You see a man entering a room, causing everyone to stand up a little straighter. Without trying, this man commands attention. He may not say a thing, but his presence is felt.
I am sure you’ve also seen a man you didn’t know from a distance walk towards you and without thinking you found a way to avoid him.
We have an unconscious, instinctual sense of who a man is by his walk. You are either drawn towards or away from him.
The way you move conveys to a woman’s primal instincts if you are safe, if you are a worthy mate – be it for a night or for life – and if you could protect her and provide for her. After millennia, these instincts still exist, if only unconsciously. Don’t fool yourself into thinking women don’t respond to these subtle signals.
Many years ago, a teacher of mine said, “The body doesn’t lie.” There are security people who are trained to read a person’s body better than a lie detector. We all have that same skill; it’s just an unconscious skill for most people.
Your body and unconscious are like a big microwave dish receiving and transmitting information. When you walk, it shouts it. All your restrictions are projected out. Your tight back becomes a pole up your back that makes you look stiff.
Imagine what it was like to be a caveman. He always had to be aware of predators. One way he did that was being aware of movement. When he saw something change, it was a cue to focus his awareness in that direction. When he was the predator hunting his dinner, he would stalk his prey using the same skills.
Your genome is 99.9% the same as that caveman’s. Dormant as they maybe, you have the same instincts buried within you. You may not consciously know it, but you are always reading people, as they are always reading you, even in this digital age.
You don’t need to believe me; there’s research showing your movement reflects “perceptions of mate quality, including personality traits, strength, and overall attractiveness.” What’s more revealing than walking? Dancing. “Recent research suggests that people are sensitive to the variation in dance movements, and that dance performance provides information about an individual’s mate quality in terms of health and strength.”
The level of your sex hormone testosterone affects how you move. You dance differently when those levels are high, just as women dance differently when they are fertile. Your body’s movement reflects every aspect of who you are.
Ask any man what turns him on about a woman, he will likely describe how she moves. “The attractiveness ratings for perceived women increased by about 50 percent when they walked with hip sway, and attractiveness ratings for perceived men more than doubled when they walked with a swagger in their shoulders.” A stiff woman or man is not perceived as attractive.
Taking a dance class may not suddenly make you the most attractive man on the dance floor. But being attractive is more than knowing the right moves. It’s being connected to your body in such a way that you feel relaxed.
You can’t think about how you should move – I know, I tried that. You just need to move in an integrated manner. Dr. Troje, a British researcher, “found that attractiveness depends on internal consistency – whether the movement and the shape match each other or not,” says Dr. Troje. “Our visual system is a sensitive lie detector that perceives even the slightest inconsistencies and responds negatively to them.”
I was the best example of a disconnected, disjointed man you could find. My friends would spot me by my waddle (calling it a walk would have been inaccurate). My stiff waddle was a reflection of my stiff personality. None of this made interacting with women easy.
All this began to change when I went through a series of Rolfing sessions when I was __ years old. Nine months later I was 20 pounds lighter and ¾” of an inch taller. More importantly, I was loose. I never would have believed the body was so plastic. I had been told I’d inherited my tenseness, and – I just had to learn to accept it.
Being rebel that I am, I stopped accepting a lot back then. Rather than getting a graduate degree in business from Cornell – my plan at the time – I became a Rolfer. After thousands of clients, a study with ASU on Rolfing and running, and a book, The Power of Rolfing, I now know that we all can change our walk.
Once my body opened up, I found myself studying with men and women who were the leaders in the new field of somatic psychology. Once my walk was normal, and my body loose, interacting with women became fun. I not only learned that the body and mind were one, I learned how to help others change both.
Your body is a physical reflection of who you are. Few people will tell you that. Most will tell you if you want to make a good impression, fake it, puff yourself up, be someone you aren’t. This is no different than a cheesy pickup strategy.
These same people want us to believe that we are stupid – that we can’t be perceived through acting a prescribed way. We are always sensing what is true. The question becomes, are you or others connected to what you are sensing?
You need to be connected to be aware. You may not be conscious that you are subtly changing your posture when a man commands the room. It’s when you are connected to your body that you start having the power to change your responses.
Root of the Problem
How your body moves or doesn’t move comes from a physiological survival response and cultural training.
Before anything else, your body is hardwired to survive. You are set up to defend yourself (fight) or run away (flight) when you are in danger. When you can’t express those actions, you have a third physiological option: to freeze. Freezing is your body playing dead as an attempt to not be attacked when you can’t fight or run.
The physiology of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) occurs when we get stuck in a frozen state. It doesn’t take a major trauma to create a chronic freeze state. Serial micro-traumas (stress) are usually what creates tension in your body.
Depending in part on the type of stress you experience, you will tighten different areas of your body. Over time, this cycle repeats. Your back tightens, your shoulders knot, maybe even your leg muscles tighten up, and that leaves you with a particular gait or posture. Attempting to disguise your body’s adaptation to stress doesn’t remove the stress. You may not be aware of the tension or how covering it up doesn’t work because as the tension increase, awareness decreases.
I was unaware of how tight and disjointed my body was until my high school friends began to tease me. I still had no internal sense of how tense I was, though, until the tension was gone.
Looking back, I now understand why I got the reactions from others that I got. Outwardly, I hoped I was portraying strength. But unconsciously, I projected insecurity and weakness. I thought I got good at hiding it. I would act as if I were powerful, and it worked some of the time. But I never truly felt confident. Inwardly I had a stress response that I did my best to deny. My body became more frozen, disconnected, and tenser.
The longer I was trapped in this cycle, the less aware I was of my and other’s experiences. I had very little sense of what others were feeling. That meant I was bad at reading others’ deeper intents. There was no way I could know what another felt or wanted beyond what they spoke – I was too focus on projecting power.
My macho attempt at being tough was also perpetuated by our cultural training to not show or express emotions, to look tough at any cost and stay in control.
The recent film, The Mask You Live In, does an excellent job describing how we are trained to be someone else’s man. For centuries, it was the emotional water we swam in. We grew to accept this disconnected archetype as the norm, and we train each other to follow this.
Beyond shaping your beliefs, this imprinting shapes your body. Remember how as a kid you started hiding emotions to be accepted by others? How you worked to project confidence? These intentions lodged themselves in your body and its movement.
It may be easier to see this somatic conditioning in others. Scan the boys and men in your life. Start to see how their personalities and behaviors are reflected in their bodies. Look at a man whose boyhood survival strategy was to be tough, in control at all cost, and impress others – he has a different body than your friend who is shy, sensitive, and accommodating.
There are benefits to how we learn to adapt to our stress. They will always remain. It’s the limitations that are restricting your body, movement, and life.
Transforming Your Walk
For decades now, I continue to see men blown away by how quickly they can change when they begin to accept, experience, and express their emotions. When a man breaks out of these physiological and cultural binds, he becomes his own man.
We see men’s bodies and walk change as they change. What they are telling the world changes because on the inside they changed. They realized their disconnection from their emotions and body was incongruent with who they wanted to be and the life they wanted to lead.
Your emotions and your body are two aspects of the same phenomenon. You change one, you change the other. Again, we aren’t talking about imposing a new behavior set. We are talking about releasing what restricts you.
There is no better way to enter this than through movement. Movement can:
- Be powerful
- Be sexy
- Represent your relative age
- Produce self-confidence and joy
Developing your authentic walk comes from the process of acceptance -> experience -> release -> moving forward with emotions -> change.
You melt your freeze response by experiencing the emotions and body response you couldn’t experience when the trauma or stress occurred. The best way to do that is to connect to what’s happening AS you act.
As you walk, allow your full experience to occur. Your body’s first response will be to return to your freeze behavior pattern. Feeling the freeze and the emotions behind it, you step beyond the old behaviors to move with the underlying emotions and responses occurring.
Some of my biggest shifts occurred from allowing my body to shake AS l felt my emotions AND as I took action. Often the action was speaking truth to power. My old pattern wanted me to shut up. My deeper voice needed to speak. Risking losing a friendship and making a fool of myself, I spoke as my whole body shook.
Men in our groups often shake as, for the first time, they allow themselves to be seen expressing a suppressed emotion. Afterward, they report being looser than ever. Some of their freeze melts.
By letting out the deep inward movement of shaking, you set yourself free to better express your outward movements. Your walk becomes more natural. Others find they want to connect to you. You also discover that as your body is set free, those you have no interest in will avoid you. Those that you are interested in are drawn to you. You don’t need to work at it.
 “Integrating Body Movement into Attractiveness Research,” Frontiers in Psychology, 2015-3-03
 “The Role of Human Body Movements in Mate Selection, Evolutionary Psychology,” 2010-01-01
 “Shake Your Tail Feathers: Hips, Orgasms and Dancing,” Psychology Today, 2010-03-12
 “Clues to Mysteries of Physical Attractiveness Revealed,” ScienceDaily. 2007-05-24
 “Love the Way You Move: Visual Cues that Make People Attractive to Others,” Neuroscience News, 2015-08-10
 Rolfing is a form of bodywork focus on releasing chronic tension and aligning the body in the gravitational field.
Photo: Pexels / Pixabay