When you experience an emotion without knowing the precise cause, you are more likely to treat that emotion as information about the world, rather than your experience of the world. This is known as affective realism. Affective realism causes us to experience supposed “facts” about the world that are in fact created by our feelings. It can leave us trapped in an emotional world of our own making, without realizing that we are the ones who imprisoned ourselves.

Luckily, emotional granularity can be improved. If you can learn to distinguish more precise meanings for “Feeling great” (happy, content, thrilled, relaxed, joyful, hopeful, inspired, prideful, adoring, grateful, blissful . . .) or “Feeling crappy” (angry, aggravated, alarmed, spiteful, grumpy, remorseful, gloomy, mortified, uneasy, dread-ridden, resentful, afraid, envious, woeful, melancholy . . .), your brain will have many more options for predicting, categorizing, and  perceiving emotions.

High emotional granularity gives us a much greater range of tools, allowing more flexible responses to our challenges. It allows us to tailor our actions to the underlying causes of our emotions, rather than their immediate appearance.