8. Improve Your Facial Posture for Better Composure

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Chapter Summary

We brace the muscles in our face throughout the day resulting in continual wincing, grimacing and frowning. This causes them to develop painful trigger points, scar tissue and adaptive muscle shortening. The repetitive strain of facial muscle plays a major role in stress and when the latent trigger points in the face become active it destroys our composure and contributes to social fatigue and introversion. Learning to perform a resting face, a corpse face, or expressionlessness will help make your face “light on its feet.” To make expressionlessness effortless and ensure that it does not offend people it must be combined with diaphragmatic breathing, eye widening and fixed gaze practices. Exercising the muscles of the face by contracting them until they reach fatigue, and combining this with diaphragmatic breathing, will strengthen and revive them.

Chapter 8: Reprogramming Facial Tension

What is a face? To answer this question we must also consider heads and brains. Our brain, head and face are located together because we evolved from worm-like creatures. In fact, worms are some of our closest living invertebrate cousins. As worms move through mud it is helpful for them to analyze new soil as they encounter it. The head, and the various sensory organs, are placed in the very front of the animal so that as it moves forward the sensory receptors in the head can relay information about the immediate (and impending) environment. Heads are the structural consequence of placing specialized sense organs near one another and near the brain. This is why our mouth, tongue, nose, eyes and ears are grouped close together. Faces evolved around 650 million years ago, sometime after the evolution of muscles, but before the evolution of complex eyes.

Fish, amphibians, and reptiles cannot make facial expressions and are only capable of opening and closing the eyes, nose, and mouth. Unlike mammals, they do not have muscles that attach to the skin of the face and thus their facial skin is immobile and essentially devoid of expression. The muscles of facial expression in mammals are derived from the superficial muscles of the neck region in these more primitive vertebrates. The facial muscles of mammals act as sphincters, constricting the area they circumscribe (eyes and mouth), or as tractors, pulling at their attachments (cheeks, brow, chin). In humans they modify the size and shape of the entire face, and vestigially, the ears. The facial muscles of mammals interact extensively with conscious and unconscious areas of the brain. There are many specialized neurological modules that send output to, and/or receive input from the facial muscles. These modules report to, and interact directly with the joy system of the brain, but also with the fear and grief systems.

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Facial muscles of A. human; B. Chimpanzee; C. Macaque; D. Mouse.

Refrain from Subliminal Grimacing and Frowning

I woke up one morning an hour before my alarm clock sounded. I realized that I would not be able to get back to sleep so I practiced a few yoga poses and laid back down to meditate. I was doing so concertedly, concentrating on abating the chaotic negative thinking that was constantly going on in my mind. I tried to notice the recurring waves of negative thought crash on the forefront of my consciousness, and I was trying to break them up slowly but methodically by examining the sensations involved. After several minutes of work, I felt some of the storm clouds in my mind begin to dissipate and then I realized what was actually happening… I was slowly relaxing a low-grade, perpetual grimace from my face that I must have learned to ignore long ago.

This is a subtle wincing frown, barely perceptible in a mirror, which afflicts all of us. I stayed in bed for a full hour trying to keep the contorting expression from repossessing me. As soon as my mind wandered, the tension around my eyes and nose would resurface, and my thoughts would regain their negativity.

We are constantly bracing our facial musculature. This causes repetitive strain and the development of dormant muscle in the face. Though many of the neural pathways have not been examined, I imagine that the pain messages sent to our brain’s emotional centers from strained facial muscles are particularly tormenting. Spend some time contemplating this and attempt to bring awareness to the feeling of grimacing.

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Now you might be a little skeptical. You might not believe that people have the capacity to unwittingly carry mental hardship with them in the form of a grimace. Nevertheless, imagine a small monkey. Imagine this monkey was traumatized as a baby and ever since has trod around with a wry wince on his little face. He will derive emotional pain from it. Just imagine how this would affect his inner world, his encounters with others and their impressions of him. He will inevitably perceive things as more negative than they really are because of the powerful interrelationships between bodily expression and emotional condition. Monitor yourself the next time you are speaking on the phone, are you using facial expressions of pain and subordination?

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A. & B. Monkeys wincing.

The “facial feedback hypothesis” holds that facial movement and emotional experience are constantly interacting with each other below the level of conscious awareness (Ross, 1980). Charles Darwin was among the first to suggest this. He wrote: “The free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it. On the other hand, the repression, as far as this is possible, of all outward signs softens our emotions… Even the simulation of an emotion tends to arouse it in our minds (Darwin, 1872).” Multiple concurring studies have supported this. For instance people asked to hold a pencil between their teeth (forcing them to smile unconsciously) report better emotions during this episode than control groups that held the pencil between their lips. Botox injections have been shown to decrease negative affect in many ways by decreasing tension in the eyes and forehead (Lewis et al., 2009). In fact individuals that have had botox injections exhibit decreased activation of brain areas that process negative emotions such as the amygdala (Hennenlotter et. al., 2008). Frowns tie you to an aversive mental state. This suggests to me that a frown burned in from years of repetitive strain anchors you to it.

My Broken Nose

A few days after discovering the wince on my face, I had a cup of coffee and bedded down in my closet for three hours in a search for the source of tension in my mind. I was in total dark, wearing noise reducing ear muffs, and I tried to get as comfortable as possible so that I was not distracted by urges to reposition myself. I believed that my restlessness was maintained by some repeating thought pattern. I was searching for this pattern so that I could observe it and find out how to interrupt it. However, the substrate of this pattern was not psychological as I expected, rather it was, again, facial.

I must have been ignoring the sensation for 15 years, but when it finally reemerged into my consciousness, it was clear and unmistakable. Lying in the dark, I felt a tingling sensation in the muscles surrounding my nose. I realized that these muscles were highly contracted. The muscles involved included the procerus, the nasalis and the levator labii. For the first time, I could tell that even when I thought I was relaxing my face, these muscles were still in overdrive. It took an hour of meditative thought and exploration to even notice; however, once I became aware of the sensation, it was impossible to ignore – it was all I could feel for several minutes. Within a few more minutes, I remembered that I had been struck in this exact location inside a McDonald’s at age 17. The blow had shattered my nasal bone in several places and actually broken the septum and maxilla. It split my nasalis muscle down to the bone and it must have also affected the nearby musculature and nerves. The people in the emergency room told me that the extent of damage was consistent with being hit with a bat or a club. I realized that this injury caused a decade and a half of unremitting squinting and wincing. The heavy wincing compromised my composure, which in turn resulted in sympathetic upregulation.

At this point, I had been lying supine for over an hour, yet it took another full hour to develop some voluntary control over these nasal muscles. For the first several minutes, I could not control them at all. I eventually “found” the muscles by trial and error. Actually, I first had to learn to clench the muscles before I could learn to relax them. Every time I actively tightened or relaxed the muscle, it would tingle and feel numb. This was because of the nerve damage. My situation was extreme, but we all hold our face in a fixed expression of emotional trauma.

Having my nose broken at 17 damaged my nasal muscles and nerves and gave my face a dull, inattentive look which I tried to compensate for by keeping my nose and eyes muscles tight. Especially in social situations, I attempted to compensate for the hypotonia with hypertonia in an effort to bring some life and energy back to damaged facial expressions. This made my social interactions neurotic. Coincidentally, this type of damage also happened to my cat, Niko. The little guy was approaching a bird’s nest, and a protective mother bird dove down and pecked him on the forehead causing a deep gash. For at least a month, Niko’s face looked dull and inattentive because his brow muscles had been injured. After a few months, his eyes returned to their former state. He looked disfigured for several weeks, but luckily, unlike me, Niko did not try to compensate for the damage. In fact, I believe that much of our facial tension comes from attempts to compensate for appearing either dull, inattentive, or unattractive. Of course it also comes from our perceived place in the status hierarchy. More dominant people and primates brace the face less. The least dominant primates have permanent appeasement expressions plastered on their faces.

Introverted and shy people have a tendency to become tense in social situations. Their chakra-like modules develop tension too quickly around others and they exhibit various forms of energy wasting (dysponesis) we discussed in Chapter 5. They quickly start to squint, sneer and hold tension all over the body. The pressure adds up fast and in just a few minutes of socializing the introverted person start to feel drained, exhausted and like they want to escape. Many introverted people fake being extroverts until their trigger points have gone from latent to active, then they feel spent and try to get away from the crowd so that they can relax and refuel. I know this behavior pattern well, it was my social reality.

In Chapter 5 we discussed systematically removing extraneous bracing efforts from daily activities. Activity 2 from Chapter 5 asked you to notice your bracing habits while you brush your teeth. “Are you gripping the tooth brush tightly, flexing heavily at the elbow, shoulder, wrist, jaw or neck?” Now you have to do the same thing for socializing. If you systematically eliminated the bracing from all of your chakra-like modules during conversation and socialization you would become the most adept extrovert ever. You could work a room full of people without ever tiring. Using the exercises in this book, along with self-awareness and diaphragmatic breathing you can make this your social reality.

Master Expressionlessness and Own Your Face

There is a perpetual clenching, squirming, and cringing going on behind our faces that robs us of our facial poise. The muscles tighten when we are at the gym, when embarrassed, or when the phone rings. Just like other muscles, tense facial muscles accumulate trigger points and scar tissue, and develop adaptive muscle shortening. Micrometabolic studies of the anatomy of your facial musculature would reveal that some facial muscles hold more tension than others. Every person has his/her own unique pattern of tension involving different parts of the face. It is like a fingerprint. Some people may have tighter lips and others tighter foreheads. Even the three auricular muscles around the ears hold tremendous tension in some people but not in others. I believe that these distinct patterns vary from person to person and have strong associations with different features of personality. For instance, I am convinced that people who hold tension in their procerus muscle between the eyebrows (which causes the brow to furrow into a frown or glare) are more keenly possessed by anger. These people wear a low-grade angry glower that contaminates their thinking.

Any form of facial tension probably contaminates our thinking to some degree. I believe that the pea-sized knot that I had below each of my eyes was a real burden for me. I developed them from repetitive squinting. I also believe that the blow to the face I experienced at 17 made me an inveterate sneerer. Have you ever noticed that the face of a friend or acquaintance can change drastically if they go through a prolonged period of grieving? Again, this is due to tension and it may never reverse even after the person’s reason for grievance subsides.

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The most important step in relaxing these muscles is to learn how to make a face with absolutely no expression. You must allow all of the muscles in your face to go dead by turning your face off at the source. At first, this will look offputting and very unattractive. Expressionlessness is actually the face that many of us try to avoid making socially. Your non-expressive face conveys exhaustion or distain. Withholding your customary facial bracing can make you look evil, cruel or angry. Or it may look like the face of a mental patient or drug addict who is oblivious to their outward appearance. I was inspired to try expressionlessness after seeing my friend with schizophrenia on tranquilizers and sedatives. The physical ravages of stress and heavy facial bracing were more apparent than ever because they were contrasted with his complete facial limpness. He looked “burned out,” completely out of touch with reality. We spend our lives trying not to look that way. But it is exactly what we should do.

The strange truth is that this hideous non-expressive face is actually the most beautiful version of you waiting to emerge. We don’t feel comfortable socially when our faces are at rest so facial rest is always paired with distressed breathing. Taking on an expressionless face normally makes us breathe shallowly, makes us squint, look down, and makes our eyes dart around. We must reverse this. Practice expressionlessness with paced breathing, wide eyes, looking upwards, and the fixed gaze exercise from chapter 4. The more you can breathe diaphragmatically while maintaining a non-expressive face, the more natural and healthy-looking it will become.

Working on your expressionless face will be very difficult at first. You have to teach yourself to turn off each portion of your face individually. It will help if you focus on relaxing the muscles around your eyes, relaxing your cheeks, and allowing your jaw to gape and go slack. Think of it as an extension of corpse pose – a corpse face. Focus especially hard on maintaining it when you are by yourself, and before you go to sleep. You want to sleep every night as if every muscle in your face, jaw and throat were paralyzed. How you look at yourself in the mirror is also decisive. When we look in the mirror we usually make our customary “social face.” Instead, ensure that your expression is not tense, and that you don’t grimace, sneer, squint or raise your eyebrows.

When you look at the ground, your face is capable of becoming very calm. It is easy to be very calm when looking down because you are not challenging anyone when your gaze is below other people’s eye line. When you look up again, this calmness disappears. In the next activity, try not to let it disappear.

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We don’t all walk around with calm faces because we are concerned that someone will see our expressionless face and assume that we are angry. When we get angry, we feel entitled to be able to drop all formalities, and our face can become emotionless. I noticed this one day when I got really angry, and suddenly, all of the social facial tension I had been trying to let go of disappeared on its own.

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Indignation stems from considering something unjust. It is a negative emotion, so don’t use it too often. Boredom is less extreme and almost equally as helpful. If you ever feel the need to regain your composure, pretend that you are bored.

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After you spend a few months practicing this, you will have strangled away much of your facial tension. While working on expressionlessness you may have to deaden your smile and some of the light in your eyes. However, after this hiatus, when you reemploy many of your old expressions, you will find that they are unadulterated by the pained tension that previously accompanied them. It is akin to breaking an unhealthy system into its component parts and removing the unhealthy parts to build it back up anew.

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When you start out trying to look expressionless, your body will compensate by adding tension in other areas. Facial expressionlessness will cause you to unconsciously tighten your neck, constrict your vocal folds, or speed up your heart. Notice this. It is often a balancing game so that when you relax one aspect another one tightens up. This happens because your body keeps combinatorial records of the postures that are safe to have all at once. You have to create new, healthier records where all of the optimal postures are being used together simultaneously. At first, it will be very uncomfortable to keep a straight face around other people while looking bored. You may notice that you easily break into a nervous smile, a spontaneous laugh, or a blush. The more you pair it with diaphragmatic breathing, the easier it becomes and the closer you will get to the core of your facial tension.

With a really straight face you will feel like you are suffocating, because you are not yet brave enough to breathe normally without facial tension. A great foray into becoming comfortable with a straight face is by using a facial mask with a breath metronome.

When you start out trying to look expressionless, your body will compensate by adding tension in other areas. Facial expressionlessness will cause you to unconsciously tighten your neck, constrict your vocal folds, or speed up your heart. Notice this. It is often a balancing game so that when you relax one aspect another one tightens up. This happens because your body keeps combinatorial records of the postures that are safe to have all at once. You have to create new, healthier records where all of the optimal postures are being used together simultaneously. At first, it will be very uncomfortable to keep a straight face around other people while looking bored. You may notice that you easily break into a nervous smile, a spontaneous laugh, or a blush. The more you pair it with diaphragmatic breathing, the easier it becomes and the closer you will get to the core of your facial tension.

With a really straight face you will feel like you are suffocating, because you are not yet brave enough to breathe normally without facial tension. A great foray into becoming comfortable with a straight face is by using a facial mask with a breath metronome.

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Use Expressionlessness in Social Situations

I remember when I first started forcing myself to walk on the sidewalk at night with a calm face. I was actually afraid that someone driving by would become angry at me because my face was too calm. I was literally concerned that someone would see my expressionless face in the dark through their windshield, from 20 to 30 feet away, pull the car over, and try to fight me over it. I had to overcome this fear before I could let my face tranquilize. Do you? Start making this expressionless face alone in your room so that social concerns don’t start to puppeteer your facial muscles without your awareness. Next, try it walking around your home or around the neighborhood. You want to work up to being in a store, a restaurant, or dealing with a register clerk while sporting your new calm demeanor. Doing this while breathing diaphragmatically slowly teaches your heart that it is safe.

Sometimes we use our facial tension as an outward apology for our appearance or lack of beauty. It often says: “Hey, believe me, I know that I don’t look so great right now.” Telling myself the following helped me: “I know that I’m ‘ugly’ at times. I’m not afraid or ashamed of my hideousness, and in that revelation I retain dignity. There is no reason to apologize for my unsightliness with a grimace.”

Facial tension can also say other things like: “Sorry for interrupting you,” “I may be wrong about this,” or “I hope you like me.” Thus the tension becomes an integral part of our social self-presentation. When you remove it, you have to radically rethink your social deliveries. Without the tension, your personality must change. When allowing your face to relax you have to come to grips with the fact that some people won’t like the way you look and will question why you have allowed your face to be so lax. At first I took expressionlessness too far. I stopped smiling at service employees, I treated other people like robots. I stopped connecting with people emotionally and had an appearance of deadness. Avoid this. Use it alone, use it in public, but don’t take it too far in the company of friends.

When you make a face that is completely calm, you probably look defensive. This is because you assume that other people will interpret your expressionless face as competitive, and you make a preemptive negative face. This keeps it from being truly calm. Making an expressionless face can be socially insensitive. All you have to do to make a socially sensitive expressionless face is to widen the eyes and breathe diaphragmatically. Trust that taking long, deep, slow breaths wipes the negative aspect from your face. Try combining a calm face with puppy-dog eyes. Embrace facial naïveté like a trauma-naïve sea slug.

People will question the authenticity of your expressionlessness, thinking that it is artificial. One thing they will do is stare at you while you are looking at something else. Bullies do this often. They will leave their gaze on you, thinking that if they look long enough, you will revert to a more submissive facial posture. They anticipate you will look down, lower your chin, raise your eyebrows or squint your eyes. Don’t submit to their visual inspection of you. By under reacting to it you will show them that it is not a ruse

Bullies will also show false tension in their own face or pretend to lose their composure to bait you into doing the same. Once you follow their cue they bring their composure right back in an effort to make you look stupid. Many people do this, most of them do it half-consciously. It is a manipulative ploy. Demonstrate a psychopathic indifference towards other people’s interpretation of your calm facial posture. When other people see your expressionlessness and respond with an expressionless look of their own, don’t judge their version negatively even if it looks smug. Instead, act as if you are glad to see that they are trying to be as calm as you are.

When people see that you are stolidly composed they will assume that you are likely to mistreat them. When you are kind to them, they will be surprised, because they assume the only thing holding most people back from acting abusive is their lack of composure. Usually, when one person’s composure is better than another’s, the person with more composure acts more abusive. This is normative and commonly accepted. As your composure improves, you will have to fight the urge to take advantage of others. You will have the impulse to be rude or scornful or to otherwise exploit your privileged position. If you are a truly good person, as your composure improves you have less to act defensive about, and thus you will notice that the things you say are more humble and less oppositional. Don’t ever lose your composure. It is not your responsibility to sink to the level of the other person’s composure. Instead, make it your responsibility to pull them up to your level.

When we allow our faces to relax we often get disapproving nonverbal feedback from others. Many of us had parents who would become angry if our face looked too relaxed thinking that we were being flippant, sarcastic or obstinate. I have seen a number of children that look afraid to appear too calm around their parents. Many children learn by trial and error to make pained expressions to defer to parents. This kind of early environmental feedback makes it so that we feel defensive whenever we sport a calm look.

Young infants’ faces show high base rates of random combinatorial activity, allowing parents to shape a repertoire of conventional displays (Charlesworth & Kreutzer, 2006). Infants more or less unconsciously assess the feedback that people give them and alter their facial patterns accordingly. Trial and error programs young children to brace their eyes, cheeks, and jaws in certain ways. This in turn distributes tension to different anatomical areas and results in a unique pattern of atrophied/painful facial muscle mass for each person.

My friend is too dictatorial with his young daughter despite being an excellent father in many ways. To assuage his wrath she squints, curls her top lip, and pleads with him in a high voice. Her brow wrinkles in a half circle from furrowing and raising the eyebrows at the same time. There is no telling how many other chakras she strains to “buy mercy.” Other parents spoil their children sparing their chakra-like modules but causing them to be undisciplined and disrespectful. A good proportion of beautiful and composed people were spoiled as children. Some parents can instill discipline and reverence without traumatizing and this takes an incredible amount of parenting skill. This is the best kind of parent to be, but also the best kind of friend to be.

An authentically calm face is actually endearing. In Chapter 4 we discussed how subordinate apes avoid eye contact and how direct looking can be a threat signal. It is important to point out that expressionlessness can change this. When a chimpanzee gazes at another without any apprehensive signals (such as pursing of the lips, frowning or glaring) is not threatening. Expressionlessness that is free from negativity will actually make your eye contact more inviting, opening social doors for you.

Ultimately, you want to imbue your expressionlessness with a cool, elegant, urbane look.  I am not talking about being distant, detached, aloof, or unsociable. Rather, think about these words: dispassionate, collected, imperturbable, unflappable, unruffled, serene, free from agitation. You want a sedate disposition stemming from self-discipline. You want temperate self-assurance that suggests indifference. You want an easy casualness even under heavy provocation. Also try to incorporate a look of stoic dignity. I find the definition of stoic to be inspiring: “a person who can endure pain or hardship without showing their feelings or complaining.” When I started focusing on appearing stoic, all of a sudden, I lost the tough guy shtick because stoicism is not a competition, it is internal discipline. Make your appearance resigned to drama with no trace of protest. Create a calm facial expression that you truly believe is positive, once you do this will come across as clear as day.

The Effect of Stress on the Body During Development

I believe that facial and bodily muscle mass tension is an evolved strategy that communicates submissiveness and prevents an individual from being challenged and attacked. There are examples of this in nature. Male orangutans are capable of exhibiting a pronounced developmental hiatus  where they reach the size of the females and then what happens varies. Some males go on to develop full adult body size, facial flaps (flanges), and other secondary sexual characteristics, whereas others enter a prolonged period of physical juvenility (arrested development) but otherwise full sexual maturity. Environmental feedback determines whether they enter this prolonged juvenile phase or not. If their testosterone levels are stifled by their environment, they are more likely to put off full maturity for a few years. The reason being that they don’t yet want to compete with the fully mature males. Fascinatingly, suppression of maturity in orangutans is seen even in males that consider themselves subordinate to a human groundskeeper. If the keeper is replaced or if the orangutan successfully challenges the keeper, the orangutan will quickly develop cheek pads (Maple, 1980).

Male gorillas do not mature into a full silverback for 3 to 5 years after reaching sexual maturity. This gives them more time to develop skills and relationships before they attempt to become an alpha male. This phenomenon in orangutans, gorillas and many other animals is called sexual bimaturism. It is evident in humans as well. Males hit puberty two years later than girls, and this is widely thought to delay the age in which the male is thrust into stressful and potentially dangerous competition with dominant, sexually active males.

A similar process may be going on with our bodies and faces. The combination of distress and repetitive strain may program our muscles to become weak (hypotrophic) to display our place in the pecking order. In other words, the tension keeps our faces and bodies from being as muscular, and healthy as they could be. I previously thought that most of the variability in beauty was explained by genes. Now I have become convinced that it comes from developmental plasticity. Bad social environments influence children to strain their faces and good ones to relax them. Over months, and years, some people look depleted and sickly and others look handsome and robust.

Facial Exercises

Spend time contracting different muscles of the face while breathing diaphragmatically. Some of the muscles are involved in superiority displays, other in inferiority displays but I want to recommend pairing them all with proper breathing to unlink them from the sympathetic stress system. This will make the superiority displays indubitable and the inferiority displays playful rather than subordinating. It will make all of the expressions effortless. Diaphragmatic generalization will also reduce the activation threshold for these muscles, encouraging them to contract spontaneously. This will free up previously stifled emotions and help you become more expressive. Combining this with exercise will increase neural control of the muscles and help them grow stronger and more prominent. Here are a few facial exercises to try:

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A. Nostrils flared; B. Jaw wide; C. Squinting; D. Eyebrows raised; E. Brow furrowed and lowered; F. Chin raised; G. Corners of mouth lowered; H. Sneering; I. Nose crinkled; J. Lips puckered.

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I had a medical doctor diagnose me with temporomandibular joint dysfunction. He said that the range of motion in my jaw was heavily encumbered and that as a whole my jaw was badly “closed down.” Exercise 5 along with the massage described in the next chapter healed this, ended the pain and cracking, and resulted in the same doctor rescinding the diagnosis. These interventions also mitigated a condition called torus mandibularis which is an accumulation of bone growth along the interior jaw surface nearest the sides of the tongue. This bony growth occurs due to extensive teeth clenching (bruxism). Many months after my jaw was unstifled this growth (which is known to fluctuate over the life course due to local stresses) receded significantly.

Conclusions

My Mother, an art historian, has catalogued and described many photographs of early California pioneers. She spent a lot of time analyzing portraits of hard-working, rugged people living on a dangerous frontier. She said that many of the individuals photographed looked like wolves. She explained to me that they looked wild and undomesticated. Perhaps their faces were less encumbered by a social mask and more indicative of a cunning, phlegmatic, dauntless animal, intent on survival. Don’t wear the face of a tame, housebroken dog, wear that of an unbroken wolf.

“There is only one inborn error, and that is the notion that we exist in order to be happy… So long as we persist in this inborn error… the world will seem to us full of contradictions. For at every step, in great things and small, we are bound to experience that the world and life are certainly not arranged for the purpose of being happy. That’s why the faces of almost all elderly people are deeply etched with such disappointment.”

–               Arthur Schopenhauer

This fate described by this dismal quote is escapable. It is our own responsibility, and not the world’s, to create happiness in our lives. A great first step is to keep the etching of disappointment from happening. It is commonly said that in old age you manifest the face that you deserve. But even some toddlers have purple creases under their eyes (usually because they modeled the expressions of their parents). Surely the muscular contortions that disfigure our faces and bodies start in infancy. Facial tension rewires the neural representation of our face within our brain, and thereby encroaches upon our soul. It is never too late to intervene. Learning to embrace expressionlessness, and practicing facial exercises will help keep you calmer and help facial muscles from taking on additional strain as you age. However, they will not completely release your facial bracing patterns. Only soft tissue mobilization in the form of compression or percussion can do this. The next chapter will show you how to remove the tension from your facial muscles, making even the most expressionless face in the world look absolutely natural.

Chapter 8 Bullet Points

  • We brace the muscles in our face throughout the day resulting in continual wincing, grimacing and frowning.
  • This causes them to develop painful trigger points, scar tissue and adaptive muscle shortening.
  • The repetitive strain of facial muscle plays a major role in stress and when the latent trigger points in the face become active it destroys our composure and contributes to social fatigue and introversion.
  • Learning to perform a resting face, a corpse face, or expressionlessness will help make your face “light on its feet.”
  • To make expressionlessness effortless and ensure that it does not offend people it must be combined with diaphragmatic breathing, eye widening and fixed gaze practices.
  • Exercising the muscles of the face by contracting them until they reach fatigue, and combining this with diaphragmatic breathing, will strengthen and revive them.