When I was young I was a trained dancer so I worked intensely with the body in forming shape and experience. I also trained in mime and learnt the subtleties of the face as well. So some of the work I do with clients is somatic (within the body to release and form experience).
Why is body language so very important?
The answer is twofold. Firstly, your body is hardwired in a way that has evolved over millions of years and your posture determines a large part of your personal experience. Secondly 60%-plus of all your external communications with other people in a personal context is about body language.
You have three major nervous systems and we are going to talk about two of them. The first is the sympathetic nervous system. This innervates movement. In other words it sends signals to your muscles to tense up and do their actions, sometimes sending you into the fight or flight response (automatic response when facing fear) in a perceived emergency.
For you to be confident you have to be doing the actions of confidence. Your body must mobilise its muscles to either activate your own desired action to fulfil your aspirations or in an action of interpersonal communication. So you need the innervations of the sympathetic nervous system to power you out of the resting state (doing nothing) into the action state (doing confidence).
The second part of the nervous system that needs to be controlled is the parasympathetic nervous system and this is the relaxing of muscles. This is equally as important an experience in confidence as experiences of action. The parasympathetic nervous system takes you out of the fight or flight response and brings you into a relaxed state, which is good for interpersonal communications.
The body has genetic memories and memories you have installed over your lifetime. For instance, when you smile you get good feelings. When you cry, out of distress, you get sad feelings. When you are really tense, your shoulders move forward and the trapezius muscles at the back of your neck tense up along with many other muscles in your body. When you laugh, many of your muscles relax to such an extent you can even become quite floppy and loose.
So not only do your experiences create body shapes and different muscle tones, but you can also create experiences and feelings by manipulating your body shapes and muscle tones. Don’t just believe me, though: do the following exercise.
Exercise: Body shape and language equals experience
1. Stand in front of a large, long mirror and shake your fists, screw up your face, shout angrily at the person in the mirror. Get really upset with them for 30 seconds and then note how you feel.
2. Lie on the floor. Uncross your legs and your arms and then just start laughing out loud; stay laughing out loud for a full minute. Note how you feel.
3. Stand in front of the mirror again. Choose something you are very good and confident at doing. Explain to the person in the mirror exactly how to do whatever it is you are good at doing in a relaxed way, smiling. Do it again and again until you get your routine comfortable and automatic. Note how confident you are about doing what you know how to do.
You become your body language and your body language becomes you. You become your face language and your face language becomes you.