traits that may mean *not* alexi?
It might be helpful to use a logical reversal to help figure out alexithymia:
what traits do alexi's NOT have, which would distinguish an alexi from a person who is simply disaffected due to some other psychological dysfunction or defense?
If they were always like that from early childhood then it's not due to trauma.
In my case, I always had a baseline alexithymic unemotionality, but then at a later age some extra "disaffectation" was piled on top of that. Most likely I was susceptible to that because of the baseline alexithymic trait I already had, making me unable to deal with the issue in any more direct way in terms of feelings. That's anyway something I've been trying to reverse but I'm also trying to increase awareness of feelings in general too, beyond resolving that specific issue.
This is what I mean by "disaffectation":
"In coining the term McDougall hoped to indicate the behavior of people who had experienced overwhelming emotion that threatened to attack their sense of integrity and identity. Such individuals, unable to repress the ideas linked to emotional pain and equally unable to project these feelings delusively onto representations of other people, simply ejected them from consciousness by "pulverizing all trace of feeling, so that an experience which has caused emotional flooding is not recognized as such and therefore cannot be contemplated". They were not suffering from an inability to experience or express emotion, but from "an inability to contain and reflect over an excess of affective experience.""
I've read up on this but I'm still not entirely sure what repression of feelings means for people who do feel normally (if anyone knows what repression of feelings means, do please explain to me! All that psychoanalytic terminology hurts my head lol), but if it requires some ability to directly manipulate the feelings in some abstract way then nope I don't naturally have that.
The part on "unable to project these feelings delusively onto representations of other people", that I definitely recognize as very fitting me. Again, due to the lack of ability to maneuver with feelings as above. I have seen other people do this sort of projecting and it does require the person "owning" their feeling in a way I just do not do it by default and if I try, I have incredible difficulty with it on my own.
Yes, I have found some ways to possibly try and "own" them a little bit more but it requires a lot of practice and requires increasing affect tolerance as well along with increasing openness to feelings in general. You can't get these skills built up in one single day...
Not trying to shoot you down at all, just following your comment I thought I would do some research. I love getting deep in details.
I found a page that talks about trauma in relation to alexi. It says both scenarios happen and some genetic link is possibly involved. I also have heard from my therapist (I think? Don't remember specifically) that environmental factors do get encoded into genetics, maybe even as specific as emotional environment, which sounds likely to me. My grandma was bipolar and had panic attacks and phobias, my mom has ocd, migraines and has difficulty with "boundaries", my sister has panic attacks and migraines... are all 3 related because of reinforced habits (parenting), or genetics, or both, or are the recurring habits also shaping the genetics? Confusing but interesting.
Anyway here's the page I read. --> http://www.laurakkerr.com/2012/04/08/alexithymia/
Lots more there, very much worth reading the whole page -- but I'll quote the pertinent part
"Research conducted by Sabine Aust and her colleagues in Berlin (2012, citation below) showed alexithymia might also originate with early emotional neglect that is too mild to cause psychological disorders, nevertheless is enough to strain the flow and interpretation of feelings.
"Aust & colleagues saw greatest impairment when emotional neglect had occurred in childhood. But their study also showed some with alexithymia lack histories of emotional neglect. Furthermore, they confirmed alexithymic people with histories of emotional neglect could also be psychologically and physically healthy.
"What to make of these findings? They certainly suggest possible genetic precursors to alexithymia and the likelihood of it being a relatively isolated trait with limited impact. In contrast, alexithymia might also be described as the outcome of environmental conditions in a culture that habitually devalues emotional connections."
I interpret "early emotional neglect" to include VERY early neglect, like not breast feeding, maybe being slapped by dad/mom for crying before you can even remember, etc....probably impossible to know but for me, it would make sense given what I know about my parents.
by the way I hope it doesn't sound like I have it out for my parents. (Only one... haha) I'm over that phase but objectively I think there's value in considering all possibilities. I had a hard time figuring out how I felt about my parents, someone else said to me it's like you start your life assuming you must trust them and mostly you do, but sometimes it's difficult to decide if you can go on trusting them or if you should question that trust. In some way I was lucky my dad was such a jerk, that makes it easier to see where the problems lie but I also feel like my unquestioned trust of my mother when I was little kept me from questioning (and thus fully understanding) her role in my life until therapy happened. Does that make sense?
Hi, no worries.
My family had no such craziness going on, and my mom is very loving with babies/small kids, so no, for me it's only genetic temperament. Or whatever other prenatal factors.
I don't really see the value in guessing what it might have been in the early years anyway, because it got hard-wired into your brain anyway. It's the fundamental base for the networks, unchangeable in its essence.
Moving forward and improvement requires looking forward to the future and not back to the past.
I just re-read this thread, thanks for your thoughts. Serendipitously, "disaffectation" is what I have been focusing on lately. It's exactly what happens to me: to my best understanding so far, there are certain degrees of intimacy with other people that I seem to be unable to navigate due to an unconscious pushing away of those aspects of intimacy.
One example: one friend got a new boyfriend, and a mutual friend started talking about (critiquing/criticizing) subtleties of how the new boyfriend interacted with everyone. Because those nuances were between people other than myself, I had not observed them. After further observing the boyfriend, I could see what the comments were about.
Another example is with my own life partner, who is a pretty confident and outgoing woman. Maybe because of my tendency to want to erase or forget myself (maybe to avoid feeling self-conscious), I'm not solicitous of her, don't sweet-talk her, etc. until she gets to the point of frustration that she feels like I don't care. She says that I "don't seem to have a space in my head for her" - or for anyone else for that matter - on an emotional level. I feel really bad about how often I come across as uncaring. I think it's that I don't want that level of attention for myself (or never got it, so don't feel comfortable with it), so I don't care or think to offer it.
So with my therapist, I suggested that maybe, like learning to ride a bike, "it's not rocket science..." if I can memorize a plan of action, a few scripts, and practice them, eventually it will become less uncomfortable and maybe even part of my language. His view was that that would make it insincere; on some level I need to convey to her that it's much deeper than just refusing to be considerate or being too lazy to put the effort in. I have no idea how to convey that, without always sounding like I'm making excuses and making her feel like I'm just pushing back against her wishes. Any of this sound familiar?
I am starting to see parallels between my "repulsion" to too much intimacy and events in my past. I know you don't see any of that in your situation, which is interesting. It's a little mixed for me; I remember some instances as a kid where I had zero emotional reaction to a situation and later wondering why the hell I was "not there". But I also think it might have been fear of emotion, or maybe situational conditioning. I was moved around a lot as a kid, so at various times in my life, friendships were just guillotined without my having any control over it - no wonder I could just walk away from people with whom I was getting closer, and have no feelings about it.
An empathic feels their way through something.
Their speaking is “I feel the warmth of the Apple from across the room”
The Alexi rationalizes emotions “I think the Apple is red: