You’re on a Road
When I was 26, I went out to dinner with a highly respected psychologist. Over a glass of wine, while waiting for our table, we discussed conversations people have, when they get to know each other.
He asked my permission to share a “psychological survey,” saying that he would explain what it meant after I gave four descriptions. Being of an age and in my “take any challenge phase,” I agreed. Here are the four “questions” my PhD friend asked.
- You’re walking on a road. It’s your road. Tell me about it.
- As you walk, you pass a body of water, describe it.
- Directly in your path is an empty bottle. What’s your response to it?
- You continue until you find yourself facing a wall that crosses your road perpendicularly. What do you do?
NOTE: If you want to answer for yourself, now is the time. My answers and the interpretation come next.
I’m Walking on My Road
What follows is the conversation as best I remember. The memory is clear because I’ve shared this story so many times.
PhD: You’re walking on a road. It’s your road. Tell me about it.
ME: It’s a country road — blacktop in parts, dirt in others — with a 2-foot shoulder, but there’s plenty of room to pull off to go exploring, if you want to. On both sides of the road there are trees, but on one side, a break in the trees sometimes lets you see all the way to forever. The grass by the road is populated with colorful wildflowers.
The skies are glorious with clouds and color. The sun shines on the road most days. It only rains when it needs to. Then the sky turns dark, dark gray– a color that turns leaves that bright, special of shade of yellow-green that makes trees seem more than three-dimensional.
PhD: As you walk, you pass a body of water, describe it.
ME: It’s a lake. It’s still. It goes far deeper than people think. There’s a dock with rowboat, and the water is clear and reflective blue-black in the moonlight. It’s the kind of water you would want to go skinny dipping in.
PhD: Directly in your path is an empty bottle. What’s your response to it?
ME: Pick it up and set it gently alongside the edge of the road.
PhD: You continue until you find yourself facing a wall that crosses your road perpendicularly. What do you do?
ME: Climb it, of course.
My PhD friend told me what his answers were the first time that he heard this little test. Then he explained what each part is supposed to tell about. He said it’s a survey of attitudes.
The road is your attitude about life. A man I know described his life as interstate highway with a car wreck. That also described his real life.
The body of water is your attitude toward feelings, intimacy, and sex. The same guy, no kidding, said his body of water was a stagnant pool.
The bottle is your attitude toward other people. The choice is to move it or leave it alone. The man I’ve been talking about walked around the bottle.
The wall is your attitude toward problems. The highway-walking, stagnant-pool, avoid-the-bottle guy said, “Turn around and go back. There could be guys with guns on the other side.” I’m not making this up. He really said that.
Of course, this isn’t a scientific test, and no valid truth can be assumed from it. Yet, I’ve shared this “real-life meme” hundreds of times since that dinner — with people I know well and people I just met. No one has ever said the interpretation didn’t ring true — even the stagnan-pool guy, said it was “on the money.”
I share it here because, it’s a great conversation starter. It works in most any group. Also I’m interested in how you would answer. That’s why I went first, thinking maybe you might go second, or third or . . . twenty-seventh . . .
–ME “Liz” Strauss
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