When nothing seems to work, when the world is turned upside down, do you simply feel bad or do you experience more specific emotional states like despair, frustration and sadness?
In psychology there is an expression that refers to people whose feelings are finely tuned: "Emotional granularity". When these people read the news of an attack, for example, they feel not only fear or anger, but also indignation, anguish, disappointment, despair or irritation. When these people read about corruption, they don't just get angry, they can also experience exasperation, anger, sadness or even embarrassment.
Emotional granularity does not simply involve having a large vocabulary with which to express what you are feeling, but more importantly, being aware of emotions and feelings. Unfortunately, most people are unable to detect these subtle changes in their emotional states. However, experiencing emotional granularity can make a big difference in our life.
Experiencing a wide range of emotions is beneficial for the mind and body
Experiencing a wide range of feelings, even if unpleasant, allows us to be more effective in regulating our emotional states, preventing us from adopting destructive strategies in dealing with situations that overwhelm us. This is confirmed by a study conducted at George Mason University, which found that people who are able to detect and understand their emotions are less likely to seek refuge in drugs, alcohol or food such as escape routes.
Another study by psychologists at the University of Kentucky found that these people also displayed greater self-control and were less likely to react aggressively to difficult circumstances, even if they were very angry. In practice, everything seems to indicate that emotional granularity is an important indicator of resilience.
But perhaps most surprisingly, emotional granularity is not only beneficial on a psychological level, it also helps to have a longer, healthier life. In fact, it has been found that these people rarely go to the doctor and take fewer medications, as well as spend fewer days recovering in hospital.
In this regard, a particularly revealing study involving 92 women with breast cancer found that those who were able to detect, label and understand their emotions exhibited lower levels of inflammation, one of the underlying processes. disease and which is considered a negative symptom.
Where does the concept of emotional granularity arise?
Emotional granularity is a concept that was born in the nineties of the last century, when the psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett carried out an experiment in which she followed up on the emotional experiences of hundreds of people for months. That was when he realized that most of the participants were using generic words to describe their emotional states, such as "sad", "angry" and "afraid".
The interesting thing was that some people used different words that allowed them to elaborate on what they felt, or they resorted to phrases and similes that allowed them to further specify how they felt, such as: "I feel unhappy" or "I feel fragile as the crystal ".
At first it was thought that these people were only able to recognize their emotions more accurately, but the truth is that it was something much more complex and important. The key lies in the fact that the brain transforms emotions into something very real, in the blink of an eye and without us realizing it, so that people who are able to handle different emotional concepts are also able to experience emotions "tailored" for each situation.
For this reason, emotional granularity has such a great influence on our well-being and health. Basically, it gives our brains more precise tools with which to handle the various challenges of life.
Calibrating emotions allows you to find better solutions
Imagine you can't stand your boss but still have to go to work every day. When you wake up every morning, an unpleasant feeling of discomfort and hatred overwhelms you that makes you feel worse and worse.
However, you are the one who created this uncomfortable feeling because your brain doesn't just react to what happens, it also proactively regulates the energy your body needs to react to environmental demands, and it does. on the basis of past experiences and the reading he makes of the situation. In this way, the brain can know how much cortisol or adrenaline to produce to help you escape the danger that a given situation poses for you.
Obviously, in order for the brain to generate the necessary activation and to be able to maintain a certain balance, it is necessary to know precisely the emotion we are experiencing. In this regard, emotional granularity saves resources, avoiding triggering an unnecessary activation. On the contrary, experiencing widespread emotional states can cause an "incorrect calibration" of emotions, something that becomes fertile ground for the disease.
Emotional granularity allows the brain to build a more specific and measured emotion, which involves reacting more adaptively depending on what is happening and what we are feeling. So, instead of feeling bad every day when you go to work, you may think that it is actually your boss who makes you feel helpless, despised, humiliated or dissatisfied, so you can design a more effective strategy to deal with the situation and get out of this circle. vicious.
By developing emotional granularity you stop being a passive spectator of your life and take control of it. This way you avoid unnecessary cortisol and adrenaline rushes, which are so harmful.
Is it possible to develop emotional granularity?
The good news is that emotional granularity is a skill that can be developed. The first step is to broaden your emotional vocabulary, in this way you will have a wider range of concepts with which to catalog what you feel.
The second step is to raise emotional awareness, that is, learn to listen to your emotions and deepen them. Consider that emotions are like a skein, which you will have to unravel slowly, little by little. If you've never done this before it can be difficult at first, but with a little patience you can better outline how you feel.
Remember that the more tools you have to manage your life, the better your brain will be able to cope with situations and the fewer the problems. The change is definitely worth it.