How Anxiety Spreads

Mornings With Minjay Michelle Chahine Sinno
Minjay at 2 years old, July 2012.

Yesterday morning, on my way from our apartment door to the elevator, I realized I had forgotten a document that I needed. I had just held it in my hands a few minutes before, so I rushed back inside to pick it up. The weirdest thing happened–as it only does when you absolutely have to leave for an appointment and don’t have time to calmly sort through your things. The paper disappeared.

For some reason, this distressed me a lot. I just had it in my hands! I really wanted to take it with me to the doctor’s appointment (it was a billing issue), and I couldn’t find it. I think that, combined with the fact that I hadn’t slept too well nor eaten breakfast (it was an early appointment), and I wasn’t in my best frame of mind. Stress took over, and I began to madly shuffle all the papers on my desk, pulling out folders and piles and spreading them out. Where was it?

As I searched, I could feel my own anxiety. But then something remarkable happened. When I moved the papers to a footstool to spread them out better, Minjay gave a whine I’ve rarely heard him make (the only times I can think of are once after he had surgery and a couple of times in the car when we were going reverse downhill and it obviously made him nervous). He was just standing next to me watching me madly shuffle at great speed, and he could obviously sense my anxiety– more than that, he could feel it. I had transferred it to him.

I had already learned a couple of years ago that he can sense my excitement. When I grab his leash and am clearly excited to leave the house, and show him that, he jumps around happily at the door even more than usual.

There have been plenty of studies that show how intelligent dogs are and how they can sense our emotions. But this was the first time I saw how my anxiety spread to him tangibly.

All yesterday morning, I couldn’t help thinking about how it could affect other people around me, if it could affect the happiest dog in the world (no really, he is),

That’s a lesson I’ll never forget.

 


Read more: Children of anxious parents are more likely to be anxious. — from Quartz.com.

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