Benefits of greater emotion granularity
You can take steps now to influence your future emotional experiences.
Knowing your real emotion can provide a deeper understanding of the situation you are in, such as reframing your unhappiness, so it no longer feels so all-consuming. You may also reconsider the source of your discomfort. Eventually, you may be able to categorise a situation with precision.
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Although we think that we know how we feel, the sensations of anger, anxiety, hunger, or illness are more alike than we realize.
We may sometimes misinterpret those signals with grave consequences. But there are some practical ways to gain control of our feelings.
We learn interpretations from others. Your familiar emotion concepts come from your particular social context - your parents, friends, TV, and books, and your own past life experiences.
Other cultures will connect different kinds of meaning from the same sensory input. Utka Eskimos appear to have no clearly defined concept of anger, and Tahitians seem not to share our concept of sadness.
Charles Darwin popularized the theory of emotional fingerprints - that each emotion creates a specific combination of facial expression, body language, and other physiological cues such as a heart rate.
But recently detailed analyses suggest there is no such thing. Each emotion is represented by a whole range of reactions. The way we interpret our body's signals, such as excited or anxious, depends entirely on the context of the situation and can be easily framed by our expectations.
States like hunger, fatigue, or illness produce the same signals as emotions like anger, anxiety, or sadness. This shows the importance of looking after your body as a way to stabilise your mood.
An emotion is an objective state that exhibits itself in many ways like behavior, facial expression, heart rate, blood pressure, and stress-hormone levels. Broadly speaking, we know that there are a limited number of discrete human emotions, mainly joy, anger, sadness, fear, love, hate and desire.
New research on human emotions reveals that they are not isolated into fixed slots, but are fluid, subjective, and can take a cue from the way we describe them, altering themselves accordingly.
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