The (unwritten) laws of handwriting

Originally Posted on Emerald Media via UWIRE

According to Annette Poizner, I’m a “people person,” an apprehensive, intuitive feeler, an artist.

In order for her to come to these personal conclusions, you’d think that she and I would have been close friends — or, at the very least, would have met each other in person once or twice. We have done neither. So how did she make such personal claims through not much more than my unruly, partly print, partly script, handwriting? In other words, she was able to detect personality traits via subtleties on paper, through the way in which I dot my “i”s, cross my “t”s and sign my name.

Poizner, a Toronto-based social worker, is the author of the book “Clinical Graphology: An Interpretive Manual for Mental Health Practitioners.” At the University of Toronto, she completed her doctoral dissertation, which explored the benefits of using handwriting analysis, or graphology, in therapy. She is also a regular contributor to the Huffington Post, where she is best known for her analysis of celebrity signatures.

Through her experience in the field of psychotherapy, she has reached the conclusion that our handwriting can give us clues to our personality, our subconscious minds and thought processes — clues that, in addition to other personality projective assessments, can provide us with important personal insights in a relatively short amount of time.

Before my handwriting was analyzed, she asked me to prepare a few things, a couple of projective personality assessments that would help provide her with more information about myself. I prepared a list of the 10 earliest memories I could think of (all before the age of 8), a handwritten story I made up on the spot and a couple of versions of my signature. Then, Poizner used a mixture of “the three” (the memories, the story and my handwriting) to analyze, and dig in, to my personality flaws, strengths and overall character.

In the end, we talked for more than two hours on her findings. How did the memory of losing my Barney purse at age 4 relate to my precise, yet fluid handwriting? What was it about the story I wrote about the rebellious queen who wasn’t allowed to touch the castle roses but did so anyway have to do with my own hesitant nature? What is it about the way I cross out the “t” in “Katherine” that displays negativity?

Our earliest memories, our signatures, the stories we choose to create, she said, all derive from our subconscious mind. So, it’s no surprise that my memories, my made-up story and my handwriting all seemed to connect to one another through shared themes. From these themes, Poizner was able to detect the clues in my handwriting that opened portals into my inner psyche.

“I believe people are fundamentally expressive in everything they do,” she said. “So why wouldn’t it carry over in our handwriting?”

Joyce Brizendine, a certified handwriting analyst and owner of “Write to Know” handwriting analysis services of Portland, Ore., couldn’t agree more. Though most of the analyses she does are for the purpose of entertainment, she believes that the use of graphology has its place in more than just entertainment venues.

“It’s a skill that can provide critical insight into someone’s psyche,” she said. “There are certain things to look out for when assessing one’s handwriting. Certain subtleties that could help give clues to the bigger picture, for instance, clues to whether someone has depression, a strong sexual appetite or personality deficiencies.”

There are some, however, who wouldn’t agree with Poizner and Brizendine. Some who say that our handwriting — although unique — isn’t significant enough to identify specific characteristics in an individual.

James Green, a forensic document evaluator based in Eugene, is one of these people. Although he does not use personality handwriting analysis in his forensic practice, he has heard of some who do — some who, for instance, wouldn’t see the problem with hiring a graphologist in order to decipher whether a client’s signature is genuine or not. Green doesn’t agree with this.

“I once read an article somewhere about a document examiner who had hired two graphologists to analyze one client’s handwriting,” Green said. “It turns out that each of the two analyses showed different results. So, it’s difficult for me to see the truth in the practice. It’s like fortune-telling — interesting, but not reliable.”

Poizner can understand some of the public’s hesitations to accept handwriting analysis as a reliable means to assess personality. Handwriting, she said, can be influenced by a variety of factors that don’t have anything to do with personality, including cognitive abilities, chemical substances and medical conditions.

However, after having spent years in the field of handwriting analysis, she doesn’t believe this is enough to discredit the merit of the practice — especially when used alongside other projective personality assessment tests, such as a list of one’s earliest memories or a made-up story.

“Though it may not always be a straight line from personality to handwriting,” Poizner said, “I assert that there is wonderful, rich material in our handwriting that we can, and should, assess. Plus, we can’t doubt that public interest in the topic does exist.”

Although I probably won’t be an expert myself any time soon, you can rest assured that from now on I’ll always look at handwriting — whether it’s my own or that of others — with a more critical eye. After all, the way you shape your letters on paper may mean more than you think.

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