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Tibon, S. (2009). Using the Rorschach Reality-Fantasy Scale (RFS) for Assessing Mental Functioning in Adults Exposed to Constant Threat of Terror. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 57(2):461-465.

(2009). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 57(2):461-465

Using the Rorschach Reality-Fantasy Scale (RFS) for Assessing Mental Functioning in Adults Exposed to Constant Threat of Terror

Shira Tibon

This study uses a new Rorschach index, the Reality-Fantasy Scale (RFS; Tibon, Handelzalts, and Weinberger 2005) for assessing mental functioning in nonpatient adults exposed to constant threat of terror. The RFS operationalizes Winnicott's conceptualization of potential space (1971) as a criterion of mental health. The scale is based on variables derived from the empirically based Rorschach Comprehensive System (CS), the most widely used method for scoring and interpreting the Rorschach (Exner 2003). Following Smith (1990), who interprets Rorschach data in terms of Ogden's model (1985), exploring psychopathological conditions as different forms of collapse of potential space, the RFS applies this model to assessing the capacity for differentiation and integration, a substantial facet of the Profile of Mental Functioning (Axis M) as defined by the Psychodynamic Diagnostic Manual (PDM Task Force 2006).

The RFS suggests viewing the Rorschach task as inviting the subject to enter the intermediate space between reality and fantasy. The ambiguity of the blot and the nature of instructions (What might this be?) create a situation in which subjects are expected to both find and make something out of the blot, keeping an enriching tension between perception of the outer world as represented by the blot and interpretation derived from inner experience. The RFS may therefore be used to assess a person's capacity for differentiation and integration of external and internal experience.

Psychoanalytic thinking conceives the ability to preserve potential space as being closely bound up with one's psychological reactions to external reality. Studies that examine the inner experience of subjects who are in extremely threatening situations — persecution, arrest, deportation, imprisonment — suggest that in these situations external reality is replaced with a constrained, paranoid one devoid of continuity and structure. Consequently, a desymbolizing effect may appear that reduces people's ability to use and understand metaphors. These studies assume the violation of transitional space during physical violence and a confusion of inner and outer worlds as an inevitable consequence of persecution (Schreuder 2001).

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