Letters from the mind
DO you dot your `i's and cross your `t's? Do your `g's have large underline loops or do your `l's overly extend into the line above? How do you sign your name?
Handwriting analysis, or graphological reading (which includes the interpretation of doodles) has long been of interest to those dabbling on the verges' of psychology. Widely used as a form of character assessment for job applicants in the United States and France, graphological reading is now gaining popularity with those keen to look at their mental, emotional and spiritual health in a novel and perhaps slightly non threatening way.
"Generally speaking, your handwriting, doodles and drawings are a brain print or unconscious message which reveals what motivates you, how you feel in yourself and how you present yourself to the world," says Margaret Neylon, a healing therapist who practises handwriting analysis.
According to Neylon, what is important is not exactly how you write, but how your writing deviates from the way you were taught to write. "If, at 50, you are still writing as you were taught 45 years ago, this may indicate that you are living in fear of showing your true self because of your strong need to conform. Inside, such a person may be burning up from frustration," she explains.
"You can tell a lot from a child's handwriting because they have just been taught to write. If they show a huge deviation from this, there may be a problem such as bullying or abuse and their handwriting is, in a way, a signal or cry for help to be noticed."
Although convinced that a thorough handwriting analysis (two to three pages of writing on unlined paper) can indicate certain health problems, Neylon cautions about its use as a sole indicator of illness and stresses the need to see a sample of writing from six months to a year earlier as well as a recent sample, if diagnosing health complaints.
Handwriting analysis looks at script as it appears on the line, above the line, and below the line. What appears above the line gives the analyst clues regarding the individual's intellectual life, while the on the line script refers to their experiences in the torso (from the neck to the hips) and the below the line characters relates to their sexuality and physical energy. For example, large below the line loops signify a need to be loved while large above the line loops indicate a need to be fulfilled intellectually or spiritually.
Some handwriting interpretation may seem obvious, such as writing slanting downwards indicating depression, or medium to heavy pressure on the pen reflecting a vitality and enthusiasm for life (feeble or light writing showing lassitude or lack of vitality).
At times, the analysis may look beyond a direct connection to interpret some "disease" at a deeper level. "I look at the letters like human figures. If the `g's and `y's and especially the `i's referring to the self, are all curved in, this indicates someone who needs to be protected and doesn't want to open themselves up to others. Isolated and alienated people have large spaces between their first person `I's and the next word in the sentence," says Neylon.
"A lot of work has been done in the US, analysing the handwriting of serial killers which has shown them to have a similar out of control style of writing that goes all over the place on the page," she adds.
SIGNATURES are a particularly fascinating territory for the handwriting analyst. "If the first letter is huge and the rest of the letters are covered by it, this indicates someone who is saying `don't interfere with me'. If there is a huge space between the first and second name, the individual may be experiencing problems with their family. If the two names are very close, this indicates a need for protection from the family.
"If someone writes a note with tiny writing, ending it with a huge signature, this is saying `what I say is of no importance but look at me'. Likewise, if what they write is very easy to read, followed by a scrawl of a signature, this means the opposite."
Neylon stresses, however, that such analyses do need to be backed up by other indications, and the character assessment done in the overall context of analysing two or three pages of handwriting.
Whether such awareness can then be used to help individuals depends on their motivation to act on it. Neylon herself found that when she first realised that she never finished her signature fully and instead dropped the last few letters of her surname: that prompted her to take a more thorough approach to life in general. When she writes her signature, she realises that she must work harder at completing tasks, not simply putting huge energy in initially and then fading out.