You have probably heard the phrase before — “live vicariously.” Turns out it’s more than just a phrase. People really do feel the emotions of others.
There is a realm of psychology referred to as “vicarious emotions.” This means that we experience the emotions of those around us. For example, maybe you have a friend who lost a sibling and you never met the sibling but you still feel heartbroken. Or maybe you had a spouse involved in some kind of personal trauma, and while you weren’t there in person you still feel pain.
A Psychology Today article by Dr. Robert Muller sites “vicarious trauma can be best understood as the absorbing of another person’s trauma, the transformation of the helper’s inner sense of identity and experience. It is what happens to your physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual health in response to someone else’s traumatic history.” This is vicarious trauma, but there is also vicarious joy.
You can experience the joy of others by being around them. Maybe its a friend who just got a promotion and you are beyond excited for him/her/them, or maybe a friend who has been trying to have a baby just got pregnant and you are suddenly overwhelmed with joy. Vicarious joy is also another reason to do good for others through charities or philanthropic work. When you are in a situation where you are helping others and they feel appreciated, that joy rubs off on you. You start to feel happier because those around you are also happy.
Vicarious joy can also be learned by children. The more our children are exposed to happy environments, the happier more joyful children we will raise. By engaging our children in volunteering or other ways of helping others they will learn to be more joyful.