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).

Grace and Gratitude

Deb and I have a special procedure the very first moment of our entering out cabin “up north” as we say in Wisconsin: whoever is first in the cabin walks over to the light above a sign that simply reads “gratitude.”

Gratitude

 

We are grateful to have the cabin, grateful to come and to enjoy, grateful for the water, the fireplace, the Chinese checkers that we always play, and grateful for the front porch from which we watch boaters, swimmers, fishermen, and deer, the latter of which cross right in front of our cabin to the little cabin about 100 meters from our shore. These moments of gratitude are not limited to our times at the cabin. Sometimes, we simply sit outside, watch a sunset, talk about our work with people, read, or talk when one of us will say, “I don’t know what it is,” meaning that “I don’t know what it is that could make life better.” The other of us responds, “I can’t think of anything else.” Don’t get me wrong, we are very much people who don’t like things that happen, or don’t happen, and we get disappointed from time to time, and yet this feeling of gratitude seems to be an important hallmark of what we have. Some of what we have has come from other people, like people who taught us our trade. Some of what we have has come from things we worked hard to achieve, like our trade. And some of what we have has come seemingly straight from God, like our trade. But much more than our “trade” do we find the necessity that we feel gratitude.

I looked up the etymology of the word gratitude and found, not surprisingly, that it comes from the Latin word gratus, which means grace, namely (at least in this etymologist’s understanding) “the presence of God manifested in people through their virtues.” I’ll go with this definition.

I have heard the term “gratitude” coming from many sources over the recent years, a fact for which I am quite…grateful. I heard a personal trainer talking about good workout, good food, good living, and gratitude. So, I think that this whole business of appreciating what we have might just be nudging the narcissism out of the picture slowly but surely.

When we receive something, very often we don’t deserve it. Like love. I often tell my people, “You can’t really ask for love; you don’t deserve it; you can’t pay for it; and you certainly can’t demand it. However, you need it.” This is tough for a lot of people because they get lost in the “I don’t deserve it” or “I need it.” I think the whole package of these statements is important to take, not pieces. In fact, the receiving of something like love is often tough because it comes from someone’s act of grace.

Grace

I think it might actually be harder to receive than to give. Yes, we have heard platitudes like, “It is better to give than to receive,” and certainly this is true. But on the receiving side of someone’s grace, someone’s love, someone’s gift, we are often compelled to think that we deserve it, need to pay for it, or even reject it out of some kind of misplaced fear. My biblical understanding of this matter is that grace is “unmerited favor,” not unlike the definition of the Latin word gratus.

Deb and I are very grateful that we have the cabin and all else that we have. We also have the great privilege of giving the cabin to many people in our lives. It gives us great joy to hear from the many people who have used the cabin over the years that it is good for them, and in some circumstances their favorite place to go. We have a pontoon boat that Deb and I use maybe once a year out of an obligation to the boat, but most of the hours on the boat are used by our guests. We are grateful that we can grace friends and their families with the cabin and its six boats (two kayaks, rowboat, paddle boat, pontoon, and an inflatable canoe). It’s just fun to have people enjoy the cabin. We always hear of their appreciation, which is nice to hear, but more important is the fact that they have enjoyed this special place.

As wonderful as grace and gratitude are, there are counterfeits to both. A counterfeit is something that looks like the real thing but is not the real thing.

Counterfeits to gratitude

The primary counterfeit to gratitude is expecting that I deserve something. I don’t really think that we deserve anything, and that everything is in some way a gift by grace from someone of Someone. But more importantly, the expecting that someone should give me what I want speaks of early life deprivation, where I didn’t get the basic ingredients of life, or early life indulgence, where I got more than I needed by my demanding and my parents giving in to my demands. However my expecting came about, it is never helpful.

The other counterfeit to gratitude is saying or feeling “I don’t deserve it.” I would say, “Of course you don’t deserve it. This is grace, guy,” but I wouldn’t really say that; I’d just think it. The “I don’t deserve it” comes also from one of the two sources noted above: getting too little in early life or getting to much.” We all suffer from one or both of these maladies. It is much harder to simply admit that I don’t deserve it and then receive the “it,” whatever that might be, than to resist receiving someone’s grace. Furthermore, when I really receive something that I don’t deserve, especially when I really need it, it humbles me. Humility, by the way, can come from well-established self-esteem. But that’s another story.

Counterfeits to grace

There are three counterfeits to grace that I know of but the primary one is giving in. Giving in is not the same thing as giving. I give in when I do something or give something that I really don’t want to do or give because I am afraid of the consequences of not giving. The difference between giving, on the one hand, and giving in, is quite profound. Giving is grace, giving in is not. Giving is loving; giving in is not loving. When we give in to someone (or sometimes to something), we always expect something in return, which is the telltale mark that I have given in. I sometimes tell people, “You can give your money, fine; you can give your left arm, fine; you can give your life, fine; but if you give in, even a penny or a moment of your time, not fine. You are lying. Furthermore, you are looking gracious but you are not. You are actually selfish because you expect something in return.

Another counterfeit to grace is giving a little, usually giving with regret and resistance. In these circumstances you just want to get someone off your back, so you give as little as you can in order to avoid someone’s disapproval. When you give as little as you can give, both you and your recipient lose: you give more than you want, and h/she knows that you don’t want to give in the first place.

The third kind of counterfeit to grace is giving up. “OK, I’ll give you want you want” or “No way I’m going to give you a nickel.” Both of these are essentially harmful. Giving because you feel compelled to give is not good for you, and being angry at the person to whom you are giving is not good for you. And your “giving,” if we even call it that, is not good for the other person.

In sum: give all that you have but don’t give what you don’t have to give. This doesn’t mean that you never do what you don’t want to do or never give to someone who you don’t like. It is often good for us to give to someone who we don’t want to give to, and to do things that we don’t want to do. I just want you need to be honest in your giving.

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.