Perspective: Anxiety Is Contagious

Aug 15, 2019

“Anxiety is contagious. When you share an anxiety with someone, you feel better, but the listener may feel worse.” Reading this, I wondered, “Am I spreading the virus of anxiety when I talk about my dismay with what is happening to our democracy, our values, and our nation’s center of gravity?” 

“Anxiety is contagious” comes from research about emotional systems in families, churches, clubs, corporations, political parties. People in any organization bring a range of emotional reactivity to issues, to change, and to conflict. How the organization, and especially its leader, deals with this complex stew of human emotions is the challenge. 

If a leader – the American president, a corporate CEO, a religious leader – is calm and thoughtful enough to keep their ship afloat through choppy emotional seas, creative solutions can emerge. 

That is a big “IF.” First, it takes emotional maturity in the leader who can model a calm and thoughtful presence and develop a culture of trust that is open and honest, that welcomes creative ideas to resolve difficult problems. Also, as citizens and members of organizations, if we refrain from spreading anxious thoughts and instead talk about ideas for moving forward, the system’s culture can change from complaining to “We can make this happen together.” 

In any way we can, we should help select and elect leaders who are emotionally mature – in politics, in our work lives, and in our churches. We can say goodbye to anxiety and hello to creative problem solving. 

I’m Connie Seraphine, and that is my perspective.