The Language of Emotions

Drawing by Adrian Serghie

   If you think about a particular emotion, how many words can you use to express it? How many words do you know to express a different side of an emotion? There are more than you might think.

   I recently stumbled across a list of feelings with the associated words, and the list is BIG! For example, according to this list, happiness can be expressed with 19 different words, such as joyous, cheerful, merry, jubilant and so on. If you are depressed, you can also express that in 19 different words (lucky choice), such as lousy, ashamed, miserable, terrible, dissatisfied and so on (Source:

   Although I find that list a little “messy”, I got intrigued by the idea of correctly labeling a certain emotion. Our feelings are not all-or-nothing. There are different aspects that can express a different side of the overall emotion. I think our emotions are just like cocktails. If we’re a little upset and we throw in some bitterness, the feeling of inferiority, some frustrations and some impulsiveness, we have a ticking bomb.

   So what do words do? What’s their purpose? Well, I think that if we manage to use the words closest to our real feelings, we’re increasing the chance to have a better understanding of ourselves. Also, this will help us communicate as accurate as possible the state of our inside universe, which will grant others the possibility to do something to help us. It’s like going to the doctor. If you cannot locate the pain, the doctor cannot help you.

   It seems that whatever we do, we get back to a better communication. We all know that time has the power to heal us, but it seems that words can do that too, and faster.

   How specific do you get when you try to express your emotions?

30 thoughts on “The Language of Emotions

  1. I like to be precise and specific as I believe that helps but I’m often labelled pedantic as I go into too many details about something. It’s knowing the correct level for the situation and the people in that environment which can be difficult to judge as it tends never to be the same.

      1. All conversations need to be catered to the audience. If you think about it in terms of you wouldn’t say the same things to your boss that you would to a child then I find it becomes clearer.

  2. I’ve never been good at expressing my emotions… If anyone asks me how I’m doing, my responses range from ‘I’m ok’, ‘I’m good’, to ‘Not bad’. I just figure no one wants to hear the details. But now I see that it actually completely shuts down communication. It takes me at least 10 minutes to warm up and really start opening up to someone. And to be quite honest, I often don’t know how to describe my feelings to myself let alone to someone else…

  3. So interesting. I know you are talking specifically about words, but in one of my acting classes we learned about a universal system of gestures for expressing certain emotions.

    Sometimes our words can be saying one thing, but our body language expresses a whole different story! 🙂

    1. Yes, of course! We cannot control our body language with the same ease we can control our wording. And when the two are on the same page, we get to the feeling that we understand ourselves.

  4. Brilliant post! I try to express myself or my feelings etc as accurately as possible… However, in my working environment my words tend to be too much for them to understand (either being too complex that they haven’t heard of, or that they just don’t understand how that emotion makes me feel). I have started coming up with more physical descriptions of my feelings to help them understand… This sometimes works to my advantage, sometimes it just makes them think I’m even crazier than they thought! What an Oddity I’m turning into!

    1. Thank you for this awesome comment! I also tend to use physical descriptions to express feelings or ideas because I find it easier to understand in this way (my book is full of examples related to cars :)) )

  5. My specificity depends on who I’m speaking to. I may even lie and say I’m doing well if I don’t trust the person. However, with close loved ones, I’m very specific. It helps them to understand what exactly I’m feeling/going through, and putting my feelings into words helps me to unpack them, and then move on from them in a much healthier and more concrete way.

      1. Noo, not at all. I actually used to lie to everyone…even myself. If I was anything other than a “positive” emotion, I would suppress it and not tell anyone.

  6. Oddly enough, it depends on who I’m speaking with. For the most part, I get as close as I can. In some instances I rattle off some of them out of the fear of retaliation, not being heard, etc.

    1. So you are as specific as you can with some people and you try to be less specific with others? Is it a matter of how close you are with those people that makes the difference?

      1. No-it’s a matter of how I know they will react or how defensive they will become. There are some who will take those things and turn them as a weapon.

  7. I’m not that good at describing things, even describing my own feelings, so when communicating about how I feel with my boyfriend, I try to use situations as an example so he could relate more. For example, I’m jealous, but I wanted to make him relate more, I’d tell him “What if you were in my situation? What would you feel?” and I think in that case, he’ll understand more.

    Of course, it won’t be successful everytime. People have different perceptions about same situations. For example, I might feel jealous in that situation but other people might be just okay with that. However, if the person I’m talking with has a similar personality with me, then I can use this method. Otherwise, the two of us are gonna have a debate.

  8. I like the idea of an emotional cocktail and maybe the next time I’m spiralling I could try to understand which ‘ingredients’ I’ve had too much of and help myself balance my emotions out

  9. Often times I will be vague with my emotional state. Saying I am not feeling well or something along those lines. But I am also very careful with the way I express emotion. Because I don’t want to make it out to be more than it really is. So I will say I am not sure, or I am okay. Because I am waiting to understand it more. But I do not want to deny its reality either. I also am very careful about how I talk about the scenarios that I Feel are connecting to the emotion. Because I would rather have the feeling be about the actual emotion and not the scenario it is connected to. I have studied my emotions pretty deeply, sometimes i can describe them succinctly. Other times I cannot come up with anything but vagueness.

    Thanks for your post.

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