The Language of a New Emotion

The rapidly unfolding global Coronavirus pandemic has me feeling something new—an emotion I haven’t felt before and don’t believe the English language has a word for. So, I commandeered an existing word to describe it: I’ve been feeling apocalyptic.

I hear your guffaws and I see your eye rolls—give me a moment to explain. I’m using the word apocalyptic to describe my emotional state in the “anything is possible” sense.

The ancient roots of the word apocalypse mean to “uncover” and “reveal”. Being human right now is to peel back “essentials” to essence. We each, in our own lives and at large, face the question: What matters most? For some, the immediate answer is toilet paper and wifi. For others it’s family, or a home with a secure mortgage, or a regular paycheque. As the days of isolation and economic fallout pile up and we consider that our essentials may be luxuries, we each discover new answers to the question of what really matters.

As this “uncovering” occurs in my own life, every possibility seems suddenly available. There is a recklessness of thought that I could do anything, go anywhere, make any change. My mind goes places it has never gone before.

Are you feeling like this, too?

I wonder if this is what it was like to live through a great war, when a global sense of generalized anxiety, fear, and uncertainty permeated everything. My parents remember the daily air-raid drills of their childhood. They grew up sensing that something destructive could happen at any moment, not knowing what, or when, or how the world would look on the other side.

For me, the apocalyptic feeling is not negative like fear and anxiety. It’s not happy or celebratory, either. It is simply vast. An immense space of unknowable possibility that I’m trying to surrender to, because I do not control any of this.


I enjoyed this podcast episode about a man who discovered/felt a new emotion after learning the word for it.

2017 research uncovered 27 human emotions (none of them matched what I’m feeling).

The Eurythmics, singing about a new emotion:

Progressive Tense Cards (8)



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