Temperament IX: Opportunities and Challenges for Caretakers

This is the last of nine blogs on “temperament,” the general approach that people take in life. We have previously discussed four “temperaments” as I have conceived of them for several decades beginning when I began to use the term “players” for people who seemed naturally inclined to excitement, adventure, play, and most of all, experience. You might find it valuable to review the blogs on the four temperaments that I discuss including players (seeking experience most of all), lovers (seeking connection), analysts (seeking meaning), and caretakers (seeking the care of property). I have discussed the basic natures of each of these four temperaments noting how they see the world, how they evaluate the world, how they communicate to the world, and how they engage the world. Following these initial explorations of the basic natures, I then proceeded with the opportunities and challenges that each temperament has. I now come to the last of these discussions of opportunities and challenges, that of people I call “caretakers.”

Review of caretakers

As I conceive of these four temperaments (caretakers, lovers, players, and analysts), I see people who roughly (or thoroughly) fall into one of these categories love something. Lovers love (human) connection, players love experience, analysts love meaning, and caretakers love property. You may recall that I see myself primarily as a caretaker. I was bemused a few months ago when Deb and I were giving a lecture about our recently published book, I asked if anyone in the audience (of about 100) “loved property more than people.” There were no raised hands. I was bemused by this, but certainly understood the reticence of people admitting that they just might love property more than people. Then I noted that I was such a person, and then saw people look at me aghast as if I had just spoken some kind of psychological heresy. We didn’t have time to unpack my statement about “loving property,” but it is indeed true that people with my orientation towards the caretaker temperament have a deep value of property, primarily human-made property.

This orientation towards property leads us into the current discussion of “opportunities and challenges” that we caretakers have in the world. So, consider in your own mind first, whether you might be such a person. You might find it a bit embarrassing to see, much less admit, that you really love property. If you are distinctly not a caretaker by nature, you might consider that you are related in some way to such a person, perhaps a parent or a spouse. If that is the case, you might now note how you feel towards that person. You might discover that you think something is wrong with him/her. I have found that people tend to revere my caretaking orientation and abilities, on the one hand, and find my orientation to property boring at the least, and perhaps appalling at the most.

So, let’s first look at the opportunities of caretakers.

A note of history

The opportunities for caretakers abound, at least in this country (U.S.), a country that was essentially founded on property and work that protected and improved upon the property. If we look at American history, both the good and the bad, we can see that both the successes and failures of America have largely been related to property. This view then gives us a picture of the opportunities and challenges that caretakers have in America, and to a lesser degree, other countries. Consider what you see and hear when you go through a day. I purport that you see things. I might even suggest that when you see people, you see people having things, looking at things, caring for things, or doing things. I believe this things orientation that is so American is not so predominant in other countries except, perhaps where American property orientation has been imported. Consider, for instance, how the Native Americans originally viewed property, particularly land. They did not “own” land. They may have occupied it for a season or two, but the land belonged to the Spirit, or perhaps to the People at large. (Most Native Americans had names for their tribes what could be translated into “The People” rather than to the names that Northern Europeans came to call them.) But from the very beginning of the Northern European invasion of what came to be called the United States had a distinct orientation towards the acquisition, protection of, and enhancement of property. There were elements of the philosophical types who we might call analysts, certainly the player types who might have been the Lewis and Cark’s and the Daniel Boone’s of America exploring the West, and people of a lover temperament among them, but the predominant feature of the country from its very beginning and continuing into the present has had to do with property. Property first. Everything else second: that would include loving people, loving ideas, and loving experience. This leads us to the next discussion:

The opportunities for caretakers

They abound. The opportunities abound in America. Note the thousands of “startups” that are much the rage. Note the independent workers much the rage. Note the “work from home” way of work is that is more and more common. Note the opportunities for making money (which is essentially property) that is all the rage. Then note that there seems to be no end of this rage that is so intrinsic to property acquisition and management, but we will delay this discussion until we face the challenges that caretakers have. My point here is that America (by which I mean predominantly the U.S.) gives us caretakers a wide berth in going about life because America is so property-based. I have found that I “fit in” with just about any group and any ensuing conversation because talk almost always goes to what one has or what one has done. Having and Doing are the central ingredients of the caretaker temperament. Let’s look at some of what is the fabric of American society:

  • Academic: What is the basic orientation towards most of elementary school through high school? Achievement, grades, and finishing a degree. I aver that most of such school is very production oriented, or doing-based. This made school quite easy for me, especially in elementary and high school, most of college and most of graduate school. I knew, for instance, that I needed to be “Dr. Johnson” so I raced through my doctorate in two years. Didn’t learn much, but I finished. Compare that achievement, if we even call it such, with Deb, the analyst, who took 10 years to do the same even though she is the smarter of the two of us. Deb was interested in learning. I was interested in doing. Pity the poor analyst kids (I see many in my office) who are looking for meaning, much less the players looking for experience.
  • Vocational: Work is about “doing”, right? Not necessarily. What work does a math researcher do when s/he is trying to find the answer to a complex math problem? S/he is not “doing” anything, really. I was bemused many years ago when I discovered that the math “research lab” on the top floor of the math building was just a lounge with blackboards (remember those?) on every wall. Aside from these math types and many other researchers, philosophers, and the like, most of us think of work being equal to production, care, or enhancement of property. Pity the poor guy who cares about people, ideas, and experience if he is in a doing job. I recall a gentleman a saw recently who was a player by nature but struggling to get his accounting degree because he “could make a lot of money as an accountant.” I know of a current patient who makes nearly six figures doing a job he “hates” but can’t seem to give up his current income to change careers to do something that he dreams of doing and might be might be quite good at. Vocation is much easier for caretakers like me because we can do most anything.
  • Family. When I ask people what is important to them, I always have in mind the four elements of the four temperaments: property (caretakers), connections (lovers), experience (players), and meaning (analysts). But when I ask people what is important to them, I almost always hear “family” regardless of what their temperament really is. The idea of “family” is so central in the current psychology of the country that it dominates what people think is really important. When people think of family, they almost immediately think of taking care of their families with property and money. They don’t think of experience, meaning, and connection so much as they think of stuff. When I think about “family,” I think of taking care of the property that I have, they have, or we have. I have been thinking much lately about how I can protect and preserve my property so that my surviving child and grandchildren might use this property when I die.
  • Fun. What is fun for people? When we think of “fun,” most of us think of doing Deb and I are finishing up a bit of vacation as we speak and we think we might do something today, like play miniature golf or go to a movie. Lovers might just think of snuggling on the couch or having an intimate conversation. Players might think of rock climbing or playing hockey. Analysts might just think.

So, in general, the opportunities for caretakers are many. Especially early in life. What about the challenges?

Challenges for caretakers

The most important thing to say about the challenges for caretakers is that the first part of life, and perhaps the first two-thirds of life, is pretty easy for the likes of caretakers because so much of America is designed for their doing things and caring for property. It is in the later stages of life that caretakers tend to get bogged down. They get bogged down with property and doing. Furthermore, people of other temperaments get bogged down with property, money, and the security that such things brings to people, like the guys I just mentioned making a lot of money or wanting to make a lot of money doing something that they don’t really like. Let me examine the tendencies that caretakers have when things get bogged down:

  • Too much property. Because caretakers take care of property and spend an inordinate amount of time acquiring property, they usually have much more than they need. Then they have to paint, insure, protect, and otherwise care for all this property. It can be a burden. I am working diligently to use, sell, or give away much of the property I have acquired over my years of life.
  • Aging. Now that I am 75 and fast approaching 76 I note that I simply can’t do what I used to do. This, of course, is true of all people, but for us caretakers it is a burden more than for most because we can’t do what we have always done: everything. I am now seeing a very caretaker-by-nature man of 50 something who had a tragic accident that left him unable to use his legs at all and much limitation with his hands. He is beside himself as to how to find a way to do something that is meaningful when meaning has always been working 12 hours a day and then some. You don’t have to be physically impaired to note that you can’t do what you used to do with aplomb.
  • Angry. This young (he is 50 something as I noted) man is quite angry. He is angry at life, at himself, his wife, and perhaps God for the predicament he is in because he can’t do what he has always done. But he is not the only angry caretaker I have known, sadly including me. It took me years to overcome the tendency to get angry when I couldn’t do something or someone else didn’t do something. Life was all about doing, and since I thought everyone should be like me, just do shit, I got angry when they didn’t do. I had a conversation with a like-minded concrete guy who is working on a project at our house. We both agreed that “the younger generation doesn’t know much about work,” which just might mean work=doing things.
  • Lost relationships. I know of many caretakers who were so good at doing things, that they couldn’t maintain a successful relationship, which ideally would include all the ingredients previously mentioned: connection, meaning, and experience. A woman who just works all the time, whether at home or at work may not notice that her spouse and children miss some of the other ingredients like connection, meaning, and experience. I hear from people that their spouses “just don’t have any time for me.”

Aside from these specific challenges caretakers face, the greater challenge is for them to develop beyond their basic nature. This doesn’t mean that they give up their love of property. It means that they give up their singular love of property and develop love of connection, meaning, and experience. Likely, a caretaker will have what we call a “secondary temperament,” which might be player, lover, or analyst, so developing other loves apart from property might start with one’s secondary temperament. It is much harder, however to develop the really undeveloped natures that are so rich in people of other temperaments. It is hard for a caretaker to take Buddha’s alleged statement, “Don’t just do something. Sit there.” As it a challenge for a person of any temperament to develop secondary and tertiary elements of his/her psychological nature, it is essential. The other three temperaments often suffer for the lack of doing and producing: analysts can end up having everything possible but nothing real; lovers can have love for everyone but not ever do anything, and players having all kinds of experiences but not accomplish anything of lasting value. Caretakers need to learn to love more than property.

Sharing Grief

You might know that my daughter, Krissie, died just a few weeks ago. Understandably, this event has had a rather profound effect on me, as well as others who knew Krissie, both family and friends. The effect on me, and of course on others, has been one of grief. These past six weeks has been extraordinary as I have been grieving…and sharing grief with others.

The blog I published just yesterday was on the I-You-Me theory I have discovered over the recent years, namely how people of different natures have different ways of establishing and maintaining relationships. Simply put, I find that there are three predominant ways that people “relate” one another, namely with what I have called “I-first” people, “You-first” people, and “We-first” people. (There are also some subsets of these basic three kinds of relating discussed in the previous blog.) I-first people begin a relationship on what they feel, think, and do; and then they tend to make statements about themselves. You-first people begin a relationship with what the other person thinks, feels, or does; and then they tend to ask questions of the other person. We-first people tend to wait until something happens in the relationship, whether one of words or actions as they look the find what they call a “connection” with the other person. I have admitted that I am an I-first person.

Sadness and Grieving

You may be aware that Deb and I wrote a book entitled The Positive Power of Sadness not long ago, which is a rendering of what we have come to believe is the most important, and the most love-based emotion in the human experience, namely sadness. We have come to believe that this love-based emotion comes about singularly when there has been a loss, specifically a loss of something that the person has loved. As we note in our book this loss can be of person, property, or idea. While most people think that the loss of a person is the most profound loss, people can feel just as much sadness when they lose property or an idea does not work as they hoped that it would. Deb and I continue to assist every one of our patients with facing the losses that they have experienced in life, and in so doing avoid the tendency to fall into the emotions of fear and anger or the condition of depression. So we know quite a bit about sadness, and frankly speaking, are pretty good at feeling sadness instead of anger and fear. Anger, by the way is the emotion that occurs when I have lost something in the past, and fear is the emotion that occurs when I consider that I might lose something in the future.

Our ongoing journey of grief

This has been a remarkable journey indeed, and it has been particularly remarkable one for me because I am the I-first person noted above and in my previous blog. Recall that I-first people tend to establish and maintain relationships with statements, usually statements about what they think, feel, or do. So, during these past six weeks I have done just that and have found something quite remarkable, and seemingly quite memorable. The remarkable thing about these weeks of grieving is how I have felt the value of the relationships I have established, mostly built upon people’s kindness, generosity, and selflessness as they have shared my grief, and very often Deb’s and my shared grief. I think I have found what We-first people seek all the time, namely the connection that two (or more) people can have when one person shares something with another person. In the case of this past few weeks, the sharing has been of our grief, but we have also had times of sharing joys with many people. This “connection” that We-people seem to know so much about has found its way into my soul. I am a changed person as a result. Let me tell you of some of the encounters over these past weeks, almost all of them in regards to someone hearing, feeling, or listening to me (us) regarding our loss:

  • The person at the counter at Starbucks, which is Deb’s most preferred brief hangout when she seeks her caffeine addiction. Deb happened to mention that she was “coping” when the barista simply asked, “How are you?” This led to this woman coming around the counter, hugging Deb and crying with but what has become the most treasured words, “Oh, I am so sorry.” Just sorry. Nothing more.
  • Many more of these encounters. Like the time, now about 3 weeks ago in my Madison office, after my first day back at work. It was the end of the day and I just locked my door and was walking towards the stairs when a pleasant older woman sitting in the waiting room brimmed a most pleasant smile and wished me a good night. I walked hallway down the stairs and then found I was compelled to return to the third floor. I did so, and said to the woman that I particularly appreciated her smile and greeting because the recent days had been hard as my daughter had died. She immediately got out of her chair, and asked if she could hug me. “Certainly,” I said.
  • The first day back at church, actually on the Sunday after Krissie had died when I was supposed to preach. The person who filled in for me that day mentioned that he was a bit surprised to see me there and mentioned my loss. Immediately, several people (all men, I believe), gathered around me as I found myself in tears.
  • Deb and I traveled “west” not knowing where we might go beyond “west” but we knew that we wanted to get to the source of the Mississippi River in northern Minnesota. We did what all people do in this sacred place: walked across the Mississippi River. We went back to the car after an hour or so at these waters, but were somehow compelled to return once more to this spot where the great river begins. Deb asked a young lady if she would be so kind to take our picture, and then noted that Krissie had died and we were scattering some of Krissie’s ashes at the source of the Mississippi. She did what so many people of her nature do at such times: her hand went immediately to her chest, she begin crying, and then hugged us. After the pictures she took of us scattering, crying, and the like, she said it had “been a great honor” to be of service.
  • Another such chance encounter happened closer to our cabin “up north” as we say in Wisconsin. We were on a trek to a falls that Krissie and her kids had taken with us a couple of times. Deb again happened to encounter a woman who asked how we were only to hear of our loss. Without missing a second, she turned to her friend and said, “Ashley, come over here, we’re going to pray.” Then she proceeded to hug us, together with her friend Ashley, and pray for us. Don’t know if I will ever see her again, but she is now is “connected” forever.
  • Many more such encounters with “strangers no more” while their names are not in my vocabulary.
  • Many moments of sharing with Krissie’s friends, particularly at the celebration of life in Bloomington where she lives.
  • I think I have received no less than 100 unsolicited hugs over these past weeks, maybe another 100 emails and more cards and letters. Each of them has been meaningful and helpful.
  • Of course, Deb and I have been “connected” all the more with each of us taking turns crying and holding one another.
  • Among other things remarkable is the fact that I have hugged my sun-in-law, Lamont, perhaps 50 times over these weeks, about 49 times more than I have ever hugged him.

Sharing Grief

It has been enlightening to have had these many experiences of connection, most with strangers, some with friends, and of course some with family. I am a changed person. Yet grieving, yet recovering. I am indebted to these many people, none of them true strangers, for their kindness. The experience has taught me, as I seem to continually be taught by many experiences in life, that there is value in shared grief. I say so to people, like a friend this very morning as we were having a cup of coffee together and heard from him how he “couldn’t imagine how it would be to lose a child” as his eyes welled up. I told him, as I told everyone who shared my grief, that it was helpful to be loved by his sharing this grief with me. I’m not sure that many people truly understand how grief is meant to be shared and how profitable it is to the grieved as well as consoler. It seems that people who are able and willing to this simple task of love have a good sense of who they are and hence can care, if for a moment, more about me than they do about themselves. I look to be more gracious in such things.

Just one brief note regarding the sharing of grief: some people are unable to actually share grief with others. This is because they have not finished their own grief. So when someone with unfinished grief encounters someone grieving, there is a mixture of feelings including a desire to avoid grief altogether and a kind of jealousy that the other person is grieving if place of the person being asked to share the grief. There is no shame in this inability to share grief, but it is impossible for such a person to genuinely love someone else in the other person’s grief when their grief is yet so unresolved.

I Walk A Little Slower Now

I walk a little slower now

My gate not up to speed

I step and step, but then I bow

My back like bread to knead


I stumble on a step or two

But find I cannot bear

This burden but for just a few

Seconds as I stare


I stare, I stare, I stare once more

As if I could but see

My daughter on another shore

Somewhere ahead of me.


I stare, I look, I carefully inspect

That shore I think I see

I look, I think, I feel and yet respect

For what must certainly be


I stare, I look, I think, I feel

My hope for this last claim.

But it’s enough for me to steal

A glance from God’s domain

Ron Johnson




The I-You-We Approach to Relatiionships

The I-You-We Approach to Relationships

There are three main ingredients in any relationship, namely “I” (myself), “You” (the other person), and “We” (the combination of “I” and “You”). People tend to focus on one of these three elements, somewhat on a second item, and much less on the third item. This discussion is intended to shed some light on some of the ways people engage in looking at a relationship. Depending on how a person starts this process of examining and establishing a relationship determines how s/he approaches this very basic element of human existence: relationship. Before we examine the differences between the “I”-first approach, the “You”-first approach, and the “We first approach, we need to discuss this murky word “relationship” because there is no consistent understanding of what this word means, much less how a relationship unfolds, improves, or deteriorates.

I should start by acknowledging that I am an “I”-first person because readers need to be aware of how I see relationships, but we will discuss this in a moment. I mention the fact that I am an “I”-first person because all writing has an important autobiographical element to it, however esoteric or scientific the writer might be. I mention this personal orientation to understanding what a relationship is because I actually recall a time when the word “relationship” became popular, namely in the 1960’s, largely in the later 60’s, about the time I was in graduate school studying psychology. I vividly remember hearing my wife (at the time) and the marital therapist we were seeing at the time used the term “relationship” as if it was clear what that word meant. I recall saying, “What is this thing you are calling a relationship?” to the therapist.” I also recall his disbelief that the word had very little meaning to me because it was so clear to him. He was, by the way a “We”-first person, and recall that I am an “I”-first person. .Since this word “relationship” has been so frequently used over the recent 50 years, it might come as a surprise to many people that this word, as well as the concept underneath the word, did not exist in the field of psychology and in popular literature until the late 60’s.

A bit of history

A review of the literature over the past 60 years or so will discover that the use of the word relationship accelerated in the 70’s and beyond to the point that it is now a central concept in clinical psychology and in most people’s day-to-day vocabulary. I mention this entomology of “relationship” because I am somewhat suspect of how frequently the world is used today, often without much understanding of the very nature of how people seek to relate to one another. Furthermore, many elements of our current culture are replete with references to “relationship” as if this word, and the concept under the word, had an exact and universal definition. The church I attend has as its motto: “…to build a relationship to God.” Now, I ask you, what does “building a relationship with God” mean to you, to me, and to everyone else? Something quite different, I suspect. I don’t want to disregard the essence of a relationship because I agree that the concept is dreadfully important. My interest in this discussion is to examine some ways that people see the essence of a relationship and how the differences in how people understand the concept of a relationship can create a myriad of successes and an equal amount of failures as they seek to “relate” to one another.

What are the possibilities?

So let me set the stage for this “I-You-We” discussion. As briefly noted above, people tend to have a predominance of one of these items in how the form a relationship. If you had a bit of advanced math, you know that there are six permutations, which is to say there are six possible arrangements of the three items. (Just for fun for folks who like such things, we arrive at this with the formula P = 3x2x1 = 6.). So these possibilities include three each that begin with one of the three items:

  • I-You-We and I-We-You
  • You-I-We and You-We-I
  • We-You-I and We-I-You

Think of these possibilities as a way people engage someone else. I-first people begin a relationship with the perspective of who they are, and perhaps what they feel, think or do. You-first people begin a relationship with the perspective of examining who the other person is. We-first people look at who the two people are together. Right off the bat, I suspect, I have lost some of you possibly because two of these possibilities makes no sense. For instance, We-first people might think something like, “A relationship is two people together, not so much one person and another person. Obviously a relationship is what happens between two (or more) people.” I-first and You-first people might vociferously differ from this perspective. I-first people might say, “Well, you have to have an I before you have a We, right?” You-first people could say, “If you’re going to have a relationship with someone, you have to know who that person is, what s/he thinks, feels, and does. Only then can you relate to that person.” Sound familiar? Do you find yourself saying one of these things? The reaction you have might suggest to which camp you might belong.

I will take the liberty of looking at three (of the six) possibilities (“permutations”) to focus on who people begin the process of relating:

  • I-first people would seem to have the more rational approach to a relationship. They simply think that “relating” to someone begins with one feels, thinks, or does. Then, they go into the You and We parts of a relationship depending on their next preference. I think that most I-first people think of the You part next, but that suggestion may simply be a projection of how I go about relating to someone. I tend to speak first, listen second, and then occasionally try to find some commonality between the other person and me. The I-first people I have known tend to favor the I-You-We formula of relating.
  • You-first people operate quite differently, and the key to their way of relating is in the format they use to relate. They ask questions. Their perspective is, “If I can understand the other person, I can then have an opportunity of relating to that person.” They then try to fit in, agree with, or sometimes carefully challenge the other person. But the heart of their relating is in the focus they have, namely how the other person thinks, feels, or acts. The You-first people, tend to be You-I-We in orientation to relationships.
  • We-first people are different yet in their seeking a relationship. They do not actually spend much time assessing of what they think, feel, or do, nor do they think much about what the other person thinks, feels, or does. Rather, they think that everyone approaches the matter of relationship as they do because they are so oriented to the We part of a relationship. So, they may talk (like I-first people) or ask questions (like You-first people). More often, however, they will just “feel” their way into a relationship or a conversation. So they will say, “It feels right” or “It feels wrong.” This “feeling” of right or wrong is tantamount to feeling “connected” or disconnected, words that we will discuss in a moment. The We-first people I have known tend to have the We-You-I orientation predominantly.

The strengths of these three orientations

  • We-first people seem to have the inside track of the whole business of relationship. They certainly use the term “relationship” more frequently and are on the lookout for how they “feel” with someone almost all the time. I think of these folks as having the “lover” temperament that I have written about. Lovers are those who look for “connections” with other people. I am reminded of an old friend who once said that every morning he would think about how he could “connect” with someone, and then go about his day looking for these connections. Another We-first person has fallen in love with my suggestion that his orientation is about connecting to someone, and it has given him the freedom to see that he is seeking reciprocal love with any and all people he knows, most specifically his wife (who happens to be an I-first person).
  • I-first people, like myself (and my wife) are much more inclined to make statements and declare ourselves (what we think, feel, and do) as a way of establishing a relationship. The underlying operation is something like, “I will give person A the opportunity of knowing me so s/he can decide whether I am a person who they might want to relate to.” The basic strength of us folks is that we know where we stand, what we believe in, what we have done, and the like. We assume (often mistakenly) that everyone else knows where they stand on things.
  • You-first people are yet different from I-first and You-first people mostly distinguished by their tendencies to ask questions of people, quite contrary to the I-first people who make statements of themselves. The gift these people have is a more genuine interest in other people than in themselves or even in a relationship that might ensue. We might suggest that they love people best, whereas I-first people love themselves best, and We-first people love the connection between people best.

The opportunities of these three orientations

  • We-first people are the best at knowing this vague thing we call a relationship because they understand the spiritual nature of a connection between two (or more) people. They “feel” something or the lack of it, and that “something” cannot be defined, just as a relationship cannot be defined. These folks are the best at cooperation, agreement, and common purpose. They make the best negotiators, for instance, because they give each party opportunity to speak while focusing on how the two (or more) people can find common ground and eventually common purpose and procedure.
  • I-first people are best as stating themselves. They simply state what they know or believe, or have done, and less so what they feel emotionally. You can trust these people most because they have the most established ways of saying what they believe, feel, or have done. They give the other person the opportunity of knowing who they are with the expectation that the other person will then return the favor. I-first people tend to be better at admitting to error than the other two types.
  • You-first people are best at understanding other people. As noted, they ask questions, and often questions upon questions with the primary intent of understanding the other person, and often know more about the other person, perhaps even more than the other person knows about his/herself. You-first people can put other people at ease and give them room to talk about themselves, something that is quite lacking in most social encounters when most people are looking for air time to talk about themselves.

The challenges of these three orientations

  • All three of these orientations have the intrinsic weakness of thinking that everyone else is just like them, but We-first people are perhaps most inclined to this weakness. When I hear from We-first people (or “lovers”), they always say that the difficulty they have with people is that it isn’t “fair,” which means that they haven’t received the care for the We part of the relationship. So, they think that I-first people are selfish and You-first people don’t say anything about themselves. We-first people often get lost in their relationships and lack a sense of You and I in favor of their constant looking for We. Then, they tend to get angry or critical, which is quite opposite to their true nature of loving and connecting.
  • I-first people are the most inclined of the three orientations to be self-centered. Because they so often know what they think, feel, and do, they tend to dominate relationships by talking about themselves, erroneously believing other people will do the same. With few exceptions I-first people do not grasp the “connection” nature that is so central to We-first people.
  • You-first people often lack a sense of self. This is because they are so focused on other people that they have not found time, interest, and ability to develop a sense of what they think, feel, and do. This “getting lost” in someone else is easy for them because they are so intrinsically interested (and loving of) other people, that they have not sufficiently established a true understanding and love of themselves, which sometimes feels to them as “selfish.”

The challenges and opportunities for all orientations

  • In all cases, and with all people, there is a necessity of growing beyond one’s basic nature. Importantly, however, one needs to know, value, and operate with one’s basic nature before s/he can grow beyond this nature. Carl Jung and many other classic psychologists and psychological theorists have suggested that this growing, or what we might call maturity, occurs later in life, rarely before age 50, and sometimes never at all. If one does not mature beyond his/her nature, that person will fall prey to becoming postured in one’s basic nature feeling the centrality of this nature. This amounts to being defensive, and it is a sticky thing to feel and observe because there is nothing wrong with one’s basic nature, but one’s basic nature is quite clearly not sufficient to pursue life successfully.
  • A second danger for all three orientations is that the secondary and tertiary elements in a relationship tend to be undeveloped, and hence immature. This means that I-first people end up being critical of other people (the You part) and dismiss the We part altogether. We-first people think only of connecting, but then their undeveloped I often comes up immaturely and ends up demanding or yelling. You-first people tend to fail in knowing and valuing themselves as much as they value others, and fall into a kind of hopelessness of knowing about others but not themselves.
  • However good it is for We-first people to love and connect, it is not good enough. They have to develop the I and the You to be mature and find success in life and in relationships. The so-called “co-dependent” relationships (not a term a really like, however), are often made up on one We-first person and an I-first person, or even more dangerous, both people being We-first people who don’t know who they are.
  • I-first people have to come to grips with the necessity of the connection that We-first people know and love and find ways to find this spiritual connection and value it. They also need to find the absolute necessity of knowing other people as well as they know themselves. Otherwise, they will end up postured in “knowing what I think, feel, and do” and not knowing much else.
  • You-first people most specifically need to find the I part of life. Because they are so intrinsically interested in other people, and because there are always other people to examine, understand, and even love, they often fail to have a sense of who they are. They can speak fluently about what someone else thinks, feels, or does, but have greater difficulty saying what they think, feel, or do.
  • In all three cases there is a seduction of one of these three natures:
    • I-first people are seduced by their own existence
    • You-first people are seduced by others’ existence
    • We-first people are seduced by the connections that they have…or don’t have

I suggest you find yourself in one of these three orientations and then examine other the people in your life, like friends and family members. Then just get some good psychotherapy, which ideally helps you see what is good about you first, and then how to add to that goodness.