As emotions are generated deep in the brain, the emotional experience feels personal. Emotions are like an endlessly changing stream of internal music on the lone voyage of the self.
Yet, without other people the brain would not be able to generate the emotions that we claim so adamantly as our own. In her book How Emotions are Made, Lisa Feldman Barrett explains that our emotions are both a social and cultural construction that emerge from our interactions with each other and the culture around us.
Language is a perfect example of a cultural construction. In many languages, there are words for emotions that do not exist in others. Many of you reading this right now are able to think of several words in your native language or in a second language which the English language doesn’t define.
If a concept for an emotion does not exist in a language, does that mean that this emotion is not felt? Feldman Barrett argues that yes, language has a direct impact on emotional granularity - the ability to identify and name emotions with specificity.
If a culture does not have a word for an emotion, it is more difficult to reference this emotion in our personal experience or in conversation with another person.
An absence of words for a wide variety of emotions in one’s vocabulary, can reduce emotional granularity. Therefore, we could all benefit from learning foreign emotion concepts to increase our emotional literacy.
On December 8, Lisa Feldman Barrett will join us for a public webinar on The New Scientific Understanding of Emotion, in which we’ll explore a radically new scientific understanding of what emotions are, how they are made, how they work, and how to navigate one’s emotional life.
There is substantial evidence that emotional granularity is closely linked to linguistic granularity. The more finely grained your vocabulary, the more precisely your brain can identify what’s happening in the body and calibrate your brain’s resources and demands accordingly.
Studies show that people who exhibit higher emotional granularity go to the doctor less frequently, use medication less frequently, and spend fewer days hospitalized for illness.
We can increase each other's emotional granularity by sharing the language constructs that are unique to our own cultures. We invite you to share an emotional construct that is unique to your native language or a second languages. We will create a resource for our community with all the emotion constructs shared. In doing so we will help each other become more emotionally granular.
With gratitude for this amazing community,
The IOC Team
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