The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.
— Ludwig Wittgenstein: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus
I suspect that Wittgenstein may have made many comments with which I would profoundly disagree, but this one is a wise one which makes me think.
In a recent book by Brene Brown called “Atlas of the Heart”, she draws on this quotation to suggest our lack of words to describe our feelings can limit our life experience.
She speaks how many people only articulate three emotions, happy, sad and angry. As a result anger is the reaction to anything that confuses, disturbs or dismays the heart.
Watching a young child deal with situations which are beyond their ability to understand or express (they are only tiny) is to see them exhibit bewilderment. It doesn’t have to be anything serious, you understand, but they are not capable – with their lack of language – of understanding!
One solution she outlined on a Woman’s Hour programme recently was developing Emotional Granularity.
“Emotional granularity is the ability to get very specific about what we’re feeling. Research shows that the more granular we are in our ability to name what we’re experiencing, the better we can manage it, regulate it, move through it. If it’s a positive emotion, we could replicate it in our lives. Emotional granularity is highly correlated with very positive living outcomes.”
While her words make life seem a lot simpler than it really is, they suggest emotional growth and searching conversations enable a better life experience. She comes from a place of faith: “I would say my faith is probably the organizing principle of my life,” Brown said.