Friday, December 9

Expanding emotional vocabulary helps manage emotions

We are used to venting emotions in two kicks.

– How are you?

For good.

B) Bad.

we say we are happy, sad, pissed off. what are we rightthat we are wrong, and a little more. But what we feel is always richer, and is full of notes and nuances. What happens is that if we only use three words to express it, we end up reducing feelings to three options. And that “is horrifying”, according to the neuroscientist José Sánchez García, “because it takes away our emotional biodiversity”.

The person who always says he is happy ends up putting different moods in the same bag. It’s like throwing the fullnessthe enthusiasmthe joythe satisfactionthe joythe happiness and the good humor through a funnel that reduces them all to a single word and a single mood.

That is why Sánchez García says that teaching children the four basic emotions is of a barbaric educational poverty. It is not about “I am bad”, but about teaching to distinguish between “I am sorry”, jealous, pissed off either rancorous.

The linguistic consequences of such a short vocabulary are sad because it makes life more limited, but the emotional consequences are even more painful, because, according to the neurologist, people who use few emotional words regulate their emotions worse than people who use many.

It is as if all the women in the world were called Antonia. What chaos! Better that each one has a different name, right? Well, it’s the same with emotions. To identify, recognize and manage them, it is better that each one has a different name. It is that very healthy thing of the saying “call each thing by its name”.

The exciting thing is that each era has its own emotions and its words to name them. Sánchez García stops at one: the nostalgia.

Today is a bittersweet feeling that comes from remembering happy times that have already passed. The sweet thing is the joy of what has been lived and the bitter thing is that it is over. But that nostalgia is not what they felt centuries ago. Before, it was the pain of a person who could not return to their place of origin. “In ancient times, people died of nostalgia,” explains the expert in human behavior. “The last person to die of homesickness was an American soldier in World War I.”

Phew! I don’t even want to think about the explosions of the senses, the feelings and the sensations of the Romanticism of the 19th century. What penalties! What pains! What blackness! What thickness! Luckily they expired and no one feels like that anymore. Although I don’t identify much with current happiness either. That happy of “If you want, you can!”, in rounded letters and spiral notebooks.

And the moving thing is that an emotion is not the same in Spain as it is in Japan. Shame, for example, is very different here and there. In the western world it is an internal disgust; in the East, a social sorrow.

The study of emotions is in full swing. The very concept of emotion it is quite recent. Historian Richard Firth-Godbehere indicates in his book Homo emoticon that it is “a modern idea, a cultural construct”, and it was not long ago, at the beginning of the 19th century, when they began to investigate feelings as something that occurs in the brain.

And from what is known so far, and what the linguist Anna Wierzbicka indicates, it could be that there was only one universal word related to feelings, a verb: feel.

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