RBF

Amy Eisenman's picture

I've typed, deleted, retyped, deleted, and typed the beginning of this blog post multiple times. I laugh. I hesitate. I cringe. I laugh again. Each morning before I really get up and start my day I check my email (pros and cons to this obviously) but mainly I check it to read the Daily Skimm. It keeps me in "the know" of what is going on around the world as my attention span to read the news is pretty much the same as a kindergartener's - nonexistant. A few weeks ago they hit it big in my book with an article that hits very close to home - the Resting B**ch Face (RBF). [Insert cringe behaviors] I'm still not 100% sure how I feel about this "phenomenom" so coming across an article with scientists researching it tickled my fancy just a bit.

Let's back up a bit... RBF, described as a nonexpressive unhappy face, has been deemed a "negative" thing in our society that tends to plague primarily women. As a therapist, to write a blog about it seems almost hypocritical. Who am I to judge somebody's facial expressions? How do I know what's really going on behind "that look?" Do we have to use the term "b**ch" to describe it?!? Hence, my hesitation and resistance to discussing this in the first place.

The article describes a study done by scientists who put faces into a computer program which then determines how much emotion is behind them. Truthfully, I giggled when I read about the study. How can a computer read emotion in a facial expression? Yet, as I think about this, it does seem somewhat feasible. Per the study, the computer is used to take out the judgments we put in as humans. (This is why we encourage nonjudgmental stances in DBT!). The computer reads that there is something else behind that face. What the computer tends to miss is the human perspective that there could actually be something behind that face or it could just be the person's face!

Reserach has shown us that we communicate verbally and nonverbally and a majority of our communication actually comes from our nonverbal communication. It would then make sense that interacting with somebody who has RBF can be difficult at times based on our own judgments of what their facial expression may mean. Keep in mind - just because you think a facial expression means something, it doesn't mean that's actually true. Does Anna Kendrick's "nonexpressive unhappy face" mean that she's an unhappy person? I think not!

I'll take off my therapist hat for just a moment... from one human being to another, I think it's time we stop assuming what somebody's face means and actually communicate with our words as opposed to our assumptions. Do I need to remind you what happens when you assume? RBF, while a thing, doesn't give us the facts we're looking for. Yes, my facial expressions can effect my mood, (look up the distress tolerance skill Half-Smile for this one), AND my facial expression is not always the perfect representation of my mood. This means as people we want to be a bit more mindful of the emotion on our face (for our own benefit and for others) and we also want to check the facts on how others are feeling as opposed to attempting to read them as if we're a computer program. Just some food for thought :)