Most of us learn early- before we even learn language- how to express and tell the difference between emotions. Babies learn this when they see their emotions amplified on the face of a caring parent or caregiver. Most caregiver’s intuitively sense and mirror back an infant’s emotional state, this mirroring-in-the-face-of-a-parent helps a child’s brain begin to know and recognize their emotions, eventually enabling the infant to feel their feelings openly- without shame- and communicate their feelings with words.
Alexithymia is when a person is not able to express, tell the difference between, and name emotions.
Alexithymia can have a number of causes, but commonly it’s a result of a caregiver being unable to be with their child in this way due to absence (physical or psychological- such as postpartum depression), trauma, or their own difficulty understanding their own emotions.
Psychodynamic therapy addresses alexithymia by offering to clients the attunement and mirroring of emotion that might have been missing in earlier relationships. Over time, this type of therapy can strengthen the neural pathways in the brain that make it possible to feel, and be aware of, our feelings, helping people develop a wider emotional range and richer life experiences.
Emotions are experienced throughout the body. We can learn to recognize a particular emotion by learning to recognize and name the associated body sensations.
Simply seeing our emotion mirrored on the face of an attentive listener can grow the capacity to recognize our own emotions.
In psychodynamic therapy, the therapist notices the feelings stirred in themselves, and begins to put words to these emotions for their client.