This is an image of a joyful three year-old, Aylan Kurdi (left) and his five year-old brother Galip. As refugees, escaping the wars in Syria along with their parents, they were fleeing to Europe. These two precious little boys and their mother (Rehan) drowned off the coast of Turkey. Only their father survived. An image of Aylan's body - washed up on a beach has been seen the World over. That photo - and more specifically the powerful emotions it has evoked, has moved many, including European leaders, to action. The picture is deliberately not included here - yet, if you've not done so already, give some thought to googling the photo and viewing it in private.
What did you feel when you first viewed the image Aylan's body? It may strike you as odd, yet some people did not feel very much emotion. Those with high empathy quotients however will manifest most or all of the following nonverbal changes.
Many people upon seeing such an image immediately bring their hands up to their face and cover their:
- mouth and nose or
- mouth, nose, cheeks and with fingers usually covering parts of their eyes
The above emotional moment virtually always transitions fairly rapidly to that of grief-sadness - which is nonverbally manifested by an elevated central forehead contraction (elevated CFC) along with a mouth of sadness with its characteristic down-turned corners - while at the same time the cheeks are pulled upwards. The upper eyelids droop significantly and the lower eyelids partially close too. Grief-Sadness is typically the longest lasting emotion.
You may initially feel nausea along with your grief and may clench your jaw as your tongue bunches-up and contract backwards.
Sometimes a classic of partial mouth of fear expression will manifest, although this is typically brief and replaced my grief-sadness.
Your head-neck-torso complex will typically retract away from the computer/T.V. screen. You may even step backwards or pull your chair in the opposite direction. Your legs and feet will often retract together. The knees and the ankles will bend. Your arms will typically cross over your chest with the hands and fingers contracting/clenching as the psyche goes into a protective mode. The hands will very often move over the heart. Simultaneous with the hands-over-heart dynamic - the tears will often begin to flow. Along with extreme grief, this cluster-complex is a form of emotionally holding the little Alyan from a distance. A part of us (many of us) instinctively want to comfort him and protect him even though he has passed. For with those of higher empathy at this moment, the miles disappear - as well as the fact that we've never seen or heard of this innocent little boy before.
My deepest condolences to Aylan's and Galip's Father and Rehan's husband - Abdullah Kurdi, their family and loved-ones.
Please donate here to help the refugees:
United Nations Refugee Agency
Save the Children
Islamic Relief USA
For nonverbal cross-referencing, see also:
Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2922: Evacuating Yazidis from Iraq's Mount Sinjar - A Daughter's Anguish, Empathy and Mirror Neurons
Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3292: Empathy, Yawning and Dogs
Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2787: Korean Ferry Sinking, Empathy and Emotional Processing
Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3035: John Wall, Miyah Telemaque-Nelson - and Grief, Empathy & Emotional Pain
Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3297: 70th Anniversary of the End of World War II - Height, Intimidation and Surrender on the Mighty Mo'
Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3079: Tom Brady, Deflategate - Part Deux