Ataraxia: The Inability to Experience Anger

Do you imagine a person who is totally unable to feel frustration or anger at any point in his life?

It may be difficult for us to visualize a person who is never angry, but the inability to feel frustration or anger is the 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 Center State of Acquired Brain Damage .

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 point in their life.

And is that ataraxia is not only a psychological tendency to be calm or be very resistant to frustration, but is nowadays a Illness in which the person who suffers it has no capacity to feel frustration or anger at any event.

Let's take an example:

You are preparing some competitions to get that job you have always wanted, you have studied for more than a year, A lot to perform well on the exam.

The day of the exam is approaching and you carry the subject very well, you notice that you know almost everything perfectly and in all the tests that you carry out very good grade.

Finally, you take the exam and you do extremely well, you are aware that you knew all the questions and feel that you are about to get Your target since you hardly escape the square you want.

You get home, review the questions you've asked in the exam and you realize that your feeling was correct. All the questions answered Well in a practically safe way. Your enormous effort has been rewarded, you think.

You rejoice enormously and you only have to wait for the day the results come out to reaffirm that you've finally gotten that job that You wanted so much.

However, the day of the results arrives and you are not in the lists of the places requested.

You think that it must be a mistake and you start calling to find out what has happened and to be able to carry out the procedures to solve the situation.

You start to feel angry for having to perform these actions, but you do them equally so that justice is done and you get the place you have earned.

From management say that there may have been some mistake in the correction of the exams, your evaluation may have been misplaced or anything By the style. They tell you that you have to file a complaint to see if you can solve 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 you are and what personality you have, the answer will be quite clear.

You will feel enormous emotions of anger and feelings of frustration for having been victim of such injustice and having had 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.

It seems impossible, right? Because it is not, since the ataraxia is a disease that is not linked to the character or the way of seeing the things of the Person, so you can reach these extremes.

This disease is caused by a dysfunction of the Parts of the brain Which 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 so that the person, however much he wants, is incapable To turn it on when it is necessary and is not able to ever experience those emotions.

What are its consequences?

Blonde long hair sitting

According to how we interpret the above explained we could value the ataraxia as a virtue or a defect.

We could think: the person with ataraxia can happen anything negative and 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 mood that allows the person to reduce the Intensity of their desires and passions, possess great strength in the face of adversity, and achieve a total balance that provides happiness.

Thus, from this point of view, ataraxia is understood as a personal quality that allows us 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 of the That 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 alluding to a Very different term.

Far the philosophical theories that attended the ataraxia as a psychological virtue remain 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 is a disease that makes you unable to experiment frustration.

At first we can all think that frustration is a negative feeling and therefore, if we never feel this feeling we will be Always 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 experience this type of emotions because they play a very important role. Important in our lives.

Thus, the lack of will to become angry or disillusioned that produces the ataraxia prevents to evolve to the individual like person since this one is not able To realize the learning we all do when we experience frustration over something.

In addition, the inability to get angry and frustrated in any situation makes their personal relationships look tremendously altered since in Many times you will not be able to make adequate emotional responses.

In this way, the person with ataraxia becomes an individual totally incapable of discriminating, with no capacity to know what things must change for Improve or which aspects you do not like.

Also, 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 no emotion about it, and do not know how to analyze well the consequences of the acts they perform.

Thus, when we consider whether ataraxia is a virtue or a limitation the answer is clear, since this disease is a serious Alteration in the mental and behavioral functioning of the person.

The patient of ataraxia can live in an eternal state of Positive emotions But will be unable to function properly simply because it is not able
To experience anger and frustration.

This fact shows that Negative emotions , Although they may be experienced with discomfort or unpleasant, they play a very important role Important in the functioning and adaptation of human beings, so it is necessary to be able to experience them when it is required.

What functions do the emotions of anger and frustration do?

Frustrated girl

An emotion is a particular state of the organism that is characterized by experiencing an excitation or disturbance that predisposes you to a response Concrete.

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, it gives us a concrete answer both at the cognitive level (we have some thoughts Determined), 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 answer that will provide us will be pleasant: we will think positive things, we will realize Behaviors that we will enjoy and experience pleasant body 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 gratifying behaviors and we will have annoying physical sensations.

However, this does not mean that negative emotion should be avoided and positive should be enhanced, since all emotions are necessary for being And negative ones may even be more useful than positive ones.

In this way, the emotions of anger and frustration play a vital role in our lives, a fact that would explain the deterioration that people with ataraxia.

More specifically, these emotions, like the rest, fulfill three specific functions.

1. Adaptive function

Adaptive flower function

This is probably the most important function. It consists of preparing the agency to perform in an effective manner the conduct that is necessary in each Moment to ensure the well-being of the person.

In this way, the emotions of anger and frustration provide invaluable information to the person who allows him to know what benefits him and What things hurt you, and prepares you 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 It will allow us to know that that person does not suit us and will help us to take pertinent actions to get away from it.

Therefore, this is one of the functions that sees a person deteriorated with ataraxia, since they would not be able to experience this type of emotions before This situation, and their adaptive response would be inadequate.

2. Social function

Challenging girl

Another function is the ability to communicate with other people through our emotional expressions.

Expression of emotions allow others to predict the behavior associated with that emotion, and at the same time, expect certain emotional responses from The others before the acts of oneself.

Put another way: if we see someone who is expressing their anger, we will automatically expect a series of behaviors that are related With 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 because he will not be angry when a person gives him stimuli that Can not incite it, and will not be able to perform behaviors that are in accordance with this type of emotion.

3. Motivational function

Motivated man in the mountains

Finally, because of 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 in certain Occasions, and will not be motivated by many events.

Thus, we see that the functions that perform the anger and the frustration are many, reason why to never be able to experience these emotions does not suppose a Advantage, but a disadvantage to be able to respond adequately in many situations.

What causes ataraxia?

The ataraxia is caused by alterations or damage of the frontal part of the brain, an area in which human beings possess the capacity of will.

This damage can be caused by ictus , Which damage these parts of the brain through the absence of blood supply or trauma Cranioencephalic disorders, in which a severe blow to the head directly damages these brain regions.

How is it cured?

Angry woman

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 who suffer this type of brain damage.

However, ataraxia is currently one of the most investigated alterations in the State Acquired Brain Injury Center Where you work To be able to get a good diagnostic process and discover possible rehabilitative treatments for this disease.


  1. Mcpherran, M., 1989,"Ataraxia and Eudaimonia in Ancient Pyrrhonism: Is the Skeptic Really Happy?", Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy 5, pp. 135-171.
  2. Pascal Massie. Philosophy and Ataraxia in Sextus Empiricus.
  3. Palmero, F., Fernández-Abascal, E., Martínez-Sánchez, F. and Chóliz, M. (Coords.). (2002). Psychology of Motivation and Emotion. Madrid: McGraw-Hill.
  4. Fisher. C. and Ashkanasy, N. (2000). The emerging role of emotions in work life: an introduction. Journal of Organization Behavior, 21, 123-129.

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