Intuition, microexpressions, hypervigilance, and trauma

When Intuition Is A Curse.

When people come into my office and tell me, very early in a conversation, that they are ‘intuitive’ and ‘can see into people’ I often wonder if they have had trauma. The longer I do this for a living the more I realize that some of us developed our insights into humanity as a protection mechanism. It makes sense. People who have experienced trauma tend to be more intuitive. We’ve experienced hypervigilance where we are constantly scanning our environments for signs of danger.

Have you experienced trauma, and are you intuitive, psychic, an empath, and/or clairvoyant? I’m curious.

This article reminded me that early this year, I witnessed some microexpressions, when emotions that someone is trying to suppress appear briefly on their face. Paul Ekman has done a lot of research into them. The TV show Lie To Me is based on his work. Reading them may have a lot to do with intuition.

I noticed hatred and contempt appear fleetingly behind a mask of apparent calm and reason on the face of a man I had dated for a couple of months as he spoke to me. He was unaware of them or that I could read them.

It was disturbing. I could not think of anything I had done to merit those emotions, and I felt hurt and puzzled. From that and other puzzling oddities, I suspected he’d been emotionally abused. He hadn’t mentioned it to me, but his behavior had been strange at times. A mutual friend confirmed years of past abuse. Apparently I had unknowingly done something that triggered his memories of being abused.

After learning of the history of abuse, I felt compassion for him. I also realized I didn’t want to be alone with him in private again.

Later he got his wires crossed again, in public, right in front of me. Curious (because he still hadn’t told me anything about the abuse), I then had a clairvoyant experience in which I “saw” that he’d been the subject of horrific psychotic rage repeatedly for years.

I had a major fight-or-flight reaction.

I rode it out with mindfulness as much as I could. Once the biochemical cascade was underway, there was not much to do but wait for it to fully subside and do what I could to recover my equilibrium. It took a few months for that to happen. I watched my fearful, self-protective mind at work, influenced by deep stress. It wasn’t pretty, and I’m glad it’s over. Although unpleasant and difficult, being able to witness my own experience was useful.

I learned a lot from this. A main take-away is that if I am relating to someone who’s been traumatized, I want them to be up-front about it pretty quickly, if they have any awareness of it at all. It leaks out anyway if they try to hide it, and they come across as untrustworthy.

Over 60 percent of Americans experience trauma at least once in their lives. It’s not that uncommon.

I gained compassion for my past traumatized self, before I had done any healing work. I didn’t know myself well enough to understand how much trauma had shaped me.

During that time of riding out the biochemical cascade, I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue. I am grateful for the healers who helped me recover, including the healer inside me.

I felt compassion for him. He was admittedly clueless, dissociated, and good at compartmentalizing. In my opinion, he seriously needed professional help.

I grokked his disappointment at leaving an abuser with hopes for a better future, waiting six months after divorcing and taking a course on building new relationships before dating, only to discover that the abuse had made him both easily disturbed by those with positive intentions and disturbing to them.

It was sobering to refer someone I dated to therapy. In hindsight, I think I showed him how a fairly healthy person responds when they are dating or befriending someone who shows signs and symptoms of mental illness, who is either hiding it, discounting its seriousness, or so injured he doesn’t even know he has a mental illness.

I let him know that I knew, told him that I would not have dated him had I known, and I ended our relationship until such time as he has recovered, urging him to get professional help to that end.

It seems probable that he needed to know how someone would do this. But damn, that was really freaky.

May his cluelessness become curiosity.

May his compartmentalization become wholeness and expansion.

May his fears become worthy of reconditioning.

May his dissociation occur only when useful, and may he learn to live in partnership with his body.

May his awareness include an appreciation of the gifts of the unconscious mind and a more conscious partnership with it.

May his contempt, hatred, terror, shame, and secrecy be transformed and his burden be lessened.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” ~ Joseph Campbell

And after I think of him and send energetic blessings his way, I dissolve all thoughts and images of him and bring my attention back to my own body and experience peace and gratitude.

But was my intuition working because I’ve experienced trauma myself and learned to be observant? I don’t know. Here’s a possibility: Apparently some long-time meditators are also adept at reading microexpressions.

From studies with thousands of people, Ekman knew that people who do better at recognizing these subtle emotions are more open to new experience, more interested and more curious about things in general. They are also conscientious — reliable and efficient. “So I had expected that many years of meditative experience” — which requires both openness and conscientiousness — “might make them do better on this ability,” Ekman explains. Thus he had wondered if Öser might be better able to identify these ultra-fast emotions than other people are.

Then Ekman announced his results: both Öser and another advanced Western meditator Ekman had been able to test were two standard deviations above the norm in recognizing these super-quick facial signals of emotion, albeit the two subjects differed in the emotions they were best at perceiving. They both scored far higher than any of the five thousand other people tested. “They do better than policemen, lawyers, psychiatrists, customs officials, judges — even Secret Service agents,” the group that had previously distinguished itself as most accurate.

“It appears that one benefit of some part of the life paths these two have followed is becoming more aware of these subtle signs of how other people feel,” Ekman notes. Öser had super-acuity for the fleeting signs of fear, contempt and anger. The other meditator — a Westerner who, like Öser, had done a total of two to three years in solitary retreats in the Tibetan tradition — was similarly outstanding, though on a different range of emotions: happiness, sadness, disgust and, like Öser, anger.

I’m not nearly as experienced at meditation as these men, but even at my level, meditation can slow the experience of time down until there is only the present moment, which becomes vast, and awareness simply expands.

If you can experience time like that, microexpressions would be much more apparent.

That’s one explanation. Or maybe I’ve just been around the block a few times. Or maybe these long-time meditators had also trauma in their histories. The article didn’t say.

I do know that for years, I’ve been interested in people-reading, and I imagine at some point early on, there was a connection in discerning whether they were safe to be around. But once you realize someone is not out to murder you, there’s still a lot to learn. We humans are pretty fascinating and diverse.

If you want to learn more about reading microexpressions, Paul Ekman (link above) has a newsletter and online training.

50,000 views! Thanks, readers!

Sometime during the night, when July 3 was turning into July 4, my blog passed 50,000 views. I like milestones, and this one is pretty major! The fireworks tonight will have a little extra meaning for me because I am celebrating.

Who knew, when I started? It’s like relationships. No matter what promises are made, you don’t know if they’ll last until they do. There have been times when I’ve thought I had nothing to write about, and then something came up that I wanted to share. Early on, I had some connectivity problems and didn’t post for a couple of weeks, but since then, it’s rare for me not to post at least twice a week.

Since my last milestone posting in April, I’ve met with a psychic who told me that I’ve been a writer for many lifetimes, and that in one lifetime, I was a man who wrote with a quill pen.

I hope what I wrote was interesting, well-written, and effective. (Don’t you know I wish I knew the name of that previous self so I could look up his/my writings???)

Here’s a graphic from my WordPress dashboard displaying the views by month:

You can see how slow it was for the first year, 2010, when I averaged 11 views a day. It started taking off in 2011, and 2012 has been great, so far averaging 125 views per day.

I guess this really tells what it takes to be successful at blogging—that it takes time and consistent posting to build a following. The success is on my terms, too.

The most popular post of all time is an update on my Spartan trailer, which is off the wellness/aliveness topic. Search engines bring viewers interested in Spartan trailers here. Some may even stick around for the wellness stuff!

I wish I knew which posts were most popular with subscribers and regular readers, whom I believe are more interested in trauma recovery, health, wellness, and wisdom.

And okay, I am an eclectic blogger.

Subscribers and readers, what would you like to see more of? 

WordPress began showing views by country in February 2012. Here’s an image of the top 10 countries for viewers since then:

You can see that over 10,000 of the 50,000 views have occurred since late February, by Americans. That’s pretty amazing!

The bottom of the list is equally impressive. It’s amazing to realize that I’ve had viewers from distant countries like Liberia, Fiji, the Faroe Islands, New Caledonia, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, and Zimbabwe.

I don’t even know where New Caledonia is. Wikipedia tells me it’s a French archipelago east of Australia in Melanesia.

The Faroe Islands are Danish Islands halfway between Norway and Iceland.

Hello and welcome. The Internet really does make the world smaller.

There is no master plan for this blog, except to post what interests me. As I build my massage practice and continue to investigate the keys to wellness, including new discoveries about the ways to be healthy, I’m sure I will blog more on those topics.

I love hearing from you via comments, likes, and shares.

Thank you, readers, for stopping by here, and I especially thank those of you devoted enough to subscribe. You really make it worth my while.

My short psychic reading

Today I had a psychic reading. Have you ever done that?

In the past, I’ve worked with Richard Ungar many times. He does hand analysis and does not claim to be psychic, although he’s very intuitive. He’s been trying to bring the ancient art of palmistry into the realm of science (he founded the International Institute of Hand Analysis), and to that end, has utilized massive databases of finger- and hand-prints.

I’ve studied Richard’s book, Life Prints, and taken my friends’ and family members’ fingerprints, which I decoded for them. Very fun.

I highly recommend getting a reading with Richard if you ever have a chance.

I’ve also had astrological readings done. The last one was last summer. I’m happy to say that my Jupiter return, which occurs once every 12 years, begins at the end of this month, and I am so looking forward to moving into a period of expansion.

Today Joe Nicols, a long-time, well-known Austin palmist/psychic, read my hands in a 10-minute reading. I found what he had to say interesting and am considering going back to him for a full reading.

Joe wears a suit, and one of my companions was very impressed by that!

First, by looking at the backs of my hands, he said that I’d had an emotional disturbance recently. Yes.

He told me I’d been blind in a previous life, and that I’m very careful who I listen to. He said he was flattered that I was listening to him.

Huh. I do know that I am (often) more auditory than visual and that uncorrected, my vision is in the -9 to -10 range, extremely near-sighted. The pleasures of making eye contact were an adult revelation.

Over the past few years, I have gotten choosy about people’s voices. I’ve been disturbed by certain voices and distanced myself because hearing the person talk grated on my nerves. It’s partly their tone and partly hearing their mindless suffering.

I prefer to be around people who are careful with their speech, who really understand it as communication. People have interesting communication habits (including me, I’m sure). Some are predictable and straightforward, some deliver with a smile or laugh, and some bury what I consider important information and only later do I get it. Some withhold it.

I also like people who are emotionally sensitive — not just about what they hear but also about what they say. Insensitivity is alienating, and I say that as someone who knows she has responded to it in kind but who later regrets not calling the other on it when first received. Insensitivities tear at the fabric of trust, in my opinion.

I have a strong aversion to hearing bad news given badly. I like to be prepared for it and be offered emotional support.

These are just some things I’ve noticed about listening, partly from having bumped into someone whose communication style I sometimes found difficult and puzzling.

Joe told me that I’d been a healer for many, many lifetimes, doing healing of various types — as a doctor, midwife, and so on.

This makes sense to me. I can easily believe that I’ve met up with people I’ve known as fellow healers in previous lives, and they’ve drawn me back into healing work in this lifetime. I’m coming home.

He said I came into this lifetime ready to make a mark but that factors in my early life dampened that. True.

He said I have the mark of an athlete in my hands. That was surprising, but yep, if you consider yoga and dance athletic.

He also said that I could have done many things in this lifetime. He said I could have been an engineer, for instance. Hmm. Okay.

Joe also said I’d been a writer in many, many lifetimes, and that I was once a man who wrote with a quill pen!

Whoa. I wonder if I wrote standing up. I wonder if I wore a powdered wig. I wonder what I wrote! Wow! If I knew who I was in this previous life, I could look up my writing!

You could say that by blogging about wellness and practicing massage, I’m continuing two karmic traditions. Joe had no idea that that’s what I do.

Joe told me that I’m not materialistic and can’t be bought. Yep, I know that’s true.

Joe also spoke to me about having an aversion to being trapped, because I wear no jewelry on my hands. (I said, “But I’m a massage therapist. I don’t wear rings or bracelets when I’m working, so it’s easier not to wear them at all.” He replied that my conscious mind may understand it that way, but it’s deeper than that. Okay.)

Yes, of course I have an aversion to being trapped! Who wants to be trapped? I asked him what was wrong with that, and he made it sound like it was necessary to allow oneself to be trapped to be in a relationship.

Hmm. I still don’t like it. Surely there’s got to be a happy place of being in a relationship and not feeling trapped.

Joe then switched from reading my hands to reading cards. He had me shuffle an ordinary deck a few times and cut the cards. Then he laid them out in a spread to give me a reading on love.

He said I was entering a time of exploring new relationships, that I’m open to it and will learn from it, and in a couple of years I will be very drawn toward someone who is talkative, busy, and a mover and shaker.

That sounds good. May he be drawn to me as well.