As most of us who are old enough to vote have learned, words and body language don’t always synch up. When they do, the verbal message gets through, because it’s supported by the non-verbal one underneath, the emotional one. When they don’t, the body language message is the one that people trust. If you say you’re “fine,” but really you’re not, then people believe the “not” because it’s typically signaled by a slight frown or just pursed lips, or a shake of the head, or closed body language.
The whole body language v. vocal language – non-verbal v. content – conversation is really as simple as that.
It’s human relationships that are endlessly complicated. Human emotions, and the human bodies that express those emotions, are in constant motion. That’s what it means to be alive. It’s only monks who have practiced meditating for years that can slow down their heartbeats, their responses, and their brain waves and truly be at rest. For most of humanity, life means motion.
And that means that our thoughts, our emotions, and our words are usually slightly out of synch. Not because we’re trying to miscommunicate, but because we’re beings in motion.
And so we gesture to find out what our unconscious minds are thinking. Our bodies help us catch up with our deepest thoughts. That’s literally true, and hard for people to understand. We gesture before our conscious minds are aware of our emotions, or our intents, or even our decisions. Those last, and perhaps most importantly, are made in our unconscious minds first. Then, we gesture as our bodies access the decision. Only milliseconds later, then, do our conscious minds catch up, learn what it is we’ve decided, and get ready to operate with the new reality.
Our brains conveniently edit out that slight lag, so that we’re not aware of it. It would be disconcerting to be aware of decisions being pushed up to our minds from some other, deeper place, wouldn’t it? That’s why so many people ignore their gut feelings, sometimes disastrously, for so long. We like to think that our conscious minds are in charge.
And so on this Valentine’s Day, I wish for you an entire day of congruence between your conscious thoughts and your unconscious intents. I hope that for twenty-four hours you feel wonderfully, magically in synch with yourself.
But because it’s Valentine’s Day, I want something more for you and for the entire planet. Today, I especially hope that you get to hold someone’s hand, even if only for a brief part of those twenty-four hours, completely and wholly in synch and simply happy to be together.
Because humans want to be in synch. We crave connection. We are most secure, complete, and happy when our feelings flow in the same direction as someone else’s, when words aren’t necessary because are intuitions are already aligned, when we’re in love.
There are many ways to say the words “I love you,” but the way that counts is said without words. The body language of love begins, of course, with flirting: fleeting eye contact, longer eye contact, smiling, grooming, drawing nearer to each other, accidental touching, and finally close one-to-one communion that shuts out the rest of the world.
Once two people are together, then something quite wonderful happens. They move together, gesture together, and react together, anticipating each other’s thoughts, intents, and desires. To experience that kind of harmony with another human being is the cure for loneliness, the antidote for despair, and the hope of the planet. We humans are hard-wired for empathy, and love is its culmination. On Valentine’s Day I wish you the happiness of another human being to dance with in perfect harmony, beyond words, and as close as the beating of your own heart.
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