Elections 2020: Cycling Through All 27 Emotions

Brent A. Mitchell
4 min readNov 5, 2020

Name an intense feeling and I’ve had it this week.

Photo by Tengyart on Unsplash

A recent study describes 27 distinct categories of emotion, listed below. Since the polls began closing on November 3rd, 2020, I’ve been cycling through most of them.

  • Admiration — Reporters are working overtime, seem to be tireless, and project calm and balance, even though they must be, like me, dying inside.
  • Adoration — I have a deep love and respect for our democratic system, drafted by the founders, developed over time, and imperfect as it is. It seems some in high places do not share that affection, or at least don’t act like it.
  • Aesthetic Appreciation — Graphics and simulations explaining this election process have never been more clear. I wouldn’t call it art but some of the presentation techniques are artful.
  • Amusement — I was feeling good going in to the election, given the high voter turnout. I even published a humor piece on #GOTV text messages I would like to send. Sharing it with friends on election day probably elicited in them the next emotion…
  • Anger — I respect a diversity of opinion, and it is good that not everyone agrees with how I see things. But when it comes to this Presidential incumbent, how could so many people be so f — ing stupid?!!
  • Anxiety — Another big one. I was both hopeful and anxious going in, but now my anxiety grows about the outcome, and the coming legal challenges, and possible violence, and an obstructionist Senate, and new voters getting turned off by the process, and what this all means for our children, and climate apocalypse, and equality, and …
  • Awe — The people waiting in long lines to cast their ballot, all the volunteers working tirelessly to get out the vote, Kristen Welker.
  • Awkwardness — I am so discombobulated I hardly know how to sit or stand right now. I also don’t know how to position myself in the coming reality. I know I should be doing something, but I don’t know what.
  • Boredom — There are only so many ways that journalists and experts can tell us that we have to wait for the votes to be counted. That’s all they can say, but they have to keep talking and I have to keep listening, so it gets boring.
  • Calmness — Are you kidding me?!! No way I’m finding that one for a long time.
  • Confusion – How is this election even close? After all the lies, self-dealing, corruption, foreign entanglements, sex scandals, broken economy, cruelty, bigotry, pandemic-denial, and super-spreading events, how could half the country still vote for this clown?!
  • Craving — I just want a decent, competent person leading the country. I need it. Please give it to me now!
  • Disgust — See the Access Hollywood video, just for starters.
  • Empathetic pain — We are all hurting right now. I feel for you as much as for myself.
  • Entrancement — It was hard to turn away from the coverage, even when it became clear late in the night that we would not soon know the outcome.
  • Excitement — That one has come and gone. I thought we had a chance at a reset. With at least two more years of the same Senate leadership, we are stuck with more obstruction and gridlock. The rest of the election watch is just a salvage operation.
  • Fear — Do I even have to address this one? The incumbent has done tremendous damage these four years, but at least he was somewhat constrained by this election. Another term would be a…
  • Horror — Big time!
  • Interest — The election has consumed all my attention, I can hardly do anything else. (Please don’t tell my employers or work partners.)
  • Joy — If I am cycling through all the emotions, is this one coming? Please?
  • Nostalgia — I remember when all of America got their news from a few reputable sources of great integrity. Now “news” includes popular propaganda outlets and social media echo chambers. It is a free-for-all of disinformation with two halves of the country living in alternate (fact) universes. We miss you Walter Cronkite!
  • Relief — I hope that is coming. It is not yet in sight.
  • Romance — Eh, not so much. Sorry, dear.
  • Sadness — This will be with me for a long time, no matter how the Presidential count ends up. We did not have to get to this point. I am sad for the new generations seeing what masquerades as leadership in this time.
  • Satisfaction — I did not put enough personal effort into doing my part to affect the outcome of the 2016 election. I deeply regretted that, committed myself to do better this year, and I am satisfied I did. (Would be more satisified if Question 2 had passed. See “sadness,” “surprise” and “confusion.”)
  • Sexual desire — see entry for “romance,” above.
  • Surprise — How could this be happening? I don’t know my own country.

I’m surprised hate is not on this list of emotions. See Living on Hate Cove.

Good luck dealing with your own emotions. We’ll get through this somehow, if we have to, I guess.

Keltner, Dacher; Cowen, Alan S. (2017–09–19). “Self-report captures 27 distinct categories of emotion bridged by continuous gradients”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 114 (38): E7900–E7909. doi:10.1073/pnas. 1702247114. ISSN 0027–8424. PMID 28874542.



Brent A. Mitchell

Still learning, and seeking sound stewardship of our shared Earth