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Smile Anatomy: Emotional Self Regulation and Facial Expression Muscle Measurement and Training

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positivepsychology.net Headlined to H1 5/25/15

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Originally published as a chapter in Jeffrey Cram's book Clinical Surface EMG Volume 2, in 1989

EMG self awareness and control techniques can be used to train individuals to increase awareness and voluntary control of their emotional states, volitionally facilitating positive feelings, attitudes and expectancies.

Our muscles not only move us through our world, they also mediate our experiencing of it.

This chapter describes how conventional relaxation biofeedback, and zygomaticus biofeedback training paradigms can be readily integrated into an emotional self regulation model for optimizing the individual's capacity and ability to make the most of positive experience opportunities and to maximize positive affect and attitude.

Biobehavioral patients (Pain, stress, anxiety, somatic dysfunction, phobia, behaviorally exacerbated medical illness) tend to tighten muscles, constrict their peripheral vasculature and emotional response range, and narrow and rigidify their selective perceptual pattern of viewing their environment so they often miss or less-than-optimally respond to positive opportunities. After they've learned relaxation and stress regulation techniques they are still in need of emotional expression skills so they can make the most of opportunities for positive experience.

The ability to express emotion effectively, to be aware of feelings before one acts, and to perceive the emotional expressions of others has helped humans to survive the Darwinian evolutional selection process of the survival of the fittest. The Neanderthal who could sense and control his fear so he didn't scream, saved his family from detection.

The warm and affectionate Cro Magnon man was more likely to connect with a mate and keep her with him so he could father several children-- thus perpetuating his genes. The Peking man with a sense of humor could laugh his way out of an argument.

Emotions: The Same Language All Over The World

Our feelings are connected to our faces. When we make faces, we activate a universal human response programmed into our bodies before birth. Charles Darwin wrote in his 1872 book, The Expression Of The Emotions In Man And Animals, that emotions are not learned, but rather, biologically determined. About 100 years later, research psychologists Paul Ekman and Carrol Izard independently travelled around the world to observe the faces people make to express different emotions. In every culture, every country they studied, they found that people smiled to express happiness, scowled when feeling angry, and made the same faces to express fear, disgust, and other basic emotions.

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