The Everyday Emotions That You Feel But Can’t Explain, Explained

Feelings are right mess sometimes. You know when you have the flu and can’t work out whether you’re really hot or freezing to death? Having feelings are kind of like that but, you know, all the time. I don’t know why I’m explaining this, it’s only useful for any lapsed sociopaths that are wanting to learn how to feel again.

Either way, bar the primary feelings (sadness, happiness, hunger, anger, hunger, elation, hunger and hunger) we really don’t have an articulate grasp on our emotions. We can only categorise our feelings relative to the primary emotions and accept them as sub-sets of those emotions, you follow?


Let’s take out the linguistic elements of this example and stick to the point, the word ‘schadenfreude’ is a German term which means “to feel pleasure derived from another person’s misfortune”. Nobody uses this term is conversation we’ll say: “I’m happy because they’re not happy” but it’s not as simple as just plain happiness.

The point is that emotions are complicated and we’ll never understand them all but, if it helps, there are names for emotions you feel on a daily basis and didn’t even realise you felt!


Graphic designer John Koenig has written a collection of words called The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows to showcase the emotions that we feel but can never described. Here are some terms that you’ve never heard of but might sound all too familiar.


The overwhelming and intense feeling you get when you make eye contact for someone too long. Regardless of who you’re speaking to, constant eye contact is very intimidating.


A ongoing for the clarity of disaster. This is the feeling that has us rubber-necking at car crashes despite knowing what a car crash looks like or wanting to witness the damage of global warming despite scientists telling us what’s happening to the planet.


The feeling that you’ve lived an ordinary life. This is a feeling that has obviously intensified since the advent of the internet.


Fata Organa

This one is complex and beautiful it has to be quoted: “a flash of real emotion glimpsed in someone sitting across the room, idly locked in the middle of some group conversation, their eyes glinting with vulnerability or quiet anticipation or cosmic boredom—as if you could see backstage through a gap in the curtains”. Wow.