TAT, or the Thematic Apperception Test is a projective technique (or psychological test) where the client is presented with 20 pictures and he must create a story out of each one. We took the test last week for our Psychological Testing class and I was bothered at the content of my stories. Most of them talked about death and there was a little too much violence. There was a girl on the brink of suicide, a woman who finds her son brutally murdered, a massacre, a child psychopath who enjoys mutilating animals, a killer, a suicidal doctor, and man-eating creatures. I marveled at the creativity of my stories given the fact that we were only allowed five minutes for each drawing, but I was bothered that only two of my stories are positive.
As a writer, I usually write these kinds of things but I'm guessing it's not appropriate with psychological tests because projective tests such as these project your deepest desires, fears, motivation, and fantasies. I can't say that I wrote what I did because I wanted to impress my professor with my morbid imagination, I wrote them because that's what I saw when I looked at the pictures. When I saw the kid imagining a surgery, I interpreted it as a psychopath who wants to cut people up. I was silently laughing while I wrote about the kid, who I described as obnoxious and haughty, because I felt that most of my classmates saw a kid dreaming to be a doctor. After the class, I asked my professor to read my work to see if she thought my interpretations were unusual.
When she talked to me last Tuesday, she told me that she was disturbed with my stories. She said that there was a lot of reference to death, to emptiness, and loneliness. I told her about how I wanted to kill myself, or at least be dead inside. For some reason, I didn't tell her about last Saturday's night out with friends where I wore non-prescription glasses and called myself Christopher because Koji is dead. I told her that the content could be explained by my passion for Stephen King and serial killers.
"It's okay to read those things. But you have to be careful because there's already a thin line between reality and fantasy," she told me while I sat there, scared. "I'm afraid that if you expose yourself too much to this, it will carry over to reality."
I thought about that child, that little kid I knew most of my classmates saw as a kid growing up to be a doctor, and there I was, thinking it was a psychopath who laughs while cutting up dogs and rabbits. I couldn't imagine myself mutilating animals. When I read the part about Patrick Bateman torturing a dog in American Psycho, I flinched.
"Why are there so many references to death in your interpretation?" she asked. I knew she was observing me, watching my every move. I knew she was looking for signals, signals only a psychologist could see, like a sudden shift of mood or topic. I couldn't look her in the eye and I was sweating, even though it was cold.
"I don't know. I don't really want to die.... but I don't want to live either," I said blankly.
"There are so many things to be thankful for. You have been given so many opportunities, many of them others don't have. You have great talent, and it would be a waste if you kill yourself. You have been given this opportunity to live while others can't." She said so many other things but everything led back to this.
She's right. While I am complaining about how I haven't seen Alice in Wonderland after waiting for almost a year, while I sulked about how I didn't get my way in a particular situation, other people have no money, homes, or clothes. I know I sound like I'm preaching but a little gratitude won't hurt anyone. Right now I'm making a quick mental check list of the things I should be grateful for and I'm not even done. But to summarize what I have: a very comfortable home, a loving family, a good school, great friends, a knack for writing, and a kickass style to boot (indulge me, will you?).
The same morning, I saw the music video of We Are The World 25 for Haiti, sung by Justin Bieber, Nicole Scherzinger, Josh Groban, Barbra Streisand, Carlos Santana, Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, and many others. The video included footage of what happened in Haiti and it made me feel bad for hating my privileged life. I actually cried while watching the video.
In hindsight, I have been pondering the things my professor said even before she said it. But hearing it from her, a professional, who I associated with a mother image, I suddenly felt a lot better. I guess it's now time to cancel the IMI Uzi submachine gun I ordered on eBay. I kid.