About the Book
Over the years, my work as a psychiatrist has given me the best possible opportunity to observe the significance and symbolism of the unspoken language communicated by the body, so-called body language. This nonverbal communication, spoken through facial expression and body motion and posture, often conveys more than the spoken word and is more honest than the spoken word. In fact, unless done consciously with the intention of deceiving others, body language is highly accurate and specific.
The numerous and extensive studies of body language have primarily focused on interactive communication between individuals, particularly facial expression and gestures in humans and animals, as well as the context in which they occur, both behavioral and social. Facial expression is the most evident body language, as the face is the principal communicator of our emotional state. Individuals may express, purposefully or not, a pure (single) emotion, mixed emotions, or may modify or even feign the emotional response. Gestures with the hands convey a body language that is intentionally directed toward others and communicate with varying degrees of specificity; thus they constitute an interpersonal (social) language. (President Clinton gestures in the photograph on page 6.)
This work, however, calls attention to the spontaneous, relatively discreet, usually brief body motions that occur in response to cues from one's inner self. These actions constitute a personal body language, a private communication that is manifested in most instances by touching oneself, primarily with the hand, although other parts of the body may be used such as the teeth biting the lower lip. Head and foot movements may also serve the same purpose. These particular body actions are intrapersonal (within oneself), occurring as a person responds to internal cues that are triggered by thoughts, memories, and emotions, and reflect inner conflict often referred to as intrapsychic conflict. Another way to put it is that most aspects of self-touching are a form of personal dialogue, part of me communicating with another part of me when experiencing internal conflict. (Note the hand position of Vice President Al Gore and his facial expression in the same photo below.)
President Clinton gestures to the press about the Lewinsky matter. Vice President Gore indicates conflict about belief. (See the section on Head.) (AP/Wide World Photos)
While gestures comprise a nonverbal language that appears to be understood by everyone in that culture, our personal body language is most often not consciously understood even by the one who is speaking. And while gestures occur almost exclusively in a social setting, our personal body responses are as likely to occur when we are alone as when we are in the presence of others.
These intrapersonal body responses differ from gestures in that the movements are not only primarily involuntary, but they are also usually unconscious and not intended for communication to others. While these movements may appear random, they have a purpose arising from the unconscious. An understanding of personal body language can provide valuable information on elements about a person's unconscious mental and emotional activity.
The internal conflict that prompts these body responses is often the result of the two different points of view of the two hemispheres of the brain. Each hemisphere provides a different angle of viewing, so to speak, analogous to the two different angles of viewing that the eyes provide to give us binocular vision.
As each eye can operate without the simultaneous functioning of the other, so can each hemisphere of the brain, for each hemisphere has its own sphere of consciousness. Thus, when a person says "on the one hand" and presents a point of view, and then indicates a differing or even oppositional point of view "on the other hand", we see a manifestation of the position of the two hemispheres in respect to the matter being considered. Because each hemisphere serves the opposite side of the body, the right side and hand represent the view of the left brain, and the left side and hand represent the view of the right brain. These disparate views and operating modes are equally important. If they can be experienced and integrated simultaneously, we have whole brain thinking. Ideally, the integration of these opposite sides of our brain provides us with a multi-dimensional view, allowing for the fullness and richness of experience. However, these perspectives can be, and often are, so opposite that an internal struggle ensues, which is evidenced by motions of personal body language.
If the disparity between these points of view is sufficiently great, a gross imbalance develops between the brain hemispheres. At this point, the person will be prompted internally (and unconsciously) to attempt to resolve this discomforting imbalance. The most effective motion in the effort to aid hemispheric integration is that of bringing a hand to the forehead, as can be seen in the photographs of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and retired quarterback Dan Marino on pages 10 and 11. The situations confronting these two individuals were extreme; lesser degrees of imbalance are often accompanied by a less dramatic positioning of the hand to the forehead, such as if one were covering the eyes to focus one's view.
The photos on these two pages show one of the most important and useful Kinoetic responses the hand to the forehead. Overwhelming stimuli traumatic thoughts, memories, or feelings cause this spontaneous response to conflict in an attempt to regain internal hemispheric balance.
The great quarterback Dan Marino reacts after a big loss in an important playoff game. He retired soon after. (AP/Wide World Photos)