I discuss romantic body language in my domestic violence psychoeducation counseling classes frequently as part of the process in getting my clients to understand how quickly their lives can change. (I may change internal chemistry in response to a perception of aggression, for example, twice as fast as I can blink my eyes)
Very few of my clients can identify the discreet movements of romantic body language, and few of them can describe the chemistry in their body when they are the recipient of romantic body language, but all of them can talk to the intensity of the feeling they have and how that feeling impels behavior, when romantic body language is received.
The mating dance begins, and if my male clients do not learn that they need to double and triple check the actual intention of the perceived communicator, they may engage in behaviors that are illegal these days, like stalking, because they do not slow the chemistry inside their body.
Admittedly, that chemistry, which Helen Fisher,Ph.D. has studied extensively, is not always amenable to awareness and choice, because it is designed to propagate the species, and involves some hormones and neurotransmitters operating in the pleasure centers of the brain, which do not have words, only feelings.
And real scientists and body language gurus have been working to break down romantic body language into discreet components for a long time, with no real success.
My most recent reading of some of that literature indicates that there is a very subtle mirroring that appears to be initiated by the female, which the male follows.
However, Helen Fisher describes flirting behaviors that women use which bridge cultures;
Fisher tells us that "women from places as different as the jungles of Amazonia, the salons of Paris, and the highlands of New Guinea apparently flirt with the same sequence of expressions". A woman's smile starts off the encounter, with a quick look away as she drops her eyes and tilts her head down. She may then hide her faces, giggling behind her hands. Any man who's the recipient of such a gaze knows what's up.
Men have their own postures inherited from the past. Fisher compares a man's "chest thrust" (when he sticks out his chest) with the dominance-asserting messages of bristling cats and chest-pounding gorillas."
While those chest thrusts are a little over the top in a saloon, or office, facial expressions are what I learned to pay attention to as a kid, in a house where there was great survival value in recognizing subtle signals of anger in the parents, so I believe that romantic body language has far more to do with facial expressions than anything else.
Paul Ekman,Ph.D., has been studying facial expressions for about 25 years in an attempt to discover the discreet components of expressions, and has discovered some expressions, like contempt, are hardwired. In other words, the wild man of Borneo, who has never seen a westerner would respond to my look of contempt with a change in his chemistry.
No matter what the romantic body language used, any romantic chemistry can be used most effectively, according to Fisher by making sure that we send our message to a compatible personality type.
Fisher's research has indicated to her that we humans fall into four basic personality types, which are linked to a dominant hormone/neurotransmitter, and that a relationship that moves beyond romantic body language and into romantic love and into a secure love is most possible when we find a receptive person from a compatible personality type.
Robert Epstein,Ph.D. has written recently about conscious romantic body language which couples can engage in to increase intimacy.
For example, couples can engage in soul gazing, which is looking into each other's eyes for two minutes, or heart beat synchonization, which I was delighted to see, because I have used Heartmath to do that with couples for about five years now.
John Gottman,Ph.D., has studied the very subtle communication signals that couple send to one another at his love lab for 30 years, and can predict with 96% accuracy in three minutes, if I remember correctly, whether or not a relationship will survive the seven year mark based on the number of expressions of contempt, stonewalling, criticism, and defensiveness he sees.
So what is it that we hope to communicate with our facial expressions?
I think it goes all the way back to attachment behaviors with mom especially, which Allan Schore describes so wonderfully in his work on affect, or feeling, regulation or disregulation.
He says that mother and infant in the first year signal each other with sound and facial expressions and that they child and mother work to achieve an internal homeostasis, which involves heart rhythm synchronization.
I thing romantic body language goes all the way back to infancy.
By the way, Dad's are not excluded from attachment behaviors. Just think back to how you felt when you saw your child's eyes looking at you with love. That memory will bring back a chemistry, won't it?
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