Rorschach Interpretation of Freud's "Wolf Man" at Age 69

By Schafer, Roy | International Journal of Psychoanalysis, October 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

Rorschach Interpretation of Freud's "Wolf Man" at Age 69


Schafer, Roy, International Journal of Psychoanalysis


Introductory note

This Rorschach test seems to have been well administered in the manner originally laid out by Herman Rorschach (1942). However, from the van- tage point of what modern Rorschach administration and recording requires (Schafer, 1954), this document lacks essential features. The recording is not verbatim; it includes neither behavioral notes nor the ver- bal formulations and transactions between tester and subject. Also, there is no location sheet that outlines responses clearly, no account of the patient's understanding of the purpose of the testing, and no context pro- vided by the results of a battery of other tests. Nevertheless, the existing record seems to allow a significant amount of reasonably confident interpretation.

An additional question must be raised about my interpretation: has my familiarity with the case of the Wolf Man through my studies and teaching guided my analysis of this Rorschach record to such an extent that it could be thought that I was simply finding what I was looking for? The question becomes only slightly less pressing if I declare that with an age-appropriate, somewhat spotty memory and with my not having studied, taught or kept up with 'the latest' on the Wolf Man, I consciously recall only scraps of what was once thoroughly familiar; yet I do know I would instantly recog- nize the details were they presented to me. Offsetting the implications of these considerations is the fact that the patterning of content and formal features of his Rorschach responses point in a very obvious way to the realm of interpretations that includes the very ones I put forward. So much is this so that I felt compelled in drafting the following report (see below) to question whether, to some extent, the subject was responding in a con- trived, preconceived manner. Also, the interpretations I developed are not altogether in the direction that I, knowing that the Wolf Man was the sub- ject, had expected: there were surprises.

Interpretation

This man's functioning is characterized by fragility of integration and erra- tic reality testing when having to deal with emotionally charged situations. Especially challenging are situations that require him to assume responsibil- ity, show initiative or confront emotional demands. He seems to try to get by in everyday situations by adopting a veneer of conventional conduct that implements his careful avoidance of affective involvement with others. He guides himself with the help of a watchful, guarded sensitivity to the nuan- ces of behavior and situations.

As a further means of sparing himself from emotional involvement, he resorts to the role of a person who is not a self-directed agent of his own life, rather more a mindless person who gets his initiative and direction from others. This role frees him from the normal emotional stress of assum- ing responsibility and purpose and of being interested in others and emo- tionally engaged with them.

It is suggested that he funnels his aggressive tendencies into an opposi- tional stance, as in contrariness, but then must cover up its expression. Although this pattern is just what one might expect from an obsessional person, the more basic problem is probably a paranoid need to remain hid- den and detached.

Emotion impacts him as a disintegrative force that drives him toward regressive positions. In the regressed mode, he can lapse into excited para- noid psychotic thinking. His guardedness does not protect him adequately. He then devotes much of his keen attentiveness to tying things together, possibly searching for and finding threatening connections in what is going on around him or behind his back. …

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