- Over the last few years I’ve hunted down words for emotions I didn’t even know I had. I took them home. I tried to describe and categorize them. Along with exasperating everyone I know with endless questions, one of the effects of this process is that I’ve come to appreciate some of the more peculiar connections between the words we use to talk about feelings, and the emotions we actually feel.
It’s a long-held belief among therapists that learning to name our emotions can ultimately make them less volatile and uncomfortable.
But less spoken about is the other side of this coin: that learning new words for emotions can also bring feelings to life. Discover the definition of a new emotion, and you’ll almost certainly find yourself re-organizing your inner world, seeing vague or amorphous sensations as concrete instances of a recognizable category of experience. It wasn’t until I learnt the Japanese word Amae, which roughly translates as “the pleasure of surrendering to another in perfect safety,” that I started to experience this feeling in my own life on a regular basis—and discovered how nervous it made me feel.