The Book of Human Emotion by Tiffany Watt Smith

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Intellectual Humiliation

Confront your own ignorance.

The Book of Human Emotions by Tiffany Watt Smith

What is an Emotion?

Deep inside each of us is a tear-shaped structure called the amygdala. Neuroscientists call this the “command center” of our rep’s soles, raising the heartbeat, instructing the glands to secret hormones, contracting the limbs, or making an eyelid twitch. It’s the reason why our bodies change. 

The Invention of Emotions

The origin of our modern concept of emotion can be traced to the birth of empirical science in the mid-17th century. Thomas Willis, a London anatomist who dissected hanged criminals, proposed that a surge of joy or nervous tremble was not the work of strange liquids and fumes, but of the delicate lattice of the nervous system at the center of which was a single organ: the Brian. A hundred or so years later, physiologists studying reflex responses in animals went further and claimed that bodies recoiled in fright or twitched in delight because of purely mechanical processes – no immaterial soul substance was necessary at all. 

In the early 19th country, the philosopher Thomas Brown suggest this new way of understanding the body required a new vocabulary and proposed using the word “emotion.” The coinage indicated a novel approach to the life of feelings, one that used experiments and anatomical investigations to focus on observable phenomena: clenched teeth; rolling tears; shudders; wide eyes. 

Charles Darwin, though, was the pioneer of research of emotions, not just on the population and cultures alike, but in what was thought in other cultures. He sent out questionnaires to missionaries and explorers across the globe asking how griped and excitement was expressed by the indigenous people they encountered. He experimented on himself, trying to isolate the muscles when he shuddered or smiled. He even studied his infant son, William, meticulously charting his responses. In 1872 Darwin published his findings in The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals and made the audacious claim that our emotions were not fixed responses, but the result of millions of years of evolutionary processes that were still ongoing. As basic and important as breathing or digestion, as much animal as human, our emotions were there because they had helped us survive – preventing us from investing poisons, as in disgust, or helping us form bonds and cooperate, like love or compassion. By the 1880s, the view that ammonites were inherited reflexes was so established among scientists that the philosopher William James could argue that the bodily responses were the emotion, and the subjective feeling just followed. 

The year after Darwin published his theories on the evolution of emotional expressions, Sigmund Freud began his medical training in Vienna. By the early 1890s, however, Freud had abandoned his career as a neurologist, believing that it wasn’t enough to talk about prolonged sorrow or excessive suspicion in terms only of the brain and body. One had also to consider the far more elusive and complex influence of the mind, or psyche. 



Around 1500 BCE, the Sanskrit Vedas are among the oldest religious writings in existence. Their hymns, incarnations, and rituals form the spiritual basis of Hinduism.

It is impossible to translate into a single English word. The literal meaning of “abbi-man” is “self-pride.” But a clue of its deeper significance lies in the other Sanskrit word whose echoes can be heard in it: Balam “strength.” 

Abhiman evokes the pain and anger caused when someone we love or expect kind treatment from, hurts us. Sorrow and shock are at their roots, but it quickly flourishes into fierce, bruised PRIDE. It is often translated into English as “wounded dignity” or “spiteful retaliation.”

The word comes from the story of “Shasti” (Punishment), the heroine Chandra lives in grinding poverty with her beloved husband, his brother, and his brother’s miserable and complaining wife. When Chandara’s brother-in-law accidentally kills his wife, and the police arrive Chandara’s husband panics. In an attempt to save his brother, he accuses Chandara of the murder. It is not only a betrayal of their love, but Chandara’s position as a wife, and it wounds her deeply. 


Acedia is an emotion that has a real equivalent today. It was a short-lived but disastrous emotional crisis, usually striking between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. in ancient times. 

According to the Desert Father John Cassina, Acedia felt like their mind was gripped by foul darkness. The body was affected too.  It left a sensation of being weighed down, with weak knees, floppy limbs, and a feverish head. 

Under the spell of Acedia, some monks picked fights with their brethren living nearby, or else complains about their choice of vocation, and attempted to set off back to the earthly delights of Alexandria or Constantinople, tempting their friends to join them. 

Today we might be inclined to say Acedia was just a different name for the illness we now know as “depression.” The phenomenon thought, may have had more to do with isolated living in the punishing heat of the desert, and suspecting that a malicious noonday demon was hovering nearby than any “chemical imbalance” in the brain.

In the 6th century, Acedia was dropped from the list of mortal sins. Some of its symptoms were absorbed into the illness melancholia, a forerunner to our states of depression and anxiety. The rest become a moral vice sloth. Though people still spoke of feeling acedia, it came to mean something more like inertia. 


Most of us on occasion feel the urge to crumple into the arms of a loved one to be coddled and comforted. It’s important and reviving, this sensation of temporary surrender in perfect safety. This feeling is a Japanese concept called amae. 

According to the Japanese psychoanalyst Takeo Doi, amae is an “emotion that takes to the other person’s love for granted,” there when we depend on another’s help with no obligation to be grateful in return. For Doi, surrendering to amae is important because it represents a return to the indulgences and unconditional nurturing of infancy. It’s the glue that allows table relationships to flourish, an emblem of the deepest trust.


This is a term used when one is uncomfortable to leave things open to interpretation. 


Seneca considered anger “the most hideous and frenzied of all emotions,” a “brief insanity” during which we are closer to a wild animal than a civilized person. He thought, as had Aristotle before him, that it was caused by feeling demented or insulted – particularly by someone not fit to insult you. 

Anger is an unruly class of emotion. It includes simmering resentment and fits of pique; tantrums cause by exasperation, and sudden flames of rage. It can be frighteningly contained, or else frenzied and physically violent. It can become abusive, running marriages and costing us jobs, yet it also stokes political action and goads us into working harder.


Anticipation is a tiny theft of pleasure. Reckless spending of delights not yet owned. 

Until the 19th century, anticipation was a sum of money spent before it was earned: an early payout on the dowry; and an advance on next week’s wages. Some emotions can be traced back to the weather and others to the landscape. 

“You just wait and see.” 


The stomach lurches and the throat tightens. The eyes twitch and the mind zigzags across endless possibilities. Unlike fear or worry, which usually have a defined cause, anxiety buzzes hungrily around the buffet of life’s problems, alighting on ordinary troubles and turning them into visions of disaster. It makes us fidgety and breathless. It’s easy to recognize its pinched and constricted feeling from the word’s Greek roots: anxiety ones from a (to press tight, to strangle, to be weighted down with grief). 


Unlike boredom, which itches from something to do, apathy is a glorious indolence. For some of us, frankly, it’s the only reasonable response to dejection and stress. 

The school of Stoicism taught that apartheid was essential to a harmonious and just society. From a (without) pathos (passion), the word meant something rather different from the sluggish inertia many of us are all too familiar with today. Stocks believed that for people to act in a just and rational manner, emotions like anger and jealousy should be restrained. Stocks understood emotions as a two-part process. First came “mental jolts”. Next came the emotion of proper, a more potent state. Learning to interrupt one’s feelings at the first involuntary stirrings and consciously deceit to reduce their permission to flourish, was the goal of Stoic practice. 

L’appel Du Vide

People talk of a fear of heights, but in truth anxieties about precipices often have less to do with falling than the horrifying compulsion to jump. 

The French have a new for this unnerving impulse: l’appel du vide, “the call of the void.” Jean-Paul Sartre recognized that l’appel du vide creates an unnerving, shaky sensation of not being able to trust one’s instincts. And the fear that our emotions, with their impish irrational impulses, might be capable of leading us very far astray. 


There is an emptiness after visitors depart. The walls echo. The space that felt so cramped while they were there now seems weirdly large. And though there is often relief, we can also be left with a muffled feeling – as if a fog has descended and everything seems rather pointless. 



Feeling baffled happens when too many options, particularly poorly arranged in a disorderly heap, make it hard to follow, or know which direction we should proceed, leaving us feeling frustrated, angry, even bilious, but most of all exhausted by a surfeit of information that creates a sense of blockage and precipitates a feeling of angst for the random purposelessness of things. 


The sudden urge to kiss someone.


Nebuchaotic sensation experienced around obscured words and incomplete lists. 


Boredom is the most contrary of emotions. It’s a combination of feeling trapped, inert and disinterested: there is a vague sense of wanting something to change, but we really can’t say what.


You know it’s not a good idea, and likely to backfire. But you can’t resist wondering what would happen if…

Brabant: “very much inclined to see how far you can push someone.”


Of a woman, feeling a maternal desire to have another baby. 



Feeling free is blissful and audacious. Other people and their requirements suddenly matter very little. Obligations float away. There’s a sensation of lightness, of daring. The change of adventure. 

Cheesed Off

To get “cheesed off” was to become disgruntled while hanging around the aero dome, waiting for a mission. Originally, this irritable feeling was described as being “browned off,” the pilots comparing themselves to cursing engines. The expression “cheesed off” can be traced back to the 19th century, but quite why it became so popular among airmen remains a mystery. Some say it’s because cheese turns brown under a grill. Others, because the cheese on toast was obsessively eating while waiting, and the men were quite literally, fed up with it. 


Like many of the names we are now given ur most urgent terrors, claustrophobia was coined by doctors in the 19th century – amid a rash of newspaper reports of premature burials. The new illness was described as a dread of enclosed spaces: closets, small rooms, elevators, and caves. The clothes tighten at the neck. Sweat prices the palms. The risk of suffocation feels so real that there is an overwhelming urge to bolt, but you can’t Fredi the trapped feeling further. 

Collywobbles, The

Bloated, and gassy, gurgling and sizzling. It’s the stomach as well as the heart that plays goats to many of our emotions. When we speak of a loss being gut-wrenching, or far knotting the stomach, these aren’t just metaphors – there’s a long medical tradition linking our bellies and our minds. 

The collywobbles (from colic and wobble) is a feeling of anxiety and unease in the pit of the stomach, giving an oily, lurching sensation. In contrast to the prettier “butterflies,” the collywobbles are glutinous and quiver most vio Nelly in the sleepless hours, as we anticipate tomorrow’s deadline or the conversation we must have with our mother, and everything around us starts to float. 


Most people are capable of sensing that another person is suffering. The urge to alleviate that pain can be felt as a gut response – even if over the years we have become jaded by betrayals or exhausted by other people’s demands. We may see a homeless person asking for spare change, but feel unsure whether giving money is the right way to help. 


The benefit that all our sexual desires should be met by a single reason is a relatively new western culture. It’s the product of an 11th country trope of courtly love celebrated as an almost spiritual commitment to one, idealized beloved, and does not always reflect the complexity of our attractions. The Kerista community practiced polygamy, its members were encouraged to pursue multiple sexual partners at once. Some of these relationships were brief, some longer lasting, but nonexclusive. Exhaling that they did not struggle with jealousy, Christians coined the word “compersion” to describe how they felt instead. A sign of compassion, Compersion described a vicarious tingly, excited sensation felt on discovering a loved one was attracted to or sleeping with, someone else. 

In Britain, the same feeling is more commonly known as the fribbles. 


Confidence has always dazzled me. We might feel a stab of envy around those who glide effortlessly into the party, shake hands, and charm all the important people. But as much as other people’s lack of self-doubt shimmers with mystery – and perhaps mild suspicion – our confident feelings are yet more elusive, lost as quickly as they are found. From the Latin con (with) fire (faith), the world’s earliest uses were associated with the feeling of trust in divine support: a sign in the sky or vision in a dream lent boldness to your endeavors, the blessed expectation that everything will turn tu in your favor. 


Whether smirking and sneering, peering down our noses, or turning away in cold indifference, being filled with contempt is an aristocratic emotion. It inflates us with a sense of superiority, curled at the edges with derision or disgust. Even at its mildest, contempt condescends with amused detachment. 


Contentment is an unreliable emotion. It sneaks off, leaving us battling the tugging dissatisfaction and covetous itches alone. And when it leaves us, the possibility of accepting what we have – and who we are – seems entirely improbable. But then back it crees in the silent flush of early morning, or the pub, or eating fries on the per, and we briefly notice that life, truly is, perfectly enough, just as it is. 


Love and bravery. These are the emotions we build monuments to. The entwined marble lovers in a fountain might raise a sad smile. Monuments to bravery, by contrast, are intended to inspire. Of course, they mostly depict important men on horses. 

The word “courage” first entered the English language via the Old French orange, from the Latin for (heart), and originally referred to the heart itself, understood at that time to be the seat of all feelings and the source of one’s innermost desires and intentions. 


It’s the itch to find out more. The temptation to glance at an open diary, or strain to decipher the hisses of an argument behind you on the bus. It’s the restless desires that made Leonardo da Vinci fill his notebooks: what makes birds fly? How does the heartbeat? Without curiosity, it’s hard to imagine creativity or invention at all. 


Anxiety about “symptoms” of an illness fueled by internet “research.” 



Delight is close to rapture. The hands clap, the eyes sparkle, and the lips tingle into a smile. For the 18th-century English philosopher John Locke, delight was one of the four essential feelings out of which the complexities of all human emotions flourished (the others were pleasure, pain, and uneasiness). 

Delight comes from the Latin delectable (to acquire, to charm, to entice away), and Locke described it as a kind of shimmering seduction. It was that intangible thing that caused a person to say they “love” something. 


In France, the feeling of being an outsider is known as debasement (literally: deco nitrification). Sometimes it is frustrating, leaving us feeling unsettled and out of place. And then, just sometimes, it swirls us up into a kind of giddiness, only ever felt when far away from home. When the unlikeliest of adventures seem possible. And the world becomes new again. 


It beings with a tingle. A fleeting fantasy of revenge. A going of attraction. We shake it off, but it sneaks up again. It can feel dangerous, and alluring. Frustrating too – since without an obstacle, desire is merely a temporary state quickly dissolving into sanity. But the forbidden, the denied, glistening just out of reach? The history of our desires is the story of how we lose ourselves to them. 

Part of what makes desires so hard to tolerate is the frustration and disappointment that so often comes with them. But perhaps, more hidden is its shame: the way longing for someone exposes us, forcing us to admit we lack something that we don’t areas have and can’t easily obtain. 


The sensation that your life no longer fits you drifts in so slowly you hardly notice it coming. The clothes that seem to belong to someone else. The job that once seemed satisfying, but is now to be endured. What might be alienation or a sense of purposelessness can quickly dissolve into the shame of the most claustrophobic kind. You imagine your family’s contempt and disappointment. You see looks of pity and disgust in the eyes of strangers. Once it gets going properly, despair, from the Latin de (without) sperare (to hope), crashes in your ears. You are unable to bear yourself any longer but unable to abandon yourself either. Despair is a gnawing sensation, a torturous vacillation. 


Disappointment meanest to be “deprived of an appointment”, to be “dispossessed.” It’s there when the beliefs and trapping we’ve arranged about us like a well-appointed house are suddenly upturned. Or some anticipate a rise in status, or a hoped-for-new identity is snatched away. Disappointment may be overwhelmingly a feeling of loss or defeat, but there are other feelings there too that give disappointment its slightly restless, tremulous edge. 

Disappointment, then, does not only leave traces of sadness. Bewilderment is felt too, raising the exhausting prospect that life must, once again, be reshaped. 


Gruntled is the little snorts that pigs make while flicking flies from their snout. In the wild, boars gruntle to warn rivals to stay away. Amid the comforts of the farm, however, pigs don’t gruntle out of threat so much as from habitual dissatisfaction, and it’s this that gives the idea that grunting is rather petty and pointless. 


The sense that something is “out of place” might be more important to provoking feelings of disgust that the objectively dangerous. We’re all familiar with those odd little glitches, where the stomach heaves in response to some object we know can’t hurt us. The hair in the mouth, or the skin on a mug of hot milk, or the soup clinging to a man’s beard that might make us bilious. So much that we find disgusting is connected to the accidentally wrongly placed.

Disgust will not be quietly reduced down to a single emotional atom, a basic emotion alert and ready to leap off our protection. What we speak of as “disgust” describes so many different kinds of responses – the vomit-out feeling of opening the fridge and seeing rotten meant, the skin-crawling sensation that makes you not want to pick up someone’s snotty hankie, the feeling of nauseated horror on seeing a person’s skin flapping open, even a feeling of moral queasiness.


Dismay is a feeling of horror and paralysis. Like wonder or bewilderment, it flattens us; like shock, it might make us cover our eyes. The word originally derives from the Latin exam are (to have one’s abilities or courage snatched away), but came into English via the Old French despair. It’s from the root that dismay picked up its strange association with fainting: while the gnosis word descended from despair came to describe a feeling, in other European languages despair morphed into words of falling unconscious.     

Dolce Far Niente

The pleasure of doing nothing. 


Unlike fear or pain, which is usually triggered by an immediate threat, dread is a cold unease felt in the approaching shadows of menace about which we can do little. In its earliest uses, dread described a feeling of being rendered speechless and prostate in the presence of god’s awesome power. 



Ecstasy paralyzes us with quivering pleasure. It blooms in the throat, reducing sentences to strangulated cries. From the Greek ekstasis (standing outside oneself), ecstasy involves a strange paradox; those moments when we become most connected to our body through dancing, singing, or sex are also when we go beyond it, experiencing a rush of boundlessness. Ecstasy feels as if the world has billowed open. As if we have, momentarily, been set free. 


Adopted in the 1750s, from the old French embarrassed (to impede or hinder), embarrassment described feeling constrained, even crippled, following some breach of etiquette that made the conversation splutter. (The connection between embarrassment and constraint or blockage also explains the phrase “an embarrassment of riches.” It comes from the French embarrass de rich ones, which refers to feeling hindered by too much choice.) This new category was free of the moral dimension of the older catchall shame. While shame came to be associated with the elongated miseries of self-flagellation in private, embarrassment captures social humiliations, emphasizing instead minor or fleeting transgressions before an audience.  


It’s a feeling of emotional resonance between people rather than between people and objects, and is much celebrated as a “universal solvent”. The ability to intuit the distress of another, or to feel a faint echo of their excitement, and therefore respond in ways that bring the other person closers, rather than alienate them, is an overt requirement of certain professions – nursing, sales, and teaching, to name a few. 


Jealousy, which is above all a fear of losing a loved one to another, is often credited with some romantic appeal. The same cannot be said for envy. Envy is a desire to have the material possession and advantages of others. It’s the sickness that comes from hearing another’s happy sigh, the ache of contemplating their success. Left to fester, it turns to hatred and maliciousness, laying waste to both enviar and envied. 

With its roots in the Latin invidus (envious), from in (upon) vedere (to see), envy has long been associated with gazing and looking. But the etymology also reminds us that those things we envy seduce us with their seemingly faultless image. Most of us, at one time or another, fall into the trap of comparing our imperfect insides with the idealized outsides of other people’s lives. This is when envy strikes, multiplying with unfamiliarity and distance. It is the opposite of gratitude, which gives rise to contentment. 


It’s intoxicating and infectious. It swells the heart and whirls us round and round. It’s there in the breathless early weeks of a love affair, in the exhilarating highs of a strange city at night. Everything feels alight and connected, the world glows, and even smells and colors seem more intense. But sometimes, there’s an undertow of a gander. Of artifice. “What goes up must come down.” 

When the word “euphoria”, or “euphory,” first entered the English language in the 17th century, it described a fairly ordinary feeling of physical and emotional contentment. From the Greek eu (well) pherein (to bear), the word meant “well-bearing,” the predecessor of today’s ubiquitous “well-being.” 


When the word “excitement” first appeared in English in the 18th medical books, it didn’t mean quite what it does today. It was a condition of the “viral spirits,” which when agitated “excited” would whiz around the body, sending messages to the brain and moving the limbs. Like many of the feelings we take for granted today, excitement first became understood as an emotion in the mid-19th century. Charles Darwin spoke of excitement primarily as the pleasure of bright eyes, rapid circulation, and whirlwind ideas. His favorite definition of emotion was given to him by a child: “good spirits,” the child informed the scientist was “laughing, talking and kissing.” One of Darwin’s contemporaries, psychologist Alexander Bain added to this that excitement was an “emotion of action,” there with the thrill of hunting and fighting. It gave the feeling of momentum – like that invincibility and speed. Excitement, Bain concluded, could be full of either joy or fear. 



Fago is a unique emotional concept that blurs compassion, sadness, and loves together. It is the pity felt for someone in need, which compiles us to care for them, but it is also haunted by a strong sense that one day we will lose them. Fago comes in those moments when our love for others, and their need for us, feel so unexpectedly overwhelming – a life so very fragile and temporary – that we well up. 


Fear has come to be seen as the most primal, the most fundamental of human emotions. We imagine our ancestors huddle in caves while the thunder rolls above them, or frozen rigid on the spot, hearts hammering against ribs, as a beast links past. 

Most of the other animals who live on this planet share this involuntary response to threats. Such reactions evolved to preserve the life of our species. The eyes widen and hearing sharpens, the heart beats rapidly and breathing becomes shallow or held in. We try to hide or flee. Or else, riding a surge of adrenaline, we turned and fight. Under threat, our bodies grab the controls and put us on automatic pilot. 

Feeling Good (about yourself) 

Feeling good about yourself was a question of reconciling yourself to your inadequacy.

The beliefs about our future achievements (pretensions) should more or less match up with what, based on cold assessment, we are capable of doing (success). If the expectations we have of ourselves outweigh our abilities, then we condemn ourselves to a lifetime of inadequacy and dissatisfaction. .however, this did not mean that one should strive for anything ever again: work harder to achieve a greater competency (or success), and you can set your sights on bigger and better goals. 

Formal Feeling, A

Sometimes life’s most painful experiences can leave us eerily cold and a little mechanical. The poet Emily Dickinson described it as a “formal feeling”; the heart seems stiff and detached, our feelings wary and ceremonious. 

Fraud, Feeling like a 

Are you faking your way through life? Have you fooled your boss into thinking you’re more talented than you are? Do you worry about being found out? 

In the 1970s two psychologists, Pauline Chance and Suzanne Imes, investigating this tortuous experience called it the Imposter Phenomenon. They found it was particularly common among successful professional women, many of whom believed their achievements had been restful of accident or oversight. 

Feeling like a fraud is undoubtedly an unpleasant experience, with its creeping sense that your hard-won gains are fragile and your achievements might, at any moment, be snatched away. 





It’s not a surprise that so many of northern Europe’s languages have a particular word for feeling cozy. It’s when the rain is mizzling and the damp rises from the canals that we year for the feeling the Dutch call gezelligheid. Derived from the word for “friend,” gezelligheid describes both physical circumstances – being snug in a warm and homely place surrounded by good friends and an emotional state of feeling “held” and comforted. The Danish hygge, the German Gemutlichkeit, which describes feelings of congeniality and companionship, and the Finnish kodaks (roughly: homely) have similar connotations. 


An unexpected bit of good news can change the emoticon weather. A friend with a new baby; a neighbor were discharged from the hospital. When good things happen to people we’re fond of, a little glance of sunshine is sent in our direction too, making everything just that little bit brighter. 

It was not always this way. From the old Norse gladr (bright or smooth), the earliest use of glad described the appearance of glittering, shining things. This meaning still Ingres in the expression “glad rags,” or “glad eye” – the twinkle that attracts a lover. In the 14th century gladsum, or gladsomeness, began to be used to describe a brightening of the soul too, a sparky, bouncing feeling, which today we might be more likely to call joy. 


Glee was never been entirely innocent. When the Norsemen arrived in England, bringing their language with them, gly, or glow, or glew meant “sport” and “mockery.” A gley was also the word for a song, loud and drunken, and Chamber-glew was shorthand for lewd behavior. To be motivated by Goldie and glie was frowned upon: it meant living in search of cash and wanton pleasure. In the 17th century “glee” shed some of this raucousness when it was co-opted by choir masters to describe a very precise kind of unaccompanied contrapuntal singing, a rather more staid version of the style now favored by American high school glee clubs. But today glee retains its dastardly edge. 


One of the things that seem most to appeal about gratitude is the way it short-circuits those feelings of inadequacy and desire, which drive consumerism. Not only is consciously “counting one’s blessing” free to do, but it also makes us happy with what we’ve already got. 

Greng Jai

In Thailand, greng jai (sometimes transliterated as kreng jai) is the feeling of being reluctant ant to accept another’s offer of help because of the bother it would cause them. 


Of all the emotions, the confusion and pain of grief are so personal, so unfathomable, that to speak of “it” is wrongheaded. Grief is the deep pain of losing a loved one. 


It should be a simple transaction: we transgress the rules and are left clammy with shame, fretting about our punishment and experiencing the claustrophobia that comes with a vision of reproachful looks and veiled criticisms. This is an intolerable experience, so we rush to repair the damage. If we are lucky, our attempts to atone are accepted and the guild fades (or we might even experience the head rush of absolution). Compensation is at the heart of the matter. From the old English gylt, usually traced back to the German, geld (to pay), guild demands we repay our debts. 



According to the novelist Park Kyung-ni, emotion is deep within the Korean psyche. Attributing it to the country’s long history of being colonized, she characterizes it as a collective acceptance of suffering combined with a quiet yearning for things to be different – and even a grim determination to wait until they are. It means sadness and hope at the same time. 


From the old Scandinavian root happ (chance, luck, or success), before the 18th century, the word “happiness” most often describes feeling that god’s grace was shining upon you. Though it described a state of pleasure and conté en, it was connected more with good fortune than engineering: happiness was here when things went your way – a happy fit, a happy coincidence, happenstance. 


We might, when we get indignant or exasperated in day-to-day life, say that we hate something or someone. We might speak of the line between love and hate being paper thin. Or the frustration that dries the “I hate yous” hurled in rage by teenagers at their parents. But in the last 20 years, the meaning of the word hate has also narrowed, describing a prejudiced attitude that can be objectifiable quantified, and even argued over in court. Hate has become a state of mind – part emotion, part attitude – for which it is now possible to be held legally accountable. 

Heebie-Jeebies, The

Like the jitters or the willies, the Henie-jeebies is a feeling of ghoulish apprehension. 


The welsh word hiraeth describes a deeply felt connection to one’s homeland and casts its wood and hills in an almost magical glow. But health is not a feeling of coziness or comfort. It is rather a yearning feeling, flecked with suspense as if something is about to be lost and never recovered. Today, health is most commonly associated with emigres, experienced most sharply on returning home – and knowing the time to leave again will come all too soon. 

Hoard, the urge to

If human relationships can be difficult and demanding, objects can be intensely reassuring. From old vinyl to pairs of shoes, gathering treasures around us can bolster our sense of self in an unpredictable world, giving a feeling of permanence, even achievement, and communicating who we want to be to the world. Jealousy and possessiveness can be part of the picture too, as when we covet a brand of sunglasses for status or delight in hoarding trinkets so our rials can’t have them. 


The feeling of homefulness is at the end of less radius travels: it’s there when we step off the airplane after a holiday or turn into our road with shopping bags bulging. It spreads through us with its combination of relief, belonging, and the satisfaction of a long journey’s end. But we all know that home has got less to do with a place than with the people there. 


There is a long history of military men pining for home. Odysseus, the hero of the Trojan War, sits each day on the shore of Calypso’s idyllic island where he has been trapped for seven years. The hero stares out into the wine-dark sea, great having tears staining his cheeks. 


Its flickering promise of a happier ending, hope provides a glimpse of relief in a desperate situation. It can, much later and in retrospect, leave us feeling cheated and let down. We speak of our hopes being “dashed” or “destroyed.” Sometimes we even lay the blame on our shoulders as if our foolishness, and not chance, caused the pain. In truth, hope is always a leap into the unknown. It’s there when expectations fade, when we have reached the end of all we can practically do, and are left quietly willing, perhaps praying for the best to happen – but knowing, too, that the worst might instead. To feel hope is to acknowledge how little control we have. It makes us vulnerable and strengthens us at the same time. 

Huff, in a

Since the mid-18th century, feeling hurt or huffed – and later being “in a huff” – was to be swept up into a windy swell of petulance as a result of a real or imagined insult. Feeling puffed up with pride and anger was an important part of it. 


For the most part, humiliation is something unwelcome, something punishing rather than actively sought out. Like embarrassment, humiliation happens before an audience; like shame, it makes us want to shrink from sight. But crucial to humiliation is its claustrophobia, its sense of being trapped in a diminished position. It’s there when we are the object of another’s contempt. So when we speak of a feeling of degradation – and often the start of a cycle of dangerous retaliation. 


The word for a boat sail, hywl is a wonderfully onomatopoeic welsh word that means exuberance or excitement, as if clipping along a gust of wind. Used to describe flashes of inspiration, a singer’s gusto, or raised spirits at parties, hwyl is also the word for goodbye.



The sensation of being touched or moved on and seeing the little guy overcome an obstacle or do something praiseworthy has a name in Japanese: ijirashii. It’s the feeling we might get watching an athlete, against all the odds, cross the finishing line, or hearing of a homeless person handing in a lost wallet. In some cultures, its combination of pathos and vicarious pride might be dismissed as sentimentality. In Japan, however, this feeling is celebrated, considered the appropriate response to witnessing the immense fortitude of those who at first seemed weak and vulnerable. 


When visitors are due to arrive, a fidgety feeling sprouts up. We might keep glancing out of the window. Or pause mid-sentence, thinking we’ve heard the sound of a car. Among the Inuit, this antsy anticipation, causing them to scan the frozen arctic plains for approaching sleds, is called iktsuarpok. 


There’s a peculiar exhilaration in the idea of picking up a ponies of loose papers, opening the window, and fling in them all out. Or intentionally smashing a delicate china cup. Or standing on a kitchen chair and tipping out a bag of marbles so they crash, bounce and roll across the floor. According to the 20th-century French sociologist Roger Caillois, the “strange excitement” of wanting destruction was one way of experiencing the feeling of being named an ilinx (from the Greek word whirlpool). He defined ilinx as a “voluptuous pain,” a sensation of spinning, falling and losing control – the sort of feeling that riding a roller coaster might produce. 


Impatience is the “failure to bar suffering”. It’s being unable to wait for gratification in this instant-hit world of ours. 


One might expect a history of indignation to be a tale of people rising against oppression. Not so. In fact, in the earliest discussion of this emotion, indignation was more commonly felt by the elite busily protecting their advantage. Aristotle thought indignation was mostly strongly roused when people below us in the social pecking order broke the rules. Thus the odds were most susceptible, their indignation fanned each time a mortal tried to seek out divine secrets or gain supernatural powers. For Aristotle, then, indignation was the outrage felt when someone else receives an honor they haven’t properly earned or wheedles an unfair advantage, toppling us in the process. 

In the 17th century, the political philosopher Thomas Hobbes offered a slightly different definition of indignation, as the “anger for great hurt done to another” cause not by accident but by intentional “injury.” Indignation was mostly felt when others showed contempt for justice, and in particular when the relatives or favorites of those in authority disregarded the rules. 


The urge to settle permanently in one place can be felt as a quiet hum. Even wanting to stay in a job can bring some often much-needed reassurance and stability t our lives – even if we gift worry we’re being a bit unambitious. According to the phrenologies, a group of early-Victorian scientists who thought they could detect personality traits by examining a person’s skull, the urge to find a groove and stay in it was innate. They called it “inhabitiveness” and defined it as a “love of continuity, of endurance, of sameness, of permanency of occupation.” 


Irritation is a state of friction. Being rubbed the wrong way can be a cutaneous or emotional experience, but neither language nor experience distinguishes between the two. The rash that chafes against a shirt collar might create feelings of agitation and claustrophobia. The irritation that starts with frustrated and locked desires leaves one uncomfortable in one’s skin and unable to bear the touch of another. When we are irritated any kind of constant intimacy seems too much, too bristling. Even the solicitous glance of a loved one may make us recoil. 



Jealousy is the suspicion of a rival, a dread of being supplanted. In contrast to envy, which is defined as wanting a thing one does not have, jealousy involves the fear of losing a person or their affection for someone else. It is triangular: me (the victim) you (the traitor) and the other (the thief). Such treacheries are all the more painful for the feeling of having been discarded. It is this threat that makes jealousy so inflammatory – and intimacy such a risk. 


From the old French joie (a jewel), this is an emotion that dazzles us into submission. It feels as Katherine Mansfield put it, “as though, you’d suddenly swallowed a bright piece of that late afternoon sun and it burned in your bosom, sending out a little shower of sparks into every particle into every finger and toe.” 

Baruch Spinoza, a 17th-century philosopher, defined “Joy as pleasure accompanied by the idea that something past, which has had an issue beyond our hope.”



Sometimes we feel homesick for a place, even though we’ve never been there. Sometimes we just want to be anywhere but here. From kauko – faraway, and kaipuu – a yearning, the Finns know the craving for a distant land as kaukokaipuu. 



The American anthropologist Michelle Ronaldo first brought light to the attention of Western readers in the 1980s. More used to thinking about anger as a negative emotion, Ronaldo was struck by liget’s sense of optimism and vitality. Liget is certainly capable of stirring up pointless arguments and violent outbursts. But more usually it excites and motivates – makes people plant more seeds than their neighbors or stay out of hunting for longer. 


Litost is a Czech emotion that is notoriously hard to translate, though according to the Czech author Milan Kundera it’s hard to imagine “how anyone can understand the human soul without it.” It describes the whorl of shame, resentment, and fury that lifts us off our feet when we realize another has made us feel wretched. Unlike the lingering hatred of grudges or the ingratiate of sorrow, Litost is active.  

What makes Litost’s vengefulness even more distinctive is that it is often perversely self-destructive. Sometimes getting even is easy: if we’re demeaned by someone weaker than us, a cutting remark might be enough to restore our wounded pride. When we’re hurt by those wielding power over us, however, revenge must take circuitous routes. 


There is a long tradition of suspicion toward those who choose to be alone. “Solitude produces ignorance, renders us barbarous, feeds revenge, disposes us to envy, creates witches, dispeople the world,” wrote John Evelyn in 1667, parodying his culture’s excessive fear of the intentionally solitary. 

Today we might speak of loneliness as a feeling of dejection and disconnection, something we should avoid. 

In the middle of the 19th century, however, the meaning of the word “loneliness” shifted from a description of physical isolation, to depict a painful emotion. Characters in Victoria novels, uprooted from family and friends and forced to seek their fortunes in grimy, overpopulated cities, began to talk of their dejection. It was the first time people described themselves as “being lonely” while still being surrounded by other people. 

But there is another kind of loneliness that neither romantics nor neuroscientists talk about. It is the dark, cramped feeling of not being understood that can strike even amid a busy family life. In Japan, hikikomori (withdrawn) is a condition afflicting mainly adolescent, middle-class males. The psychiatrist Tamaki Saito, who coined the term, believes around seven hundred thousand men in japan suffer from it. The precise causes are not quite understood, but feeling alienated from your family’s values or the career path they have planned for you seemed to trigger a desire for sufferers to isolate themselves entirely, cutting off all contact with family and friends and refusing to leave their rooms, sometimes for several years. 


This elusive emotion is so important that it grabs all the attention, and is so slippery that no single attempt successfully pins it down. Even at the end of a life lived happily together, it’s hard to say what precisely love is. 



However accomplished, funny, loved, or successful we may be, most of us feel flustered in the presence of someone we hold in high esteem. The brain fogs over. Sentences come out scrambled. We may feel the overwhelming urge to run away. In English, there is no precise word to describe this extricating feeling (humiliation and shyness are too broad; starstruck is closer, but still not quite right). Among the people of Dusun Baguio in Indonesia, it’s called malu.

Malu is all too recognizable: the sudden experience of feeling constricted, inferior, and awkward around people of higher status than us. 


Start a new career. Move to a different city. Become a writer or learn to play the violin. It’s often hard to explain why we might want to do something like this, only that we experience a profound calling, a feeling that we must. In Hindi, this deepest level of wanting is called man. Like the hunger felt before you know what you want to eat, man is slain there waiting to form itself into a desire – and when it does, it brings a strange clarity. 


The alarm clock trills, the dawn slips in through the curtains, and we wake up overcome with misery and a bad temper.

It’s not “getting out of bed on the wrong side.” It’s the much more important-sounding matutolypea. Its meaning comes from the Combia of the name of the Roman goddess of the dawn, Matter Mattuta, and the Greek word for dejection, type, to give us the dignity of “morning sorrow.” 


Western psychologists have argued that fear is a universal emotion and that it boils down to a single response shared by all people across the globe. Tahitians, however, distinguish between two varieties of fear, each with its physical response. The first is ordinary, heart-thumping, stomach-lurching fear for your life., which is called ri’ari’a. The second is the uncanny sensation experienced in the presence of spirits, ghosts, and other dangerous supernatural phenomena. They called this feeling mehameha. 

Miffed, a bit

To feel a bit miffed is to be a little put out, somewhat offended. It happens when we temporarily lose our place in the pecking order – as when we are expecting a nice present and find we’ve been palmed off with a hand-me-down, or when some teasing goes awry and we are left feeling insulted, or a conversation turns contentious and indignation ends. Miffed, a bit, feels serious, albeit temporarily: but to an outsider, the miffed, lips pursed, and expression haughty, just looks a bit silly. 

Mono No Aware

Mo no aware is translated as the pathos (aware) of things (mono) and is often described as a kind of sign of the impermanence of life. This is feeling awash with many shades: the sorrow and serenity that come with recognizing the inevitability of change; the anticipatory grief of losses to come; and the piquancy added to pleasures by the knowledge that they must end. 


The sight of another’s smile is not always simple. We may walk around their gorgeous new house, or hear about that perfect afternoon spent with the grandchildren at the zero, and sense our hearts lifting to meet theirs, echoing with their joy. 

For Gautama Buddha, joy was not a scarce resource to be competed over, or parceled out to only a lucky few. He saw it as boundless. For him, the word mudita captured an experience of joy, rather than envy and resentment, on hearing of someone else’s good fortune. 



Excessive parental pride might be a worn trope in Jewish humor. But really, everyone recognizes the delight and satisfaction felt at a child’s accomplishments. Seeing a child achieve something – anything – can make the heart feel like it’s about to burst with joy. 

In Yiddish, there’s a special word for this feeling: makes. It makes parents kvell (crow with delight) over even the littlest achievements of their squirming offspring, being in the generations together in a shared feeling of success. 


In the west, in the last ten years, we have named many types of anger. For the Pintupi, whose homeland is the deserts of Western Australia, there are fifteen different kinds of far. Among them, ngulu is the dread you feel when you believe another person is seeking revenge; kamarrarringu the tense, frozen feeling when you sense someone is creeping up behind you; kanarunvtju a terror about bad spirits visiting it the night, so pervasive that it stops you sleeping, and nginyiwarrarringu is a sudden spasm of alarm that makes people leap of their feet and look about, trying to see what caused it. 


A song might instantly transport you back to an old love affair. Perhaps looking through photographs brings not just wonder but also sorrow for the lost connection and faded hopes. The pleasures of reminiscing are both warm and melancholic, and often called bittersweet. 

In the early 19th century the meaning of nostalgia began to drift, connected not so much with sticking for home but with a yearning for things past. Today, nostalgic reveries are wistful but rapturous travels in time, to smells and songs, and images that send us spinning down rabbit holes into our former lives. 



In Japan, where the pleasure of being cared for by others is celebrated, there is also the word oime. It roughly translates as: the intense discomfort of being indebted. 



The word “panic” has its origins in Greek mythology, describing a sudden, inexplicable terror felt by travels in wild, uninhabited places. Only later did they realize they had stumbled across the feral half-man half-goat deity, Pan, disguised as a tree or a rock. Pan was the overlord of clamorous rites, and those who followed his cult celebrated him with ecstatic parties. Panic, therefore, became linked with a hard-to-explain feeling of dread, and the sensation of being taken over by the force of a dangerous, collective irrationality. 


The word paranoia first came into medical literature in the 5th century BCE, when the Greek physician Hippocrates noted that patients suffering from fever often became delirious. He uses the word – from the Greek para (beside) nous (the mind) –  to describe their outburst. In the mid-18th century, as the old diagnosis of melancholia faded away, doctors revived paranoia to describe the misperceptions and hallucinations of an “alienated mind.” It wasn’t until the late 19th century that paranoia took on its modern meaning, which linked it too frequently to ingenious persecutory fantasies. 


It’s senseless. To ignore our bank statements, let the dishes fester, or go out drinking when a deadline looms. We know we’re the only ones who’ll suffer for it. Yet, in that moment of perverse triumph, it’s hard to miss the swagger in our step. 

Peur Des Escapes

The late 19th century was the era of phobia. Each week, the psychologists seemed to diagnose a new form. By 1914 the list numbered over a hundred, from the entirely understandable thanatophobia (fear of death) to the downright peculiar triskaidekaphobia (fear of number 13). Being struck with a terror of public spaces was the most well-known of them all. In late 1870, the French psychologist Henri Legrand du Saulle diagnosed his patient Madame B’s concitó as peur des escapes: fear brought on by one public space.   

Pique, a fit of 

A sharp anger caused by a wound to one’s pride, leading swiftly to a dignified response such as threatening to resign or stomping off the playing field. 


While compassion entails the willingness to become involved in another’s suffering, pity is more of a spectator sport. For the Greeks, pity implied an asymmetry of power: those who pitied also could release or pardon, to offer charity. The philosopher Aristotle also thought pity rather enjoyable, its tears giving a pleasant feeling of being cleansed and drained.

Postal, Going

In the shadow of a series of deadly mass shootings by disgruntled postal workers in the 1980s, the expression “going postal” began to be used across America to describe a fit of workplace rage. 


For most of us, pride must come and go in waves. It’s a feeling of fullness, of form and outline, that surges up when we overcome an obstacle or master something difficult. Pride can fill up so much that we burst, and tears follow, as when we are recognized with an award, or see our children flourish. 


A strange, creeping feeling that everyone’s out to help you.



A fit of rage is wild and twisted. The eyes bulge, and the limbs flail. We pit and shout. We cannot hide it in the way we conceal jealousies or nurse resentment. We fly into rages. Boil it over. It comes in paroxysms and Burt’s. Anger can be justified, and indignation righteous, but rage is an irrational frenzy. 

The last twenty years have witnessed a proliferation of types of rage. There are violent clashes on the roads (road rage) and tantrums in planes (air rage). Spluttering, swearing frenzies erupt in supermarket aisles (shopping rage) and even while opening groceries (wrap rage). They may have jokey nicknames (postal), but the fact we’ve bothered to identify these many different fits of rage at all suggests our relationship with our uncontrollable fury is not straightforward. We don’t make similar efforts to differentiate types of homesickness, for instance, or doubt. Our capacity for flying off the handle fascinates and terrifies, all at once. 


The way it paints an aura of possibility around what has been broken – even seeming to mend it momentarily with “what ifs.” It takes us on a journey through fantasies of alternative outcomes (“If only I had phoned her back”; “If only I had saved the money”). It tantalizes us with the possibility of reversing our decisions or preventing our accidents. It’s for this reason that, though regret is rarely a comfortable state of mind, it also contains a flicker of pleasure and a strange, if temporary sort of relief. 

The regret of the past was not the same as our own. From the old French regrets (sorrows or disappointments), the word seems to have first entered the English language in the 1400s and described grief felt at the loss of a person or one place in the world. 

Today, regret remains firmly entrenched as a private emotional experience. Yet look closely and its earlier links with loss still linger. As psychologist Alice Haddon suggests, the regrets we feel most sorely are often the ones that jar hardest with our sense of self. 


When we speak of a feeling of relief, we’re often describing one of two different experiences. On if the relief of a pure bodily sensation, discharges a tension that has uncomfortably built up. Sneezing, belching, delectation, and organs are all examples. The other, the relief felt at near misses and narrow escapes, that comes with another sort of whistling discharge: “Phew!” Examples of this are finding your keys after thinking you’ve locked yourself out, or an all-clear from the doctor after a worried week. This second type of relief is part of a group of feelings psychologists call “prospect-based emotions.”


The realization that we have hurt another person is one of the most painful we can experience. Remorse arrives when the initial flare of anger clams, when the reality of what we’ve said or done clumps in the throat. Unlike the whirring and suffocation of regret, remorse is urgent and wild. Full of terror, flecked with love, it’s a desire to preserve or bond with the person we’ve hurt. 


It’s the consequences of our won agreeableness, anger stuck in a loop. It’s the hatred we suppress when forbidden to give voice to the ways we are hurt or humiliated or frustrated, a wound caused by our dependency. In time, our hidden anger becomes compacted, sinking into the darkest places of the soul, till it glimmers in little acts of spite and pique, goading, competing, punishing. 


According to the psychologist David Laramie, who coined the term, ringxiety is a feeling of low-level anxiety abusing us to thinking we’ve heard our phones ring, even when they haven’t. 


Feeling irresistibly drawn to crumbling buildings and abandoned places.



From its earliest incarnations, sadness – from the old English saed (sated), and with overtones of the Latin satis (satisfied) – has been associated with having had one’s fill. 


From the Latin satis (enough) faceted (to do), satisface not originally meant the payment of a debt or fulfillment of an obligation. In particular, it meant the appropriate amount of penance required to balance out a sin. 


It is thought that the Portuguese first learned to speak of an emotion saudade in the 15th century during the age of discovery. Ships set sail from the port of Lisbon on their way to Africa and South America. Those left behind lived out their days scanning the horizon, longing for the return of their loved ones. 

Saudade: a melancholic yearning for someone, or something, that is far away or lost. It’s always there, pulsing Bello the surface with its hopefulness tinged with grief. There is a vague yearning, yet it is interlaid with resignation and the pleasure of remembering past joys. 


The unexpected thrill we feel at another’s misfortune is a deliciously clandestine human pleasure. 

Admitting that they too could occasionally feel a stab of pleasure on the hearing of other people’s suffering, the Greeks called it epichairekakia (literally, rejoicing over evil), and the Romans, malevolencia, giving our word “malevolence.” Today, schadenfreude – from the German schaden (harm) and fraud (pleasure) – is most widely used. It refers to an illicit enjoyment of another’s bad luck, as opposed to the more forthright scorn or gloating. 


The philosopher Max Scheler wrote that self-pity demands an imaginative tour de force: we must stand outside ourselves in a fantastic doubling. The person who feels sorry for himself “regards himself as if he were someone else,” wrote Scheler, and looks down upping this helpless being, shedding a tear for the unfairness of their pathetic situation. By splitting ourselves in two like this, self-pity seems rather a beneficial emotion: when things don’t go our way, one half of us gets to feel superior to the other, enjoying the relief that pitying someone else can bring. 


Where guilt is usually thought to be an internal experience, characterized by hearing the voice of conscience, shame is more often linked to a feeling of social condemnation and the horror of being seen. We know we feel shame when we want to disappear from view – our own, as well as other people’s. 


To be shocked – from the French choques, meaning to be knocked about or jolted – is it to be brought up short by something sudden and unwelcome? Collisions, assaults, unexpected news: all may overturn one’s view of the world as a safe place. Shock can quickly turn to speechlessness and numbness, as disbelief and incomprehension set in. Some say this is a sort of psychic anesthesia, helping us survive a terrible experience. But even when the pain relief wears off, what shocks us still reverberates, appearing in our dreams, our habits, and even the way we expected other people to respond to us – sometimes for the rest of our lives. 


The pink-cheeked gleam of self-satisfaction. The triumph of a won argument. The delight with its extra twist of contempt – of feeling one’s superiority when a competitor falls. No wonder smugness is so irresistible a feeling. With its flash of a triumphant grin, it’s an oasis in a world of mistakes and apologies, a little moment of perfect being-in-the-right-ness, a smart, smooth, polished button of a feeling. F


Those who live on the pacific island of Ifaluk are only too happy to acknowledge their feelings of righteous indignation. The song is their name for the specific feeling of anger árense when someone breaks one of the cardinal rules of the Ifaluk value system and refuses to share properly. If a turtle hunter does not distribute the fruits of his hunt in exactly equal portions, or a woman smokes a cigarette but neglects to offer others a toke, those overlooked will not attempt to hide their dismay or restrain their condemnation. 


Surprise is one of the most sudden and fleeting of emotions. Triggered by some startling occurrence for which we are entirely unprepared, it flares up and then disappears almost immediately. No one can stay surprised for very long. 


Are you sure you don’t mean paranoia?



The Greek philosopher Aristotle observed that we’re more likely to fly into a violent rage when slighted by someone we perceive to be inferior to us. He went even further, arguing that if you’ve been insulted by someone lower down in the pecking order, you are thoroughly entirely to shout, curse, and even hit them: it’s the only natural response. 


More violent that feeling spoked, more immediate than dread, less connected to gore and disgust than horror, terror is felt in the presence of an elusive, unseen menace and leaves us rigid, rooted to the spot. 


Torschlusspanik declares the agitated, fretful feeling we get when we notice time is running out. The heart pounds, and the nape of the neck prickles, as the deadline approaches. Yet, we’re stuck, bewildered by choices, and terrified we’re about to make the wrong one. Life and all its abundant opportunities are passing us by.


In Russia, the emotion tos is said to blow in from Europe’s Great Plains, which sweep from the Pyrenees to the Uralic mountains, and bring a maddening “unsatisfiedness,” an insatiable searching. For Vladimir Nabokov, toska was a distinctly Russian emotion, “A dull ache” of the soul, “a longing with nothing to long for, a sic pining, a vague restlessness.”



A feeling of everything being “too much” and all in the wrong way. 

It has only known cure: laughter.


Uncertainty is often characterized as an unpleasant emotional experience, one we are motivated to avoid. Feeling doubtful at life’s biggest junctions can be hard to tolerate. No amount of googling can tell us whether to quit our jobs or have a child. Instead, we are flung back and forth between scraps of advice, our indecision leaving us claustrophobic and irate. 



The brilliant report that slices the smug down to size. The shiver of nasty pleasure that comes from seeing someone floundering and speechless who only moments before was bulging with reproachfulness. Yes, there’s glorious satisfaction in tit for tat. It’s’ when our pride is wounded by an insult, or some oversight has left us baffled or stunned, that vengefulness gives us a chance to restore lost dignity. Even if the revenge only happened in the man’s eye – the more baroque and excessive the better – it can still achieve this restoration. 

Vergüenza ajena 

Ajena (another person) vergüenza (shame). It is a vicarious humiliation, usually felt toward strangers. 


Vihara reculas other formulations of romantic infatuation, not only the erotic – the poetry of the Occitan troubadours, or the inconsolable longing expression of Portuguese fade music. The difference is that vihara is also a religious feeling, and ultimately an optimistic one. 

Vihara is often contrasted with Christianity’s separation between “carpal appetites” and higher spiritual love. 



The German word wanderlust first came out of a defiant romantic tradition of solitary walking. But today, we take it to mean something much broader. It is a craving for adventure and discovery, the desire to experience something different. But more than that, it describes a king of longing for a movement that runs as deep in the human psyche as love or fear. It’s the desire, as old as human life itself, to see what lies beyond the next mountain, or outside the boundaries of the village – and may leave us with the gnawing feeling that life only makes sense if we are traveling in some direction or another. 


With its bewilderment and dazed submission, awe, and fear, the wonder was thought so powerful it could even harm you. 

Rene Descartes defined it as a “sudden surprise of the soul, which causes it to apply itself to consider with attention the objects which seem to it rare and extraordinary.” 


From the old English wyrgan (to kill or throttle), the oldest meaning of being worried involved strangulation by serpents or asphyxiation by bad smells. 

The Oxford English Dictionary first identifies worry as a “trouble state of mind arising from the frets and cares of life” in the early 19th century.



Zalá is a melancholy feeling at an irretrievable loss. This is not a straightforward dejection. Zal is fickle, and shifts its shape, at one moment resigned, the next rebellious. It combines the disappointment, regret, and even violet fury that comes when some part of our lives has been taken away for good.

My rating:

This book in 3 key points

  1. Just because the English language doesn’t have a word for it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
  2. It’s important to be able to identify and express the kind of emotions we feel.
  3. There’s a fine line between paranoia and suspicion. 

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