Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Misuse of the Temperaments

Misuse of the Temperaments

Last week someone made a comment on a video I have on YouTube. They said, "Phlegmatic, Sanguine, etc...? These ideas died with the Middle Ages!"

Well, for better or for worse, they are still alive and well. This person has probably experienced them in some modern incarnation and not even realized it.

There are over 100 systems of "typology" including Tim LaHaye, Keirsey, Jung, and many more. Some of these systems may be more familiar to you than the "Sanguine/Phlegmatic" system. Have you ever been told you were a "type A" or a "NJ" or a "Guardian"? All of these systems are based in the age-old system of typology, which brings us back to the sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric and melancholic again. In fact, in my online class on the temperaments ( ) I have created a chart that compares over 50 of these systems - and they all correspond in some way. It is amazing how there can be so many different systems, but when you compare them you see that they are all just interpretations of one basic system.

This is where the "for better or worse" comes in. These systems can actually heal people instantly who would usually go through years of counseling. I have seen people heal overnight once they became aware that their "problems" were actually based in their temperament. This may seem incredible, but if you think about it, it does make sense. Many mental issues we have are made worse by family, friends, or society telling a person "there is something wrong with you". A person then becomes obsessed with this "what is wrong" and pursues a solution, often taking medications and attending counseling sessions. Consider that many people are actually "diagnosed" as their temperament rather than their actual disease. In fact, some temperamental behaviours that are normal actually have names in the medical industry.

Of course there are a number of people who do have some medical problem and need to pursue an avenue of therapy and healing for that illness. However, I have seen too many people being misdiagnosed to believe that it does not happen more often than we are lead to believe.

Using a person's temperament to help them heal mentally, physically or emotionally is one of the most wonderful modern and ancient uses of the temperament tool. In Waldorf education, a child's temperament is used to help them learn in a more harmonious manner.

However, in modern times this tool is also being "misused". Have you ever taken a "typology test" such as the Meyer's-Briggs or other test? Have you ever been given a "test" when you went to interview for a job? Many Fortune 500 companies are using these "tests" to give them insight into the type of people they are hiring. However, this use of the temperament tool has great potential for disaster.

First, a form can only give a person so much information. It can help a knowledgeable practitioner narrow down possibilities, but if the person is only filling in ovals and not providing a verbal dialogue (on paper or in person) as well, then the information can become meaningless. Once a form is filled out, the practitioner needs to talk to the person in some way and gain further insight into them via their e-mail or voice and then cross-reference that with their "test results". In the corporate atmosphere this is rarely done.

Secondly, even if the temperament or typology of each employee or potential employee is correct, only someone with experience would know what to do with this information. My partner, Steve, tells me the story of a man who once hired him to "figure out all the type As - because I only want to hire Type As". Anyone who knows anything about Type As knows that this is asking for trouble! However, the man insisted and hired five brand new employees - all Type As. Needless to say his company became very inefficient. He spent so much time trying to coordinate all these natural leaders that he had to "start over" his company about 6 months later.

I look forward to the day when this tool is used by more people, and in the way it was intended to be used. If you have any stories to share on this topic please leave them in the comments below.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The person who made the comment on YouTube is closed-minded. These temperaments are the only ones that are currently used in colleges-including bible college, research, psychology, employers, government and busines. Sometimes the old ways are the best. People tend to try to fix what's not broken. And if you use the People's just a newer version, but with replacement words.