I’D LIKE TO PLEAD GUILTY, YOUR HONOR 

In my previous couple of posts, I voluntarily agreed to serve as my own guinea pig. Consequently, I began to dissect moi. I namely allowed some sort of a psychological experiment to be performed on me with the help of dozens of articles, psycho-tests and studies I had found on the topic. Numerous trainers, coaches and therapists aided me in the effort to analyze the non-verbal body language I habitually use, at least the gestures I’m conscious of, like frequent blinking, playing with my hair, scratching my nose, touching my ears and mouth, rubbing my eyes and palms, looking away, raising my eyebrows, crossing my arms and legs, putting my hands in my pockets etc.

 

I figure, things are not quite as gloomy as they look. Some people, myself including, have just developed bad habits. Even greatest people use such hand/leg gestures so this doesn’t really prove anything, does it?

You’re doing it again.

Doing what?

Running away. Hiding. Defending, Explaining, Justifying yourself.

I am not. Plus, a professional coach said that ‘body language signals should always be read in clusters for more accuracy.’

Precisely.

Yes, precisely. It depends on quite a few factors, such as the situation and company we’re in (do we feel comfortable or not), then our mood and so on and so forth.

(pause)

OK, maybe I am. Big deal. Who isn’t?

This is about you, not other people, so stop comparing. Besides, these are the cons we’re discussing here, remember? So shut your mouth and let me finish this. God you’re annoying! If you’re more into bragging, you need to go one step back.

OK, knock yourself out.

 

Hem-hem (throat cleaning)

Where was I? Yes, this is what my online self study showed.

WORST CASE SCENARIO (or ‘when the body closes, so does the mind’):

As Freud explained it, ‘virtually all speech errors are caused by the intrusion of repressed ideas from the unconscious into one’s conscious speech output’ (thanks Ziggy, you’re a real pal). That’s why I’m often tense, impatient (hence fidgety and restless), vulnerable, uneasy, agitated and in distress. I often don’t know how to relieve persisting feelings of frustration, stress and sadness. I have difficulty opening up to people. I’m often reserved, untrustworthy, suspicious, and reluctant to change my mind (hence my ‘you didn’t convince me’ face/attitude). When I lock (e.g. my ankles), I’m mentally biting my lip. Gosh, this is scaring me. It’s getting serious, doesn’t it?

My body language generally reveals a defensive attitude and a wish to be protected (or at least not attacked), as well as a desire to wipe my worries away, i.e. unwillingness to express certain thoughts and emotions. I hate to lose control, thus choosing self-soothing acts which offer me a sense of comfort and security.

I am the Female Alpha: dominant, demanding, authoritative and bossy. I can be passive-aggressive and aggressive at times. I am angry at life for the disappointments or abuse I have suffered.

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Next, I unconsciously feel the need to frequently moisten my lips because tension reduces saliva flow. Furthermore, licking my lips shows I crave something (be it a kiss, love or just chocolate). I am flirtatious. Guilty as charged.

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However (this list is getting longer and longer), I symbolically deny any access to my genitals (Back off, will you? Can’t you see my chastity belt?), namely when I feel insecure and want to withdraw emotionally from the conversation. I am an introvert, energized by being alone. OK, I’m confused now. How can an extrovert be an introvert at the same time? (Make sure you look into it.)

I can’t turn off. I have to work. I strive for flawlessness and setting high performance standards (trust me, perfectionism is a curse, not a blessing). If I’m not satisfied with the outcome or fail to reach my goal, I get depressed. I always think twice. I prefer logic and forethought to making spur-of-the-moment decisions (which can be quite boring sometimes).

Huh. This was exhausting for you too, right? How do you think I feel?

Now, mind if I pick your brain?

I’D LIKE TO PLEAD NOT GUILTY, YOUR HONOR

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In my last post, I sort of started my body (i.e. brain and heart) scan. This is what my online self study showed.

BEST CASE SCENARIO (can’t get better than this):

My body language says I’m a super observant. I hate banality; therefore, I tend to add zest to monotonous work or try to avoid irksome, dull, and arduous aspects of life.

According to the Internet, I might have a vaginal problem (you don’t say?) or need to pee quite often (hence shielding myself).

I am talkative, open, sincere, humorous, creative, and laid-back. I love to entertain. I’m an extrovert (read: an outgoing, friendly and socially confident person, energized by being around other people).

Moreover, I’m action-oriented and efficient (never a procrastinator). I’m a decision-maker, a good communicator and negotiator. I deal with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations. I love rules, thrive on certainty, and ache for security.

My slips of the tongue (and of the pen), along with my misreading and mishearing (or selective hearing), occur more often when I’m tired, anxious, tipsy or stressed out (not comforting at all).

I repeatedly moisten my lips because: my mouth and lips dry up quickly, I’m dehydrated, I have been using bad cosmetics or I misplace my lip balm all the time so I keep licking them (bad girl). What is more, dryness is making my skin itchy; hence the scratching. Maybe I should listen to the tip given by beauty/skin experts and ‘smear some (manuka if possible) honey to the lips and let it sit for 10 minutes’ (manuka??? – look it up later).

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I’m a lax hair-twirler (not a fretful nail-biter). I twirl my hair to relieve stress and when relaxing. I do it when reading, watching TV, inside, outside, when alone or in a group, whenever.

I’m the Female Alpha, its good side being that I love to be the leader. I don’t only practice it in my home (which isn’t really a plus), but also in the business environment. When female alphas are gone, ‘either conversation stops completely or the group disperses.’ This just had the baking powder/soda effect. What a confidence booster!

OK folks, these were the PROS. You’d better stick around for the CONS NEXT TIME. Hang on, bumpy road ahead.

 

 

SURFACING

We’re more often than not burdened by how people perceive us and how we want to be perceived. And to influence the way others see us means we have to be wide awake at all times, that is fully aware of our behavior. So we choose to sweep the dirt under the rug because we either ignore and deny our problems or want to conceal from public view something we find unappealing, humiliating or harmful to our reputation.

However, our unconsciousness is quite a wicked player (read: jerk!), which means there’s often a discrepancy between what we say and do. In other words, our non-verbal communication speaks volumes about us (and who gave you permission, if I may ask?). Our body language is irrefutable evidence of our guilt, if you will, i.e. to sugar coat it (ok, ok, just a little. I do have a sweet tooth, you know), a pretty strong indicator of how we think and feel.

In my previous couple of posts (THE ART OF BEING HONEST and DO NEUROTICS HAVE A DAY OFF?), I kinda asked my therapist friend to help me interpret my non-verbal communication. I gotta admit it’s not easy to be me sometimes (ok, most of the time). I don’t always understand my actions and reactions myself, let alone people around me (poor them!) Anyhow, those were more rhetorical questions (and way too much to ask). Besides, I’m too poor to afford a shrink in Germany. So I took it upon myself to perform my body (read: brain and heart) scan with the help of the psychological articles and tests I found (where else?!) on the web. Hail, Internet!

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Even though my physical behavior surely conveys loads of information, I bet I won’t get answers to the questions like ‘what the heck is wrong with me,’ ‘why I am so messed up,’ ‘am I mendable or irrevocably damaged i.e. a lost case’(you see, I’m not sugarcoating it this time).  But, I do hope it’ll help me embrace my vulnerability so that I could put up with myself easier (or at least make myself more presentable).

Read next: 2 possible scenarios…

DO NEUROTICS HAVE A DAY OFF? (a letter to a friend/ shrink, part 2)

See, here’s the thing. I am determined to get to the bottom of my mood swings and anxiety so as to learn to cope better with stress, problems and challenges. I’m therefore curious how psychotherapy sees me.

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Since our non-verbal behavior is frequently a reaction to an emotional state, I can’t help but wonder:

How do you interpret my body posture – do I keep my back straight? (Stand up straight! Sit up straight! Don’t slouch!) Do I sit comfortably; do I shield myself when standing/sitting; how often do I lean forward? Do I lock my ankles? Do I occasionally cross my legs and/or arms? You told me once the arm-crossing gesture doesn’t necessarily stand for frustration and self restraint, but may help to soothe us or show we’re relaxed and focused on a topic or simply demonstrate we’re cold. No, I’m not defending myself. Or maybe I am?! You know that terrible feeling when you’re found guilty on all charges, although you’re not (at least not of all the things you’ve been accused of), and when you feel you need to justify yourself and explain the inexplicable?

What can you say about me based on my hand gestures – do I habitually scratch my nose, stroke and twirl my hair, and touch my ears, eyes, eyebrows and neck? Have you noticed me ever clench my hands into a fist? I don’t crack my knuckles or bite my nails, do I? Do I lick or suck my lips? Do I rub my skin? Do I sometimes put my hands on my hips? Do I thrust one out?

What message do I communicate through my outfit and accessories? Do the colors I customarily wear, my flat shoes and baggy clothes say I’m conservative, feeling blue, not in the mood, not into fashion (who cares? I certainly don’t) or they just convey a rather practical person with a laid-back personality? Do I use thumbs-up, high five and ok signs or a pointer finger for pointing?  Do I wave good-bye when we part?

Additionally, have you paid close attention to my tone of voice – the pitch, pacing, loudness, pauses, volume and rate? What words or phrases do I frequently stress? When does my voice crack or tend to get flat or high-pitched? When do I make deliberate pauses; when do I talk a lot (do I talk too much?) and when do I seem quieter? Do I repeatedly shake my head when listening? Do I nod? Am I a good listener?  If yes, why do I   interrupt people so much? Is it a wish to move the conversation forward (Hold your horses!)? Could it be competitiveness or rather showing understanding and sympathy or just a communication style? Or maybe something quite different and since you wouldn’t be you without always looking on the bright side of life, I took the liberty of portraying it on your behalf as a distinguishing feature of very smart and incredibly creative and engaging people (thanks dear)? Finally, when do I change my speech rate? Do I talk fast, slowly or just right? Do I sigh? Do I use direct or indirect speech more when retelling what I or somebody else said? Do I repeat my own words; do I use quotations and onomatopoeia; do I go back to the same stories time and time again; how often do I forget where I was with the story?

Do I lie, how often and when? What gives me away?

What do you find most deceptive about me?

How often does my non-verbal communication contradict what I’m saying?

What do you see that I don’t or don’t want to?

THE ART OF BEING HONEST (a letter to a friend/shrink, part 1)

Hey there,

You know I haven’t been myself lately. Anyway, I’ve been going through a process of introspection and self-analysis, hoping to get some answers so if you don’t mind me asking:

What do you think about my family pathologies, my life choices, my sarcasm, skepticism, and escapism? Did you figure out what my weak points are? What’s your opinion of my perfectionism, impatience, impulsiveness, being a workaholic, pride (and prejudice), selfishness, managerial competence (or shall we say being a bossy bitch), my pragmatism, nagging and moaning?  Why do I find it hard to accept a compliment? Why do I prefer giving to getting presents? What do you know about my moodiness? Do you believe I’ve always been straightforward or you can tell I’ve been holding something back? Do you think there’s something I’ve been ashamed of or not comfortable talking about?

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Now, what actually really interests me here is my non-verbal behavior – my body language and my gestures, the way I sit, lean, stand, move my arms, hands, legs, feet, then my facial expressions, the way I dress, the colors I choose, the makeup I wear (or my “I’m too lazy to bother putting it on and taking it off” look of the day) and similar stuff. What do you think of my handshake? How do you read my eye-contact (How long can I maintain it? Do I avoid it and when?) Do I look up? Do I look down? Do I look away? Do I roll my eyes (a lot)? Do I blink? Do I wink? Do I stay focused when we talk? How expressive is my face: my eyes, my eyebrows, and my mouth? (The curves of our lips do rewrite history, Oscar.) What does my frown suggest?  Do I fidget, blush and/or sweat? (I know I do). What do my slips of the tongue show?

How successfully do I deal with anger-related issues? How do I handle pain? How much has the sister thing changed me? How often do I smile? (Have I forgotten how to?) What do I look like when I’m afraid, anxious, hurt or disgusted? Am I demanding? Am I supportive? Am I forgiving? Am I vain?

How do you know I find something annoying, scary, tedious or bewildering without my putting it into words? How do you know anything unless I verbalize it? Do you know it because you’re a shrink (=a good listener) or because you’re simply perceptive and intuitive? How come some people fail to notice things without me being explicit? How is it possible that they’ve known me all my life and yet know me so little?

Am I truly happy? Do I strike you as a satisfied person? Would you be surprised if I told you I wasn’t entirely?

FRIENDLY PSYCHOANALYSIS

I saw a friend the other day. Two kisses on the cheek in front of her office, coffee/coke and confessions to go. Laughter, regrets, (dis)satisfactions, moments of happiness, plans, work, you know, the usual stuff friends share when they meet.

We’ve known each other for almost three years now, I. and me. Up to now, we’ve considered the pros and cons of dozens of issues, exchanging views on the people we hold dear, regard highly, think the world of or look up to, as well as the ones we’ve disrespected, ignored, neglected, insulted, even ridiculed one way or another. We’ve discussed the memories we cherish, places we’re attached to or fascinated by, food we delight in, music, movies, museums and books we’re enchanted by, trips which took our breath away, challenges we thrill on, and things we find less or not at all challenging. We’ve explored injustices and wrongdoings done to us and by us. We tackled our beliefs, our doubts, fears, and conflicts. We’ve touched upon accidents, deaths, terrorist attacks, anniversaries, celebrations, commemorations and politics (even though she’s not much of a fan). We’ve addressed the righteousness of our behavior, and our professional and personal successes and failures (as working gals, wives, sisters, daughters and friends), our judgments and misjudgments. I. is a psychotherapist by the way, not mine though (although I wouldn’t object), an ex-student of mine who has with time become a very dear friend. I recall a friend’s reaction when I told her what I. does. Oh, lucky you! But she’s not my therapist, I teach her English. Yeah, right. She’s still a shrink, you know. I couldn’t help laughing.

I. told me once she found it hard to resist the urge to psychoanalyze those who weren’t her patients and how she would many a time have to refrain from doing it. No, you’re so not doing this. Stop right now.

So despite the fact that I know you find me eloquent, witty, charming and frank (do you “hold these truths to be self-evident?”), I can’t help but wonder:

Have you ever psychoanalyzed me?

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JOURNAL OF A MOM – UNPLUGGED

What most of parents have to come to terms with is the fact that their apartment will never be clean again, at least not any time soon. We’re no exception. Still, we keep trying, M. and me.

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I plug the hoover in and switch it on. The fan blades begin to turn and the air starts pushing itself in.  My son B. is impressed with the sound of the vacuum cleaner (as well as the hair dryer, mixer, blender, and washing machine). He’s pulling and dragging the cord, examining the plug, inspecting the hose, and looking at the push fit floor tool carefully as if to ensure everything’s in its place. As long as the fan is running, he’ll be calm and by my side. He discovers the volume knob. He turns it up. He turns it down. He turns it on and off again and again. I put the sweeper back to where it belongs. Don’t forget to put the outlet plug covers back. Wash him up.

B. detects the cardboard box filled with toys. What he does is haul everything out of it, leaving the green and pink ribbons hanging across. He’s looking inside. It’s empty. It needs to be filled. It’s full. Now empty it again. Fill it one more time. In with bright-colored building blocks, stacking cups, balls and books, in with musical toys, rubber animals, push and pull toys, a plastic bottle and an empty cookie box. B. loves things that bounce off and away, things you chase, and drag, things to bat, reach, and bang, things to shake, throw, and especially whack against a surface, be it a glass window, the floor or whatever. He presses buttons of his toy keyboard, swinging his body to the sounds of the recorded beats – samba, pop, waltz, disco and rap, along with the sounds the animals make. The horses neigh, the sheep says baa, the duck says quack quack, moo, tweet, woof… Next, he grabs hold of the floor lamp. No! No! No! No! He lets go. He starts turning round and round and round. It gets dizzy, doesn’t it? He’s smiling. I adore him.