Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sheila Lowe - Unraveling the Mysteries of Handwriting


If you’re reading this column you’re probably a mystery lover. I have been one since receiving Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five on my eighth birthday. Later, my high school bud, Jo Levetsky, who read a book a day (hidden behind a textbook, I suspect), would pass them along to me. We were gothic mystery fans–Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, Madeleine Brent and the rest. No doubt it was that same love of solving mysteries that piqued my interest in handwriting analysis when I was a high school senior and my boyfriend’s mother shocked me by deconstructing my personality. She’d read a book on handwriting analysis and clearly had a talent for it.

Who knew that handwriting could reveal so much about the way I thought, felt, and behaved? I immediately checked out everything I could find on the subject at the Anaheim Library and began to devour the subject that would, some twenty years later, become a full time career. Meanwhile, as much as I enjoyed reading mysteries, I never lost the desire to also write them. Fast forward to 1998.

During a visit to the dentist, it occurred to me that over the years, I had amassed a storehouse of ten-thousand or so handwriting samples. Although most of them were handwritings I had analyzed for employers, some had their own interesting stories, from the ninety-million dollar case of sibling rivalry, to the world class eccentric matchmaker, to the investigation of a Satanic cult. It was from this rich treasure trove that the idea for the Claudia Rose series was conceived. Not that I used those actual stories, of course, but I found the germs of a few good ideas.

I realized that to stand out in a crowded genre, the handwriting analysis would have to be the hook. At the same time, I didn’t want my story to be a book about handwriting analysis (I’d already had two of those published—The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analysis and Handwriting of the Famous & Infamous). So I set out to create a balance between the story and the technical—trickier than it sounds.

After releasing Poison Pen, the first book in the series, I learned from the reviews that most readers enjoyed the handwriting tidbits and wanted more. One or two, however, felt there was more handwriting info than they wanted. Clearly a case of “can’t please ‘em all.”

Much of my work has been in the employment field, analyzing the handwritings of people applying for jobs. It’s said that people don’t lose a job because of poor skills, but more often it’s because of personality problems. A handwriting analysis, added to the interview, other testing, and background check, can give the employer an important piece of the puzzle to help him or her make the best possible choice between applicants. I never recommend whether a particular applicant should be hired or not. I provide an objective behavior profile based on the requirements for the job.

The same is true of relationship compatibility. When I analyze two people in a relationship, I’m not about to tell them whether I believe it will work or not—there
are just too many human variables in the mix, and my crystal ball isn’t that clever. I point out the strengths of each person and the areas that could benefit from growth and development. It’s up to the individuals to decide whether to act on what they learn from the analysis.

So, where does the mystery come in? Some people are open and above-board about who they are, while others are very private. Still others have something to hide. Handwriting tells the truth about the writer, regardless of what s/he projects to the world. It reveals social style—is the writer as friendly as she seems, or putting on a front? It reveals whether the writer is more creative and right-brained or more logical and sequential. It points to the state of his or her ego—self-confident and surefooted, or feels on shaky ground. And it speaks to the writer’s fears and defenses, tells us whether they came from “old tapes” from childhood that play an endless loop in his head–“you should xxx” or “you shouldn’t xxx”? Or fears that stem from something that so traumatized the writer that he tells himself, “Never again will I let that happen to me”? The handwriting uncovers the defenses the writer is likely to use—rationalization, denial, dissociation, lashing back, or any one of a host of other defense mechanisms. There’s also graphotherapy—writing exercises to help change traits that are holding back the writer from greater success.

My Forensic Handwriting Mysteries series falls into the sub-genre of psychological suspense. As a court-qualified forensic handwriting expert and amateur investigator, handwriting analysis gives my character Claudia Rose a special knowledge of other people, which helps her to understand their motivations and needs. Used in concert with her native intuition, that special knowledge also allow her to relate to other people on their own level, gaining their confidence and getting them to confide in her. She’s able to look at what they write and determine whether they’re lying or covering up important information. In short, handwriting helps her to unravel the fascinating mysteries of personality.
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Sheila Lowe is in the full-time practice of handwriting analysis. She has authored several books and monographs, software, and a self-study course. A provider of continuing education for marriage and family therapists, she lectures and teaches to a wide range of audiences. She is the author of four Claudia Rose novels, the latest of which is 2010's Last Writes. Sheila's author web site address is http://claudiaroseseries.com. Her handwriting analysis website address is http://sheilalowe.com

7 comments:

Hannah Dennison said...

Hi Sheila - so happy to see you on Type M. Having just heard your terrific handwriting presentation at the LA Chapter of Sisters in Crime only a couple of weeks ago, I was excited to read this. It's a fascinating subject. I'm just glad my current employer never asked for a sample of my own handwriting which is scattered, messy and a mix of Pitman shorthand. Thanks to you, I realize it's because I'm creative, not insane. A great post.

Donis Casey said...

How will future graphologists handle the fact that young people no longer know how to write cursive? Will the science have to change?

Janice said...

Along the same lines as Donis, I was wondering what effect keyboards and computers are having. They're turning handwriting into a "lost art". Does the lack of practice make the reading of handwriting less easy or reliable these days? I mean, at school and university I wrote thousands and thousands of words by hand in notes and examinations so I can see how my handwriting would become an expression of who I was, but if people rarely put pen to paper, their handwriting must be more awkward, is it more difficult to "read" them?

Sheila Lowe said...

Thanks for having me guest post!
Hannah, I doubt you have anything to worry about :)
Donis and Janice, printing is writing, so the lack of cursive isn't problematic, per se, for anaysis. However, I could write an entire blog on the deleterious effects on children who learn only printing.
Still, to answer your question, any graphic expression can be analyzed because a professional handwriting analyst is looking at the writer's use of space on the paper, as well as the writing form (the style--equivalent to font choice), and thousands of variables.

Judy Starbuck said...

Such an interesting post, Sheila. As always I find your insights so fascinating.

metamorphous said...

Sure as hell interesting! One of my friends has studied graphology, if I am right, and you have ignited the fire of curiosity in me as well :) :D :P Take care, God bless! Much love and light! :)

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