10/05/2013 09:51 EDT | Updated 12/05/2013 05:12 EST

Can Joan Rivers' Signature Help Us Understand the Separatists?

The Parti Québecois' proposed Charter of Values has some angry, others simply confused. Many minorities are innately sensitive to the needs of other minorities. And then we have the PQ who want to ban civic employees from wearing religious headgear at work. What's that about? I can't help but wonder about the psychology at play.

As a psychotherapist, I'm always intrigued by the question of what makes people tick. It's always most important to listen and to ask, but the truth is that people tell a lot about themselves indirectly -- through body language and mannerisms, the clothes they wear, the jokes they tell. In fact, a trained clinician can even learn something about clients from their handwriting.

Speaking of that, two signatures -- Joan Rivers' and that of former Bloc Québecois leader Gilles Duceppe -- gave me food for thought, as I pondered the psychology of the Separatist.

For those who analyze handwriting, signatures relate to a person's self-concept. The first name expresses something of the personal or private self, the last name relays information about the writer's professional identity.


Signature of Gilles Duceppe

The signature of Gilles Duceppe is interesting. Within his last name, he creates a double wall. See how he separates the minority (of his surname) from the majority, the East from the West, in the way he renders the two ls? For him, the theme of separation, then, might be much more than a political solution to a societal dilemma. It could be an intrinsic orientation for him, leading to a tendency to see the world in terms of "us versus them."


Signature of Joan Rivers

Let's look at another signature with disconnections that seem more deliberate than intuitive or natural. In the signature of Joan Rivers, the graphologist finds a lonely, disconnected i in her professional name. That interprets as a 'lonely I', separated and isolated, animating her professional identity. Notice how the writer negates her first name, rendering it as a flattened out line, negating her personal self in so doing. With her most recent book titled, "I Hate Everyone... Starting with Me," you ought to believe her. Isolation and a type of personal anomie is the engine behind her career.

In her autobiography, Rivers documents that her parents were emotionally disconnected from each other as she was from her only sibling for many years. And in a family culture characterized by strife and estrangement, walls between people stand tall, a breeding ground for even more estrangement.

Is this the psychology of Separatism? Maybe. Maybe not. My real point here is that people may or may not be logical, but they are always psycho-logical. To any situation, there is more than meets the eye, or, better put, to understand an issue better, always try to meet the 'I'.

But how? For starters, just watch carefully. As Freud said,"no mortal can keep a secret. If his lips are silent, he chatters with his fingertips; betrayal oozes out of him at every pore."

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.