Take back control and controlling hands: mirrors to the psyche of Trump, Hitler & Daesh?

What do Donald Trump’s hands tell us about his thinking? Are the President Elect of the USA hand gestures designed to distract us from what he says, are they unrelated to what he says or are they an integral part of his thinking: twitching and switching, flipping and flopping this way and that, all over the place?

Turning to an earlier period, we know how Adolf Hitler used his hands when speechifying and parading. He used his raging and often flailing raised fisted right hand to express his ‘anti-leftist and anti-semitic passion’ and his open handed outstretched arm, to signal allegiance to his cause. Although aware of Hitler’s pathological anti-left sentiments, which he associated with Judaism, few have commented on what his left hand was doing at the same time while he right was in the pubic eye. In numerous situations his left hand is holding onto or clutching -as though for dear life- lectern while standing on the rostrum, his gloves, coat, belt, hat, windscreen of open-topped car, and to brush his hair. However, in his final days, with little or nothing both literally and metaphorically left to hang onto outside his Berlin bunker he’s filmed with his empty left hand trembling behind his back, while stroking with his right the cheeks of Hitler Youth cadets parading before him. All a coincidence or something else? Perhaps having been suppressed for so long in promoting the right, but out of sight ‘it / he’ was no longer able to control itself / himself when there was nothing left to hang on to.

Clearly hand use and hand gestures are an integral aspect of thinking. They provide at least as good a mirror into the psyche as the eyes are said to provide a mirror to the soul.

Where does this take us? Well, we know that the right cerebral hemisphere operates in synchrony with the left hand and the left cerebral hemisphere in synchrony with the right hand. And if we’re lucky we’ll notice the right working in harmony with the left to common purpose and in reciprocal harmony. It follows that observing which hand is doing what when talking or doing manual tasks tells us how the brain is organized and tries to manage the body while acting and interacting. We also know that saying something is one thing and doing another is something else. Extreme examples would be saying “I love you” in a raging tone and with raised fist. Less extreme examples would be having a clear mind’s eye-image of what one wants to say but having difficulty re-presenting it on the written page.

In literate societies, sense of self is determined largely in terms of literacy. The case of writing, but not with the adept hand is associated with a general sense of ill-at-easeness. And since the correct source is seldom identified it is outsourced to others who are held responsible and must be replaced or punished. Hence flipping one way to ‘take back control’ as with Brexiters and Trumpists or flopping the other to impose the Caliphate on others, as with Daesh .

About petermathews

Member of the Royal Society of Medicine
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