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.

Jung and the Inner World

Jung and the Inner World

(The following post was originally written for the Jung Society of Utah blog. As I was struggling with how to end this article, I randomly opened Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections and came across his quote about the importance of the outer world. It was a nice synchronicity.)

“This inner world is truly infinite, in no way poorer than the outer one. Man lives in two worlds.”
– C.G. Jung

In Carl Jung’s memoir, he wrote of experiencing an “other,” inner reality, in addition to the outer world. He believed in balancing identification with the external world by having inner experiences of the psyche, writing, “I can understand myself only in the light of these inner happenings.” But what does this mean? How did Jung connect to this inner world?

Reality of PsycheThe Reality of the Psyche

Jung wrote: “What most people overlook or seem unable to understand is the fact that I regard the psyche as real.” He defined the psyche as “the totality of all psychic processes, conscious as well as unconscious,” and considered it a “self regulating system, just as the body is,” with a structure that is accessible through empirical methods.

Jung considered himself “first and foremost an empiricist.” He stated that, “the ‘reality of the psyche’ is my working hypothesis, and my principal activity consists in collecting factual material to describe and explain it.” In order to collect this material, Jung paid attention to things that seemed to be expressions of the psyche. This information included dreams, daydreams, fantasy, and things in the outer world that seemed to reflect internal situations. He later developed a technique called active imagination in order to further explore the inner world.

Dreams

Dream treeJung believed that dreams originate in the unconscious, and could provide information about conscious and unconscious mental processes. He said, “The dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses of the psyche…in dreams we put on the likeness of that more universal, truer, more eternal man dwelling in the darkness of primordial night.”

Lucid dreams may offer an even more powerful way to access the inner world. Dream expert Robert Waggoner says that lucid dreaming feels “like you have become an inner astronaut, exploring the inner space of dreaming.” He notes, “the lucid dream environment often looks, feels, and sounds just as you would expect in the waking world.” Through his years of experience with this inner realm, he has found that “the exploration of the psyche holds many of the same lessons for all lucid dreamers.”

Active Imagination

Jung shared the belief that there were lessons to be found in the inner world, and that it held information that was outside of his conscious awareness. He developed a technique he called active imagination as a way to consciously dialogue with the unconscious. Jung found that he was able to access “those contents of the unconscious which lie, as it were, immediately below the threshold of consciousness and, when intensified, are the most likely to erupt spontaneously into the conscious mind.”

Jung called active imagination “the royal road to the unconscious,” and made extensive use of it in his explorations of the inner world. As he did so, he kept a careful clinical record of his observations, compiled into what is now known as The Red Book.

Two Worlds

Two worldsWhile Jung found inspiration in the inner world, he also valued the grounding and stability offered by the outer world, appreciating the balance it brought to his life: “When I was working on the fantasies…it was most essential for me to have…a counterpoise to that strange inner world. My family and my profession remained the base to which I could always return, reassuring me that I was an actually existing, ordinary person.”

As Jung found, interacting with the inner world can be a fascinating and rewarding experience. We can do the same by paying attention to dreams and daydreams, noticing what we imagine when our mind wanders, and being aware of synchronicities. What message might the inner world have to offer you?