-“Doctor…You have many personalities inside you—like Henry Kissinger.”
Of all the insults and effronteries we have received in our medical career, nothing comes even close to that dictum said by a psychologist specializing in Graphology. Not that we did not appreciate his diagnosis of a troubling psychological fact, which we have had serious suspicions of for years, but rather his bold comparison to that awful character. He was responsible for abetting the terrible repression of many progressive militants and organizations in Latin America during the seventies and eighties; our back still hurts from the heavy blows of a policeman ‘s baton when he cornered us during a street protest against the military dictatorship in Uruguay. If you want to know the details, please refer to our novel where we make Didier, one of the central characters, relive the terrible fear and pain we experienced that day.
During a prolonged break between patients’ scheduled appointments where we both consulted, he had encouraged us to write a paragraph to analyze our writings. Even though we were initially distrustful of the proposition, we politely accepted it. After just a few minutes of examining the contours and pauses of our writings, he started to accurately describe most of the positive and negative sides of our personality. He even had an irrefutable concluding remark: “above all, you do enjoy the histrionics.” Touché. We may try hard to conceal our true feelings and thoughts, but not our writings.
According to the British Institute of Graphologists: “Sumerian merchants were the first to codify their transactions in a recognizable script in 3000 BC and the first understanding of an individual’s character form their handwriting goes back to 500 BC when Confucius warned ‘beware of a man whose writing sways like a reed in the wind.” In the seventeenth century a school of Graphology was created in the university town of Bologna—the first public university of our planet. La Dotta was, and still is, the siege of scholarly research with yearly courses for interested students.
Is it an art or is a science? Most graphologists would vehemently argue that, as the interpretation requires original empirical skills bordering on artistic expression, it is both. But its detractors claim that it is only a pseudoscience with limited use. Graphology has been extensively studied and discussed in the think-thanks and institutes of the modern secret services like the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Unfortunately due to the secrecy they operate under, most of that material remains sealed out of the public purview for years until it is finally de-classified like the two reports we will discuss here.
In a now declassified 1993 CIA report, the analyst E.A. Rundquist said: “it is interesting that graphologists require some of this investigative information (sex, age, national origin and profession) as a prerequisite of their analysis. They also get the informational content of the handwriting specimens themselves.” Is he insinuating that graphologists are playing the game with a foul hand? In fact the use of biographical information might set the limits for the “inspirational take-offs” of enthusiastic graphologists in their work. In spite of his skepticism about it, he said that: “ for the clandestine services, however, graphology as a validated assessment technique might have application in a sufficient number of instances, those where background investigation is impossible, to warrant considerable research to determine its effectiveness.”
Keith Laycock, a self-declared amateur graphologist, wrote in a now de-classified 1994 CIA report that: “the art of handwriting analysis-graphology…has two branches: an established and ‘respectable’ one devoted to the identification of individuals for their handwriting, and a black sheep-branch dealing with the assessment of personality.” The author said that, in spite being an amateur, he believed that the black sheep variant is very useful to assess the personalities of person that are otherwise difficult to evaluate. He believed that any serious assessment of Graphology must settle these issues first:
a) How far do we propose to go in plumbing the ramified depths of a subject’s character?
b) How do we handle the semantic problems which plague character descriptions?
c) What do we do about standards for judging the ethical aspects of character?
The author believed that first the requirements of the job must be determined to limit the extent of the study for these parameters: desirable, dubious or disqualifying traits. Ever since Congressman, and then President, Theodore Roosevelt designed the American Civil Service Corps in the beginning of the 20th century (to terminate the abominable corruption in hiring practices of the ethnic political parties ) the recruiters of the security services have not been interested in a complete psychological portrait of the candidate but just to properly vet him/her/sie for big character flaws or weaknesses.
The second problem is related to semantics: what is an honest or brave person? The author believed that: “definition of such words is a practical impossibility since the third unknown, an ethical standard, is involved. If we could establish agreed ethical standards, we could, no doubt, compose definitions which would be adequate, but there does not now appear to be now such a set of standards.” Does that set exist at present? Thus author believed that Graphology is more a art than a science, for which the real consistency of a practitioner’s results must be determined across several experiences in order to weed out the charlatans and dilettantes that claim to be experts in the field.
Almost thirty years after these two reports were produced, the major questions they put forward remain largely unanswered because more reliable studies might still be needed. Or perhaps they do exist already, guarded in a dark vault in the catacombs of Langley…
What do you think? Please tell us.
Don’t leave me alone.