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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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