A friend of mine recently complained that people kept telling her she looked unhappy. She argued that it was just the way her face looked when she relaxed it. I could tell she needed sympathy, so I agreed with her, but knew she overlooked a vital fact. I was often confronted similarly, back when I was still your typical world-hating teenager. I, too, contended that I felt fine, had relaxed my face and that my expression was quite extraneous to my mental state. The truth is quite the opposite; I was actually suffering from chronic depression at the time.
An obvious point is that, in many cases, someone's disposition can be derived directly from their facial expression. It's supposed to, it's an elementary piece of human communication, developed to convey emotions before language had arisen. When you're angry, you'll look angry and when you're happy, you'll smile or even laugh. However, people often consciously manipulate their expressions, so it's understandable that mood and look would seem detached to some. Nevertheless, when one truly relaxes, the naked truth is often exposed. But then, what about those stoic types who manage to smile their way through even their own mother's funeral?
Well, discounting any family feuds or the prospect of a massive inheritance, they have likely fixated their expression. People have taught themselves many clever ways to hide or even manually misrepresent their mood. This, too, has function. Expressing anger may evoke conflict and it is sometimes advisable to postpone the confrontation to a more opportune time. Alternately, one may be disinclination to bother others with one's problems; the reasons abound. Some take this masquerade so far as to put up a permanent façade.
It's similar to when you injure your left foot and accordingly end up putting more weight on the right. If the pain is chronic, you will permanently alter the way you walk to compensate. This seems quite straight-forward with physical injury, but also holds for emotional pain. If the aforementioned friend is bothered about her expression enough, she will likely force a permanent smile to get people to stop whining. Despite the fact that after a while this forced expression requires no conscious effort, it's anything but natural and may do more harm than good.
- The Sinful Saint