There are words for emotions in different languages that do not translate directly or straightforwardly into English because the emotion is not recognised by the English language. Here are some of my favourites:
- L’appel du vide (French) – the irrational urge to leap off a cliff
- Malu – (Indonesian)- the flustered state we might find ourselves in when we meet someone we hold in high esteem
- Grengjai – (Thai)– the feeling of being reluctant to accept another’s help because of the bother it would cause them
- Oime – (Japan) – the intense discomfort of being indebted
- Iktsuarpok – (Inuit) – the fidgety, slightly anxious anticipation of an expected visitor
- Song – (Pacific Island) – the feeling of righteous indignation when you get less than your fair share of something
This is a game you could play as your children get older: find some situations that have emotions unique to them, acknowledge these emotions and make up a name for them. Here are some examples of such situations:
- the relief you feel when you find something you have been looking for for ages
- the feeling when your favourite meal is put in front of you and you’re really hungry
- the feeling when someone you know finally arrives when you are in a room full of strangers
- the urge to laugh when it is inappropriate
- the sort of blank feeling you get when you have over-thought for a while
You can have fun trying to create a name for each feeling – possibly going for an onomatopoeic word the seems to represent the emotion. e,g, Sarve could be the relief you feel when you find a lost thing.
Now I appreciate this might sound like a silly game with little purpose but it can improve emotional literacy. In our overly logic-focussed world where we often pretend we are not having the emotions that can, at times, completely overwhelm us, we often forget to simply look inward. To tune in to acknowledge what we are truly feeling is rarely habitual and yet it is a key part of becoming emotionally literate. In the game of looking for ‘new’ emotions, we can become quite sophisticated at really reflecting on what we are feeling in different moments. The game becomes easier the more emotionally literate we become.