In my search for uplifting vocabulary words, I have to say I’ve felt more than a little challenged. I found a plethora of words to express emotion, but the majority are negative. To stay true to our mission, our desire is to help you lighten your mental load a bit. So negative words are out. But it got me thinking about why there might be more negative words than affirming, positive ones. First, was that really true? And if so, how could this be? Do we not experience positivity as frequently as negativity? Why would we need more words to express the bad things in life? Inquiring minds want to know.
I came across an applied linguistics professor from Penn State, who’s done some research on this very subject. Robert Schrauf, PhD’s early work revealed that there are indeed more negative than positive words to express emotion in our vocabulary. And interestingly enough, age and culture don’t vary the findings – around the globe we all have more negative words at our disposal than positive ones.
Dr. Schrauf’s literature search revealed among 37 different languages, there are seven shared terms with comparable meanings. Any guesses as to what they are? (Don’t cheat – we’ll tell you later). Only one — Joy. is a positive emotion. Well, there’s a reason for that.
It’s not that joy is one-note, but let’s try something together. Let’s say you’re feeling joy at the moment. For me, it may look like this. I had some positive influence at work, I remembered an old friend’s birthday, I finally got that dentist appointment scheduled, and I fit into the first pair of pants I tried on this morning. I recognize that “joy” may not be the most appropriate descriptor for you; as one person’s joy is another’s Tuesday, but for the sake of this example, let’s agree to call this joy. What do you do with it? It seems because it’s a positive emotion, it’s not something you have to muse over and over. It’s something you’re quite content to sit with and enjoy. Now let’s take a negative word: Shame. If you’re feeling shame, it sticks with you because you have to deal with. You have to do something about it. You’ve got to do something to get rid of it. The same is true of all the negative emotions. You have to take more time with them and process them to determine what you’re going to do about them.
Read more about Professor Schrauf at www.personal.psu.edu/rws23/
All this to say, I’ll not be giving you any negative words. Since we need to balance the positive-word side of things, you’ll be seeing encouraging, uplifting, affirming words each week, and in all likelihood, words you know. Positive words you’ll be forced to spend a little more time with. Which is why GRACE will be our word next week.By the way, the seven shared emotions: Guilt, Sadness, Disgust, Shame, Anger, Fear, and Joy.
Until then – Gail