This is the final instalment in explorations of the 6 emotions embedded in your body, Anger, Fear, Joy, Sadness, Disgust and lastly Surprise.
The expression of surprise is the briefest of all the emotions. It occurs in response to an unforeseen event. Surprise will usually be followed immediately by another emotion such as anger if the surprise was unwanted, joy if the surprise is a welcomed one or fear if there is danger accompanying the unanticipated event. Surprise can also turn into shock, a more enduring emotion.
Surprise is intimately connected to the idea of acting in accordance with a set of rules. When the rules of reality generating events of daily life separate from the rules of thumb expectations, surprise is the outcome. Surprise represents the difference between expectations and reality, the gap between our assumptions and expectations about worldly events and the way that those events actually turnout. In essence, surprises are the end result of predictions that fail.
Surprise is expressed in the face by the following features:
- Eyebrows that are raised so they become curved and high.
- Horizontal wrinkles across the forehead.
- Open eyelids: the upper lid is raised and the lower lid is drawn down, often exposing the white sclera above and below the iris.
- Dropped jaw so that the lips and teeth are parted, with no tension around the mouth.
Spontaneous, involuntary surprise is often expressed for only a fraction of a second. It may be followed immediately by the emotion of fear, joy or confusion. The intensity of the surprise is associated with how much the jaw drops, but the mouth may not open at all in some cases. The raising of the eyebrows, at least momentarily, is the most distinctive and predictable sign of surprise.
The word surprising is often used to describe things that are not surprising merely bemusing or bewildering. A friend might say or do something hurtful and you describe it later by saying, ”I was surprised by the attack.” When in actual fact you were hurt, upset or offended.
A surprise comes out of the blue, a slap (verbal or physical) is surprising, a stolen kiss may also be astonishing (It’s a good simile for surprising). Surprise leaves you feeling breathless and even a little dazed. A surprise is a bolt from the blue. An old friend or enemy suddenly appearing in front of you in a foreign city is a surprise. So there’s both good and bad surprises.
It was a late Autumn day, I was on my way to meet a friend to catch up. There was a focaccia shop in the city (this was the 90’s when frock and focaccia shops proliferated). It had a sunny aspect and great herb teas made with fresh herbs not tea bags. My friend was excited about something and as his best friend I wanted to hear all about it.
Bob had been in London and had got back the day before. He still looked rumpled and kinda not quite real, I put it down to jet lag, little did I know that within minutes I would be the one with the appearance of major dislocation. I got to the shop on time and set about ogling the cute waiter and scanning the menu. Intent on my carnal pursuits I didn’t see Bob enter. He sat down beside me, kissing me as he swept his fabulous new camel hair coat aside.
He’d gone to London to a family wedding and stayed to catch up with friends and take a short break in Southern France. Bob started to show me some holiday snaps and there in the southern Pyrenees with her arms through Bobs was my closest friend from university and then to compound it she walked into the shop.
Yep they’d met on hols. My jaw dropped so far it musta dislocated. That was a surprise, a good surprise. Bob and Jacky now live in Melbourne and are happily raising 2 children, 4 chickens and lots of basil.
Now a bad surprise, well it was kind bad/funny. I was at the local pub and listening to a good covers bank, normally that would be an oxymoron to me but I was charmed by the music. The music paused and a guy in the audience started to chat to me. I responded politely enough I think. Anyway when the music restarted a few minutes later I turned away from him. He tapped me on he shoulder, I was kinda annoyed to be interrupted, but I turned and he said, ”People like you castrate men.”
I was surprised, heard my heart go pound, pound. I shut my dropped jaw with a snap. I thought, “That’s a hell of a pick up line.” I turned my head and looked at him for another few pounds and said, ”Only if they ask nicely.”
Surprise, surprise he scuttled off. I was surprised because it was so out of context and really little to do with me but directed at me. That was the surprise, it was like the end of a really bad joke.