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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Alexithymia

I was alerted recently to a rare psychological condition, Coffee Lovers. It is called Alexithymia. It is the inability to express how one is feeling in words. Fascinating.

Let me start by pointing out the obvious: I do not have Alexithymia. I express my emotions a thousand ways to Sunday. In fact, I've recently taken to answering the question "How are you?" in highly descriptive and specific similes. For instance: "Like the color of sunshine as it triumphantly crests the blue, ice-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevadas."

I was introduced to the phenomenon because a friend of mine is rather sure he has Alexithymia. It made me wonder: How hard it would be to be isolated in my own emotions. I can't imagine it. I feel for him deeply, because this particular inability is not one I would wish upon myself or any single person. To feel and not know what you are feeling sounds rather terrifying.

It made me think, also, of the greater issue of emotional communication. Some of us (myself, for instance) are extremely emotionally open. We wear our hearts smeared on our sleeves, faces, in our hair, on our feet - we can't escape from what we are feeling and neither can the people we are with.

It is so necessary, somewhat like breathing, to be able to look at someone and say the words Happy or Sad, Alegre or Triste, Heureuse or Triste - to me, it feels utterly human. And so learning about Alexithymia fascinated me. It made me marvel at communication.

And then I realized something else. Commuincation is nothing. A rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet. A thorn, too, would still prick. So to my friend with this rare condition: do not despair. Emotions are the great fire of man. The words that I put so much stock in are the illusion. The emotions are the reality. And it is possible that in my pretty similes and easy words, I have lost the rawness of feeling.

Therefore, I am making a decision to live and feel deliberately. I cannot hope to feel outside of language, because I was not given that unique curse and gift. But I can feel above and beyond language. Joy that three letters cannot describe. Sorrow, too, that six do not do justice.

We are only as great as what we can feel.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-michael

1 comment:

  1. You should define alexi-whatever-emia in your actual post before starting to talk about it.

    ReplyDelete