Changes & Going Places

Just a quick note before this post begins. Longtime readers will notice several changes in the blog during the next week or so. I am going to be marking the “Chapters” of my posts. I’ve noticed I write in the exact same pattern for every post, and I have felt that my posts the past few months have been lacking in images and overall zest, so I figure ‘why not?’ Also, I may be changing the background, header and the way my posts are set up… In other words: change is coming, roll with it.

~Hannah-Elizabeth

We took turns taking bites of the world’s greatest quiche at The Cafe, breaking into personal and casual chats in between bites and sips of coffee.

Myself and a dear friend from my Kohl’s days (previously mentioned on my blog) by the name of Cali were in Downtown Keller for a few hours of antiquing. Cali Madame is one of those young ladies who can wear not a spot of make-up and still look beautiful. Her hair was braided on the side in a classic Cali style, and she wore a classic unusual-but-extremely-stylish outfit. In an odd way, I felt like being around her made everything simple and normal, in comparison to the rather hectic and stressful day-to-day routine I’ve fallen into. There was nothing to worry about or ruin a peaceful moment – there was just Cali, Keller and the kind folks of the stores surrounding us. Simple.

It reminded me how much I crave being around people who make things simple. No underlying dramatics or unresolved conflicts, just being present in the moment as it occurs.

Something I’ve noticed about Cali Madame’s presence, too, is that the simplicity of the conversation and her endlessly kind words and demeanor make her into sort of an instant, free-of-charge therapist. As if everything you say is safe and won’t be judged. Especially since Madame doesn’t build an emotional wall around herself and shares personal information, too. As a result, I found myself repeatedly opening up to her about the most personal moments and facts of my life. My struggles with my mother, my eating disorder, the whole Josh mess, my feelings of lack of support, ect., and, remarkably, she took it all in stride. Even when I ended up crying nearly bawling in her car, she immediately said, “Hey, you’re allowed to cry here. I have tissues in my purse if you need ’em.”

But, I’ve skipped quite a bit of yesterday’s story.

After the cafe we went to my favorite antique store in the potential multiverse, that I’ve mentioned millions of times in this blog. That’s right, say it with me: Whistle Stop Antique Mall. Madame bought a cute little white elephant key chain charm and oversized pink bow. After Whistle Stop we went to The Pecan, and then to a baseball game where I met a lovely human being by the name of Erin. Because of Madame’s persistence, I was talked into borrowing a pair of her shorts (I was wearing a red dress with lace tights and high heels with a grey cardigan) and changing into a brown blouse I had purchased at The Pecan. I’m convinced if I hadn’t changed I would have ended up dying of heat stroke, or worse – I would have ruined the dress and my shoes. It was my first time being at a ballgame in over eight years, and several times I actually reviewed my emotions to see if they matched up with what psychologists claim folks typically feel in the middle of a crowd at a ballgame – they didn’t, but I suppose the fact that I had no idea what was going on and the only emotional bias I had for a certain team was due to the fact that Madame’s boyfriend was in it (his parents were sitting behind us – very friendly, kind folks), so I suppose I’ll just have to learn more about sports and try again sometime. Or otherwise try to hush my inner psychologist more often.

_________________

After going to church this morning with Heather Madame, we went to Chili’s for a couple of hours of coffee and french fries. The place didn’t seem very busy for a Sunday afternoon so having a conversation wasn’t the challenge I had feared it would be. It was business as usual – equal parts what’s new with her and with me. We’ve gotten into a rather comfy weekly routine. Church, coffee, lingering at the park, Starbucks or a restaurant for an hour or so, and filling the time with talking about her wedding plans and my college plans. Mainly, how on earth I’m going to get to the college I’m going to (still top-secret for ya’ll, I’m planning to drop hints soon). As the scheduling figures at this point in time, I’ll have to leave right after her wedding to…well, that’s where it gets tricky. There’s the Amtrak, which is expensive. A plane, which is expensive. Or driving, extremely expensive. Not to mention the challenge of shipping my items to myself. It has been settled that about 90 percent of any money I make over the Summer is going into my savings account for the sole purpose of getting me from point A to point B.

______________

Now, let’s go on to the part where I tell you what I’ve figured out. I’ve noticed it has actually been a while since I’ve written in a post something that has completely changed my perspective.

While I was speaking to Cali, during the pleasant brunch at The Cafe, nibbling on scones and sipping on coffee, and while I was sitting in Madame’s car, crying and trying to explain myself in brief spurts of coherency, I discovered several things about myself that Cali Madame opened my eyes to.

  • There are some things (and people) that I haven’t moved on from. I’ve just mentally swept them under the rug and assumed that means they don’t exist. When truly, how could that sort of Descartes-esque justification of ignorance do me any good?
  • Just like when I lived in the mobile home and I used bulimia as an anchor when things felt out of control, I use vanity and false confidence to control how I look so I’ll feel like I still have something to hold onto in the face of lifeless support and extreme discouragement from the people I’ve come to rely on the most, instead of turning to God in the face of the discouragement.
  • I handle things that disturb and emotionally harm me by ignoring them or turning my back to them. And respond to negativity by shutting people out.
  • It is, indeed, possible to get a good picture of me outside (as long as Cali is the one holding the camera and telling me how to pose).

I’ve never mentioned this on my blog before, but every time I feel any amount of stress or sense any tension or negativity, even if I’m not going anywhere, I’ll spend a couple of hours doing my hair and make-up and dressing up. The feeling would just come over me to look pretty when things got ugly. I can’t believe I didn’t make the connection until yesterday.

So, just like with anything, now I must take it one day at a time and attempt to ‘rewire’ the way I think about myself and how I handle stress.

I heard once that it is impossible for a psychologist to heal themselves of mental malady, just like a doctor shouldn’t first attempt to diagnose their own illness. In a way I’ve come to think that my knowledge of human behavior would have torn down some of the one-way glass that is my perception of myself. That maybe knowing what makes people tick would help me to stop a bad habit in its tracks before it was too late. But it takes outside input to get the full view of anything. We’re all looking at the same box, just from different angles.

All of that to say, I may shut down The Last Classic for the Summer.

I would bring it back in August, in time to document Heather’s wedding and the trip to- well, you’ll find out. And I’ll just use the two other blogs I keep open in times of boredom, work on new readers and subscribers before returning to this one.

I suppose we shall see. But I will certainly inform all of you before I vanish.

Until I Write Again,

–Hannah-Elizabeth/Classic

The Eyes Have It

Post Four In A Six-Month Series On People Reading

I’ll save you the typical rundown of clichés about the meaning of the eyes, and instead jump into some simple, to-the-point tells that can be found in and around the eyes.

The Pupils

Dilated pupils mean one of two things: pleasure or stress.

Pleasure as in something the subject enjoys looking at (experiments have shown women’s pupils dilate the most when looking at pictures of a mother and child) such as someone they hold affection for, an object they admire such as a painting or something of value. Pretty much strong positive emotions = dilated pupils and an easily read facial expression. Your pupils will also dilate when you’re on drugs and experiencing a ‘good trip’.

Stress can mean hatred towards someone, or simply stress from a situation. It’s obviously very easy to distinguish why someone’s pupils are dilated. You’ll never find yourself looking at someone with dilated pupils and thinking, “Hm, I can’t tell if they like me or want to strangle me…”

Though someone may have a false smile and dilated pupils, in which case figuring out if the smile is fake will not be challenge, as I will show you below:

It’s All In The Orbits

In medicine and body language alike, the area around the eye is referred to as the orbit, or, if you’re referring to both eyes, the orbits. The muscle that controls facial expressions of emotion around the eye is called the orbicularis oculi (I’ve heard it pronounced every which way, but the most common is simply ‘or-bick-you-lare-is oke-you-lie’).

Orbicularis oculi seen around the eye. Directly above it you see the muscle that covers the forehead, known as the frontalis.

When a smile is genuine, the lower outer corners of the eyes raise, sometimes causing tiny lines around the eyes.

Genuine and false smile shown by the master himself: Paul Ekman.

In case you’re wondering – no, you cannot make the orbit muscles imitate a genuine smile, you’ll see too much action around the nose and it’ll be downright obvious to any observer who knows where to look.

Remember: some facial muscles cannot be sufficiently activated unless they are expressing genuine emotion.

Therefore, you can temporarily display ‘smiling eyes’ by thinking of something that makes you happy, but only momentarily, because you can only hold onto the happiness from a memory for so long before you must endure the present reality and the muscles have no choice but to tell the truth.

Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP)

Countless times I’ve seen on television shows, in blogs, in books and in magazines a common gargantuan lie. A lie about the eyes and how they reveal deceit. In a nutshell, the notion goes that if someone looks down and to the left while they’re speaking, they are fabricating their story and therefore lying.

Noooooooooooooooo!

But, there is a factor of truth in this – you can get an inkling of where someone’s thoughts are as they speak by noting eye movements, but it will never never never never be as simple as ‘Down + left = lie’. This inkling of truth comes from a concept known as neurolinguistic programming, or NLP. NLP is really much more than a guide to eye tells, but for this post, we’ll only be looking at NLP’s explanation for eye movements.

The basics of NLP go like this:

Someone remembers something they saw: eyes go up.

Someone remembers something they heard: eyes go to the side.

Someone remembers an emotion: eyes go down and to the right.

Someone is talking to themselves: down and to the left.

The problem: while we are speaking, our mind is bouncing all over the place, retrieving information, organizing thoughts, planning on what vocal inflections and volumes to use to get our point across. When we talk, our eyes will bounce around no matter what. So while NLP may be accurate and useful, remember that these signals come in clusters and happen in a fraction of a second. I can tell you from personal experience that after three years of attempting to master these signals, you just have to focus and eventually develop an intuition for it. You may not catch a lot of the signals (they are extremely difficult to catch as they’re happening, more difficult than micro-expressions), but eventually your subconscious will start looking out for them for you and you’ll find you get a lot more ‘gut feelings’ about people and what they say.

But! A note about lying and eye contact:

Despite popular belief, people who are lying will maintain eye contact longer than someone who is telling the truth. Like I said, someone who is talking will have a million things happening at once, one of these things is information retrieval, while a liar will be watching your reaction and will not require certain cognitive functions that a person telling the truth will be using.

Also, a fun trick that I use when I’m addressing a group of people or trying to hold someone’s attention while I explain something (and Heather, if you read this, I wasn’t manipulating you – just attempting to anchor your admirable, occasionally cocker-spaniel-esque attention span…you know I love you!), is using a pen, stick, pointer or any like object when explaining an idea (only when a visual aid of some sort is nearby, like a map, article, object ect.,). It goes simply like this – when explaining an idea, using the pointer to, well, point to the article, and when explaining an important part, bringing the pen up to near eye level, which automatically causes the other person to give you direct eye contact. It works every time, and no one can deny the first few times are extremely fun and amusing and sort of make you feel like the Mentalist. (I learned this trick from books by Bernard Asbell and Allan Pease.)

The Mentalist.
Must…steal…suit…and hair product…

Blinking

The average relaxed blinking rate is 6-8 blinks per minute. When we’re under pressure, feel stress and anger, or otherwise a sudden burst of emotion, our blink rate will increase dramatically.

Darting Eyes

As I mentioned in my post about Harold Camping’s body language during an interview directly after the passing of one of his latest dooms dates, eyes darting from side to side can indicate someone looking for an escape route. I’ve had this happen to me on several occasions, and understanding what the signal meant let me know it was time to wrap up the conversation, lest the image they have of me in their mind become slightly negative and unpleasant.

Gazing

Social Gazing:

Experiments have shown that this area is the area most commonly focused on for 90 percent of the time during social encounters. Some researchers believe this is because we feel that not looking directly into someone’s eyes will make us appear nonthreatening.

Power Gazing:

This gaze is often used in power plays among businessmen – sort of a tool of intimidation. The effect of this gaze, according to Allan Pease, “…has to be experienced to be believed.” It creates a serious atmosphere, and if used unwaveringly, can make the subject feel very uncomfortable.

_______________________________

Like anything in body language, in order to really be able to get accurate reads, you need to:

1. Not read too much into signals.

and 2. Practice, practice, practice. Eventually you’ll develop a reliable ‘spidey sense’.

And, apologies for not giving you much to think about for this one. As I said last time – I promise the next post will be better!

Until I Write Again,

–Hannah-Elizabeth/Classic

The Bystander Effect: What You Need To Know

In March of 1964 at about 3:00AM, a young woman by the name of Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death in the middle of a street in New York. She should have been saved, thirty-eight people were watching from the windows of their apartments as she screamed for help as she was being attacked. And after the man (a business-machine operator by the name of Winston Moseley) left, he returned a few minutes later to stab her again, left, and then returned yet again to stab her once more before she died. Yet no one called the police until after she was already dead.

An elderly man, while sitting in a hospital waiting room, suddenly gasps and falls to the hard floor. He writhes in pain for several minutes before passing on. The other people sitting in the room watch and do nothing.

An 86 year-old veteran became the victim of a car jacking while at a gas station in February of this year. After the car-jackers broke his leg and sped off, he was forced to crawl on the ground to find help. ‘I noticed when I was crawling to the gas station, people were walking past by me like I wasn’t there’ the man said.

These stories sound horrific, because they are. You may have already heard one or two of these stories and thought to yourself, “Oh, goodness, if I had been there, I would have helped them! People are just sick these days!”

Well, folks, here is the truth: you probably would have done the same thing that everyone else did. The reason why is called “The Bystander Effect”.

Allow me to beg you to read on. Not just because you must know about this if you witness a horrific event, but you must know what to do if you are the subject of the event, and need to know how to stop the bystander effect from getting in the way of life-saving help.

Instinct

I’ll try not to bore you, because I need you to keep reading. Here’s the short and sweet explanation of the psychology behind it all. There are two explanations for the stories I’ve told you, I will call them ‘group psychology’ and ‘fellow witness psychology’:

Group Psychology

We are social creatures. Period. We are hardwired to want to be part of groups, cliques, be fans of the same team or politician. We want to follow the status quo, be accepted by our peers, go with whatever flow is currently, ah, flowing.

So what happens when something unexpected, something not part of the social expectation happens? We look around to see what everyone else is doing.

Guess what everyone else is doing? The same thing you are! Think of the man who was car-jacked, here is what the people walking by him were thinking:

1. No one is doing anything, so he must not be that badly hurt.

2. Someone else will help him, I don’t want attention drawn to myself.

or

3. What if it’s an act of some sort?

Fellow Witness Psychology

Let’s look at the case of Kitty Genovese. This is perhaps more understandable.

The people looking outside of their windows probably saw other people witnessing the murder, and so simply concluded that someone else would call the police. Also, the uncertainty of the situation, the shock, would cause some people to simply pause and hope that someone else would do something so they would not have to.

When there is only one person witnessing the incident, they are far more likely to help someone in need.

What If It Happens To You?

I need to tell you that the advice I’m about to give you is not proven, nor has it been tested (as far as I know, anyway). But from what I’ve read I hope this will give you the best shot of getting help, and not ending up like Kitty Genovese or any number of shooting victims.

A man by the name of Bernard Asbell wrote a wonderful book called What They Know About You (you may have noticed I mention this book quite a lot, and let me tell you, it’s for a good reason, this book is fantastic!), in a nutshell, social experiments have proven that, especially if you’re a woman, you are far more likely to get help if you manage even a flicker of eye contact. Why? Because remember – when you’re in a situation where you are the subject, you are separate from the people around you. So, to remedy this situation, you must remove someone else from them and make it we. Make them part of your situation. This may involve calling out something specific about them that makes it undeniable that you are talking to them, such as the color of their shirt or bag.

Several articles on what to do if you’re kidnapped (stay with me here!) suggest that a key to staying alive is to appear more human to someone who is currently a stranger to you. You can do this by saying that you have a family, how old you are, that people care about you and that you’re scared. I think that using this same idea with the bystander effect can be extremely useful.

The people who are in the iron grip of the bystander effect feel helpless and confused. It feels like a social straitjacket, an anchor on their actions. People will put their own lives at risk and, obviously, the lives of others in jeopardy because of the presence of other human beings.

The good news is, now that you know about the bystander effect, you will be able to control a situation where its grip takes control. Whether it’s over you, or the people around you.

I’m sorry to say it has been a couple of years since I looked into what recent research has been done into this, so I’ll edit this post in the next few days if I find something that I need to add/update. The driving force behind this post, honestly, is how frustrated I become when I hear news anchors talk down on the people who are affected by the bystander effect. They make comments about the deterioration of societal morals and our lack of empathy for our fellow man, when the only thing at play, for Pete’s sake, is just basic responses by our brain doing what it knows to do in a new situation. The stories are still horrific, the deaths, unnecessary and heartbreaking, but let’s not ignore the other factors and wag our fingers at those who walked by, shame-shaming them for reacting the way they did. I agree – they should have reacted differently, it doesn’t mean they could have. They didn’t know what to do, and didn’t have the understanding of what was happening to them, or their mind simply told them that it was not as serious, and that is easier to accept than to make a scene and have the whole thing end up being nothing.

I won’t bore you any longer by going on, but I do encourage you to look into the subject further.

Until I Write Again,

–Hannah-Elizabeth/Classic

“Let’s Never Do That Again.”

Hot, humid wind whipped through the streets, the beams of cars in the distance dancing along the curves in the road. Night was falling as we stood in the middle of an intersection, dumbfounded.

“Heather, how did we get here?”

She turned first this way, then that. Fear flashing across her face.

“Where?” She asked.

Here.” I said calmly, “Right now.”

She understood what I meant and shrugged. “I have no idea.” She glanced back at the bridge enveloped in trees and vines, “Should we turn back?”

I looked up at the closest street sign and didn’t recognize the name. “I don’t think we have a choice unless we want to get ourselves into a worse situation.”

We started for the forest and I realized I couldn’t see past the bridge. I looked down at the keys and pepper spray in my hand and remembered that several months ago a jogger was raped in these woods.

Heather had the same thought, and I detached the canister from the key chain. She placed the sharpest keys in between her fingers, reminding me of a certain comic book character, and I took the safety off of the pepper spray.

Midway across the bridge I couldn’t make out anything, I could only see lights here and there. Madame surprised me by walking confidently in the direction we needed to go.

“You can see?” I asked, grabbing her arm for guidance.

“Yeah,” She said slowly, “Can’t you?”

“Not at all.”

Every rustle of a bush and twitch of a leaf or little furry creature in our periphery suddenly turned into a potential attacker. Hardly half an hour ago this place seemed to be filled with families and joggers. Now there was no one to be seen.

Heather Madame and I thought it would be fun to go jogging after stopping at Starbucks earlier today (we were out and about looking for an outfit Madame could wear to Carlisle’s graduation from basic training in the navy, and we brought along our workout clothes just in case we had enough time.) When we first arrived it was sunny and humid and refreshing in an odd way. But, obviously, two hours later cloaked in darkness and dominated by veiled panic, the place didn’t seem quite so dandy.

“I wish we had a guy with us.” She said suddenly as we walked down a worn trail.

I chuckled nervously, “I was just thinking the same thing.”

As we approached a freeway underpass Heather suddenly froze and gasped. I looked over to see a flash of pure terror in her expression.

I looked to the underpass and couldn’t see anything. I felt her arm muscles relax suddenly and she exhaled with relief.

“What is it?” I asked, trying to keep my voice casual. Meanwhile a voice in the back of my mind was screaming bloody murder to just run like the wind and mace anything that moved.

“I thought I saw a man, but it was just a shadow.”

My mind played for a moment on the contrast between how much we wanted a man with us to protect us (feeling comfort , relief and admiration towards a male figure) while simultaneously fearing one with, let’s just say, bad, intentions would appear out of nowhere (feeling fear, stress and expecting bodily harm from a male figure.) The really good guys vs. the really bad guys.

“It’s just your mind trying to make sense of ambiguous stimuli.” I said (I realized a moment after I said it that I had just accidentally quoted a Rorschach inkblot exam textbook.) “Just remember, if something happens, we are not helpless.” Just then I nearly tripped on a root but caught myself.

“I know.” She said as she glanced around nervously.

We eventually found ourselves in the middle of a worn trail in the woods, taking turns glancing behind us out of paranoia. I felt a spike of panic every time I thought I felt a presence nearby. I was fascinated for a moment by the fight-or-flight response, and wondered what chemicals my brain was releasing to make me feel this afraid (I know, it’s odd. But even when I feel bored or jealous I wonder what my nerve cells are up to.) The digestive system slowing down for a bit as blood is rushed to the legs and arms for running or fighting, shots of adrenaline as the sympathetic nervous system kicks into high gear, making the subject jumpy and hypersensitive to information from the environment, the re-

A beam of light appeared behind us, and I paused for moment when I realized it was someone on a bike.

“Excuse me, ladies.” A man’s voice said as he passed us. I caught a glimpse of a uniform and a belt that would make Batman proud. I looked over to Heather and saw her looking at me with the same emotion on her face as my own, an expression that can only be described as YES! A cop!!

Nevermind that said cop was riding away into the darkness, there was a police officer within hearing range. And to top off the relief, we heard cars passing by and turned the corner to see the part of the jogging trail that runs parallel to a main road.

On the drive back to my house Heather said what we were both thinking: “Let’s never do that again.”

So… that’s all. Nothing bad happened and we took quite a few memorable videos today (none on the trail, unfortunately. We were both disappointed that we weren’t able to capture our little potential-slasher-film/potential-Star-Telegram-front-page-news-adventure on camera.)

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

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!