Not being able to express what we feel is confining. Do we have the words to express what we feel in today’s world?

I am writing a research paper about people with autism in the workplace. During interviews, I ask the candidates to share with me their feelings about certain work-related situations. The response often comes as a chain of words in a peculiar cadence of voice accompanied by a lack of eye contact. When I check for the meaning, of what they are trying to say, they tell me: “I do not know, I cannot explain, I only have a feeling”. When people do not understand their feelings or know how to contently describe them, the confusion feeds the inner fears resulting in various combinations of posterity, aggression, or depression. One might think that such conditions are unique to neurodivergent people. However, today, we are living in unprecedented times, battling a global pandemic in the 21st century, and experiencing emotional ranges which are confusing and new to all. Innovation often nurtures our vocabulary by adding new words for processes and applications. Yet, our depository of words describing emotions has not expanded.

Despite the newness of the situation, and acknowledgment that an anarchic creation of words would be pointless, we can still improve our understanding of existing words and better connect our emotions to them.

If we do so, it can give us an extra bundle of keys to fight the unknown, free ourselves from the confusion, and on a larger scale perhaps even prevent future societal and racial aggressions behind which many hide in fear. Two-thirds into my semester, I keep striving to resolve the quest of my research inspired by someone saying “If only they understood me better.”


Industrial-Organizational Psychology scholar at Harvard University (in extension studies)