It has been called the reflection of the soul, the barometer of emotion, a dynamic canvas that is constantly in movement.
The human face speaks a language far more complex and expressive than any verbal communication. For the newborn child, the mother’s face is the first mirror it sees of its own self. What’s contained in that face – love, joy, anxiety, disinterest – will have a profound effect on the infant and on the adult it will become.
Through our faces we reveal important truths about ourselves, including those that we’d prefer to hide. We believe our faces give us our identity and we tend to judge ourselves – and others – by physical appearance.
Many young people compare their facial features to those of film and pop stars or the models in the glossy advertisements and invariably they come up short.
We look in the mirror and believe this is "who I am." Instead of seeing the beauty that is inherent in all our faces – and allowing the face to reflect our inner beauty – we focus primarily on the so-called flaws. These observed defects, coupled with the defenses we create to protect us from our childhood wounds, have a huge influence on how we see the world and how we believe the world sees us. And it shows in our faces.
The Eastern understanding of the face is based on karma – memories and "habits" or tendencies from earlier lifetimes that the soul carries into the current life. To an experienced eye, key karmic themes are revealed in the face.
How much of this is genetic? How much is shaped by the soul’s own karma? And the big question, of course, is how do we shape our own faces and our own destiny through our learning, commitment to growth and intention to be whole?
From a spiritual perspective, the family, social circumstances and even the time in human history in which we find ourselves provide the perfect setting for the soul to discover all the ways it has limited itself and limited life. They also mirror all the healing and growth that has already happened. So genetics and karma go hand-in-hand to serve the soul’s development.
In the deprived areas of many cities, several generations may have grown up experiencing hardship. The consequent lack of aspiration and opportunity shows in their faces: resentment and disappointment, despair and rage. Of course, our faces also illustrate our positive feelings of kindness, love and humor.
From the perspective of Brennan Healing Science and Core Energetics, the face reveals where we fully access our life-energy and where and how we block its flow. Here is a brief exploration of the five major character defenses that the ego creates to protect us from the inevitable wounds of childhood and how they appear facially:
Schizoid…where the wounding begins with the infant perceiving maternal coldness, aggression or hostility before or at birth. In adult life, this person will not want to be in the body. There might be chronic tension behind the eyes as she constantly negotiates her needs between being present and dissociating. There is a characteristic tilt of the head to one side and often a vague look in the eyes.
Oral…where the child feels deprivation or abandonment. It grows up with the belief that there will never be enough, that he or she is not enough. A frequent characteristic is the small compressed mouth as the person struggles to express needs in a healthy way. That is often accompanied by a weak jaw reflecting deep disappointment and sadness.
Masochistic…where the wounding is over-control by the mother. The child grows to have a terror of humiliation yet humiliates and shames her/himself. In adult life, there is often an accumulation of fat around cheeks and jaw and a lot of stagnant energy collecting in pockets.
Psychopathic…in which the child suffers betrayal by a parent and, as an adult, has a fierce need to be in control of others because of the underlying fear of that betrayal being repeated. A square jaw can be a feature here. Stalin would be an extreme example. His jaw – and those of most grand or petty dictators – indicates the pushing of that person’s will onto the world.
Rigid…the essence of the child was never recognized and it was rewarded only for achievement and perfection. As an adult, there is the constant striving for a perfection that can never be reached. Here there is tension throughout the face, lines between eyebrows, rigidity at back of the jaw, chronic stress in the neck area – all speaking of suppressed rage.
As we seek healing and deepen our connection to ourselves and to spirit, our faces begin to reflect our uniqueness and our pleasure in life. Note the ageless quality to the faces of many sages. There seems to be a luminous glow to the skin.
Released from chronic inner battles and the holding down of our own life force, we experience a profound relaxation in the eyes, which may appear softer, brighter and larger. Release of tension in the neck and jaw reverses the disappointed droop of the mouth. There is more to laugh about and the face may speak of the capacity for laughter.
Self-acceptance and self-love relax the whole face in an unmistakable way. Of course, this comes with a great deal of inner work. But it’s possible to use your face as a doorway to better self-awareness. Spend ten minutes a day doing the following meditation.
Sit with your feet firmly on the floor, follow the breath and, as you relax, bring your awareness to your face. If there’s a sensation that draws your attention, follow it. It could be tension in the forehead or a stiffness in the jaw – or just numbness. Feel the sensation fully. Don’t try to figure it out, just allow it to be there. Usually, something will come up. It might be sadness or a thought like "I never get what I want," or an old memory. Relax and wait, rather than chase. Do it without judgment and open your heart to everything that’s there.
In this way, you will begin a new process, an integration into consciousness of what lies behind the sensation. And it will mark another step in your journey.