Expressing Human Emotions – Beyond the Basics

Imagine a moment in life when you feel an excruciating pain deep inside, but you are at a loss of words. It’s not anger, not sadness and certainly not happiness. You can feel it very well, but you aren’t able to express it to others. That’s when emotion expert Brene Brown saves the day.

Brown says many people can only recognize and name the three basic emotions: happiness, sadness, and anger. This lack of vocabulary blocks us from being able to fully experience and share our feelings with others—and that prevents us from forming connections with each other. So, with a deeper understanding of emotions, we’ll be able to talk about them more openly and accurately, and thus form deeper connections with the people around us.

In the wake of recent incidents across the world, which includes recession, inflation, food shortages and not to mention the war and devastating earthquake, I have been thinking about the myriad human emotions supressed in million hearts. People are struggling with emotions they unable to identify or express. On the one hand, people are feeling lost, defeated, betrayed and powerless; On the other, they are struggling for language to connect with people around them.

In this blog I wanted to bring together the emotions we experience when we are hurting and help build awareness of the fact why it is important to have the language in times of distress.

Keeping in mind that numerous people in the world are currently hurting and have very little to look up to, I feel it’s most appropriate to help them in need of language and identify their emotions accurately.

So, where do we go when we are hurting?

Anguish – A mix of shoch, grief, disbelief, and powerlessness. Powerlessness is specifically painful when you in no position to act and make things better. It’s worse and several times intense than helplessness.  In her book Atlas of the Heart, Brene Brown says, “…so much of effective trauma work today is not only about reclaiming our breath, our feelings, and our thinking, but also getting our bones back and returning to our bodies.”

Hopelessness – While hope gets us through the adversity and discomfort of life, hopelessness can prove to be quite the opposite. Hopelessness gives rise to a sense of profound dissatisfaction that leads to apathy, lack of interest and the inability to get things done in specific situations and in general.

Despair – According to Rob Bell despair is “…the belief that tomorrow will be just like today.” Trust me, nothing can be worse. The feeling of despair can be so overwhelming that it not only takes control of the present, but it also leaves no hope for the future.

Sadness – The most felt yet necessary human emotion. Sadness is a natural reaction to any negative experience or adverse situation. Owning our sadness helps us understand our inner landscape and develop compassion and empathy. Sadness mostly stems from loss or defeat but is very different from depression or grief. Sadness makes us strong humans and connects us to humanity.   

Grief – Grief is a natural response to the loss of a dear one – friend or family. It can also result from a longing and feeling lost. The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief is likely to be. Each human may react to loss differently and grieve differently. Grief can leave a person shocked, irritable, angry, overwhelmed or even isolated and numb. Once, the inability to articulate these emotions leave a person disconnected and lonely.

Why is it important to express your emotions accurately?

Finding language and the right vocabulary is the basis of dealing with human emotions. Language acts as the bridge with people around us. It allows us to express our feelings, identify triggers, talk to experts and loved ones and finally get the help that we need in an emotionally vulnerable moment. The ability to identify and describe emotions in precise language is what researchers call ‘emotional granularity.’ The more we understand our emotions the better equipped we are to navigate through them and comfort ourselves.

Brene believes, emotions can be overpowering and take control of not just your mind but your body as well. A deep insight and awareness of your emotional states helps you stay connected with yourself. This self-connection eventually helps in creating genuine and loving connection with others.  

Finally, identifying emotions and finding the vocabulary to communicate the same is crucial to mental well-being. We often feel we are aware of our emotions and label our feeling with the three common emotions: sad, glad, and mad. And in doing so we fail to delve deep into ourselves and fail to develop the desired connection, not just with ourselves but with others around us!

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Source: Atlas of the Heart, Brene Brown