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The Hand As a Revealer of Secrets
By Susan Knight | SGP featured columnist
We’ve all heard the eyes are the window to the soul. But what about our hands?
The brilliantly insightful Helen Keller had much to say about our hands and how much they reveal. In her book The World I Live In, she asserted, “Not only is the hand as easy to recognize as the face, but it reveals its secrets more openly and unconsciously. People control their countenances, but the hand is under no such restraint.”
As Keller reflected on various attributes of the hand, she gave a vivid description of handshakes. She described the way some hands would “beam and bubble over with gladness,” or “throb and expand with life” as they wrapped around hers. In contrast, she described handshakes where merely the fingertips are offered, only to be pulled away quickly at the moment of contact, revealing the individual’s hidden desire to retreat rather than engage. She found this latter type of hand to be “the antipode to the hand of those who have large, lovable natures.”
Keller’s descriptions resonate with me, as I can recall handshakes that conveyed a welcoming warmth that seemed to wrap around my entire being. I can also recall handshakes that left a very different impression. But my experience with handshakes isn’t the only reason I believe what Keller said about the hand revealing secrets.
Years ago, I noticed something interesting while looking at a photo of myself sitting closely beside someone else. In the picture, we’re both wearing big, bright smiles, and there isn’t anything particularly noteworthy or out of the ordinary. At least, not until you look at my left arm and follow it down to my hand. Somewhat incongruent with our smiles and happy demeanours, my hand is clenched in a tight fist.
The photo had been taken in a social setting that warranted being polite and sociable, and this included snapping a few photos. Inwardly, however, I didn’t feel entirely relaxed and at ease with my photo companion due to a complicated history with some unpleasant interactions. Just like Keller described, I was conscious of controlling my facial expression as I put on a smile for the occasion. But the smile on my face didn’t cause all the discordant thoughts and feelings I was experiencing to evaporate. Meanwhile, I was totally oblivious to what was going on at the end of my arm, as all the tension in my body settled there. And so my hand, unrestrained and outside my conscious attention, balled itself up into a tight fist.
Thinking about that photo, I can’t help but wonder if there may have been other occasions where I was totally unaware of how my hands were revealing my secrets. I certainly find myself paying much closer attention to other people’s hands now. An interesting exercise indeed! Every once in a while, I’ll notice how someone’s hands appear to have a mind of their own, communicating a message inconsistent with the person’s facial expression, words, or overall demeanour. I’ve also noticed how some individuals seem exceptionally mindful of their hands, always precise and deliberate in their positioning and placement.
Without the sense of sight or the sense of hearing to rely on, Keller was gifted at using her sense of touch to observe the world around her. As such, she was able to perceive how a person’s hands connected to their inner state. For her, communication via the hand was as readily detectable as one’s facial expression or tone of voice. And as she pointed out, hands were more trustworthy.
Describing the hand, Keller said, “It relaxes and becomes listless when the spirit is low and dejected; the muscles tighten when the mind is excited or the heart glad; and permanent qualities stand written on it all the time.” I don’t recall how I responded when I first read those words; I suspect I may have been skeptical. However, I vividly recall my surprise looking at that photo and observing how my own hand, entirely unbeknownst to me at the time, had been reflecting my true inner spirit— proving Keller correct in her assessment of the hand’s revelatory nature.
About the Author
Susan is certified health and wellness coach, focusing on personal growth and inner wellness. She was a regular contributor to Social Work Today Magazine and is now a featured Health & Wellness Columnist for SGP.