Childhood Trauma, Kindheitstrauma, Four F, Vier F, cPTSD

Childhood trauma – exercises “Half smile” and “Willing Hands”

Taking control of our facial expression by half-smiling and hand positioning by creating a willing hand

A great sensory body awareness skill, half-smiling and willing hands, allows us to physically take control of our facial expression and hand positioning. Remember that your body connects to your mind, so by using your face and hands as communication tools between your body and your brain, you’re able to more effectively stay in control.

Half Smile

To half-smile, first relax your face from the top of your head down to your chin and jaw. Release the tension in your forehead, eyes and eyebrows followed by your cheeks, mouth, and tongue with your teeth slightly apart. If this seems difficult to accomplish, try tensing your facial muscles then releasing the tension. Keep your half-smile relaxed and natural, rather than forced or tense. Allow the corners of your lips to turn slightly upwards. Try to adopt a serene facial expression or a smirk if you like.

Willing Hands

To create willing hands, you essentially want to relax your arms while turning your palms up. If you’re standing, drop your arms to your side. With hands unclenched, rotate your hands with your thumbs out to the side, your palms up, and with relaxed fingers. If you’re sitting down, place your hands on your lap or thighs with the same palms up and relaxed fingers. You can also do this while laying down with your hands out to the side and palms facing up.

You can practice half-smiling and willing-hands when you are irritated or frustrated with a situation or specific person to take control of your emotions. If you’re contemplating someone you dislike or are angry with, think about what makes them happy, sad or angry. Imagine their perceptions and examine what their motivations and hopes might be. Think about their mind and identify if they are coming from a place of openness and joy or anger and prejudice. That way, your anger and resentment for this person or group will dissipate.

Once again, combining the half smile with a willing hands posture will make the exercise more effective. You may try starting your day, before you even get out of bed, with this exercise. If you have a spare moment or two throughout the day, practice. You can do this exercise while listening to music as well. Remain present with the music’s rhythm, harmonies, and words rather than drifting to another thought.


Linehan, M.: The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook.

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