Bad posture is not just a matter of slumping. It is not entirely caused by laziness or weakness of back and shoulder and Abdominal muscle groups. Bad posture is a self defense mechanism.

There are people who draw attention to themselves, stand out in a crowd. They walk with a Purposeful Stride and people move out of their way. They walk with their shoulders back, drawn to their full height, their head up so that they can look around as they walk. They will look you in the eye if you give them a chance, so you look away before they do. Before they can catch a glimpse of what is beneath the surface of your skin.

You don't want to be noticed. And something has to be done about that unasked for height, the strange broad area of your chest and stomach. So you slouch. You bring your shoulders down and forward to reduce your frontal area. Create a cup of your chest, shoulders reaching toward each other trying to meet. You cross your arms. There is less to see and so less looking is done.

So don't just walk, you sidle, glide. Trying to create as little disturbance as possible in the air around you. Maybe you won't be seen at all.

You slip into rooms and sit at the back, on the outskirts. Your pelvis turns up, rotating in on it's self. Your back goes Convex, swiveling to protect the front. Your shoulders scrunch towards your ears. Your chin goes out, head down, stretching your neck towards the ground. You can't actually lie down on the ground, because this would bring too much attention, this would be causing a scene. But being so close to the earth, feeling the dirt under your fingers, singing up through the floorboards. You could almost disappear into it. Instead you spend your time engrossed in it, dreading the possible encounter.

Teachers and mothers used to tell you to sit up straight, not to cross your arms - you'll look surly, and you looked at them with a pained expression. They want you to give up your only line of defense. You'd rather take the ruler slap in the hand, the poke in the ribs.

All you can think is "Don't make me be seen. Don't make me be seen."

that girl is absolutely right, bad posture is a self defence mechanism; and it is a biological one, innate in all of us. It is based less on personal reasoning, trying to make oneself invisible, than it is on our nature. To make oneself smaller than another person is a gesture of submission to that person, and this is seen in all people around the world, and in animals too. By the same token, to be larger than another person is to be in a dominant position.

"... in submitting to another one makes oneself smaller. In detail this can happen by means of prostrating oneself, kneeling or bowing."

Bad posture makes a person seem weak or unassuming, "... one makes oneself small, and this is the precise opposite of threatening behaviour." As well as going unnoticed, they want to avoid confrontation, and are willing to surrender before one even begins. They are sure enough of their own inferiority that they think it better just to lose than to be hurt in conflict that they will surely lose regardless. A person who stands straight and tall is showing their readiness to fight, to prove their worth, and to assert their power over others. They are confident of their strength and prowess, are broadcast this to everyone around them.

Showing that one is submissive triggers emotions and behaviour patterns in others; sympathy, soothed aggression, and nurturing behaviours. These are just reactions to stimuli, no different from a mother's anxiety from hearing a baby's cry. So animals, humans included, take full advantage of these behaviours by acting in ways that will trigger them. The sight of a child inhibits aggression just by its presence, and many cultures take advantage of this: "... if the Australian aborigines wanted to make contact with the white men, two high-ranking men would push a small child in from of them... they relied upon the fact that no-one would do anything to harm a small child." Equally we all trigger behaviours in other people with our actions; we smile to put friends at ease, we shout when we are angry, we put an arm around someone's shoulder to make them feel safe. We stand tall and slouch low to tell other people where we stand in the social hierarchy of power.

It seems very intuitive, because it is just how our brains are wired. It is apparent in our language: to "act big", or to belittle a person, are both related to power, domination and submission. The "big city" is scary and unnerving, it stands immense and immovable as we cower beneath it, it dominates every part of our being. The way we nod when listening to someone speak, we are momentarily making ourselves smaller, submitting ourselves to their ideas.

For a person standing upright, folded arms serve to make the chest seem larger and more powerful, the elbows are pointed forwards to make the most of this. For a person hunched over, the lengths of the arms are held tightly to the chest, so as to make the front flat, and to hide the hands. The hands are a seat of power; the fist raised in the air, the spear or the knife clenched with white knuckles, the outstretched hand to show that it is empty and thus inviting. To hide the hands away is to remove one more means to attack, and so to make oneself that little bit more vulnerable. "Helplessness, weakness and child-like behaviour equally arouse pity."

Iguanas are an animal far removed from humans, but even they use size as an indicator of submission. When they fight, they will head-butt each other until either one of them has been pushed from a sought-for piece of land, or when one "... realises that he is not a match for his opponent ... and lies flat on his belly in a submissive posture in front of the victor."

I think that this role of body size in displays of submission and domination are linked to the "short man syndrome"; a man who feels constantly weak and dominated will subconsciously strive to overcome this with a dominating, competitive and aggressive personality. For the same reason, tall men are most often calm and kind, "gentle giants", because they have no need to be aggressive towards people who are automatically made less powerful than them. Tall men speak softly and are self-confident, short men speak forcefully and are insecure, all because of the role of size in our perceptions of power.

Quotations are from Love and Hate (originally Liebe und Hass) by Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt, translated from the German by Geoffrey Strachan.

There was a cartoon I saw recently. Two guys are standing outside the Pearly Gates; one says to the other, "In the end, it really did just come down to posture."

There seems to be a lot of psychology in this node thus far. Perhaps a bit of practical advice would come in handy.

If, like me, you consider Heaven or Hell just what you make out of this one life you get on Earth, then Heaven would probably include being free of physical pain. I can tell you from personal experience that bad posture throughout a lifetime will result in plenty of pain when you get older. In my case, it's the rounded shoulder posture from sitting in front of a desk for years and years. The only thing worse than typing for hours is filling out paperwork which also adds the bending over problem to the rounded shoulders. No one really stressed good posture when I was a kid, but I sure wish they had. I now spend a large portion of my days trying to stretch the muscles in my neck and get the knots out of the shoulder blade areas.

Am I a candidate for this grim future? you might ask. Well, try this: Pull your shoulder blades together and sit up as straight as you can. Now swivel your head as far to the left as you can. Do you feel a pulling on the right side of your neck? Now nod your chin down as far as you can. Did it feel as if you were about to snap something? Now do the same turning to the right.

Oh no! What can I do? Well, first of all, you should realize that aside from loading trucks all day for a living, the worst thing for your back is sitting. So get off your ass every 15 minutes or so and do something else; preferably something that involves stretching. There are many techniques for stretching, tai chi, yoga, etc. But the hardest part, as you well know, is the "getting off your ass" part. You've got to finish that last bit of code or respond to that last/msg or see if that girl will actually be able to. . . well, you know what I mean. They sell standing and even walking desks where you do your work standing or on a treadmill going at a very slow pace. These both sound like great ideas, but reviews on the internet are mixed.

Maybe the best way to help you solve the problem would be to understand why it's happening; and I don't mean psychologically. Your head weighs about the same as a bowling ball. Go find something that weighs 12-13 lbs. Yes, I mean right now! Now stand up and hold this thing out in front of your chest about a foot. See how long you can hold it there. Now pull the object into your chest and see how much less tension there is on your neck and upper back. When you walk or sit stooped over, your head represents this object and that's how much pressure you're putting on yourself to hold it like that all day. Try to get your head directly above your spine and keep it there. See how your shoulder blades naturally go to a neutral position when you do? Now, hold your head correctly, push your butt as far back in your chair as you can, and constrict your anus 100 times. You can thank me when you retire.

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