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# 70 What languishing offers

Guest post by Quest Guide and occasional podcast co-host, Dr. Marietjie Smit



I have been telling my children for years that “angry” and “sad” are lazy emotions. We experience a wide range of emotions — most with names and a handful that require a sentence to articulate  — that feel similar to “angry” and “sad”. But when we grab the nearest available or familiar label, that also influences us to react in a specific way.


Our emotional labels are very broad bins


The neuroscientist and psychologist, Lisa Feldman Barrett, says that using better labels for our emotional states can help with better categorisation. And when we categorise better, we can shape a better reaction.


One example in our house is the label “hangry”. When one of my kids starts arguing or simply being unreasonable, I will often pause the negative interaction with the phrase, “We can continue this conversation when you have had something to eat”. In the past, these interactions would have escalated with everyone screaming and saying things they don’t mean.


But when you label the emotional state better, you can shape a better reaction (in this case, eating instead of fighting).

The spectrum of well-being


Adam Grant, an organisational psychologist and best-selling author, argues that we have been falsely labelling the states of well-being on two ends of a spectrum:

  • On the one hand there is the valley of well-being: “depression, burn-out, worthless, I-don’t-want-to-be-here-anymore”.

  • On the other hand there is the peak of well-being “flourish, fulfilled, living-my-best-life”.

Grant says that there is another label that lives in the middle of the spectrum between these two extremes: languishing.


Languishing refers to the absence of well-being, missing a sense of purpose, feeling empty, a general sense of melancholy.

You are not depressed; you still have hope. You are not burnt out; you still have energy.


When we don’t label languishing


Part of the danger is that when you’re languishing, you might not notice the dulling of delight or the dwindling of drive. You don’t catch yourself slipping slowly into solitude; you’re indifferent to your indifference. When you can’t see your own suffering, you don’t seek help or do much to help yourself.

When we do label languishing, we open the possibility of seeking help or answering questions to better help ourselves. Here are some to get your started.


CONSIDER

What is one thing you can do more of to move closer to the peak of well-being?

What is one thing you can do less of?

What is one thing that you can start doing?

What is one thing you can stop doing?

What is working, what can you continue doing?

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