The Abstract Image Test - Psychobook: Games, Tests, Questionnaires, Histories - Julian Rothenstein

Psychobook: Games, Tests, Questionnaires, Histories - Julian Rothenstein (2016)

Chapter 9. The Abstract Image Test

The Abstract Image Test

Psychologists, most notably Hermann Rorschach, have long acknowledged that the associations prompted by certain abstract images might be revelatory of unconscious impulses and emotional or psychological tendencies. Such images may bring to mind aspects of time and space, suggest figures or objects in a fantasy, or invite speculation about any number of dreamlike narratives or scenarios and their interpretations. We may also respond to the purely abstract aspects of an image or an object: its shape or color, and whether it is bright or dull, hard or soft, jagged or smooth, precise or vague, etc. These components of sensory experience affect all of us in different ways. Why do certain abstract qualities please us, and others not? What kinds of pleasure (or displeasure) do they generate? What do our responses tell us about ourselves?

When we look at an abstract image, several things are likely to occur. We may find resemblances to things we know: we see a disc or a circle as the moon or the sun; a billowing shape as a sail, a cloud, or a whale. We may find ourselves making involuntary associations and recollections: we think, that reminds me of an event, a place I have visited, a person I know, love, or hate, a complex of ideas, or anything else. We ask ourselves what the image “means,” which entails imagination, invention, and projection. What we come up with will inevitably in some way reflect our personality, our ways of thinking and feeling about the world, and our unconscious desires and antipathies. What an image “means” is really what we make it mean.

We all experience those Proustian moments when something commonplace brings back vivid memories from a lost time. We are fascinated by the way we associate one thing with another, quite different thing. Association and resemblance breed metaphor, and metaphor is the poetry of our waking lives and a clue to our dreams. Psychologists are interested in these recollections, associations, speculations, and inventions. They may provide clues to underlying emotional conditions or neurotic preoccupations, or to suppressed thoughts or emotions, and professional analysis may yield evidence toward the diagnosis of a particular anxiety or neurosis.

Abstract images make an open-ended invitation to the viewer, which partly explains the widespread appeal of abstract art in an age when psychology has come to place such emphasis on the individual personality and its expression. In all human cultures abstract and symbolic images have represented aspects of psychic being and inner feeling: we recognize such images as having significance for our own everyday lives. Ambiguity, the capacity of an image or action to suggest more than one thing at a time, or to propose several meanings simultaneously, indisputably provides one of the great pleasures of art and literature. But some people hate uncertainty and seek unambiguous certainty: it’s a matter of temperament, which is to say, of psychological predisposition. Some images move us deeply, we know not why; some leave us cold.


H. N. Werkman, D-462 Muzikale impressie, 1944. Turn to page 189.



Alfredo Volpi, Composition, ca. 1960-70. Turn to page 189.



Uta Uta Tjangala, Ceremonial Hat with Special Motifs, 1971. Turn to page 189.



Tantric painting from Rajasthan, India, ca. 1963. Turn to page 189.



Sigmar Polke, Thought Circle, 1974. Turn to page 189.



Serge Charchoune, Painted Film Based on a Folk Song, 1917. Turn to page 190.

Inkblot Test

Readings imagined by Will Hobson

page 66

(Whole image) Aerial view of a roast chicken

Like anyone, you can have doubts about what you’re doing, but essentially you feel very centered and clear about what you need. Alienation is not your thing; passionate engagement is. Speculation about the meaning of life bores you. As Chekhov said, “That is like asking, ‘What is a carrot?’ A carrot is a carrot, and nothing more is known about it.”

(Whole image) A screaming, slightly cartoonish cat that has seen something shocking

You like to get stuck in and work things out as they come up, hence your loud, tempestuous side. It is very important for you to be listened to, to feel someone is on your side. Negotiation and conflict are facts of life as far as you’re concerned, so although you are not abrasive at heart, you can come across that way. You can sometimes remind people of the old joke: How many New York cab drivers does it take to change a lightbulb? What’s it to ya?

(Upside down) Someone in a wig, a judge, or a faceless woman

You set yourself high standards and expect others to do the same. You’re unconvinced that patience is a virtue. As Picasso said, “You do it first, then someone else does it pretty.”

(Upside down) A woman has clubbed her husband to death with a pair of frozen hams

Like the Neapolitans, you think, “Un amore non è bello, se non che la fizzaricello” (Love’s no good unless some sparks fly). All the fun is in the kissing and making up, although you try not to go to sleep on an argument.

(Whole image) Someone’s jaws being approached by the forceps of a sinister doctor

Life isn’t meant to be easy, and people can’t always be expected to get along. You feel you just have to be yourself and if people can’t handle that, well, as they say in Barbados, “The eggshell have no right at the hard rock dance.”

(White space inside image) A rocket or tower, specifically the dark tower of Sauron in The Lord of the Rings

You work extremely hard, constantly setting yourself new challenges in an attempt to become stronger. You get a lot done and are highly appreciated professionally. The message in your private life may be that you need to lighten up and not be so controlling. You file this neatly in your “To Do” folder.

page 67

(Whole image) A strong man flexing his muscles

You are highly capable, to put it mildly. Running marathons, reconditioning bicycles, cultivating new strains of plants, raising money for social causes—you master everything you turn your hand to. Like a competitive athlete, you are naturally gifted and extremely determined. Having the bar raised is a familiar experience, and you pride yourself on always being equal to the challenge.

(Top of image) A pair of rams at the top, butting with heads lowered

You’re self-disciplined, reliable, good at seizing the initiative, and, in general, a whirlwind of activity. You always come across as very certain about what you’re doing, which inspires confidence in clients and work colleagues, despite your suffering from raw nerves. When you’re feeling threatened or under pressure, you can feel very stressed, but only those close to you tend to notice.

(Whole image) A scorpion

You are highly tuned, like a gymnast or ballerina. Things like diet and sleep can be issues, since you are physically very sensitive. Sometimes you wonder whether there’s a connection between this and how you feel about yourself, your self-worth, but anything that smacks of therapy tends to get on your nerves.

(Whole image) A lobster, shrimp, or langoustine

A romantic at heart, you nevertheless have quite a lot of defenses in place. You work so hard and life can be such a struggle that you sometimes wonder if you can sacrifice your peace of mind for the unpredictability of a relationship. Someone can innocently, unthinkingly, mess up the order you’ve created, and you can become completely discouraged. The whole notion of kindred spirits suddenly seems a joke.

(Whole image) Fallopian tubes

You have a sense of stalled potential, of putting an enormous amount into life and yet still waiting for it to start. Your idea of how things should be—who you should be with, what you should be doing, etc.— is very vivid, and if reality falls short of expectations, your considerable achievements provide little consolation. A philosophical approach such as Rimbaud’s “Ô saisons, ô châteaux, quelle âme est sans défauts?” (Oh seasons, oh castles, what soul is without blemish?), strikes you as trite at best.

page 68

(Center of image) Two figures leaning forward—monkeys, courtiers, or spiritual devotees of some sort bowed in prayer

(Whole image, including white space) Person praying

A cerebral soul, you have a great capacity for imaginative, rigorous thought. You know all too well the concentration and patience required to do anything good, and can’t see why anyone would settle for anything less if they care about what they’re doing. You want to feel like the New Orleans piano player Allen Toussaint, who said of his mentor Professor Longhair, “A rule breaker is a rule maker. He blew my socks off, and I haven’t worn any since.”

(Whole image) A racing car, speed, voluptuousness

(Center of image) Two furry little cubs, babies, or devils

Your highly developed imagination is one of the first things people notice about you. “Metaphorical” is your instinctive mode. You excel at constructing other worlds, seeing things from other people’s points of view, imagining yourself soaring to great heights or plummeting to your doom.

(Whole image) Dentist’s/barber’s chair

You are sensitive and generous, a combination that ensures you get a lot out of life and take it painfully to heart in equal measure. Given the transparency of your feelings, people often want to look after you, which can occasionally confuse your understanding of intimacy. Very formal, conventional environments drain you. You would not thrive in the New England setting the artist Cy Twombly grew up in: “Once I said to my mother, ‘You would be happy if I just kept well-dressed and [had] good manners,’ and she said, ‘What else is there?’”

(Upside down) A woman lying back with her legs open

You can get very distracted. Within moments you can go from being completely in the present to looking down on it from a huge height, analyzing it to within an inch of its life. Balance is crucial for you, being able to stay in touch with your physical, sensual side. Life is about sensations as well as thoughts; it is about the texture of concrete particulars, the smell of the Paris Metro or what it feels like to hold a mouse in your hand, as Iris Murdoch once put it.

(Whole image) Two dark forces or figures, perhaps female, about to invade and consume a prone figure/torso

You may progress as you digress, to paraphrase Tristram Shandy, or you may just digress. How many unfinished letters or emails, unmade phone calls trail in your wake? As Philip Roth said, “The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.”

page 69

(Whole image) A beetle or scarab, possibly with crab’s claws

You are very hardworking, good at handling your career and the “game” in general. Success comes naturally to you. You arrange your pieces on the board, lay your plans, and follow them through. You can be careful or daring as the situation requires. In the end, you know it’s always the cleverest or luckiest play that prevails.

(Whole image, except bottom center) A pair of emus facing one another, wearing feather boas, dancing on stage at the Moulin Rouge

You feel the pull of glamour and the high life like gravity. You unfailingly know the place to be and enjoy being there, although sometimes you don’t like how you feel the next day, or what you see in the mirror as you head for the dance floor. At times you wonder why this is; at others you tell yourself not to take yourself so seriously.

(Either side of image) Two pairs of hummingbirds, wings beating

You’re a connoisseur, a beija-flor (kisser of flowers), as the Portuguese call the hummingbird. Just as hummingbirds sometimes feed on as many as a thousand flowers a day, you are constantly on the move, pursuing objects of desire, seeking out beautiful things.

(Bottom of image) Sunglasses or a bra; a beard

You like dressing up and it suits you, although you can worry excessively about what people think of you and seek external solutions—a new car, new clothes—to internal problems. You are tempted to rationalize this as a Warholian creed— life is just surfaces—but you’re not sure whether this solves everything.

(Whole image) A skeleton

(Details) Bones

Life can seem like a treadmill or a merry-go-round repeating itself over and over. You worry about feeling drained and hollow, grinding to a halt. Sometimes you think you should take more emotional risks.

(Whole image) A flying thing with eyes or an alien figure with stubby feet and no center, or a bikini-wearing goddess with unnerving face

No one could be a more dependable friend in a crunch, but you can appear flighty in the day-to-day. You get huge satisfaction from getting in touch with friends you haven’t talked to for a while, a satisfaction that is mutual.

page 70

(Whole image) Pansies, with attendant connotations of spring; bird of paradise

The wind is in your sails, a state of affairs that tends to emphasize your charming, energizing qualities. You believe in discussion, want to learn from others, are attentive, modest, and thoughtful, and like people as a rule. This broad philanthropy may reflect itself either in a strain of nonconformism—the sense that individuals should be free to do whatever they want—or in something more political.

(Whole image) Pressed flowers of various sorts, including orchids, irises, and cyclamen

You are very aware of what it’s like to have been the object of a lot of attention as a child. The jury is out as to whether this is a good thing; sometimes you think you may have overly high expectations of yourself. You are not seriously worried about being your own worst enemy, but you can understand what Degas meant when he said, “There is a kind of success that is indistinguishable from panic.”

(Whole image) A moth or butterfly with sting in tail

Your affable, sociable exterior may not prepare people for how independent you are, the doggedness with which you revolve in your own unique orbit. Naturally, you’re drawn to the limelight—in many ways, it’s where your talents mean you belong—but you’re dubious about the costs, and, even more than that, you can’t stand anyone telling you what to do. You are profoundly unbiddable; at the first hint of coercion, you disappear.

(Whole image) Eyes in darkness, with blinkers on

You have a great capacity for introspection. You go somewhere inside yourself far out of others’ reach, and think things over exhaustively. This is not always easy for other people. As Spencer Tracy says to Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday after she divorces him, “I wish you hadn’t done that, Hildy…Divorce me. Makes a fellow lose all faith in himself…Almost gives him a feeling he wasn’t wanted.”

The Story Test

page 98

1. The Forest

If you imagined the forest as dark and threatening this is indicative of your attitude toward the journey you are on at this moment in your life. Alternatively, seeing light would suggest you are an optimist at heart, perhaps even naively so. If you saw a path in the forest, this suggests you are still finding your way in life, things are not yet settled. Those who feel more secure or sure of their development tend not to see a path.

2. The Cup

The cup symbolizes wealth and your attitude towards it. Did you imagine a trophy or a cup of coffee? You were given an opportunity to reward yourself and see something of value, did you do this?

If you left the cup alone, this means you chose to ignore a reward. Either material wealth has little real value to you or you didn’t think you had worked hard enough for it!

Did you pick the cup up and drink from it? This means you found a practical use for it, taking a “here and now” attitude towards the reward.

Taking the cup with you on your journey means you saw it as something of value. You are quick to reward yourself and generally seek out new opportunities.

3. The Water

The water here represents your attitudes towards sex and desire.

The speed at which you saw the water moving indicates your sexual appetite, but not necessarily your need. The faster the water, the greater your appetite.

The depth indicates what you expect from sex to feel fulfilled: seeing shallow water suggests you enjoy deep and intense lovemaking whereas seeing fast-moving water means “little and often” is enough for you.

The more easily you crossed the water, the more comfortable or liberal you are likely to be in your approach to sex. So a difficult crossing suggests an unease or neurosis attached to your sexuality.

4. The Bear

The bear represents problems in your life and how you cope with them. Did you jump at the chance to see a problem? If you saw a teddy bear, then one would assume your life is relatively stress free! You glide through life with ease.

However, most people will see a real bear. If the bear hasn’t noticed you, or has but is minding its own business, then this indicates that the problems in your life are manageable. Your stresses are not too big to handle. Given the chance to see a big problem, you chose not to.

If, however, you chose to see a dangerous animal, a threat to your safety in some way, you are likely to be under high levels of stress or worry in your real life—perhaps you need a holiday?

How you get around the bear is indicative of how you deal with and resolve problems. Most people are able to summon up the courage and placate the bear long enough to move past the threat.

5. The Beach

The image of the beach symbolizes how you relate to others. The number of people you pictured on the beach relates directly to the amount of human contact you want in your life. A social extrovert is most comfortable in the company of lots of people and will seek out this “audience” wherever he or she travels. Likewise, those that see a deserted beach are usually happy to spend long periods in their own company.

Where on the beach you saw the people is also significant. If they were very close, this suggests you crave contact with other people most of the time. If they were sitting in the distance, then you are likely to feel happier to know someone is there for you, but without the proximity—you are content to have your own space.

The Feeling Test

page 100

The Shopping Mall

1. 1) Fragile

2. 2) Excited

3. 3) Insecure

4. 4) Helpless

5. 5) Happy

6. 6) Onlooker

7. 7) Triumphant

8. 8) Praising

9. 9) Contemplating

10. 10) Celebrating

11. 11) United

12. 12) Confident

13. 13) Carefree

14. 14) Seeker

15. 15) Rebuffed

16. 16) Helper

17. 17) Risk-taker

18. 18) Upset

19. 19) and 20) United

20. 21) Lonely

21. 22) Mischievous

22. 23) Help!

23. 24) Frustrated

24. 25) Excluded

25. 26) Tantrum

26. 27) Unique

27. 28) Overloaded

28. 29) Oblivious

29. 30) Clumsy

30. 31) Fun-loving

31. 32) Playful

32. 33) Follower

33. 34) Hurt

34. 35) Target

35. 36) Passive

36. 37) and 38) Secure

37. 39) Cautious

38. 40) Overwhelmed

39. 41) Escapist

40. 42) Misunderstood

41. 43) Loving

42. 44) Bossy

43. 45) Angry

44. 46) Victim

The House of Personalities

1. 1) Seeker

2. 2) Opportunist

3. 3) Lost

4. 4) Dissatisfied

5. 5) Procrastinator

6. 6) Enabler

7. 7) Helper

8. 8) Keeper

9. 9) Nosy

10. 10) Fulfilled

11. 11) Loving

12. 12) Victim

13. 13) Perfectionist

14. 14) Contained

15. 15) Liberated

16. 16) Untrustworthy

17. 17) Gullible

18. 18) Narcissist

19. 19) Happy

20. 20) Celebratory

21. 21) Cautious

22. 22) Angry

23. 23) Inert

24. 24) Proper

25. 25) Creative

26. 26) Dependable

27. 27) Organizer

28. 28) Insecure

29. 29) Friendly

30. 30) Open

31. 31) Unconscious

32. 32) Parental

33. 33) Anxious

34. 34) Fragile

The Climbing Frame

1. 1) Mischievous

2. 2) Help!

3. 3) Accident-prone

4. 4) In charge

5. 5) Carefree

6. 6) Self-satisfied

7. 7) Vandal

8. 8) Assassin

9. 9) Hanging on

10. 10) Playmate

11. 11) Playmate

12. 12) Ostracized

13. 13) Show-off

14. 14) Happy

15. 15) Elated

16. 16) Helper

17. 17) Sulky

18. 18) Victim

19. 19) Loner

20. 20) Encouraging

21. 21) Follower

The CB Identity Questionnaire (CBIQ)

page 115

Mostly a) Who are you? You appear not to have a clear sense of your own identity. I don’t even know who I’m talking to here.

Mostly b) Betwixt and between, as many of us. Confident yet hesitant, open-minded yet needing security, you are prone to tears, which is a likable trait.

Mostly c) You know exactly who you are. Such certainty worries me.

Everyday Guilt Test (EGT)

page 119

Answer scale: 16 = excess guilt, 4 = not nearly enough guilt

The “Matter in the Wrong Place” Test

page 124

Low scores (1 to 15)

You have the common sense of a country doctor who knows how to live in modest harmony with nature. The concept that Earth has a spirit and a beauty of her own comes naturally to you. Indeed you relish the knowledge that spirit is the inside of things and matter is their visible outer aspect. Keep up the good work!

Medium scores (16 to 25)

The majority of people score within this range. On the one hand you are deeply concerned over the loss of connection with nature. You know that nature is the nourishing soil of the soul. Yet you can find yourself distracted by the “dirt of civilization.” Undecided in this way, you may find that from day to day your score varies.

High scores (26 and above)

Jung’s concern was that “the more successful we become in science and technology, the more diabolical are the uses to which we put our inventions and discoveries.” It could be that you have a very busy life, and that consequently you find you have little time for those who believe that nature is not matter only; she is also spirit. But it would be as well to bear in mind Carl Jung’s psychological rule that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside as fate.

The Shyness Questionnaire (TSQ)

page 131

Mostly a) You have nothing to hide (I may be wrong; these questionnaires are not exact) and no worries about what people think of you. In olden times you would have made a good living selling encyclopedias door-to-door.

Mostly b) The world is a difficult place, but you are doing fine. You’ve probably worked out that everyone is shy in some degree, and that shyness can take on a mask of arrogance.

How Angry Are You?

page 136

1. If you scored the following replies:

1c, 2c, 3c, 4b, 5b, 6c, congratulations. You are a very angry person indeed. You make Othello look like a reasonable man. You are decisive, quick to act, implacable, and imaginative in your revenge. Bravo.

2. If you answered the question with the following pattern:

1b, 2a, 3a, 4a, 5a, 6a, you are apparently sane and deliberate but also exceedingly sinister. You can control your feelings and give every appearance of being rational, reasonable, and judicious. You should seek professional help at once.

3. If neither of the above

patterns suits your replies and you chose an inconsistent mixture of options, beware. You have a dangerous streak. You are unpredictable, irrational, and mad.

Dream Awareness Survey (DAS)

page 139

Not In Touch (NIT)

Somewhat In Touch (SIT)

Very In Touch (VIT)

1. Flying dream

a) VIT. This dream may be your unconscious warning not to overestimate your own powers. No matter how our lives are going, it is important always to keep a foot on the ground. Think Icarus here.

b) NIT. It’s unlikely that your dream is urging you to literal flight.

c) SIT. Perhaps life is going well for you and this is merely a reflection of your high spirits—indeed, dreams such as these are very pleasant. It is, however, always advisable to keep one foot on the ground.

2. Student dream

a) NIT. This dream should not dissuade you from a career in the classroom; rarely are dreams so literal.

b) VIT. If you were a nervous student as a child, any number of non-academic-related anxieties might now be represented by dreams set in the classroom.

c) SIT. Perhaps, though the specific judgment implied in test taking does not necessarily translate into a more generalized fear of judgment.

3. Sleeping bear

a) VIT. Awakening the beast within. Tiptoeing around a wild (potentially dangerous) animal while it is sleeping is probably a sign that something powerful is brewing inside…and wanting to be expressed. Proceed with caution and you might find that this bear’s energy can be harnessed for your benefit.

b) SIT. Unlikely. Though you may, in fact, be afraid of bears (perhaps wisely).

c) NIT. Only you and your loved ones know if you are a slob. Such dreams will shed no light on the subject.

4. Wrestling with the opposite sex

a) NIT. While you may indeed need a bigger mattress, this is not the most likely issue with this dream. (More likely your wife will insist on one herself if you’ve been wrestling with her in the night.)

b) VIT. Dreams often act as correctives to our waking lives. In this case you might want to pay attention to the female side of yourself—she might be saying that she feels underrepresented.

c) SIT. Though this dream may indicate a male/female imbalance, it’s unlikely that your unconscious self is advising you to pursue such a radical path.

5. Subway dream

a) VIT. Subway trains run on fixed tracks to fixed destinations. That you’re not allowed to deviate from this course in this dream might indicate that you feel your fate is beyond your control.

b) SIT. This is a possible interpretation, though the subway train is probably a red herring.

c) NIT. Although cycling is a cheap, healthy mode of transport, this dream is not advising you on modes of transport.

Digital Dependency Index (DDI)

page 140

13 to 20: Digitally Independent (DI): You have somehow managed to steer clear of the trappings of the digital age. This impressive feat was (no doubt) achieved through diligent conscious effort, but might have come at the price of puzzled (and perhaps alienated) friends and family. Behind your back you might be referred to as the Luddite.

30 to 34: Mild Digital Dependency (MDD): You are not in total denial of the modern world. You have probably found a comfortable place for technology in your life, although you might sometimes be (inadvertently) excluded from social events, and be somewhat confused by everyday conversation and social behaviors.

45 to 48: Borderline Digital Dependency (BDD): Digital technology has assumed an important role in your life. You might find however that you’re glancing too often at your screen in company, and that a lengthy power outage might cause unexpected distress. From this position the slide into TDD is shorter than you might think.

56 to 59: Total Digital Dependency (TDD): You are a digital junkie. The digital world (from your perspective) might already have supplanted the physical one. You might want to check if you still have a wife and/or that your friends actually exist. A long, disconnected walk in the park is advisable.

Ego Health Checkup (EHC)

page 141

4 to 5: Inflated Ego. Unfortunately, you suffer from narcissism. This might explain why you tend to remain single, why your colleagues prefer not to work with you, and why people tend to avoid you (and your stimulating anecdotes) at parties. It is advisable that you take a good long look at yourself—not by gazing lovingly into the mirror but by noticing how your behavior impacts others.

10 to 13: Healthy Ego. Congratulations! You have achieved a healthy, balanced ego. This means that you are in a position (if you so wish) to your enjoy life with someone else and to benefit professionally from the input of others. You are also able to enjoy a bit of good-humored ribbing at your own expense.

18 to 20: Deficient Ego. A deficiency in ego is often mistaken for hard-nosed realism or extreme modesty. Really though, in not asserting your own worth, you undermine your ability to function in the world. You deprive yourself and those near you of access to your unique and wonderful qualities. Are you really so unattractive? Is your work really inferior to the next person’s? Surely not.

The Color Test

page 149

What follows is adapted and reduced from a key to Lüscher’s test.

actively like = L neutral = N actively dislike = D

Gray: L This is the color of the middle ground: you like to be uncommitted and find quiet acceptance from others. N You are a laid-back observer. D You like to join groups and try to achieve goals with great energy and enthusiasm.

Black: L The color that says “No.” You would like to be confident, self- possessed, and recognized, but you are in revolt against your fate. N You hold your ground to achieve your aims. D You are in control of your destiny and are well grounded, though you may be reluctant to take action to resolve stressful situations.

Yellow: L You are happy and positive, like to take dynamic action and achieve results. N You approach life with a happy-go-lucky aplomb. You are optimistic and hardworking (most of the time). D You may have suffered setbacks and become disappointed. If your hopes and dreams have been dashed, you may have become defensive and withdrawn.

Red: L You are defined by passion and energy; you are impulsive, ambitious, and sexy; you live life to the fullest. N You are hopeful and have great expectations from life; you may want more excitement out of life. D Your lust for life has diminished; you may have felt the need to give up fun and games.

Brown: L You are likely to be restless and insecure, and yet you wish to charm and be attractive to others. N You have a subtle sense of discrimination, and you are not unduly concerned about your health, being probably in good shape; you like to be in a secure and refined atmosphere, with an air of intimacy. D You don’t care enough about your body, and you may feel stressed because your delicate sensibilities are often offended.

Green: L You like the comforts, possessions, and good things of life. You are a high achiever and you like impressing others, but you worry about failure. N You may have been disappointed by not always getting as much as you desired, and hope for a more sympathetic and amicable environment, perhaps because you are a friendly person who could take pleasure in eroticism. D Your ego has been bruised, and you have an unsatisfied desire to mix with others who share your high standards. Unsatisfied with your lot, you may be highly critical of others, sarcastic, and stubborn.

Blue: L You are calm and loyal but sensitive and easily hurt; you like the good life and contentment, and are agitated if things go badly in that direction. You need a stable relationship. Contented, you are likely to put on weight. N You are aware of the finality of fate, and tend to a phlegmatic and sometimes unhappy compromise with your life, even when you long for a definitive resolution. D You are discontented and long to be free of the ties that restrict you.

Purple: L You are torn between impulsiveness and calm acceptance, between dominance and submissiveness; you tend to the mystical and the magical in relationships, and your emotional immaturity means you get stuck in dreams of wishful thinking and fantasy. You need to avoid excitement—you’ve had too much already. N You can participate with others, so long as not too much is demanded of you; fantasy is so enjoyable that it’s hard to grow up. D You are mature and can look harsh reality in the face; you want to experience all that life has to offer without suffering from nervous exhaustion.

The Family Relationship Test

page 154

1. Excluded

2. Commander

3. Time to move on

4. Burdened

5. Escaping

6. Unified

7. The boss

8. Well-balanced

9. Victimized

10. Held back

11. Feeling small

12. Outsider

The Relationship Test

page 156

1. Celebration

2. Humiliation

3. Tentative

4. Triumphant

5. Superiority

6. Authority

7. Stalemate

8. Blocked

9. Dominated

10. Enmeshed

11. Protective

12. Champion

13. Balanced

14. Supportive

15. Enslaved

16. Submissive

17. Shut out

18. Distant

19. Persecuted

20. Dependency

21. Trusting

22. Remote

23. Escaping

24. Contemplative

25. Subservient

26. Loving

27. Entrapment

28. Manipulated

29. Endearing

30. Caring

The House-Tree-Person Test

page 163


1. Notice the size of the house: a small house represents renunciation of family life, while a large house means the person is overwhelmed by his family.

2. Observe the walls of the house: weak lines represent fragility in the ego, while strong lines mean the need to fortify boundaries.

3. Determine the amount of detail put into the roof: the more detail, the more the person concentrates on fantasies, while an incomplete roof means evading formidable ideas.

4. Note the inclusion of windows, doors and pavements, which indicate openness to interacting with other people.

5. Discern the inclusion of bushes, shades, shutters, bars, and curtains, which indicate a person’s hesitation to open himself or herself to others.


1. Notice the size of the trunk: a small trunk represents a weak ego, while a large trunk indicates a larger ego.

2. Observe whether the trunk is split in half, which indicates a split personality.

3. Determine what kind of limbs were drawn: detached or small branches represent a difficulty communicating with others, big branches mean connecting with others too much, pointy branches indicate hostility and dead branches represent desolation.

4. Note whether leaves are included: drawing leaves represents successfully connecting with others, while no leaves mean emptiness and detached leaves indicates a lack of nurturing.

5. Discern the details of the roots of the tree: while normal roots represent a grounded person, a lack of roots means instability, exaggerated roots indicate an obsession with examining reality, and dead roots represent feeling completely removed from reality.


1. Notice the position of the arms: open arms represent an inclination to connect with others, closed arms mean hostility, and disconnected arms indicate defenselessness.

2. Observe the position of the hands: pointed fingers and balled fists represent hostility, while hidden or gloved hands mean antisocial tendencies.

3. Note the details of the legs and feet: figures cut off at the bottom of the paper represent powerlessness, while both large and small feet mean the need for greater stability.

4. Determine the details of the mouth: an open or large mouth represents dependence, a closed mouth means rejection of needs, and a slash mouth or teeth indicate verbal hostility.

5. Discern how detailed the face is: the use of more facial details indicates a person’s need to portray himself in an acceptable way.

Drawing Completion Test 1

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Box 1. This drawing relates to your sense of self. You may have been assertive or tentative (drawn a face, colored the circle in, etc.) or you may have suggested that there are pressures from outside the circle of yourself. You may happily have seen yourself as a beaming sun, or a flower.

Box 2. Your whole life is revealed in this space. Oh dear! Without prompt or guideline you have revealed your innermost self.

Box 3. The square is an architectural unit; your response here relates to your feelings about your house/home or garden. These may have implications with regard to aspects of your identity.

Box 4. The two lines stand for the inescapable dualisms of the universe, especially the duality of sex. You may have just revealed your deepest feelings about love. (On the other hand, you may not.)

Box 5. This motif has to do with your emotional life. Are you floating on or above the waves, or are you sinking below them? Are you waving or drowning? Or did you see and project something else altogether?

Box 6. This will reveal how you relate to your friends, who are at once part of you and separate from you.

Drawing Completion Test 2

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Box 1. How you see yourself

Box 2. How others see you

Box 3. Childhood/adolescence

Box 4. Your romantic life

Box 5. Your future

Box 6. Death

Drawing Completion Test 3

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Box 1. concerns how you perceive yourself.

Box 2. shows your ability to relate and how affectionate you are.

Box 3. shows your motivation and desire to go forward.

Box 4. shows your ability to overcome difficulties or problems.

Box 5. shows your capacity for taking decisions and acting on them.

Box 6. shows analytical ability.

Box 7. shows your feelings and emotions.

Box 8. shows your ability to interact socially.

The Abstract Image Test

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Mel Gooding writes:

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There is something of a figure in this image, but pictured, or experienced, it seems, from within: it is not so much a picture of a body, as what it feels like to be in a body, caught up in a complex of sensations and inner feelings. But what sensations, what feelings?

Do you feel that this body is experiencing ecstatic pleasure, as in a dance, perhaps singing wonderful crazy words that turn into leaf and petal shapes about your head, released from the mind and flying free? You are in this case probably an extrovert hedonist, at once a lover of bodily pleasures and a dreamer of psychic freedom: those strangely soft, dumbbell shapes correspond to internal rhythms of tension release, as mind and body become one sensation of joy.

Or do you find yourself resisting those insistent rhythms represented by the curving, organic, concentric lines around the “shoulder,” and finding a kind of reassurance in control suggested by the angular sharp-cornered, similarly concentric pattern at bottom left? In this reading, the body in the image responds to this rhythmic counterpoint with a gestural movement, turning now this way, now that way, now this way, down its center; the passion of the sun yellow and blushing pink is offset by the grounded vegetable green. You are more grounded as a type, perhaps—you like to keep a balance, and avoid extremes.

page 173

Blue is the color of space, endlessness, infinity. To look into the air above us on a fine day is to be aware of a vastness of a filmlike blue without beginning and without end. For some this induces wonder, a reverie of oneness with the heavens. At times others feel a loss of orientation that is dizzying: they suffer a kind of reverse vertigo, a groundless fear of losing touch with the ground beneath their feet. “All that is solid melts into air.” Blue may thus have more than one effect on the spectator: it can bring calm and restfulness, or memories of fear, and perturbation. (Other colors may have similarly opposing effects.)

Which of these contradictory responses is most like yours? It may be that you feel both, at different times, depending on the play of your mind, and what lies beneath its surface. For what you feel about this expansive blue may be as much a projection of your present feelings as it is reflection of a simple unvarying reaction. If you are in a period of psychic calm, your spirit untroubled, you may find yourself enjoying the sense of cosmic bliss. If you are in some way disturbed (even if you are unaware of it), you may feel disoriented and xenophobic.

The gray upright in the lower half may seem to stand for a figure, maybe you, the spectator: it hasn’t quite got its foot on the ground. And that little crown-like shape floating above the line—is it your hat, blown away on a sudden gust? A bird? A kite? Does it induce intimations of loss? It seems to belong to the floating upright figure, but it is up and away, disconnected, lifted away into space, perhaps forever. Some people suffer unease at flying, or even simply watching, a kite—it seems to be at the mercy of unpredictable and invisible forces, beyond control. They are caught up in psychic uncertainty, even a kind of simulated panic.

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You may feel that this drawing draws you in, takes you to its center. It may induce a sense of being centered, protected, and embraced by the womblike configuration of concentric circles. You may feel you have been taken into the heart of things. Such a response suggests a personality that is itself centered, that is content to let the world—and the universe, with its stars, suns, and moons—spin around you. You are egocentric and yet in a lively way aware of external contingencies. You like things as they are, and want them to continue to be so.

On the other hand you may see first and foremost that central figure, upright and poised, arms outstretched to embrace the whirling world, full of a pulsating inner energy that engages with the dynamics of things, that reaches out, unperturbed by chaos.

These alternative responses are not necessarily exclusive. The first may be described as feminine (though not female): the second as masculine (though not male). You may feel each of them at different times, and then, in an instant of deep joy, experience both simultaneously. Try it. As they come together you may enjoy a moment in which there is perfect psychic unity, a sense of ecstatic integrity.

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You may see this as a potently emotive image, or as a focus for pure meditation. It is susceptible of many interpretations. It requires a period of intense contemplation: it may at once suggest both fullness and emptiness.

In the first case, you may see the deep blue central ellipse as an image of concentrated dark matter into which all things have been drawn and gathered. The pink watercolor cloud may intimate blood and fire, being absorbed into the perfect oval void, a universal symbol of primordial beginnings: the night-dark potentiality of the egg. In the second case, you may see the oval as an image of the void, a cosmic blank, a dark unreflective mirror into which you look as through a glass darkly. Surrounded by an aura of insubstantial translucency, it is a dark moon in eclipse.

The former reading suggests an extrovert response that maximizes the potential in things, and looks to find psychic and emotional pleasure in the given aspects of projected situations. The latter finds darkness a metaphor for loss of pleasure, the dark surface as an impediment to vision. The first is the response of one who sees (at that moment) a glass half-full; the second, that of one who sees (at that moment) a glass half-empty.

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Someone said: “Our heads are round so that our thoughts can travel in any direction.” Thought rarely travels in a straight line, especially when we are not sure what to think about something, and when it does it often tends to mislead us. “Things keep going round in my head” is a common expression of undirected thought, or mental or psychic confusion, one or other of which constitutes our common condition for a great deal of the time.

A great central diagonal of red is an energetic and unstable five-sided figure, pointing in two directions at once. Reds and diagonals are both, in their different ways, unstable and dynamic. The incomplete “thought circle” is viewed from a diagonal angle as an ellipse. At opposite corners right-angled triangles contain perfect rectangles (in one case a square): these have a certain orthogonal—vertical/horizontal— certainty. It is an enigmatic image.

Are you comforted or discombobulated by this painting? Does it make you uneasy with its stark red band, its corner-to-corner diagonal, and the broken circle with its period dot? This may reflect an uncomfortable awareness that conscious thought is indeed unpredictable and incomplete in its operations; however hard we try, it will be diverted and disconcerted by incursions from the uncontrollable unconscious. You may prefer for things to be settled and certain in life. It may be the case, however, that you find the image oddly comforting— it may confirm your feelings that some things may be real and constant (geometry, for one) but that, even so, we simply do not see them always as they (really?) are. You may be discomfited, but you can live with that.

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In this strange and powerful image you may see quite different things (the title gives no clue to its possible subject). In a purely abstract image (1) you discern a number of circles, interpenetrating with geometric connecting lines, within a geometric framework; it may seem simply to be a playful, colorful arrangement of shapes and forms. Or (2) you may see it as a space, somewhat complicated and paradoxical, into which is suspended a swinging lamp, or swinging and turning discs as in an optical experiment. Or (3) you may see a masklike face, with two great, staring eyes and an oval mouth.

Response (1) suggests a down-to-earth temperament, a mind that believes what its eyes see and is quite free of fancy or fantastic projection. Response (2) is quick to discover spatial possibilities, to find action within an imagined place; it seeks to make sense of signs and shapes, and finds a reassuring solidity in a projected world of things not unlike the one we inhabit. Response (3) is disconcerting: the mind finds, in a quick and arbitrary projection, an answer to the eye; it is as if the viewer had looked into a distorting mirror. This is a willfully fanciful, imaginative reaction of a mind that expects the world to be interactive, to conjure surprises.

You will, at different moments, find all three responses in yourself: this reflects the ever-shifting, unstable quality of the brain-eye axis. Given the rough paint marks and crude execution of the work, you will have known from the first instant that this is a painting, a physical object; how extraordinary for the working of the mind to have ignored this obvious datum, and to have effortlessly leapt to such quite different interpretations of the image (and possibly many others)!


Research has shown that you can help yourself to be happy. What are the conditions of fulfillment? There has been no better answer than that of the Italian polymath Girolamo Cardano, written in 1501:

Let us live therefore, cheerfully, although there be no lasting joy in mortal things…But if there is any good thing by which you would adorn this stage of life, we have not of such been cheated: rest, serenity, modesty, self-restraint, orderliness, change, fun, entertainment, society, temperance, sleep, food, drink, riding, sailing, walking, keeping abreast of events, meditation, contemplation, education, piety, marriage, feasting, the satisfaction of recalling an orderly disposition of the past, cleanliness, water, fire, listening to music, looking at all about one, talks, stories, history, liberty, continence, little birds, puppies, cats, consolation of death, and the common flux of time, fate and fortune over the afflicted and the favored alike. There is a good hope for things beyond all hope; good in the exercise of some art in which one is skilled; good in meditating upon the manifold transmutation of all nature and upon the magnitude of Earth.