Category Archives: writing

The fiction of sanity

“TAT abbrev. Thematic Apperception Test, one of the best known projective tests, consisting of 31 pictures (originally 20) of emotionally charged social events and situations printed on cards, from which the test administrator selects 20 depending on the age and sex of the respondent, plus a blank card that is presented last. For each picture, the respondent is asked to make up a story that the picture could illustrate, describing the relationship between the people, what has happened to them, what their present thoughts and feelings are, and what the outcome will be. The assumption underlying the test is that respondents tend to project their own circumstances, experiences, and preoccupations into their stories.” A Dictionary of Psychology

 

“It was hypothesized that there were a number of scorable dimensions in these TAT records which should differentiate the experimentals who had applied for therapy from the controls who had not, as well as differentiate the records before and after therapy. Six of these variables were used in this study:

“1. The ability of the hero to solve his own problems versus dependence on others or magical forces to do this.

“2. The degree and quality of the creativity; well-developed fantasy and well-structured stories versus inability to form a story, sticking rigidly to the stimulus, or bizarre fantasy.

“3. The quality of the emotions attributed to the characters; pleasant versus unpleasant, and the degree of control of these affect states displayed by the characters.

“4. The kinds of interpersonal relations the subject depicts in his stories; constructive versus destructive interaction.

“5. The degree of comfort versus disturbance of the heroes and the appropriateness of these states to the situational context.

“6. The logic and mood tone of the story outcomes, happy, successful, or hopeful versus despair, failure, or indecision.

“These six were not treated independently, however. A single composite rating was made for each record based on a seven-point scale with the following notations for the scale positions:

“1. Severe disturbance bordering on psychotic or psychotic.

“2. Severe neurotic problems with disorganization.

“3. Acute neurotic problems but reality contact tenuously preserved.

“4. Discomfort from problems severe enough to require therapy but ability to carry one.

“5. Particular problems of some difficulty but social effectiveness maintained.

“6. Only mild problems in essentially well-functioning person.

“7. Well-integrated, happy person, socially effective.”

Rosalind Dymond, ‘Adjustment Changes over Therapy from Thematic Apperception Test Ratings’, page 110, chapter 8, Psychotherapy and Personality Change, edited by Carl Rogers & Rosalind Dymond, 1954.

On memories and cameras

I’ve written two more CultureLab posts. The first one troubled me a bit because, although I didn’t much like the artwork, the people were really nice. Ah, but your duty to your public, I began to tell myself, but that voice was quickly told to shut up and stop being a pompous arse. What public? What careful selection process permitted me to post my opinions on a site of a respectable magazine? What careful editorial oversight ensured that this was a fair and reasonable thing to write?

And who’s got their stuff in Gimpel Fils, and who’s hoping for the basement of a bookshop on the Lower Clapton Road?

Addicted to images

cover of La goutte d'or by Michel Tournier
Idriss, a teenage goatherd in the Sahara, encounters two French people in a Land Rover. One, a young woman with blond hair and bare legs, takes his picture. She is taken aback to find that Idriss knows enough French to ask for the photo. She promises to send it once she gets back to Paris and has it developed. No photo arrives. But at a wedding party, he has a revelation: Continue reading Addicted to images

Heart of Darkness

I love Joseph Conrad’s writing. So I’ve always been disturbed to hear that people think Heart of Darkness is racist. I first read it years ago, and I remembered that black people don’t get a very flattering portrayal in the book, but I thought that if you gave Conrad the benefit of the doubt it wasn’t that unflattering either; and anyway, the book was about Europeans; and although anyone would of course at first assume that the heart of darkness was something to be found in Africa, it was really, as I remembered it, in those Europeans – in particular, the European city like a white sepulchre in which the narrative ends.

Then someone whose opinions on most things I trust read it for herself and said its racist reputation was horribly justified. Continue reading Heart of Darkness