Feeling, Thinking, Doing

This is what psychology is about, and as a result, this is what life is about for people, particularly as they engage the world of things, ideas, and people. We tend to be good at one of these, fair at another, but almost always less than good at the third. Let me explain the paradigm of feeling, thinking and doing.

The Feeling Process

You may be aware that Deb and I are in the process of writing a book tentatively entitled, I Need to Tell You How I Feel, and that we have written a number of blogs on the matter of “feeling.” It is most important to note, however, that “feeling” does not equate to emotion, but rather, emotion is a subset of feeling, or more accurately erupts out of feeling. We see feeling as central to the core of us human beings and a phenomenon that is so important that it cannot be defined, just like the basic elements of the universe, time, space, and distance, cannot be defined. We can understand and “feel” feelings, just like we can understand time, space, and distance, but we cannot define feelings. We just have to feel them, or perhaps “know” them like when one says something like, “I don’t know what it is but I just feel it.”

Having noted that feeling is not the same thing as emotion, I should also note that these two experiences are quite aligned. When I feel something my first experience is physical. This may be a “gut level” feeling, a sick to the stomach reeling, or a wonderful feeling (of love, perhaps) in the chest, or an excited feeling that may be all over the body. The second experience after having a physical experience of a feeling is an emotional one. At this stage, my feelings become emotional with one predominant emotion, possibly two connected emotions. The basic emotions we have are fear and anger for defense, and joy and sorrow regarding something I love. Both the physical experiences are unconscious. In other words, we do not have any conscious control or conscious activity during these two basic experiences of “feeling.” After the experiences of physical and emotional the next stage in experiencing feeling is a cognitive one. I think about what I feel. Finally, I take action in some form. I might say something, do something, or perhaps just sit on the couch thinking or feeling something.

Feeling-based people

While all people have this four-part experience of feelings, people tend to gravitate to one of these quadrants, most specifically one of the last three: feeling emotionally, feeling cognitively, or feeling actively. People who primarily feel emotionally are gifted with the ability to know how they feel emotionally and very often know how other people feel emotionally. They are drawn to their own emotions and to other people’s emotions. They tend to be great achievers in the realm of human connectedness.

Thinking-based people

This is the third operation of experiencing feelings. In this arena people think of possibilities, reasons, and meaning. They think of what they feel emotionally and they think of what they might do actively. Such people tend to be analytical and enjoy a conversation that is philosophical, religious, or theoretical. They get much feeling-based pleasure in such conversations. They tend to be great achievers in the realm of figuring things out.

Doing-based people

These are the people who, quite simply, do things. They take great joy in experiencing their deep feelings in some kind of activity. This activity is usually productive, but it could also be quite routine. The doers of the world are those who are always busy, and if not busy in the moment, they are certainly planning how to be busy in the near future. They tend to be people with great achievement in the realm of things

The combinations:

Recall that we tend to have one predominant feature, whether feeling, thinking, or doing, but that having bee said, we tend to have a secondary function as well:

  • Feeler-thinker people (or thinker-feeling people)

These folks love to have conversation. They talk easily and freely moving across the domains of emotion and cognition. Hence, they are the best conversationalists, and rarely do people find them boring because they can move from emotion to thought easily.

All people have some challenges in life. People who are feeler-thinker types tend to fail to do much in life. While this is not always the case, they would much rather just talk about something or theorize about something than do something. Hence, their lives are often devoid of accomplishment.

  • Feeler-doer people (or doer-feeling people)

These folks love to help people. They are the nurses of the world, whether formally in a hospital or informally taking care of elderly, infirmed, or children. They just love to take care of people, usually serving their very basic needs, like feeling, sleeping, and even toileting. Because they are so aware of other people’s emotions and also knowledgeable at how to do things, they tend to get worn out with all their caretaking. They often do things for people that really shouldn’t be done. This would be the mother who gives too much to her children, gets exhausted and has no time for play or conversation.

  • Thinker-doer people (doer-thinker people)

These are the people who see something that needs to be done and just do it. I think the “just do it” statement was made for them and by them. They tend to be much less aware of people’s needs, whether physical or emotional, and much more aware of what needs to be done to take care of stuff. The difficulties they face has to do with the absence of emotion, both their own and the emotion of other people. As a result of their neglecting their own feelings, they can become too easily angered, often because other people are not doing as much as they are doing.

Maturing

The great psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, suggested that true maturity was developing what he called the “shadow” of one’s personality. This can be seen as the parts of us that are not particularly natural to our psychological functioning. I agree heartily. True maturity is developing an awareness, an ability, and ultimately some skill in operating “out of our comfort zone.” Few people actually mature in this way because it is hard work and most importantly, they don’t want to do it. They might want to be “mature,” but they don’t want to do the hard work of maturing. The “hard work of maturing” is using one’s strengths to approach one’s limitations or weaknesses. Most of us resist this kind of maturing because we would prefer to continue to use our strengths and natural abilities even though these may no longer be sufficient in life.

I see the three combinations of feeling, thinking, and doing noted above with the dilemmas that usually accompany them. Feeler-doer people tend to do too much often for other people, get exhausted and become unhappy in their later years. Thinker-doer people often end up with few if any people in their lives because they have been so busy doing and equally busy figuring things out, but not particularly attending to their own emotions, much less the emotions of other people. Feeler-thinker people tend to fail at finding any kind of practical, and ultimately meaningful, success in life because they are so good at talk, but much less good at doing anything. These three types of people may be very bright and may be very good people of character, but they have not matured beyond their basic natures.

We can do well with our primary and secondary operations in life, whether feeling, thinking, or doing, but we can’t fare well in later life because the undeveloped part of us will began to dominate our lives: no people (thinker-doers), no rest (feeler-doers), or meaningful work (feeler-thinkers).

The Essential Ingredients of a Good Relationship

I suspect you have some ideas of what a good relationship looks like. Certainly, you would identify love as a central ingredient, and perhaps things like honesty, commitment, trustworthiness, or family connections. You might think a good relationship should be composed of good communication, lots of play, or lots of work. I agree that a good and developing relationship needs to have all these things. It takes a lot of love, honesty, and all the rest to have a good relationship, and without these ingredients, no relationship can mature into something great. However valuable these very positive things are in a relationship, they often take a lot of work. It might not take “work” to fall in love, but it takes work to stay in love. Likewise, it is easier to be honest and open in the initial stages of a relationship, but it takes work to keep open and stay honest as the relationship grows. I think that a good relationship has a good mix of work, play, talk, and graciousness all in the context of being loving and honest.

Deb and I often say to couples that “they were married for the wrong reason: they loved each other.” We say this somewhat tongue-in-cheek not really believing that there is something wrong with loving your partner. What we mean by this “wrong reason” is more about the lack of what we believe is the right reason for marrying someone: understanding that person. Frankly, it is easier to love someone than to understand that person. Love comes from the heart and it is gift that we need to receive with gratitude because we can never earn someone’s love. If someone loves me, I didn’t deserve it, I didn’t earn it, I can’t pay for it…but I need it. So, I’m all about loving someone. The problem with loving someone is that “love is blind.” And so it should be. I don’t love someone because; I just love someone. We might justify our loving someone by saying all the things we like about that person, extolling that person’s virtue, intelligence, or kindness, but these are not the ingredients of love; they are the ingredients of liking. Love does not a good marriage make….or any relationship. Love is good? Yes. Valuable? Yes. Essential? Maybe not. I think you can love anyone if you understand that person because I believe that when I really understand someone, I understand his feelings, his nature, his passions, his loves, his losses, his hurts, and maybe his soul. But love is not enough. You need disinterest, disagreement, and dislike. At first glance these three things must seem “negative,” but however difficult they are, they are also essential in any maturing relationship. Let me explain.

Disinterest

Simply stated, two people cannot be interested in the same things. Granted, couples find each other through some common interest. They might meet in a bar with a penchant for having a few beers watching a football game or a glass good red wine after work; they might meet at a co-ed volleyball game, a biking event, a volunteer group, hiking the canyons of Utah, or in church. People that start a relationship on this common ground have a leg up on people who find each other physically attractive or good sexual partners, but may not actually have anything in common. Whether a relationship began with some common interests and/or sexual attraction, people soon discover that they are not interested in the same things. However obvious this fact is, it can be of profound importance in a developing relationship. For instance, Deb and I share a great deal of common interest in psychology, theology, traveling, reading, working on the house, and writing as well as many other elements of life. Each of us, however, has interests that the other doesn’t have, like Deb’s passion for nature and flowers that I don’t share, and my passion for basketball that she doesn’t share. I just don’t care much about flowers although I certainly enjoy seeing them from time to time. I just don’t have the deep appreciation of Mother Nature that she has. After knowing Deb for 42 years and knowing for most of these years that she is a person of the earth, it was always a stretch for me to appreciate her appreciation for nature. In our recent trip to the Netherlands in the height of the spring flower season, I had what seems to be my first glimpse into appreciation of flowers as we perused the Keukenhof gardens and the acres of tulips, hyacinth, and other spring flowers. It might not seem terribly important that Deb liked flowers and I didn’t care much, but this difference between us is actually quite profound because Deb’s sense of the world, the universe, and God is centrally related to nature. Consider how it has been for her to live with me, whom she loves and appreciates dearly, when I didn’t really give a hoot about the likes of tulips. In a similar fashion, Deb has little interest, and certainly no passion in playing basketball. She kindly asks me how my game went after Tuesday and Thursday morning games and Sunday night games, but she doesn’t really care about the game. She cares about me.

A good relationship needs to acknowledge the fact that we are not interested in the same things…nor should we. But if I say that I am bored when I hear Deb talking about flowers or she says she is bored when I talk about a pick and roll, we would unnecessarily hurt one another. It’s nice that I have some recent history with appreciating flowers, but I most certainly will never spend the hours she spends with them, nor am I capable of finding God in a new rose. A rose is, well, just a rose. Someone once said that, I believe.

This business of being passionate about some things but not others has to do with our value system. Deb values flowers, and I value basketball, but the value that each of us has in these matters runs quite deep and is quite passionate. Yet it is hard for couple to grant to one another these differences as well as the disinterest one partner has in the values and passions of the other partner. However difficult it is to admit to disinterest, it is even harder to admit to disappointment.

Disappointment

An unavoidable phenomenon and an essential ingredient in a good relationship is disappointment. Let me explain. Disinterest is difficult to accept in a relationship, but disappointment is much harder to accept. I am disappointed when my partner does something or says something to me that is hurtful and unexpected. We will unavoidably disappoint each other from time to time. I think it happens every day in every relationship. The difficulty is that most of us are not equipped to deal with disappointment. If I come into a relationship primarily because I love that person, it is likely that I have seen a good bit about the person that I like. And I probably have come to understand a lot about this person that I have come to love. It is also likely, however, that I do not understand enough of the person to know that he or she is like me in some ways and different from me in some ways. We might say that “after the honeymoon phase” of a developing relationship there come times of disappointment. I begin to see that my partner and I are different, perhaps substantially different. This can come as a shock to someone who is madly in love with his/her partner because of the “love is blind” thing that often operates at the beginning of a relationship. So, how do I get disappointed?

I get disappointed when my partner doesn’t live up to my expectations. I may not have even known that I had expectations, but when I am disappointed, my partner has not lived up to my expectations. Very often these expectations-come-disappointment are surprising and even shocking because I didn’t previously see my partner in all situations of life. If we come to live together not having ever lived with him/her, I might be surprised and disappointed that he always throws his underwear on the floor when undressing for bed. Or it might be something that is not so offensive, like using a knife and fork in a way that does not fit with your kind of manners. There are many others, of course, some minor, some egregious. And they all lead to disappointment. There are also some disappointments that are those that erupt out of a misunderstanding what a relationship is. In summary, some of our disappointments are minor, some major, some unforeseen, some obvious, and many self-created. Sometimes, however, the feeling I have about my partner goes beyond minor disinterest and minor disappointment: I actually dislike my partner is some way. Wow.

Dislike

You might be able to find ways to be disinterested in what your partner likes, or even disappointment when she doesn’t do what you would like her to do, but it a larger step to admit that you actually dislike something about her, like the ways she speaks or acts. Unfortunately, dislike is also an essential ingredient of a good relationship. I often say it this way: “When you first admit that you don’t like something about your partner, the dislike seems huge, but over time the dislike tends to diminish if never really disappearing.” I might name something that I dislike about Deb, and she certainly dislikes things about me, but I will use some discretion in being specific except to admit that there are things about each other that we simply dislike. Some of these things might be old habits that are not so good, but some of these things are simply unavoidable and even necessary. Consider your children.

Who “likes” waking up for the third time in the middle of the night with a hungry screaming infant? No one that I know. You could say that you “dislike the action but not the person,” but I think these are just nice ways of saying you don’t like the person…at least at the moment. I don’t think there is a real distinction between dislike the infant’s crying from disliking the infant…at the moment. Furthermore, I think there is nothing wrong with that feeling. It passes. Disliking something about your partner, however, is much more difficult, and it can lead to disliking the partner himself. The way to avoid coming to that dreadful point in a relationship is to admit that you don’t like something about him. You might not like the way he eats, sleeps, or talks. You might not like the way he walks or sings. You might not like the fact that he works a lot or doesn’t like to work at all. All of these things are behaviors or mannerisms of someone you might dearly love but not actually like all the time.

What do we do with feeling dislike, disappointment, and dislike?

We feel these feelings. We admit to them. We see these as honest feelings. And most importantly, we understand that when I am disinterested, disappointed, or disliking, I feel sad. Why do I feel sad? I feel sad because I have lost something, which is what sadness is always about. You have lost interest when someone is talking about something you really don’t care about. You have lost the hope that your partner forgot your anniversary or came late to dinner. You lost the feeling that you love “everything about” your partner when you discover that she isn’t perfectly like you, and as a result, you just don’t like something about her.

It is very hard to let the feelings of disinterest, disappointment, and dislike be there along with the accompanying sadness that always accompanies these feelings. We Americans are not particularly good at simply being disappointed or sad, and we are certainly not good at being wrong, even if the definition of “wrong” is in our own eyes. So, the first and central ingredient of being disappointed is to own up to it, to call it “disappointment,” and to allow the sadness come along with it. Deb and I have written (The Positive Power of Sadness) about how sadness ends. To have sadness end, one must feel it, feel it, and finally finish it. This “feeling it” is difficult, and no one wants to feel sad, much less disappointed, but it is the only way to finish feeling sad. And it is the only way to finish the disappointment, as well as the easier feeling of disinterest and the harder feeling of dislike, that often cause sadness. Too often, people try to fix something in the relationship before they have admitted to feelings of dislike, disappointment, and dislike.

After recognizing and admitting to feeling dislike, disappointment, and dislike, and hopefully finished the sadness that resulted from these feeling, you need to think clearly. Importantly, you cannot think clearly if you are still sad, much less angry or afraid. If you try to think when you have these emotions, you thinking will not be clear-headed because it will be infused with some kind of residual emotion, usually anger at the top and sadness underneath. However, this “finishing” of sadness is very difficult. By the way, finishing sadness doesn’t mean that disinterest, disappointment, and dislike go magically away; they don’t. These feelings never “go away;” they diminish. Small disappointments diminish over time, and even huge dislikes can diminish over time, but they never go away. If you’re one who uses your knife and fork in what we might call a “European style” with knife in right hand and fork in the left hand, but your partner never moves from the American way of knife and fork, you will never be pleased with his handling of utensils; you just won’t be very disappointed very much, and you won’t be sad anymore because you will have come to accept your differences.

What about change?

You might think something like, “Well, what about someone maturing, growing up, or simply changing” what he or she does? Shouldn’t we all mature? Yes, we need to mature, grow up, and get better. Some of our maturing can come at the hands of our partner’s feelings of disappointment or dislike, but ultimately, any kind of maturing or change has to come from the individual because the individual finds it valuable to change in some way. You can never change your partner and you should never try. You can carefully express your feelings of disappointment or dislike kindly, and then see if your feelings change or, over time, you partner’s behavior changes.

I know of a man who gave up a vibrant part of his recreational life to please his wife who simply said that he shouldn’t be involved in those activities anymore. She said that if he really loved her, he would give up his sports. He did. He never recovered from the loss. She got what she wanted but lost what she needed: the person she married. Now he was doing what she wanted, not what he wanted. There are other examples of expectations that come along with a newly established relationship. I am reminded of one of my favorite cartoons, Kathy. After a couple of shots with Kathy being disappointed in Irving, her boyfriend, she said, “You’re not the person I was pretending you to be.” Many people do a lot of pretending. There was a book written some time ago entitled, “I Love You the Way You are; Now Change.”

My encouragement for you is to know how your feel as I have written so many times in the Feelings Blogs. Knowing the feelings of disinterest, disappointment, and dislike starts you on the road to loving better, and even liking better.

 

 

Temperament VII: Lovers: Challenges and Opportunities

This is the seventh of a series of nine blogs on “temperament.” Previously, I have discussed the four temperaments that we have used to understand people for the past nearly 50 years. As we have defined these four temperaments, we identify players, lovers, analysts, and caretakers. Briefly stated, players seek experience, lovers seek connection, analysts seek truth, and caretakers seek effective use of property. For a more thorough review, see my previous blogs on temperaments, particularly on “lovers,” our current discussion. I also want to note that no one fits perfectly in any one of these categories, but rather people tend to be somewhat like other people in one of these categories, and sometimes two of them. Furthermore, people have characteristics of all of these four temperaments. And even more important, temperament theory is only one way of understanding psychological make-up. We will eventually discuss personality “type”, which was originated by psychologist Carl Jung and popularized by Elizabeth Briggs-Myers in the popular MBTI instrument. Other ways of understanding people would include gender matters, cultural matters, intellectual matters, and personal development. You will note, however, that our interest in understanding people is not particularly oriented towards psychopathology, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and the like. We have done a bit of such study in previous blogs as well.

In very brief review, the people we call “lovers” are people whose primary orientation is towards human connection. This is a concept that is hard to explain in objective terms because it is so subjective by nature. Like, what does it mean to be “connected” to someone? Lovers use this term all the time, using it as if everyone understands it. But not only are there widely different understandings of what “connection” means to people of different temperaments, we won’t be successful in actually defining this concept except to say that connection is a “feeling” (there we go again with an undefined, but important word) that happens when one person feels a kind of unity, closeness, or deep understanding of another person. We might call it a “spiritual” thing that happens to people, but this word is also undefined. So, let us proceed with this discussion in the murky waters of human connection that is certainly very real but just as certainly undefined, at least in objective terms.

Our current discussion is how one can be a “lover” in temperament and find success in life, i.e. relationships, work, play, and personal life. To be successful at anything one has to understand what he/she is by nature, which includes temperament among many other things. I just talked to a guy who is a “biker” among other things (also a mechanic and a truck driver; also a pretty intelligent person). He told me that an important female relationship didn’t work out with his former girlfriend partly because she didn’t understand his passion for all that goes with being a biker. I think that if he could have adequately explained his biking passion, he might have better at succeeding at his relationship, but he admits that he has very little skill at such things. Importantly, biking is important to him. So, there are many things that are important in what it means to be a person, among them passions like biking, but also temperament. The first thing that a lover person needs to know and do is to understand the nature of being a lover, which means seeking connections. But what does that mean? We discussed this somewhat in the previous blog about the Lover Temperament. In a nutshell it means that the person with this lover nature needs to see its connection-based nature, see that this is a good thing, a godly thing, and a valuable thing. This is the beginning of success in life: knowing my basic goodness.

The second thing is much harder, particularly for lovers: not all people are lovers, nor should they be. This is a very hard pill for lovers to swallow because love and connections come so easily to them, that they think love and connections should come as easily to everyone. I have to hammer away at lovers in my office to get the point across that they have a “gift”, which happens to be the gift of love (and connections), and that have an opportunity and an obligation to use this gift in the world. What does that mean?

It means that whatever they do, lovers will have love and connections at the bottom of their desire, whether this is relationship, job, friend, play, or personal reflection. So, if you are a lover, know that your approach to all of this will be to find some kind of connection. I just spent another hour with a typical lover, who is primarily distraught because his 32-year relationship hasn’t been successful. It is beyond his ability to conceive that his seeking of connection, however good and godly, was not enough, and is not yet enough to have a successful relationship. Nothing wrong with being a lover, nothing whatsoever; in fact, everything right about it. But loving and connecting is not enough. His wife, whom I know but briefly, is certainly of a different temperament, and simply does not need, and does not want, the connection that Sam wants all the time. This is a tough pill for Sam to swallow, but it is one he has to swallow if he wants his relationship to succeed. The same is true of the rest of life.

The rest of life is work, play, friends, and self-reflection. Knowing that you approach all these things, even the self-reflection part, with a penchant for connections is very important. Ideally, you have a spouse, co-worker, and friends who understand your need for connection, but it is just as likely that you do not. So finding success in these important arenas of life means that you have to know that your gift is but one of many in life, and at the most ¼ of what it means to be a complete person. This does not mean that you have to just tolerate your spouse, friend, or co-worker, but it does mean that unless he/she is a lover like you, you will not be able to forge the connection that is dear to you. You can have connections, but you can’t have them with most people, and maybe not even with your friend, co-worker, or even your spouse. You have to have connections, but you can’t have them with everyone like you would like. So, how do you cope with this? Sadness.

You cope with having less than universal connections with everyone in your life by allowing yourself to feeling sad. In fact, if you do it right, you will actually feel sad more often than most people because you love more than most people. If you don’t allow yourself to feel sad (and lonely and disappointed), you will end up feeling irritable, angry, and resentful. This is when you are not at your best, and sadly, very sadly, many lovers end up being quite the opposite of being the lovers that God made them to be simply because they expected too much of other people, namely expecting then to want connections. When lovers do not have the connections that they so dearly need in life, they can become angry, irritable, and even mean spirited.

Having discussed (briefly) some of the grief associated with being a lover, how might such a person find success in life, i.e. relationships, play, work, and friendships? First by noting and valuing this love gift, secondly by recognizing that most people don’t have it, and thirdly finding people and places where you can, indeed, have real connections. You might, for instance, find a connection with someone who is not a lover, but you feel the connection even though he doesn’t feel it. You might want him to feel it, but it can be just as good for you to feel it, perhaps entirely silently, without his even knowing that you are feeling it. You can find that moment in time when you feel something with a co-worker or boss at work, perhaps a time when you really feel what they feel, be it sad, hurt, lonely, excited, or hopeful. So, these brief moments of connection might not be what you would like relationships to be about, but it can be very good for you and keep you going in life.

Aside from taking these brief moments of connection, you need to foster one or two relationships that are mutually connecting. Lovers absolutely need this in their lives, and if they don’t find it, they will find some kind of compensation. Compensations tend to be anger, addiction, and avoidance. If you find yourself in any of these, know that you are compensating for the lack of the intimacy that is so central to your living and being. But finding that right person is no easy task and there are many confederates to the real thing, like affairs, for instance. I think most affairs occur because one or both of the parties happens to be a lover, usually a lover who doesn’t have someone with whom he/she has real connection. The addictions that people have in their lives are also compensatory, but then they become the go-to thing to do instead of doing the very hard work of developing a long-term relationship with someone, having a good friend or two, finding pleasure in work, and having good play in life. If someone has all of these things (good work, good play, good friend, and good intimate), addictions simply are not as fun and not as attractive.

All of this is very hard work, and the finding that the whole world is not made up of lovers like you is the most painful part of the work, and the most necessary part of the work. Then you will be at your best, giving, forgiving, learning, leaving, and connecting.