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.

Capturing the Wind: Aligning with the Archetypal Through Dreams

It was a pleasure to interview Dr. Michael Conforti of the Assisi Institute about his approach to dreamwork for the Jung Platform blog.

 

How can we best understand what our dreams are communicating to us?

According to Dr. Michael Conforti, dream images have an existence autonomous of how we think or feel about them. However, most of modern dreamwork has become very subjective. “People confuse the reaction that the dreamer is having with the message of the dream,” he said. “Psyche is telling a story in a certain way. Let’s get beyond what we think and feel.”

Michael Conforti
Jung Platform is pleased to present a free webinar and a four week course on dreams and dreamwork with Michael Conforti.

To illustrate, he provided the hypothetical example of two therapy clients who dreamed of sailboats. The first client associated sailboats with a romantic vacation in the Greek islands. The second associated sailboats with the loss of multiple family members in a boating accident.“The first interpretation is about passion and sexuality,” Conforti said, explaining that a therapist who is working with this dream might ask the client where they need more eros in their life. In working with the second client, the therapist might ask what is happening in their life related to tragedy.

However, “a sailboat is something unto itself,” Conforti said. “It travels by virtue of the sails, which capture the wind. The wind is the numinous. All that gets lost when you cover it up by the tragedy or the love and the passion. The powerful message of the dream gets lost under those conditions. Subjectivity is often diametrically opposed to the objective and archetypal.”

sailboat
A sailboat is an archetypal image with an existence autonomous of how one thinks or feels about it.

“Jung really built on the shoulders of giants before him—the spiritual teachers, the mystics, the sages and the dreamers from the beginning of time—and they knew there was something sacred about the dream,” Conforti said. “They knew the dream was coming from someplace that was beyond what we think about in ordinary consciousness, that supersedes it. They took the images and said, ‘This image is powerful. The dream is trying to awaken us to something we don’t know about.’”

Jung and the early Jungians studied the symbols and images that are often seen in dreams, myths, and fairytales, and found within them “themes of humanity and journeys through life,” Conforti said. “All these stories talk about the portals we cross in different stages of life. These are archetypal situations that have been with humanity from the beginning and are not to be muted by individual bias. But when we take an image and we say, ‘Well, what does it mean to you?’ the absolute autonomy of the image is lost.”

fairy tale
Dreams often contain the same images and symbols seen in myths and fairy tales.

From the subjective to the archetypal

“The response evoked by a dream is often more about our own complexes than about the dream image itself,” Conforti said.“Ninety percent of what we typically do is filtering a dream through a complex and we miss the beautiful meaning of it.” So when working with dream images, Conforti starts with the subjective level, assessing the dreamer’s reaction to the dream.“You have to work through the emotion,” he said. “You’ve dealt with the complex but not the dream.”

However, once the emotions and complexes surrounding the dream have been addressed, it may allow the dreamer access to something deeper that is helping to direct their individuation. “The beauty of this work is to help people see their complexes and then to align with the archetypal,” Conforti said. “When one is able to push aside their own rendering or feeling for a moment and approach the dream, it is the beginning of ushering in their spirituality; of being affected by something bigger than them. But it is a difficult journey from the subjective to the universal.”

Marie-Louise von Franz
“Dreams are like letters from God. Isn’t it time you opened your mail?” – Marie-Louise von Franz

Going back to the image of the sailboat, Conforti spoke of how the wind moves it across the water. “The wind since Biblical times is the Spirit, which moves us through life. When you work with the wind, you have to learn how to capture the wind, to move with the shifting winds, and how to steer, but the wind is guiding you,” he said.“The sailboat is a vessel to cross the collective unconscious. But when you put it into the sausage grinder of ‘what this means to me,’ you lose all of that.”

So in understanding and aligning with the archetypal meaning of dream images, we align with the natural order of life. In doing so, we begin to capture and work with the wind, allowing the Self to guide us toward our destiny.

 

Dr. Michael Conforti will present a four week course on these ideas beginning January 26th. Get your 10% discount by signing up before Jan 8th Enroll here.

Jung Platform is also pleased to present a free webinar on dreams with Michael Conforti on January 12th. Free sign up here.