Moulton Lava

Moultonic Musings

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Location: New England, United States

Friday, October 12, 2007

Alexithymia and Acedia

There are some 40 muscles on the face that can be modulated into an estimated ten thousand distinct facial expressions, each one telegraphing some subtly nuanced affective emotional state.

Not surprisingly, the average person's vocabulary lacks names for quite so many affective states.

In 1972, the Harvard Medical School researcher, Peter Sifneos, coined the term Alexithymia, to mean the inability to call up a suitable vocabulary term to name one's current affective emotional state.

With some 10,000 nuanced emotional states, everyone eventually runs out of words to describe how they feel.

Nonetheless, the diligent researcher is wont to stumble upon a useful new word now and then to reduce the exasperating poverty of alexythymia.

There is an interesting word that comes to us from theology that I first heard on the radio last week. Acedia is a word of Greek origin that means spiritual torpor.

Methinks there is a lot of that melancholic malaise going around these days.

Ironically enough, some people pass through an opposite state of being riled up before settling back into the spiritual torpor of acedia.

Somewhere between these two extremes, there must be a divine middle ground of good humored spiritual enthusiasm that is neither reclusively torporous nor obtrusively obnoxious.

Perhaps those with this gift become beloved performing artists.


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