Article summary –
People who are able to verbally characterize their emotional experiences are less likely to be overwhelmed by stressful situations and experiences. Because, the emotion word labels describe a situation, provide information and the possibility of acting on it; worded emotions are easier to regulate and cope with without affecting one’s personal goals. When a person struggles to manage an intense distress, his aim on writing a book becomes secondary to managing the distress. On the other side, he becomes prone to unhealthy responses to feel better, like excessive drinking.
Healthy emotional regulation comes out of an ability to differentiate one’s emotional experiences. People high in differentiation report detailed emotional experiences with different adjectives, like nervous, shame, guilt anger; those with low differentiation are repetitive and express only general states of mind, like sad, calm.
It has been proven through various studies that individuals experiencing more differentiated negative emotions are less likely to take to excessive drinking or retaliate aggressively when hurt and are found to show greater equanimity when confronted with the pain of rejection.
It has also been found that emotional differentiation is low in people with depression, anxiety disorder, autism, eating disorder and borderline personality disorders.
Interventions: People can be trained to become better at constructing granular experiences by expansion of one’s emotion vocabulary. Training on emotional differentiation helps people to resist the biasing effects of emotion on judgments when they describe their feelings in detail. Ultimately it helps the person to pursue activities relevant to their well being.
When a person has elaborate emotional knowledge, and has been taught to use what he/she knows, then the person is able to effectively deal contextually with each situation he/she faces. This prevents the distress from dominating attention and dictating his/her behaviour.
Irrespective of the intensity, stress situations are handled better by people with high emotional differentiation resulting in better Psychological and social well being.