ramblings on “emotionally vague”

A while ago, I came across the website of an intriguing study of emotion done by a graphic designer. She did a survey that asked people to draw where they felt emotions of anger, sadness, joy, love, and fear in their body, how they felt them, the direction of the feeling, the color affiliated with the feeling, and what made people feel those emotions. We always read or hear about stress-related diseases, and I have to admit that I haven’t done much research about this, so mine might not be the newest idea, but this study made me wonder if there is a correlation between where and how individuals feel the negative emotions (I’m not sure if positive emotions cause localized positive effects in the body, but again, I may not know enough), and where a disease might occur due to accumulated exposure to that negative emotion. You can see pictures below, showing the localization of anger and sadness, which I thought might be two important sources of continuous stress that might lead to somaticized (?) diseases.

Another thing that I found to be really interesting was the directions people chose for each emotion. While anger, joy, and love were all outward emotions, sadness and fear pointed inwards towards the body. This might seem obvious to some, but I feel like it’s something that you somewhat know but never really think about. And I feel like it’s also a demonstration of, even though anger on the one side and joy and love on the other side might seem distinct emotions, the passion involved in all three of them perhaps enables outward expression, or even makes it hard to inhibit the expression of them, quite different from how it is with sadness and fear (which I think surely must include worry and rumination). While one might expect sadness and fear to be similar to anger, come to think of it, the trapped feel caused by sadness and fear is quite different from the frustration anger might cause.

The name of the study, “Emotionally Vague”, is also meaningful (and the actual word I’m looking for here is manidar). The drawings for each emotion do have distinct qualities, but they also have a lot in common, and a lot of chaos. It makes you think of the valence we attribute to emotions – love and joy are almost always preferred over sadness, fear, and anger, whereas the lines that separate these emotions seem to be extremely smudgy. Maybe not always, of course, but this ambiguity still brings to mind the pleasure that we often take from feeling melancholic (upon reading a poem, or listening to a song, or drinking on a beach at sunset, and on and on and on…).


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