ISSUE Magazine

Play of Words by Ai Ming

One of my favourite psychological tests is the Word Association Test, which was developed and refined by none other than one of the most remarkable minds in the field of Psychology, Carl Jung.

I am guessing that the name of this psychological test should not be foreign to people who had seen the latest James Bond movie, Skyfall. If I may remind you, it was featured in the scene where Daniel Craig (as Bond), was being tested before he was deemed fit to be allowed back to serving the secret service. And ‘skyfall’ was the word that he stumbled upon.

The test contains a series of words and the process of testing goes briefly like this:

The psychology practitioner would say each word and the person being tested is expected to respond with the first word that appears in his or her mind, as quickly as possible. The ultimate goal was to reveal the person’s conscious and unconscious complexes; to expose the brightest and darkest parts of one’s mind.

In the world of Psychology, the Word Association Test is a valid instrument to examine a person’s mental health and emotional functioning. But for me, I have simplified it to a harmless game, which I sometimes incorporate into my daily social interactions with people around me.

For my own amusement, I weave a word or two into normal conversations with people, in hopes to be surprised by the responses I receive, which — according to the theory in psychology — reflects the person’s suppressed desires or unconscious wishes. If I may suggest, I think the test would make a good pick-up game in the dating arena, or even a drinking game on a Friday night with total strangers. The applications are vast. Use widely and wisely.

Applying the basic principle of test in its simplest manner, I decided to use ‘X’ as the trigger word, in an attempt to fish out the first responding word that popped into my head.

Guess what?

“Death” was the magic word that my brain so effortlessly churned out.

Admittedly, I was not too happy with the results because it made me question my own sanity: Does this inevitably make me a depressed individual?  

Upon reflection, I’ve come to the realisation that death has given me perspectives in life as I was growing up. Therefore, it has remained a concept I choose to hold dear to my beating heart till today.

Ironic, isn’t it? To be putting the idea of death right at the core of my survival?

But having been exposed to deaths of loved ones and of cherished pets at a young age, I can publicly admit that I have spent quite a significant amount of time delving into the issue, pondering over it.

I recall that during my teenage years, I tried seeking answers from watching horror movies, playing zombie video games and embracing the Gothic subculture with open arms. In retrospect, I realize how silly that was because those naïve pursuits for the truth about death left my 18-year-old self more clueless than ever. At that time, death was also something the grownups remained mum about, as if there was a chapter in the parenting handbook dedicated to “How to protect your kids from the idea of death.”

However, there is an expiry date as to how long can parents keep their children bubble-wrapped from the unpleasant happenings in the world. Because we all soon find out that there are wars of terror everywhere we turn. We are constantly being fed by the media with news of people hurting each other through murders, rapes and even mass destruction. I believe that we then reach a point where we see death all around us, regardless of how much we try to fight it.

Paradoxically, while I was desperately trying to understand death, I got to know the meaning of being alive.

It is through accepting death that I learnt the concept of impermanence, where the people I meet (or come to love) and things I acquire will not be in my life forever. Death reminds me to pay attention to the simplest things in life because every day is rich in textures, while beauty always lies in the seemingly insignificant details. Death is the reason why I choose love over hate. Death teaches me not to compare myself with other people, because despite the fact that we are living our lives very differently, we all share the same destination.

The way I see it, death is the destination and life is the journey. Just like the chest of gold on a treasure map at the end of a quest, the destination is always marked with a bold and alluring ‘X’.

Featured Image by Dhiyanah Hassan and Muizz Adam.

Ai Ming thumbnail

Ai Ming is not a depressed person. It’s just that she enjoys exploring the darker concepts. This is why she did a research paper on fear and her favourite psychology subject in university was “Introduction to Psychological Disorders”.

This entry was written by Ai Ming and published on 14/06/2013 at 02:00. It’s filed under Ai Ming, Essays, ISSUE13, Musings and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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