First we feel and then we emote, using our expressions as a projection for our otherwise masked emotions. 19th century American writer and literary critic Edgar Allan Poe, explained his secret to truly understanding people. In order to uncover someone’s true essence, Poe said, shape your own face to mimic another and allow yourself to experience the subsequent thoughts and feelings that resulted in adopting their expression.
This concept was later supported by a psychological study, in which researchers used chopsticks to manipulate the facial muscles of their 169 participants into a neutral expression or different types of smiles. Following this, subjects endured a series of stress-inducing activities as their heart rates and self-reported stress levels were monitored to assess the impact of their facial expressions on how they felt.
Participants instructed to smile recovered from the stressful activities with lower heart rates than those who had held neutral expressions. Even when you fake it, you can make it, for looking happy by forcing a smile, resulted in feeling happy, uncovering a remarkable relationship between our inner and outer worlds.
This week we began the month of Adar, the month in which we celebrate Purim, the festival of happiness and actualisation. While still cold, dark and rainy in Israel, this is the month that immediately precedes spring and all its splendour. Adar serves as a passage from winter to warmth and from bleakness to bounty, yet in the heart of winter, Spring is hard to recognise.
The Purim story is one in which the Hand of Salvation is hidden. In the wake of destruction the Jewish people are not met with obvious miracles as in the Pesach story, but rather exert themselves through courage, leadership and teshuva, in order to enable their salvation. The Purim story comes from the outside in, demonstrating an understanding of what can be if we dig deep enough.
May this Adar be a call for all of us to stop waiting and start creating - creating opportunities to recognise and actualise our potential.