Gripping the World

Un-frowning is not easy. Just as people hold stress in their shoulder muscles and struggle to relax their shoulders, others hold tension in their frowning muscles or sinuses. This is why after years of frowning it can be very difficult to un-frown in a short space of time. Our eye muscles and sinuses have built up a ‘tension memory’.

I want to distinguish between short-term frowning and long-term frowning. In the short term we might frown because we are perplexed or want to ward off others by showing our concentration or anger.  But in the longer term we can build up a habit of frowning and then a muscle memory of pulling the eyebrows together and down into a frown. Long-term frowning might come from cultural reasons – for example from wanting to look cool or determined or serious – but also physical reasons – such as hours and hours spent in close-focus staring at a computer screen.

Let me introduce something else – that for me frowning was a confidence booster, like an ‘uncertainty remover’ or a filter.  I believe frowning worked as a type of ‘clamp’ or ‘grip’. In other words, I believe my frown muscles provided a combination of location (close to the eyes), membrane and muscles to allow me to grip or partially filter out our world.

I noticed in myself a psychological difference in how confident I feel if I frown and if I don’t frown. By frowning I feel as if I can face the world and control it.  When not frowning, I feel I am more open – but both to pleasure and pain.

Thus we can bring to bear a kind of muscular eye ‘determination’ on the world. This grip is made stronger when we add to our current worries by dwelling on forthcoming deadlines.  By living in the future *and* now at the same time we increase our mind’s world and worries and so, to cope, we end up clamping or gripping the world.  And vice versa, the world starts to feel as if it clamps us.  Which is why I purchased and now include this evocative drawing from which captures the feeling of tension arising from too much time sat at work staring at a near-focus monitor.

Clamped at work by Henry Jackson Newcomb


I have noticed how very well-known and powerful businessmen (tend to be men) have considerably developed furrowed foreheads – perhaps a by-product of their ambition? Or was their ambition enabled by gripping the world?

Even now, I frown to grip and when I un-frown I feel more open, more vulnerable.

In the book I explore this topic more and discuss how to be bold / open to the world without frowning.


Gripping the world