In a Rorschach Inkblot Test, people are asked to provide meaning for inkblot shapes, which demonstrate how we interpret ambiguous circumstances. Dr. Michael Yapko uses the Rorschach as a metaphor for how we project assumptions onto our life experiences:
“Life is like an inkblot – an ‘experiential Rorschach,’ so to speak. Life doesn’t have an objective or assigned meaning. We give it meaning by our individual values, beliefs, relationships, careers, hobbies, and other life experiences.”
There’s a poetic form called “erasure” poetry, where you take a page from any book, article, newspaper, etc. and cover up all but the words that appeal to you. Those remaining words create a poem. Not only will any two people come up with different poems from the same text; when you come back later to the same page you may also “see” the text in a completely different way.
The content on the right is from a page in Out of the Box Coaching with the Enneagram. Here’s my erasure:
I suspect in my own metaphorical universe the “dog” refers to an instinctual part of me, and while I didn’t know it when I started this blog, I’m realizing how uptight I’ve been about an upcoming project, getting into a head space instead of taking a deep breath and listening to my “dog.”
Try it for yourself. Notice what words show up for you when you look at the page; then follow this “Rorschach” to see what your unconscious might be telling you.
And remember, we all operate from a perspective that may or may not be held by others. It’s always good to open ourselves to the differences.
business failed. Mary asked if she could remember a situation where someone regained face. Linette then recalled a story of a young, unwed mother in her grandmother’s village. “She was urged by her family to leave the village in shame, but she refused to.” Mary inquired, what happened to her?” The answer “She raised her child well and eventually earned an honorable reputation through her good works in the community.”
A useful story has a structure similar to the client’s sensation, including the underlying problem and an embedded resolution. These elements were present in the above story. The young woman losing face when she became pregnant was analogous to losing face by not being promoted. The woman in the story regained face by choosing to be self-defined. Mary pointed out these parallels. The lessons in Linette’s story helped her set her sights on expressing her own needs and talents.
Creating Room to Play
The word “metaphor” is from the Greek pherin, “to carry,” and meta, “beyond or “over.” We are carried beyond our worldview by breakthrough experiences; metaphors illuminate the path. When clients shrink from a new perspective, that’s a clue that intellectual understanding has not freed them to move. This is your chance to be spontaneous, playful, inventive – anything that will reach them at a symbolic level. We’ve just written about the power of stories. You can also create openings through the symbolic use of humor, behavior, gifts, or even poetry.
Use your own imagination and creativity to develop metaphors for each style. Sometimes you can ask clients for a metaphor of how they see themselves and work with it. Don’t worry about getting it just right. The meaning of a metaphor is often individual. Listen to your clients. They’ll give you the metaphors that have meaning for them. An Eight told Clarence, “I’m a junkyard dog.” Clarence stayed within that metaphor: “Who is the dog loyal to? Who cares for him?” Whom does he let pet him? What is he protecting and from whom? In what way is he trapped by what he is protecting?”