Arm Shields

28 Nov

Humans as a defensive mechanism, always have had the need to hide behind something in search of protection, as children it was behind tables, chairs or our parents if we saw a scary looking dog, around 7 we knew that wasn’t possible anymore so we would cross our arms quite tightly when we were throwing tantrums and being brats knowing we might get spanked, in our adolescence we’d cross our arms more subtly and also combine it with crossing our legs and as adults we’ve found even less obvious ways of giving us that security and protection we so badly crave.

  • Crossed Arms: This is when the arms are neatly folded across the chess to protect the heart, lungs and other vital organs as well as breasts in womens cases.We will most likely do it when we feel nervousnegative towards something/ someone or are in a defensive attitude (like someone making fun of your dress/ t-shirt and you crossing your arms in response). Monkeys have also been observed to do the exact same gesture when they feel in a threatening situation, you can commonly see them in public meetings amongst strangers, elevators, cashier shopping lines or any place where we feel insecure or uncertain of our surroundings.
  • Crossed Arms With Fists: If apart from crossing their arms, they have clinched fists, it’s a strong sign of hostility as well as defensiveness as mentioned in my Palms & Thumbs article. It’s an aggressive and attacking attitude that you should watch our for, many times found in jobs that require those attributes such as bouncers or police men standing guard (patrolling ones will rarely cross their arms as they have a weapon for protection and thats enough, same goes for anyone wearing a body armor…they’ll never cross their arms).
  • Self-Reassurance Cross: This one is when someone crosses their arms while grabbing tightly their biceps or elbows, it is a display of a fearful
  • negativerestrained or insecure attitude. Ever wondered why the fetus position was created? it’s the ultimate self reassurance physical action whereby we use our knees and legs to protect our vital organs and body locking that position with our arms and lowering our vulnerable neck (predators went for the neck) as well as head. You can commonly find such self reassuring gestures at hospital/doctor waiting rooms, airport lounges with first time travelers or defendants at court room hearings.

  • Arm Crossed With Thumbs: Also mentioned in the Palms and Thumbs article, displaying the thumbs is a sign of a superiority or self confident inner attitude, this gesture can very often be seen in situations where someone is feeling they are cool and in control while still maintaining a level of protection with the crossed arms just in case. This could be seen for example in an exam, where the student feels confident about his abilities to answer correctly yet still feels a bit threatened by something going wrong.

  • One Crossed Arm: This type of body shield is a single arm crossing the chest and grabbing or touching the bicep or elbow of the opposite arm, as young children our parents would embrace or hug us when we were going through a distressful moment, as adults we try to recreate that same comforting feeling by doing it ourselves.It resembles a self hug and is more popular amongst woman than men, you can often find this arm gesture in social group situations where one of the individuals is a stranger to the group and feels they lack self confidence.
  • Self Holding Hands: This type of arm gesture is the male version of the predominant female ‘One Crossed Arm’ mentioned above, used by men who are insecure or lack self confidence in a certain situation. You can find this pose in some men who are awaiting to speak in front of a big crowd and are nervous, at funerals, it can also be observed in homeless men standing in line to await a plate of food or waiting in line to receive a social security benefit…men will feel more secure if they protect their “Family Jewels” and can unconsciously avoid receiving a frontal blow, the more obvious example of this being soccer players making a barrier in front of a free shot from the opposite team.Adolf Hitler only had one testicle so he regularly adopted this position (or at least with only one arm protecting the jewels) when in public to mask the sexual inadequacy he felt.

  • Subtle Arm Crosses: People of high status such as politicians, celebrities or people in high positions can’t afford to look nervous or unsure about themselves as they are constantly in the limelight, they cant walk around crossing their arms or with their hands in front of their crotch so instead they choose subtler ways of crossing arms and achieve that secure feeling once more. Men will go for things like adjusting their watches or shirt cufflinksfiddle with their ring if they have one, scratch their wristschecking inside their wallets or mobile phones, anything that makes the arms get in front of the body when they feel nervous and in full view of others such as entering parties, new crowds, walking through wedding dance floors and so forth. Women however have more advantages as they carry accessories for when they feel self conscious orinsecure, many women use their purse as a barrier, they also have more jewelry to ‘adjust’ and fiddle around with, at clubs for example you can notice some people hold their drinks with two hands instead of one…unless its a cold winter night and the cup has some warm tea, it is rather pointless. A popular one that men and women do alike is sitting at a table contrary to you and placing the glass/cup on the opposite side of the arm they use to move it, that way they have to cross one arm in front of their body to reach it and can remain with their arms crossed in front of you while touching the glass.

Other Arm Gestures

Some of the other arm involving gestures you will find on a daily basis are these:

  • Superman: Used by body builders, models and popularized by Superman, this arm gesture can have several different meanings dependent on how it is used. In the animal kingdom, appearing bigger when they feel in danger or threatened is a survival technique against fellow predators, take a simple house cat for instance and notice how their bodies will rise, their fur will stand and their legs will stretch when they are alarmed by something. Humans are also believed to have such primitive defense techniques though not so noticeable, we have things like “goosebumps” thanks to the erectile pillae in our skin where our ancestors use to be hairy and their hair would slightly rise when they had that “goosebumps” sensation in moments of fear or vulnerability (goosebumps also occurring during love), as we can’t appear larger anymore with such primitive survival techniques we have developed arm gestures such as resting our Hands On Our Waist. It is actually called the Readiness Gesture because it indicates the person is about to act assertively and it has a slightly aggressive/competitive attitude in it…if you go to a gym you’ll see someone standing in front of a machine staring at it while using this pose, or an Athlete before the event be displaying this pose, a wife nagging at her husband with one hand on her hip (one hand or two has the same meaning), a guy flirting with a girl trying to appear assertive in his decision making of picking her.This gesture should be read in a group as I mentioned in the initial article as having the head sideways for example while doing it indicates submissiveness so it means they are ‘ready to be told what to do’ or doing it after putting their legs together (paying attention) and zipping up their jacket which can indicate they are trying to protect their chest and are frustrated with what is happening. This readiness gesture is frequently used by runway models who want to display the clothes they are wearing are for the assertive fashionistas.

  • Package: Similar to the above readiness gesture only this one isn’t made to appear larger, in fact the elbows are tilted inwards and the hands rest on the belt or pants pockets by using the thumbs as leverage, this is used to direct the person they are interacting with to their crotch by using their hands as highlighters of that area…it is considered a dominant gesture used by men to appear fearless, it’s commonly seen at local bars or pubs by men and women alike while flirting.

There are others types of arm movements and gestures as well but I won’t go into the more advanced ones, a simple common one occurs during hugging.Many times this goes unnoticed as a sign of affection but in reality it’s the total opposite, when you watch two people hugging you’ll notice sometimes one of them starts tapping the back of the other with one hand…this is mistaken as a warm affectionate pat on the back when it fact it’s signaling the other person they want to end the hug already…if you pay even closer attention you’ll observe some people who don’t feel like hugging at all will enter a hug already doing the back pat movement. 

This article is part of the Beginners Guide To Body Language series, please read the rest of the articles by clicking here 

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