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.

Intro to Jung: What is the Self?

Intro to Jung: What is the Self?

This blog post is the first in a series that discusses basic concepts of Carl Jung’s psychology. It appeared first on the Jung Society of Utah blog. For anyone new to Jungian psychology, or for those who would like a refresher on some of his central concepts, these blog posts provide an overview, including definitions, as well as further explanation and commentary by experts in the field. We begin by exploring the concept of the Self.

The Self is one of the primary concepts in Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung’s psychology. Jung defined as the Self as “the totality of a person’s being,”1 and the word is capitalized to denote its centrality and sacredness. Jung believed that the Self is the “central force guiding our development: he saw this energy expressed in our ability to change form and evolve, while maintaining our personal identity,”2 and as “the blueprint of our potential unfolding and the path to greater unity of the conscious and unconscious in us. Jung saw it perpetually reorienting us towards balance and guiding us into greater wholeness.”3 In this way, the Self may be seen as an inner companion that can provide guidance and support, even in difficult times.

Jung referred to the Self as the archetype of the individual and stated that “the Self is all embracing,”4 including the “conscious and unconscious psyche.”5 Jung further claimed that the Self “might equally well be called ‘the God within us.’”6 Jung also referred to the Self as “the principle and archetype of orientation and meaning. Therein lies its healing function. For me this insight signified an approach to the center and therefore to the goal.”7 In this approach, “There is no linear evolution; there is only a circumambulation of the self.”8

“The nautilus shell has a pattern that repeats itself while growing ever larger, just as we ourselves have a pattern that is preserved even as it grows.” – Gary Bobroff

Jungian analyst June Singer provided further explanation, stating that it is the energy of the Self

which provides the thrust for the individuation process. I cannot describe what it is, for I do not know, but I can tell how it feels. It feels as if one were being drawn inward toward a center of great luminosity, yet to fly straight into it would be like a moth darting into a flame or the earth hurtling itself into the center of the sun. So one moves about the center instead, close enough to see the brightness, to feel the warmth, but maintaining the orbital tension, a dynamic relationship of a small finite being to a source of light and energy that has no limits.9

 Similarly, Jungian analyst Murray Stein wrote that “in the lifelong unfolding that Jung calls individuation, the driving force is the self, the driving force is the self.”10 Describing its role as the conductor of the individuation process, professor of depth psychology Elizabeth Nelson wrote that the Self “will disturb, cajole, and importune in any number of remarkable ways, particularly when everything appears perfect.”11 Singer further claimed that the Self is “both a guide and the goal”12 of individuation. She continued by stating that “the striving toward [the Self] produces greater consciousness of our whole character, the shadows as well as the light.”13 Of this process, author Gary Bobroff wrote, “in becoming more whole, we become more of who we are, and we usually become better able to express ourselves and share our particular gift.”14

Jungian analyst James Hollis described the Self as “the purposiveness of the organism, the teleological intention of becoming itself as fully as it can . . . The Self is unknowable, though its intentionality may be inferred from its expression through the venues of the body, affect, cognition,”15 as well as through symptoms and dream images. He further explained, “As the Self embodies the totality of the organism and its mysterious, autonomous activity, so we may never know it fully any more than a swimmer could know the ocean.”16 Because of this, one must be content with “‘a sense’ of Self, the Self forever unknown, unknowable.”17

In addition, Stein explained that because the Self encompasses both the conscious and unconscious psyche, it may allow us to “know things that are beyond our conscious possibility of knowing.” 18 The Self may be seen as the keeper or mediator of this knowledge. Thus, “experiences of the Self are numinous, powerful, moving and transcendent. Alongside our powerful biological instincts stands an equally powerful urge to become who we could be and to connect to something beyond the personal.”19 The unique life one creates is from this place of transcendence is “not cut off from others or made more important than any other life on the planet. It is simply affirmed as one experiment in human life that is unique because of its precise position in the common matrix.”20 In being fully oneself, something entirely new and authentic is created that contributes to the collective, often in beautiful and surprising ways.

How then can we connect more deeply with the Self? Ways of building a relationship with the divine within us include Jungian analysis or depth psychotherapy, dream work, drawing mandalas and other art making, other creative work, sand tray therapy, dance and movement, somatic work, meditation, active imagination, exploring mythology, and various types of energy work or shamanic healing. Cultivating this inner relationship can often lead to insight and a feeling of deeper integration.

Suggestions for Further Reading

  • Gary Bobroff, Knowledge in a Nutshell: Carl Jung (Arcturus Publishing, 2020)
  • James Hollis, The Eden Project: In Search of the Magical Other (Inner City Books, 1998)
  • Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (Vintage Books, 1989)
  • June Singer, Boundaries of the Soul: The Practice of Jung’s Psychology (Doubleday, 1994)
  • Murray Stein, Jung’s Map of the Soul: An Introduction (Open Court, 1998)

~Amanda Butler, MA, LAMFT; Integrative Healing Facilitator, Freelance Writer and Editor
Board Secretary, Blog Manager, and Newsletter Manager
Jung Society of Utah

Notes

  1. Carl Jung, G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters (Princeton University Press, 1987), p. 414
  2. Gary Bobroff, Knowledge in a Nutshell: Carl Jung (Arcturus Publishing, 2020), p. 102
  3. Ibid., p. 102
  4. Carl Jung, C. G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters (Princeton University Press, 1987), p. 216
  5. June Singer, Boundaries of the Soul: The Practice of Jung’s Psychology (Doubleday, 1994), 16
  6. Carl Jung, C. G. Collected Works, vol. 7 (Princeton University Press, 1966), p. 238
  7. Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (Vintage Books, 1989), p.
  8. Ibid., p. 196
  9. June Singer, Boundaries of the Soul: The Practice of Jung’s Psychology (Doubleday, 1994), p. 210
  10. Murray Stein, Jung’s Map of the Soul: An Introduction (Open Court, 1998), p. 177
  11. Elizabeth Nelson, Psyche’s Knife (Chiron, 2012), p. 27
  12. June Singer, Boundaries of the Soul: The Practice of Jung’s Psychology (Doubleday, 1994), p. 60
  13. Ibid
  14. Gary Bobroff, Knowledge in a Nutshell: Carl Jung (Arcturus Publishing, 2020), p. 103
  15. James Hollis, The Eden Project: In Search of the Magical Other (Inner City Books, 1998), p. 16
  16. Ibid
  17. Ibid
  18. Murray Stein, Jung’s Map of the Soul: An Introduction (Open Court, 1998), p. 211
  19. Gary Bobroff, Knowledge in a Nutshell: Carl Jung (Arcturus Publishing, 2020), p. 103
  20. Murray Stein, Individuation. In The Handbook of Jungian Psychology: Theory, Practice, and Applications (Routledge, 2006), p. 213

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