People Who Read People

William James (1890) proposed a distinction be...

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Alright, this is getting sad.

Typically I write because something is on my mind – at the moment I’m writing because nothing is.

William James believed that there is really no such thing as introspection (viewing one’s own mental processes), there is only immediate retrospection. Because of course, I can’t think of what process I’m reasoning in, or exactly what reason I’m feeling something at the exact moment I’m feeling it. Because once I start breaking down my thoughts and feelings, those thoughts and feelings are contaminated viewing material, botched by my own view of them as they occur. All we can do is talk things over or instantly replay our thoughts and review them in this way. But, William James stated, there is no such thing as introspection in the pure form as it is defined – we can’t be logical about an illogical thought at the precise moment we are having the illogical thought, not without the illogical thought being tainted and becoming logical.

Have I mentioned I’m in love with William James?

My favorite book on the face of the planet – the one whose author I have named my blog URL after (good heavens that’s choppy grammar…) has arrived at my doorstep after all of my impatient waiting for three weeks:

Handwriting Analysis As A Psychodiagnostic Tool by Ulrich Sonnemann, Ph.D (published in 1950)!!

Every word is pure poetry, he was brilliant, fantastic, wonderful. Here’s one of my favorite bits ( parts of which I quote often when discussing handwriting analysis):

…all movements carried out by any organism at any time or place can be said to be expressive for the simple reason that their particular manner of execution, even if the purpose and environmental circumstances of the movement are “constant,” varies not only from individual organism to individual organism but, within the scope of activity of a single organism, varies from one occurence of the movement to any other. As no mathematically exact, automatic repetition of the same movement on the part of any organism is biologically possible, the element of uniqueness in every movement cannot be attributed to either the purpose or environmental circumstances of the movement but only to a structural principle within the organism which expresses itself in this very uniqueness.

In other words: you can tell the difference between your mom’s handwriting and your friend’s handwriting. And if this isn’t due to personality and present emotional state, then what? Handwriting, then, must reveal something defining about each individual.

I think there is an awful good reason why handwriting analysis books are found next door to mythology and superstitious material. Because I’ve read every handwriting analysis book out there, and all of the authors are so biased and picky and inconsistent and every single example interpretation just drips of intuitive analysis (when someone just grabs a magnifying glass and off of the gut feelings they get while looking at certain loops and twists, determine the author’s personality – something Sonnemann speaks out against in the first few pages of his book) that of course no one would (or should) take the books seriously. Sonnemann doesn’t nit-pick every sharp corner or garland of any letter. He starts off by looking at the letter as a structure, how strong it is, how bold the ink, if it leans or breaks. Very basic material. Obviously a legible, well-rounded sample of writing is created by someone in a bit more of a patient mood than bent, broken chicken scrawl.

For the longest time I was obsessed with profiling people in any way I could. Through their behavior (I’m still in love with criminal profiling) through their expressions (with the help of Paul Ekman’s Unmasking the Face, Emotions Revealed, What the Face Reveals and Telling Lies I’ve learned to read facial expressions and microexpressions), through their body language (thank you Barbara and Allen Pease!) and through their appearance overall (thank you, Ian Rowland for writing The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading) I was convinced I was going to be part of the FBI’s behavioral analysis unit. Speed-reading people and showing off like Sherlock Holmes or Lord Henry from The Picture of Dorian Gray. Speaking of people who read people – never read Joe Navarro’s book What Every Body Is Saying, Navarro may be a former FBI agent – but from his book, he knows this fact a tad too well. Also, he is incorrect about 70% of the time in his book. Odds are I’ve mentioned this before. If you mention the name Joe Navarro to Heather Madame she will tell you up-front that I do not like him in the least. I think he’s arrogant, closed-minded and for all that FBI experience he sure shows little for it except for common-sense facts regarding the human brain and body posture. It drives me mad knowing that people are reading that book and being so severely misinformed, when I first read it, I had requested it from the library (a general rule of mine: never buy a book that costs over $10 unless you get a trial-run with it first) it took forever and a day for it to come in because there were so many people ahead of my request in the queue. Now when I recall this I think of the people who have read it (and are reading it), believing that it’s all fact. Bah… I really, really don’t like Joe Navarro. (Especially since he keeps popping up in issues of Psychology Today magazine the past year.)

Alright, I have completed a ramble or two, and ’tis getting late. This would be a rather good place for me to perhaps halt my typing.

Goodnight all,



6 thoughts on “People Who Read People

  1. I admit it, you made me laugh with your skewering of Navarro, the Guy You Love to Hate! Pardon my curiosity about Ulrich Sonnemann–any relation?

    I’m envious of your ceaselessly hungry mind. I’d be a lot smarter by now if I’d been as committed to reading mindfully as you are. Or I’d be in a persistent vegetative coma with the sheer overwhelming vastness of what’s to be studied. But I enjoy the vicarious investigation you allow me by sharing your own inspection along the way!

    • Indeed! Bah, I don’t know what I would do if I actually met Mr. Navarro in person, but one thing is for certain, you would need to be a body language expert to read how I feel about him.
      I’m just incredibly impulsive when it comes to reading 🙂 I recommend to anyone and everyone to go to their local library and for fun just walk around reading book spines until you find a title that sounds interesting to you, and just rent it. If you think it’s dull, return it and don’t read another page, just grab another book (or stack of books) until one catches your interest. Thank you for your wonderful words, Madame 😀

  2. I may be the last one on the planet who uses the letters of the alphabet when making a signature. I remember so many internal memos and enraged people because of no reply or request or demand taken care of. How could one? Can’t determine who it was from by thing they think is a signature.

    • I’ve noticed that it is indeed very rare for decent signatures to be found these days, it has become more about rushing to sign than attempting eloquence.

  3. Pingback: Book: Between The Lines: Understanding Yourself and Others Through Handwriting Analysis « jameskennedybeijing

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