Unanticipated Lessons

People watching

Image by dobrych via Flickr

All of us want to be understood.

I’ve been finishing up my beloved experiment the past month. Flipping through my notes and rereading how it all began in the pages of my little black leather notebook that has been so faithful to me. I’ve heard stories of experimenters learning things from their experiments that they never planned to, things that are not completely relevant to their research, but are still striking and noteworthy, things that stick with them for their entire lives. I have learned one of these things from my Rorschach experiment:

People, even if they do not realize it this instant, want to be understood with a profound fiber of their being.

After each inkblot exam I would go through my notes and Rorschach textbooks, and work out a profile using Rorschach’s methods of interpretation. After a profile was worked out, I would type up a transcript of the interview (typically video or audio recorded) and add that to the file, along with miniatures of each inkblot so they can see what I mean when I refer to a card number in their file. The typical reaction when given the manilla folder is often first amusement, and then clear curiosity as they flip it open and read the pages. And then, even if I see them a week later for the response of accuracy, they often become suddenly emotional. One point after another expressing the most accurate areas and sharing personal life stories with me, tears nearly filling their eyes. Because after so long, the words on the pages in that folder mean that they are understood.

“Wow, I can’t – I can’t believe this.” One girl said as she put a hand to her mouth and stared at the papers in disbelief, “I didn’t know anyone could see this about me.”

More often than not, I see things in their responses that I never intended to. Everything from inferiority complexes to indescribable capabilities for creativity and vision. I’ve seen the hidden pain and abilities of strangers, and I’ve seen their hearts suddenly jump to their sleeves when they realize I can see who they truly are, when they could hardly convince themselves.

The point of the inkblot experiment was to test the validity of the Rorschach, and point of the interviews and inkblot responses was to get basic elements of personality to compare against the MMPI for accuracy. The point was never to uncover the depth of grief, struggle, and self-doubt that I found in people I had been walking past every other day during the semester without a second thought. I now walk out my front door, see all of these human beings around me, and think with bitter realization how everyone is walking around with that pain, regret, hidden potential and ambition, with those dreams and shame and sadness and hope. I cannot look another human being in the eye without wanting to ask them to tell me their story and let me help them.

Our hearts ache with gratitude and relief when we are understood, truly understood, by anyone, even a stranger. Because something so inherent, something that feels unattainable, unreachable, impossible, is that the notorious veil would be ripped off, and a pure part of our hearts or dark part of our past is revealed, and we are finally seen, finally reached, finally understood.



Harold Camping Body Language Analysis

Oy, oy, oy, oy, oy. Camping must be one of the more interesting human beings I’ve been able to analyze (at least one of the most interesting among the older folks I’ve read in my lifetime). And honestly, upon contemplation, I believe he has some deep psychological need for attention and recognition. Notice how at the beginning of this video he directs attention not to his error, but instead to the amount of listeners tuning in to hear him speak. “I am nothing” he says near the close of the video, but indeed, we find that during the entire clip, Harold Camping has constantly been trying to receive recognition, attention and respect. Something he used to have from his former loyal and dedicated followers before he caused them to humiliate themselves and lose everything because they believed his prediction about doomsday, May 21st 2011.

 It’s at 1:26 in part 3 of his interview with the International Business Times – the smile. You can see his mouth widen enough to show his teeth and his eyes ever so slightly ‘brighten’ in genuine delight at the interviewer’s comment. What’s attention-grabbing about this expression is the timing and his expression directly after. Right before Camping’s subtle smile the interviewer (a very stern, experienced woman by the sound of it) says this: “…but because they believed that the end of the world must’ve been-” Stop! 1:26, we see him smile for no more than a second. When suddenly his right hand (which, during the smile, tensed and lifted off the arm of the chair during the duration of the smile) loses tension entirely and goes limp as the smile vanishes:

Directly after he regains control of his expression his eyes flick to his right and back in a millisecond (so fast that initially, I didn’t see it); was he attempting to create a new explanation? Possibly for his smile? Maybe for the question? I’m up in the air about it, but he was fighting hard to remain composed despite his clear glee at the attention. His hand begins to tense again and at 1:31 he licks his lips as she begins asking about his new date for doomsday – licking the lips is a popular male pacifying behavior – (in combination with his hand tensing yet again at the exact same time) representing a sudden discomfort and uncertainty when he can tell where the line of questioning is going. After this, we suddenly see his face turn cheerful, along with leg shifting/bouncing and hand twitching (more energy redistribution) while he attempts to put the interviewer in her place.

~Note: Energy redistribution is when we try to contain a strong a emotion, but the ‘energy’ leaks into other areas. Such as twitching or tapping fingers and bouncing legs and feet.~

We see a ‘hand pump’ (shown in th photograph below; his right hand suddenly grips, then releases fabric of armrest) at 1:58  when the interviewer says “Yes, yes.” in agreement with Camping’s comment about many people being affected by the recession. He becomes a little more confident, until his pacifying behavior vanishes altogether. He gets a bit cocky with her at 2:26 when she begins to speak again, giving a degrading and authoritative finger point directly at her. For a while he goes into a condescending sermon. We see after a comment from the interviewer at around 4:00 that he becomes very pleased with himself for coming up with a biblical point. We can hear his voice go up in pitch and volume with zest and confidence at 4:03 as he explains his point using slightly repetitive phrasing, commonly used when someone is so proud of a point that they feel a need to repeat it to feel certain the response is heard. e.g., “Well, no that’s the point of prayer, you don’t rely on your own understanding, that’s the point of prayer…” (found at 4:01) “But [your followers] relied on your understanding-” The interviewer begins before being interrupted by Camping.

Switch over to 5:00, a question is asked by a female reporter, “It’s safe to say that the mainstream population that heard about May 21st didn’t believe it-” Stop! 5:06:

we see Camping’s middle and pointer finger on his right hand flex upward with tension from a presumably negative emotion judging from the no-longer-confident expression on his face.

I actually believe I see his wrinkles ever so slightly deepen in his nasolabial folds and the left corner of his mouth turn down a bit more, but I cannot be certain due to the camera moving and causing a blurry image at this point.

But what we can see for certain, is at 5:07-5:09 as the reporter continues “…it didn’t happen-” Camping’s hands going from a very comfortable fold to a defensive clutch as his arms and hands in a manner brace themselves against the sides of the chair, if he were standing he might have put a hand on one of his hips.


Continuing, “…now they say, ‘See? This was ridiculous. And, at best-” at 5:12, we see Camping’s eyes flick off to the left, possibly instinctively looking for an exit. He is obviously very uncomfortable. His eyes only glance for a moment before switching back over to look again at his attacker. At 5:15 ( the last photograph above) we can see Camping grabbing onto the arms of his chair in a sudden defensive position.

The reporter finishes her leading comment, “…this was some kind of scam'” at 5:18 his eyes again flick to a possible exit. His face may be intending to say ‘I have this under control’, but so far, his body says “I really don’t like this…” He clearly feels attacked. At 5:18 also we see his head slightly tilt to his left (pictured on the left), a signal that is meant to instinctively induce sympathy and discourage an attack, we do this when we feel either trusting and allow ourselves to be vulnerable, or, as in Camping’s case, this is done as a way to subconsciously and instinctively show that we are no threat, and that by exposing the soft skin of the neck, reveal our vulnerability in hopes of the attacker ceasing (in this case) verbal warfare.

She asks the question, “Does it worry you that you’ve hurt the credibility, or made a mockery of religion in some way?” Camping at this point appears to hide behind his biblical authority. I find it a bit odd – and perhaps telling, that when he seemingly makes a comment about ‘other pastors’ (“Most pastors would never admit they [made] a mistake because they’re trying to preserve their own credibility in the eyes of those who are listening…” 5:46 in the video) he points not outward, but inward, pressing his left pointer finger onto his chest as he speaks:

Camping denies responsiblity in the interview for the emotional distress of his followers who lost everything because they believed him in their heart of hearts. And he has turned his back on them. Could this possibly be a tell of what Camping knows to be the real truth of the matter? That he is denying responsiblity to save his own face? Honestly, I believe so. He speaks along yet another minisermon, giving the latest reporter his authoritative pointing finger at 7:03 while he quotes a Bible verse.

Here’s my opinion of  Harold Camping upon seeing his face, which is a nearly complete paradigm shift from what it was when I simply read the stories: Camping is a sick human being, and heaven knows I wish the man could be charged with a crime. The humiliation he has caused, and the refusal to help the people who so entirely trusted him, speaks to a selfish, attention-driven human being. My heart aches for this man’s victims (yes – his victims), he shouldn’t be left to lead this circus for another 5 months (the new doomsdate is October the 21st) he should be in prison.


Help Complete My 20 Before 20!

About a week ago, me and the notorious Heather Madame started working on our 20 Before 20 list. I proposed the idea to her after a thought struck me while reading the brilliant blog of Thoughts Appear and clicking over to her 30 Before 30 list.

If only we had a 30 Before 30; we’re so young, though…

Cue lightbulb over head.

July 6th I shall be 17, and Heather Madame doesn’t turn 18 until December, we have three years to complete a 20 Before 20! Enough time to get a lot done, and a short enough amount of time to place pressure to get everything done! Excellent! Superb! Grand!

Heather was in on it the second I suggested a 20 Before 20, and we were able to work up 17 things to do. But then we have a dilemma, because, see, we came up with all of that last week, and have been entirely unable to find 3 more things to do! We have become desperate, and so need outside help, yours, to be precise. Here’s what we have so far:

1. Go to Corpus Christi

2.Get a tattoo

3.Bungee Jump

4.Meet Ted Dekker

5.Go to Paris (since my mom has visited Europe a few times we’re planning on bringing her along to show us the ropes of getting around the gorgeous place; you can see my mom’s videos of her last trip to Paris here)

6.Learn to ballroom dance

7.Run a marathon

8.Learn French

9.Go white-water rafting

10.Do something on a stage

11.Create and memorize a nomenclator (a combination of a cipher and a code – a cipher is replacing one character for another e.g., replacing ‘a’ for ‘b’ or ‘e’ for ‘f’, and a code is replacing a word or phrase for a character e.g., having the letter ‘b’ represent the phrase ‘better late than never’, or having the number ’42’ represent the word ‘hidden’)

12.Go to the Texas State Fair

13.Go Sailing

14.See The Nutcracker

15.Go hiking

16.Go to the biggest bookstore in Texas (located in Austin)

17.Have a weekend in Downtown Fort Worth


William James (1842-1910) A Quote

William James

Image by Psychology Pictures via Flickr

If this life be not a real fight, in which something is eternally gained for the universe by success, it is no better than a game of private theatricals from which one may withdraw at will. But it feels like a real fight- as if there were something really wild in the universe which we, with all our idealities and faithfulnesses, are needed to redeem.

–William James

Dear Benjamin Franklin…Help?

Benjamin Franklin

Image via Wikipedia

Benjamin Franklin suggested in his autobiography that distance is the best way for affections to remain between friends. When we get close to people, light shines upon every feature that was once dark. And when people get close to us, the horrific truth is laid bare for them to contemplate.

I’m not certain in the least what the point of this post is; I suppose I’ll just do what I normally do and type away before leaving my words for any wandering psychoanalyst.

It’s 12:41AM and I can’t seem to get to sleep; usually I would be out like a light but for whatever reason I feel completely awake. It’s just one of those nights where my mind is so frantically spinning with several thoughts put on rotation like unmatched socks at a laundromat that I can’t seem to calm down.

I know of two causes of my current sleepless predicament; but understanding the malady doesn’t make it simply vanish into the air as a vapor.


Murder Of A Future Once Certain

I think the impossible dilemma when dealing with time, is the unpredictability it contains. Not regarding spacetime curvature or the actual counting down of a giant glittering sphere on New Years Eve, but the curious, human pondering of the contents of the meaning of the evershifting hand dancing pleasantly inside our pocket watches. Time, and what it contains for the human being.

We use our minds for memories and planning; the wonderous cognitive, executive functions of the frontal lobe forever biased by the amygdala when it comes to our overall view of our futures. Such beautiful roadmaps we create using experience and ambition. Such plans, using the key players we are currently focused upon, like a child using the nearest dolls to formulate an improv fairy tale, in which there is always a damsel in distress, and always prince charming to save the day.

What a shock to the system it is, even for a moment, when we glance down at our plans, schemes, and future mapped out before us, and suddenly grip the paper in utter terror when we realize that the page is white as snow, without a mark or a timeline to be found. An impossible fork in the road, leading a million places at once, and nowhere to go, because we have obliterated our own compasses for the sake of the everchanging heart. The unreliable beat of the ripping and tearing drum of every step we take, until we fall through into a formerly acoustic hideaway, once comfortable and safe, is now unsure and dangerous.

But time has a way of gentle healing, just as it specializes in the act of murder of a future once certain.


A New Chapter

Many blogs and many reasons have brought me here. Typing a fresh post on the first page of a new chapter for me on WordPress. I used to be known by a particular name, and indeed I’m still attached to it. Classic.

Alright, so, first post of a new blog. The usual rule applies: explain yourself.

Well, the name of the url:

sonnemann.wordpress.com is due to the author of one of my favorite books called Handwriting Analysis as a Psychodiagnostic Tool, the author is Ulrich Sonnemann. And this book, published in 1950, has always inspired me to search for deeper meaning in the little details of not just every form of analysis, but every step of life.

I’m Hannah-Elizabeth, I’m 16, and this is my latest secret blog.

–Classic, 2011