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If you've never explored the notion of personality through the lens of Temperament, you're missing out.  

Temperament is not a derivative of Type or some kind of lesser sub-model.  Websites that claim it is are just plain ignorant, and obviously don't understand the subject.  Neither is Temperament the red-headed stepchild the Type community sometimes makes it out to be!  On the contrary, this model is incredibly rich and useful toward understanding oneself and others.  Catalysts in particular sometimes have emotional reactions when they're exposed to this material.  They get a feeling that someone truly understands how they tick -- perhaps for the first time in their lives!

Often people think they "know Temperament," but they really don't.  My husband used to think Temperament was woefully inadequate -- sort of a low-rent way of looking at personality type.  Boy did he have a lot to learn!  (I told him I couldn't have a relationship with him until he learned Temperament properly -- because I couldn't talk to him intelligently until he did!  So he signed up for a class, and now he thinks it's one of the best things he ever learned.)

If you'd like to undergo a free Temperament quiz, try this one out.  Then you'd better learn a little bit more about the model as a whole.  The best written material available on the topic is:

Understanding Yourself and Others:
An Introduction to the 4 Temperaments - 3.0
by Dr. Linda Berens

I cannot recommend this booklet highly enough (and it's not expensive, either!).

One of the most damaging ideas perpetuated in our society is that we're all exactly the same underneath.  Most people just can't let go of this idea -- they think people who are too different must be "dysfunctional."  We all pay lip service to how it's "okay to be different" on the surface, but at the core of our being, we're supposed to be interchangeable somehow.  Catalysts in particular may suffer from this blind spot, and it can make their relationships extremely painful.  For instance, I know one Catalyst who simply can't forgive his father for being "different."  He says he tries to understand his father and wants to accept him, but he really just can't let go of the notion that his dad should have been more like him.  Until he's ready to release that notion, he's destined himself to be forever miserable with how his father doesn't measure up to his standards instead of allowing him to be a person in his own right.  (see Forgiveness.)

Here's a heretical idea:  maybe the Golden Rule is a destructive aphorism.  You know how it goes, right?  "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."  It's a lovely, well-intended concept -- but it only works on a practical level if we truly are alike underneath it all.  For instance, I know a woman whose boss doesn't verbally appreciate her.  In his mind, he pays her plenty.  He gives her money and feels that should be good enough.  And yet this woman is dying inside!  Imagine if their roles were reversed:  she would be praising this man until she's blue in the face and he'd be angry about never getting a raise!  And yet each of them would be dutifully following the Golden Rule.

A better adage is the "Platinum Rule" -- "Treat others the way they want to be treated."  This allows us room to appreciate our differences and is just as well-meaning.

I wish I could tell you that I came up with this idea that we're different underneath all by myself, but I'd be lying.  In fact, we don't know who invented it in the first place.  

The earliest recorded attempts of humans to explain the differences among us are found in ancient astrology.  Astrology said that the way the heavens were aligned when you were born determined your behavior.  Astrologers used twelve constellations in the sky and four major groupings, symbolized by earth, air, fire, and water.  They claimed that the movement of the sun, moon, and planets would influence your behavior patterns or your fate.

Thousands of years ago, stars were what they went by, and your personality was determined "out there" in the heavens.

Then, about 400 B.C., Hippocrates (the "Father of Medicine") developed a concept of "humours."  He introduced a radical idea that said personality was determined by elements inside your body, not the stars outside your body.  For a well-balanced temperament, he thought you needed equal amounts of the 4 body fluids:  black bile, yellow bile, blood, and phlegm.  (Delightful, huh?)

Hippocrates associated his "humours" with Temperament names.  Many people are familiar with them:  Choleric, Phlegmatic, Sanguine, and Melancholic.  (I'm still fond of using these names sometimes.)  So that's when the naming game started, and everybody came up with their version and their names for these four types.  Paracelsus added his two cents in the Middle Ages when he described human nature as being influenced by four kinds of spirits.  Hindu wisdom proposes four central desires, and even the American Indian Medicine Wheel features four spirit keepers similar to the Temperaments.

If we study the ways personality have been described over the past 25 centuries (there are even references in the Bible!), we discover a consistent tendency for behavior to sort itself into four basic activity patterns.  These patterns represent the four Temperaments.  In other words, there are four common threads:

Four Personality Types

Hippocrates (450BC)





Plato (350BC)





Galen (250AD)





Paracelsus (1530)





Adickes (1905)





Spranger (1914)





Kretschmer (1930)





Fromm (1947)





Myers (1955)





Keirsey/Bates (1960s)





Keirsey (1970s)





Berens (2006) Improviser Stabilizer Theorist Catalyst
The Wizard of Oz The Cowardly Lion Dorothy The Scarecrow The Tin Man

It's important to recognize that Temperament is not just about observable behaviors, but rather about behavioral patterns that are evidence of underlying motivators -- core psychological needs that when not met drive us to get them met (and not always in a positive way), core values that drive the choices we make and the positions we take on things, and related talents that help us get those needs met. These underlying motivators must be inferred from the observed behavior patterns over time and in a variety of contexts. 

The pattern of one's Temperament is there to begin with, like a DNA code in its infancy, and it emerges via interaction with the "field" or the environment. Thus we all have a core self for which the template is there from birth, and then we have a developed self that results from the interaction of the context or the situations we find ourselves in and the inner push from the core to grow and develop in certain ways to fulfill the pattern. The pattern will be there always, even though it may sometimes look like other patterns on the surface.

Temperament refers to the theme of the personality, the configuration.  It gets at the very essence of what makes us who we are.  Temperament identifies the basic psychological needs and core values that drive our behavior and our choices.  Related to these basic needs are favorite talents, communication styles, approaches to, and perspectives on life.

Let's take a look at brief descriptions of all four of the Temperament patterns*:

The Improviser Temperament (aka "Artisan," "Orange," "SP")
The Improvisers' core needs are to have the freedom to act without hindrance and to see a marked result from action. Improvisers highly value aesthetics, whether in nature or art. Their energies are focused on skillful performance, variety, and stimulation. Improvisers tend to be gifted at employing the available means to accomplish an end. Their creativity is revealed by the variety of solutions they come up with. They are talented at using tools, whether the tool be language, theories, a paintbrush, or a computer.  The Improvisers' motto might be Carpe Diem! (seize the day).

The Stabilizer Temperament (aka "Guardian," "Gold," "SJ")
The Stabilizers' core needs are for group membership and responsibility. Stabilizers need to know they are doing the responsible thing. They value stability, security, and a sense of community. They trust hierarchy and authority and may be surprised when others go against these social structures. Stabilizers know how things have always been done, and so they anticipate where things can go wrong. They have a knack for attending to rules, procedures, and protocol.  The Stabilizers' motto might be Semper Fidelis (always faithful).

The Theorist Temperament (aka "Rational," "Green," "NT")
The Theorists' core needs are for mastery of concepts, knowledge, and competence. Theorists want to understand the operating principles of the universe and to learn or even develop theories for everything. They value expertise, logical consistency, concepts and ideas, and seek progress. They abstractly analyze a situation and consider previously un-thought-of possibilities. Research, analysis, searching for patterns, and developing hypotheses are quite likely to be their natural modus operandi.  The Theorists' motto might be Cogito, Ergo Sum (I think, therefore I am).

The Catalyst Temperament (aka "Idealist," "Blue," "NF"; includes INFJs)
The Catalysts' core needs are for the meaning and significance that come from having a sense of purpose and working toward some greater good. Catalysts need to have a sense of unique identity. They value unity, self-actualization, and authenticity. Catalysts prefer cooperative interactions with a focus on ethics and morality. Catalysts tend to be gifted at unifying diverse peoples and helping individuals realize their potential. They build bridges between people through empathy and clarification of deeper issues.  The Catalysts' motto might be Sui Generis (unique, particular, in a class of its own).

*Adapted from Understanding Yourself and Others®: An Introduction to the 4 Temperaments-3.0 (Telos Publications, 2006). Used with permission.

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Be careful when exploring the notion of Temperament to release thinking "we're all alike underneath."  That's an ineffective approach with this model.  If you believe all four of these patterns describe you to some extent, that's okay -- but don't take anything for granted.  Explore these descriptions from a mindset of what you can't live without instead of "adding" elements on top of the way you are.  In other words, Theorists are not people who crave a unique identity and meaning and significance in their lives who coincidentally are trying to accumulate knowledge besides.  And vice-versa for Catalysts!  To discover your best-fit Temperament, you must decide which values you can't live without.  Let's face it -- many people accumulate knowledge and seek meaning in their lives, and INFJs crave both.  The key is to determine what you must have in order to live.  As Dr. Berens says, "Theorists would be psychologically dead if they could not pursue knowledge, and Catalysts would be psychologically dead if they could not pursue meaning."  So don't consider how you would like to be in a perfect world -- instead, consider what would destroy you if you couldn't pursue it anymore (or you pursue it so automatically you don't even think about it!).  

Sometimes the drive for "meaning" is not as apparent as the drive for "knowledge," so don't confront this question glibly.  Looking at my websites, you might suppose I'm a Theorist, even though it's the search for meaning that really drives me.  But that's harder to prove, since I don't have a "meaning" card in my wallet alongside my library card.

Here's a metaphor by way of example:  do you suppose Olympics swimmers are better at swimming or walking?  My hunch is they're better at walking, but they don't spend much time thinking about walking since they are unconsciously competent at it.  In a similar way, we may satisfy our core needs so unconsciously that we're unaware of them, and may fool ourselves into thinking we want to satisfy a different need entirely.

A helpful principle is to recognize that Theorists are interested in uncovering the operating principles of the universe, while Catalysts are interested in relationships.  So the question to ask yourself is which of these interests do you devote more time and energy to?

Hopefully, you have by now determined with some certainty that you're a Catalyst.  If not, there's little point in reading further... and maybe you should take some time to ponder until you can answer this question without reserve. 

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