Attempting to quell the un-quellable… And the guts behind it…

Jason,

I need advice. I don’t want to give myself away through my microexpressions. And I have several. More than most. How do I be more… stoic? Similar to [our stoic friend]? I’ve [learned to control my emotions, I stay away from drugs], I’ve done all of that except tried logic. Do you know of any books on [our friend’s] shelf, or should I library? And honestly, I think there is something wrong with me on a professional level only, I can get emotional about work, and it’s been hard to hide lately. It’s causing slight stress but more of a disturbance in my flow, and my effectiveness.

– [Left to be unnamed.]

I have neither attempted to, nor come across a means to, or desire to, stifle microexpressions. As far as I’ve always understood; a microexpression occurs on account of having to attempt to conceal an emotion in the first place. In other words, a microexpression is a form of a “tell,” as they call them in the poker world. They, microexpressions, occur because the personality, perhaps the id, requires truthful information to be conveyed. If I were to, say, lie about something and I was a person that was apt to convey microexpressions; then a microexpression (a full blown facial expression) would flash upon my face in, approximately, 1/10 of a second.

(And the timing is no guess. When I decided to study microexpressions, I asked friends to lie to me while I filmed them. One friend specifically was, as I knew, disgusted by, and abhorred, cigarettes. I asked her to convince me, on film, that she loved them. When I’d spot a microexpression I would cut that single second out and put it into my computer. The second of footage was able to be broken down into 30 frames. A microexpression of theirs lasted for 3 out of the 30 frames. 1 frame was the initial onset, the 2nd frame was a full blown expression, the 3rd frame was the offset of the emotion. 3/30 frames, in other words; 1/10 of a second. And the expression was full on disgust. To be technical it had a Facial Action Coding Score (FACS) with the Action Units (AUs), 9 (the levator labii superioris alaeque nasi), 15 (the depressor anguli oris) and 16 (the depressor labii inferioris) Amazing! Full blown disgust in one 10th of a second! It’s staggering. Back to the point… I agree…)

I’ve been spending a few days now trying to think of a way to conceal something that manifests as a result of concealment and what I have come up with is that, simply, you don’t.

On the one hand, the more prominent one in this metaphor, there are, theoretically, one is my theoretical and the other is, so to speak, Ekmanomical… Paul Ekman, the one who is widely credited as discovering and working with microexpressions (though technically it was E.A. Haggard and K.S. Isaacs in 1996 who called it “Micromomentary.“) has developed a training tool to learn how to spot microexpressions. (I have taken all of the courses and each are worth it.)

The point is, if it is something that people need to practice at or take a training on; the chances of someone who is of the, for lack of better terms, average individual having taken such a course is, likely, pretty minimal and they will miss them (microexpressions) when they occur.

Remember, we’re talking about 1/10 of a second here!

On the next hand we have those pesky little buggers called mirror neurons. And these are a problem, why? In this case they are anyway… Mirror neurons are what promote and manifest empathy. When I yawn, you yawn– mirror neuron. When you frown, I grow saddened– mirror neuron. When you show anger, I become afraid– mirror neuron. And they exist for a beautiful evolutionary reason. Mirror neurons are where empathy comes from, how we can feel sympathy. So, if a person exhibits a mircroexpression then it is quite reasonable to expect that, since the brain notices more information than we can possibly imagine, the person who sees a microexpression will have a mirror neuron effect from the cause of you making such a grumpy face.

It’s a pickle. No doubt.

(Not to mention the growing probability that thoughts and feelings may be less private than we think or that we are cluttering the noosphere with all the muck and entrails of what we think and feel. Enough hippy side tracking… Back on point…)

Now that we have a bit of an understanding as to what and why a microexpression is… Let’s consider their control. It is reasonable to suggest that you will have to, instead, learn to control your emotions and not your microexpressions at all. Honesty is, as I always say, the best route. Once a friend said to me, “lying–it is something that you can do to all people or no people; your choice.” And, quite frankly, I agree.

Now, sadly, if you attempt to conceal microexpressions there is, then, a good possibility that you will be given away based on three principles–

  1. A Simulated Expression is when a microexpression is not concomitant with a natural expression which will lend suspicion to your conversationalist pal.
  2. A Neutralized Expression occurs when the one emoting attempts to neutralize an emotion (quite like you are doing) and, consequentially, no emotions, where one should, appears causing a non-microexpression-microexpression…
  3. Masked Expression is when the microexpression truly rears its head; that is when you attempt to mask a natural expression then another expression can, and most likely will, give you away.

In other words; you will most likely be fully incapable of repressing your microexpressions and if you do/try you will only lead to more. Not to mention the amount of damage it will do on your psyche. On the path where you are heading I would beg to ask the question, “if you would not do this job for free, then why are you doing it?” Instead is it time to change professions?

If, however, this is a necessary job for the time being I would work on practicing keeping your “cultural emblems, subject manipulators and object manipulators,” at a minimum. These are things that really do cause an affective effect in the person who views them. And these are things that people don’t even need to study in order to spot…

Pesky mirror-neurons…

I hope that answers your question and I hope that I can convince you to watch a video before you leave. The video is a Ted.com lecture by a woman named Brene’ Brown. She talks about allowing yourself to be vulnerable to your emotions and compassionate towards yourself to a point where things like you are trying to do–are no longer relevant. She explains a simple method to trusting yourself and others with whatever emotion is given or received… And furthermore she talks about the power one receives by becoming, of all things, as vulnerable as one possibly can become.

I hope this helps…

If not, you can always hit up a Byron Katie, “Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet.”

7 thoughts on “Attempting to quell the un-quellable… And the guts behind it…”

  1. Once a friend said to me, “lying–it is something that you can do to all people or no people; your choice.” And, quite frankly, I agree.

    Reminds me of a quote I like, “Everybody lies.”

    Practicing honesty with others reinforces honesty with ourselves. It’s a skill, you build connectomes for honesty and ones for lying. The ones you use more will grow. I do agree with you that lying reinforces lying but I do not believe it’s an all or nothing topic. And I don’t believe that if you lie to others this means you are lying to yourself in some fashion. But I do agree that which ever you reinforce will get stronger and possibly more frequent. There are also degrees of lying such as lies of omission. Would you also apply that to oneself? Is lying ever ok? Is there a type of lying that is ok? And will one type of lying reinforce another? Also if we do tell a lie of omission does this reflect how we treat ourselves?

    Also I have a hard time perceiving the differences about lying to yourself about how you are feeling and controlling your emotions. I can acknowledge that I am feeling angry but quickly dissipate that emotion in effort to control it and what I say. When does that become detrimental? There seems to be a line between control and neglect and eventually full blown dissmisal or “lying”.
    Can you explain the differences between control and neglect? Give examples? I have my a few of my own hypotheses but I would like to work from your perspective, not mine.

    1. “Also I have a hard time perceiving the differences about lying to yourself about how you are feeling and controlling your emotions.”

      While in pursuit of happiness I’v had this come up a lot. The idea of forcing myself to not be depressed and instead happy, sickened me because of it’s inauthenticity. But after much consideration I found that it was also because I felt it would invalidate my feelings, my experiences, my conclusions about those experiences, and in the end invalidate me.

      But I’ve recently realized that there’s another side to this. When I experience a negative emotion, like anger or sadness, I’ll hold onto it past the moment when it’s appropriate to feel it. “No, I can’t laugh or smile,” I’ll tell myself, “I’m upset. Don’t laugh at that joke, life is shit.” So, I end up invalidating an authentic positive emotion with a negative emotion that’s no longer relevant. This is a process that takes time, but I think you’re talking about something more immediate. Such as:

      I’m driving and someone cuts me off. I become enraged. My initial reaction is to speed up to the car in question and ram it into the concrete barrier and beat this person into an cm of his life while blasting Feel Good Inc. on my stereo. Restraining myself from hunting down this man and everyone he has ever loved does not invalidate me as a person, at least in my mind. So, I feel it’s okay to suppress my rage by sheer force of will in this instance.

      Chances are good that the real issue isn’t even that I was cut off. It’s something deeper. And suppressing that issue is the detrimental action.

      /2¢

      1. I think both are valid examples. My point is more easily seen in your second example because it could potentially lead to more physical damage. Emotional damage is just as important for me

        For me? Personally, the example that comes to mind would be more similar to your first example. Especially when I experience a negative emotion i feel like because its a negative thing its not right for me to have it. I can push it aside, I can think on it later, i can move on and all of these examples can be thought of as “controlling” your emotions. However, if I do this too often I’ll eventually have “Kitty’s Crazy Day” where I explode at every little thing. So where is the balance? It seems that each time has to be treated uniquely and through trial and error, “well I took out my frustration on person A, but really the problem started with person B and maybe i should have acknowledged how I was feeling more with person B.”

        I always feel like i can learn from my experiences after the fact. What about prevention?
        This makes sense?

      2. Let’s start with Kittytron

        “I do agree with you that lying reinforces lying but I do not believe it’s an all or nothing topic.”

        I couldn’t agree with you more. It is a thing of love that I hold for these discussions; the tangentially branched and expounded ideas… And this one, I have studied and been ready for for, as you know, sometime.

        Firstly I do agree, it isn’t simply a 1 or a 0. This would be an instance of how Robert Pirsig defined the Japanese word Mu As with this, with all things– we are never dealing with just ones and zeros nor blacks and whites nor simply one or the other. There is more gray area that shades of primaries in everything I’ve every encountered.

        …and continue with…

        “And I don’t believe that if you lie to others this means you are lying to yourself in some fashion. […] There are also degrees of lying such as lies of omission.”

        In many cases I would disagree with the first statement. Why? We are each other. There is no separation between us all– to lie to one is to lie to the self.

        Degrees of lying… That has always been an interest to me. I remember reading a story that Paul Ekman had told about a boy and his parents in, I believe, an auto accident. In the instant the paramedics arrived they found the parents to be D.O.A. and the boy still alive. The boy asked if his, “parents were ok?” to which the paramedics answered, “yes, they are fine.” Was this wrong? I don’t think so. To avoid immediate shock and panic this lie was necessary. It is more probable this was a hypothetical and not a real story however, I can’t recall.

        Degrees of lying… (Let me stretch my back, legs and memory here… I’ll be sitting in this spot for a while…)

      3. Concealment is, of course, “witholding information without saying anything untrue.” (Ekman, Paul. “Telling Lies” Pg. 28).
      4. Falsification is, like concealment, is witholding information while deliberately adding information that is untrue.
      5. Half-Concealment… Interesting, no? The truth is told, just not fully. The untrue information is left out and thus the liar has not, as the liar believes, actually lied. This is, as you see, similar to omission however it is more of an, “incorrect-inference dodge,” which allows the liar to continue to say something untrue.
      6. Misdirecting or misidentifying the cause of the emotion. Let’s say, for this type of lie, that Othello’s Error were actually, Othello’s Correctness and Othello’s wife, Desdemona, did in fact cheat on Othello with Cassio. Othello confronts Desdemona and sees fear in her face. If, in this scenario, Desdemona tells Othello that her fear was a fear of, say, being disbelieved (because in this scenario, she is sleeping with Cassio) then her telling Othello that her fear was a fear of being disbelieved when she assured him it was not happening– this would be an example of misdirecting or misidentifying information.
      7. Your basic lie of omission which is to simply leave things out of the story you are telling. It’s a form of concealment really.
      8. You also have the various other lies that are more simple yet less noticed… I will go strait to a, “House,” episode called, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” where, as he sat with a girl he ran down a few types of lies and their definitions…

      9. Rationalizations are lies we tell, “to make ourselves feel better.”
      10. White lies are lies we tell, “to make other people feel better.”
      11. There are so many different kind of lies and reasons why they all, almost always, fail. If this subject does interest you, or if I have completely strain from the point, get the book, “Telling Lies” by Ekman– it’s all right there, everything you need to know.

        To continue with your comment…

        Would you also apply that to oneself? Is lying ever ok? Is there a type of lying that is ok? And will one type of lying reinforce another? Also if we do tell a lie of omission does this reflect how we treat ourselves?

        I’ve addressed many of these questions above except the idea of lying reinforcing lying. This is something that I believe to be true. Once we have lied, we often have to create a lie to conceal that lie. Because, if for any reason, our first lie requires validity of truth then, consequentially, a new lie will need to be created– to a staggering degree usually.

        This is why if you require the catching of a liar in a lie you simple– ask them to tell the story they’ve told you again; only this time they are to tell it backwards. Instead of, “I woke up, made coffee, showered, went to work, ate breakfast, finished responding to emails,” you ask for it the other way. And one of two things happen, they repeat the story in reverse perfectly because it is the truth and they only have to trace it through their time-line or they’ll say something, such as, “Well, before I finished my emails, I arrived at work, on the way to work I had breakfast, while I was at home I had coffee and before that I bathed and before that I woke up.” The reverse will most often be a jumble of misled points because the liar never thinks to rehearse the story that way… Only forwards…

        Anyway. Lies upon lies is, for lack of better metaphors at the moment (I’d like to thank my distracting seventh-ring of hell back pain), is almost always Jenga Consequential… The tower will fall, it always does… Which leads to– yes, honesty is, as I’ve noticed over the years, the best option.

        Some lies are necessary, most are not.

        And, furthermore…

        Also I have a hard time perceiving the differences about lying to yourself about how you are feeling and controlling your emotions. I can acknowledge that I am feeling angry but quickly dissipate that emotion in effort to control it and what I say. When does that become detrimental? There seems to be a line between control and neglect and eventually full blown dissmisal or “lying”.
        Can you explain the differences between control and neglect? Give examples? I have my a few of my own hypotheses but I would like to work from your perspective, not mine.

        Let’s not think in terms of control, dissipation and points of detriment. Instead consider the difference between the other, some healthy, some not, options.

        We are, sadly, back again with our friend The Ego. According to EmotionalCompetency.com the acts of repression, control of emotions, detrimental destinations of such etc. are all “distortions,” and “Ego-Defense Mechanisms” that, “help us avoid accepting evidence that challenges our self-image as a good and worthy person or that challenge our strongly held stereotypes.”

        I often agree with this site and utilize it as a reference frequently. From my theorizing perspective, however, control of emotions and/or sublimation of emotions is a fairly healthy thing.

        We’d have to familiarize ourselves with Ekman’s cycle of emotions quickly in order to know when, where and the easiest place to utilize control and sublimation.

        We start with what Ekman called the, “Automatic Appraisers,” or, “Autoappraisers” for short.

        1

        And continue into what Ekman called (and he himself said, “it’s not really like a computer, this is just a good metaphor”) the “Emotional Alert Database,” which, like a computer stores all your emotional information; your connects, your fired and wired together thoughts and feelings, your connectome. Etc.

        2

        Obviously one leads into the next. We appraise our environment, constantly, for things we need to emotionally respond to. After we’ve “consulted” our “database of emotions” we chose one to feel.

        3

        After we’ve, unconsciously, and involuntarily (that is up for debate), chosen the emotion we move on to actually feeling the emotion in the “Refractory Period” of the emotion.

        4

        And while in the “Refractory Period” our, “thinking cannot inccorporate information that does not fit, maintain, or justify the emotion we are feeling.” (Ekman, Paul. “Emotions Revealed” Pg. 39).

        Once the “Refractory Period” is ended, and it’s time is variable; anywhere between 5 minutes to a few hours on average, we enter the “mood” of the emotion.

        5

        And since we know what a mood feels like and is— no big explanation here besides, that, the cycle simple swallows its own tale and begins again…

        5

        And we begin to appraise the environment for that which we need our emotions for.

        Now…

        “From my theorizing perspective, however, control of emotions and/or sublimation of emotions is a fairly healthy thing.

        We’d have to familiarize ourselves with Ekman’s cycle of emotions quickly in order to know when, where and the easiest place to utilize control and sublimation.”

        And it rests within the toughest of the variables…

        6

        This is where we need to learn control. We need to learn to battle around the Ego’s self-preservation of the emotion. In the place, the time where we are “incapable” of believing evidence contrary to our emotion– we can shorten this, we can dissipaste this, we can change this.

        All it takes is self control… We stop and realize where we are… Inside a mind field of emotions ready to love, ready to explode, ready to hurt others. If we, as evolved as we are, can apply to tools provided in our Neocortex then we can utilize the refractory period as something more… Something insightful; information. Information telling us that we are in a space that is difficult to escape from, information that, instead of telling us focus NOW! on this anger! can tell us focus now, you are feeling and you need to understand what the emotion means and how you can use it.

        In conclusion– we can learn to control our reactions to the emotions. And this control can come in the form of sublimation (e.g. we write when we hurt, we paint when we feel pain, we write music to channel our love, we even, some of us, take to the gym and weight train the ACTH out of our system through sweat, etc. etc.). The refractory period alerts us of an emotional reaction that is sometimes not healthy or working for us… And we don’t need to “stonewall,” “yell,” or “hurt” others. We just need to learn to be aware of our response to the refractory period and how we may sublimate the emotion that is being felt.

        Neglect of emotion is repression… And repression is pipe bombs. Repression is compressed gasses in a fire. Repression is what put scars on many children I have worked with. Repression is walls pock marked with fists. Repression is all of those things said out of anger. Repression is stressful. Repression is the birth of Briquet’s Syndrome. Repression is all the broken doors, and broken hearts and broken collar bones that exist in the world…

        Practice mindfulness, journal, sublimate and redirect those emotions…

        And, if you’ve learned anything from this blog response, learn to stay, unlike your host, on topic…

      12. And now onto Zedwarth…

        Can anyone tell me why this is centered???

        What interested me most was–

        The idea of forcing myself to not be depressed and instead happy, sickened me because of it’s inauthenticity. But after much consideration I found that it was also because I felt it would invalidate my feelings, my experiences, my conclusions about those experiences, and in the end invalidate me.

        Me…

        There is all this talk of this me going around these days. As I notice that the HTML Code for italics is the word “me” in reverse. That is, within carrots it is the word “em” and to close it is “em.” Me in reverse. Me… Backwards.

        Let’s try that then shall we?

        You’re claim is that forcing yourself to feel happiness in place of a more common, baseline, of depression is a perversion of self because of it’s invalidation. Then I’m left to ask if the self is one of depression? Completely? Were you born depressed?

        I will guess that you were not born and became, upon lit arrival from the womb, saddened and cynical at the world around you. Instead it was something that you learned, no? When you began to learn that the world, for you, was a depressing place did it not change your core self as it was before that? And thus invalidate the prior self?

        I’m aware that this sort of reductio ad absurdum argument is in the vain of causal determinism, don’t worry.

        But think about it… Each clock has its maker. And each emotion has its hypothalamic and limbic clock maker too.

        Was your change from who you were when you were younger an invalidation of self? An inauthenticity of self? If so then you are a series of dominoes functioning by knocking yourself down from behind your own back.

        The point is is that your depression is as much of a choice as not being depressed.

        I once asked John how to change all of this, all of the anguish I felt, all of the disgust the world presented to me… He pondered his John-esque, cigarette rolling, ceiling stare pause, smiled, “All you need is intent,” he said, “which shape desires for specific outcomes,” pausing he dragged his Bali Shag, exhaled, “and it doesn’t necessarily have to be the way you feel right now. But rather something that you want that, as a result, would make you feel different… Better… You’re going to have to bring this on yourself.

        Our emotional response to things are not, immediately, our choice. But we can change them! We can re-associate meaning to anything! We do it all of the time.

        Would it be an inauthentic gesture towards yourself to re-associate that which depresses you? What if you re-associated your depression to be the thing that sickens you and not trying to change your depression?

        Why should you be depressed anyway? Can you think of one stress free reason to hold onto your depression?

        But I’ve recently realized that there’s another side to this. When I experience a negative emotion, like anger or sadness, I’ll hold onto it past the moment when it’s appropriate to feel it. “No, I can’t laugh or smile,” I’ll tell myself, “I’m upset. Don’t laugh at that joke, life is shit.” So, I end up invalidating an authentic positive emotion with a negative emotion that’s no longer relevant. This is a process that takes time, but I think you’re talking about something more immediate.

        You have found yourself in a hole Zedwarth… Stop digging…

        Such as: I’m driving and someone cuts me off. I become enraged. My initial reaction is to speed up to the car in question and ram it into the concrete barrier and beat this person into an cm of his life while blasting Feel Good Inc. on my stereo. Restraining myself from hunting down this man and everyone he has ever loved does not invalidate me as a person, at least in my mind. So, I feel it’s okay to suppress my rage by sheer force of will in this instance.

        Yes, in this sort of hypothetical it is good to suppress your rage because it would hurt only you in the long run. But why suppress the others? Suppress the anger, the happiness and you are left with… What?

        Chances are good that the real issue isn’t even that I was cut off. It’s something deeper. And suppressing that issue is the detrimental action.

        Yes.

        If I were in your shoes, I would run through this situation through a series of Byron Katie questions like this…

      13. That person should not have cut me off.
      14. I would realize that this is simply arguing with what really happened. And I don’t argue with reality, I lost that battle a long time ago. So he cut me off– which means, as Byron Katie always said, since it did happen– it should have. Because the only things that should not have happened are things that did not happen.

      15. But… I am enraged and furious by this event and I want to kill this person!
      16. Fine. That’s what you feel and at all times, what you feel, is right. All feelings are good feelings- they are all teachers.

      17. But who would I be if I couldn’t think this way? Who would I be? Who would they be if I wasn’t capable of feeling what I feel? Responding the way I do? I would be a person that truly didn’t care about being cut off. I would be a person who people gave the right of way to throughout my life. I would be a person that didn’t argue with what is.
      18. I would take the time to turn it around on myself and on the other driver as well…

      19. He should have cut me off… Perhaps he is late for work. Perhaps he is in a hurry. Perhaps he is in (one of the million situations I could never guess) that require him to need that extra minute.
      20. I should not have cut him off… Now, see, I’m a Golden Rule kind of guy– I wouldn’t do something to someone else that I would want to have happen to myself. I don’t need the extra time and space and letting him go ahead may help him with what he needs.
      21. Etc.

        I’ve come up with, something similar to the tools in the movie “Inception.” I call it my, “Anchor System.” These are often doodads, tchotchkes, lagniappes etc. that have specific meaning assigned to them. And they are all good. They are all things that resemble and remind me of something, something good, something happy.

        I look at them often, they have a special shelf at home. Each of these I ponder a moment each day. This, as you know, will wire a specific neuronet to them. Because, as with all things, “thoughts that fire together, wire together.” A trinket can have a reassigned home of happiness in our minds, and so can places, people, emotions, reactions to emotions etc.

        Because it’s a choice… “Even thought I am upset, I can laugh. I can smile. I can re-associate this response system I have to my troubling emotions.”

        All you need is intent,” he said…

        which shape desires for specific outcomes,” pausing he dragged his Bali Shag, exhaled…

        and it doesn’t necessarily have to be the way you feel right now. But rather something that you want that, as a result, would make you feel different… Better…

        You’re going to have to bring this on yourself.

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