to us? Yes, it does have a tendency to work! Can this behaviour be encouraged in large organisations? The answer again is yes and many organisations are looking at staff behaviour and training staff to behave differently. This can be simple things like good manners and trotting out clichés like ‘have a nice day’. It can also make loud and arrogant doctors in hospitals think a little more and be a little empathic towards their colleagues and their patients.

People with psychopathic tendencies can often appear to be empathic but they appear to lack the ability to empathise with others. This has led to atrocities like the holocaust. People will copy the behaviour of the psychopath and obey them because of fear and they will disregard their natural feelings of empathy. This even happens in the politics of apparently civilised countries where people will feel no empathy to people less fortunate than themselves or even to people who are disabled or sick. The party faithful simply copy one another and follow a psychopathic leader like sheep. We should be careful who we follow and support for this reason. Be careful of rhetoric and loud arrogance; you may regret following such an apparent leader. It is very easy to get caught up in a vicious circle that can be detrimental to your mental health.

I hope today’s effort has made you think and you will try to be charitable to others. There are more amazing blogs on my home page. Please click ‘like’ if you enjoyed this post and I do appreciate comments.


7 responses

  1. Nice post. I totally agree that whatever emotions surround us in others transfers to us. I just spent some time with a very energized friend today and started a post about just this effect. Surround yourself with positive energy, and you will be energized as well. I make a point of avoiding those that exert negative feelings.

    26, January 2012 at 1:37 am

    • I think one of the worst emotions that we copy is fear. I hate waiting in a doctors or hospital waiting room; the atmosphere is often awful!

      26, January 2012 at 9:08 am

  2. Wow, fascinating insights, Mike. I love how you made us feel relaxed as we are reading this article.

    I agree, if we would just take a few minutes to breathe and relax after a stressful time, our improved mood would rub off on others. That would make for a better world.

    26, January 2012 at 3:07 am

    • I listen to Mozart as I drive to try to relax. I get so relaxed I almost go to sleep at the traffic lights!

      26, January 2012 at 9:09 am

  3. Pingback: Note 281 – Do you say vicious circle or vicious cycle? « My writing challenge

  4. Pingback: Psychology | What makes a leader? « Mike10613's Blog

  5. Pingback: Sunday lunch ramble « Mike10613's Blog

Please share your thoughts here:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s