Negative emotional granularity

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Chapter 9 endnote 16, from How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context is:

In a collection of scientific studies, people who could distinguish finely among their unpleasant feelings ​— ​those “fifty shades of feeling crappy” ​— ​were 30 percent more flexible when regulating their emotions, less likely to drink excessively when stressed, and less likely to retaliate aggressively against someone who has hurt them.

Intense negative affect, if categorized as emotional experience, is linked to improved emotion regulation.[1] This finding, the first of its kind, showed that intense negative affect could actually be beneficial for psychological health, as long as you could categorize the experience effectively. It stands in contrast to a large body of work showing that intense negative affect is inherently problematic. Nevertheless, the finding was replicated recently with college freshmen who were socially anxious. Those exhibiting low negative granularity used the least amount of recategorization (i.e., cognitive reappraisal).[2]

Kashdan et al. (2015) lists a number of experiments describing the benefits of negative emotional granularity.[3]

See also

Op-Eds by Lisa Feldman Barrett in the New York Times:


Notes on the Notes

  1. Barrett, Lisa Feldman, James Gross, Tamlin Conner Christensen, and Michael Benvenuto. 2001. "Knowing what you're feeling and knowing what to do about it: Mapping the relation between emotion differentiation and emotion regulation." Cognition & Emotion 15 (6): 713-724.
  2. O’Toole, Mia Skytte, Morten Berg Jensen, Hanne Nørr Fentz, Robert Zachariae, and Esben Hougaard. 2014. "Emotion differentiation and emotion regulation in high and low socially anxious individuals: An experience-sampling study." Cognitive Therapy and Research 38 (4): 428-438.
  3. Kashdan et al 2015 [full reference to be provided]