Reading Faces

With my face working its way out of long time patterns and changing regularly, I’ve been thinking about some work we did during Ellen Margron‘s version of the Fischer-Hoffman Process. She had us each take a piece of paper, put it over half of our faces (making a line approximately down the center of the nose, mid-forehead, mid-chin) so that only one side of the face could be seen. We looked in mirrors at ourselves and also looked at one another and put the pieces of paper on pictures of family, people in magazines, etc.

She pointed out that when you look at a person you tend to see the face as whole and your mind synthesizes it to make it more even and symmetrical than most faces really are. If you cover half the face and really study the side you can see, you start to discern the anger or sadness or horror in the eyes, the fright in a smile, the paralysis of that side of the face or the devilish fury in the expression. And when the paper is switched to the other side, the story in each part of the face may be completely different.

The left side roughly corresponds to mother issues or issues with your feminine side. The right side corresponds to father issues or issues with your masculine side. So an angry right eye and a sad left eye might tell a story of abuse or troubles with dad and sadness that mom didn’t help you. Or a fake smile on the left side and a thin straight line of anger on the other side of the mouth might tell a story of someone who felt a need to please mom and a lot of anger about dad.

Since the day she gave us the exercise I’ve been fascinated by this. I’ve watched my face release various masks, let go of a lot of anger (not all yet), show the growing light of grace and calm within. I habitually cover half of author’s faces (wow, scary angry bunch—at least among those I read) to see what I see or pictures of friends. The point isn’t to find some reason to judge or decide you know a secret about somebody, but just to have some information about the many ways in which people have so much more story than what we see on the surface. When you study your own face it can help you see what you’re holding onto or recognize an area of your life that has an old issue you never noted before.

Try it out. Stand in front of a mirror and cover half of your face. Have a friend take your photo and cover half of your face. Study one half carefully and then check out the other. Sometimes it’s easier to catch details in a photo because of the stillness, but sometimes a photo also captures an exaggeration of something that’s not so clear when you’re watching the live version of yourself. Do you see fear or anger or something frozen or tentative or sad that you didn’t know you had?

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