Aug 22

“Book of Human Emotions” By Tiffany Watt Smith

Particularly fascinating is the connection between feeling and language; the urge to pin down amorphous emotions with the precision of words. What we need, argues the author, isn’t fewer words for our feelings, but more. Anita Sethi, Guardian, on Tiffany Watt Smith’s Book of Human Emotions

Question: If you’re someone who’s working on being both emotionally intelligent and accepting of diversity, what about your “emodiversity“?

Tiffany Watt Smith, PhD, author of last year’s Book of Human Emotions: An Encyclopaedia of Feeling from Anger to Wanderlust, thinks it’s important.

The definition of emodiversity is having a “variety and relative abundance of the emotions,” she’s reported. This trait, moreover, may actually correlate with better health, physically and mentally.

To be able to know you’re having certain distinct emotions, the specific associated words are needed in your vocabulary.

An interesting interplay exists between the brain and identification of feelings, it turns out, in that “the brain, outside of your conscious awareness, ‘constructs’ your emotional states, drawing, in a very real way, on your vocabulary of emotional concepts…” In other words, if your brain knows the feeling, it helps make it happen; if not, it may be a tree falling in the forest when no one’s there.

In Book of Human Emotions Watt Smith covers 154 of them in depth. I’ve taken a look at book excerpts offered on The Guardian and now have several of interest to pass on to you:

  • Ambiguphobia, coined by writer David Foster Wallace, means “feeling uncomfortable about leaving things open to interpretation.”
  • Ilinx is a word that’s derived from French sociologist Roger Caillois. It’s about “the ‘strange excitement’ of wanton destruction”; also described as a “voluptuous panic.” Says Watt Smith, “Today, even the urge to create a minor chaos by kicking over the office recycling bin should give you a mild hit.”
  • Mono no aware is an ancient Japanese concept. “Literally translated as the pathos (aware) of things (mono), it is often described as a kind of a sigh for the impermanence of life.”
  • Pronoia: “A strange, creeping feeling that everyone is out to help you.”
  • Ringxiety: Coined by psychologist David Laramie, “ringxiety is a feeling of low-level anxiety causing us to think we’ve heard our phones ring, even when they haven’t.”

And here are a few more taken from the internet:

  • Greng jai: A Thai term…for “the feeling of being reluctant to accept another’s offer of help because of the bother it would cause them.”
  • L’appel du vide: Also called the “high place phenomenon” by American psychologists (2012), this French term means “the call of the void.” It’s that impulse to do something terribly risky all of a sudden, e.g., open the back door of the airplane you’re currently flying in. Most don’t follow through, it’s important to note, and it’s not usually a sign of suicidality.
  • Kaukokaipuu: A Finnish term for “a feeling of homesickness for a place you’ve never visited” or “a kind of highly specified version of wanderlust, a ‘craving for a distant land’.”