Emotional granularity is an individual’s ability to differentiate between the specificity of their emotions. If you have high emotional granularity you are able to discriminate between your different emotions. This basically means you are able to label experiences with discrete and specific emotion words (angry, frustrated, irritated, insecure etc) rather than a blanket term covering several emotions. Someone with low emotional granularity would report their emotions in global terms, possibly just in terms of pleasure or displeasure.
What I often find is that for people experiencing anxiety, is that in the context of how they are feeling, they tend to demonstrate a low emotional granularity, and tend to use the blanket description of ‘anxiety’ to cover a broad range of different emotions. As a result, in their perception, they believe that they are actually feeling anxious almost all the time.
When we slow things down a bit, and break them down moment by moment, we often find that there any many different emotions occurring throughout the week. However, as the blanket term ‘anxiety’ is repeatedly used it can seem much bigger than it actually is.
What I will encourage you to do over the next week is next time you feel what you would usually label as ‘anxiety’. Just pause, take a moment to consider what is actually happening, are there any other descriptive words that are a better fit to what you are feeling in that moment? This action in itself is enough to disrupt your thought patterns long enough to change your state, it also helps you to begin to differentiate between when you are genuinely feeling anxious, and other times when for example you are feeling really frustrated or uncertain. Improving your emotional granularity can help shrink anxiety down and give you a more balanced perspective of how you are feeling. This process works just as well for a host of other different feelings.
It’s important to note that high or low emotional granularity is nothing to do with intelligence. It is simply how well you are able to notice the differences in different emotions you are feeling at a certain moment, and like any skill, it can be improved quite easily.
What do you do when it comes to emotional granularity?
Do you tend to use only a small handful of words to describe how you are feeling? Or do you have quite a big range of descriptive words? I’m not saying that this will solve all your perceived problems, but it can certainly start to make you more conscious of the words you choose, and it may also help you to notice when you are not feeling anxious, but in the past you would have considered you were. Worth an experiment do you think?
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