How Many Emotions Do You Have?

In the 2015 Pixar animated feature Inside Out, Riley had five emotions — Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust. Cute, but is that all? How many emotions do we really have?

According to “The Benefits of Emodiversity” by David Brooks in The Atlantic (www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/11/benefits-emotional-diversity/620629/?), there are more. A lot more.

For example, the Japanese have age-otori, which is the feeling of looking worse after a haircut. The French speak of l’appel du vide, as when you’re walking by a high cliff and you don’t trust yourself not to jump off.

You can’t identify with those? According to neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett, author of How Emotions Are Made, emotions are constructed — they are the names different cultures use to conceptualize different body states. Barrett promotes “emotional granularity” — the more finely you can identify different body states — like aggravation, frustration, and hostility — the more you will understand yourself, and the more effective you will be in the world. (Barrett also thinks smiling as we know it was invented by Europeans in the Middle Ages.)

Supposedly, people who exhibit emodiversity — the ability to experience many emotions — are better able to regulate themselves, suffer less from exhaustion, and visit doctors less often, among other things. 

But be careful — you could end up with lexithymia, which is thinking too much about your emotional state and tediously describing it to others.

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