The recent anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s landmark speech reminds us of his legacy. In my world -- that of a clinician who likes to understand the psyche by studying handwriting and other markers of personality -- I say we can learn about King from his speeches and letters, but also by perusing his words as he wrote them. Implicit in his handwriting are lessons about where freedom can be found.
The physical world is characterized by three dimensions: height, width and depth. Interestingly, there is universal agreement about the meaning of two of those dimensions. How do we know? Because around the world, the nod of a head connotes agreement and the shake of a head connotes disagreement. Body language expert Eldad Nakar suggests that, though unstated, these nonverbal gestures reveal an understanding we all share: that positivity associates with the vertical dimension. Negativity corresponds with the horizontal dimension.
And that should make sense. Look around you, side to side. Everything you see is destined to either break, decay or die. To access the realm of ultimate positivity, just look up.
One premise of graphology (handwriting analysis) is that people express their primary orientation in life, be it to the spiritual or the material, expressing an affinity with the vertical or the horizontal, every time they pick up a pen. Some writers strongly emphasize the width of their handwriting. These are the people who live off their senses and have gifts in the zone of fashion, design, cooking or other realms where the senses reign strong. By way of example, in my last post I discussed the often times bloated handwriting of culinary chef Paula Deen. In fact, many live strongly anchored to the physical/material world. Watch for handwriting characterized by wide, bubbly letters.
And yet others live in the zone of the spiritual. By way of example, the handwriting of Martin Luther King Jr. emphasizes the vertical axis. We see a tall lean handwriting that reaches up to the heavens, denoting idealism, an interest in higher thought and the pursuit of truth. This handwriting style often characterizes those who go on to study in religious seminaries or academic institutions, there to pursue the greater good, in one form or other.
What do we learn from the handwriting of Martin Luther King Jr.? We learn that freedom is found at the top of the mountain. If we can transcend the distractions and sensory stimulation of everyday life and live life at a higher altitude, we can access higher vision and we, too, can dream of progress. In other words, we can emulate King, and embody a destiny described in Psalm 92: "a righteous man will flourish like a date palm, like a cedar in the Lebanon he will grow tall."
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.