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Ataraxia: when there is nothing that affects us emotionally

Ataraxia: when there is nothing that affects us emotionally

May 7, 2021

The term ataraxia It has its roots in ancient Greek, and means lack of disturbance.

It makes sense that a word be used to designate something so concrete, since in the Greece of the time of Plato, Aristotle and Alexander the Great there were philosophical schools that claimed our capacity not to let anything affect you. The Stoics and Epicureans, for example, practiced a renunciation of great desires and impulses linked to easy sources of pleasure, something that resembled monks of Eastern religions.

Ataraxia is, then, the absence of anxiety, anger or confusion . In other words, it usually materializes in the form of a tendency to calm and imperturbability.


However, the concept of ataraxia goes beyond philosophy and religions, and has gained a foothold in the domains of mental health.

Ataraxia in medicine and psychology

Occasionally, the appearance of ataraxia is not due to a voluntary effort to follow the precepts of a religion or philosophical doctrine having passed through a phase of reflection on the subject. Many times, in fact, Ataraxia makes an appearance of totally unwanted and unexpected, as a result of an accident that has caused damage to the brain .

And, although apparently the idea of ​​not getting angry or sad can be attractive, ataraxia caused by injuries has serious consequences for the quality of life of those who experience it. Both his way of relating to others and his self-image change radically by the fact of involuntarily staying in a state of eternal imperturbability.


Ataraxia seen from the neurological

This may seem strange, but it is totally logical: our brain is not only the set of organs that makes consciousness possible, the ability to plan and think logically or the use of language, but it is also the basis of all processes in the that our emotional states are based. That means If certain parts of the human brain begin to fail, some aspects of our emotional life may be altered , while the rest of the functions of our way of being remain more or less unchanged.

Just as brain injuries cause only part of the brain to die and not all, what remains altered after an accident of this type is only one (more or less important) part of our mental life. In the case of ataraxia, this may be due to failures in the way in which the limbic system interacts with the frontal lobe, in charge, among other things, of "cushioning" the impact that our emotions have on our behavior in the short and medium term .


In this way, it is very difficult for a stimulus to radically change the emotional state of a person who presents this kind of ataraxia; not because he has trained in certain meditation techniques, but because his brain circuits have begun to function abnormally.

How are people with medical ataraxia?

Pathological ataraxia it manifests through these main characteristics :

1. Tendency to passivity

People with medical ataraxia they hardly take the initiative, and they just react to what happens to them around them .

2. Absence of the appearance of intense emotional states

Regardless of what the person wants, you do not experience anger or anxiety , but neither are there peak moments of joy.

3. Unusual emotional stability

Because of the above, The emotional state of the person does not seem to depend on the environment: it always stays more or less the same .

4. Impossibility of frustration

The fact that the events do not lead to the positive consequences we were expecting does not produce frustration in the person.

5. Disappearance of guilt

It is one of the most notable consequences of ataraxia due to injuries, at least from the moral and social point of view. The person with medical ataraxia she does not feel affected by the bad things that happen to her , but it also does not react when seeing how its acts can harm others.

In conclusion

Medical ataraxia is the mirror image of what philosophical ataraxia would be like taken to the extreme . It not only worsens the quality of life of those who experience it, but also hinders the establishment of a proper communication and affective bonds with others.


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