a nice video, an inspiring speech. by patrick stewart from star trek and x-men.
but what started me really paying attention to the video was his body language, and i just wanna make a few notes about a little bit of it here.
the fan, heather skye, starts thanking him for a speech he gave for amnesty international, which he worked with against violence towards women. at 0:30, as the woman says "it helped me through my own turmoils in a little bit". at "turmoils", stewart crosses his arms in front of his chest. and he keeps them crossed even after he begins his response to the woman and for a large part of his speech (almost 4 minutes in all). it isn't until 4:10, when he reveals that he found out only last year that his father, who had been violent to his mother, was actually suffering from ptsd (post-traumatic stress disorder), which wasn't known back in the 1940s, that he uncrosses his arms. interesting, isn't it?
well, it isn't such a big deal, and there are various interpretations for crossed arms, the most well-known being a posture of defensiveness, closed to new people or ideas being introduced, or of having something to hide. this isn't gonna be some groundbreaking discovery, but here, i'd just like to argue that, in the entire context of what he was saying and his other movements, stewart's posture was more one of self-comforting, self-protection than of anything else.
on self-protection, on the topic of violence and having memories triggered of his personal experiences with family violence (subconsciously, even if he's already become used/desensitised to relating the tale), i guess it's only natural for him to react by adopting a self-protective posture.
on self-comforting... i somehow feel that one main difference in interpreting nuances in crossed-arms postures lies in the movement and position of the hands. to me, wrist/s downturned, fist/s closed and hand/s kept below/behind the arm tend to signal more the negative interpretation of being closed or having something to hide. stewart has his left hand wrapped around his right arm and his right hand clutched under his left armpit (it could also be a matter of build and size of biceps, lol).
i argue that this is a posture of providing warmth and therefore comfort to oneself. at the most revealing/most touching parts of his speech, his left hand actually repeatedly squeezes and kneads his right arm. e.g., at 2:40, he says: "i do what i do, in my mother's name ... because i couldn't help her then". at "i couldn't help her then", he's seriously excessively kneading himself. i think to myself that combined with the meaning, intonation and force of his words, if this isn't an overtly subconscious act of self-soothing, then what is it?
that's the end of my notes for the day on this video. there's a bit more, but i'm kinda tired and lazy. just wanted to write this down because, being a frequent arm-crosser myself, i've frequently been misunderstood for being closed/having something to hide. it's a posture i have constantly to school myself to avoid, but much of the time, i just can't help falling into that posture first before consciously correcting myself later.
in church years ago, someone once concernedly ticked me off for having my arms crossed during the service. i couldn't explain myself then, all i could say then was that i didn't know where to put my hands -- we were standing, and the table was too low (i wasn't at the pews then) and i didn't have pockets. but later when i thought carefully about it, there was actually a variety of reasons i kept my arms crossed.
for one, we were directly under the aircon and fan, and i was cold. the other more complex reason was that having to attempt to reconcile your sinfulness, your fears and your desires with wanting to reach out to connect, accept God's mercy and forgiveness, and desiring to be a good Christian all the while still wanting to live life as it is... can be a mental struggle. the arm-crossing was a reflection of that struggle and the need for mental comfort more than it was about being closed off to God and His word.
months later, i tried to explain this incident to another friend, but he didn't get it either. these few years since then, at the back of my head, i'd been hoping for vindication of some sort through people's understanding of arm-crossing postures. so this has become something of a cause for me, much like violence against women is for patrick stewart.