The American spirit
Americans have traditionally conquered challenges, not by hiding our faces in fear but by digging deep within our own creativity and resourcefulness to find permanent solutions for newly developing and ever-changing permanent problems.
As more deaths started to accrue in the early days of automobile travel we did not force society out of faster and more efficient transportation, nor did we scrap the car industry all together. We developed very rudimentary seatbelts and child restraints. As time progressed these simple developments grew into well-tested and technological advanced safety measures. What we did not do is give up after one bad decision, or pit one citizen against the next because some welcomed speed while others didn’t. We took it slowly, practiced patience, and trusted each other.
Throughout history America and Americans have been progressing through change. Progress or change is sometimes met with trepidation like the introduction of computers, the Internet, smart phones, social media, and robotics, but think about how the same fear may have affected our grandparents and great grandparents with things that we take for granted like electricity, telephones, cars, air travel, and space travel. Regardless of individual fear these changes have lead to societal advancement that usually did not pit citizen against citizen, but brought us together more wholly as a country. We accepted these changes persevering through our own personal fear knowing these changes could lead us to a better tomorrow and a brighter future.
The challenges to come up with permanent solutions to permanent problems is no different today except that individual fear now has a public platform, which in some cases has a tendency to increase public fear and division, if we as individuals are not careful about the words we choose to use to express ourselves, and how we treat those with opposing viewpoints.
The American spirit is strong and enduring. Throughout history in order to remedy permanent problems we have relied on our ingenuity, entrepreneurship, and at times rebellion to develop ways to live harmoniously together while still moving forward and meeting these new challenges head on. This small, fundamental product was born from my American spirit in hopes that others will join the creative movement to find permanent solutions for a permanent problem that can close the chasm of division between American and American while keeping us safe and our communicative processes viable and productive.
“The human face is important for social interaction,” (Dimberg, 1982)
This product was born out of research that I had been doing for my newest book that focuses on human communication and relationships.
When Covid hit I was in the middle of my seventh chapter, “Empathy.” Although I had always known how valuable our faces are for our relationships, how we view the world, how we feel about others, how well we understand others, and how we relate to and treat strangers, it was eye opening, fascinating, and awe inspiring to see that I wasn’t alone and that my thoughts were not just personal beliefs but were established in long term scientific research. Research that bridged the gap between the soft science of human communication and the hard science of biology. It didn’t just bridge the gap but in fact closed the gap establishing human communication as a biological process as much as a psychological process.
Our faces are our most valuable communication tool. It is in fact our faces that are the first contact we have with strangers. Strangers teach us how to view our surroundings, if we feel safe or unsafe, if the environment is friendly or unfriendly. It is in the faces of strangers that we sense trust and share empathy? It is in the expression of strangers that we catch their emotion then share it with others. It is this emotional contagion that spreads joy, anger, fear, disgust, or sadness from person to person.
Research (listed here) dating back a hundred years has focused on our facial expressions and the role that our expressions play in how we feel and share those emotions with friends and family, our communities, strangers, and the world. We already know, without diving deep into research that our smiles are contagious, but have you ever wondered why?
Mirror neurons were discovered in the early nineties1 and have been discussed by many neuroscientist, and psychologists, as being as important to our social interactions as DNA is to biology2.
Our mirror neuron system work like mirror’s to mimic the facial expressions of others3. They send messages to the limbic system, the emotional center of our brain, so then once we display an expression we feel that emotion more intensely4. If we see a smile on a passing stranger our mirroring system is engaged and we automatically and subconsciously smile back, we then feel joy more intensely simply because we smiled4. This of course is true for all our emotions so it works the same with anger. If we perceive anger in a strangers face our mirroring system becomes engaged and we display anger back, then we feel it more intensely. Notice I said perceive, the stranger may have been concentrating, intensely focused on the situation, in a serious mood5, or just be suffering from a headache, and may not be angry at all but if we perceive anger and mimic it we will go forth angrier, passing that on to others.
This same concept is true with a smile, only less damaging. There are two kinds of smiles the fake smile and the Duchene smile6, or the smile of pure joy. When passing strangers on the street it doesn’t matter which smile they flash, we usually won’t take the time to analyze it. Micro-expressions last for tenths of a second, a true expression barely last longer than a few seconds5. I will perceive an emotion; in this case happiness/joy. My mirroring system will subconsciously return the smile and I then will fell happier. I don’t even have to pass by a smiling person. Our mirror neuron system has the ability to see two people smiling at each other up to 300 feet away7, which will cause us to smile, and feel it more intently, reminding us that there is joy in the world.
Much research has been done regarding the muscles in the face4,5,6,8, which muscles do what and when they show which emotion. Most of these same experts have nicknamed our mirror neurons the empathy neurons3,8,9,10 because of the mimicry of facial expression and the intense feeling of any emotion we display. Our brains are hard wired to feel empathy9 for one another. Meaning empathy for each other is an innate characteristic. When we see pain, fear, or sadness in the expression of others we subconsciously feel the same. This is done quickly and without thought so that we can go forth saving the much needed energy to react and put our feelings of empathy into action to reach out, and understand each other in order to coexist with one another as opposed to just existing along side each other. Many of these same psychologists literally refer to empathy neurons as the glue that holds society together3,9.
Mirror neurons/empathy neurons, along with the limbic system are all part of our neurological system that has been designed by God to bring us together coexisting harmoniously in an ever-changing, complex, diverse, world. Our mirror neurons work for us, so our energy can be used creativity and resourcefully. We feel empathy more intensely because we see in it in others faces and we muster up all our resourcefulness within us and we create and invent to push America and Americans forward, not backward.
We must find permanent solutions for permanent problems while saving our facial expression, while also teaching children proper hygiene techniques that could save their physical lives along with the lives of their loved ones in the future world of sickness and disease. However, these same solutions must also save their social lives, and mental health by enhancing relationships, spreading joy, and feeling empathy to others in need.
This is not a new problem our parents, and grandparents dealt with sickness, disease, and extreme emotion while spreading joy and feeling empathy. However, they faced these issues with unrestrained facial expressions; joy, anger, frustration, rebellion, fear, disgust, and sadness, were seen and felt by others, this emotional honesty is what allowed them to succeed together as a country. Success comes because our facial expressions are an honest representation of ourselves. It’s hard to hide true emotion when our mirror neurons are engaged.
The American spirit is strong and enduring and is rooted in ingenuity and entrepreneurship. Our freedom of thought yields creativity, which allows us to find the permanent solutions to our permanent problems, which will ultimately bring us together.
The 3 in one personal protection pouch
I grew up in Arizona. In the late 70’s there was an outbreak of Hepatitis –A virus. To control the outbreak a PSA was made that included a catchy song written by Dianne Whiles. The Hepatitis Song was overplayed on many children’s shows. This song taught the importance of continuous and proper hygiene hoping to stop the spread of the virus. It worked. Anyone that lived in Phoenix during this time is likely to remember this song and can still sing at least the chorus without hesitation.
As Covid lingered on I saw the need to save our facial expressions, while not ignoring the need to protect ourselves and others from sickness. I knew that something as simple as a song worked once, but instead of picking up my guitar I unpacked my old sewing machine and thought about my grandparents who were born in the early 1900’s. They survived many challenges, sickness, and disease through their nearly 100 years on earth. My grandfather always had a handkerchief in his back pocket and my grandmother seemed to have an endless supply of tissues in the pockets of her simple home made dresses. Not only was their own home spotless clean, but my grandfather made his living as a janitor and my grandmother earned extra money by cleaning a few homes on the weekends. I got to work on the handy hanky knowing that if I was going to take advice from any particular generation on how to survive the challenges of an unpredictable and sometimes scary world it world be from our greatest generation.
The Handy Hanky teaches children to cover up coughs and sneezes, to immediately sanitize hands, and to use disposable tissues to blow noses and wipe away spittle from mouths when eating, drinking, and talking.
Muscle memory is important as children grow. We learned to cover our mouths when coughing and sneezing, clearing our throat, and burping. Muscle memory matters when it comes to these practices. As long as we teach children to keep their hands, away from their face when the sneeze and cough, clear their throat, and so on, we are taking away their muscle memory allowing for germs to be spread at greater distances.
It is equally important to teach children to be conscious of social distance. Social distancing is not new. It is always been a respectable practice to stay at least arms length away from strangers. If we teach our children what we were taught, like turning our head away and toward the floor, covering the mouth when sneezing and coughing, and keeping, at the very least, an arms length away from strangers we will be able to combat disease as Americans united not divided, as our greatest generation taught us.
The Handy Hanky was created to be a practical teaching tool for children to learn rigorous and proper hygiene techniques, to create muscle memory when faced with a cough or sneeze, and to remember to stay an arms length away from strangers.
Finally I hope the handy hanky can be seen as an encouragement for other entrepreneurs to use their ingenuity by creating other simple items that are imagination, clever, and a bit rebellious that can be used to create permanent, non-controversial, solutions to a permanent problem while letting our facial expressions communicate our feelings to the world. Especially those precious little, crooked, no teeth Duchene smiles of pure joy that fill our hearts and our world from our American children.
Keep them safe and let their smile heal a hurting world.
In a world that desperately needs joy and empathy we must do whatever we can do to save our facial expressions and let our smiles spread joy and happiness from person to person.