I read an interesting book last year, How Emotions Are Made, by Lisa Feldman Barrett. She made a savvy point about emotional intelligence, in that our ‘EQ’ can only be as great as our emotional vocabulary. In other words, our emotional intelligence is limited by the level of specificity available to us to name the emotion.
An example will help me explain. One Filipino tribal language includes the word 'legit' which is loosely translated as high voltage passion and intense focus. Yet it’s not just the semantic translation, the meaning is contextual. 'Legit' is the high voltage passion and intense focus experienced when pursuing a hazardous challenge with a group of people who are competing against one another. It’s quite specific!
The author draws the practical link between men who come home from being on the frontline of war. It is said that some cadets develop a feeling of pleasure in killing. How do they then come home to their families and internally reconcile that feeling? Generally, they don't — and all sorts of inner conflict, shame and mental health issues ensue.
What if they could contextualise their feeling though? What if that feeling was understood to remain within the confines of a military zone and this feeling —legit— was one of "comrades-in-arms", protecting the lives of friends and family, a passionate conquering of their goal.
Could the introduction of this word give cadets a contained context for this emotion, allowing them to reconcile the feeling as having a time and place, thus no longer relating to it when the context changes and they return to their family and friends?
Increasing our emotional granularity may therefore improve our ability to respond accordingly to varying situations and therefore overcome stressful situations faster. It may also allow us home-in on exactly what we are feeling that is more specific than just ‘happy’, ‘appreciative’, etc. I previously had no idea I was feeling aware when staring at the sunset. I’m not sure if knowing that I’m bringing on a feeling of shemomechama will stop me from eating or not, especially following tyvsmake…perhaps that’s a different form of intelligence I’m yet to learn. I was, however, certainly aware of those people who experienced schadenfreude after reading my last blog post and emailing back to laugh at me. 🤨
Anyway here’s some new lingo to jump-start your EQ boost.
• S'apprivoiser (French): literally 'to tame', but a mutual process - both sides slowly learning to trust the other and eventually accepting each other
• Aware (Japanese): the bittersweetness of a brief, fading moment of transcendent beauty
• Dadirri (Australian Aboriginal): a deep, spiritual act of reflective and respectful listening
• Feierabend (German): festive mood at the end of a working day
• Fernweh (German): the 'call of faraway places,' homesickness for the unknown
• Gezellig (Dutch): the comfort, cosiness and togetherness of being at home with friends and loved ones
• Gigil (Tagalog): the irresistible urge to pinch or squeeze someone because they are loved or cherished
• Kintsugi (Japanese): literally, 'golden joinery' (the art of repairing broken pottery using gold), metaphorically meaning to render our flaws and fault-lines beautiful and strong
• Koi no yokan (Japanese): the feeling on meeting someone that falling in love will be inevitable
• Kvell (Yiddish): to feel pride and joy in someone else's accomplishment
• Mbuki-mvuki (Bantu): to shed clothes to dance uninhibited
• On (Japanese): a feeling of moral indebtedness, relating to a favour or blessing given by others
• Orenda (Huron): the power of the human will to change the world in the face of powerful forces such as fate
• Pihentagyu (Hungarian): 'with a relaxed brain,' describing quick-witted people who can come up with sophisticated jokes or solutions
• Saudade (Portuguese) – a melancholic longing or nostalgia for a person, place or thing that is far away either spatially or in time
• Schadenfreude (German): to take enjoyment from someone else's misfortune
• Shemomechama (Georgian): eating past the point of satiety due to sheer enjoyment.
• Sisu (Finnish): extraordinary determination in the face of adversity
• Sukha (Sanskrit): genuine lasting happiness independent of circumstances
• Tîeow (Thai): to roam around in a carefree way
• Tyvsmake (Norwegian): to taste or eat small pieces of the food when you think nobody is watching, especially when cooking.
• Ubuntu (Nguni Bantu): being kind to others on account of one's common humanity
• Yuan bei (Chinese): a sense of complete and perfect accomplishment
New lingo from Dr Tim Lomas
Image by Evelyn Maria Lorenz