Body Language

Language is more than verbal. Some estimate that over 85% of human communication is non-verbal. The body presents language in a number of ways including “verbal” metaphor. Symptoms of dis-ease can be viewed as messengers speaking your core beliefs out loud to you in metaphoric language. As you listen with intent to understand, the body systems feel fulfilled and acknowledged for their speaking. As the messenger feels complete and acknowledged, the system can return to normal functioning.

Carl Jung, Milton Erickson, and many others noticed the importance of this kind of metaphoric body language. Our own Body Metaphors chart, for example, speaks to these metaphors so that healers can work with underlying beliefs and thought processes to alleviate suffering and promote well-being.

When you feel or have a hurt in a part of your body, your body is speaking to you in metaphor. What the body does is validate your core beliefs. In this post we offer some possible core belief metaphors presented as body language in plain English based on Western cultures for your consideration. The following are general metaphoric considerations based on Western cultures.


Left Side [right brain] [back] – (Latin, sinister, meaning bad, ominous, or sinister; French, gauche, meaning awkward; Anglo-Saxon, lyft, meaning weak or worthless, implying moral weakness)

  • Left-handed compliment
  • On the other hand
  • Left out, left behind, left off, left alone (past tense of leave)
  • In politics: liberal or radical
  • Out in left field (meaning strange or off the mark)
  • In judgments: bad, wrong, incorrect, weak, silly, foolish, false, unstable, unreliable, irresponsible, weird, ungrounded, flighty, split, obnoxious, clumsy, dishonest, disagreeable, emotional, absurd, stupid, strange, out-of-control, unfair, sneaky, underhanded, dark side, fake, capricious, dirty, daydreamer, failure, loser, promiscuous, idiotic, immature, inappropriate, unsuitable, insane, radical, artificial, rebellious, disobedient.
  • Feminine


Right Side [left brain] [front] – (Latin, dexter, meaning skill, dexterity, or adroitness; French, droit, meaning good, just, or proper; Anglo-Saxon, reht or riht, meaning straight or just)

  • Right (as in correct)
  • Starting off on the right foot
  • On the one hand
  • Right on! Right here. Right there. Right now! Right away!
  • In judgments: good, right, correct, strong, sincere, wise, true, stable, reliable, responsible, rational, grounded, reasonable, single-minded, cultured, graceful, honest, agreeable, composed, sensible, smart, realistic, controlled, fair, upright, forthright, light side, real, logical, clean, attentive, successful, winner, virtuous, straight, mature, appropriate, suitable, sane, conservative, genuine, cooperative, obedient.
  • Masculine


Example body language idioms

An idiom is “a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words.” (Google) According to Wikipedia, “an idiom is a phrase or a fixed expression that has a figurative, or sometimes literal, meaning. An idiom’s figurative meaning is different from the literal meaning.” We offer the following as examples of how we use body language idioms in common [English] conversation.

Overall –

  • burning with rage
  • itching to get away, get out
  • it strikes me that…
  • get up on the wrong side of the bed
  • a bone to pick with you
  • you rub me the wrong way

The Head –

  • sore head
  • fat head
  • getting ahead
  • head first
  • heading in a direction
  • a one track mind
  • headstone
  • head honcho
  • headlong
  • head-to-head

The Face –

  • face-to-face, face off
  • face the music
  • in your (my) face
  • face up to it
  • fly in the face of
  • two-faced
  • bald-faced
  • at face value

The Ears –

  • lend an ear
  • here (as in a place)
  • balance (another aspect of the ears)
  • burning ears
  • play it by ear
  • out on your ear

The Eyes –

  • I
  • aye (as in “yes”)
  • eyesore
  • seeing is believing
  • watch out, look out, watch what you say
  • highbrow
  • eye-to-eye ( I-to-I)

The Nose –

  • keep your nose out of
  • nose out of joint
  • to cut off your nose to spite your face
  • nosy
  • sense (scents)
  • he/she knows (nose)
  • no’s (taboos)
  • pay through the nose ( “pay through the no’s”)

The Cheeks –

  • cheeky
  • turn the other cheek
  • tongue in cheek

The Mouth –

  • tight lipped
  • bite your lip, bite your tongue, hold your tongue
  • a taste of your own medicine
  • bite off more than you can chew
  • tooth and nail
  • like pulling teeth
  • down in the mouth
  • by the skin of my teeth

The Chin –

  • chin up
  • take it on the chin

The Neck –

  • pain in the neck
  • stiff necked
  • that’s hard to swallow
  • sticking your neck out
  • break-neck speeds
  • breathing down your neck

The Shoulders –

  • shoulders (“should”-ers, where you hold your “shoulds”)
  • put your shoulder to the wheel
  • shoulder the burden
  • cold shoulder
  • chip on the shoulder

The Arms –

  • take up arms
  • with one arm held behind my back
  • strong arm or being strong armed
  • push comes to shove

The Hands –

  • palm it off
  • work your fingers to the bone
  • grease the palm
  • hand-me-down
  • handout
  • dis-a-point-ment (idiom in a word)
  • gripped with fear
  • all thumbs
  • red handed

The Chest –

  • wear your heart on your sleeve
  • making a clean breast
  • get it off your chest
  • pull at your heartstrings
  • heartache, heartbreak, heartsick

The Back –

  • don’t back down
  • back off!
  • back-breaking
  • behind your back
  • bending over backwards
  • get off my back!
  • stabbed in the back

The Abdomen –

  • gut-wrenching fear
  • gut feeling
  • gut instinct
  • soft underbelly
  • I don’t have the stomach for it
  • butterflies in the stomach
  • wasted

The Legs –

  • don’t have a leg to stand on
  • it stands to reason that
  • can’t stand it
  • needs (sound alike for knees)
  • hopping mad
  • walk the line

The Feet –

  • understanding
  • heal, (heel)
  • soul
  • two left feet
  • stopped dead in your tracks
  • foot in mouth
  • a foot in the grave
  • stamping out fires
  • cold feet
  • cool your heels
  • dig your heels in
  • foot the bill
  • kick the bucket

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