In some sort of bizarre coming-of-age drama, Justin Bieber continues to roll out an ever-expanding array of bad behaviors. What are we seeing here? Surely the devastating repercussions of fame and wealth when it befalls the young. Enriched on one level, impoverished on another, the teen idol is deprived of the checks and balances afforded by run-ins with a cranky science teacher or the unrequited love of the girl next-door. And I would suggest that you can see the core problem by merely looking at Bieber's signature.
Signature of Justin Bieber
As a psychotherapist with a curiosity in all things graphic, I've been known to take a peek at signatures, or even whole handwriting samples, to access something of the self-concept of my client. In this case, I'm fascinated by one graphic trait that I've noticed in the signatures of celebrities who grew up in the limelight and struggled terribly in later years. In order to understand what you are looking at, though, you need to contemplate one important question: where is progress?
We start our developmental journey inside the self, but with growth and change come to realize that progress is 'out there', not 'in here'. Speech and movement allow children to reach out and interact. In the end, in one way or other, we will make our mark in the broader world, finding a way to contribute, connect, or express, and in so doing we move in a linear direction from I to you, from me to we.
In countries following the western order, each time a writer pens a signature, first writing the personal name, representing the personal self, followed by the surname, representing the social and legal identity, the trajectory of 'I' to 'you' is graphically represented by the movement from the left side of the page to the right side (the latter being the margin associated with the world 'out there'). As the pen sweeps along, we move from private self to public self, from personal to societal. We thrust outward, expressing a quiet truth: that we are here to move beyond the personal self; therefore the first name trails behind the famiy name.
Aside from Oprah and Cher, the rest of us in this part of the world will be identified by that last name and signing in this linear fashion underscores the fact that the personal self is not a destination in itself, it is a means to a more social, more cooperative end. By complying with the traditional way to sign the name from left to right, we comply with this societal model, accepting a choreography that requires the personal self to move, well, away from the personal self. As the expression goes, "get over yourself."
And with all that as an introduction, let's revisit Bieber's signature.
Signature of Justin Bieber
When writers write the first name atop the second, they defy the thrust that puts the private self in the background. Instead the surname, the public self, becomes furniture, if you will, for the personal self. This is the writer who does not quickly surrender personal ego/self in order to give way to public responsibility. The surname, the lineage, the formal self, is hostage to the personal, sequestered to a support role that showcases the priority of the personal self. The surname is now oddly anchored to the left margin, the margin which graphologists associate with self-interest. This is the writer who succumbs to endless self-referencing, a victim of 'affluenza'.
What's the moral of this story? For all the Beliebers out there, just watch what happens next. Age-old principles will once again prove relevant, primarily the idea that when it comes to establishing a self, the old paradox holds: less is more. Something to remember and hold onto. When all else falls away, it is something reliable in which to believe.
This column introduces the clinical application of the psychology of handwriting, a European technique mostly unfamiliar in North America. Readers can bear in mind that graphology is appropriately used alongside other assessment methods, never used in isolation. This method is discussed fully in Clinical Graphology: An Interpretive Manual for Mental Health Practitioners, recently published by Charles C. Thomas Publishers.
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