Jan 18, 2010

WORD OF THE WEEK: Alexithymia

Summary: This week's word is relatively new, but is becoming more and more popular among certain circles. Although I love learning new words, the increased usage of this one—alexithymia—isn't necessarily a good thing: Alexithymia is the opposite of emotional intelligence, or speaking your personal truth. Its popularity means you and I are more and more often unable to say what we mean.

Don't try looking up this week's word in your desktop dictionary: It probably isn't there. Alexithymia (ah -LEX - eh - THY - MEE - ya) is only 30-some years old, very young in word years. Of course, far newer words and phrases are adopted into contemporary dictionaries every day, but only after the majority of the culture begins to regularly use them. Alexithymia has a little way to go on this front. However, medical dictionaries (do you have one on your shelf?) note the word's select popularity right up front.

Credited for introduction in 1972 by Dr. Peter Sifneos, M.D., the word means "an inability to articulate feelings," particularly in regard to emotions. It's a combination of the ancient Greek words a (without, lacking), lexis (word or diction), and thymos (emotions).

An interesting point to note here is that thymos also means spirited—and is thought to pertain to concepts that the brain's thymus deals with, like emotions.

Modern-day therapists and psychiatrists refer to their patients as alexithymic when, for example, they are obviously worked up, but can't explain what's going on in their lives to contribute to their upset state. But, of course, you don't have to be seeing a specialist to experience this all-too-common condition.

Do YOU know what you're feeling right NOW? If not, you may try journaling exercises to help you practice recognizing your feelings and speaking them 'out loud' (or on paper). Or you may visit this site on emotional literacy that just so happens to contain an excellent list of emotional/feeling words. Don't be alexithymic anymore! Speak your truth today.

© KiKi Productions, Inc. 2010

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