Temperament IV: Lovers

This is the fourth in a series about “temperament” in which we are discussing the idea of temperament as a way of understanding personality and the behavior that results from one’s personality. Acknowledging that there are many ways of understanding personality, we propose that there are four primary temperaments that give us a general orientation to the world:

  • Players: seek experience, often excitement, adventure, and tend to take a rather physical engagement to the world
  • Analysts: seek meaning in life by identifying problems and their solutions
  • Lovers: whom we will discuss in this document
  • Caretakers: take care of things, both property and people

Our use of “temperament,” as well as several other ways of understanding personality is first and foremost a focus on “what is right about people” rather than the rather popular way of understanding what is wrong with various mental health diagnoses. We do not disparage the use of such problem-based ways of understanding people, but rather do not think it is the best way to start the understanding process. We do, however, admit that there are problems that result from all good things including temperament. The “problems” that erupt from temperament are primarily three: (1) the person does not know, and hence value, his or her own temperament, (2) the person uses the gifts of his/her temperament “to a fault,” and (3) one’s gifts of temperament may be substantially different from people with other temperaments leading to a conflict between two good things.

Herein we will discuss the characteristic that are natural to the people we call “lovers” and then speak somewhat of the value that such people bring to the world. We will defer the challenges and opportunities that lovers have in the world to a latter blog.

Characteristics of Lovers

  1. Connecting

Like the term love, “connecting” does not lend itself to an exact definition but it a very real experience nevertheless just like the many elements of psychology and the basic elements of the universe are real but hard to define. This is the central ingredient of people we call “lovers,” but this characteristic does not lend itself to exact definition. It is something like feeling the same thing that another person feels. Connecting is a shared feeling, shared, insight, shared belief, shared joy, shared sorrow, shared hope, shared expectation or shared experience. Clearly, this has to do with sharing. This sharing, this connecting blends the boundaries between people, and it is something that lovers do all the time and especially with the people they most love. I sometimes say that lovers think, “If you feel it, I will feel it,” whatever the “it” is. A cognate of this feeling is something like, “If I feel it, you feel it,” which, however true this might be, can be problematic for lovers. The simplest experience of something shared jointly can be the seeing, appreciating, and experiencing a sunset or a sunrise because beauty is usually another part of the lover temperament. Connection can just as equally experienced in any other realm of life but the key is always having the same feeling as someone else.

This connection/sharing phenomenon can lead to a new creation, what we call la unity of souls. This unity is more than one person and more than the other person, and it is more than just two people experiencing something. It is a spiritual union that now makes an us out of “you” and “me.” This “us” orientation that lovers have is more important than the I and the you, and it is something that they are looking for all the time.

Both of our daughters have this lover temperament, and both seek connections, but our younger daughter, Jenny, is perhaps more of a true lover, while Krissie blends player with her lover temperament. When we talk, text, Facebook, or visit, Jenny is always the one who seeks connection with us. Certainly, hugs are first when we actually meet, but after those moments she is looking to what we feel, what we think, and what we have done. She is looking for connections. She is looking at a way to find us so she can find a way to blend with us. I wonder how these two girls turned out so good in life with one parent a caretaker and the other an analyst. It seems that we all muddled through their childhood together doing our best to love each other. Lovers do it best.

  1. Harmonious

Harmony is an adjunct to connection. When two people have this unity of souls, there are yet two people in the “us” but the relationship but these two people find different ways of experiencing life and expressing their feelings. Ideally for the lover, this harmony works to enhance not only both people but the “us” that has been created in the connection. In seeking this harmony lovers avoid conflict if at all possible. They will bend their own perceptions and their own words to find agreement and harmony, and they attempt to blend others’ feelings and perceptions to blend with their own. Lovers will do their best to find this harmony by listening, watching, and feeling their emotions in order to see how the other person sees the world and feels about the world.

The lovers that I have mentioned above all have this characteristic of seeking harmony. Daughter Jenny rarely displays any kind of anger or displeasure. Likewise, I have rarely seen other lovers angry, at least at the beginning of a relationship. Janet gets angry on a very rare occasion, and I have only seen John a bit irritated. Rather, I have seen these people spend hours and hours seeking to connect with people and find similarities that make for human harmony. And when they can’t seem to find harmony, they can feel great distress and clearly repressed anger. Mostly, though, they simply feel a great loss when harmony is in absence.

  1. Dreaming.

We have discussed how analysts like to dream. Lovers also dream, but their dreaming is substantially different than that of analysts. Simply put, lovers’ dreams are more emotional while analysts’ dreams are more cognitive. Furthermore, lovers’ dreams are more about connections with people. Dreaming for a lover is much more of a free-floating process where their minds drift into possibilities and opportunities for human connections. Lovers’ dreaming is almost always people-centered rather than things-centered the way caretakers dream or idea-centered the way analysts dream. They don’t think much about why something has happened the way analysts do, nor do they think about what has happened like caretakers. They dream about who they could be connected with. They might dream about having a perfect relationship, or dream about improving their current relationship, or they might dream a having a relationship with some unknown person where everything is about connection and harmony. Lovers can dream about places, ideas, and possibilities but these dreams always involve people. Furthermore, these dreams do not have to come into fruition; it is enough for a lover to dream about doing something, seeing something, or going somewhere. When a lover has engaged in this kind of fanciful dreaming, it may no longer be necessary to actually do the dream. Lovers have the ability to experience the future when they dream, a future that may never happen, but is real nevertheless.

  1. Touching.

It is almost impossible for lovers to keep from touching people. Yesterday, Deb and I did therapy with a couple. I have been working with the man for many months, and Deb has been working with the woman. This man and wife have come to a very difficult place in their life together and they needed us to help them sort things out. After rather intensive three-plus hours with this couple, and after many tears, we ended the session. After we all stood up, the wife, a woman I had never met before, reached out her hand for a handshake, which I accepted. But then almost if she had said, “I need more than this,” she reached out to me for a hug. It was one of those full body hugs that lovers give where two bodies are close enough to feel one another’s heartbeats. It wasn’t one of those hugs that I call “A-frame” where two people only touch at head level, nor was it a “C-frame” hug that is typical of men where the two men stand facing in the same direction each with an arm around the other guy. This was a great big bear hug. It was real, and it was absolutely necessary for her. We had had this three-hour connection, not all of which was pleasant, and she needed to feel this physical connection before she left my office.

Lovers’ tendency to touch people is clearest when they touch another person who is in pain of some kind. The affectionate touch rendered to someone in pain that is fairly natural for all of us is perhaps more of a wonderful compulsion for lovers: they are compelled to touch a person in pain, whether that pain is physical or emotional. Their touch is very likely healing in a way that lies beyond exact science. There are professional healers, many of whom may well be lovers by temperament, utilize “healing touch” as a principal part of their work. Healing touch is quite simply the healer placing his or her hands on the part of the body of the patient that is in some kind of pain. There is a good bit of research that suggests that touch, whether emotional or physical, is beneficial to people in some kind of pain. Massage therapists perhaps know more about the healing nature of physical touch, but it is also a part of physical therapy, chiropractic, nursing care, Reiki, and other more traditional medical practice. When I had a massage recently, I could not distinguish the difference between the muscle relief I experienced from the more emotional relief I felt. Many nontraditional healing practitioners talk of a healing “energy” that occurs when two people touch one another.

  1. Generous.

Lovers truly enjoy giving. They like to give hugs. They like to give greeting cards and thank you notes. They like to give presents. They can even give things that they probably can’t afford to give, like property, money, or time. Lovers are very good at giving affection for someone who is in pain even though the very same person may have brought them pain in the past. If a lover is around someone that is hurting in some way, whether from physical, emotional, or relational matters, the lover will feel immediate compassion and a desire to give something to the hurting person. Lovers’ generous nature is more than meeting someone’s need. They simply enjoy the act of giving, expecting nothing in return. My sister, lover by nature, insists that I take some kind of present with me when I leave her house, and when she comes to our house, the car trunk is full of several presents. Lovers’ giving can be out of their own abundance or out of sacrifice, but it is absolutely genuine.

This generous nature of lovers extends to deeper feeling and sacrifice. Lovers are more forgiving than people of other temperaments. It is simply easier for lovers to forgive offenses and mistakes in other people. They seem able to understand that much offense and many mistakes are not intentional, but rather due to misunderstanding or misjudgment. When they are at their best, lovers can forget about bad things that have happened to them or that have been done to them. They can be on the receiving end of vicious attacks, physical or verbal, and they will return the next day, even the next hour, with a spontaneous and genuine felt concern for their attackers if the attacker displays regret and makes an apology. Lovers seem not to even remember offensive things that were said or done to them. Forgiveness for lovers can come easily and naturally, especially if the offending party shows some kind of contrition.

Next up: Temperament V: Caretakers

Further reading: see previous blogs

Temperament III: Analysts

This is the third in a series about “temperament” after Temperament I where we discussed the idea of temperament in general and Temperament II where we introduced the temperament of “player.” In short review, and acknowledging that there are many shades of personality assessment, we propose that there are four primary temperaments that give us a general orientation to the world, e.g.:

  • Players: seek experience, often excitement, adventure, and tend to take a rather physical engagement to the world
  • Analysts: whom we will discuss herein
  • Lovers: seek human connections
  • Caretakers: take care of things, both property and people

We admit to the obvious, that no one falls completely into one of these categories and that many people have perhaps two dominant temperaments, although our experience is that such is rare. More often, people have found ways of accommodating to the world that is outside of their basic life orientation and temperament. E.g., players perhaps have the most difficult time adjusting to life in America because this country tends to be caretaking first based on production, business, and the Protestant work ethic. So players often find ways of skirting these things and fail in life, or give into a caretaking way of life and end up unhappy. In Temperament II we discussed our daughter, Krissie, who operates primarily as a caretaker because of her profession at an insurance company and as a mother of two young children. She has accommodated to these seeming necessities of life. We also mentioned Kevin who was actually the stimulus for our understanding of the player personality 40 years ago. While distinctly a player, his profession is actuarial science. Now how does that sound as a fit for a player? Not particularly good. So he has also accommodated.

Accommodation is good but better is adaptation, which is primarily a Jungian word for a more positive and self-enhancing way of adjustment. The difference here is that accommodation tends to be a kind of giving in to something that is not particularly good for someone, while adaptation is a means of adjusting to the environment while not losing one’s life orientation. Adaptation also helps a person mature beyond his or her temperament while not losing the foundation what is one’s personality structure. True maturing is remaining foundational in one’s nature, which is one’s perspective of life, and then adding profitable means of operating out of one’s foundation. Jung referred to this kind of adjustment as adaptation, which we might also call developing one’s shadow, or one’s secondary nature. It is also important to mature beyond one’s foundation because it is impossible to be successful, happy, and productive in life without such maturing. If one does not mature beyond one’s foundation, one will tend to find an accommodation that is not valuable, which could be some kind of addiction, or more commonly doing something to a fault. As a caretaker myself (Ron), I spent many years working, fixing, and other doings to a fault. It is yet hard for me to just “hang out,” or dolce far niente as the Italians say, which is quite easy for my other daughter. So as we continue to study the four temperaments as an important way we have come to understand and value people, know that no one is any one thing, and that is important to “know thyself first” and then mature beyond ones’s basic foundation. Now, let’s look at the analyst temperament.

Characteristics of analysts

The primary element of such people is, as the name suggests, analysis. What is analysis? Analysis is taking apart or even breaking up something for the purposes of understanding, for the purpose of identifying the elements in something and ultimately to make things work more effectively. Synthesis is quite the opposite, namely the bringing together of things for the increased value of how things can work together more effectively. You can see how both analysis and synthesis ultimately have the goal of making things work more effectively. People with an analyst temperament love to break things up and see how they work, or perhaps not don’t work, to make things work better.

The second element that analysts have is problem-solving. They love to see problems in the sense that they are intrigued as to why something doesn’t work because it stimulates their interest in making them work. The “things,” by the way, could also be people, namely working to have people live more efficiently or effectively. They not only like to solve problems, they also like to prevent problems, namely for the same reason, to make things (or people) perform better. Analysts are fascinated by problems because they want to make the world a better place. They think, “What better thing to do for the world than to solve and prevent problems?”

There are several other characteristics that evolve out of these two basic elements of analysis and problem-solving, one of which is predicting the future. Because analysts look intently at how things work, or don’t work, they like to suggest how the future might work out with things. They might suggest, for instance, how a sports team might win or lose as they progress in a game, or they might see how a political candidate might succeed or fail after having examined the candidate and the voting populace.

It might seem quite antithetical to our discussion of analysts to suggest another characteristic, which is uncertainty. Analysts know a lot, usually much more than the rest of us, but they also know that they don’t know everything, so they fully understand the uncertainty principle that is quite basic to physics. You will rarely hear an analyst suggest some future event without a qualifier like, “it is not entirely clear to me.” So, they hedge their bets, knowing that they might wrong or inadequate in their analyses.

The value that analysts bring the world

Much. The obvious value that analysts bring us is their seeking to understand how things (again, also people) work and how they don’t work. So, their primary contribution to the world is to solve problems and prevent problems. We just spent three hours with our IT guy who helped us analyze some problems we were having with our emails, contacts, and other Internet challenges. Although Chris is not primarily an analyst by temperament (he is a “lover,” our discussion in Temperament IV), he was able to solve a myriad of problems that resulted from a breach in our email account.

Chris helped us solve our IT problems, but he also helped us prevent future problems. He gave us some ideas of how we could better utilize our computers, social media, and general maintenance of all the IT that is so central to doing business.

While analysts are primarily interested in preventing and solving problems, some analysts are truly investigative; they think about what could happen, what could be invented, and what could be discovered. Galileo, Newton, Einstein, and the like were most certainly analysts at heart as they discovered various elements of the universe. We are indebted to such people who are scientists at heart, but we are also indebted to people like Martin Luther King of the world who have seen possibilities like, “white children and black children on the mountaintop.” Might it be profitable for all for nations to have analyst leaders who were able to foresee potential problems and current problems with an eye for making the world a better place?

I will close this third edition of Temperament by noting two things. The first is this: analysts are my favorite people, and that would include my wife, consummate analyst that she is. Secondly, as with players and people of all stripes and colors, have challenges, which we will discuss later in this series.

Further Reading

Bates, J.E. and Wachs, T.D. (1994). Temperament: individual differences at the interface of biology and behavior. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Johnson, R. and Brock, D. (2019). Watch your temperament. Prepublication manuscript available in our office.

Jung, C.J. (1971). Psychological types. Princeton, NJ: Bollingen Press.

Keirsey, D. and Bates, M. (1978). Please understand me: character and temperament types. Del Mar, CA: Prometheus Nemesis Book Company.