Emotional complexity varies from place to place, not just from person to person. Multiple emotions are common, just different.
If you aren’t aware of your emotional complexity, let me remind you. You know well that there are times when you feel both anger and love at the same time. These emotions, of course, are only examples. You can feel many types of emotions together, even more than just two. What’s interesting is there are two different definitions for emotional complexity.
- “emotional dialecticism”, which means feeling both positive and negative emotions at the same time.
- “emotional differentiation”, means when someone can describe the separate emotions they feel.
Regional differences in emotional complexity
Emotional complexity varies quite a bit from country to country. You can see this in a study by Phoebe Ellsworth from Michigan University and Alex Huynh and Igor Grossmann of the University of Waterloo. The three examined 1.3 million English webpages from 10 countries to see how many times a positive emotion word appeared within negative emotion statements. They noticed a difference between the Eastern and Western worlds concerning mixed emotions.
Tests were also conducted among college students from a selection of countries to see how they reacted to different life situations, including being injured or being with friends. Again, there was a marked difference between Eastern and Western countries.
Researchers discovered that countries with the highest mixed emotions had a higher rate of interdependence, which basically means helping others. Those who are more prone to interdependence also connect emotions with their interactions with other people in general and with the environment.
Countries with the highest emotional complexity
Japanese people seem to have one of the highest rates of emotional complexity, considering they tended to be more complex during all of the studies, as compared to other eastern countries and with the western countries as well.
2. Malaysia, the Philipines, and Singapore
These countries all seemed to mix positive and negative words among their written statements. The emotional complexity seen in millions of web pages shows the extent of how varied the emotions tended to be in the text.
Like Japan, Russia also puts an emphasis on interdependence, showing a much higher rate of emotional complexity than with other countries. They see their emotions as originating from the environment more so than from within.
Another country high in mixed emotional capacity is India. Since mental health efforts are completely different in this country, emotional complexity is welcomed as a way to gauge the feelings of those who are depressed. Depression is not medicated and forgotten as it is in so many other places. In India, depression is seen as a way to understand the emotions and how they interact with the outside world.
Countries with lower emotional complexity
It doesn’t come as a surprise that most of the countries with a lower mixed emotion rate are Western countries. Places like the U.S., Germany, and the U.K experience less emotional complexity, and it probably stems from either keeping emotions inside or less social interaction. Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Ireland also fall short on emotional complexity.
Unfortunately, having a lower rate of mixed emotions isn’t as good as you may have thought. Being able to express emotional complexity can lead to an overall sense of wellbeing, both mentally and physically.
So, I guess our lesson learned here is to be a bit more intuned with all of our emotions, and more attuned to those around us as well. I think those of us in the Western can learn a thing or two from this. And learning is one of the most important aspects of life.
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