New theory of complex emotions

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We updated Roger Hargreaves’s Little Miss and Mr. Men universe as a suggestion to include some of our new emotions. Illustration: Zohar Lazar

 If You Can Say It, You Can Feel It Some scientists believe we have infinite emotions, so long as we can name them.

Sometime last year, I came across the word hangxiety, a neologism for hangover-induced anxiety. I cringed when I read it; it felt so phony.

The most mental distress I’d ever experienced during a hangover was some light teasing in a group chat. And then, last fall, the morning after a night of drinking, I woke up with a racing heart and a constricted feeling across my chest, as if I’d been sleeping under a dozen weighted blankets. I thought about the things I’d said and done the night before, and the physical sensations intensified.

This happened again, and then again. I haven’t had a hangover in months, largely because I’m terrified of them now. Was this always the way my brain and body responded to hangovers? Or did learning about hangxiety somehow influence the way I experience a hangover? I’d like to think I’m not that suggestible, but some emerging, somewhat controversial research on how and why we feel our feelings argues that language doesn’t just describe a feeling. It can also change it.

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