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.

Anima, Animus, and the Magical Other

Anima, Animus, and the Magical Other

(I wrote the following post for the Jung Society of Utah blog.)

“When animus and anima meet, the animus draws his sword of power and the anima ejects her poison of illusion and seduction. The outcome need not always be negative, since the two are equally likely to fall in love (a special instance of love at first sight).”
– C.G. Jung

Carl Jung used the term anima to describe “the inner figure of a woman held by a man,” and animus to describe “the figure of a man at work in a woman’s psyche.”1 The anima or animus functions as a psychopomp, or “guide of soul” which mediates between the conscious and unconscious, often becoming a “necessary link with creative possibilities and instruments of individuation.”1

These archetypes can profoundly influence our relationships. Individuals often choose partners based upon a resemblance to the anima or animus, or who outwardly express characteristics and feelings that lay dormant in their own psyche. This type of projection can lead to disillusionment and heartbreak once we get to know “the real him, the real herin extremis, the mask slipped from the face,” particularly if that face turns out to be very different from the idealized archetypal image we hold.

Searching for wholeness in the Magical Other

Perhaps it is the anima or animus that leads us to seek out a “Magical Other,” a term coined by Jungian analyst James Hollis to describe “the idea that there is one person out there who is right for us, will make our lives work, a soul–mate who will repair the ravages of our personal history, one who will be there for us, will read our minds, know what we want and meet those deepest needs; a good parent who will protect us from suffering and spare us the challenging journey of individuation.”2 Such romantic fantasies may drive us to search endlessly for our “perfect” match, or fixate in fascinated longing for an Other who seems to be our “ideal.”

Projections of the anima or animus may lead us on a search for our ideal or “Magical Other.”
Photo by Gabriel Bastelli on Pexels.com

According to Hollis, such patterns of behavior are unsustainable. “Given the gap between our expectations of the “Magical Other” and their finite capacities, we often hopelessly burden the relationship and, predictably, end in disappointment, cynicism, blaming, and then roll it all over again onto the next solitary soul.” To break the cycle, Hollis suggests using relationship as a way to examine unconscious contents. “The paradox lies in the fact that the Other can be a means through which one is enabled to glimpse the immensity of one’s own soul and live a portion of one’s individuation.”

Turning within

So love for an Other can serve as a fire that lights the way on our own journey, helping us to better understand ourselves. Even disappointments in relationship may hold an opportunity for personal development. I remember an afternoon I spent sitting with a loved one and telling her about an experience of heartbreak. After listening to my story, she asked what attracted me to the person I’d been discussing. When I told her, she replied, “He’s a mirror.”

Our relationships often serve as a mirrors, reflecting unconscious contents.
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Therefore, we can use those characteristics we admire in the Other as a guide for our own evolution, and work on developing our own inner opposite, rather than searching for someone else to “complete” us. “Consider the courage of those truly willing to look within and own what they find,”2 Hollis says. In doing so, we can make the effects of the anima and animus conscious, possibly helping us discover our own gifts and purpose in the process.

Additionally, one of the tasks of individuation is to integrate the anima or animus in an internal marriage of the masculine and feminine parts of the psyche. Hollis writes, “Hierosgamos, the sacred marriage, properly honors the other as Other and at the same time protects the absolute uniqueness of the individual partners.”2 Through such inner work, we become free to truly love the Other as they are, rather than our projections or fantasies of them. Or as Alan Watts said, “When you’re loving somebody, you are simply delighting in that person as such.”

“Where the myth fails, human love begins. Then we love a human being, not our dream, but a human being with flaws.”   – Anaïs Nin
Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

And if there is no “Magical Other”? Perhaps the true magic happens when we realize we are already complete, just as we are. From this place of integration and self-acceptance, “We may even come to bless those who have most hurt us, for they have most contributed to our transformation,” Hollis says. “We may even love them, allowing them to be who they are, even as we struggle to be ourselves on the journey toward our own destined end.”2

~Amanda Butler
Blog Manager and Newsletter Manager
Jung Society of Utah

Books cited

  1. A Critical Dictionary of Jungian Analysis. Andrew Samuels, Bani Shorter, Fred Plaut.
  2. The Eden Project: In Search of the Magical Other. James Hollis