Book Review: Please Understand Me

Book Review: Please Understand Me

A previous version of this post has appeared on the Real Caring blog.

In Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types, authors David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates discuss the differences people display in their thinking, beliefs, desires, and emotions. However, rather than simply recognizing and accepting these differences in others, we tend to pathologize them: “Seeing others around us differing from us, we conclude that these differences in individual behavior are temporary manifestations of madness, badness, stupidity, or sickness.” Having viewed others this way and experienced this kind of treatment myself, I can relate to the authors’ claim that, “our attempts to change spouse, offspring, or others can result in change, but the result is a scar and not a transformation.”
To help create better acceptance and understanding of oneself and others, the book includes the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, a short questionnaire to help readers determine their personality type. The four-letter result will look familiar to anyone who has taken the Myers-Briggs.

These 16 personality types are grouped into the temperaments described below.
Artisan (ISTP, ISFP, ESTP, ESFP): People of this type make up about 35% of the population. This type seeks sensation. Artisans are spontaneous and action-oriented, and tend to focus on the present moment. They are often artistically gifted, unconventional, and can be impulsive.
Guardian (ISTJ, ISFJ, ESTJ, ESFJ): Also making up about 35% of the population, people of this type seek security. They focus on duties and responsibilities, like to follow rules, and usually enjoy tradition. Guardians are down to earth and pride themselves on being trustworthy.
Rational (INTJ, ENTP, INTP, ENTJ): People of this type make up about 13% of the population. This type seeks knowledge, wanting to “understand, control, predict, and explain realities.” Rationals are pragmatic and efficient, love intelligence, and desire competence.
Idealist (INFJ, ENFP, INFP, ENFJ): Making up 17% of the population, people of this type seek identity. They focus on hopes, goals, and possibilities, guided by their own personal code of ethics. Idealists are interested in self-growth and are often talented at verbal and written communication.
While understanding temperament types can help us relate to partners, family members, friends, and colleagues more effectively and with greater empathy, this understanding can also prove beneficial in a therapeutic context. People of one temperament type may be more likely than others to receive certain diagnoses. “The vast majority of clients that I work with who have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) traits are Idealist personality types,” Shannon McQuade, LCSW, LMT, said. In McQuade’s experience, people of this type also seek therapy most often, due to their focus on self-growth and search for identity.
“Idealists are “intuitive” which is to say that they “look inward” to process information,” McQuade explained. “Under stressful conditions, this can lead to dissociation. It can cause a loss of a sense of self and confusion so characteristic of BPD. Idealists are also strong “feelers”, which is to say that they’re highly sensitive people who can be overwhelmed or stressed fairly easily if overstimulated. BPD has a biological sensitivity and environmental component. An intuitive feeler Idealist growing up in a chaotic environment can develop the very same symptoms we see in BPD.” This type of understanding can help mental health professionals view their clients more holistically, rather than simply focusing on their diagnosis.
Keeping temperament types in mind can help us relate to those around us as individuals, rather than viewing them as flawed and in need of correction. The book provides useful information about how to do this, with descriptions of each temperament type as a mate, as a manager, and as a child. I especially liked the section on how best to show appreciation to each temperament type. The book is enjoyable to read and offers practical ways to understand others better in all situations.

Psychotherapy can offer a lot of assistance with feeling understood and understanding others. I’m a licensed associate marriage and family therapist, and am accepting new clients (Utah only), both in person and over telehealth. Find out more here.

Energy work can also be of great value in understanding self and others, especially when combined with psychological perspectives. I offer energy healing and coaching to people worldwide. Book a session or find out more here.

Meditation for Improved Mental Health: Dealing with the Cause of Stress

Meditation for Improved Mental Health: Dealing with the Cause of Stress

Previous versions of this post have appeared on the Real Caring blog and in the Midvale City Journal.

Meditation has been an integral part of many spiritual and religious traditions for thousands of years. However, research into the health benefits of meditation has been relatively recent.

Since the 1950s, hundreds of studies have been conducted on the effects of meditation by measuring changes in the brain and body. Overall, these studies have shown that meditation can have a positive effect on health, particularly mental health.

Research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found the following positive outcomes associated with meditation:

  • A literature review of 47 trials in 3,515 participants suggested that mindfulness meditation programs improved anxiety and depression.
  • review of 36 trials that used meditative therapies for anxiety found that 25 of them reported better outcomes for anxiety symptoms in the meditation groups compared to control groups.
  • A small study of adults with chronic insomnia found that meditation-based programs aided sleep, reducing the severity of insomnia.
  • In a study of smokers who received two weeks of meditation training, there was a 60% reduction in smoking, with no such changes seen in the control group.

​Why does meditation positively impact mental health? Dr. Andrew Vidich, an author and teacher who provides trainings on meditation, says that meditation practices help us to “deal with the cause of stress, which is how we respond to environmental stressful factors. Because it’s not a question of what’s out there, it’s a question of how we respond to what’s out there. This depends on your own inner state of well-being.”

“The shift of the meditation process is to redirect the focus from the outside to the inside, and to reconnect it to the source from which it has arisen,” Vidich says. “It’s not about thinking about thoughts, it’s about disconnecting from thoughts and putting your attention somewhere else.”

“We learn through the meditation process that you have thoughts but you are not your thoughts. You can choose to identify or not identify with every thought that goes through your brain,” Vidich says. “You can choose not to identify with thoughts that are negative. Our thoughts create our reality, whether happy or sad, patient or impatient, grateful or ungrateful, whether in the moment or out of the moment, whether regretting the past or fearing the future, that’s what this practice is all about.”

Through gaining greater control over our thoughts, we may actually change our brains, rewiring our neural pathways to function in ways that are more conducive to well-being. Meditation training can also positively affect brain function even outside of a meditative state.

Vidich recommends meditation “not just because the science tells us it is beneficial on so many different levels, but because individuals find it extremely useful on a variety of different levels.” In addition to its health benefits, meditation provides “a tremendous benefit for concentration, creativity, sense of inner stability, and resilience,” Vidich says. “Meditation is a deepening understanding of who we are.”

Additionally, meditation may even increase empathy, which has important implications for our social interactions.

“Meditation is a technique that anyone can practice, regardless of your religious or spiritual background,” Vidich says. Even better, it’s free and is available at all times.

Interested in beginning a meditation practice? You can find free guided meditations at the Real Caring website. A variety of guided meditations can also be found on YouTube.

For additional help managing stress and difficult thoughts:

  • Psychotherapy can offer a lot of assistance with this and other mental health challenges. I’m a licensed associate marriage and family therapist, and am accepting new clients (Utah only), both in person and over telehealth. Find out more here.
  • Energy work can also be of great value in managing thoughts, increasing mindfulness, and with other concerns, especially when combined with psychological perspectives. I offer energy healing and coaching to people worldwide. Book a session or find out more here.