Tag Archive for Country Folk

Displacement Behaviours Protect Us In Public

Stroking an object or object caress (context specific) can be a way to sooth a person when in public.  In a courtship setting, an object caress spells interest.

Stroking an object or “object caress” (context specific) can be a way to sooth a person when in public. In a courtship setting, an object caress spells interest.

Immediately upon leaving our homes, the place where we feel most comfortable, we begin to exhibit what is called “displacement behaviour”. Displacement behaviour is a coping mechanism that helps protect us emotionally from the outside world. The citizens of New York and other busy cities make for classic examples as they work their way through the city streets expressionless. The rest of the world sees these people as rude, despondent, miserable or unhappy but in actual fact it is completely normal and even constructive. Our public body language shifts subtly the moment we leave the door. Our faces show less emotion, it becomes more ‘pan faced’ as we if hiding our thoughts and inner feelings from others. City slickers immediately identify country folk. They make eye contact with strangers more often, and might even issue smiles, and nods at others, that is if they aren’t completely overtaken by fear and distraction. Making contact with others is normal for country folk. They come from an area where they know most of the inhabitants and therefore don’t fear public social interactions. Displacement behaviour is a stone-age protective mechanism. In our evolutionary past, had we encountered a group of strangers or a “city” of strangers, it would be in our best interest to internalize our fears and emotions so as not to betray our position. Our position is naturally fearful due in large part to being vastly outnumbered by what could be a potentially violent clan. We also wouldn’t want others to know that we carried valuable trade items, or were weak or scared. Therefore, our faces show a default position; no emotion.

Burying yourself in a book or listening to music through headphones are two great ways to retreat from the public eye so as to go unnoticed.

Burying yourself in a book or listening to music through headphones are two great ways to retreat from the public eye so as to go unnoticed.

Displacement behaviours also show that we aren’t interested in interacting with others. You can test this for yourself by approaching people on the street looking for directions, for example. When you approach them it will take a second for them to snap out of their trance, if at all, before they notice that you are talking to them. They might even ask you to repeat what you have said because their mind had been “switched off”. Sometimes they even refuse to snap out of the trance at all and simply shake their head in a “no” type fashion from side to side, before continuing. We know people are in this type of trance because their body language become more self-focused. We pull our arms and legs inward, our face will become defocused, seemingly looking through people, and our body motions will become more minimal so as to avoid drawing attention to us. We may even become completely immobile and take on protective postures.

Nail biting is an oral fixation that replaces thumb sucking and allows the body to burn off nervous energy.

Nail biting is an oral fixation that replaces thumb sucking and allows the body to burn off nervous energy.

Another version of displacement behaviour happens when our minds are preoccupied with an emotion. When our home life begins to bother us when at work, our faces become emotionless as our minds drift to this more immanent problem. Our bodies display this detachment in various ways. For example, we begin to remove imaginary lint, play with a watch or pen, look away or become distracted, repetitive tapping of the fingers or foot, avoiding eye contact, rubbing the hands together, pinching an eyelid, smoothing clothing, rotating a wedding ring, nail-biting, or sucking a finger or pen. These all indicate a hidden thought linked to anxiety. The word displacement, in this fashion indicates that one is trying to avoid the task or issue at hand, and is instead, busy themselves with an activity that is much less taxing. Another form of displacement behaviours include sitting slumped over, with a glazed look endlessly staring at the floor or a spot on the wall.

Sometimes displacement behaviours are used to avoid conflict with others and those taking part would rather not be in the situation. To avoid conflict, they appear busy and preoccupied by doing other things. Displacement behaviours can also include gum chewing or nail biting, grooming, tapping, head scratching or playing with jewelry. It includes any behaviour that is out of place and serves the purpose of removing one’s self from the situation or topic at hand. We all understand when someone tries to “change the subject”, this is the same thing, only it is accomplished silently.

People As Objects

This body doesn't want to be noticed or disturbed, it has mentally checked out.

This body doesn’t want to be noticed or disturbed, it has mentally checked out.

This is a comfortable body ready for action.

This is a comfortable body ready for action.

When invasion of personal space is unavoidable such as crowded elevators, buses, trains, or amusement parks people tread invaders as inanimate objects in effort to tolerate them.

This is why city streets are flooded with strangers behaving like zombies with expressionless faces as they hurry about. City folk seem inhuman and unemotional, detached, despondent and more than anything else, from an outsider’s perspective, they appear unhappy. Contrast this with a small city where eye contact is met with smiles, nods or waves and where doors are held open for others with words such as “thank you” provided in exchange.

So why do busily moving city slickers seem as though they are moving about a forest of trees, instead of a sea of actual living human beings with emotions and feelings? Why do city slickers dehumanize themselves? The answer lies in phenomenon termed “masking.” Masking is a coping strategy used to detach ourselves from our bodies so as to avoid negative feelings as we intrude on the personal space of others and as our personal space is intruded upon. Sometimes we even mask with outwardly aggressive emotions typified by New York streets. Cussing, yelling and other carrying on is a way to mask sensitivity and to hide caring. This is not to say that one becomes less human in New York, it just means that you can’t appear to be a wimp.

Masking helps people protect themselves from their emotions and is so potent that it is difficult sometimes to snap people from this hypnosis. Sometimes even making eye contact with others can be seen as offensive and returned only with an expressionless face, a glare, or even a snarl as if implying that the issue is that of another and not theirs.

Just like country folk expect and appreciate amicable greetings, smiles, waves and nods, city slickers expect and appreciate emotionless faces, few or no greetings and for people to mind their own business. Don’t confuse either situation for anything other than a coping mechanism. Taken in similar context, you might just see how similar each breed of people really is.

Here is a breakdown of ways we act in crowded places like subways and elevators:
[A] We stand or sit still, unmoving. The more crowded the area, the more frozen we remain.
[B] The face becomes blank and expressionless, but it is not due to negative thoughts but rather as a coping mechanism.
[C] Eye contact is avoided by looking at the floor or ceiling.
[D] Books, newspapers and other devices appear particularly interesting and immersive, serving to detach the self emotionally from the situation.
[E] Under extremely crowded conditions where touching is unavoidable, bodies appear to jostle to make space and if possible only allow shoulders and elbows to touch.

Personal Space And Country Folk

As mentioned, city people require less space than those living in more rural settings. It’s easy to tell if someone is from the city or country by how they choose to greet each other. Waving is commonplace in the country because it can be done at great distance. Neighbours, or passers-by separated by several hundred yards, or more, cannot afford to extend hands for a handshake, nor do they require it. A simple wave of the hand in the country is sufficient and even welcomed. Unbeknownst to the city slicker, a handshake may even raise suspicion or contempt in a rural setting creating all sorts of bad feelings.

Outsiders can often be seen as intruders, as seeming to be selling something or wanting something or up to no good. Those living in the country infrequently come in contact with people they don’t know forcing their personal space zones even larger, by as much as three or more feet.

When approaching someone who resides in rural settings, and where a handshake is welcomed, it is customary to extend your hand forward by bending at the waste and keeping your feet planted. Extending your hand, but keeping your body as far away as possible shows that you respect their need for space. How far forward someone prefers to extend their hand is an indicator of their space requirements. People from the city will often walk forward in attempt to shrink the distance between their acquaintances and in turn end up bending their elbows as they shake. The opposite is found in country folk who will keep their arms straight out to maintain distance. Those that shake hands by thrusting forward are also indicating their need to maintain a larger space buffer. This preference for space provides a useful bit of information which should be noted.