Adam’s Notebook
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Adam’s Notebook

Seven emotions that no longer exist


Dr Sarah Chaney’s list of seven emotions ‘that no longer exist’ is intriguing and irritating in equal measure. Irritating because (making all allowances that she is writing for a popular audience, and so on) it’s a bit daft. ‘Emotions vary from place to place — think of the uniquely German Schadenfreude, for example’ confuses the fact that we happen to use a German word for this globally distributed emotion with the idea that only German people experience Schadenfreude, which is manfestly not true. Her seven emotions are:





Shell Shock


Motral Insanity

Click the link above, and you’ll see the case Dr Chaney makes for each of these. I have to say I doubt that these emotions are no longer experienced. Even if we agree with Dr Chaney that (say) ‘acedia’ is something distinct from and different to despair, listlessness, depression etc (which … I’m not sure) — if we agree with her that ‘acedia was very specifically bound up with spiritual crisis’, it’s surely the case that people today sometimes feel a lack of energy and draining of commitment to their religious faith. No? With some of the others we might, I suppose, say, that the social and cultural contexts in which we experience melancholy or hypochondriasis have shifted, although I’m not convinced that the qualia of these emotions are themselves so very different on that account. Hard to access the sorts of comparative data, though. Still: I find it hard to swallow that PTSD is that different from, or is experienced that differently to, Shell-shock. Or that the lived-experience of melancholia is that different to the lived-experience of depression, just because we have a different explanation for it as psychopathology.

But it’s mean-spirited of me to carp. Instead of doing that, here are a number of emotions that don’t exist yet.

Gravitstalgia. The feeling, experienced as a manifest tug in the inner ear, of an individual who has spent so long in zero-g that the lack of fundamental orientation begins to afflict them.

Swellmoik. The sense that one’s moik has grown to the point where it cannot be somatically contained. Uncomfortable and exhilarating at the same time.

Shellsuit Shock. The temporal uncertainty, when encountering somebody wearing a shell-suit, proceeding from uncertainty whether the individual is far behind, or well-ahead of, today’s fashion.

Interpersonal Phantasmia. As human-human relations shift increasingly online, this emotion becomes more and more prominent: the dislocating and disorienting sense when meeting someone in real life that you cannot block, mute or swipe them away. The ghastly inertia of material intersubjectivity.

Andromedeia. An elating sense of andromedeianess.

Phoneccedie. The specific mode of anxiety, qualitiatively different to other modes of anxiety, that you experience when you cannot locate your phone, and you know it is out of charge, so you can’t simply get your partner to ring it for you.

Yurk. An incomprehensible and indescribable emotion, linked to existential noncomprehension and description-blankness. Linked, but in a baffling manner.



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Adam Roberts

Adam Roberts

Writer and academic. London-adjacent.