Your Health is Written All Over Your Face

How expressive is the patient’s face? As their treatment progresses, the range and naturalness of their emotional expression will improve, as well. Hardened, stoic faces transform into being spontaneously expressive of any number of emotions in the moment. The process of armoring (and subsequent de-armoring in treatment) involves a rigidification of the musculature, as a form of “holding” mechanism to attempt to keep any original anxiety or conflicts at bay from overtaking the mind.

Janet Kidd, singing teacher, and chorus director described the effects of this in her recent blog about facial expressions during performance:

At some point the wind changed for all of us. Hearts got broken, people put us down or we were disappointed or disillusioned. It became unsafe to stand out, be wildly enthusiastic or to be really expressive. So most of us have settled for faces that display only a very small part of the range of emotion that was our birthright.

She goes on to describe some exercises for performers to do at home, of video-recording themselves singing, and then watching themselves for the amount of emotional expression that they displayed, compared to how much they thought that they had. She then suggests working on the same exercise, but with over-exaggerated expressions:

Now try it again – but this time, ridiculously exaggerating every emotion. Sad – be really, really sad. Happy – be deliriously joyful. Bewildered – be utterly clueless.

This kind of feedback is very similar to the original form of Dr. Reich’s Character Analysis, where he would ruthlessly point out frozen behaviours or expressions in the patient, until they could start to feel those unconscious patterns themselves, and begin to change them.

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