Sharing Ideas - How Emotions Are Made

The more I read about cognition and neuroscience, the more it seems that our brains are masters of deception. Actually, that’s not true, our brains are masters at creating an individualized reality – think of the fallibility of memory and how we double down on beliefs despite evidence to the contrary. So it is with our emotions. In How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain, Lisa Feldman Barrett goes into a detailed description of how emotions that we think are universal are not universal at all, and that we are actively constructing emotions based on experience and language. We can have wildly different interpretations of people with the same facial expression: for example, a person screaming with joy could look like fear to someone else, or even anger to a third person.


My key takeaway from this book is that we can give names to emotions that have been to this point nameless. A couple of examples are the Danish concept of hygge – comfortable coziness, and the German word schadenfreude – the joy in someone else’s suffering, or what haters feel every time my Red Sox lose.


So, I’ve come up with a list of emotions and feelings that I’ve taken a stab at naming:  

  • Ergonogofacto -  The feeling of being unable to change another person’s mind with facts.
  • Blusterfluster - The confusion caused by a cacophony of opinions on cable news shows, sports talk shows or any other opinion-based show.
  • Temperadoubt - The inability to decide whether or not to wear a jacket on a day that straddles warm and cool.
  • Retchatasking - Moving forward with a task despite your disgust with it. For example: cleaning up vomit.
  • Convoblocked - The feeling of wanting to extract yourself from conversation but not seeing an easy way out.

I’m sure there are others out there – just name them. If you come up with some, drop me a line at I’ll be sure to give credit where credit is due.

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