Emotional granularity: Why being able to define your emotions is important

I absolutely love speaking about feelings.

I often felt it to be extremely necessary. Being able to effectively communicate when you are happy, sad, or mad makes life easier, in so many ways. Those around you do not have to guess your feelings. They do not have to assume what you like or dislike, because you are very open and expressive about them.

Now just because my life experiences has left me feeling this way, does not mean the majority of people agree with me. My friends often grumble about my need to be vocal. It seems unnecessary and terribly unproductive to go through so many of one’s feelings.

I often keep my thoughts to myself. Not to please others or hide, but to keep the peace between the people around me. Society likes for everything to be light and easy. As much as I try, it is simply not natural to me. Therefore, this balance of being who I am and going along with society has been quite a battle. Finding the work of Lisa Feldman Barrett became the answer to a question I long ceased asking.

Emotional Granularity

Barrett researches emotional granularity. This is the ability to effectively describe one’s own feelings. Well, I now found a word for the phenomenon I believed in, now to why it’s necessary. Barrett’s research suggests that those who can define their emotions have a modicum of power over them.

We know I like examples, so here’s one: A friend of mine made an error at work. A small error, that did have its impact, but was ultimately easy to learn from and move past. Now my friend is highly sensitive. Therefore, she felt this error to be a huge stain on her abilities and confidence. Now this scenario can play out in two ways. The person can spend the rest of the day feeling like a failure, being miserable and making everyone around miserable, or, the person can accept the mistake, accept how much the mistake hurts and forgive oneself. In the first example, the person is acting rashly, on impulse, not thinking of the consequences of handling a situation poorly. In the second example, the person is knowledgeably going through their emotions, sorting them out and dealing with them one at a time, to be professional and mature at their place of work.

Which person would you like to be?

As difficult as it seems, I would definitely like to be the second person. Thinking logically about my feelings, being able to sort them out and, quite simply, not having a breakdown at work. I mentioned that this strategy is difficult, because I know firsthand that it is. When you experience the world more sensitively than the average person, the roughness and harshness of life is much more stressful and strenuous. Acting maturely and logically all the time, is very difficult. But that is exactly why I believe in emotional granularity. Society might be asking highly sensitives to push down their feelings and act like “unfeeling robots.” But I am not asking you this.

I am asking for you to care and love yourself enough to take the time out to process your feelings. Many people do not understand your thinking process and how you get through situations. That is why it is even more important for you to understand. Understand how you think and why you think things. Understand that when you cry because you watched that new movie about the reincarnated dog who fills their owner’s lives with love and happiness, it does not make you a baby. It makes you empathetic, sensitive to the lives of others and courageous for delving so deeply into a situation that is not your own.

Feeling love so deeply is one of a highly sensitive’s greatest gifts.

Through my own struggles with this trait, I truly think our capacity to love others and ourselves (which we all know is difficult to do) is truly a gift. It is why this quote by Dr. Martin Luther King touches me so deeply:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Our capacity to love, highly sensitives, is what the world needs right now. Our ability to understand these emotions and express them to those who do not feel them, is what the world does not know its craving. We start by understanding ourselves. Then helping others.

I have begun posting emotion words on twitter and this blog. These words are words from all over the world, that describe emotions more thoroughly than the English language can. I find it very interesting and helpful, as I hope it helps all of you. This is the emotion words page.


I would love to hear your thoughts on this very emotive, controversial topic.

Comment below or contact me personally on my contact me page.


With love,


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