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你感受到了“绝望”?这是件好事

更新时间:2016-11-17 10:22:43 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Are You in Despair? That’s Good
你感受到了“绝望”?这是件好事

WHEN the world gets you down, do you feel just generally “bad”? Or do you have more precise emotional experiences, such as grief or despair or gloom?

当这个世界让你不痛快的时候,你的感觉可以用“糟糕”一语概之吗?还是说你会有更加确切的情绪体验,比如悲伤、绝望或者忧郁?

In psychology, people with finely tuned feelings are said to exhibit “emotional granularity.” When reading about the abuses of the Islamic State, for example, you might experience creeping horror or fury, rather than general awfulness. When learning about climate change, you could feel alarm tinged with sorrow and regret for species facing extinction. Confronted with this year’s presidential campaign, you might feel astonished, exasperated or even embarrassed on behalf of the candidates — an emotion known in Mexico as “pena ajena.”

在心理学中,拥有细致情绪的人被认为展现出了“情绪粒度”。例如,阅读关于伊斯兰国(Islamic State)种种暴行的资料时,你或许会体验到不断升腾的恐怖或愤慨,而非笼统的糟糕之感。听说关于气候变化的信息时,你可能会在惊恐之余,因为一些物种即将灭绝而感到悲伤和遗憾。面对今年的总统竞选,你或许会诧异、愤怒,甚至是替候选人感到尴尬——这种情绪在墨西哥被称为“pena ajena”。

Emotional granularity isn’t just about having a rich vocabulary; it’s about experiencing the world, and yourself, more precisely. This can make a difference in your life. In fact, there is growing scientific evidence that precisely tailored emotional experiences are good for you, even if those experiences are negative.

情绪粒度不仅与掌握丰富的词汇有关;还与更加细致地体验世界和自我有关。这会改变你的生活。事实上,有越来越多的科学证据表明,细致入微的情绪体验会给你带来好处,哪怕这些体验是负面的。

According to a collection of studies, finely grained, unpleasant feelings allow people to be more agile at regulating their emotions, less likely to drink excessively when stressed and less likely to retaliate aggressively against someone who has hurt them.

一系列研究显示,细粒度的不快之感会让人得以更加灵活地调整自己的情绪,在面临压力时不那么容易饮酒过度,在被某人伤害时不那么容易猛烈地报复对方。

Perhaps surprisingly, the benefits of high emotional granularity are not only psychological. People who achieve it are also likely to have longer, healthier lives. They go to the doctor and use medication less frequently, and spend fewer days hospitalized for illness. Cancer patients, for example, have lower levels of harmful inflammation when they more frequently categorize, label and understand their emotions.

或许令人惊讶的是,高情绪粒度所附带的好处不只是心理上的。情绪粒度高的人还可能更长寿、更健康。他们看医生和用药的频率更低一些,因病住院的天数也更少。举个例子,能够更频繁地给自己的情绪归类、贴标签,并理解它们的那些癌症病人身上,有害炎症的程度会轻一些。

My lab discovered emotional granularity in the 1990s. We asked hundreds of volunteers to keep track of their emotional experiences for weeks or months. Everyone we tested used the same stock of emotion words, such as “sad” and “angry” and “afraid,” to describe their experiences. However, we found that some people used these words to refer to distinct experiences — each word represented a different emotion concept — while other people lumped these words together as a single concept meaning, roughly, “I feel miserable.”

我的实验室在上世纪90年代发现了情绪粒度的存在。我们让数百名志愿者在数周或数月时间里追踪自己的情绪体验。每个受试者都使用同一组情绪词汇,比如“悲伤”、“愤怒”和“害怕”,来描述自己的体验。不过我们发现,一些人会用这些词汇来指代确切的体验——每个词都代表着一种不同的情绪概念——另外一些人则会把这些词汇混为一谈,用以代表单一的概念,粗略地说就是——“我感觉很糟糕。”

It was natural to think that people with higher emotional granularity were just better at recognizing emotional states in themselves, but our lab found that this was not what was happening. Your brain, it turns out, in a very real sense constructs your emotional states — in the blink of an eye, outside of your awareness — and people who learn diverse concepts of emotion are better equipped to create more finely tailored emotions.

人们会很自然地想到,有着更高情绪粒度的人只是能够更好地了解自己的情绪状态,但我们的实验室发现实际情况并非如此。事实证明,你的大脑在以一种非常切实的方式构建着你的情绪状态——在一瞬间,在你的意识之外——了解多种情绪概念的人更能产生更细致的情绪。

This is why emotional granularity can have such influence on your well-being and health: It gives your brain more precise tools for handling the myriad challenges that life throws at you.

正因为如此,情绪粒度才会对你的幸福感和健康水平造成重要影响:它让你的大脑在应对生活中的种种挑战时,有了更加精密的工具。

Suppose you’re a resident of Flint, Mich., facing that city’s troubles with water contamination. Suppose that each morning, as you turn on the tap or send your children off to school, you experience an unpleasant feeling of general badness. You are overcome and sink further into a funk.

假设你是密歇根州弗林特的居民,正面临着该市的水污染问题。假设每天早上,当你打开水龙头或者送孩子上学的时候,都会体验到一种大体上可以被称为糟糕的不快之感。你无法忍受,并且愈发紧张。

It’s important to note that you’ve created that vague feeling of badness. Neuroscience has shown that human brains are not “reactive” organs that merely respond to the world in some predetermined way, such as spiking your blood pressure when you see the word “ISIS.” Rather, your brain regulates your body’s energy needs proactively, spiking your blood pressure in anticipation of what might come next, based on past experience.

需要指出的是,那种含混的糟糕感是你自己造出来的。神经科学已经表明,人类大脑不是“应激性”器官,并非仅以某种预定的方式对世界作出反应,比如看到“伊斯兰国”这几个字让你的血压上升。事实上,大脑会根据过去的经验来预判接下来会发生什么,主动调节你的体能需求,提升你的血压。

This process is like keeping a budget for your body. And just like a financial budget, a body budget needs to be kept balanced in order to be healthy.

这一反应过程就相当于为你的身体制定预算。为了健康起见,身体预算也需要像财务预算一样保持平衡。

So in the Flint example, your brain anticipates a threat and your cortisol level spikes, readying your body for action, but a feeling of general badness calls for no specific action. You merely feel awful because your brain has made a needless withdrawal from your body budget. And the next time you’re in a similar situation, your brain goes through the same process. Again you feel lousy and trapped by your circumstances. Over time, a poorly calibrated body budget can pave the road to illness.

因此,在弗林特市水危机的例子中,你的大脑预见到了威胁,你的皮质醇水平飙升,让你的身体做好行动的准备,但笼统的糟糕感不会激起具体的行动。你只是觉得很糟糕,因为你的大脑毫无必要地从身体预算中抽出了一部分。下一次处于同样的境况中时,你的大脑会重复同样的反应过程。你会又一次心乱如麻,无法自拔。时间长了,编制得不准确的身体预算可能会导致人生病。

With higher emotional granularity, however, your brain may construct a more specific emotion, such as righteous indignation, which entails the possibility of specific actions. You might telephone a friend and rant about the water crisis. You might Google “lead poisoning” to learn how to better protect your children. You might call your member of Congress and demand change. You are no longer an overwhelmed spectator but an active participant. You have choices. This flexibility ultimately reduces wear and tear on your body (e.g., unnecessary surges of cortisol).

不过,如果你的情绪粒度较高,你的大脑或许会建构更为确切的情绪,比如有可能引发具体行动的义愤。你或许会给朋友打电话,怒斥这场水危机。你或许会用谷歌(Google)搜索“铅中毒”,了解如何更好地保护自己的孩子。你或许会打电话给议员,要求其推动变革。你不再是不堪重负的旁观者,而是积极的参与者。你有各种选择。这种灵活性最终有助于减少身体的损耗(譬如不必要的皮质醇激增)。

The good news is that emotional granularity is a skill, and many people can increase theirs by learning new emotion concepts. I mean this literally: learning new words and their specific meanings. If you weren’t familiar with the term “pena ajena” that I mentioned earlier, for example, you’ve now increased your potential for granularity. Schoolchildren who learn more emotion concepts have improved social behavior and academic performance, as research by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence shows. If you incorporate such concepts into your daily life, your brain will learn to apply them automatically.

好消息是,情绪粒度是一种技能,许多人都可以通过学习新的情绪概念来提升这种技能。这里的学习就是取本义,去学习新词汇以及它们的具体含义。例如,如果你以前并不熟悉我在前文中提到的术语“pena ajena”,那么现在你的情绪粒度潜能已经有所提高。耶鲁大学情绪智能中心(Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence)的研究显示,学童学了更多的情绪概念以后,社会行为和学业表现都会得到改善。如果把这类概念融入你的日常生活,你的大脑将学会自动应用它们。

Emotion concepts are tools for living. The bigger your tool kit, the more flexibly your brain can anticipate and prescribe actions, and the better you can cope with life.

情绪概念是生活工具。工具包越大,你的大脑就能更灵活地作出预测,并指定需要采取的行动,你也就能更好地应对生活。

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