- JM Wesierski
Updated: Jul 7, 2021
The expression of emotion needs to be controlled and often times repressed, especially when it comes to our face.
Many emotions are destructive as they evolved in us to override rational thinking. The way we express these emotions almost always begins with a subconscious reaction in our face. Learning to control these 'natural reactions' can be used to improve judgement, conversations, arguments, and more.
We are capable of more than 7000 facial expressions which fall under about 6 basic emotions: happiness, sadness, fear, surprise, disgust, and anger. Our face is literally the window to our soul causing these expressions to carry far more power than we tend to realize. Nonverbal communication, such as through our face, is the strongest way others can tell what we're thinking. It is more powerful in communication than even speech and when conveyed correctly can be an extremely beneficial tool. That is why we must display emotion in moderation and with prudence.
We often already do control our facial expressions in many scenarios. At least to a certain degree. We've all told lies accompanied with specific expressions to make them appear more genuine. Occasionally we are happy when someone loses but have to appear solemn to show sympathy. An uncontrolled reaction can cost a professional poker player thousands of dollars. All I propose is that we need to apply these same practices to every situation we encounter.
A strong leader, usually the head of an army, who is able to remain calm and focused during trying times as to not let their emotions overtake rationality is often described as stoic. Stoicism is a school of Greek philosophy who teaches "the development of self-control and fortitude as a means of overcoming destructive emotions." Practitioners of such a philosophy are depicted as displaying monotone expressions to allow for logical thinking in all facets of life. While becoming a full stoic is a little excessive and takes years of practice, I have found their ideology over control of emotion and expression to have many benefits.
An interesting psychological anecdote I came across regarding emotion is that teddy bears are, more often than not, made with neutral facial expressions so that young children can fully project their own emotions onto them. No one wants to cry to a bear that's smiling back at them.
Sigmund Freud used similar methods during his famed sessions of psychoanalysis. He sat behind his patients so as to not influence or corrupt their honest train's of thought with the exhibition of his own.
I learned from this that when I want to have a deep conversation with a friend, family member, or even someone I've just met, I too will keep such a neutral expression (and even sometimes position myself out of their line of sight) as to let them fully express themselves without the burden of my own thoughts convoluting theirs. Therapists use a whole arsenal of psychological tactics to keep their clients talking. How we show our emotion is the most comfortable, and beneficial to perform in social or personal settings.
Control is not easy
However, stoicism becomes difficult but is the most essential when the conversation gets unexpected or deep . Someone may mention the death of a loved one, something illegal or immoral, or at least something you know they wouldn't usually say unless they've felt really comfortable with you. More often than not people don't like pity nor need encouragement for such events. That means from our words or seeing it in our faces, such as with sad or shocked eyes.
This stands more true the longer ago the event in question took place. Therefore, say the words that are expected such as, "I'm sorry for your loss", or simply "really?" but do not let emotions derail the fluidity of the conversation. If you let them know you are actively listening but not intimidated or off put by what they've had to say then the conversation becomes easier for the vulnerable party and can continue further.
I'm not advising anyone to go around constantly acting like The Terminator or Bella from Twilight, but instead to be cognizant of all your facial expressions. Show what needs to be shown and when. Stoicism works the best in situations:
When trying to learn something or have a heart to heart.
When trying to argue something or make a point (It is very easy to be overwhelmed by anger, passion, or sadness which takes away from what's actually being said).
When emotion overrides rationality such as in dangerous or difficult situations.
Being aware of our own emotions help us to better understand others' as well. If you really want someone to like you and trust you quickly, mirror their emotions. Smile when they're smiling, be sad when they are, and everything in between.
Simply learning to control the way we express how we feel from our face is a huge step in having full control over how we feel inside. Like most things, it takes practice but after enough time you'll be able to better control your anger, sadness, anxiety, etc. Thanks for reading, and subscribe to my email if you want to learn more!
(Photo) Theatre Masks Watercolor Print
Emotion as a Weakness How to Understand Your
Image Representations for Facial Expression Coding
Coworkers' Nonverbal Communication
(Photo) Teddy Bear Haiku
On the Beginning of Treatment p 135.
(Photo) Mona Lisa's Smile in The Mind
A multi-method investigation of the association between emotional clarity and empathy.