Blog 16

Eye Smiles

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Throughout history people have had a fascination for the smile. That seemingly simple gesture of lip movements that can make all the difference in the world. Take Mona Lisa’s simple smile for example. Her smile has captured the hearts and minds of authors, artists and songwriters. Artists work a lifetime to capture a smile that can live forever. Thousands of songs and movie and book characters were enshrined in forever by just a smile.

The smile is genetically ingrained as a symbol of safety and security. Scientific research on infant facial recognition demonstrates that at a very early age new born babies are capable of recognizing a smile. The smile has been quoted to be the gateway to our hearts. It reflects our inner feelings. In yoga we are taught that a smile has healing powers for both the giver and receiver. Advertising and marketing highlight the smile to associate their products with positivity. Politicians practice hours to perfect their smile. The smile provokes trust and likeability that every politicians knows is their life blood. The list of examples is endless.

In these times of social distance and wearing masks something is missing. I live in an apartment in Washington DC. I walk everyday for exercise and to combat isolation. I am also an avid hiker and at least once a week my wife and I hit the trails to commune with nature. Zoom just can’t bring you the full sense of the life and breath that comes from being in real nature. There is however a missing sound, the voices of others.

I am proud of the fact that I like to smile at people I pass on my journeys. The simple act of smiling is a signal to others that I am happy as well as a safe person. My smiling is my way of saying I see you and if you wish we can can exchange greetings and small talk. I so miss small talk.

In my previous blog #15 I stressed the need for us to find our guiding songs to help keep us focused on being positive. I found the Youngbloods song Get Together to be my song.

C’mon people now. Smile on your brother. Everybody get together, try to love one another right now.”

Having to wear a mask has changed everything. I accept the need to wear a mask as a necessary activity to prevent the spread of covid-19. Yet as I walk along faces turn away from each other, heads look down and silence pervades the moment. Even on the trail, hikers who have always enjoyed those quick passing moments of conversation, find only silence as they pass each other. I am smiling away behind my mask yet no one can notice it.

We as a species have the smile so ingrained in our minds as the first place to look to start an interaction. Not seeing a quick smile goes against the essence of our innate instincts. What to do? This coldness is so unnerving.

I am now trying to learn to see Eye Smiles. Like that famous lyric “when Irish eyes are smiling….For your smile is a part of love in your heart, and it makes the sunshine more bright…”

Learning to read Eye Smiles I can see is not an easy task. The instinct to turn away from a non-smiling face is so strong. I make sure to also add a gentle head nod as well as a kind looking wave while I look at their eyes. With practice I have begun to see the open and brightness of smiling eyes. To my amazement I find others are beginning to find that same recognition signal from the eye smile. Bravely I am now trying to say hi through my mask. It is delightful to receive back that same recognition.

It looks like masks may be with us for quite the time to come. Let's work at it folks to enhance our eye smiles so we can like the song says “ Smile on your brother.”

Dr Mike

Clinical psychologist 45 years in practice. Worked with children and adults. Love nature, hiking, photography and drums. Retired living in DC.

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