Emotions seem to be the easiest thing to share amongst friends; it's almost like a virus. One person feels happy and passes on to the next and the next and so on. That is ideal... but not always how it goes.
More often one person in line is angry and yelling at the cashier which puts you in a "what is wrong with people?" mood which leads you to go home and yell at your kids, which makes them mad at the each other and so on. Emotions are contagious and the sooner we learn to recognize the difference between our emotions and the people we are with, the easier time we will have in knowing ourselves.
Empathy as a survival skill
Empathy is defined by dictionary.comas "the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another." If you are experiencing the feelings, thoughts or attitudes of another, how do you know you are acting in your own best interest and not the person you are empathizing with? If you are identifying with someone else's emotions and making decisions based on those emotions, they may not be right for you.
Empathy can be a survival skill. When we are born we can't talk yet and don't know much about the reality we have just arrived in. With this skill of empathy, we can read each others thoughts and emotions and make decisions on how we will engage with the environment.
"What am I really feeling?"
Things go off track when we don't know where our thoughts and feelings start and the other person's begin. We are always picking up on each other's energy in subtle ways. We feel each others state of mind and often change our behavior and feelings about the situation accordingly.
If you can begin to acknowledge when this sharing of energy is happening, you can begin to understand yourself more clearly and start setting new intentions. By paying attention to your ability to pick up on other people's thoughts and emotions, you begin to see when you are letting someone else's negativity win.
By becoming aware of how easily you change course based on what another person is doing or feeling you will be able to stop being a victim of others and empower yourself to dictate your mood and actions.
What mood are you bringing to the room?
It is also helpful to observe those around you, especially children, as they pick up on your moods. Watch for that moment from when they switch over to what they were feeling independently to what they are feeling when they notice you. Then ask yourself, is this how I want others to feel around me?
You have more power than you think. If you walk into a room defensive and uptight, that is how the room will respond. This isn't to control how everyone else is feeling, but just to set an intention within yourself of the influence you want to be in the world.