Mismatched facial expressions

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deepbreaths

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Mismatched facial expressions
« on: November 25, 2020, 12:10:59 AM »
Hi all,

Not sure if this is the right place for this question/if if has come up before. My T has been pointing out to me recently that when I'm talking about painful subjects that make me sad/angry/anything negative, my facial expressions rarely match. I smile and laugh as I recount horrible stories, often complete with comedic timing. I mentioned it to a friend I trust and she confirmed noticing the same thing. I'm sure that it is because in my FOO, I always had to be happy and unaffected and other emotions were met with rejection or punishment.

However, I share the concern that it limits my ability to seriously communicate in my relationships. Does anyone share this behavior or have tips on breaking this habit?

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marta1234

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Re: Mismatched facial expressions
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2020, 02:38:55 AM »
Deepbreaths, whenever Iíve tried emdr processing with my major memories, I know that my reaction for now has always been laughing. I smile and laugh when especially my therapist is explaining her observations (usually of abandonment, abuse,etc.). My therapist said that it was a deeply rooted protective mechanism.
Hope this helps. :)

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woodsgnome

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Re: Mismatched facial expressions
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2020, 02:46:01 AM »
Hiding my true emotions became habitual for me early on. Mostly this was due to fear of disapproval; and/or worse. That was rather contradictory, I now realize, in that I was considered worthless, that no matter what emotions I dared to have were automatically disapproved of.

On the one hand, I was hypervigilant; inside, I was grieving and furious at this state of affairs. This also happened frequently at a  private school where I ran the risk risk of disapproval for even the silliest of reasons. I learned the game but at the risk of losing my sense of self. Why? Fear -- so I learned the ways I thought would win approval despite the odds. Which of course increased the sadness. Nothing worked, and I took in further the notion that I didn't matter; that hiding my true emotions might help (it didn't!).

Had I been honest, the consequences were too fearful to contemplate. Nowadays there's a huge difference -- I'm not trapped back there in the FOO or in that travesty of a school.
I'm free to be who I am. It's taken a while for me to catch hold of my habit.

Which leaves me with just one suggestion -- to be honest with oneself at all times. Those people I had to please (or so I thought) are long gone from my life. It sounds easy, eh? It surely hasn't been, as the other part of the process is I still fear the consequences of others, no matter who they are.

You've taken a first step, though; which is just the self-realization that you're prone to this. If you trust your T enough, just try and be as honest about your deepest reactions to what you're discussing. If your T has already mentioned this, and there's trust between you, you might find it freeing to react from your heart, and not the mask that's become habitual.

I know that's helped with my own T, but it took loads of trust before I felt bold enough to loosen the mask, and finally let it drop, at least in that relationship. At our most recent session, she took pains to note that I can now speak more easily in my authentic voice that is more willing to share from the heart.

 :hug:

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dreamriver

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Re: Mismatched facial expressions
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2020, 04:00:21 AM »
deepbreaths, me too, definitely! Humor was my best way of buffering the real blow of talking about trauma, both to myself and others, as if to make it more relatable and palatable.

Thanks for bringing this up. I haven't realized how this puts an extra layer on things to work through, and I think you're totally right - it seems like an especially important thing to learn how to disarm with a therapist or a very close and trusted confidante.

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Not Alone

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Re: Mismatched facial expressions
« Reply #4 on: November 28, 2020, 11:59:47 PM »
A really long time ago, I made a collage of people's faces and what they were feeling, because I had no idea about feelings and what that looked like. Back then I heard a lot of "incongruent affect" from therapists. Now I usually can't hide my feelings, so learning how to connect with what one is feeling and express it on one's face, can be done.

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Lilypad

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Re: Mismatched facial expressions
« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2020, 06:17:13 PM »
Humour can be a defence, a pretty common one at that. I wouldn't beat yourself up for this as the humour has probably really helped you cope. Something to work on perhaps, but I would hold that lightly.

I also laugh off my trauma. I'm British so in part I think it is cultural