Vale of TearsIs this Grief Contagious?
Is this Grief Contagious?
Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.
Some of us worry deep down whether coming alongside people who are experiencing intense grief may not cause us to “catch” the grieving person’s heaviness – or at least to feel end up feeling weighed down. Don’t laugh, don’t despise, and above all, don’t be surprised. It is no idle myth that some husbands have been known to experience “sympathy” pangs when their wives are pregnant or in labour!
Neither is it unusual for a carer to start to take on the other person’s peculiarities of speech or gestures, or even some of their physical symptoms. In the case of married couples we are, after all, one flesh. If we find ourselves experiencing too strong a degree of identification, we may need to be set free from the power of this physical or emotional transference, for if we leave such things unchecked, they may come to seriously affect our whole personality.
Transference represents the shift of emotions from one person or object to another. It is a common sign that we are beginning to relate to people not as they really are, but as if they were some other person altogether – or to take on their characteristics.
“Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:6). If we find ourselves adopting someone else’s outlook on life uncritically, we may end up performing injudicious actions on their behalf. Such is the effect that both cults and dominant personalities can have on us. When we start looking to people to fulfil us in ways that in reality only God can do, we are asking too much of them, and may be heading into dangerous waters!
Reflect and Pray
Lord, set my soul and spirit free
from any transference that has drawn me
too closely into someone else’s orbit.
Where I have pulled someone else into mine,
forgive me and release them.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.