The Rorschach Inkblots

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The Rorschach test consists of ten inkblots in total: five are black ink, two are red and black ink, and three are multicolored. A psychologist will present each card in a very specific order and then ask the patient, “What might this be?” Once the patient has viewed all of the inkblots and has given his or her thoughts, the psychologist will then show the inkblots to the patient again, one at a time. The patient is told to list everything he or she sees, where they see it, and what in the inkblot makes them say that. The inkblot can be rotated, tilted, turned upside down, or manipulated in any manner of ways. The psychologist should record everything that the patient says and does, as well as the time each of the responses. Responses are then analyzed and scored. Through a series of mathematical calculations, a summary of the test data is produced and interpreted using empirical data.

If you have no initial reaction or you can’t seem to describe the card you are looking at, this may mean that you have a block in the subject that the card is representative of, or the card deals with a topic that you don’t want to confront at that point in time.

The first card is just made up of black ink. Because this is the first card a person will see, this can provide insight into how the patient will take on a task that is new and stressful. People will often describe this card as looking like a bat, moth, buttery, or the face of some kind of animal, like an elephant or rabbit. This card generally reflects the person.

  • While a bat can mean something unclean or demonic for some, for others it can mean navigating through darkness and rebirth.
  • Butteries can symbolize transition, transformation, as well as the ability to grow, change, and overcome.
  • Moths can symbolize feeling overlooked, ugly, as well as our weaknesses and annoyances.
  • The face of an animal, in particular an elephant, can symbolize the ways in which we confront problems, and a fear of looking into our inner issues. It can also symbolize “the elephant in the room,” and comment on an issue that is being tiptoed around.

This card consists of red and black ink, and is often perceived as sexual in nature. The parts that are red are usually interpreted as blood, and the way a person responds can reflect the ways in which he or she manages feelings, physical harm, or anger. People will often describe this card as resembling praying, two people, a person looking in the mirror, or four-legged animals like a dog, bear, or elephant.

  • Seeing two people can symbolize codependency, an obsession with sex, ambivalent feelings about sex, or a focus on bonding with other people or relationships.
  • Seeing a person looking at their reflection in the mirror can symbolize self-absorption or self-reflection. Either can be a negative or positive trait, depending on the person’s feelings.
  • Seeing a dog can symbolize an affectionate and loyal friend. If the patient has just seen something negative, this could indicate that they need to face their fears and acknowledge inner feelings.
  • Seeing an elephant can symbolize thoughtfulness, memory, and intelligence; however, it can also symbolize a negative physical self-image.
  • Seeing a bear can symbolize aggression, competition, independence, resurrection, and can even be a play on the word “bare,” which may mean feelings of vulnerability, being unprotected, or feeling sincere and honest.
  • This card is extremely sexual, so seeing a person praying may symbolize a person’s beliefs about sex within the context of their religion. The blood can also indicate that a person associates physical pain with religion, that the person turns to prayer when undergoing challenging emotions such as anger, or that the person associates anger with religion.

The third card features red and black ink, and symbolizes how a person relates to other people in social interactions. Common responses to this card include seeing two people, one person looking into a mirror, a buttery, or a moth.

  • Seeing two people eating with one another symbolizes that the participant’s social life is nourishing. Seeing two people washing their hands can symbolize insecurity, a sense of not being clean, or paranoid feelings. Viewing two people participating in some form of game can indicate a competitive view of social relationships.
  • Seeing a person looking at their reflection in the mirror can symbolize self-absorption, being oblivious to others, or not seeing people for who they are.

The fourth card is often known as the “father card.” It is composed of black ink and features shading. Often viewed as a large and sometimes intimidating or frightening figure that is categorized as male more than female, this inkblot relates to the person’s feelings towards authority and their upbringing. Common responses include seeing a large animal or monster, or seeing animal hide or animal skin.

  • Seeing a large animal or monster can symbolize feelings of inferiority towards authority, or amplified fear of authority figures, including father figures.
  • Seeing animal hide or animal skin can symbolize great discomfort when discussing the subject of the father. On the opposite end, it can symbolize that the individual has less of a problem with authority and inferiority.

This card is made up of black ink and once again, just like the very first card, reflects us. This card is usually not considered to be threatening, and since the previous cards offered more of a challenge, this card should be relatively easy for the person and will produce a quality response. If the answers are not similar to the answers given for the first card, this means that cards 2–4 have possibly influenced the individual. Common responses to this card include a bat, buttery, or moth.

This card is made up of black ink, and the dominant characteristic of the card is the texture of the inkblot. This card elicits an association with interpersonal closeness, and for this reason, it is known as the “sex card.” The most common response to this card is an animal hide or skin, which can indicate a resistance to being close and, as a result, a feeling of personal emptiness and disconnectedness. 

This card is made up of black ink and is usually linked to femininity. Due to the fact that common responses to this card include women and children, this is known as the “mother card.” If the person has problems responding to this card, it can be due to problems they are facing with female figures in their life. Common responses to this card include heads or faces of women or children, and kissing.

  • Seeing the heads of women symbolizes feelings associated with one’s view of his or her mother. These feelings will also influence their views of women overall.
  • Seeing the heads of children symbolizes feelings associated with childhood and the need to care for the inner child. This can also indicate that the relationship that the participant has with their mother needs to be looked at and healed.
  • Seeing heads about to kiss symbolizes the desire for affection and reconnection with a mother figure. This can indicate that there was once a close relationship with the mother that it is now sought in other relationships, be they romantic or social.

This card is extremely colorful and features gray, pink, orange, and blue ink. Not only is this the first card that is multicolored, but it is also extremely complex. If this card or the change of pace makes the participant uncomfortable, they might have trouble processing complex situations or emotional stimuli. Common responses to this card include seeing four-legged animals, a buttery, or a moth.

This card is made up of green, pink, and orange inks. This inkblot is characterized by its vagueness and the inability to visualize a specific thing. Most people struggle to nd what they see in it. It is for this reason that this card explores how well a person handles a lack of structure and vagueness. Common responses to come out of this card is either a generic human form or some indeterminate evil shape.

  • If a human is viewed, the way the individual feels about this person can symbolize how the participant deals with unstructured time and information.
  • Seeing evil could symbolize that in order to feel comfort, structure is required in the participant’s life, and that they don’t tolerate vagueness well.

The last card in the Rorschach test is the most colorful, with orange, yellow, pink, green, gray, and blue inks. Structurally speaking, this card is similar to card 8, but it has a complexity similar to card 9. And while many find this card to be pleasant, those who do not enjoy the complexity of card 9 may feel the same way with this card, which can indicate a difficulty in dealing with similar, synchronous, or coincidental stimuli. Common responses to this inkblot include crab, lobster, spider, a rabbit head, snakes, or caterpillars.

  • Seeing a crab can either symbolize a tendency to cling onto things or other people, or it can symbolize perseverance.
  • Seeing a lobster can symbolize strength, perseverance, and an ability to conquer small problems. A lobster can also symbolize a fear of harming oneself or of being harmed.
  • Seeing a spider can symbolize fear, a feeling of entanglement, or a feeling of being trapped in an uncomfortable situation as a result of telling lies. It can also symbolize an overbearing mother and feminine power.
  • Seeing the head of a rabbit can symbolize fertility and a positive outlook.
  • Snakes can symbolize danger, feeling lied to or deceived, or being afraid of the unknown. Snakes can also be considered a phallic symbol and can relate to unacceptable or forbidden sex.
  • Because this card is at the end of the test, seeing caterpillars symbolizes room for growth and an understanding that you are constantly re-inventing yourself and evolving.
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