Can you imagine a person who is totally incapable of feeling frustration or anger at any time in his life?
Possibly we can visualize a person who never gets angry, but the inability to feel frustration or anger are the main symptoms of a disease called ataraxia.
In this article we will talk about this strange alteration very little known at present but that is being highly investigated in the State Center of Acquired Brain Injury .
What is ataraxia?
Ataraxia is the inability of the human being to experience emotions such as anger or frustration.
In other words, a person with Ataraxia is totally incapable of ever feeling angry at any time in his life.
And is that ataraxia is not only a psychological tendency to be calm or be very resistant to frustration, but is now a disease in which the person who suffers no ability to feel frustration or anger at any event.
Let’s give an example:
You are preparing for a competitive examination to obtain the job you have always wanted, you have studied for more than a year, and have made a great effort to perform well in the exam.
The day of the exam is approaching and you take the syllabus very well, notes that you know almost everything perfectly and in all the tests you do you get a very good grade.
Finally, you take the exam and it goes extremely well, you are aware that you knew all the questions and you feel that you are about to achieve your goal and that it is difficult for you to escape the position you want.
You arrive home, check the questions you have done in the exam and you realize that your feeling was correct. All the questions you have answered well in a virtually certain way. Your enormous effort has been rewarding, you think.
You rejoice enormously and you only have to wait for the day the results come out to reaffirm that you have finally achieved that job you wanted so much.
However, the day of the results arrives and you are not on the lists of requested places.
You think it must be an error and you start calling to find out what has happened and be able to carry out the procedures to resolve the situation.
You start to feel angry about having to perform these actions, but you do them equally so that justice is done and they give you the place you have earned.
From administration they say that there may have been some error in the correction of the exams, your evaluation may have been misplaced or anything like that. They tell you that you must submit a claim to look to fix it.
You do it but after a few weeks your claim has been denied, the places have already been assigned and you have run out of yours.
Obviously, in this situation, it is quite irrelevant how is your way of being and what personality you have, the answer will be quite clear.
You will feel enormous emotions of anger and feelings of frustration at having been the victim of such injustice and having to pay such a high price for mistakes or negligence of other people.
Well, a person with ataraxia, in this situation, would also be unable to feel anger or frustration.
Does it seem impossible, right? It is not, since ataraxia is a disease that is not linked to the character or the way of seeing the person’s things , so it can reach these extremes.
This disease is caused by a dysfunction of the parts of the brain that are responsible for producing such emotions, so the inability to feel anger or frustration is total.
It is as if that part of the brain that is responsible for producing these emotions was unplugged by what the person, however much they want, is unable to turn it on when necessary and is never able to experience these emotions.
What are its consequences?
According to how we interpret the previously explained, we could evaluate ataraxia as a virtue or a defect.
We could think: to the person with ataraxia anything negative can happen to him and he would never feel the negative feelings of frustration or anger, what luck!
In fact, the term ataraxia comes from the Greek and means absence of disturbance.
This term was described by Greek philosophers and refers to a special disposition of the state of mind that allows the person to reduce the intensity of their desires and passions, to possess a lot of strength in the face of adversity, and to reach a total balance that provides happiness.
Thus, from this point of view, Ataraxia is understood as a personal quality that allows to acquire a permanent sensation of tranquility, serenity and imperturbability.
Obviously, having a permanent feeling of tranquility that allows you to never feel frustration could be considered a positive quality that the person could benefit to live happier.
However, when we speak of ataraxia from the medical point of view, that is, when we speak of ataraxia disease, we are referring to a very different term.
Far away are the philosophical theories that attended to ataraxia as a psychological virtue when a disease appears that extreme these qualities.
And is that ataraxia is not a virtue that allows you to be more resistant to frustration but it is a disease that makes it impossible for you to experience frustration.
At first we can all think that frustration is a negative feeling and therefore, if we never feel this feeling we will always be calmer and less disturbed.
But can you live properly without frustration?
The answer is clear: we can not live properly if we are not able to ever experience this type of emotion because they play a very important role in our lives.
Thus, the lack of will to be angry or disappointed that produces ataraxia prevents the individual from evolving as a person since he or she is not capable of performing the learning that we all do when we experience frustration for something.
In addition, the inability to get angry and frustrated in any situation makes your personal relationships are greatly altered because many times you can not make adequate emotional responses.
In this way, the person with ataraxia becomes an individual totally incapable of discriminating, without the ability to know what things should change to improve or what aspects he does not like.
Likewise, people suffering from ataraxia are not aware of their limitations because if they do something wrong they are not able to identify it because they do not feel any emotion about it, and they do not know how to analyze the consequences of the acts they perform.
Thus, when we consider whether ataraxia is a virtue or limitation the answer is clear, since this disease is a serious alteration in the mental and behavioral functioning of the person.
The ataraxia sufferer will be able to live in an eternal state of positive emotions but will be unable to function properly simply because he is not capable
of experiencing anger and frustration.
This fact shows that negative emotions, despite being able to be experienced with discomfort or being unpleasant, play a very important role in the functioning and adaptation of human beings, so it is necessary to be able to experience them when required.
What functions do the emotions of anger and frustration?
An emotion is a certain state of the organism that is characterized by experiencing an excitement or disturbance that predisposes it to a concrete response .
Emotions are generated in response to an internal or external event, and their function is to prepare the person to respond to the event.
In this way, when we feel a certain emotion, this gives us a concrete response both at the cognitive level (we have certain thoughts ), at the behavioral level (we perform specific behaviors) and at the physiological level (we experience specific physical sensations).
When the emotion that appears is positive, it is evident that the response it will provide will be pleasant: we will think positive things, we will conduct behaviors that we will like and we will experience pleasant bodily sensations.
On the other hand, when the emotion that appears is negative, the three answers it will give us may be more unpleasant: we will have negative thoughts, we will perform less rewarding behaviors and we will have annoying physical sensations.
However, this does not mean that the negative emotion should be avoided and the positive should be enhanced, since all emotions are necessary for the human being , and negative emotions can be even more useful than positive ones.
In this way, emotions of anger and frustration play a vital role in our lives, a fact that would explain the deterioration suffered by people with ataraxia.
More specifically, these emotions, like the rest, fulfill three specific functions.
1. Adaptive function
This is probably the most important function. It consists of preparing the agency to perform effectively the behavior that is necessary at all times to ensure the welfare of the person.
In this way, the emotions of anger and frustration provide invaluable information to the person who lets him know what things benefit him and what is harmful to him, and prepares him to respond effectively to such an event.
For example: if a person around us continuously performs actions that harm us, we will experience an emotion of anger, which will allow us to know that this person does not suit us and will help us to take relevant actions to get away from it.
Therefore, this is one of the functions that impaired a person with ataraxia, since he would not be able to experience this type of emotions in this situation, and his adaptive response would be inadequate.
2. Social function
Another function is the ability to communicate with other people through our emotional expressions.
The expression of emotions allows others to predict the behavior associated with that emotion, and at the same time, expect certain emotional responses from others to the acts of oneself.
Put another way: if we see someone who is expressing anger, we will automatically wait for a series of behaviors that are related to this emotion. Likewise, if we insult the angry person, we will expect him to respond in a certain way.
Well, a person with ataraxia can not perform this function properly either, since he will not be angry when a person gives him stimuli that may incite him to do so, and he will not be able to perform behaviors that are in accordance with this type of emotion.
3. Motivational function
Finally, due to the close relationship between emotion and motivation, emotions fulfill the function of energizing behavior and increasing the level of activation.
In this way, a person who is not capable of experiencing anger or frustration will have less energy to act in a certain way on certain occasions, and will lack motivation in the face of many events.
Thus, we see that the functions that make the anger and frustration are many, so that never be able to experience these emotions is not an advantage, but a disadvantage at the time of being able to respond adequately in many situations.
What causes ataraxia?
Ataraxia is caused by alterations or damages of the frontal part of the brain, an area in which human beings possess the capacity of will.
These damages can be caused by strokes, which damage these parts of the brain through the absence of blood supply, or cranioencephalic traumatisms , in which a strong blow to the head directly damages these brain regions.
How is it cured?
Today there is no cure or treatment for ataraxia.
In fact, it is a very little known disease since there are very few cases of people suffering this type of brain damage.
However, Ataraxia is currently one of the most investigated alterations in the State Center for Acquired Brain Injury , where we work to achieve a good diagnostic process and discover possible rehabilitative treatments for this disease.