Title: The Inkblots
Author: Damion Searls
Publisher: Broadway Books
Publisher’s Blurb: The captivating, untold story of Hermann Rorschach and his famous inkblot test.
What’s Auntie Reading Now? picture
[Rorschach] wanted to do more than treat patients: he wanted to bring culture and psychology together to explore the nature and meaning of individual and communal belief. (p. 91)
Ten inkblots. That’s all there are. Just ten cards with carefully thought out art in which can be found the meaning of the innermost workings of a human mind. There’s no right, or wrong, answer. Merely interpretation.
Rorschach’s carefully developed test remains controversial, its use hotly debated in psychology circles. Interpretation is key, but which method? Its usefulness as diagnostic tool is not without debate as well.
Hermann Rorschach was working towards a tool which would help psychiatrists know how to help their patients get better. Unfortunately, Rorschach died at the age of 37, not quite convinced his test was as finely tuned as it should be.
Damion Searls tells the story of this remarkable Swiss doctor/artist who yearned for a more holistic approach to patient care at the sanitarium for which he worked and did research. It was his hope that his inkblots, with careful diagnostics, would be one of the tools used for better care.
As someone who worked in the Ph.D. program for psychology at a small university, I’ve been exposed to the foibles of both students and faculty who think they have much to prove. Both to themselves and to each other. I can now be amused at the memories, at the time it was just downright painful to be in the middle of it.
And yet, Searls’ story reminded me of what we’re all up against, psychologists and laypeople alike. There’s a lot at stake for potential caregivers and their patients, and an overwhelming abundance of tools available. It’s no surprise that passions flare and boil over. Its understandable to some extent. This is not to say egos don’t come into play. I’ve encountered more than one “celebrity” psychologist who turned out to be a complete douche in need of some careful handling themselves.
Searls reminds me that despite all the posturing and arguing, there are people like Hermann Rorshach who are genuinely kind and caring, searching for ways to better help those under their care. Inkblots gave me real insight into the struggle of early psychoanalysts to find footing in their new field. Rorshach was among the pioneers, and his test has proven to be a useful tool for those who are careful with it.
Damion Searls has written the only biography of Hermann Rorschach and it’s worth reading if you’ve any interest in what makes people tick.