‘Look at me, look at my eyes, I am telling the truth…’
As we hear this we usually look at the person, we search for the person’s eyes to see if they are telling the truth. We know the eyes are the mirror of the soul. But actually the eyes are a window to the soul… the eyes of someone will tell you where they are looking for the information in their mind, if they are remembering something, imagining something, accessing a feeling, or activating their internal dialogue. The eyes pupil dilation would be the only item saying something about the actual emotion of the person, pupil dilation being an unconscious reaction. But it won’t tell you what is going on in their mind. The true mirror or your mind… is your face, and as much as a mirror, your face can be an imprint onto your mind.
‘Mirror, mirror, Let me tell you a story…’
In 1970, Paul Ekman and his team, spent eight years analysing facial expressions, building the FACS, the Facial Action Coding system. We have 9 muscles generating facial expressions, and with those nine muscles, they’ve identified 44 Action Units (AU), where one AU defines the movement of a muscle. For instance, AU1 raising the inner eyebrow, AU2 raising the outer eyebrow, and therefore raising both eyebrows becoming AU1+AU2. They’ve also identified Action Description, some more complex set of movements generating facial expressions. Following work from Duchenne de Boulogne in 1862, and later Darwin in 1962, Ekman’s team research concludes on the existence of seven universal emotions, yes universal, which are -anger -sadness -fear -disgust -contempt -surprise -joy. The idea of universal expressions had been debated for ages… and at that time there was still conception that emotions were culturally specific, that the sign of anger in our world, meant a sign of joy in another country… probably a handy thought at the time of colonisation. These seven emotions are universal; the way we manage those emotions is culturally specific. The fascinating point is the notion of micro-expression, involuntary facial expression, extremely brief and unconscious that we will demonstrate (unconsciously) when in high stake of emotions, when we could have something to lose or gain. These micro-expressions give our true state of mind away… it could be a micro-second of sign of fear or anger when we proudly show a neutral or smiling face.
‘Mirror, Mirror tell me how I feel,’ or could it be? ‘Mirror, mirror, let me tell you how I feel…’
As Ekman’s team experienced with those AU, and specifically the AU of anger, sadness, fear, they started to feel actually depressed, moody and so on… Their face exercises was imprinting their mind! And in 1993, they decided to validate their hypothesis focussing on smiling. They identified 12 categories of smile, among those the genuine smile, also called the Duchenne Smile or D-Smile, a combination of AU6+AU12 when your eyes are smiling to the world as much as your lips. Analysing brain scan while people were voluntarily creating this D-Smile, they showed that the generated brain activities was similar to the brain activities generated by spontaneous happiness. D-Smile to your mirror, and you will smile in your mind! This is the same concept used in Laughter Yoga. Based on the notion that the mind cannot make the difference between a fake and a real laugh, audience generate fake laugh until they actually start to laugh spontaneously, achieving the desired relaxation and release of endorphins.
‘Mirror, mirror, let me tell you how I feel’ and as you finish your morning review in front of that mirror, what about putting a little spring in your smile, and I promise, you will find summer at the corner of your mind.