Katie Couric's recent disclosure about her struggles with bulimia perhaps took some by surprise. Yet, for graphologists, Couric's history of inner strife follows from an issue strongly indicated in her signature.
One variable examined by clinicians who analyze handwriting is the degree to which any given handwriting conforms with the copybook script initially taught in elementary school or whether it deviates from that script and thereby expresses individualism.
In my book, Clinical Graphology: An Interpretive Manual for Mental Health Practitioners, I quote the work of Gordon Allport, a past president of the American Psychological Association. He wrote the following:
A six-year-old will laboriously copy letters or numbers as precisely as he can from his copybook or from his teacher's blackboard model. His graphic production has virtually no individuality. The written papers on the classroom display board are almost all alike. The young children are, in respect to handwriting, prisoners of their culture. Toward puberty true individuality in handwriting begins to appear. By now the child has mastered the cultural forms; they are second nature to him. He begins to take liberties with them (always within limits). His formation of letters, slant, embellishments are his own. Occasionally his script becomes negativistic toward the culture, to the point of sheer illegibility. All this experimentation need not be conscious, but it clearly violates the original cultural model. Finally, the graphic style settles down, and hereafter displays what Revers calls a "revised cultural model" -- adapted to the individuality of the person. Handwriting is simply one example of the compromise we all reach between cultural obedience and individual integrity.
With that in mind, look at Katie Couric's signature. Note how she loyally reproduces the copybook script she learned in school and, in so doing, shows us that, first and foremost, she values fitting in. Such writers, amiable and good natured, easily lapse into people-pleasing. And they often harbor secret self-negating habits designed to help them keep insecurities at bay so they can greet the world with a warm smile and capable demeanor -- no matter what.
The copybook writing style also appears in the signature of former First Lady Betty Ford. Subject to the pressures of living a very public life, and to a resolve to maintain poise, no matter what, she fell prey to an addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs.
If some writers overly conform to the cultural model, others fall to the opposite extreme, using aberrant, illegible letterforms that express anger, defiance, difficulties fitting in and a range of mental health challenges. As Allport notes, the psychologically healthy writer shows some obedience to the cultural norm rendering the handwriting legible, but also shows some originality in the way he or she forms letters.
We hope to see a writer who can express her inner truth while also assuming a comfortable place in the community at large. If she can do both tasks simultaneously she will manage her appetites in a way that sustains health. As always, the line between properly nourishing the body versus having an eating disorder will neccessarily come down to that exact issue of balance.