Please Keep Touching Your Face

Bea Broderick  Follow

So this may come as no surprise, but as a teenager my mother provided some sage advice—“Hey, you…please stop touching your face, you will break out.”  Today, looking back at my 7-9th grade photos I wish I had actually listened to her.

It may also come as no surprise that given the recent market zig zag, we’ve seen a lot of dramatics on Wall Street—everything from articles blaming the The Smurfs to a blog chronicling the woeful face-palms of stock brokers.  (Yes, I’m talking about the Tumblr Brokers Hands On Their Faces ).

While the comical relief has helped ease the pain of our sinking portfolios, here’s my BIG question: why do stock brokers (and most of us in general)  put our hands on our faces when we’re scared or shocked and hold our mouths, foreheads or hands over our eyes?

Some behavioral experts believe that the hands display more emotion than any other part of the body. This is perhaps most true when we’re talking about nervousness projected through hand movements. Someone who’s anxious may use their hands to express every emotion they’re experiencing at the very moment their feelings strike.

As you might imagine, mental health plays a role in the kinds of touches one might find most soothing.  For example, if we have a few jitters during a big meeting we may put our pointer finger over our lips and place our hands on our chin.  More “traumatic” experiences like witnessing a terrible accident or hearing bad news may obviously result in more pronounced self-touches, such as the cupping of our faces or placing our hands over our mouths.

Janine Drivers, president of the Body Language Institution in Washington, D.C., calls the face-touch the “pacifier gesture.”  Touching our face is a comfort thing, just like sucking our thumb as a child. “It’s OK, it’s safe. It’s like our mother giving us hug. It says we’ll get through this,” she says.

Driver explains that putting our hands over our mouths is a physical expression of our inability to take anything else in.   She goes on to explain that although the hand-over-mouth gesture isn’t a universal form of expression, opening our mouths in an oval shape and raising our eyebrows is something we can’t control.

“This is in our DNA,” she says. “It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white or Hispanic, from Iraq, Zimbabwe or Chicago.”

With the above being said, here are a few of my personal favorite face clutching photos.  How do you react when you’re surprised, worried and/or disappointed? CJP 

  Poor Hope Solo can’t believe she let those balls in the goal at the 2011 World Cup. 

  American Idol’s Casey Abrams can’t believe he was saved from elimination…

  Lindsay Lohan appears on edge in court…

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