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 II: Players

This is the second installment regarding “temperament.” Temperament is a way I have come to see and understand people. It is not the only way and it may not be the best way, but it has been helpful for my understanding people for many years. Beginning with the Greek philosopher Galen two millennia ago there have been people who have used temperament as a valuable way of understanding people. Understanding people by their temperaments is part of what I have called a “friendly diagnosis.” In other words, instead of diagnosing people with some kind of disorder, like depression, anxiety, or personality disorder, making a friendly diagnosis is finding ways of understanding the basic natures that people have. Other positive ways of understanding people include personality type (originating with Carl Jung), multiple intelligences (Howard Gardner), the Enneagram, personal development (many authors), and cultural elements of personality and behavior.

In this and forthcoming blogs I will discuss each of four temperaments: player, analyst, lover, and caretaker. People tend to fall primarily into one of these temperaments, and sometimes two, but everyone has characteristics of all four temperaments to some degree. Let’s start by examining what I call the player temperament.


My introduction into psychological testing was exclusively directed at what was psychologically wrong with people, called psychopathology. The tests I was introduced to in graduate school in in 1969 were primarily the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Profile (MMPI) and the Rorschach Ink Blot test, although since that time many more problem-based tests have been developed. These tests provide categories like depression, anxiety, personality disorder, or schizophrenia. The MMPI, the Rorschach, and other tests of psychopathology gave me a way of understanding people, but primarily what was wrong with people. Next I learned about tests that identified personality “traits” that weren’t necessarily about psychological problems, like the Edwards Personal Preference Scale (EPPS), the California Psychological Inventory (CPI), and the Adjective Check List (ACL), all of which provided about 20 personality characteristics or traits. These tests of personality were more valuable in understanding the differences among people, but with 20 or 30 different terms, like “sucorance” and “achievement,” they were cumbersome in offering me a way to help understand how they saw the world and how they engaged the world.

My understanding and use of psychological testing was dramatically affected by three events: (1) Both the problem-based tests like the MMPI, and the personality trait-based tests like the EPPS didn’t really help people understand themselves and profit from that understanding. (2) Master therapist, Dick Olney, had “reframed” a very valuable way of understanding people developed by Alexander Lowen. Lowen identified people by “body type” and “diagnosed” them in the categories of schizoid, oral, masochistic, psychopathic, and rigid. Olney reframed these categories into words that were more positive, namely creative, loving, containing, challenging, and achieving. (3) By far the most dramatic development in my understanding of personality came when I was introduced to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) developed by Elizabeth Briggs-Myers and her daughter, a test based on Carl Jung’s psychological types. An adjunct to the MBTI was a system of “temperament” developed by David Keirsey. After some years using the MBTI and Keirsey’s understanding of temperament, I began to see patterns of personality and behavior that led me to develop my own temperament analysis using a test that I called the Johnson Temperament Indicator (JTI).

My understanding of temperament, while not unlike Keirsey’s and others who had preceded me did not develop all at once. The JTI and my analysis of temperament developed first by my understanding how two important people in my life operated: my daughter, Krissie, and my friend, Kevin. Kevin and Krissie seemed to share a certain similarity in the way they saw the world and engaged the world. They seemed to play all the time. I wrote a monologue on what I came to call “the player personality” originating in my observations of Kevin and Krissie but also on many people that came to my office. Since I had started my practice as a child psychologist, I continued to see a lot of children, many of which were struggling mightily in school and home for some reason. Often these children had been given diagnoses and medications to treat ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, or conduct disorder. But the parents who brought these kids to me weren’t satisfied with these diagnoses and medications and asked if I could help them deal with their children who seemed unruly and unpredictable. I found it valuable to “diagnose” some of these children as “players” and treat them accordingly. From this initial “friendly diagnosis” of the player personality, I began to see people with other temperaments, those that we will study in forthcoming blogs. But what could I say about the psychological makeup of players that distinguished them from people of other temperaments? This has been a work in progress and remains so.

Characteristics of players


One of the dominant features of players is physical movement. I saw this movement in Krissie and Kevin albeit in different ways, and I saw movement in all the player patients I saw in my office and friends in my social life. I recall a moment when I saw Krissie skipping between one room and another, skipping, not running, and certainly not walking. I saw Kevin nearly always moving his hands in ways that could have been American Sign Language except for the fact that it was unique to Kevin. I saw Kevin and Krissie always fiddling with something. Krissie would pick things up, explore them, and then perhaps drop them, often nowhere form where she found them. When she was two, she loved to pull tissues out of the tissue box, much to the distress of my wife. I suggested that she just be allowed to pull the tissues out and see where it went. I don’t recall what actually happened, but it is likely that the living room looked like a tornado hit it. I watched Kevin do similar movements, often with his hands and fingers, but most distinctively he would chew on something, often a piece of paper with a kind of vigor that suggested he was somehow connected to this inanimate piece of paper.

My observation of people I came to call players was not limited to my daughter and my friend Kevin. I saw other people, both children and adults, engaging the world in a physical way. I saw people on the dance floor who seemed to have natural physical movement, albeit rarely in any kind of formal dance pattern. I saw kids playing various sports, but the player kids weren’t necessarily playing by the rules; they were just playing. I saw movement in Sam, whose mother said that she “just couldn’t keep up with him” and in Jamie whose father was beside himself in trying to manage her movement in the house that seemed excessive to him. But movement was not the only thing players did. In fact, I came to understand the “excessive” movement that I saw in players as a way they wanted to engage life: they wanted to experience the world, not just observe it.


At first I thought that players “played all the time.” While that is true is some ways, I came to see that players more accurately want to experience life, not watch it. Their way of learning is to live life by experiencing it in any way possible. This experiencing usually involves some kind of physical engagement, but it can also be the experience of connection to another person, group, or event. This experiencing life, whether personal or impersonal seems to be a way of making life real. Making physical property real means engaging things: picking them up, dropping them, throwing them, or just fondling them. Making people real means the same thing: picking them up, perhaps dropping them, yes, maybe fondling them. Engaging machines most certainly means to see what these machines can do, perhaps by turning the machine on full blast, which could be the radio or the crosscut saw. Things and people are real when they are engaged physically. Players don’t just watch; they have to be involved.

I had to learn early with daughter Krissie that she engaged all property as if all things were toys. This could be the tissue box or the mashed potatoes when she was young, and my charm bracelet (yes I have one) when she was a teenager. I still don’t know where some of the charms ever ended up, and she certainly doesn’t know. I recall Kevin being one who would often literally “be in your face,” often with a grimace as if he were seeing into your soul. A player child I once saw in my office jumped into my lap as soon as he came into my office, somewhat to the chagrin of his mother. I’m quite sure the actor Robin Williams was a player having him engage anything or anyone in his environment as a way of experiencing people and things, always with a vigor of curiosity. Williams’ form of experiencing blended with entertaining.


I think that all players like to entertain, but I think I originally conflated the player nature of extraversion, which only some players have. Players’ entertaining nature takes many forms. Entertaining people is a way players experience the world, engage to the world, and serve the world. Shakespeare said, “All the world is a stage.” Players take this to heart.

My wife who certainly has a player nature (while primarily “analyst”, the next temperament that we shall study) finds a stage wherever she happens to be, preferably alone in her greenhouse with her precious flowers or in canyons with her precious rocks. It seems that God is in all rocks, flowers, and more for Deb. I am never quite sure if God, the rocks, the flowers, or the canyons are part of the audience or returning the favor of entertaining her. Other players are like Jack, an 8-year old player kid I saw many years ago. When he was in my office, he spied my guitar in the corner and told me he could play it. I was surprised to learn this about Jack because his mother had said that he never stuck with anything longer than 30 seconds. I invited him to pick up the guitar and play something. He did so without hesitation and began strumming the guitar, seemingly randomly, and singing equally randomly without meter, rhyme, or cord. He was entertaining me. Then he asked me if I could perhaps advertise my clientele for a performance he could do for people. I declined his request to his great disappointment. Jack, an extraverted player, just wanted to engage people by entertaining them. A more introverted young man and I talked about the magical wardrobe portrayed in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. When we walked around my office building one afternoon (as a part of “therapy”), he spied what he thought was a wardrobe and asked if he could get in it. I agreed, and he entered this old closet, sat on the floor and closed the door. He was there silently for ten minutes or more, and might have been there longer had I not opened the door. He was disappointed that the back of the “wardrobe” hadn’t opened up to Narnia.  By the way, Jack had been brought to me by his father who was convinced that he was ADD because he couldn’t sit still. I’m convinced that he could have sat in the wardrobe still for hours waiting for Narnia to expose itself. He was ready to entertain all Narnians. When he was in the wardrobe, he was in the moment, and that was all that mattered.

In the moment:

One of the characteristics of personality type (which we might study at a later time) is what I call a “low boundary” orientation, something the Jung/Briggs people call “P people.” Low boundary people challenge boundaries because they know that all boundaries are human-made, and hence artificial in a sense. While most players certainly have this low boundary orientation, it seems that they live in the moment like there is no tomorrow. They know that the moment is all that we have so they want to fill that minute with 60 seconds worth of experience as Kipling once said. Players just don’t want to waste time; they want to use time. For players, especially young players, the moment is all that exists. They’re right.

I think my granddaughter, Alexis, has a good deal of this “in the moment” that players have. Given the opportunity, she will simply run, jump, and otherwise engage whatever part of the world she finds herself in. She seems most content to run around our lake cabin, sometimes disappearing into the woods, sometimes into the water, something that gives her mother (player daughter Krissie, by the way) great alarm. I think she is just seeing what is out there in the world and what is in there inside of herself. Some players find success in certain professional avenues, like improvisational work because they are so naturally good at entertaining by seeing what or who is in the moment. Whether experiencing, entertaining, or in the moment, all players are playing.


Players play. In fact, not only is all the world a stage, and every minute should be filled with experience, all things are playthings. That certainly means all property. It often means all money. And it means all people. They think that all things are toys, all money is play money, all people are playmates, and the world is a playground. But what is play? Play is activity that engages body, mind, soul, and preferably other people in activity that has no ultimate meaning but just meaning in the moment. Players want to enjoy property, places, and people not unlike the first rule of the Westminster Confession written some 400 years ago: “the chief end of humankind is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

We will be looking at the Opportunities and Challenges that players have in the world. You might have already considered that players might have both. We dill defer this discussion, however, until a bit later because we want to tell you about the other temperaments. Next up: analysts.

Further Reading

Johnson, R. and Brock, D. (2018). Watch your temperament. Prepublication manuscript available at our office.

Bruner, J., Jolly, A., and Sylva, K. (1976). Play: its role in development and evolution. New York: Brunner.

Dabbs, J.M. (2000). Heroes, rogues, and lovers: testosterone and behavior. New York: McGraw Hill.