Thought Catalog

40 Words For Emotions You’ve Felt, But Couldn’t Explain

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Exulansis: when there’s not an actual word for what you’re trying to explain. We feel more than we have the language to articulate and express, which is in itself profoundly frustrating. People work through emotions by being able to identify them and use them as signals. A lot of the time, we’re left in the dark. Enter the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, the brainchild of writer John Koenig, who is here to give you words for the feelings you may not have even known you were having. Here are 40 of them:

The Tilt Shift

n. a phenomenon in which your lived experience seems oddly inconsequential once you put it down on paper, which turns an epic tragicomedy into a sequence of figures on a model train set, assembled in their tiny classrooms and workplaces, wandering along their own cautious and well-trodden paths—peaceable, generic and out of focus.

Jouska

n. a hypothetical conversation that you compulsively play out in your head—a crisp analysis, a cathartic dialogue, a devastating comeback—which serves as a kind of psychological batting cage where you can connect more deeply with people than in the small ball of everyday life, which is a frustratingly cautious game of change-up pitches, sacrifice bunts, and intentional walks.

Ecstatic Shock

n. the surge of energy upon catching a glance from someone you like—a thrill that starts in your stomach, arcs up through your lungs and flashes into a spontaneous smile—which scrambles your ungrounded circuits and tempts you to chase that feeling with a kite and a key.

Heartworm

n. a relationship or friendship that you can’t get out of your head, which you thought had faded long ago but is still somehow alive and unfinished, like an abandoned campsite whose smoldering embers still have the power to start a forest fire.

Xeno

n. the smallest measurable unit of human connection, typically exchanged between passing strangers—a flirtatious glance, a sympathetic nod, a shared laugh about some odd coincidence—moments that are fleeting and random but still contain powerful emotional nutrients that can alleviate the symptoms of feeling alone. TC mark

Brianna Wiest is the author of 101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think, available here.

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