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The Book of Human Emotions

The Book of Human Emotions

Stop and think about two facts:

  1. To not let your emotions control you, you can learn how to identify and manage them.
  2. Emotional manipulation happens daily in our lives, both consciously and subconsciously.

This goes to show how important it is to start developing an awareness of our emotional life and to that end, this book is a must-read.

Informative and witty, it can also be read “on-demand”, given that it is what it says on the cover: an encyclopedia.

I found the cultural stories behind the emotions particularly interesting. I had never given enough thought to the fact that emotions can be interpreted differently depending on the time, location, culture, etc.

For example, we know the industry around the concept of happiness is now worth hundreds of billions of pounds, while in the sixteenth century it was the emotion of sadness that was encouraged! Yes, you read it correctly. Today they encourage us to be happy, a few hundred years ago the “self-help” gurus encouraged people to be sad. This is fascinating.

Of all the emotions that I’ve read about in the book, one stuck in my head as it’s thought-provoking: “uncertainty”, the paragraph surprisingly mentions the “delights” of it.

Admittedly, being an Italian, I felt proud that the emotion mentioned in the book, that only Italians recognised and named, is the “dolce far niente” (i.e. the pleasure of doing nothing). In our days, where being busy and rushed is seen to be cool, knowing to get pleasure from doing nothing is not to be taken for granted.

Just by pure chance, I’ve read this book at the same time as Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ and I think they perfectly integrate with each other.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to dash as I have to enjoy some dolce far niente.

From Goodreads:

How do you feel? Is your heart fluttering in anticipation? Is your stomach tight with nerves? Are you falling in love? Feeling a bit miffed? Are you antsy with Iktsuarpok? Or giddy with dépaysement?

The Book of Human Emotions is a gleeful, thoughtful collection of 156 feelings, both rare and familiar. Tiffany Watt Smith covers the globe and draws on history, anthropology, science, art, literature, music and popular culture to explore them. Each emotion has its own story, and reveals the strange forces which shape our rich and varied internal worlds. You’ll discover feelings you never knew you had (like basorexia, the sudden urge to kiss someone), uncover secret histories of boredom and confidence, and gain unexpected insights into why we feel the way we do. 

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