Hand wringing allows us to ‘control’ our pain and discomfort – it gives us an outlet.

Hand wringing allows us to ‘control’ our pain and discomfort – it gives us an outlet.

Clenching and gripping are signals of a negative thought, frustration and restraint. Clenching and gripping is meant to blow off energy – called ‘energy displacement.’ Gripping, especially intensely, helps us feel more relaxed because the pain releases pleasure hormones and adrenaline. The same could be achieved through more constructive mechanisms like exercise, or building something useful, but like all forms of body language, the solutions come from an archaic part of the brain. In other words, we just want a quick, immediate fix for the anxiety without leaving the area.

A classic gripping posture happens when the hand reaches behind the back and grabs the wrist of the opposite arm. A more intense hand gripping posture happens when the arm grips higher up near the elbow or upper arm. The higher the grip, the more frustration is present and the more self control is expressed. Clenching and gripping postures occur anytime stress and anger is present, such as waiting to see a doctor or dentist, awaiting bad news, or during conflict.

Clenching and gripping can have many other forms as well, including wringing the hands, clenching the jaw tight or even talking through the teeth, cracking knuckles, pulling the hair or even plucking it, pinching one’s self, and clenching the fists by turning them into a ball. In my observations of other people, I have noticed some peculiar emotional behaviour that includes the grotesque such as squeezing pimples to plucking nose hairs to more damaging and extreme behaviours such as hitting the head and scratching called “self harm” but can include any other painful and repetitive behaviours serving to sooth emotional stress.

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