The Language of Love
“Every breath you take, every move you make, every smile you fake, I’ll be watching you,” sang Sting back in the ‘80’s. Except it’s not quite true. We’re not really watching. We don’t pay attention to the little signals from others, and even more significantly, from own selves that belie our intentions, sabotage our desires and thwart our dreams.
Your body language is instant messaging all the time: both to you and to others. We think we don’t read each other, but deep inside we know when someone is flirting, or angry, or closed minded, even if our conscious mind denies the information. More importantly, your own body language is constantly feeding back to you. For example, your face is a swiftly changing landscape of expressions that your nervous system constantly interprets. Each smile, frown or raised eyebrow sends a signal that releases hormones from oxytocin (the cuddle hormone) to adrenaline racing through you, producing various emotional states.
It has been shown that changing your own body language can change not only how others feel about you, it can change the way you feel about yourself. Whether you are in a long term relationship or are still looking for the “right one”, this can be an invaluable tool.
Your breath tells others, as well as your own body whether you are trapped, need to defend yourself, are in love and much more. Each emotion has a breath pattern as well as a posture and facial expression. The fastest way to tune into your emotional life, as well as to change it, is to tune into your breathing pattern.
Don is a young hi-tech entrepreneur: a super brainy guy who spends a lot of time at his computer. He came to see me because people kept telling him he made them nervous. The most prominent aspect of Don’s demeanor was his breath. He took short, rapid shallow breaths, followed by a periodic long gasp, very reminiscent of the breath of someone in terror! He had no idea he was doing that and no one had been able to recognize this habit.
There is a phenomenon called “entrainment” often observed in piano stores. If you hit the “C” of a piano, all the other pianos in the store will vibrate in the key of C. Two cells beating at a different speed, in different petri dishes, will eventually begin to beat together. Being around Don, people felt stressed and uncomfortable without knowing exactly why – they were “entraining” with his breath pattern.
Take a moment, notice your breath. Sense the air coming into your nostrils, feel the air as it travels over your upper lip, into your nostrils and down your throat. Pay attention to your ribs move as the air goes in and out. Notice I don’t ask you to change anything. By paying attention to yourself, your body’s intelligence will self correct without your imposing a pattern.
We are so accustomed to our tensions, we don’t even notice them until they cause pain. Hunched shoulders, clenching abdomen, even the muscles around your sternum (breastbone) participate in a habitual posture that can tell others “I’m insecure,” “I’m inaccessible,” “I’m angry” and turn them away from you. One way to begin to re-discover a relaxed neutrality is to identify and then exaggerate your holding patterns. That’s right, don’t try to make them go away, intensify them – in the privacy of your own home of course. For example, if you have tense shoulders, hunch them more, hold them like that for 30 seconds then let go. This awareness of your pattern will help you each time you are about to enter a challenging moment, like calling someone for a date, or asking for a a greater commitment.
We are told all the time that we should smile, that smiling changes everything, that it takes more muscles to frown than smile. Yet we are also told that people can read a fake smile. When you smile, your posture, your breath, and even your internal functioning are affected. Here’s a tip from The Feldenkrais Method®. Instead of forcing a smile, imagine that the corners of your mouth are moving outward toward your ears. Pay attention to your breath as you picture your lips parting slightly. Don’t do it, just picture it. Without effort, your face will change, perhaps just enough to catch the eye of that special someone.