Just By Existing, You’re Messing With People’s Heads

In the New York Times, Daniel Goleman introduces us to mirror neurons:
>The most significant finding was the discovery of “mirror neurons,” a widely dispersed class of brain cells that operate like neural WiFi. Mirror neurons track the emotional flow, movement and even intentions of the person we are with, and replicate this sensed state in our own brain by stirring in our brain the same areas active in the other person.

>Mirror neurons offer a neural mechanism that explains emotional contagion, the tendency of one person to catch the feelings of another, particularly if strongly expressed. This brain-to-brain link may also account for feelings of rapport, which research finds depend in part on extremely rapid synchronization of people’s posture, vocal pacing and movements as they interact. In short, these brain cells seem to allow the interpersonal orchestration of shifts in physiology.

Isn’t it reassuring to know that, when you’re feeling down, you can make everyone around you miserable, *just because you’re there?* Why not go out, and spread the gloom?

Stare bleakly into the face of the driver as you board the bus. Suddenly, he’s aware of time passing, and the certain knowledge of his inevitable decline. Maybe he’ll drive the bus into a lamppost.

Stop for coffee. As the barista gives you your latte, she turns pale and her hands begin to shake. You make your way to a table and as you pass the conversations trail off and fall silent. From somewhere comes the sound of an indrawn breath and a stifled cry. Tonight, these people will return to their homes and dream of sad kittens. Sure, you’re depressed… but as long as there are mirror neurons, you’ll always know how to make everyone else feel *just as bad as you do.*

Hooray for *schadenfreude!*