I also had a fascinating experience of the application of stories when I applied for a post at the Tavistock Institute. Part of the selection process was to look at shadowy pictures and create brief stories from what we thought we saw in those pictures – a sort of adaptation of Rorschach tests. Of course as a candidate, you imagined all sorts of personal intimacies would be given away to the trained psychologists who interpreted our outpourings.
In fact the results were much simpler and the more interesting for it. The first question was to what extent the content of the stories we wrote could be seen as prompted by the reality of what was in the shadowy pictures – e.g. if the drawing contained three figures, did our stories include three people, or if there was an object clearly delineated amongst the shadows, did our stories acknowledge it? It seems that some people’s stories could be so preoccupied with their own inner world, that the connection with the actuality of the drawing would be lost.
I am probably oversimplifying this test process, but I write from memory of 30 years ago! However, there was a second finding from my story telling in the test. I was applying for this job when my twin daughters were about 2 years old. The previous two years had been at that time, the most physically and emotionally demanding time of my life. When the babies were tiny, my wife was hospitalized twice with appendicitis. From the age of 9 or 10 months, the twins would wake up virtually every night – a pattern that continued until they started school. By the time I was applying for this job therefore I was exhausted. To my surprise, in writing my stories, this was the actual revelation – in every story I had written something about sitting down, going to bed, or sleeping. The psychologist who was interpreting my writing, not knowing my personal circumstances, surmised that I was tired, the simplicity of this result making me recognise its truth in a way I had not previously.