Handwriting Meets Kabbalah

author_annette

How one clinical social worker is combining graphology and mysticism to diagnose mental health issues.

by Annette Poizner, EdD

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes. —Marcel Proust

It’s August 1985. My friend and I retreat to our dorm to escape the scorching heat of the Israeli sun. As we chat, she casually mentions an interesting psychotherapist she encountered.

“He analyzes handwriting, asks you to draw things, too. He analyzes everything you give him and it helps him get to the root of the problem.”

I was 25 and aimless. I had vague ideas about writing for a living but my day job involved waxing poetic about the selling features of cotton or the luxurious drape of silk. The communications department of a prominent clothing chain promised a stable, but uninspiring, future.

This trip to Israel was a change of scenery, time for a little reflection. I was flying home in a few days and still hadn’t had any visions about my future. At this point, getting my handwriting analyzed couldn’t hurt. I called the number and booked an appointment.

That phone call changed my life. It ultimately led to my calling.

To say my personal consultation was revelatory would be an understatement. It is, of course, a powerful experience to feel deeply understood by someone, especially when this is achieved on the basis of one meeting. Beyond that, though, our two-hour discussion introduced me to a world of human depth, buried treasures in the inner recesses of self, inner truths—hidden in plain view—accessed by examining handwriting and a few simple drawings. I experienced this as nothing but magical.

And I was most captivated by handwriting itself. I knew I had to learn all I could about graphology and finally undertook formal study. In the process, I stumbled upon an interesting question: Why is it that most of the noteworthy graphology texts written in English are authored by Jews? Graphology is virtually unknown in North America, but in Israel, you find it everywhere. “What’s with the Jews and handwriting?” I wondered.

Years later, I found my answer: It was Kabbalah that held the key. Studying Jewish mysticism, I discovered that all the principles graphologists routinely use when analyzing handwriting are seemingly embedded within the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. Those principles emerge when one studies the 10 attributes of that ancient conceptual map. Could it be that Jews are somehow attracted to graphology because this practice resonates with Jewish teachings?

I can’t prove it. But I can say that exploring the link between the psychology of Kabbalah and graphological principles has led me to a surprisingly nuanced model of personality development. That model has been an invaluable tool in my clinical work with psychotherapy clients.

What is the Tree of Life?

The Tree of Life, central to many mystical texts, is represented by a series of circles and lines, representing 10 attributes, primary psychospiritual qualities which are emanated from the Divine so that we find them in the creation, and 22 pathways, channels which connect the above mentioned attributes and represent additional psychospiritual dimensions we find in creation. The mystics assert that the Tree of Life is a conceptual map of reality, but, for our purposes here, we will understand it as a map of the body-mind.The 10 attributes are clustered into three sections. The top three attributes, known as the intellectual faculties, are associated with the head. Each of these attributes relates to cognition. The next three, associated with the heart and the upper torso, are known as the emotional faculties. The lower four attributes, related to limbs and organs below the waist, are known as functional attributes. Mystics equate functionality with the lower part of the body, especially because the reproductive organs are the seat of functional and creative energy.

Dipping into the teachings of graphology, we begin to see interesting correlations between the mystical model and facets of personality. The diagram below demonstrates three zones in handwriting. For graphologists, the upper zone, representing the space occupied by the stems of tall letters, provides information about the writer’s interest in the world of ideas, imagination and spirituality. The middle zone indicates the degree to which the writer is a people person, willing and eager to engage with others emotionally. The lower zone, associated with loops or lines that extend below the baseline, reflects the writer’s sensuality, practicality and functional ability to negotiate the demands of life. Note that the graphologist’s three zones correspond to those of the mystical map.

In the sample below, the founder of Hadassah WIZO, Henrietta Szold, shows a pronounced upper zone reflecting her interest in the world of ideas. But with that well-defined middle zone, Szold was a people person. She worked tirelessly, helping children who arrived in Israel to integrate successfully and to bring medical care to the new country. She would personally meet each boatload of children that arrived in Palestine, riding the buses with the youngsters as they were delivered to their new homes—a classic middle zone, people person.

Henrietta Szold

Note the small size of Henrietta Szold’s handwriting, which denotes her humility. She consistently deflected praise for her many accomplishments, handing the credit to the many volunteers who worked under her leadership. The small size of her writing also indicates intelligence. Writers with a small, compact handwriting possess excellent powers of concentration and have strong academic interests. Szold was a teacher, writer, editor and translator.

In working as a psychotherapist, graphology—and the Jewish mystical map—has proved useful time and time again. In one example, a 35-year-old man benefited from Kabbalistic insights about how the masculine impulse, the drive to be dynamic and productive, best functions within the personality. His assessment revealed that behind his bravado and childishly rebellious ways was a long-standing lack of confidence about his masculinity and his capacity to be successful, despite the fact that he was athletic and otherwise accomplished. Using hypnosis and other brief therapy interventions, we shored up his experience of himself as strong and competent. Steve (not his real name) changed his lifestyle dramatically, leaving promiscuity, recreational drug use and pornography use behind. Around that time, his partner became pregnant. He redirected his focus and now stands as a very devoted father, an exemplary male role model, for three little boys. I continue to get New Year’s greetings from this family every year, with updates about the kids and their accomplishments.

And so it goes. By further engaging the Tree of Life, we find, embedded within, a wide range of insights. Graphologists find the living application of those insights in the handwritings they examine. More importantly, becoming wise to the rich psychological map of Jewish mysticism provides an intricate map of personality, which can guide its development. Handwriting can be used to understand people while mysticism can bring ancient wisdom to bear on contemporary mental health challenges, and help chart the course to a cure.

 

About the Author

Annette Poizner
Annette Poizner, MSSW, EdD, RSW, is a clinical social worker who specializes in projective personality assessment and psychotherapy. She founded and currently chairs the Jewish Health Alliance, a continuing education organization that explores the intersection between Judaism and the healing arts at lectures and workshops. This article is adapted from her as yet unpublished manuscript, “Reading the Soul: Handwriting Analysis and the Tree of Life.” Her additional publications are available on her website (www.annettepoizner.com).

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