When we’re trying to understand emotions, thoughts, or experiences, there’s a big difference between learning about it from a reference source such as a website (including Wikipedia), a textbook or even a dictionary, or by talking to someone else who has been there.
The reference source gives us an explanation that’s merely descriptive; hearing from somebody who’s been there gives us helpful insights. But if we don’t have someone to talk to, or if we do but want to add another layer to their input, there’s a whole other source out there that rarely gets the attention it should: well-researched expert quotes, which can help us identify a path forward – similar to having a conversation with an expert or a wise and perceptive friend.
In particular, short descriptive quotes from individuals with considerable personal experience in the emotion we’re trying to understand can be helpful not only in our personal lives, but also our professional lives, where we need to think and process input quickly. This approach can be compared to the essence of helpful and informative reporting – and it may even be described somewhat as basic investigative journalism. Yet ‘quotes from experts’ can add considerable immediate color and depth to our understanding.
Let’s look at ‘Depression’ for example, and assume that we know relatively little about it. Suppose we have a colleague or boss who has confided that they’re suffering from depression. Initially, without much understanding of what, exactly, “depression” entails, we might browse the internet and stumble upon this explanation on Psychiatry.com: “Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act.”
Or we might consult a standard dictionary definition of Depression and find something along the lines of : ‘A state of enduring sadness, gloom, or pessimism.’ (or similar). We might consider a Thesaurus and look at antonyms and synonyms, and then move quickly to available search engines to deepen our understanding. We can quickly be overwhelmed (‘like drinking out of a fire hose!’) by the hundreds of available websites, books, and viewpoints, and hope to trim down the available data to manageable levels. And almost certainly we ask ourselves where best to turn for the most reliable authors, therapists, and professionals.
Let’s assume that after a few more hours of review we decide to pare down our sources on Depression to something more manageable – say a handful of ‘widely-recognized experts.’ Do we then buy each of their five different 275-page books in order to reliably self-educate? And what if we come to realize that the emotion we really needed to understand better is something closer to ‘Anxiety? Isn’t there a better way to get better-oriented regarding emotions without taking so much time?
I learned from experience that short, memorable expert quotes are exceptionally practical tools. My early teenage daughter had suffered a serious injury that triggered an emotional crisis. When she asked me if I knew what “depression” meant, my journey to understanding it fully began by looking the word up in the dictionary. Ultimately, it was through quotes and insights that I came to fully grasp not just how depression is defined, but how depression feels. This led me to investigate 180 other emotions, and to curate 2,500 of the greatest short quotes and insights of all time, from 1,000 leading thinkers across nearly 3,000 years of world history. The result was my new book, Emotional Shorthand: 2500 Greatest Self-Help Quotes and Life Insights.
Let’s return to our previous descriptive standard dictionary definition:
Depression – ‘A state of enduring sadness, gloom, or pessimism‘ – and compare it for sake of both insight and helpfulness to a few short quotes from world-recognized leaders and ‘emotional veterans’ who can help us get generally oriented on the topic of Depression:
J.K. Rowling (Former depression sufferer; now the world’s top novelist): “Depression is that absence of being able to envision that you will ever be cheerful again…It is the most unpleasant thing I have ever experienced.”
Rollo May (Author and one of America’s leading psychologists in the 1960’s): “Depression is the inability to construct a future.”
Halley Cornell (Journalist; depression sufferer; Content Strategist for WebMD): “Depression lies to you. It tells you that you have always felt this way and you always will, but you haven’t and you won’t.”
Albert Ellis, PhD (Known among the top five psychologists of the twentieth century): “You largely constructed your depression. It wasn’t given to you. Therefore you can deconstruct it.”
Depression provides just one example of the benefit of seeking expert insights in addition to technical descriptions as means of arriving at a better understanding of almost any day-to-day emotion. These deeper gains accrue to both ourselves and to those of people around us, including family and colleagues. Well-researched expert quotes can especially help focus large amounts of data.
While qualified professional opinions and advice should always be relied upon in final healthcare decisions, expert quotes can be especially helpful to getting oriented in complex landscapes. By accessing a dozen or more diverse expert quotes, we can quickly expand our perspective, personal clarity, and emotional literacy. Their power to trigger “Aha!” moments can contribute to solving modern problems – both at work and beyond – and can help change lives.