This article was originally published in Positive Health issue – October 1998
In the last column I went into the theoretical aspect of Morphopsychology. Now I am going to give you hints on how to decipher faces.
Faces are everywhere, so you have plenty of opportunities to practise your budding morphopsychological skills!
I invite you to observe faces through the eyes of the Dilation/Retraction law. This law applies to all living things. Its universality means that you can forget race, and even gender since most faces have some elements of the opposite sex. Learn, rather, how to divide the people you see into opposite types of body and facial shape: the Dilated and the Retracted. When I write ‘Dilated’ or ‘Retracted’, read ‘predominantly dilated’ or retracted: a pure Dilated or Retracted is not viable and therefore does not exist. Every Dilated includes a percentage of retraction and vice versa.
It has been rightly said that “The fat man knoweth not what the lean man thinketh”; but, since opposites usually attract, it is not rare to find them together. Laurel and Hardy, Don Quixote and Sancho Pança, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are famous examples of such unions.
The clear-cut ‘Dilated’ person presents a rounded or square, broad face, with large, open features. Think of Falstaff, Mel Smith, Dylan Thomas and Clive James for examples of Dilated faces. Babies are arch Dilateds, although, even in the world of babies, retraction is at work.
The definitive Retracted face is cast in a lean and bony mould. ‘Retracted’ people have long and angular faces and closed features.
The general expression is serious, even sad. George Orwell, Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Redgrave, Prince Charles, John Cleese and Daniel Day-Lewis have typical Retracted faces.
A lot of the people you’ll observe won’t fit into these two categories because many of them have a combination of these two types and this can present some taxonomical problems for the beginner. Life is multiform and complex, and it would be too easy if you could classify everybody into only two groups.
While the Dilated family is a large and homogeneous one, the Retracted one has more members: the lateral, the frontal and the refined Retracted, as described below.
Lateral retraction makes the sensory organs protrude, resulting in a snout and an aero-dynamic profile. It brings an element of dynamism and action. Many sportsmen and sportswomen have this type of retraction.
Frontal retraction is the opposite movement inasmuch as it draws back the sensory organs and makes the profile more vertical. It is easy to understand that this kind of retraction is associated with control, reflexion and interiorization.
Refined retraction produces types with a slight build and a thin, egg-shaped face. Sensitivity is at its most, requiring a very elective milieu.
Although the law of Dilation/ Retraction is important, it is not sufficient to cover all the aspects of a personality. The tonicity and the contour of the face yield valuable information about personality.
The contours of the face reveal the contest between the vital force and the outside world; the face is the meeting point where the outer and the inner converge. The outline can be round, suggesting an easy adaptation to the outside world; flat, indicating strong defensive reactions; undulating or hollow-bumping, revealing a balance between the expansive and conservative forces.
Tonicity marks the degree of activity of the vital functions. A low tonicity indicates receptivity; a strong one, activity. In tonicity the skin has firmness while atonicity gives a slack, even flabby skin. A long face is a factor of atonicity; a short one, of tonicity.
I have stressed the importance of looking at the face as a whole to avoid fragmenting it into a mosaic of many isolated features. This being said, the face divides itself naturally into large parts. For example, from top to bottom the face can be divided into three storeys, as indicated below.
The Cerebral, made of the forehead and eyes, informs us about the intellectual aptitudes. In this context, as in others, size is not everything and it is wrong to think that a large forehead always indicates a large intelligence.
The Socio-affective, made of the cheeks and the nose, reflects the emotional life.
The Instinctive-active, made of the jaw and the mouth, relates to instinctive drives and physical activity.
In some people one of the storeys dominates clearly. The predominant storey is the driving force of the personality, the domain of the largest contact with the environment and the point of exchanges and assimilation.
We can also divide the face into: left and right hemifaces which are rarely, if ever, symmetrical; front and back; the frame (The Greater face) and the sensory organs (The Lesser face). By studying all these different parts of the face and their relationship, according to the laws and notions mentioned above, the Morphopsychologist gains valuable insights into personality.
All these morphological aspects can be combined into a multitude of alloys or amalgams, to form a unique face, hence a unique personality. Thus you can have a Dilated frame with retracted sensory organs (the Concentrated Type) or the reverse (The Reacting Type); lateral retraction coexisting with frontal retraction; a tonic forehead and atonic eyes; dilated Cerebral and Instinctive-active storeys with a retracted Socio-affective storey… the combinations are endless.
Don’t pull a face because I haven’t given you a list of isolated facial features with their psychological correspondences. The snap-face-reading I’ve seen in newspaper articles will tell you that you should be a journalist because of lines under your eyes, that your nose reveals how you handle money or that low-set eyebrows show you are laid-back. These simplistic, nonsensical and quack deductions are not worthy of your interest and have no face value whatsoever!