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Extreme ideas

How easy, it would be to show me how you feel

More than words is all you have to do to make it real

Then you wouldn't have to say that you love me

'Cause I'd already know”..."

Extreme (1990) More than words

Maybe you are not from this time and don't remember this song, but I still played it a few times. And if there was one thing that existed in 1990, when I was 15 years old, it was emotions. And many of them without words.

I remembered this song because of another issue that I've been playing more frequently - Alexithymia. Interestingly, it could perfectly well be the name of a 90s rock band, but it's not.

Let it not be thought that Alexitimia is a new thing, one of these fashions of naming everything. Alexitimia comes from the last century, from the 70s. More precisely, Sifneos gave the name to Alexithymia in 1972. And at that time the term was used in reference to people with psychosomatic issues. These people showed marked difficulty in identifying their feelings, in finding appropriate words to describe them, and in distinguishing feelings from activating bodily sensations (i.e., arousal). In addition, people appeared to have poor imaginative abilities, reflected in a paucity of fantasy, and a style of thinking focused on external events, together with a notable avoidance of a focus on internal experiences.

As much of health comes from the Greeks, this one doesn't escape either. The root of the word Alexithymia comes from the Greek word 'speechless for emotion'. Which could quickly lead us back to the idea that it would explain some or many of the difficulties experienced on the autism spectrum. And that it could be this Alexithymia to justify the apparent absence of autistic people's capacity to express their emotions or to understand the emotions of others. But that would be assuming that words are the only ways to express emotion, right?

Furthermore, it has been thought that this designation of having no words for emotion may not make sense. This is because, some people with Alexithymia seem to contradict this definition, as they may be chronically dysphoric or exhibit sudden outbursts of crying or anger. But still, they seem to know very little about their own feelings and, in most cases, seem unable to link them to specific memories, fantasies, or situations. In the extreme, alexithymic people seem to function in a one- to two-dimensional world, a world that is deprived of the fullness of feelings.

And if psychoanalysis has almost always looked at the cause of Alexithymia as a response to a traumatic situation experienced in childhood, favouring the idea of a purely psychological cause for Alexithymia. What is certain is that it has been demonstrated the existence of a genetic polymorphism in the 5-HT transporter. And that has favoured Alexithymia as something of developmental origin and that is being built along childhood and along the life cycle as a personality trait.

Going back to the music of Extreme and other music groups, how many times have we felt emotions that we didn't have words to express?

One thing is going to seem certain to us, Alexithymia doesn't seem to be just a single thing. An absence of expressing and understanding emotions. However, this definition of Alexithymia as something multifaceted, despite being intuitive, still does not seem to gather the necessary consensus. And when we think about the higher probability of finding Alexithymic people in the autism spectrum, this fact seems to close the idea of looking for another explanation. And as such, it is assumed that autistic people have a greater difficulty or even absence of expression and understanding of emotions due to this trait. Whether within or outside autism, Alexithymia, is still a construct that needs further knowledge. And in order for it not to gain the use that depression has gained over the years, and to start saying that the person is alexithymic when he may not be able to express his emotion, it is necessary to put some brake on the process. The mastery of emotion and affections is not linear. The very works and reflections of people like António Damásio and others have demonstrated its great complexity. Even if culturally there is an appropriation by each one of us of what it is to feel and express emotions.

Just as in music and the arts in general, there are many different tastes and forms of expression. And they should be contemplated but also respected. Emotion, its expression or understanding, is not something merely verbal, explicit. Feeling also has a (neuro)physiological expression that needs to be taken into account. To say that a person does not feel, understand or express an emotion is rudimentary. And even more so when said by a health professional.

But more than whether or not there is the necessary scientific evidence, it seems fundamental to us that the expression of emotions may take on different configurations. And if there are some more extreme ones in which it may be possible to consider a greater difficulty in its expression. Even so, it seems fundamental to understand that there should be a resonance of that same feeling, and that it may be important to help the person to build it, at the same time as we help them to become aware of that palette. Even if it is the person who is going to choose the colours he wants to paint his picture.

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