Many have commented on the oddity of Donald Trump’s huge and illegible signature. When Trump announced his candidacy, I was reminded of the time in about 1988 when his handwriting was analyzed by Felix Klein, a world-renowned graphologist, author and court-recognized document examiner. It was during a master-level seminar that I attended in NYC while pursuing my doctoral degree in clinical psychology. I had become interested in graphology several years earlier after reading that it was taught in European and Israeli graduate-level psychology programs and used clinically and for business personnel selection. I was further intrigued after learning how clinical projective tests, such as the House-Tree-Person and Kinetic Family Drawings Test, shared many interpretative similarities with gestalt handwriting analysis. Although children learn cursive using a standard writing form template (New York schools through the 1960's taught the Palmer Method or one of its derivatives), within a year or so most children's writing starts to differentiate from that model. These writing changes, which are unconscious symbolic representations, can reveal a person's developmental history, either positive, when their physical and emotional needs were met, or traumatic, if they were not. Personality characteristics and subsequent behaviors are largely determined by our primal and childhood experiences, for better or worse.
Klein had presented our study group with a full page of Trump's adult handwriting, with only his gender, age (about 40) and handedness (right), but without his signature which might identify him. We were all taken aback, having not seen anything quite like it before, and we each took a turn analyzing it. After this exercise, Klein revealed who the writer was and showed us Trump's overly large, narcissistic signature (with which we are all too familiar now, as he loves to show it off when he signs bills). Klein began his analysis saying that Trump's writing revealed his immense insecurity, aggressiveness and rigid inability to think and perceive the world accurately. He said Trump was grandiose, extremely narcissistic and paranoid, so much so that he considered him delusional. Moreover, Trump was unable to relate to other humans with any degree of emotional attachment or consideration. People to him were objects, only useful to feed his insatiable need for adoration and attention. In looking specifically at his signature, Klein explained that Trump's rigidly angular letter connections formed what he called shark's teeth, which is indicative of rage and the capacity for extremely aggressive, acting out behaviors.
Now I should explain that Felix Klein was a very soft-spoken and mild-mannered gentleman in the old-school Viennese tradition. However, as he continued to speak, he became visibly upset and agitated which surprised me. Attempting to calm him, I said something to the effect that, since Trump was just a vulgar real estate developer, there was no need to get upset. He continued that Trump was a very dangerous individual, capable of all manner of criminal behavior and was a menace to society. He went on to say that Trump was hypomanic and determined to get whatever he wanted, describing him as a “screaming locomotive running down the tracks without brakes,” adding, “and God help anyone who tries to stop him!” Once again I tried to talk him down without success, whereupon he stopped me in my tracks, with these unforgettable, exact next words: “I've probably examined well over 200,000 handwriting samples over more than 60 years, and Trump's writing is one of the worst I've ever seen. In fact, the only writing that comes to mind that is as bad is Charles Manson's.”
To say I was dumbfounded would not be an exaggeration, but I have had a long time to reflect on why Klein became so upset, as this presidency has proven him right. I believe Trump's writing triggered such a strong emotional reaction because of the year Klein had spent in Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps where he was forced to “entertain” his captors by analyzing their handwriting at their parties. I cannot imagine if he were still alive how he would have reacted to Trump becoming president, not to mention his setting up his own “concentration camps” and traumatizing little children by separating them from their parents and placing them in cages.
As Trump's re-election is looking more remote and his legal and financial predicaments are looming large and threatening to destroy him, I am left fearing how he might react to defeat. Being so desperate and vindictive, he is capable of extreme destructiveness, not just of our democracy and its governmental agencies, but as Commander-in-Chief much worse. This is the reason I am putting out an analysis that was done over 30 years ago, which resonates as uncannily accurate today. I can only hope that the danger we face is clearly understood, so we are prepared to fight for our country and our very lives.
Gerry Langer, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist residing in Southern California.