Feelings, Emotions, and Temperaments

I remind our readers that we have written several blogs on “feelings,” noting that feelings erupt in four consecutive stages: first physical, secondly emotional, thirdly cognitive, and finally in some kind of action (which could be something said or done). Significant in the understanding of feelings is that feelings are undefined. Thus “feelings” belongs with the undefined elements of basic physics, the undefined concept of life in biology, and the undefined concept of love in human interaction with the world. These central ingredients of the existence are so important that they need to be undefined. While time, life, and love and other such basic ingredients of the universe cannot be defined, they can be observed, they can be experienced, and they can be expressed. You have a sense of such things as time and life. Most important for our discussion, you have a sense of feelings. I will remind us that emotions are a subset of feelings, feelings being the first reflections of my core self. Now here I go again using an undefined phrase, core self, without so much as a by-your-leave. I will need to rely on previous blogs, and more substantial writings of other authors to make a case for “core self.”

So here is the paradigm: I have a core self, which we must admit is a spiritual phenomenon (oops, another undefined word: spiritual. Just have to observe it, experience it, and speak it…but that is another blog). So this spiritual entity of my so-called core self generates feelings. The stimuli for feelings can be an internal experience or an external experience, but when feelings erupt, they are an emanation of one’s core self. Then these feelings are expressed in physical, emotional, cognitive, and active (or spoken) forms. We have previously noted that people are inclined to the experience of one of these four elements of feelings and likewise inclined to the expression of one of these elements. So, for instance, I am a person who experiences feelings first emotionally and then I am inclined to express feelings in action or words. Deb is inclined to first experience feelings physically and then express them cognitively. Consider how these differences have made for a challenging opportunity to understand each other over our 42 years together. You might consider how you experience and express your feelings. But for now, I want to focus on the experience and expression of emotion, that second of the four elements of feelings. There are four basic emotions.

The Four Basic Emotions

In previous blogs we have noted that there are four basic emotions: fear, joy, anger, and sadness. These four emotions are constellated in two different forms: defense-based emotions and “love-based” emotions. Thus:

  • The love-based emotions are:
    • Joy when I have something that I love
    • Sadness when I lose something that I love
  • The defense-based emotions are:
    • Fear when I imagine that I might lose something
    • Anger when I have lost something

An important note is that joy always precedes sadness and fear always precedes anger. I have to experience the joy of having something before I have the experience of sadness upon losing it. When I feel the need to defend myself, I always feel fear first because of the impending threat, and then I feel anger secondly as a means of defense against my attacker.

It is also important note about the “something” that I love, have, and lose is that it could be anything. For instance, I may love a person, a group of people, a political persuasion, a physical object, a geographical place, an idea, a hope, a dream, or many other things, some physical, some imaginary, some personal, some interpersonal. The key factor in this is that all the four basic emotions have something to do with love in some way even though we refer to joy and sadness as love-based emotions. So when I get afraid of losing something, I fear losing something I love, and when I get angry at having lost something, I have lost something that I love. Our proposal, then, is that all emotions are in some way about loving something. Let’s move on to how these emotions are related to temperament. There are four temperaments.

The Four Temperaments

I suggest readers review our previous blogs on the four temperaments. I will not belabor the differences among these temperaments but to suggest some things common to each of them. Furthermore, there are many other systems of understanding personality, among them personality type (Jung, and Myers-Briggs), Enneagram (many authors), the DISC assessment (primarily in business). The StrengthsFinder (also in business primarily), and several other “temperament” systems. All of these systems are of value, but for our purposes here, we understand the four basic temperaments to be:

  • Player, someone who seeks experience, and often excitement
  • Lover, someone who seeks connections, often seeking harmony
  • Caretaker, someone who takes care of property
  • Analyst, someone who seeks truth, usually through finding and solving problems

We will not belabor further explanation of these temperaments except to say: (1) no one fits entirely in one temperament, (2) everybody has some elements of all four temperaments, and (3) people need to develop the characteristics of the other temperaments to be mature, successful, and happy in life. Most don’t. Now on to the emotion part of this blog.

Emotion and Temperament

Everybody experiences all four emotions regularly, certainly every day, and very often more frequently than daily. And everybody experiences joy first and sadness second as they have something before they lose that something. Additionally, everybody experiences fear first and anger second. That having been said, we propose that people of different temperaments tend to express these emotions differently. Each temperament has a tendency to express one of the love-based emotions and experience one of the defense-based emotions. Thus:

  • Players express the love-based emotion of joy most readily and experience the defense-based emotion of fear when feeling in some kind of danger
  • Lovers express the love-based feeling of sadness most readily and experience the defense-based emotion of fear when feeling some kind of danger
  • Caretakers express the love-based emotion of joy most readily and experience the defense-based emotion of anger when feeling some kind of danger
  • Analysts express the love-based emotion of sadness most readily, and experience the defense-based emotion of anger when feeling some kind of danger

It is important to note that we look at sadness as a love-based emotion, not depression, not despair, and not something bad. Thus, lovers and analysts are not more often sad, and certainly not more depressed than players and caretakers. They are simply freer to express sadness when they feel it. Lovers express sadness frequently because they are acutely aware of the loss of connection with people that happens frequently every day. Analysts express sadness frequently because they are always seeing how the world is not functioning as well as it could be. Players and caretakers appear to be happier than lovers and analysts, but they are, in fact, no happier: they just focus on being happy and seek to ingratiate the feeling of joy. They have just as much sadness as lovers and analysts; they just don’t show it.

People tend to express different defense-based emotions according to their temperament. Thus, we see more expressed anger with analysts and caretakers than we see with players and lovers. Caretakers and analyst are not angrier by nature; they just tend to express anger more readily. On the other hand, players and lovers express fear more readily. So while fear is actually the first defense-based emotion when we feel some threat, players and lovers tend to express this emotion, while caretakers and analysts tend to quickly pass over the fear part of defense and move right into the anger part of defense.

A way of understanding this phenomenon of experience and expression of emotions according to temperament is to consider that all people tend to be consciously aware of one emotion while another emotion lies in one’s unconscious. Thus, a person who expresses joy rather more readily than sadness is consciously aware of the emotion of joy but not always conscious of the emotion of sadness that always accompanies the joy of having something. In this paradigm of temperament vis-à-vis emotion, caretakers and players are more aware of the joy of having something but not conscious of the possibility of losing what they have. In contrast, lovers and analysts are much more aware of the possibility of losing what they love, and hence less aware of the actual joy of having something that they love. We could suggest that lovers and analysts are more aware of the potential of losing something that they love while caretakers and players are more aware of the joy of having something that they love. This paradigm might suggest that caretakers and players are happier than their counterparts, but such is not the case. They are just better at enjoying the moment of loving something. Analysts and analysts are not sadder than their counterparts; rather, they are more aware that having something always means losing it eventually. Both the joy of having and the sadness of losing are love-based and valuable in life. But one’s awareness and expression of emotion can lead to difficulties in life:

Challenges Related to Emotion and Temperament

Consider how you express your love positively, whether with joy or sorrow. Then consider which of the two defense-based emotions you actually experience most frequently. You might then be a:

  • A player who loves life, enjoys people, places, and things very easily, but have a tendency towards an underlying fear, which could then turn to anxiety
  • A lover who loves people and the connections with people, but also have a tendency to an underlying fear, which could then turn to anxiety
  • A caretaker who loves things and the care of things, but when feeling some kind of danger to these things, can fall into anger
  • An analyst who loves ideas, truth, and problem-solving, but can fall into anger when things don’t go right.

This analysis of temperament vis-à-vis emotions might seem convoluted, so allow me to make the matter of emotions and temperament even murkier. When someone is expressing his or her basic love-based emotions, there is always the other side of the spectrum operating at an unconscious level. Likewise, when someone is experiencing a defense-based emotion, there is always the other defense-based emotion lurking in the background. So, what we have then is:

  • The player easily expresses fear on the surface when feeling a need to defend, but unconsciously, s/he feels anger. Because her/his anger is not mature, players can become enraged and out of control occasionally.
  • The lover also expresses fear on the surface when in defensive posture, but unconsciously feels anger. Thus, s/he isn’t particularly good at managing anger, which can come out with explosions.
  • The caretaker who displays anger on the surface when defending, but unconsciously feels fear. Thus, a caretaker can become quite overcome with fear, which then turns to anxiety.
  • The analyst who is good at expressing anger unconsciously feels fear when in a defensive position. Thus, this person may be overcome with fear that there is no way to fix what is wrong with the world. In other words, the analyst can’t make the world as good as he or she would like it to be.

The potential expression of unconscious emotions is most problematic for all people regardless of temperament. It is not so much the emotion that we are good at that causes us difficulty in life but the emotion that we are not aware of and hence not good at expressing. We can improve our expression of emotion by being aware of both of the defense-based emotions so that anger and fear do not operate unconsciously, immaturely, and out of control

Possibilities Related to Temperament and Emotion

While it is important to become increasing aware of our defense-based emotions, particularly the one that tends to be unconscious, it is even more important to become increasingly aware of our love-based emotions so we can enhance our lives. People can be at their very best if they become increasingly aware of their emotions, particularly the emotions that are largely unconscious. We suggest:

  • Players mature emotionally as they become conscious of the potential sadness that is implicit in every moment of joy associated with having something rather than singularly insisting that every moment of life must be exciting
  • Lovers mature emotionally as they become conscious of the potential of simply enjoying the connections that they have rather than worrying about the inevitability of losing a connection.
  • Caretakers mature emotionally as they become conscious of the potential sadness associated with loss or damage of property rather than singularly focusing on protecting everything from damage or loss
  • Analysts mature emotionally as they become conscious of the immense joy associated with understanding things and allowing themselves to simply enjoy it rather than focusing on the potential problem with something


  • We all feel deeply, feelings that erupt from our central core and are experienced first physically followed by feeling emotionally, cognitively, and in action
  • We all experience all four emotions associated with the second experience of feeling
  • We tend to be more aware of and expressive of one of the two defense-based emotions and one of the two love-based emotions
  • The more aware we become of the emotions that are unconscious, the less these emotions will dominate us because of their immaturity.
  • If we focus first on our strengths of temperament and associated emotion, we will be able to augment these strengths, have a better appreciation for all four emotions, and thus not be controlled by emotions but find ways to effectively express these emotions

The Narcissism of our Times

Deb and I have a general distaste for pathology-based diagnoses, like narcissism, as well as almost all the other diagnoses that are so popular these days. We have watched as society has come to frequently identify with ADHD, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, learning disabilities, and various personality disorders. I hesitate to write this blog using this “N word” (narcissism) because it is so nasty. Narcissism suggests selfishness. But real narcissism is actually quite different from this simple understanding. There is a kind of selfishness that we see with narcissism, but to look deeper into what narcissism really means is important because it means much more than selfishness. In fact, it means the absence of self. Let me explain

Emotional development in early life

 Let’s start with how human life begins: in the womb. Think about it. When we were in utero, we didn’t have to breathe, much less do anything else. It must have been quite wonderful, if we say that in the general sense of the wonder. Then, during birth and for most of the first year we are hopefully properly cared for. Proper care for an infant is safety, comfort, and nurturance, about in that order. During this first year of life the only emotion that a human has is fear or the absence of fear. No joy, sorrow, or anger. Just fear. Why is that? To protect myself. I need to be afraid in order to be alive, and when I’m afraid as an infant, I do what infants do: cry. These cries are not for attention, at least for the most part. They are cries of felt danger. The “felt danger” could be that rumbling in the stomach (hunger), the dry sense in my mouth (thirst), or even simply being alone. I cry because I am scared.

The second year (perhaps later in the first year), things don’t change much although now I can walk and talk (a little). So, during this second year of life I feel the emotion of joy. Joy is the feeling of having something, whether that “something” is a doll, a blanket, or a hug from a parent. During this second year of life I learn to love things, like dolls and blankets and hugs, and this loving feels joyful. Then the big change occurs in childhood:

About age 2 or a bit later, I enter the “narcissistic time of life” or “natural narcissism.” This is a time where I love a whole lot more, lose a whole lot more, and don’t like it whatsoever. Think of it this way: during my first year of life I get mostly all of what I want because I don’t want much: just comfort, safety, and nurturance. Just a bottle, a hug, or a blanket. During the second year of life I want a few more things, but still I get most of what I want because I still don’t need much, I don’t want much and I get most of what I want and need. Not so when I turn about age two. Now, largely because I can walk, talk, run, and grab, my wants magnify by a magnitude of 100 or more. I simply want more. I want more ice cream. I want more toys. I want more hugs. I want, want, want. Fine. Wanting is fine. But what happens during the ages 2-5 is crucial: I don’t get most of what I want. Why is that? Because I want everything, certainly 100 times more than I wanted when I was an infant or a toddler. So, good parenting knows that the child who is 2-5 can’t have, and shouldn’t have all that he or she wants. So, good parenting says “no” 100 times to every “yes.” Consider how difficult this must be for the 3-year old. What’s wrong with the world? What’s wrong with my parents? I used to get pretty much everything I wanted and now I don’t get much of anything. It doesn’t occur to the young child that he or she wants so much more. So, the task of parenting of a 3-year old (or 2-5) is to limit, limit, limit. Not punish, punish, punish. Not give in, give in, give in. This no easy task for any parent because you hear things like I heard from Krissie when she was five having just come home from a store where she wanted everything and I bought her nothing: “I want a new Daddy.” This was her solution to not getting what she wanted. Seems reasonable if you consider that her previous daddy had given her most of what she wanted. Of course, that “previous daddy” was me. Must have been hard for Krissie.

This time of life 2-5 is the cause of adult narcissism. This same time of life is a time for “natural narcissism,” namely wanting everything and essentially being “selfish.” But we don’t use the term selfish for 3-year olds (hopefully) because 3-year olds should be selfish. They just shouldn’t get everything they want. In fact, they shouldn’t get most of what they want. This is where a lot of good loving parents go wrong: they do one of three things: give in too much, punish a child for wanting to much, or “explain why” the child can’t have everything s/he wants. Ideally, a parent simply allows the child to want, not get what s/he wants, puts up a fuss, still doesn’t get what s/he wants, and feel sad. To be angry at not getting everything you want is normal because anger is the central emotion that needs to be felt during these “natural narcissistic” years of 2-5. Anger is normal. But if a child is allowed to be angry…and not get what s/he wants…, that child will eventually become sad. Sadness is the most important emotion to learn, and it should be learned by the time the child reaches age five or six. The first year: fear; the second year: joy; the years 2-5: anger. Then for many years to follow, the school years, you learn to be sad. Most kids don’t reach sadness. They get stuck in fear, joy, or anger. What we then have is emotional immaturity.

Emotional immaturity

An interesting phenomenon that I often see in my office is what I have come to identify as “emotional immaturity.” Essentially, this means that an individual, whoever young or old, has not fully integrated the early emotions of fear, joy, and anger, and thus has not achieved the maturity of being able to be sad. Simply sad. This must sound rather odd: being sad is emotionally mature?  What? Is it good to be sad all the time? No, this is not what I am saying. Rather, I am suggesting quite clearly that sadness is the most mature of the four basic emotions. This does not mean that you are sad all the time, but it does mean that you are frequently sad. You are frequently sad because you have lost something, failed at something, or have been criticized in some way. These experiences happen every day to every person. Thus to be “emotionally mature” you have to be able to have something that you love, lose this something, feel sad about having lost this something, allow this sadness to run its course, finish feeling sad, and then love something else. This experience can take seconds or minutes. It rarely takes hours, but can take even longer for more significant losses. If I am disappointed because I spilled my coffee on myself, this disappointment, which is sadness, should last seconds, maybe a minute or more. If I lose a job opportunity that I was hoping for, the sadness associated with this loss may take minutes, or perhaps hours. If I lose a job that I have had for years, this sadness may take days or weeks. The death of my daughter has taken four months.

Emotionally immature people fail to move past the fear, joy, and anger that always occur during a loss. Thus, they fail to simply and profoundly feel sad about a loss. They remain afraid of dying (which is what an infant feels when s/he is hungry, wet, or alone); they remain joyful because they think they will have the something that they love forever; or they will remain angry because they have lost this something. It might make some sense that people can get stuck in fear and anger, but it must seem odd that people can get stuck in joy. Yes, this can happen. People get stuck in joy by pretending that they still have the something that they have lost. They pretend that everyone likes them, that they can do whatever they want, or that they can have whatever they want. People who are stuck in joy tend to live in a kind of a dream world often typified by imaginary dreams of being some kind of perfectly satisfied person in a perfect relationship, perfect job, or perfect place. Nothing wrong with imagining that one can have a satisfactory job in life, or even feeling the joy of such a thing. The difficulty is living that dream rather than the reality that there are true moments of joy and perfection in a moment but never forever. When people are stuck in the early life emotions of fear, joy, and anger, these emotions tend to dominate how they enter the world. They remain “narcissistic.”

Adult narcissism

Narcissism properly understood is not some kind of diagnosis. It is not something wrong. It is emotional immaturity. It is the failure to find sadness as the central ingredient in having a happy and satisfied life. Think of it this way: if I am expecting that I should have everything I want, I will experience fear (that I won’t have everything), joy (that I will have everything), or anger (that I didn’t get everything). This condition leaves the person in a constant state of fear, joy, or anger with one of these things dominating depending of where the individual got stuck in his/her early life. Thus, narcissism has three possible appearances depending on where people failed to integrate an emotion into their lives, or perhaps where they were indulged in emotional expression. If you look at yourself, you will find that you will be inclined to reside too much in fear, joy, or anger. We all do that in some way depending on how we were raised and what emotions were repressed or indulged. If I am raised in a family in which I feel danger, I will retain fear as the predominant emotion (instead of sadness), but I can also be raised in a family where fear was indulged, where everyone felt and talked about dangers all the time. Other families repress or indulge joy or anger. No one escapes these emotional traps because no one has a perfect infancy or childhood. There is no shame at being “emotionally immature” because we are all immature emotionally in some way. It is just good to know what your “go-to” emotion is so that you can work on moving beyond the early emotions into the mature emotion of sadness. In simple terms, the more you allow yourself to be sad, the less you will be angry or afraid. Yes, you will also be less joyful because you will give up living in a dream world where everything is perfect, but you will have great times of joy at really having something, not everything. The harder work for most people is to get beyond anger or fear that tend to dominate most people. This is what we have in our present culture: a dominance of fear and anger, but also a subtle dominance of imaginary joy.

The narcissism of our present culture

The phenomenon of President Trump is a phenomenon of narcissism. Yes, President Trump is most certainly narcissistic, but it is not helpful to “diagnose” him as having a narcissistic personality disorder despite how accurate this diagnosis actually is. No one is some exact copy of the so-called narcissistic personality disorder. Everyone has some “narcissism” in him/her, but this narcissism should be seen as emotional immaturity, not some kind of disease or diagnosis. I certainly cannot speak with any authority of Mr. Trump because I have never met him, nor do I know much about his family background to see how he has failed to mature emotionally. What we see on the surface, however, is the phenomenon of being dominated by fear, joy, and anger with little or no ability to feel sad. Trump displays great joy when he has what he wants or when someone likes him. He has frequently said of someone that they liked him including dictators like North Korea’s Un, Russia’s Putin, or the current right wing leaders of Hungary and Brazil. Simply put, he really enjoys it when someone likes him and it doesn’t seem to matter who that person is. I imagine him as a little boy saying, “He likes me! He likes me!” when someone likes him. And then, perhaps minutes or hours later, he is angry because someone doesn’t like him, or disagrees with him. It seems clear to me that underlying all of Trumps joy and anger is a good bit of fear, but this is just a psychological conjecture not based on any real evidence.

What Trump has brought out in the country, as narcissistic (emotionally immature) dictators all over the world have done, is a commonality with people who, themselves, are just as narcissistic (emotionally immature) as Trump is. Think of it this way: Trump says that everyone can be a billionaire, which of course is nonsense, but it is attractive to people who are “stuck in the joy of thinking they can have everything they want.” Then, just as quickly, people can be angry at someone or something that is “wrong” because they don’t like it. Most importantly, the underlying fear that is always at the heart of narcissism is abated by this artificial joy and undue anger. Trump’s message is this: “You can have everything you want. You just have to hate the people who are keeping you from having it.” This is the 3-year old still thinking that s/he can have it all.

So what is really happening in narcissism, this phenomenon that displays such a sense of entitlement and selfishness? Self-less-ness

The self-less-ness of narcissism

Deb and I wrote a chapter a few years ago in a book where we discussed the heart of narcissism, namely that on the surface it seems selfish but under the surface it is really self-less. Self-less is not the same as the more positive selfless, as in when one is generous, kind, and self-giving. Self-less is the lack of “self.” What we see in narcissistic people (which, to some degree or another, we all are) is the lack of a true sense of self. If I have a good sense of “self,” i.e. having a central “core self”, I will be able to be generous and kind, but more importantly, I will know how I feel, value how I feel, express how I feel, and ultimately communicate how I feel as well as have times knowing what I feel but being able to properly govern any expression of how I feel. This knowing, valuing, expressing, communicating, and governing feelings is the essence of the book Deb and I are finishing. Few people truly know how they feel so that they can express or choose not to express their feelings depending on the environment. By the way, when I use the term “feelings,” I am using the larger term that includes emotion but is not limited to emotions. The task of becoming a mature person includes emotional maturity, but it includes much more, like knowing how you feel physically, being able to think clearly without emotional intrusion, and ultimately to be able to do something meaningful in life. Maturity is not singularly emotional maturity, but if I am not emotionally mature, I most certainly will not be able to be cognitively mature or actively mature. I will think but my thoughts will not be meaningful. I will do things but I won’t do anything meaningful. So what can be done? Maturing beyond childhood narcissism.

Maturing beyond natural narcissism

What does this mean? It means becoming aware of how I feel, including how I feel emotionally, valuing how I feel, and having a place for all basic emotions: fear (of infancy), joy (of toddlerhood), anger (of preschool years), and ultimately sadness of the rest of life. The central ingredient in emotional maturity is to recognize what you feel and allow it to be there. Thus, if anger is your go-to emotion, allow yourself to be angry. Then you will eventually see that you are angry at something you lost and have not yet grieved. If your go-to emotion is joy, realize that joy comes from having something but all “somethings” are eventually lost, and then come to the knowledge that this joy is real but temporary. If your go-to-emotion is fear, realize that you were originally in an unsafe environment and have retained that infantile fear. Then, you will be able to see that the world is no longer unsafe: just a world where you will have something and lose something.

Much of emotional maturity has to do with people, namely with what other people say and do, or what they might say or do, or what they have said or done. If I am caught in the joy of attending to what one person says or does, I will be enthralled for the moment, but that moment will end. If I am caught in being angry with what someone has said or done, I will be angry, but need to realize that he or she just doesn’t like something. If I am caught in fear, I will worry about what this person might say or do to me. I need to come back to reality: he may like me; he may not like me. If he likes me, it will be joyful; if he doesn’t like me, it will be sad.

Further Reading

Brock and Johnson (2011). Narcissism as evil. In Evil explained, Vol. 1: definitions and development. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.

Johnson, R. and Brock, D. (2017). The positive power of sadness. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.

Johnson, R. and Brock, D. (2020 forthcoming). I need to tell you how I feel. Madison, WI: Midlands Psychological associates

Lowen, A. (1983). Narcissism: denial of the true self. New York: Macmillan.

West, M. (2016). Into the darkest places: early relational trauma and borderline states of mind. London: Karnac.

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.