The emotion lists!

Silly lolz of cat emotionsHey!  Thanks for all your help!  We’ve got some excellent and articulated emotion lists to help us become fluent in the language of emotions.

Let’s take a look at our updated emotion lists now that we’ve discussed them and organized the categories. In this post, I’ll give you the vocabulary lists without any of the explanations or caveats we had in the original posts (post 1, and post 2).

Here’s a reminder about why we’re creating these lists: The more I talk to people about emotions, the more I realize how paltry our emotional vocabulary tends to be. This is a problem, because descriptive words help us understand ourselves and the world around us. If we don’t have enough names for our emotions, it’s hard to get a handle on what we’re feeling when an emotion arises.

I’ve been looking at the work of cognitive psychologist who are finding that having a more precise vocabulary (for instance, having specific names for light blues and dark blues, as Russian speakers do) tends to make people quicker at identifying subtle differences. We’ve all seen that having a larger vocabulary makes us more articulate and more able to express nuance and subtlety; what is interesting is that a large vocabulary also helps your brain identify things more quickly. This can be immensely helpful where emotion are concerned! The sooner you know what you’re feeling, the quicker you can take effective emotional action.

Remember that we’re not trying to be exhaustive here; instead, we’re looking to become emotionally articulate without overdoing it. If there are too many words in any category and you start to nod off, please give us suggestions for words that could be culled, okay?


Soft Anger

Annoyed ~ Frustrated ~ Cross ~ Apathetic ~ Peeved ~ Irritated ~ Cranky ~ Crabby ~ Bored ~ Impatient ~ Critical ~ Cold ~ Displeased ~ Rankled ~ Detached ~ Indifferent

Anger in its Mood State

Angry ~ Mad ~ Offended ~ Antagonized ~ Bristling ~ Sarcastic ~ Aggravated ~ Arrogant ~ Indignant ~ Inflamed ~ Affronted ~ Resentful ~ Incensed ~ Exasperated ~ Riled up

Intense Anger

Hostile ~ Aggressive ~ Livid ~ Outraged ~ Furious ~ Belligerent ~ Disgusted ~ Appalled ~ Bitter ~ Ranting ~ Raving ~ Contemptuous ~ Hateful ~ Vengeful ~ Vindictive ~ Violent ~ Irate ~ Menacing ~ Seething ~ Vicious ~ Spiteful


Soft Sadness

Regretful ~ Disconnected ~ Distracted ~ Low ~ Listless ~ Wistful

Sadness in its Mood State

Sad ~ World-weary ~ Down ~ Melancholy ~ Mournful ~ Weepy ~ Grieving ~ Gloomy ~ Dejected ~ Downtrodden ~ Heavy-hearted ~ Forlorn ~ Sorrowful ~ Dispirited ~ Discouraged

Intense Sadness

Despairing ~ Bleak ~ Despondent ~ Depressed ~ Anguished ~ Inconsolable ~ Grief-stricken ~ Hopeless ~ Heartbroken ~ Morose ~ Bereaved


Soft Fear

Alert ~ Hesitant ~ Pensive ~ Watchful ~ Cautious ~ Curious ~ Leery ~ Uneasy ~ Doubtful ~ Confused ~ Apprehensive ~ Shy ~ Concerned ~ Disquieted ~ Timid ~ Edgy ~ Fidgety ~ Disconcerted ~ Insecure ~ Indecisive ~ Disoriented

Fear in its Mood State

Fearful ~ Afraid ~ Suspicious ~ Startled ~ Unnerved ~ Anxious ~ Nervous ~ Worried ~ Alarmed ~ Shaky ~ Perturbed ~ Aversive ~ Wary ~ Distrustful ~ Rattled ~ Unsettled ~ Jumpy

Intense Fear

Terrorized ~ Shocked ~ Panicked ~ Filled with Dread ~ Horrified ~ Phobic ~ Petrified ~ Paralyzed


Soft Happiness

Smiling ~ Upbeat ~ Peaceful ~ Calm ~ Amused ~ Open ~ Friendly ~ Encouraged ~ Hopeful ~ Jovial

Happiness in its Mood State

Happy ~ Glad ~ Content ~ Optimistic ~ Cheerful ~ Joyful ~ Satisfied ~ Lively ~ Delighted ~ Rejuvenated ~ Pleased ~ Gratified ~ Gleeful

Intense Happiness

Elated ~ Exhilarated ~ Manic ~ Giddy ~ Euphoric ~ Awe-filled ~ Blissful ~ Enthralled ~ Rapturous ~ Jubilant ~ Ecstatic ~ Overjoyed


Soft Shame

Hesitant ~ Flushed ~ Self-conscious ~ Speechless ~ Discomfited ~ Awkward ~ Humble ~ Reticent ~ Abashed ~ Flustered ~ Withdrawn

Shame in its Mood State

Ashamed ~ Guilty ~ Embarrassed ~ Intimidated ~ Penitent ~ Regretful ~ Remorseful ~ Chagrined ~ Culpable ~ Reproachful ~ Sheepish ~ Rueful ~ Contrite ~ Humbled

Intense Shame

Humiliated ~ Guilt-ridden ~ Guilt-stricken ~ Disgraced ~ Stigmatized ~ Mortified ~ Self-condemning ~ Self-flagellating ~ Degraded ~ Shamefaced ~ Belittled ~ Demeaned ~ Ostracized


Soft Jealousy and Envy

Suspicious ~ Insecure ~ Distrustful ~ Protective

Mood-State Jealousy and Envy

Jealous ~ Envious ~ Covetous ~ Threatened ~ Demanding ~ Desirous

Intense Jealousy and Envy

Greedy ~ Grasping ~ Green with envy ~ Persistently jealous ~ Possessive ~ Resentful ~ Threatened ~ Avaricious ~ Gluttonous


Soft Suicidal Urges

Depressed ~ Dispirited ~ Constantly irritated, angry, or enraged (see the anger list) ~ Helpless ~ Impulsive ~ Withdrawn ~ Apathetic ~ Lethargic ~ Disinterested ~ Pessimistic ~ Purposeless ~ Discouraged ~ Feeling worthless ~ Isolated ~ World-weary ~ Humorless ~ Listless ~ Melancholy ~ Flat ~ Indifferent

Mood-State Suicidal Urges

Desperate ~ Hopeless ~ Despairing ~ Morbid ~ Sullen ~ Desolate ~ Miserable ~ Overwhelmed ~ Pleasureless ~ Joyless ~ Fatalistic ~ Empty ~ Passionless ~ Bereft ~ Crushed ~ Drained

Intense Suicidal Urges

Agonized ~ Tormented ~ Self-destructive ~ Tortured ~ Anguished ~ Bleak ~ Devastated ~ Death-seeking ~ Numbed ~ Reckless ~ Doomed ~ Nihilistic

Once we’ve got this list finalized, I’ll create a page for it with a PDF you can download. Thanks again for all your input and your empathic critical thinking skills!

18 Responses

  1. Karla
    | Reply

    Oh, two things. First, thanks to Terre Spencer, our Facebook pal, for sending in a humongous emotions list she’s gathered over the years. I got some really good words out of it. Thanks Terre!

    Second: There are a LOT of descriptive words in the suicidal category, and I included a large group of them because there’s a tremendous stigma around depression and suicidality. I’m overdoing it for a reason in this emotional category. If we have a large vocabulary for it, our brains can identify depression and suicidal urges in ourselves and others. And then we can help! Yay!

  2. Terre Spencer
    | Reply

    Thanks, Karla!

    I am so pleased to contribute. Your work with emotions has been a cornerstone in my work with those struggling to identify they are feeling and how to stay with, process and integrate those feelings.

    Many Blessings,

  3. Terre Spencer
    | Reply

    The previous post is missing “what” between “identify” and “they.”

    And I am missing my MDR of coffee, another cup please! 🙂

    • Karla
      | Reply

      Thanks Terre! More coffee! Or, if you’re in our family, your caffeine of choice would be dark chocolate — minimum of 80%. Yeeha!

      • Karla
        | Reply

        April asked this question on the previous post, but meant to put it here, so I’m being helpful!!

        I would love to hear more about “confusion”, as discussed in the book.
        It isn’t included on this list here.

        In the book, you say to list your intention. What do you really mean by list your intention reg. making a decision in a confused state? How does this work? The example in the book was a person deciding b/t two jobs – and maybe the individual should choose neither because of insurmountable problems with each.

        What is an example of what their intention might be that would lead them to this decision?

        I am in a confused state and have been for months. It’s turmoil and I see no easy end in sight!

        Thanks much,

        Hi April! I put confused in lite fear, because I see it as a “masking state” for fear. I find that it can help, when one is really confused, to ask “What’s my intention?” For instance, if you’re confused about a relationship or a job, stop thinking about the choices and ask yourself what your intention is. What are your values? Where do you intend to be in five years, or ten? What is important to you, and why?

        What I find is that if you can get off the merry-go-round of this or that decision and get down to the brass tacks of what your intentions are in the larger picture, it’s much easier to make decisions.

        Now, having said that, I want to also say that confusion (such as the one you describe) that lasts for a very long time could be a sign of a physical or neurological imbalance. One of the signs of thyroid disease, to name one example, is confusion and poor memory. Other possibilities: a sleep disorder; undiagnosed learning disabilities; hypoglycemia; medication interaction; head injury; fibromyalgia; hypertension; vitamin deficiency; anemia; kidney disease, and many other conditions.

        Confusion that is temporary and that constellates around a specific decision is something that you can work with on your own. But if the confusion is universal and long-lasting, it may be something else altogether!

  4. Terre Spencer
    | Reply

    I concur that fine chocolate is heavenly indeed! Great suggestion!

    Also, as you mention, confusion is masked fear plus powerlessness to act upon the feelings—because the confusion is over what to DO, rarely what one FEELS. If there is a sense of powerlessness, perfectionism or something along those lines that prevents one’s knowing how to process the inner feelings into one’s outer life, then the psyche will frequently try to deny the real feelings or attempt some other form of suppression/dissociation to ease the pain of knowing what one feels and facing one’s inability/terror of acting upon the feelings. Better to feel confused.

    Does that make sense? Karla, your take?

    • Karla
      | Reply

      Hi Terre,

      Not sure if it makes sense. I think that in a confusion, you can be confused about everything — your own feelings, decisions, who to trust. To me, confusion is a loss of instincts and intuition, and you can relieve it (if it isn’t being caused by the situations or health conditions I mentioned above) by getting back in contact with your healthy fear.

      One thing these lists don’t have is the gifts each emotion brings, and in the PDF I’m creating, I’m working to organize these lists with the actions you can take to support and learn from the emotions. Thinking it through ….

  5. Terre Spencer
    | Reply

    Hmm. I do not recall ever been confused about what I felt—at least never initially. It is only when I am blocked from action (either an internal or external block) that I start feeling muddy and confused. Hmm. Will have to observe that over the next few weeks. . .

    The gifts of each feeling: Great idea! Karla, you are a marvel! 🙂

    • Karla
      | Reply

      I also don’t recall being confused about what I was feeling, but in that, we’re quite unusual. One of the reasons I created these lists is because so many people told me that they often don’t know what they’re feeling. At first, I though, “Oh, that can’t be right. How can you not know?” But it is a real situation for a lot of people. Yow! We’re outliers!

  6. April
    | Reply

    Thanks so much for your responses. I am confused about certain decisions regarding the future (grad school vs. work), and what path to take. They might not seem like huge decisions to others, but it would not be the first time I’ve made a mistake (also viewed, learned a life lesson) in these areas. It’s hard to feel these mistakes for what they are, and to learn from them. It’s hard for me to feel what to do (i.e., “trust your heart”), b/c I don’t know what the future will hold (such is life, most would say)! Thanks again!

  7. April
    | Reply

    I guess what I’m saying is, because I have made mistakes and am not sure I can trust myself, I’ve (over time) learn to block out what I feel, such that now I don’t even know or trust myself at my guess. Yikes!

  8. Karla
    | Reply

    Hi April!

    Sometimes, you don’t have enough info inside yourself to make a clear decision, and it’s important to reach out to people who are doing the thing you’re thinking of. For instance, talking to people who are in grad school, and also talking to people who decided not to go. There are also a lot of good books about surviving grad school, and others that question whether you really need a grad degree in your field, or if the cost of the degree and the time away from work will be returned to you (there’s a graduate glut in many fields, and people actually become less employable in other jobs because they’re seen as overqualified).

    That can help when you don’t trust yourself, or when you’re afraid of making the wrong decision. You can also talk to the advisor at the grad school, who is really in the know about who can and cannot make it.

    But after all that, the question for confusion in the book might still be necessary: What is my intention? Re-read that chapter and see if it helps at all.


  9. Carrie
    | Reply

    When I experienced what I refer to as self emergence, I realized my own sense of self and feelings had been so repressed, in part, due to empathic overwhelm, that I had little to no emotional vocabulary as regards pinpointing or expressing my OWN feelings. I actually ended up making flashcards on index cards that I would sift through to help me have a reference I could sift through to figure out what emotion I was feeling and to have a word for it because it was that confusing. Also, there was the fact that there was a tidal wave in which all of them started pouring in at once and being that I was about 30 at the time I had a LOT of emotions to sort!

  10. Carrie
    | Reply

    Also, you might like this:

    alexithymia (ah-lek-sah-THI-mee-ah) — inability to describe emotions in a verbal manner

    This word is defined as an inability to verbally express or describe an emotion. It’s beautiful to the ear and perfect for when you’re feeling tongue tied.

  11. mohamed
    | Reply

    what about self confidence,,,,,self -esteem,,,

    • Karla
      | Reply

      Hello Mohamed, good question. Self confidence is generally a part of contentment.

  12. susan gunn
    | Reply

    Where is the Emotional Inventory list or must I purchase your book?
    thank you as you r Inventory exercise was recommended!

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