IN YOUR FACE: Reading between the lines

YOUR HEALTH: A seminar in face reading aims to help Irish practitioners tell if a person is suffering from stress, health problems…

YOUR HEALTH:A seminar in face reading aims to help Irish practitioners tell if a person is suffering from stress, health problems or simply needs to change something in their life

WHAT CAN you tell about a person just by looking at their face? Quite a lot, says Lillian Bridges; the eyes may be the window to the soul, but a face can reveal a lot about earthly traits, including your health, personality type and even whether you're suited to your chosen profession.

Bridges is a world-renowned expert in the field of facial diagnosis, the Chinese art of analysing a person from the shape, size and proportions of their face.

Want to know if someone's a leader or a follower, an extrovert or an introvert, a clown or an intellectual? Just look at their mug, and you'll get the full story.


"Face reading is the universal language," says Bridges. "The ability to read expressions is intrinsic to us all - we've been doing it since we were babies. We all read faces - but most of us don't do it to any great depth. If you have the right training, though, you can read a lot deeper into a person's face."

Bridges teaches facial diagnosis and face reading at Seattle's Lotus Institute, and she's coming to Dublin to give a three-day seminar on face reading to Irish practitioners.

This won't be her first Irish face-reading weekend - previous seminars have been booked out with practitioners of Chinese medicine, homeopathic practitioners, and people who just want to know more about this ancient art.

Her sessions are always lively, fun and educational - face reading is useful for telling if a person is suffering from stress, health problems or simply needs to change something in their lives.

It works well in conjunction with traditional Chinese medicine, helping practitioners to spot symptoms in a person's facial expression or detect underlying health issues.

We decided to put Bridges' face-reading skills to the test, so we showed her photographs of six people who would be well known around here, but complete strangers to her.

Would her analyses tally with the Irish public's perception of these individuals?

They may be all too familiar to us, but Bridges would be effectively working off a blank canvas - would she see things that we never noticed before?

"Trying to read a face from a photograph is not a reliable way to diagnose," she warns.

"You can only get a snapshot of what a person is like from a photograph. You really need to be in front of the person and be able to examine the face from all angles. "However," she adds, "I can tell one or two things from looking at a photograph."

First up is our soon-to-be former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. We're not saying that face-reading is a substitute for a tribunal, but Bertie's features told Bridges a lot.

"He looks relieved," she observes. "He's had a lot of stress. You can see that in the cheek area - when you stress you don't breathe deeply enough. He also looks a little surprised.

"Bertie has," says Bridges, "amazing eyebrows", which means he's a problem-solver. "If something is bothering him he'll keep working on it - he's got persistence. He enjoys finding solutions for things."

Bertie's drinking pals in Drumcondra won't be surprised that he has a great sense of humour, and Dáil colleagues won't be surprised that he has a temper, too. "They both balance him pretty well," says Bridges.

He also has what Bridges calls a "power face", which makes him suited to a stressful job in high office.

"He'll make a good head of a corporation," she says. I tell her that Bertie has, up until recently, been chief executive of Ireland Inc, but has recently been forced to resign.

"I don't think he's done yet - he will find another power position," she says.

Bertie's successor is "a lot smarter than he shows.

"He's a portly man but he's got a strong earth element - he's not meant to be thin. The full mouth and big features . . . he's supposed to have weight."

Lest anyone mistake Cowen for a bull in a china shop, Bridges notes that he's also a man of refinement.

"He likes the finer things in life - the eyebrows show he's cultured. The full lower lip shows he takes pleasure from good food, fine wine, art, good company - he appreciates beauty.

"He's more refined than people give him credit for."

According to Bridges, Cowen has the teeth of a communicator, and, although he's a heavy-set man, he's not unhealthy for his weight.

"He's got good strength in those features, and his eyes show he's observant and astute."

Mary Harney, says Bridges, handles difficult people well. This is down to her "courtesan eyebrows", which help her to cool down people's anger. Maybe we should start calling her "Mata Harney" again.

"She's a very good observer, practical and with good sensibilities," notes Bridges. Her broad face makes her a people person.

"The difficulty is, though she's very intuitive, with powerful instincts, she doesn't always go with her feelings. She needs to trust her instincts and not get talked into things."

Her slightly weak chin means Harney can sometimes let herself get pushed, and her "lovely dimple" means she needs constant approval and reassurance that she is doing a good job.

Twenty-year-old Irish boxing champion Katie Taylor is harder to read because her face is "not fully developed yet".

It's not until you hit the quarter-century mark that your face is complete, but Bridges sees ambition in Taylor's nose. "She has a desire to be involved in causes and to change the world. She has a real desire to make a difference.

"She has very focused eyes, good strong eyebrows and a straight nose, and darling dimples. She's got a lot of charm, but a lot of mischief too."

Next up is Pat Kenny - will Bridges find him a charm or a smarm?

"Oh, this is a handsome man and he knows it!" she says, with more than a twinkle in her voice. "His smile says, it's okay, you can admire me if you like. He's got a very charming smile."

He is, says Bridges, a good listener. "He pays attention to what people say, but he also has a need to be taken more seriously. He's quite intellectual - you can see that in the forehead and eyebrows. He's also a deep thinker - well-read, intellectual, very philosophical. He's the kind of person who would surprise you with what he knows. But his jaw tells you he's also very stubborn."

Our final subject is Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary, but, judging from Bridges' reaction, perhaps a career move into comedy wouldn't be a bad thing.

"He's obviously a very funny man. But what I like about him is that he's a creative thinker, very adaptable and able to change with circumstances.

"He's got interesting eyebrows - the eyebrow hairs go all over the place, which shows a clever, creative mind that can fly off in all directions."

Despite Ryanair's cost-cutting, O'Leary "likes to spend money. But he won't gamble it - he'll take a calculated risk. He's got good nostrils for spending money."

O'Leary hasn't got a boss's cheekbones, which might explain why he's often mistaken for a Ryanair baggage handler.

"He's a self-starter, but he can be difficult to work for - managing people isn't his strong point. He's an ideas person - ideas just pop into his head. That little space between his front teeth means that he maintains his innocence and self-belief. He's got a real can-do attitude."

Lillian Bridges is hosting a seminar on Face Reading and Facial Diagnosis in Dublin on Friday, April 25th, Saturday 26th and April 27th in the Camden Court Hotel, Dublin 2. Tel: 01-209 2961 for details.

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist