The Last Place On Earth

Every time I try to work up a post explaining the conversation Mother Madame and I had three nights ago, I stop writing midway through because I just don’t want to think about it.

Here’s what I found out from the conversation, in a nutshell. She thinks I’m ‘too weak’ to handle the fifteen years of schooling required to get a doctorate, that med school is too competitive and forensic psychiatry is ‘too dark’ for someone like me. She said that within three weeks of going to college out-of-state I’m going to call her up and beg her to let me move with them to California, and it’s ‘downright stupid’ to decide to end up with that much debt when I could just go to a community college in Fresno, live at home, and become a fashion designer.

Most of the time I can argue with her and keep my wits about me, because I have a hold on what I should say and what I’ll regret saying later, and I know the power of a calm and quiet voice in the face of anger. The thing is, it’s a bit of a different story when I’m furious.

When I’m furious, it’s like two parts of my brain are at war. One part wants to yell until I’m blue in the face everything that I really think at that moment, and the other part is trying to shut the first part up and regain emotional control. The result is me sounding like a stuttering little kid. Like when I stopped myself from telling my mother to shut up during said argument:

Mother Madame: “Well, you know what, Hannah? I’m giving you a free pass this time because you’re just too young to know what you actually want-”

Me: “I just- you just- I don’t- I…want you to just…stop talking like that!”

I’m not happy that I know the truth, but I prefer it to not knowing. She explained that she doesn’t think I’m strong enough to get to where I want to go in life. I’ve been feeling her doubt for a while on some level or other, so it wasn’t too much of a shock, and it wouldn’t be the first time in history that a daughter did something to disappoint her mother. It’s okay.

I admit that the worst buttons to push with me is to say that I’m incapable and that I’m lying. The last time I was that angry was when she told me a couple of years ago that she thought I was lying about having any anxiety problems and having an eating disorder (even when my brother told her that he heard me tossing up dinner several nights a week, she thought I was ‘just being dramatic’).

But, it’s okay. I know where I want to go (yep, I’ve finally decided,) and the last place on earth I’m going is Clovis, California.

Until I Write Again,

–Hannah-Elizabeth/Classic

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The Classic Award!

Well, folks, I have once again been bestowed with a lovely award by a lovely fellow blogger, Miss E from Looking For Pemberley!

I am going to break the usual routine this time around, my fellow bloggers, by switching it up a bit. I was given the Creative Chaos award, and while I will follow of the rules precisely as they are written out, I am not going to give out the Creative Chaos award, but my own award, The Classic Award:

Here are the rules from Miss E’s site on giving out the Creative Chaos award:

1. You must tell 3 completely weird things about your habits. If you claim to have no weird habits, you’re lying and we’ll have to send an investigative team for further analysis.

2. You must tell why you look at the “glass half full” scenario and ask “what? No coffee?”

3. Complete any one of the following essay questions:

A. You find yourself in a desolate place when your car breaks down. You have no cell phone service, no stores, and only a candy bar for food. It is 150 miles to the closest town. What color are your pants and why?

B. You find yourself having to ride an elevator quite frequently. How do you pass the time to show off your creativity?

4. Then you are to nominate 5 random people and let them know.

5. Make sure to show proper gratitude to the person who nominated you whether that is to shower them with gifts, prizes, and cash or to see that they are put into a clown costume and photographed for internet mocking.

6. Make sure to post the award somewhere other than the underside of the toilet seat.

Here we go! 3 weird habits:

1. When I’m bored I sit at my desk and place my favorite magazines, books and study materials around my chair on the floor so I can easily grab what I want to read and if I lose interest in what I’m reading, I can just toss it and grab a new book/magazine/chart. I do this for a minimum of two hours at a time.

2. Sometimes as I’m falling asleep my mind will start replaying the sound of someone’s voice from years ago. I have an odd thing about voices, I really love listening to people to talk, it’s just comforting to me, it never matters what they’re saying as long as they aren’t angry (I really hate the sound of an angry voice, it’s physically painful when I hear one.) So I suppose when I don’t have a voice to listen to, my brain helps me out by making a ‘Greatest Hits’ playlist of sorts.

3. Whenever I’m out in public and I notice two people having a conversation, I try to read their lips and predict what body language signals they’re going to shift into. If I can manage to, I’ll eavesdrop (not that I enjoy eavesdropping… but I do really enjoy eavesdropping.)

Alright, number two! I must look at the “glass half full” scenario and ask “What? No coffee?” Well, like everyone else, I have no idea what this means. But! Suppose someone gave me a glass half full and it wasn’t coffee, I would probably want to know why it wasn’t coffee. I would then ask what on earth I was just given that had to fill the glass to the point of being exactly half full. What will happen when the glass is no longer half full?

And I pick essay question A! And my answer is:

I am wearing bright orange pants because I want rescue helicopters to see me as they fly overhead. And if there are no rescue helicopters, then I hope to attract the attention of a helpful talking bird of some kind that could get help for me… or maybe the bird will know how to fix the car.

Annnnd the award goes to:

Sir Josh at Mathematical Mischief! Josh has one of the most helpful, informative and encouraging blogs I’ve ever seen (mostly because I’m horrid at math and his blog has come to my rescue more than once), and he is one if the kindest fellow bloggers I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.

Legend of Pi! Not only do I just admire this blogger, but the blog! It never fails to enlighten and entertain. I don’t know why it hasn’t been showered with awards already!

Sir Mark (aka, The Idiot) at The Idiot Speaketh! Because he’s the idiot! The. Idiot. His blog is inspiring, heartstring-tugging, tear-jerking and laugh-inducing. This is the most original blog I’ve ever seen. We all love you, Sir Idiot.

The Dippylomat esq. from The Northern Plights! I’m giving this award to this blog because of the amusing, unusual nature of the blog itself. As well as the amusing, unusual nature of the blogger. Also, the author of this blog wrote my favorite comment of all time on my blog: “We love you. That is all.”

And last but not least, even though she has recently decided to not accept blog awards (cue drumroll)…

Ryoko861 at Me, Myself and I! This Madame is one of my favorite bloggers not only because of her writing, but because of her advice and kindness.

The rules for giving out The Classic Award

1. Tell the blogosphere one of the following:

a. Three of your favorite books (not much of a reader? Then three favorite movies!)

b. Three of your favorite people in the potential multiverse (or just in the world.)

or c. What you dislike the most about writing the “Passing On The Award” post (we all find it awkward and tricky, you’re not alone!)

and 2. Nominate 7 bloggers (unless there’s a Whose Line rerun on and you can’t pull yourself away from the endless charm of Colin Mochrie…)

Aright then! I’m probably going to write another post tonight, so I suppose you all shall hear from me then!

Until I Write Again,

–Hannah-Elizabeth/Classic

On Emotional Psychology…Sort Of

Just a note before I publish this little post. The fancy struck this morning (well, by now, yesterday morning) to write a post on psychology. For my PWRP post series I try very hard to remain on topic. But for this post, while I will try to stay on one little rail of thought, I’m not going to limit myself to any rules. That is, don’t expect decent writing or really any order to this post. As for this little bit here that I’ve just written, think of it as a friendly warning of pure disorder and dull recollection.

Enjoy.

~Hannah-Elizabeth

I’ve been known to drink a few pots of coffee in one day.

Yep, not a few cups, a few pots. These days I tend to do it more out of routine than anything else. The familiar motions of making a cup of coffee, opening an old newspaper and trying to forget about what I need to do. To heck with it. I think, A moment of peace now will go a long way later.

And even if my daily routine means that I’ve lost time that could have been used to be productive, I don’t even try to eliminate those moments. Sometimes I think that I stick to it just so I can tell the story of drinking too much coffee and reading old newspapers. It’s something comfortable and set in its ways. It’s something that I do, that I always want to do. It may not be productive, it may not be healthy (though, one could argue, there are multiple benefits to drinking coffee,) but it does place me in a positive state of mind.

Recently while reading a few articles on Psychology Today, I suddenly came to the conclusion of several weeks worth of contemplation: Negativity and self-delusion can be healthy.

Allow me to explain:

Self-Analysis

I recently started rereading material on personality profiling after seeing a reference to the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator in a post of a fellow blogger. During a recent trip to the library, the post came to mind and, out of boredom and curiosity I picked up a popular book on the subject of the MBTI that I first read  several years ago, Do What You Are, and reevaluated my personality type according to the MBTI (still INFP…dangit,) along with my type according to the Hartman Color Code, the Five Elements personality test found in The Face Reader, my brief self-analysis from my Rorschach inkblot test (I couldn’t bring myself to do a full analysis because the Rorschach is touchy enough without extreme bias from the tester getting in the way,) as well as several classic tests, and very quickly I realized an undeniable truth:

Self-delusion is very much in my nature. According to the five elements test, I tend to make excuses for the bad behavior of people I care about. The Meyers-Briggs informed me that when I’m in a relationship I tend to fabricate positive traits in the person I’m with, and even in the face of strong evidence I will still keep them on the pedestal I’ve created. According to the color code I tend to ignore negative traits in people and instead admire their values because of my inherent need to keep peace and avoid conflict. All other tests said generally the same thing, that I tend to view the world through rose-colored glasses, my mind remains oblivious to the potentially negative outcome of a relationship until it’s much too late, and on and on and on…

At first this revelation made me want to track down the creators of each test and give them a talking-to (which would be rather difficult with the MBTI, because the true creator of the test was Carl Jung…he died in 1961), but then apparently my passive nature made me rethink that idea. And I realized that I couldn’t deny what the tests told me, because I purposely lie to myself everyday.

In late September of last year I started a personal happiness experiment. Everyday I focus on one thing to be happy about and, as I’ve mentioned before, this significantly changes the mood of the day. When I can’t come up with anything, I settle on ‘Today is going to be a good day.” Even if I know it’s going to be stressful and hectic I say it anyway. I asked myself once ‘what exactly should one do when there is absolutely no silver lining to be seen?’

I replied to myself instantly, Well, just make one up.

I couldn’t help but wonder if I was negatively affecting my view of reality, and perhaps delaying my psychological maturation by doing this to myself. After all, if I’m viewing my relationships incorrectly, my friends incorrectly, my family incorrectly and myself incorrectly, I must be missing a lot of what other people are seeing throughout their lives.

I suppose the easy answer is yes, yes I am. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Mind Over Body

The mind controls the body. This is seen everywhere from a strong emotion giving you goose bumps, to a biofeedback machine helping a patient learn how to ‘think’ away their headache and lower their blood pressure. There are even mind-over-body techniques used in cancer treatment, in a field called psychoneuroimmunology.

John Gottman (my favorite relationship psychologist) discovered a darker way that mind affects the body. Specifically, that the presence of contempt in a relationship spells out not only the end of the relationship, but also problems with the health of the person on the receiving end of the contempt. “…we can predict how many infectious illnesses that person receiving the contempt will have in the next four years. People in those kinds of relationships really live significantly less…they die earlier.” He said in an interview with 60 Minutes.

And, sort of a fun fact, multiple studies done in the 1990’s revealed a loss of hippocampal volume (8% in war veterans) in individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (your hippocampus is a part of your brain that mainly handles memory storage.)

Optimism = More Likely To Pop The Red Pill

blog post on the Psychology Today website in December brought a new spin on what looking on the bright side means when it comes to being level-headed.

Raj Raghunathan, Ph.D. executed an experiment at the University of Texas that involved polling the students to discover if the majority of individuals would decide to be happy even at the cost of being aware of the whole truth, or if they would instead decide to be completely aware of the truth, even at the cost of cheer. Long story short, Raghunathan and his research partner, Yaacov Trope, put subjects in either a bad mood or a good mood, had them read an essay on coffee that contained both positive (caffeine promotes mental alertness) and negative (caffeine can cause cancer) factoids about coffee, and then tested their memory of the essay. Turns out, individuals who felt more upbeat were more likely to remember negative effects of caffeine, while sad participants were much more likely to remember the positive facts from the essay. Raghunathan believes that this is because the sad subjects subconsciously “chose” a reality in which coffee is all good, “Because they were sad, they were inclined to repair their mood through positive knowledge – or felt too down to handle a dose of negativity.” While the happy folks proved that more upbeat feelings make us more receptive to the truth and all of its downsides. “A hierarchy emerges: First we seek happiness. Only after we’ve tipped toward contentment are we open to hard facts.”

This article surprised me because when I think pure and simple happiness I think illogical. Trusting. Endlessly peppy. A child in the middle of a war that climbs on some giant rock, holds a little fist in the air and yells “Can’t we all just get along?” The idea of happiness lending us the ability to accept more difficult facts is unheard of (or rather, was unheard of to me).

The Upside To Negativity

Honestly, fourteen hours ago when I started writing this whole shindig  (yep. I have been writing and rewriting and deleting entire paragraphs in this post for the past fourteen hours straight. I was determined to write a post and I don’t mind that it’s nearing 2:30AM, I am not leaving my computer until this post is published,) the title of this post was “Making The Case For Rose-Colored Glasses”, and I was going to attempt to convince you of the upsides of a little self-delusion here and there. But, the positive side to negativity kept trying to elbow its way into my post and I just kept shoving and pushing and aiming and firing at the idea of negative thinking being helpful, when I realized that I was being too negative about negativity.

To quote a popular Eli Young Band song, “Start out depressed, everything comes as a pleasant surprise.” It seems rather obvious: If you apply for a job and have high hopes of getting it, you’ll have to deal with the intense disappointment if you’re rejected. On the other hand, if you have low expectations and end up not getting the job, you won’t have to deal with strong negative emotions. (But you’ll be that much more excited if you have low expectations and get the job anyway.)

“The nice part about being a pessimist is that you are constantly being either proven right or pleasantly surprised.” – George F. Will

A pessimist will also see things that an optimist might miss if said optimist is too busy being angry at personality tests for declaring them an optimist…Also if said optimist is making an important decision and may not be thinking as clearly as someone with a bit more doom and gloom and less smiles and sunshine. Pessimists lend a new and possibly clearer perspective.

In closing, though, we need to remember why pessimism has gotten such a bad rap. The bad news about being a pessimist and why every article on mood in every psychiatric and psychological journal and magazine and report tells us to aim for happiness. Let us look at two simple facts:

1. Happy People Live Longer! A study in the UK involving 3,800 people aged 52 to 79 has yielded results informing the world that happy people live an average of 35% longer than people who claim to be unhappy. And the happier you are, the longer you live (which means, terrifyingly enough, Barney and Spongebob are probably going to outlive all of us.)

2. Happy People Are Happier! Yep! Happy people get more serotonin, dopamine, endorphines…all of our favorite feel-good neurotransmitters that give us a natural high. Meanwhile pessimists get cytokines (blood proteins that have been linked to major depression, Alzheimer’s and cancer) and an increased risk of many a horrid disease.

Alright then, it is nearing five in the morning, and I leave you with…ah, whatever it is that I was writing and editing the past seventeen hours.

Before I leave you be I’m going tell you something that I learned five years ago from a book that a behaviorist by the name of John Watson wrote (something that I misunderstood entirely at the time, but a misunderstanding that shaped who I am), it is impossible to fully understand the outer workings of a human being unless one first comprehends the inner mechanisms. Understanding psychology is an incredible foundation for reading people at a glance. If you want to read people through body language and facial expression and you want to learn to do it right, begin with the mind and work your way out. It gives us empathy and understanding and an ability to better predict the behavior of those around us. Psychology is the science of mental life, as William James once said. And mental life is reflected on our faces.

Until I Write Again,

–Hannah-Elizabeth/Classic

A Moment

I was sitting on the couch sipping a cappuccino in my father’s home office as Mother Madame explained all of the wonderful things about Downtown Clovis (we lived in California for ten years before moving to Texas, and my mother is determined to return ‘home’ in the next year,) first she looked up the official California website, then Old Town Clovis on Google Maps, and then WordPress blogs.

“You should really get a blog on WordPress.” She said.

For my own amusement I replied, “Oh no, I’d be a horrible blogger.”

–Hannah-Elizabeth/Classic

Explaining ‘Dazzled’…

William James (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910)

William James (aka, the unofficial love of my life.)

Hello All,

I am currently at The Center.

I just realized how difficult it is to work up a post whenever I’m here. Usually when I write a post I’m in my room with the partition shut, hunched over my desk with green tea or a cappuccino nearby. It’s personal, comfortable, closed in, certain. But being here I completely access my school ‘social self’.

I suppose I should explain what I mean:

William James (a man who is considered to be the greatest American philosopher and psychologist. Longtime readers of The Last Classic will know that I am very much smitten with this particular dead guy,) believed that we have a different ‘self’ for every situation, beyond just one self that is ourselves, that is, myself. Have you ever noticed that you act and think differently with your family than you do with your friends? You could say that one is your ‘family social self’, and the other would be your ‘friends social self’. James believed that we have a self for every person and situation we encounter. James once said:

“Properly speaking, a man has as many social selves as there are individuals who recognize him and carry an image of him in their mind.” (If memory serves, this is from The Principles of Psychology. I wrote down the quote in my little black book but apparently didn’t see fit to write exactly where it is from.)

Also, it has been proven that certain memories are more easily retrieved when certain stimuli is present. Like when a scent or song gives you a flashback from childhood. All of that to say – the state of mind that I am normally in while I write my posts is not easily accessed while I’m at The Center, which would explain why my writing seems a tad odd (at least to me.)

____________________________________

I am back home, sitting at my desk, with my green tea…ah, all is right with the world.

I had a brief conversation with Kyle. I really hope that we stay friends after I leave Texas, I can’t quite put a finger on why I feel an odd admiration for him. Not a romantic sort of admiration, just…I’m not certain how to describe it, I feel respect for him and, I suppose, very intrigued. He seemed much more comfortable around me today, hopefully I’m growing on him. He wore a blazer – a navy blue blazer with gold buttons on the cuffs, it looked like a smaller version of one that I had bought at a church yard sale last year ( the one I bought is very large, probably meant for a rather, ah, wide, grown man, it’s just the fabric is very lovely –  like the sort of fabric that can be found on the 1950’s blazers at Whistle Stop or Memories & Treasures, the world’s greatest antique stores and two of my favorite places in the potential multiverse…anyway, I used a seam ripper and removed the shoulder pads so it would look a bit better on me, turns out I just look like a child who decided to play dress-up.)

I was sitting in the study hall reading through my notes for anatomy and physiology when my blazer-radar (I’m convinced that by now I have a blazer-radar, don’t try to convince me otherwise!) caught the smooth movement of fabric in my peripheral. I looked up to see Kyle starting up the steps to the cafe.

“Hello, Kyle.” I said casually. He whipped his head around and grinned when he saw me. “How have you been?” I asked, watching for any signs of discomfort.

“Very well, how are you?” He said in his usual composed manner. My impulse was to be blatantly honest and say You look very charming today! And particularly handsome! But something (common sense, perhaps) made me feel that it would be a bad idea…

“Great.”

He turned back to the door for a moment as one of the managers asked him a question, and I thought the conversation was over. Next thing I knew he was leaning over the table, shockingly close to me, scanning my notes and asking, “And what is it you’re studying today?”

I had forgotten exactly how piercingly blue his eyes were. He must have been raised in an area with a large population, he just has a smaller space bubble than you. I told myself. Still, it was more than a bit unnerving having that smile and those eyes and, most importantly, that impressive blazer suddenly a mere five inches away. (I was sort of extremely jealous, his blazer was obviously of superior quality to mine.)

“Oh,” I said, “Just something I should have studied last week.”

I looked up at him again, feeling not intimidated, but somehow nearing overwhelmed (perhaps ‘dazzled’ is a better word.) The tables had been entirely turned! My shoulders were raised and I could feel a sheepish smile on my face the entire time. I continued the sentence when I had already completed it, “For anatomy and physiology today. How is the day so far?”

He smiled with his incredibly white teeth, “It has been great,” he said. Cue intense eye contact and suddenly extremely sincere sounding voice, “how about yours?”

“Fine.” I said pleasantly, I could tell I was blushing. Before I could say anything else someone asked for his help in the bookstore.

“Do excuse me.” He said before promptly leaving.

I looked over at the only other person in the room, a girl who I had never seen before. She was watching me and grinning. I chuckled uncomfortably and tried to focus on my notes with little success.

After his sort of shy behavior the past few weeks the last thing I had anticipated was his response today. Perhaps what struck me was how incredibly sincere and unguarded he was. I have a feeling I’m forgetting part of the conversation, usually I’m much better at recalling things people have said. I suppose the only way I can possibly accurately describe that minute or two, is, put simply, intense. I pride myself on predicting behavior. When I’m out in public I always eavesdrop on conversations and I’m able to predict where the tone of the conversation will go. So Kyle completely breaking from his pattern of behavior was completely unexpected. This brings to mind something Heather Madame said to me when we were talking several years ago about me being unable to wrap my head around why Ryleigh left:

“I guess people aren’t as easy to figure out as you like to think they are.”

I was offended at the time, because I still thought that no one was unreadable to me. I now know that everyone is unreadable sometimes, and some people are just unreadable to me.

Sometimes I have so much to say that I can’t seem to start on a topic before another one is much too eager to make itself known, so I find myself in a rut with a headache… I have a feeling I’m going to be up late writing a massive post. Because this one doesn’t feel even nearly complete.

Until I Write Again,

–Hannah-Elizabeth/Classic

Viewing People As Structures

Post Two In A Six-Month Series On People Reading

Pre-Post Ramble:

Sometimes when I’m in a public place, I stop seeing the people around me as human beings, and instead see them as a living pattern.

The image above is from one of my 'little black books' I've mentioned - small notebooks that I use to record random observations.

You may have already realized something similar to what I mentioned in my notebook. When Heather Madame and I took zumba classes last year, I noticed that when we started the class, we wanted to stay in the back and blend in. But the more comfortable we became, the more we wanted to be on the edges of the group and eventually ended up near the front-middle of the group. It was about this time that I was wrapping up my Rorschach inkblot experiment at The Center, so my mind was still spinning with random psychological information.

When you analyze the results of a Rorschach inkblot test, the one thing you look at first is certainly not what the subject saw, but where. Because the exact content of what the subject saw may be from a TV show they watched the night before, or from a song they heard on the radio that morning, an article from a magazine, ect., exactly what you see in an inkblot will change hour to hour, sometimes minute to minute, I’ve realized. Sometimes in phase two of the test (when I had the subjects look over the inkblots a second time and speak in about greater detail what they saw) when I would remind the subject of what they originally found in the blot, they would look at the paper, flip it this way and that, and say “I’m sorry…I just don’t see it anymore.” But what never changed was where their eyes darted when they looked at the inkblots. Take a look at the image below:

This is a rather basic inklot. The way Rorschach arranged his inkblots when he interviewed his schizophrenic and depressed patients, was the same arrangement that he used to test children and mentally healthy adults. The blots start out basic and colorless, and gradually become more intricate and more color is added until you are shown a blot entirely in chromatic tones. The same interpretations always apply for every blot:

If you look more in the middle/bottom of the blot, you are likely predominantly introverted depending on how many blots you view this way, but if you find yourself paying more attention to the outer edges/top of the blot, you are more likely to be extraverted. (Though it should be taken into account that the subject will probably pay more attention to the top of the blot due to the lack of ink at the bottom of the blot posted above.)

I saw the zumba group as a giant Rorschach inkblot. This idea cannot be used for every group of individuals, because, as Rorschach himself said in Psychodiagnostik (1921), the inkblot test, in purest terms, is truly only a test of how well a human being can respond to the tension of a completely unfamiliar  situation. At the zumba class, nearly every woman there was middle-aged and very insecure. No one knew what to expect to come up on the playlist or the dance routine. A perfect situation for a living, breathing Rorschach inkblot to form.

Post-Ramble Post:

Viewing human beings as structures can give us, incredibly enough, greater insight into human nature than viewing human beings as, well, human beings.

Think of a pointillist painting: thousands of tiny dots are used to form an image that can be seen clearly when you back away from the canvas and view the image as a whole. Too often people want to read people by first looking at the finer details and then building upward, when really the opposite method should be applied. In this way, learning to read people is the same as learning to analyze handwriting. You must start with the basics, the framework, the big picture before looking for signals that will give you more specific information. Why? Because it’s easier to interpret. The big picture never lies unless that is the intent of the subject (as for spotting lies, we’ll discuss that in a future post.)

Remember – you already know how to read people. I’ll prove it to you, take a wild gander at what facial expressions these are:

 

We know instinctively what facial expressions such as the ones featured above mean. While some facial signals vary from culture to culture (as in deliberate facial expressions or movements such as a wink or sticking out your tongue) all natural (involuntary) facial expressions are the same throughout the world, even blind people use the same facial expressions, so we know we are born with not the ability, but the involuntary feature of expressing our emotions as a way of protecting ourselves by showing we have good intentions (smiling is seen as an unthreatening expression, even in animals,) or intimidating an enemy (when we see the facial expression of intense anger, or ‘fury’, fight or flight kicks in and starts up our autonomic nervous system (think: automaticThe ANS controls all involuntary functions,) and prepares us first to leave, and if we cannot, for an altercation.)

The autonomic nervous system is divided into the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, the sympathetic nervous system controls fight or flight and the parasympathetic helps us recover afterwards.

I tell you all of this because, while I do not encourage always reading someone by intuition alone (you will always be biased subconsciously when you try to read someone,) when you can’t read someone from clear signals, you should trust your instincts. You’ve been reading people since the day you opened your eyes and saw your mother smiling at you, causing you to imitate her facial expressions and associate her smiling with positive circumstances.

We Are All Empathetic

 Experiments have shown that we automatically imitate whatever facial expression we are viewing, even if we don’t completely mirror the other person, our brain responds to their expressions and subtly activates the muscles creating the expression. Some researchers believe that there is a ‘mirror neuron’ in the brain that causes this imitation. Psychopaths, who lack empathy completely, cannot understand facial expressions on an instinctive level like healthy individuals can. They instead have to teach themselves what facial expressions are acceptable, and consciously imitate them to manipulate those around them.

Just a side note: if you want a more positive mood or to feel more confident, then even if you don’t feel the emotion, imitate the signals! Paul Ekman (the man who is responsible for nearly all major breakthroughs in our understanding of facial expressions) found that we’re attracted to people who smile often because when we see them smile and our muscles imitate the expression, it causes a release of endorphins that we would have gotten if we had been the one smiling in the first place! In a nutshell, smiling, even if you don’t feel happy, causes the release of ‘feel-good’ chemicals in your brain and improves your mood. As for feeling confident, the same principle applies, if you stand with your shoulders back, chin level and walk with purpose, your brain is going to help you out and make you feel the emotion you portray, so within minutes you will actually be confident! I’ve tried this out myself on many occasions when I’ve felt uncomfortable in social situations or unsure of myself in the middle of a test even, and without fail this has improved my mood and self-esteem… ha, and that was supposed to be just a side note…

 Now, for the actual point of the post, viewing people as structures.

I’ve noticed four similarities to the method of analyzing handwriting and body language:

  1. The Lean
  2. Framework
  3. Amount of Expression
  4. The Use of Basic Intuition

For this section, we’ll be looking at the lean.

A lean in handwriting analysis refers to which way letters seem to ‘sway’ on the paper. According to Confucius, you should “Beware of the man whose handwriting is like reeds in the wind.” And, so it turns out, Master Kong was thinking up the right alley. Quack handwriting analysis books and sensible texts alike explain that handwriting with a frequently changing lean (on average, two times per paragraph) suggests an emotionally unstable individual. As for leans in body language (when the subject is sitting down), they tell us:

  • How the subject feels about who they are speaking with
  • How the subject feels about the current situation
  • & how the subject feels about the current conversation

I’ll try to keep the explanation brief, because it really is very simple.

Imagine you have just walked into a Starbucks and you see two people sitting down in those rather extremely comfy leather seats next to each other, and both people are leaning towards each other. (Assuming that it isn’t just loud inside of the Starbucks and they’re leaning forward simply because it’s difficult to hear each other,) from this single glance we know that both people are on some level emotionally invested in the conversation.

Remember, just because one signal can represent a specific message, does not mean that the opposite signal represents the opposite message.

On the other hand, if both people are leaning away from each other, this does not indicate resentment towards the other person or disinterest in the conversation. They may simply be comfortable with each other and are talking about nothing of emotional concern. (Just a note: you will mainly see negativity expressed by leaning away from each other only if the individuals are in business attire and not casual dress. Obviously, two casually dressed individuals willingly sitting next to each other in a Starbucks are probably on good terms, meanwhile, businessmen holding meetings/job interviews – my father, a small business owner, does this often – will not be in the brightest mood, and if a superior is having lunch with a subordinate, you can be sure to see a lot of judging and discomfort.) Interpreting signals can always be helped along by noting clothing and gender.

If one person is leaning towards someone who is leaning away, often the person leaning forward is trying to ‘reach out’ or persuade the person leaning away. It may be they are trying to win them over emotionally (they don’t feel that the person leaning away is really friends with them, or they are uncertain whose ‘team’ they are on and are trying to win them over in this way,) or romantically (I have yet to see a female try to ‘win over’ a guy, it’s always the fellow leaning forward,) in this case you’ll notice the person leaning forward is closely watching the facial expressions of the person leaning away (Bernard Asbell, author of a wonderful book called What They Know About You, explained that couples who are secure in their relationship will not watch their spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend’s facial expressions often, while couples who are insecure will frequently note each other’s reactions.)

One mistake that even professionals make, is to forget the possibility of complete and total error. There is always the possibility that Person 1 is leaning forward because Person 2 is talking too quietly and Person 1 doesn’t want to be rude and say anything. Even Paul Ekman has said that real-life people reading is not as wonderfully accurate and quick as it seems to be on the show based on him, Lie to Me.

Always consider the obvious! Someone may be crossing their arms because they are cold, not because they are comforting themselves or feel defensive. Someone may be rubbing their nose because of a fiber or cat hair, not because blood has rushed to their nose out of the tension of the conversation and they are trying to come up with a lie. (In case you’re wondering, rubbing their nose while someone is lying does happen! When you lie, chemicals called catecholamines are released, causing the tissue inside of your nose to swell, and your nose actually expands with blood! Allan Pease, author of The Definitive Book of Body Language calls this ‘The Pinocchio Effect’.)

End-of-the-Post Rant:

There is no such thing as speed-reading. Not unless you’re one of Paul Ekman’s ‘wizards’ or ‘naturals’ (people who were born with the ability to instantly read and interpret microexpressions.) The reason a lot of us pick up books on handwriting analysis and body language, is because we like the notion that we can become super spies in our own homes. We can become the Mentalist, we can become Columbo, we can become James Bond. While basic signals can be easily read in an instant, the popular notion of actually ‘speed-reading’ someone so deeply that you might as well be reading their mind, is simply impossible, at least, if you’re one of the 99% of people who aren’t Paul Ekman wizards.

Allow me to sound like an arrogant bafoon for a moment and say that I am good at reading people. Very good. But here’s how I know that I am excellent at people reading: I came to the point in my studies where I stopped looking back at all that I had read and witnessed and how much I knew, and realized how much I had yet to read and witness and hear. I came to a place where I had to ask ‘Am I wrong?’ and stop justifying bogus interpretations. I won’t lie: it feels like a superpower when you learn enough to view people in an entirely new way, but after the high wears off, just remember that the best of the best truly are the greatest, because they know what it means to swallow their pride and throw away a perfectly lovely theory. A perfectly lovely read. A perfectly lovely explanation. You’ll know you’re good at something, very good, when you realize how horrible you have the ability to be.

–Hannah-Elizabeth

P.S. As soon I beat my scanner into submission, I will be opening a new page on my blog and uploading photos of my personal notes so you can perhaps get a better glimpse into my process. Also on this page I will list recommended articles and books.

P.P.S I’m sorry for waiting until nearly the end of the day to finally post this. Honestly I’ve been working on it for about twelve hours now and I’m not very pleased with it. But, I am learning to stay on track! I can assure you the next post will be better!

Things To Do, But No Place To Go

I finally accepted last night that I have no idea how to write a single-topic post. I write the way I talk (which is the way I think): starting with a basic idea and jumping from one rabbit hole into another. Maybe this is why my past attempts at writing novels turned out to be failures. I could never keep the story on a single track.

For the past two weeks I have been writing, rewriting, scrapping, writing and procrastinating writing posts for my blog series, ‘People Who Read People’. I’ve drawn diagrams, typed up outlines, even verbally explained to myself how the post should be organized, but when I try to express what I want to say it turns into one apparent line of thought being flung into several different lines at once. I’ve come to accept that, no matter how cut and dry I want my PWRP series to be, I’m just going to have to let myself ramble.

In other news, yet another long talk with Heather has brought me back into indecision.

I have given up trying to think that I have the willpower to not change my mind about where I want to go. So I’ve been writing down my favorite states on scraps of paper, along with favorite places to go in my free time (like antique shops, parks, museums, the opera ect.,) along with random states that I chose by pulling up Google Maps and blindly sticking a post-it to the screen with an arrow on it, tossing the scraps into my black top hat, and pulling out a few pieces of paper at a time. At one point I was inspired by a scene from I Love Lucy where Lucy decides which bills to pay by throwing them up in the air and paying whatever lands face-up. The scraps took forever to clean up (I probably should have shut my windows and turned off the fan first…) but I have slightly narrowed my options.

Mother Madame & I at Big Bear Lake when I was five years old.

I had been trying to decide where to go based on relationships, where I might have family and old friends, because people are so essential to my life. To have that human connection, the assurance that I’ll always feel…safe, knowing that they’re within reach if I need help. But life isn’t just about relationships, it’s about living. If I do apply somewhere else I will be cutting it awful close to a lot of deadlines, but this feeling of needing to become brilliant, to become something more than ordinary, to do my own personal research, the kind that I got a taste of when I conducted my rorschach inkblot experiment last year at The Center, has been growing every single day. I can say with confidence that I have no idea where I will be or what I will be doing six months from now. I can only dream and attempt, the rest is up to the unpredictable days and nights. I just don’t want to be alone wherever I go, but I know how quickly I get attached to new people (and vice versa), so I won’t be alone for long, I’m sure.

Until I Write Again,

–Hannah-Elizabeth/Classic

P.S. If you have any suggestions for a state or city, do tell me in the comments below! Any suggestion is welcomed!