Emotional granularity - that's what I learn today in the papers. A professor of psychology Lisa Feldman Barrett came up with it. And it's good for you. But what is it? Professor Barrett explains: "In psychology, people with finely tuned feelings are said to exhibit "emotional granularity".
This is how it is applied. Professor Barrett wrote: "When reading about the abuses of ISIS, for example, you might experience creeping horror or fury, rather than general awfulness." So, don't just feel awful. Feel with more expression of feeling. Deepen the emotion.
She said, "Emotional granularity isn't just about having a rich vocabulary; it's about experiencing the world and yourself, more precisely." When you are miserable, don't say "I feel miserable". Use more precise words to gear your brain up for a more finely tuned response to negative news or events.
And mind you, emotional granularity has its benefits - lotsa it. "Accordingly to a recollection of studies, finely grained unpleasant feelings allow people to be more agile at regulating their emotions, less likely to drink excessively when stressed and less likely to retaliate aggressively against someone who has hurt them...People who achieve it (emotional granularity) are also likely to have longer, healthier lives. They go to the doctor and use medication less frequently, and spend fewer days hospitalised for illness. Cancer patients, for example, have lower level of inflammation when they more frequently categorise, label and understand their emotions." Even students can benefit with improved social behavior and academic performance.
Lesson? Wow...I am overwhelmed with a tinge of bemusement coupled with a sprinkle of optimism mixed in a bowl of pro-activism to propel me to dissect my feeling into granulated bits for more palatable processing and responses (sweating).
Honestly, I feel better already. Writing all that made me smile and that was good for the soul, I guess.
But for emotional granularity to work, maybe you need to carry a thesaurus with you and when you feel really pissed off with people like, say, Donald Trump, Duterte or Alicia Fong, you can look under "pissed off" and these specific emotional concepts may just calm your jangled nerves down - "hopping mad", "hot under the collar", "burning with excitement" or "bent out of shape."
Here is my own emotional concoction to appease my entangled nerves when I read about Alicia Fong's dubious apology to the deaf and mute cleaner with qualification galore - "an insuperable sense of bewilderment tinctured by incredulity and shame but tempered somehow by a hued realism of the fallibility of all men and their eventual redemption." That somehow made me feel better...I think.
Levity aside, Professor Barrett does have have a point about being more proactive when it comes to one's emotional understanding and vocabulary. I myself am an example of it. I am an "emotional fine-tooth comber." If you read my posts and blog, you will know what I mean. And in some ways, it really helps to get to know yourself and your emotional makeup. Being more specific about how you feel compels you to confront your emotions - good or bad - and it increases self-awareness.
In today's world of 1-mins fame, superficiality and narcissism, god knows self-awareness is fast becoming a rare virtue. And losing that virtue, we lose our balance of reality and humility. More importantly, we lose an essential part of us - that authentic side of us. Cheerz.
Postscript: Below is an example of emotional granularity at work. I posted it two years ago. The lesson at the end is how I have always been breaking down my feelings when exposed to tragedy or irony of raw life. It's a long extract and you can skip it if it provokes in you a numbing sense of tedium.
"I went to T3 Terminal for dinner tonight and visited Times bookshop. One book entitled “City of Lies: Love, Sex, Death and the Search for Truth in Tehran” by author Ramita Navai caught my attention. I turned the pages and read this passage which was deeply unsettling for me. I will quote it verbatim and be warned that it contains expletives.
“…a disabled man in a wheelchair entered the (police) station, shouting with the full force of his lungs. He was leaning as far forward as he could go. Anger had engorged his face with blood. He spat as he yelled.
“Yes, my wife’s a prostitute!” His left arm – his only working limb – was jabbing the air, his hand clenched so hard in rage that the white of his bones looked almost luminous under the stretched skin.
“She sells her body for money because that’s the only way she can pay for my medicine. This is how the Islamic Republic treats its war veterans!” Beside him, his handcuffed wife was weeping silently, wiping her eyes with the corners of her headscarf.
“And as if you haven’t emasculated me enough, now you want to arrest her. You think this is the way we want to fucking live?” Three policemen were trying to calm him down. “Please keep your voice down, you’re going to get into trouble.”
The author continued, “His wife had been caught having sex with a client in a car. Her husband was in his wheelchair at the top of the road. He always went with her when she worked, as it was safer that way.
“...fuck them all, this is what they’ve done to us! I can’t make love to my wife, and now she has to fuck other men so we don’t have to live like animals! Just kill me now!”
…”Just let them go.” The officers were perturbed enough to quickly acquiesce. They also knew better than to argue with the chief. The Ahmadi twins stepped forward. “She’s a whore! She’s defacing the name of Islam, and you want to let her walk free!” Majid and Abdul were also screeching their disapproval.
The police chief stepped towards them, bellowing so loudly that the whole station was shocked into silence. “If you don’t show some respect, I will have you dealt with…being a basiji (auxiliary force to maintain internal security) does not make you immune to humility and humanity. Get out of my station and don’t ever come back.”
As the boys left, Morteza turned around and saw that the war veteran’s head could not have been held any higher as his wife wheeled him out of the police station. Morteza saw her stroke her husband’s neck; in that tiny gesture he knew the police chief had been right.” End of passage quoted
Lesson? Three actually on life, love and religion.
First, counting your blessings while others are living out their curses is a very painful reality to swallow (Maybe you need more than emotional granularity here...you may need emotional sub-atomicization).
Second, not all adultery in a marriage is caused by a love that has gone astray; there are the few cases – the even more heartbreaking ones - that are caused by a love that is prepared to give up everything she holds dear for the one she can't live without.
Lastly, in genesis, when God said to create man in his image, some of us somehow take this to mean that we shall become no less than gods on earth. Cheerz."