Meta-emotions in daily life: Associations with emotional awareness and depression.

Meta-emotions are emotions that occur in response to other emotions (e.g., guilt about anger). Although emotion theories often discuss them, much about meta-emotions remains unknown. In the present study, we aim to assess the frequency of meta-emotions in everyday life, determine whether increased attention to and clarity of emotions are associated with a greater likelihood of meta-emotions, and examine whether negative emotions about negative emotions (negative-negative meta-emotional experiences) are associated with depressive severity. We recruited a diverse adult community sample (n = 79) to complete 7 days of experience sampling and a self-report measure of depressive severity. At each survey, they indicated current attention to emotion, clarity of emotion, and whether and what kind of meta-emotional experience they were having. Meta-emotional experiences were categorized as negative-negative (NN), negative-positive (NP), positive-negative (PN) or positive-positive (PP). Approximately 53% of participants reported at least 1 meta-emotional experience. Meta-emotional experiences were reported about twice a week; negative-negative experiences were most frequent. Using multilevel modeling, we found that although attention to and clarity of emotion each individually positively predicted the likelihood of meta-emotional experiences, only attention to emotion explained unique variance. Higher depressive severity was associated with higher likelihood of meta-emotional experiences and specifically negative-negative experiences. Most adults experienced meta-emotions, especially during moments of high attention to emotion, and negative-negative experiences were positively associated with depressive severity. These findings are an important step forward in understanding individual and within-person differences in reactions to emotional experience. Implications for theories of emotion generation and regulation are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)