§ 1. THE PROBLEM OF PERSONALITY. When an individual emigrates from one social group to another where customs and points of view are different, a realignment of his personality pattern is necessary, or conflict arises between him and the new group; just as changing from one climate to another demands a physiological adjustment, or “conflicts” result between the organism’s metabolism and the new environment. Analogous types of adjustment, at whatever phenomenological level we choose, are occurring constantly in daily life, because environmental influences of all kinds, social and physical, are in constant flux.

Just as the body, within limits, develops immunity to germs, or replies with other forms of defence to physical forces that disturb its balance, so the personality develops defence mechanisms against the disturbing situations which it meets in its social environment. In either case the technique is dynamically the same; the disturbance induces a tension which demands resolution. In the case of the personality these tensions take the form of so-called complexes named for the types of situations in which they arise. Among them are compensations, rationalisations, sublimations and regressions. The resolution is a purposeful effort to obtain relief from strain. Social situations thwart the goal-activities of the individual and the defence reactions are the showing of resistance. Showing resistance is at the same time an effort to surmount or circumnavigate the obstruction. The methods employed are varied in proportion to the instability and complexity of the human energy system.

When one bumps his head against an open door, the tension set up not only involves pain and a sudden vigorous effort to change the direction of one’s movements, but it also involves the emotional resentment of having a goal activity thwarted and an insight into the cause of the thwarting. The cause was one’s own carelessness. To admit blame is to question one’s own integrity or perfection; and this, in turn, is an obstacle to the goal of self-respect. The sudden flush of anger is the form taken by the inevitable resistance to this obstacle. Proportionately as kinetic energy is reduced, the potential rises and the demand for resolution increases. Proportionately, also, the resulting resolution is vigorous and quick and it occurs in the line of least action. Any energy, under potential, changes its course when the most direct route to the goal is blocked. The human being is no exception. The goal of self-esteem temporarily blocked, his energies organise at once toward the goal that is most immediately available. This is the door, hence the anger is vented on the door; it must suffer the blame and be punished by slamming it shut. Or, some member of the family becomes the goal and is condemned for leaving the door open. In any case, the potential is released and the status quo of the system, the personality, is preserved; the ego has retained, for the instant, its self-esteem. Accordingly, if a person makes a poor drive in golf, something must be wrong with the club, or his partner spoke too soon. If a carpenter pounds his finger he damns the hammer; if a student fails in an examination, it was because the instructor could not teach.

§ 2. EXAMPLE OF RATIONALISING. The turns that such rationalisations take are often very far-fetched and elaborate. A mother, distressed by the thought that her boy is no longer a baby and dependent upon her, develops over-anxiety for his welfare. He asks permission to go swimming; which she denies him on the ground that he might catch cold or drown, although she knows that it is a very warm day and that the swimming hole is only four feet deep. Under protest she finally consents but, during his absence, pictures one catastrophe after another befalling him, sees him carried home shivering with chills and heated with fever, or his foot crippled and bleeding with a wound from broken glass. The motive of this over-anxiety is not the hope that something will happen to her boy; for in case of a genuine accident no one’s regret would be more sincere than hers. Rather, the phantasy gives her an opportunity to live over, in her imagination, the feeling that, after all, her son is still dependent upon her. Here, in her dream, she can bestow unstintingly the mother love and tenderness that her relations to him demand.

§ 3. RATIONALISATION A CONSCIOUS PROCESS. It is a false popular belief, for which Freudian psychology is responsible, that rationalisations are unconscious processes. The person who is rationalising is not supposed to know what he is doing. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Rationalisations—indeed, all the so-called defence reactions—are bluffs. They are ways of avoiding reality, resolutions of tensions toward imagined rather than real goals. But unless one knows what and why he is rationalising there is no motive for the process. In reality, a person never rationalises without knowing it. Perhaps he does not call the process by that name; but he suffers the momentary twinge of conscience, or the fleeting realisation that he is pretending; and he recognises the insincerity of the performance. This is proved by the irritability, embarrassment, even violent anger and resentment, that are invariably shown when the bluff is called. Pushed into the corner, the challenged victim will fight rather than admit the truth; for to admit the truth, now, is worse than to admit it in the beginning. This is why too direct an approach to the deceit intensifies it and causes the rationaliser to cultivate an exterior of sham that is all the harder to break down. Indeed, the individual then struggles more vigorously to convince himself that he is not two-faced. Thus, if relations between the individual and the social group prevent him from succeeding in his original game, he will withdraw farther and farther away from the goal of sincerity. He may eventually lose insight into the genuine motives of his own conduct, beyond the realisation that something is wrong. When he no longer appreciates his insincerity he is lost and insane.

A person, cowardly at heart, develops an exterior pose, calculated to intimidate his associates. In an inarticulate way he certainly knows the reasons for his conduct. His attitudes are deliberately planned; and, although he may not know the physiological reason for his behaviour, he is quite aware of the ingenuineness of his performance. He will not bluff where it is evident that he cannot deceive; instead, he runs, and the pain of the defeat is intense. He will bluff harder next time, and so the vicious circle goes on.

Another person is possessed of a cruelty impulse which he cannot express without being censured and held in contempt. But the impulse is a tension that must be resolved in a roundabout way. Thus, outwardly, he reveals a great aversion for surgeons and makes everyone aware of his apparent prejudice. Or, he openly revolts against so-called vivisectional research and even becomes an ardent campaigner against it. Perhaps he becomes a leader in a society for the prevention of cruelty to animals. He devotes an energy to this work in proportion to his delight in thinking of animals in distress. Indeed, this is the motive for his external crust. His interests, displayed in a manner now acceptable to society, give him the coveted opportunities to think about, and see, the “cruelty” which his own sadistic impulse demands. He has “sublimated” his desires.

§ 4. HYPOCRISY IN RATIONALISATION. The hypocrisy of his behaviour, however, can easily be detected in an overinterest in his pursuits, and in the great care he always takes to assure others how he would never be caught treating an animal cruelly. On the other hand, he would be the first man to lash his horse behind the stable on slight provocation; just as the mother, described a few paragraphs back, would be the first to express unqualified sympathy for her son should he be in actual distress. Let any one call the person’s bluff who doubts the principle that a clear-cut awareness of the cruelty impulse is maintaining the sublimation. A person unpossessed of the impulse would not take the accusation seriously; but the man who deserves the accusation would flare up at once or burst forth with an alibi as voluble as it was insincere.

§ 5. INTROVERSION. These defence mechanisms are common to the human nature-pattern. All normal individuals portray them in a temperate manner, children as well as adults. Introversion is one of the common varieties, a reaction that often takes the form of day-dreaming. Professor J. J. B. Morgan1 relates the story of a young lad of sensitive disposition who was sharply rebuked by his teacher for being stupid. Thereafter his interest in school, not any too strong to begin with, subsided appreciably. He would spend hours in the classroom, absorbed in phantasy.

On one occasion he was persuaded to tell an older friend what occupied him when oblivious of the schoolroom situation. Here is a typical daydream. His home town was being attacked by Indians. He was in the front ranks of the defenders and his comrades were falling all around him. In a last moment of desperation he charged the marauding band singlehanded, slew right and left, and finally, just as he fell wounded, routed the few of the enemy who remained. Just then reinforcements came from the village. Quickly sensing the situation, they lifted him upon their shoulders and carried him to the village square in a blaze of glory. There the populace gathered around him and shouted their gratitude and acclaim. Among them was the teacher, who fell at his feet in abject mortification, begging his forgiveness for the rebuke and the torture she had caused him.2

Wherever the social environment arouses tensions, and at the same time offers no opportunity for an overt resolution, relief is sought in imagination. There we obtain our revenge, assassinate our enemies, become the heroes we should like to be; but there, also, ambition is cultivated, plans are laid, and many problems solved that render life more worth while.

Daydreams are the safety valves of the personality. Particularly is this true in the case of those persons who, normal in all other respects, are afflicted with some physical condition that marks them off from society. Lameness, obesity, extreme height, blindness, deafness, stuttering, a facial disfigurement or an ugly feature, all demand their compensations; they are occasions for numerous rebuffs on the part of society that are utterly inacceptable to a person otherwise sound in mind and body. No normal person enjoys being an object of curiosity, of condescension or of pity, nor does he enjoy being avoided.

§ 6. SOCIAL CAUSES OF INTROVERSION. Society is always cruel to the person who, by choice or otherwise, does not conform to the physical and mental characteristics of the group. A certain girl is blackballed from a sorority because she is too fat. The blind are forever being reminded of their predicament by a well-intending society that is constantly underestimating them. From childhood up, if the blindness was of early origin, they are discouraged from being independent, even in small things. But what is worse, they are not permitted to feel that intellectually they are capable. Society fails to realise that they demand treatment on the same level as their normal, seeing associates. “May I help you across the street”?, a well-meaning pedestrian asks, when he sees a blind man hesitating at the curb to make sure that the street is clear. “Let me take you down town”, is the offer a solicitous friend imposes upon his blind room-mate. One good lady, after inviting a blind man to dinner, laid a metal tray at his place in order to keep the tablecloth from being soiled.

These sympathetic offers of attention on the one hand, and on the other a disposition to avoid or underestimate the blind, produce a serious conflict between them and society, which in the end results in the distortion of a personality that would otherwise have remained normal. The pedestrian could just as well have said, “I am going your way, too”, and could have satisfied his desire to be of aid, accomplished the service, and gone on, as if the blind person had been a seeing friend. The student companion could have said, “May I go with you”?, instead of using the word “take”, which so obviously tells the story of pity and condescension. He, too, could have treated his blind friend just as he would treat any other. The stupid hostess little realised that her cultured guest, though blind, would have been less likely to soil the tablecloth than a seeing person.

Thus, society is constantly increasing tensions in the blind; and, to resolve them, the blind develop a very elaborate and oftentimes violent phantasy life in which they assassinate the seeing public and preserve their self-respect. Such dreams are harmless, indeed potent safeguards, both from the standpoint of the blind and of the seeing.

The stutterer, too, suffers in the same way from a public that does not understand. His trouble usually begins, also, in childhood. Disturbed at the outset because he cannot meet the demands of parents urging him to speak correctly, distressed because his childhood companions laugh at him and mimic him, lonesome because people shun him, he is disheartened at the outlook on life; and the social environment ceases to be the abode of goals. Introversion and an extremely rich life of daydreams are the consequences. The blind child, or the stutterer, having less than extraordinary fortitude, or without the good fortune of associates with more than usual insight, will never reach maturity unstunted in intelligence and undistorted in personality. Between the victim and society the breach is constantly widening; the vicious circle expands. Not treated with understanding, the afflicted person becomes sensitive, perhaps moody and sullen. Then he is pitied or shunned the more; he retreats the more; then he is regarded as helpless, and the misunderstanding soon mounts to proportions unrealised by both sides. The victim develops suspicion and hostility; intentions are mutually misunderstood. What hope is there for the victim?

§ 7. A CASE OF PERSONALITY MALADJUSTMENT. The author once knew a young man who, at the age of four, moved to a community where his associates were uncongenial. He was far more cultured than they, in fact, had little in common with them. The first day he made their acquaintance trouble began. In a rough and tumble, bullying fashion they commenced the difficult initiation. He was not accustomed to roughness; he did not understand it. He had been taught that it was wrong to fight. In the eyes of the gang he at once became a coward. Hazing was therefore all the more fun for them. One day they seized him, lifted him to the ridge-pole of a low shack and rolled him down the roof, from which he fell, badly shaken, to the ground. Another time they stripped him of his clothes; then, keeping a safe distance, they dared him to retrieve his possessions.

Meanwhile, the boy’s mother, with a motive not for an instant to be questioned, fought his battles for him by soothing him and teaching him to feel superior to the gang. He tried avoiding them, but it was no use. In the school yard he was the object of jeers and petty tricks; in the classroom he was the object of whatever torment the gang could inflict when the teacher was not looking; and to show brilliance in his recitations was only to invite more trouble after hours.

Not long after this the family moved to a different locality. As far as the boy was concerned, however, the damage had been done. Already a sensitive disposition had become hostile; he was suspicious of all strangers of his age; and, if he found a companion of whom he was not afraid, his awkwardness in making contact sent the companion at once into an attitude of distant coldness and reserve. Because it was hard to make friends in the new community, his associates branded him at once as queer.

When their attitudes became more hostile his suspicion and embarrassment increased. The breach was undergoing the inevitable expansion. Meanwhile, as anyone would do in the circumstances, he developed a life of phantasy. There, in a world of his own, he was accepted; there he avenged his tormenters; there he learned how to avoid the battles of real life. He was brilliant. Hours were devoted to the solving of mathematical puzzles, many of them of his own invention.

The withdrawal was not only intellectual but emotional. Ultimately he began to show no interest in other people save his parents, particularly his mother. He lost all social insight. He became unable to recognise a friendly group when he was in one. He suspected everyone of talking about him, criticising him, standing in his way of success.

Various efforts had been made by his parents and by friendly teachers to prevent the splitting of his personality by contact with a world of reality. For a time it seemed as if they would be successful. Finally, as a last resort, he was sent to college, a long way from home, in the hope that, by his own resources, he might discover the means of making friends and of adjusting himself. But the vicious circle still persisted. Mutual suspicion increased between him and his social environment. He lacked a sense of humour and regarded practical jokes as malicious insults. A few pranks, harmless in themselves, fanned his suspicion into open hostility. The boy showed hatred and fear in his facial expression and gestures; his associates developed a concern for their safety. The climax came when, one day, they quarrelled and the boy, according to his housemates, “threatened to shoot them”. According to the boy’s own story, he said that if they continued to spread derogatory stories about him over the campus, “they ought to be shot”.

He was then placed under observation in the student hospital and would stand for hours in the door of his room, watching the stairway. When asked why he remained there he replied:—They are going to get me”. Questioned as to who was “going to get him”, he answered:—“The police”. It was too late now to expect a reconciliation. There was nothing to do but send for the mother and advise that the boy be placed in a sanitarium, where the necessary psychotherapeutic measures might be adopted.

§ 8. INCIPIENT DEMENTIA PRÆCOX. In this case we see the history of incipient dementia præcox. It is the picture of a human energy system struggling to maintain its organisation during the course of maturation. The mother, by her treatment of him, should have set up potentials in the child that demanded resolution toward the gang in real rather than imaginary form. She probably could have achieved this end if she herself had been sufficiently aggressive and, in popular phraseology, had imparted to him the fighting spirit. Instead, she killed that spirit with her pity and sympathy. He should have been made to fight his own battles; to suffer defeat if necessary, but at any rate to fight the gang. They would have developed respect for him then, if nothing else; and to have won their respect would have been a victory, ending in tolerance on the part of the gang and in confidence on the part of the boy.3

Normality of personality demands that traits of character be derived from the same, not different wholes. As it was, the boy derived hostility, and nothing else, from the group outside the home; he acquired gentleness and sympathy, with nothing else, inside the home. The segregation of stimulus-patterns into society, on the one hand, and home, on the other, resulted in a splitting of the boy’s personality. Its unity was sustained with very little but the self as the point of reference.

“Human nature decays in isolation.” The boy was shutting himself off from environment, anæsthetising himself, and as a result, was losing social insight, initiative and purpose. He was depriving himself of a personality because human traits depend upon dynamic relations with a sure sounding human nature-pattern. As the seclusion went on the human aspects of his nature disappeared. If he should continue in this direction, in the end he would lose all contact with his environment, refuse to recognise people, show no interest in them, decline even to talk, eat, keep himself clean or care for his bodily needs. In other words, without stimuli from outside, the potentials necessary for a personality were losing their differential. They were changing to a state of homogeneity which means, in the end, inaction and death.

§ 9. THE LAWS OF PERSONALITY: LAW I. Nothing can exist except as a part in dynamic relation to a whole. Personality is no exception to this law. The laws of personality, then, are the universal laws of dynamics. The first of these, that the whole is more than the sum of its parts, directs us at once to society, the whole of which personalities may be regarded as parts, or members. Society, from this standpoint, is a field of personalities, or better, a field of human nature which we may call a human nature-pattern. There is no developed human nature except in human society. This law holds for all life. There is no developed dog nature in the absence of dog society, no developed bird nature in the absence of bird society. This society is necessary for the complete structurisation of behaviour patterns. We may think, of course, of the canary, for years isolated in a cage, but contrast the limited behaviour-pattern of such a bird with one in its native haunts, and remember, also, that the canary spent a very important period of its life—its infancy—in a bird society.

Human nature is primarily a group, not an individual, phenomenon. That the group reveals properties of behaviour not exhibited by individuals in isolation is easily proved. There are cases on record of abandoned children who managed to survive, until found, in an animal society. Such children are more like animals than human beings; they develop the habits of animals and acquire no language. Folkways, mores, customs, public opinion, morality, language, number, are uniquely group phenomena, the field properties of the human nature-pattern. Abandoned children acquire none of these social responses. Indeed, a thousand individuals reared in total ignorance of each other would exhibit no strictly human modes of behaviour. It is doubtful if such hypothetical creatures would develop mentally at all; there would be no problems to face, no tensions to resolve, no differentiation of the behaviour pattern. If they could see, what they saw would mean nothing to them; if they could hear, what they heard would have no significance; if they could feel, there would be nothing gained. To posit such hypothetical creatures would at the same time mean to presuppose no growth potential; because by definition the social environment with respect to which the human growth potential exists, is lacking.

When we apply the same law to personality, with the individual as the point of reference instead of the group, we find much that conflicts with orthodox conceptions. From this standpoint personality is not the sum total of so many traits of character, not an integration of habits. Rather, it is a field property of the individual’s total behaviour.

§ 10. LAW II. Parts derive their properties from wholes. The individual personality, then, is derived from the group; just as the weight of an object is derived from a gravitational system. We have already seen how this law operated in a case of dementia præcox. The growing child acquires a human nature just as an electric charge acquires potential, through its dynamic relation with different degrees of potential elsewhere. All aspects of the human behaviour pattern must be derived in this way—the intellectual life, emotional life, beliefs, any mode of behaviour one might mention. Even the more specialised activities of seeing, hearing, and feeling must derive their meaning from the activities of the social group.

The infant’s personality is undifferentiated at the outset.4 Immediately it begins to take on the field properties of the human nature around it. Rough, quick, jerky, awkward handling of the infant, and noise or confusion around him, will soon induce irritability and nervousness. If the facial expressions and voices of parents and older children are harsh, depressed, or in any way intemperate, the beginnings of a hyper-irritable personality are all the more exaggerated. On the other hand, gentle, confortable handling, orderliness and quiet, and happy, inviting attitudes, produce an orderly, temperate personality. The pattern of human nature is reflected, also, in the management of the infant’s feeding and sleeping habits, and in his exposure to sudden changes in stimulation. It is reflected, later on, in the number of activities in which the infant is permitted to indulge. When a child, the manner in which he is forced to learn the laws of possession, and the types of companions he is permitted to play with, are of vital importance.

If authority is too arbitrary and persistent, initiative may be crushed and the child made so dependent upon aggressiveness in others that, later, he must always play the rôle of servant. If parents attempt no discipline whatever, the child may become so dependent upon the docility and submission of others that in later life he must always play the rôle of master. What is this but the imposition of the surrounding human nature-pattern upon the individual. The part certainly derives its properties from the whole. There is nothing except a normal, undifferentiated growth potential to be obtained from heredity.

The derivation of a personality from the social group is complicated by parents and teachers, perhaps older brothers and sisters, who project their ambitions upon the children under their care. A certain mother always wanted to teach but was never able to fulfil her ambition. When her daughter reached college age the mother insisted that she should attend college and prepare herself for teaching. Since it had been the mother’s ambition, it seemed to her that she could wish nothing better for the daughter. But it left the daughter out of the picture. The daughter wanted to marry. Instead, she submitted to her mother, made a failure of school teaching, lost her opportunity to marry, and was forced to remain at home, “broken in spirit and unable to organise herself for any kind of valuable activity.”

§ 11. LAW III. The whole governs the activities of its parts. Persons are restricted in their freedom by the mores and laws of the group. To conform means liberty. Success is always achieved through one’s dynamic relation to the group. By definition, the individual is, from his standpoint, a separate being; he is a differentiation from the human nature-pattern that surrounds him; he exists, he behaves, but in terms of the group; the group behaves in terms of him, but in accordance with its own laws, not his. If, in the estimation of the group, the individual is important, the group makes him an unusually good source of imitation and suggestion. He may be a genius because of his ability to govern and organise, or to make articulate the vague religious and philosophical strivings and ideas of the group, or to lead in campaigns of aggression or defence, or to invent devices which greatly improve the living conditions of the group. In any case the group sustains leadership and genius. The outstanding qualities of the leader exist only in relation to the mediocrity, needs, and potentials of the group. Individuality thus becomes potent and real through its membership character in society.

The whole functions always through its parts. This is as true of society as it is of gravitational systems. The mass of the falling body in the one case and the individual in the other are necessary points of reference; but mass means nothing as an isolated thing; neither does the individual. Witness the way a person dresses, the language he uses, his religious and moral ideas, his political beliefs, the way he educates his children, his etiquette, in fact every aspect of his behaviour one might choose to mention.

§ 12. LAW IV. Parts emerge from wholes by a process of individuation. Differences in personalities are conditioned by the variations in the social pattern that influence single persons. The attitudes of parents and other members of the family are not exactly the same toward any two children. The position of one person with respect to the whole, as compared with another person, is an environmental source of individual differences. Similarly, no two points in a gravitational system have exactly the same dynamic relation to the whole. The properties and behaviour of each particle will be different in terms of the whole.

Society supplies the general features of the human nature-pattern, and out of this pattern the new personality crystallises. The development of personalities in people is exactly the same process, dynamically, as was seen in the physiological development of the embryo where its various parts, through individuation, acquired local structures and functions.

§ 13. LAW V. Wholes evolve as wholes. In the course of evolution society did not emerge as an organised human nature-pattern by an additive process. The group was an evolutionary unit. In fact, biological evolution has depended in large measure upon the existence of societies. Life in groups aided in the struggle against natural enemies and unfavourable climatic conditions; it decreased the chance of infant mortality, and aided in the selection of useful biological variations. Without group life there would have been no language and no thinking.

In the same way, the personality of the individual develops as a differentiating, expanding whole. It is at first general and undifferentiated. The structurisation of the total, balanced personality, is the so-called appearance of particular traits. General activity versus sluggishness differentiates into stubbornness, aggressiveness and brilliance, versus docility, passiveness and lack of alertness. As differentiation goes on, personality becomes phenomenologically more variable and complex, still retaining the general features that appeared first. The more refined traits, on the one hand, and the more objectionable, on the other, do not emerge until the individual is passing through the adolescent period and has come in contact with larger social groups than were found in the family and on the playground. Many and striking have been the alterations of personality effected by these later changes in social environment.

§ 14. LAW VI. Personality follows the law of least action. With the individual as the point of reference, this fact was well illustrated in the case of dementia præcox. Tensions not only demand resolution, but in the most direct way. They presuppose organisation and balance within a system of potentials. Thus a personality-tension implies a goal, and vice versa. Because the boy’s goal at home supplied a more immediate relief from strain than goals in his environment, there was no effort to seek relief outside. It was the home that prohibited him from having other goals. There were no “low pressure areas” in his social environment while the “lowest” was in the home. The boy’s energy became organised, as all energy does, with respect to the points of lowest stress in the system. All other modes of behaviour were precluded by the absence of goals.

The boy’s self-seclusion was itself a goal activity. His mother could not assist him in resolving all his tensions; society helped him in no way. Since the same total situation that arouses tension supplies the goal, society was conditioning the boy’s internal goals. A normal boy would actually fight if attacked, for his anger would demand resolution in that direction; he would have plotted revenge and would have executed the plot overtly. The boy fulfilled all this in daydreams. The low points of stress were within when they could not be outside.

The larger situation, the relationship involving the group as a point of reference, must also be envisaged in terms of least action. When an individual does not conform to the folkways of his group, tensions develop in the group that are expressed as suspicion and fear. In primitive society the group not only showed fear of the variant, or nonconformer, but even worshipped him. In civilised society, to relieve tensions of various kinds between groups and individuals, the group segregates the variant if he is subnormal or criminal; and if he is a genius it vociferously hails him as a leader or shuts him up in prison as the case may be.

One group responds to another in terms of race prejudice, cautious co-operation, tariff laws and armed force. Primitive, simple reactions are means of arriving at primitive, simple goals; elaborate behaviour on the part of educated and civilised man, requiring a long time for consummation, is the most direct way to reach an intricate goal. Thus, in half-civilised society a murderer is unceremoniously hunted down and killed; while in a highly civilised group he is arrested, given trial, a chance to appeal, another trial, a reprieve, and perhaps a pardon. It all depends upon the complexity of the goal-situation and the configuration in which the goal functions. Similarly, the higher the level of intelligence and culture the more complex the goal-activities. This means that civilised man has a greater variety of tensions, more worries, more troubles than primitive man; conversely, he has more satisfactions and enjoyments, upon being released from strain. The critical, intelligent person undergoes more conflict than the feeble-minded or the ignorant.

§ 15. LAW VII. Personality follows the law of maximum work. The personality will fight for its status quo. Not to preserve it means disintegration. Preservation also means keeping the parts intact. Hence the resistance to a change in any idea that does not evolve through the growth potential. Ideas will not change unless they can change themselves, or rather, be changed by the person himself in the course of gaining insight. Forcing ideas on other people leads only to hostility and antagonism. Thus we have, both in individuals and in groups, the acceptance of an idea that, just previously had been vigorously rejected, even with the shedding of blood. The difficulty with which one surrenders his estimation of himself, his theories, his beliefs and his peculiarities of conduct, lies in the circumstance that each derives its existence from the total behaviour pattern. Before a part can be altered, the character of the whole must undergo a change. Insight is that change in the character of the whole that comes through growth. Thus, development and growth are required if one is to change a personality trait, overcome a complex, give up a belief, or alter a habit. Progress must come with insight.

The case of dementia præcox exemplified the law of maximum work when, as a whole, the boy’s personality disintegrated. Phenomenologically, the law is illustrated in his suspicion of everybody. Suspicion was anticipation both of the tension and of the factor that caused it; it was resisting the disturbance of his total behaviour pattern, a disturbance that society was constantly inducing. But what a price to pay for the preservation of unity; ultimately, insanity, the form of unity that emerges in relation to an unbalanced environment!

Social groups, races, nations, may follow the same path. If, through attitudes of hostility or superiority, they isolate themselves from surrounding groups, they can no more live indefinitely than can a personality. They will disintegrate sociologically, psychologically, and biologically. It is as easy for a nation to live the false life of extreme introversion as for an individual, and the same inevitable death will ensue. Races, like individuals, develop defence mechanisms. Moreover, it is as easy for surrounding nations to kill the soul of a race by making intolerable its intercourse with environment as for society to kill the soul of an individual. There is a social as well as an individual dementia præcox. Imperialism and religious proselytising have demonstrated this repeatedly. When a superior or powerful race forces education and religion upon an inferior or weaker race, the same situation results. Thus we see the importance of mutual tolerance and non-interference in international affairs.

The Golden Rule is a law of dynamics. It expresses the “physical” law of action and reaction in the field of moral relations. If the rule is misapplied, only conflict results. To the extent that one nation will not accept a universal human code, or will accept it only qualifiedly, the whole world of civilisation suffers. In the individual, worry and suspicion deprive him of normal growth. In national affairs the same is true. Moreover, international tension is expensive in the energies of people; for these energies must be consumed in the maintenance of large navies and standing armies. For what purpose? Only to continue the strain between nations. This mutual inducing of strain permits no proper national relaxation; and, like individuals whose tensions are not resolved, nations will, in time, suffer the consequent disintegration. Like individuals, they will become insane and perhaps kill for the sake of killing. At any rate they will kill when the dispute could have been settled by arbitration. In order to solve international relations, a larger, balanced whole must emerge, in which the nations can pursue their activities in harmony. The whole must be a sincere, not a camouflaged, League of Nations. Obedience to the law of the whole is liberty, for nations as well as for persons. Civilised humanity constitutes a whole, the violation of whose laws brings only destruction.

§ 16. LAW VIII. Personality follows the law of configuration. The development of any particular characteristic, say the defence reaction of boldness, is not a response to a limited social environment, for example the amused glances of other people, when one is small of stature. Rather, it is a response to a given situation in its relation to all other aspects of social life. If the same society that cast the glances also showed a respect for the individual and accepted him, there would be no development of defence mechanisms. The personality could then maintain its balance in dynamic relation to an equal distribution of social stimuli. This means that personality is an organic unit responding to all the personality aspects of the human nature-pattern external to it. If the contact is one-sided, the personality will be distorted; the more varied the sources of stimulation, the more differentiated, the more rounded and stable, will be the personality.

The social group is a field of balanced potentials in the form of personalities. It responds as a unit to outside groups. It reacts to any disturbing situation in its relation to all other influences that are at the same time affecting it. This principle is of extreme importance in understanding the behaviour of nations, as for example in assigning responsibility for wars, tariff and migration laws, in evaluating the culture of nations, and in estimating, equitably, the attitudes of races placed under the supervision of more powerful groups.

§ 17. CONCLUSION. The human being will not rest content with schisms, dualisms, paradoxes, inconsistencies, the begging of questions, any type of intellectual hypocrisy, rationalisation, superficiality, or the avoidance of issues. Here honesty with oneself will prevail; conflict is intolerable, for it is lack of balance; there must be a harmony in thought that is complete, and the harmony must reach to the very depths of human inquiry; there must be unqualified unity. In obtaining this unity, science must satisfy, not antagonise, or through its implications, discourage, the faith of humanity in idealism; religion must satisfy, not resist, the demands of the most rigorous logic. If this is not accomplishable, neither science nor idealism nor religion is true, for the truth demands unqualified self-consistence within man’s widest grasp of reality.

§ 18. PROGRESS IN THOUGHT. The progress now taking place in human thought is just this achievement of unity. It has emerged, largely in the twentieth century, in the conception of a more comprehensive framework in which to apprehend scientific and philosophical problems. In our physics, biology, psychology, philosophy and religion the same change is taking place. It is an abandonment of absolutism, a tearing down of intellectual and emotional fences between departments of science, between science and philosophy, between science and religion, between religions, between all of these things and life itself. Prejudices and suspicions have reigned between departments of science; the physicist has looked down upon the psychologist; the psychologist has feared the physicist; science and religion have acted like enemies in spite of assurances that they were friends; science has disdained philosophy and philosophy has looked condescendingly upon science; religious groups have quarrelled among themselves. Atomistic thinking has been responsible for it all; it has created an age of specialisation and specialisation has nourished atomistic thinking. Now, in theory, we are transcending these dilemmas with a new tool of thought, the relative, organic unit, whose unity is functional and whose plurality is phenomenological. In practice we are adopting every possible means of overcoming the evils of specialisation.

Tireless, prudent and far-seeing must be the leaders of thought in every field of like, for the new tool of thought has its dangers. Mankind proverbially invents tools before it knows well how to use them. Man invented gunpowder and forthwith slaughtered his fellows; he invented the radio and has little control of vicious propaganda, religious proselytising, pernicious adverstising, “medical”, political, and other forms of hoodwinking that the radio affords.

Materialistic and mechanistic science, to the layman, is the absolute truth regarding the world in which he lives. This gone, and doubt already established as to the nature of the invisible world, he is left with no substantial philosophy. Floundering, he will, without the best of leadership, enter upon a period of scepticism, fanaticism, mysticism and Epicureanism. History is in danger of repeating itself; for the new enlightment is slow in permeating the minds of the masses, and the abandonment of the old precedes the acceptance of the new. We must avoid a period of intellectual and emotional anarchy. Among scientists, the physicist and the psychologist especially owe the duty to mankind of stabilising and organising the layman’s thinking. Philosophy and religion were never more sorely needed.

Danger lies in the ranks of the scientists who cry:—“Experiment, don’t think”, for this is the cry of intellectual suicide; it is the scientist’s way of saying:—“Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow ye die”. Danger lies in the ranks of the clergy who say:—“Believe, don’t think”, and in the ranks of teachers whose methods imply, “This is authority, the truth will not stand alone”. Danger lies in the casting all but statistical meaning in science to the wind. The scientist who says, “Let the other fellow worry about the world of reality, I will do nothing with it”, is intellectually lazy, cowardly, or bigoted. To this extent he is a traitor to the society that supports him. Danger lies in man’s optimism and complacency, the insistence that he needs no guidance. Danger lies in the weakened authority of the family, church and State. Knowledge of the true, the good and the beautiful must assume the authority of institutional law.

§ 19. EIRENICON: MUTUAL KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING. The scientist must know his philosophy and the philosopher his science; the clergyman and the teacher must know both. One scientist must know the general principles under which all the others are working. A huge task is before us. The child revolts at subject matter divorced from life; critical-minded man is revolting against a physics, a biology, a psychology abstracted from life and artificial. To couch the subject matter of physical science purely in terms of probabilities, as many scientists are now advocating, will devitalise science still further and deprive it of the value to human culture which humanism demands of it; at the same time its mathematical significance must be preserved. This is no simple task. To delete psychology of its descriptive content and resort, alone, to statistical precedures that ignore reality will kill psychology and make of it a useless instrument in giving to the social sciences their necessary foundation.

In order to find the ultimate truth in all human thought we must begin with unanalysed and unrationalised experience. The new method of thought that posits, “Begin with the whole and always refer everything back to it”, is the only way to deal with fields where analysis and intricate reasoning are ultimately required. There is one framework from which science, philosophy, ethics, metaphysics, epistemology and religion emerge, each having membership character, each differentiating under the same laws, which are, at once, the laws of human nature and the laws of the Universe.

This does not mean the repudiation of old truths. Science has declared that we must measure; this is true; experience always involves a quantitative judgement. Art has demonstrated that we must appreciate to live. Religion has affirmed that we must believe to live. Philosophy has proved that we must know to live.

As for psychology, subjectivism claimed that we must describe experience; this is the true message of introspection. Behaviourism said we must act overtly to be a psychological subject; and this is true. Freudian psychology said we must study the human being as a system forever compensating in order to maintain its balance; and this is true. Self psychology said that we must refer all activity to a common factor; and this is true. Purposive psychology said that man was not a machine; and this is true. Conation psychology said that a psychological event was a dynamic process going on to an end; and this is true. Functional psychology regarded mind as a “stream”; and even this is true. But none discovered the descriptive unit that fully satisfies the demands of all the others; none invented the unit that fulfils its own purpose—the organic unit—which links the sciences together and explains the mind in terms of physics or—what amounts to the same thing—the Universe in terms of mind.

1. . Morgan; The Psychology of the Unadjusted School Child; New York; 1924.

2. This imaginative story is highly indicative of the SP Artisan personality type. SP Artisans crave action, and base their self-esteem on their physical performance. SP Artisans tend to do poorly in school, because schools are designed by SJ Guardians for SJ Guardians. SP Artisans need to be active. Sitting in a classroom listening to a teacher lecture is endlessly tedious to the Artisan:

“With their concrete intelligence, Artisans are not in the least interested in the clerical, humanities, and science curricula that abound in modern American schools, and this often gets them into trouble, because they refuse to do their assignments. Ordinary school work is, after all, mere preparation for something the Artisans figure they’re never going to do anyway. Artisans do not wish to prepare — for anything — and they are careful to make this clear to their would-be instructors.

Certainly Artisans are active, but only in their stubborn insistence upon getting to do something interesting, something that allows them to test their mettle. They’ll work in a tool-centered curriculum.

In spite of poor schooling many Crafters manage to develop their tactical skills on their own. Gifted with their hands and eyes, Crafters make wonderful tradespeople, carpenters, mechanics, plumbers, furniture makers, weavers, jewelry smiths, and so on. They are the very best pilots of all manner of vehicles, trucks, trains, planes, boats, and they also make incomparable surgeons, artists, athletes, musicians — and warriors.”

—David Keirsey, Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence (1998)[paraphrased]

Blaming the teacher for the SP Artisan’s lack of enthusiasm in school is outright wrong and indicative of “Broken Clock = Broken Part” thinking. This is a case where there are no broken parts. The fault lies in the design of the system-as-a-whole. — David W. Deley

3. dementia præcox, now known as schizophrenia, is well known now to be a biological disorder, not caused by anything the parents did or did not say or do. Blaming the mother here is completely unjustified. Schizophrenia is not the result of improper upbringing or other stressful circumstances. If anything, being the parent of a schizophrenic child is very challenging. — David W. Deley

4. The author appears to be advocating the "Blank Slate" hypothesis, an epistemological theory that individuals are born without built-in mental content and that all of their knowledge comes from experience and perception. This theory has since been discounted. See for example Steven Pinker The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, (in which he argues against the idea of a blank slate), and David Keirsey Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence, the seminal work on Temperament Theory:

Temperament Theory: Lost and Found

That people are highly formed at birth, with fundamentally different temperaments or predispositions to act in certain ways, is a very old idea. It was first proposed in outline by Hippocrates around 370 B.C., and the Roman physician Galen fleshed it out around 190 A.D. The idea continued in the mainstream of thought in medicine, philosophy, and literature up through the 19th century. On the other hand, the idea that people are born without predispositions and are therefore largely malleable appears to be an early 20th century notion. Ivan Pavlov saw behavior as nothing more than mechanical responses to environmental stimulation. John Watson, the first American behaviorist, claimed he could shape a child into any form he wanted by conditioning it, provided that the child is put in his charge while yet an infant.

What, we might ask, is "temperament" and what relation does it have to character and personality? There are two sides to personality, one of which is temperament and the other character. Temperament is a configuration of inclinations, while character is a configuration of habits. Character is disposition, temperament pre-disposition. Thus, for example, foxes are predisposed — born — to raid hen houses, beavers to dam up streams, dolphins to affiliate in close-knit schools, and owls to hunt alone in the dark. Each kind of creature, unless arrested in its maturation by an unfavorable environment, develops the habit appropriate to its temperament: stealing chickens, building dams, nurturing companions, or hunting at night.

Put another way, our brain is a sort of computer which has temperament for its hardware and character for its software. The hardware is the physical base from which character emerges, placing an identifiable fingerprint on each individual's attitudes and actions. This underlying consistency can be observed from a very early age — some features earlier than others — long before individual experience or social context (one's particular software) has had time or occasion to imprint the person. Thus temperament is the inborn form of human nature; character, the emergent form, which develops through the interaction of temperament and environment.

I want to emphasize that temperament, character, and personality are configured, which means that, not only are we predisposed to develop certain attitudes and not others, certain actions and not others, but that these actions and attitudes are unified — they hang together. Thus, the SPs base their self-image on graceful action, bold spirit, and adaptability to circumstance, these three traits evolving together of necessity. Furthermore, these three traits, developing together as if out of a single seed, preclude the emergence of a self-image based on, say, empathy, benevolence, and authenticity, which are characteristics of the NFs. In the same way, the SJs base their self-image on reliability, service, and respectability, these three traits emerging together as a unified structure of personality. And again, the unfolding of these three traits together weighs against developing a self-image based on ingenuity, autonomy, and willpower, which is characteristic of the NTs.

This notion of four distinct temperaments, inborn and unified, calls into question two major points of view in 20th century behavioral science. The first can be called the theory of hierarchical motivation. Abraham Maslow, a leading proponent of this theory, held that we are all motivated by a number of needs which displace each other as we satisfy them. We ascend, he said, from physical needs (food, clothing, shelter) to safety needs (security, protection, assurance), then on to social needs (love, friendship, belonging), and next to the need for self-esteem (valuing self, self-worth, pride). And a few of us — not really very many, he suggested — are able to arrive finally at what he called the "self-actualizing" phase of development, no longer motivated by the primary physical needs, nor by needs for safety, belonging, and self-esteem. Maslow seemed to believe that the fully-realized, enlightened, self-actualized personality is everyone's highest goal in life, and implied that those people who don't make it nevertheless have a latent need for self-actualization, which will break forth as a full-blown motive once they satisfy their more primary needs.

It certainly makes sense to say that in normal development many of us arrange our lives so that we satisfy our need for sustenance, for safety, for social ties, and that we then turn our interest to achieving self-esteem. But beyond this point temperament theory counsels us to part company with Maslow and other hierarchists. For if people are fundamentally different, born with different needs and inclinations, then they might not all share the desire to take Maslow's last step into self-actualization. Perhaps not even most of them. Of course all must have self-esteem. Maslow was right in this. But as it turns out, most people base their self-esteem on something else entirely. Only those of one particular temperament, Myers's NFs, are concerned with becoming self-actualized — finding their true selves — and value themselves more in the degree they achieve this aim.

Thus it is not that self-actualization is a step beyond self-esteem; rather, it is but one path to self-esteem. There are other paths. Freud, for instance, was right when he said that physical pleasure is the way. But not for everybody, as he supposed, and not as an end in itself, but as a means to self-esteem. Those of the SP temperament prize themselves more when they live sensually and hedonically. Harry Sullivan was also right. The security of social status is important — for some at least, and in the service of self-esteem. Those of the SJ temperament hold themselves in higher regard when they attain a reputation as pillars of society. Likewise, Alfred Adler was right in that the quest for powers motivates us — some of us — and those of the NT temperament look upon themselves with pride as their technological powers increase. It is unfortunate that Maslow, himself an NF, saw the aims of the other three personalities as merely arrested attempts to gain self-actualization.

The other point of view challenged by the four temperaments theory says that not only do all of us have the same goals, but we also go through the same stages of growth and development. Reading the leading writers on maturation, we are counseled that all mature persons have certain attitudes and certain habits, and that all must take the same developmental steps to get there. Such a position was taken, sometimes explicitly and always implicitly, by investigators such as Gesell, Ilg, Ames, Erikson, Piaget, Sheehy, and Levinson, to name some of the more prominent contributors.

But this way of defining maturity will not do. A mature NF is strikingly different from a mature SP. Likewise, a mature NT is astonishingly different from a mature SJ. Just as the fox matures differently from the beaver, so does the dolphin mature differently from the owl. Just as the Lion wanted Courage to get on with life, so Dorothy wanted Security, the Tin Woodman wanted a Heart, and the Scarecrow wanted Brains. To use the same criteria of maturity for all kinds of creatures is to miss the entire point of this enquiry. Imagine a mother fox schooling a young beaver in the art of sneaking into a chicken yard and making off with a fat hen, and picture also the little beaver's astonished paralysis upon receiving such guidance. This, of course, is unimaginable, but as parents many of us encourage our offspring to emulate us, to be chips off the old block, to follow in our footsteps. The Pygmalion Project ascends to its greatest heights and generates its greatest intensity in pointing the young toward our own conception of maturity. None of the temperament are above wanting to validate their own ways, and so set about, unconsciously and involuntarily to be sure, to sculpt their young into the image of themselves.

Temperament will out in maturation as in all other domains of life, and so, again, we are asked to think of temperament as inborn, innate, inherent, and of character as exactly configured, as precisely patterned, as definitively systemic. SP or SJ, NF or NT, our traits of personality entail each other and are bound together by a common origin and a common destiny. And it is not until these traits have developed that we can be said to have acquired our mature personality, to have become a full-blown specimen of what we were meant to be, just as the tiny acorn becomes the mighty oak tree.

—David Keirsey, Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence (1998)[paraphrased]

David W. Deley [editor]

The Laws of Human Nature
previous PREV          NEXT next
Table of Contents
For Kindle e-readers:
For EPUB e-readers: humannature.epub
backarrow Back to  THE SCIENCE OF COMPREHENSION: How We Understand and Reason About Abstract Concepts : The New 21st-Century Paradigm Shift
backarrow Back to  Deley’s Homepage