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True Colors History and Origin of Personality Temperament Theory
The Origins Of Temperament And “True Colors” Erica LowryAncient TimesThe origins of classifying individuals according to four personality types is nearly as ancient asWestern civilization itself. The theory began with the pre-Socratic philosopher Empedocles(490 B.C.—430 B.C.), who was a citizen of Agrigentum, a Greek colony in Sicily. He is knownfor proposing the theory that the world and its contents were comprised of the four elements,earth, air, fire, and water. In his epic poem, On Nature, he stated that these elements wereruled by the gods Persephone, Zeus, Hades, and Hera1—who represented the characteristics ofthose elements, respectively. In his work, Empedocles was attempting to find the basis for allchange; he theorized that change in all things (including ourselves) resulted from the mixture andseparation of these four unalterable substances. He theorized that what created every admixtureand dissolution were the forces of Love and Strife—as dictated by the four most important godsin Ancient Greece. These gods and their very distinct personalities did not come out of thin air,naturally—they were characters invented based upon human personality traits, representing along oral tradition that inspired the first written work to characterize the Greek Gods andGoddesses, “The Iliad,” by Homer (approx. 850 B.C.2). The history of “Type,” or“Temperament” begins with the origins of dramatic “character.”This theory of the four natural elements became a standard dogma for the next two thousandyears. According to Aristotle (384 B.C—322 B.C), Empedocles died at the age of 60, as “Thefather of Rhetoric.” (Empedocles was the last Greek philosopher to record his theories, in verse.)Interestingly, Empedocles also theorized that human knowledge is explained by the principle thatthe elements in things outside of us are perceived and understood by the corresponding elementswithin ourselves—as in modern language, “like attracts like.”The concepts of Empedocles, due to his fame in Western Europe, were well known byHippocrates (470 B.C—370 B.B), the pre-eminent Greek philosopher and physician, who isknown as “The Father of Medicine.” Hippocrates originated medicine as a profession, and isknown not only for “The Hippocratic Oath” but also for his many methods of prognosis, some ofwhich are still in use today, in pulmonary medicine. Hippocrates described what he observedand theorized as four distinct types of human temperaments (or “humours,” or personalities),1 Zeus, the “god of gods,” living on Mount Olympus and impassively ruling from every corner of the planet, wouldhave been “Air,” which would be “Green,” in “True Colors” language; his wife Hera, by all accounts an emotionalperson, very sentimental and merciful (yet wrathful, when betrayed), would have been “Water,” which would berepresented by “Blue”; Persephone, who traveled back and forth between the underworld and the natural world inorder to preserve balance and her own loyalties, would be “Earth,” which would be represented by “Gold”; andHades, her husband—the overseer of the underworld, would have been “Fire,” which would be represented by TrueColors’ metaphor, the color “Orange.”2 Scholars do not all agree on the date of Homer’s existence. Some place him a century earlier, some place him acentury later.Copyright Erica Echols Lowry 2009 All Rights Reserved Page 1
caused by what he believed were the effects on an individual caused by the levels of fourdifferent bodily fluids: black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood. During the Fifth CenturyB.C., human dissection was considered to be a sacrilege, so Hippocrates did not have access todirect understanding of internal mechanisms of the human body. However, it was Hippocrateswho rejected the standard notion (theorized by Empedocles) that disease was a punishment bythe gods, but was rather due to an internal imbalance in these four fluids, which was evidentthrough a person’s temperament. He called these four temperaments Choleric (emotional andsensitive), Phlegmatic (impassive and judgmental), Melancholic (fretful, a worrier), andSanguine (fiery and spirited). These characteristics were very similar to those of the Greek Godsthat Empedocles assigned, to the four elements.Aristotle was likewise fully familiar with the advances made by Hippocrates, as were all notablephilosophers in Greece. The successor to Aristotle’s Lyceum in Athens was a favorite student ofAristotle, by the name of Theophrastus (371 B.C.—287 B.C.). Theophrastus’ philosophicaland scientific interests and published works were wide-ranging, including works in biology andphysics, however one of his most important contributions was his work, The Characters, whichwas based on Hippocrates’ work in Temperament. This booklet of 30 characters was the firstrecorded attempt at a systematic, detailed description of different, distinct personalities, whichhas resulted in the term, “the character sketch.” Indeed, Theophrastus’ detailed descriptions ofthe wide variety of personalities within the combinations of Temperament are hilarious, farcicalrenditions that are starkly recognizable as the worst possible expression of our faults in everydaylife. (To download for free, go to archive.org/details/charactersoftheo00theorich.)One of Theophrastus’ friends was a gifted comedic playwright, named Menander (342 B.C.—291 B.C.), who was the author of more than a hundred comedies. He took the prize at theprestigious Lenaia festival in Greece eight times, and was one of the most popular playwrights ofantiquity. He utilized Theophrastus’ concept of “Character,” to revolutionize AthenianComedy. Previously, Greek Comedy had relied on a form of entertainment that lampooned localofficials, satirized local and political scandals, and utilized song and verse to get story across toaudiences.Instead, Menander utilized the “Characters” derived from his friend Theophrastus’ TheCharacters, to create spoken comedy that was more universal, and less local. His plays reacheda much broader audience, because the temperaments he brought to life were familiar to everyonein every audience. He used personal love stories for some of his plots, which was a new story-mine for Athenian theater. His work formed the foundation of Athenian “New Comedy,” whichexaggerated the characters’ temperaments to create hilarious farce—in stories about everydaylives. This signified the height of Athenian theater, which has influenced much of WesternEuropean literature and theater.The first Elizabethan playwright to experiment with the “Characters” of Theophrastus andMenander, was George Chapman (1559-1634), who was a classical Greek scholar, playwright,and translator noted for the first English translations of Homer’s Iliad and Oddyssey. In 1597Chapman wrote the play, “An Humorous Days’ Mirth,” which created the vogue for what’s nowknown as “A Comedy of Humours.” (And in fact the word “humour,” to mean “personality,” or“character,” was derived from Hippocrates’ referral to “fluids,” in his theory regarding theCopyright Erica Echols Lowry 2009 All Rights Reserved Page 2
body’s fluids as influencing our temperament. The word “liquid,” in Latin, is pronounced“humour.”)But it was the playwright Ben Jonson (June 11, 1572-August 6, 1637) who became thechampion of this form of theater, utilizing Theophrastus’ “Characters” throughout his work. Hismost famous play in this genre is “Every Man in His Humour,” produced in 1598. Indeed BenJonson, in his day, was more popular than William Shakespeare, who has since far eclipsed him.But actors and playwrights often assisted one another during this period, as they still often do,since theatre is a rarefied, underpaid field. And so it was none other than William Shakespeare,(baptized April 26, 1564—April 23, 1616), who played the starring role in Ben Jonson’searliest productions of “Every Man in His Humour.” This would leave no doubt thatShakespeare had a working knowledge of the use of Temperament, in drama.In Europe and America, this form of comedy—of using the “character sketch,” that is, a formulafor basic, universal characters—has informed our most popular modern and contemporarytelevision: I Love Lucy, All in the Family, M.A.S.H., Fawlty Towers, Seinfeld, Friends, and Sexin the City are some examples of the use of the Temperaments in television. (Often, when somecharacters in a production are “playing it straight,” that is, realistically, one or two of the fourtemperaments will be introduced as farcical characters, for the more realistic characters to “playoff of,” creating comedy. When you consider the above-named television shows, you can easilypick out the four temperaments, and which temperaments are played out as “farcical.”) Many ofour most popular and lasting television shows have used four basic characters, who embodycharacteristics first described by Empodecles, and which are referred to in medicine byHippocrates, to demonstrate the four basic characters that appear in every life throughout history.Indeed, Empedocles’ original conception of the four gods, or four basic “humours,” as drawntogether or apart by either Love or Strife, is one of the most-utilized formulas for storytelling, asit mirrors a basic truth about our daily lives.Meanwhile, during the pre-Christian years, and for about 1200 years thereafter—into the MiddleAges, Hippocrates’ medical use of the four Temperaments was the traditional practice inWestern Europe, which expanded into Egypt and Mesopotamia.Hippocrates’ medical infamy was further established by Galen (129-200 C.E), who was also aphilosopher and physician, and who was the personal physician to Marcus Aurelius, in Rome.Galen was also the most prolific author in Western Europe, during his lifetime. Galen sawHippocrates as nearly “divine,” and Galen used not just Hippocrates’ theories of Temperament inhis prognosis and treatment of patients, but used all of Hippocrates’ other medical practices, aswell.Galen was so prolific and well-known (producing over 600 volumes during his lifetime), that hislegacy created a millenia-long tradition among physicians, who institutionalized many ofHippocrates’ and Galens’ views. While there were opposing views, the legacy of Hippocratesand Galen were very well-known by all philosophers and physicians in Western Europe, wellinto to the middle ages.Copyright Erica Echols Lowry 2009 All Rights Reserved Page 3
However in the early 1500s, a Swiss physician, also a philosopher and alchemist, by the name ofPhilippus Paracelsus (1493-1541) utilized both Hyppocrates’ and Galens’ doctrines, while atthe same time burning their books, to signify his own independence.Paracelsus pioneered the use of chemicals and metals in the practice of medicine, and was thefirst to note the existence of “the unconscious,” in his writings. During the strict enforcement ofChristianity during the Middle Ages, when the religious beliefs of Hippocrates and Galen werecondemned, Paracelsus still adhered to the philosophical teachings of Hippocrates and Galen inhis practice. He said that the four natures observed by Hippocrates were influenced by fourkinds of “spirits,” represented by Nymphs, Sylphs, Gnomes, and Salamanders. This reminds oneof Empedocles’ nomination of two Gods and two Goddesses, to represent the character of eachof the four elements that he believed comprised our being. The concept of using spirit-names,for each of the four Types, were concepts born of Paracelsus’ worldview, common in WesternEurope— encompassing some pagan beliefs, even during the Middle Ages. These “spirits”represented an alternative to the punitive doctrine of the early Christian Church. And so while“psychology” would not exist for another five millennia, Paracelsus was the first to make stridestoward understanding human nature from a more psychological perspective, albeit based onpagan notions.During the Rennaissance, the Hippocratic notion of Temperament took a further backseat, due todramatic advances in science, including anatomy, astronomy, and geography—not to mention allof the advances that were made in the arts. Leonardo da Vinci drew detailed sketches of humaninternal organs, which showed beyond a shadow of a doubt that disease was not caused by animbalance in bodily fluids. Ancient medical philosophies were, for the time being, ignored duetheir discredit in the findings of human biology.However, among the two branches of Temperament, Hippocrates’ medical and Menander’stheatrical, the theatrical still flourished. After Ben Jonsen, William Shakespeare, George Elliotand others utilized Menander’s use of the “character sketches,” to create plays that wereuniversally appealing. In Jonson’s “Every Man in His Humour,” he summarized the theory ofhuman temperament as it is dramatized in life and in theater: Some one peculiar quality Doth so possess a man, that it doth draw All his affects, his spirits, and his powers, In their confluctions, all to run one way.Copyright Erica Echols Lowry 2009 All Rights Reserved Page 4
Modern TimesIt wasn’t until 1921, when the Swiss phychologist Dr. Carl Gustav Jung (July 26, 1875—June6, 1961) published his book, “Psychological Type,” that the notion of Typology in personalityentered the realm of scientific psychological theory. His book reaffirmed the ancientunderstanding of four fixed patterns of behavior (which to this day are ascribed to Hippocrates,rather than Empedocles), which could be used to better understand human beings. Jungproposed that each of us is born with a particular disposition, and that each one of us strives toexpress our “truest self” as either a Thinker, a Feeler, a Sensor, or an Intuitor. Jung was acompatriot of Dr. Sigmund Freud (May 6, 1856—September 23, 1939) however Dr. Freudand Dr. Jung parted ways on such matters as Jung’s concept of the “collective unconscious,”which is now recognized as a valid theory among metaphysicians and some psychologists. Jungspent his lifetime theorizing and practicing many new concepts that are today still used inpsychoanalysis, art, and literature: the concepts of Anima and Animus (which symbolize thearchetypal man in the mind of a woman, and the archetypal woman in the mind of a man),Synchronicity (unusual coincidence occurring at signal moments), the notion of the “shadow”(the unconscious, irrational drives within each of us) and the concepts of introversion andextraversion. Jung’s theory of Type also derived from his in-depth study of “Archetype,” whichhe said were permanent, stable symbols of different types and stages of basic human nature, thatexist in the substratum of the mind, or the Collective Unconscious.Jung’s Type Theory was not adaptable for everyday use until the relatively recent developmentof the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which was created in 1956 by Katherine Briggs (1875-1968) and her daughter, Isabel Briggs-Myers (October 18, 1897—May 5, 1980). Their workignited a renewed interest in the field of personality theory. Myers and Briggs expanded Jung’stheory to encompass sixteen “type-indicators,” which incorporated the notions of introversionand extraversion. What started out as a parlor game that Katherine Briggs and her daughter-inlaw Isabel Briggs-Myers introduced to their friends, became a very popular tool for the use ofpsychologists with their patients, and for human resource departments seeking to betterunderstand employees. Isabel Briggs-Myers used the psychological types to form the charactersin her novels, “Murder Yet to Come” and “Give Me Death.”Modern-day psychologist Dr. David Keirsey, (born August 31, 1921) in his best-selling bookof 1978, “Please Understand Me,” explains the correlation between Jung’s four Types and thesixteen Myers/Briggs type indicators. Keirsey labeled four Temperaments: Apollonian,Promethean, Epimethean, and Dionysian. In Dr. Keirsey’s book, there is a detailed questionnairethat readers take, to discover what “Temperament” a person is, so that with the results, one couldunderstand one’s self to a higher degree. This, in turn, helps to improve one’s self-esteem. (Dr.Keirsey’s book, “Please Understand Me II,” published in 1998, is viewed as a classic in thegenre of “self-help.”)In 1978, Don Lowry (born May 18, 1936) was a successful businessman in education, with abackground in teaching biology and athletic coaching. When Lowry read Dr. Kiersey’s firstbook, it happened that Lowry’s youngest brother Bill, who had been in Lowry’s care, had justcommitted suicide. This very tragic event caused Lowry to decide to give up what he had beendoing as a businessman, and instead find a way to make the information in Type/TemperamentTheory much more accessible to people, especially young people. Lowry by then had had hisCopyright Erica Echols Lowry 2009 All Rights Reserved Page 5
first child, Donnell, and he wanted to find a way to create a more peaceful, cooperative world forhis daughter, at a time when there was so much civil violence and unrest in America. Dr.Kiersey lived quite close to where Lowry lived, and Lowry decided to visit Dr. Kiersey, to seewhat he could learn. With a shared, intense passion for improving the lives of people, Dr.Kiersey became Lowry’s mentor, and Lowry became his protégé. Lowry was convinced that allpeople, regardless of age, culture, or background, could benefit from knowing about thefundamental principles of personality—they could learn to understand themselves better, andalso learn to appreciate and support individual differences. He felt that even children andteenagers could benefit greatly, from this deeper self-understanding.Lowry further simplified the language used to discuss personality, to use a simple, modernmetaphor: colors. Blue, Green, Gold, and Orange would be used to describe the fourTemperaments. He chose the colors very carefully, after studying the associations of each colorwithin various cultures and shared experiences. Green, representing plant life, signifies growth,complexity, and expansion; Blue, representing the oceans and the sky, signifies depth, flowingmovement, and association with “the heavens” (spirituality); Orange, representing fire, signifiesexcitement, action, and spontaneity; Gold, representing the earth and its resources, signifiessolidity, value, and protection. (In fact, it’s a little-known fact that “Gold” was originally called“Brown,” the color of earth, and after these types of people told Lowry that they disliked thiscolor metaphor for themselves, Lowry chose “Gold”—as in “Good as Gold,” and “Solid Gold,”which Gold folks liked very much.) He chose to call his system “True Colors,” after the populareuphemism “showing one’s true colors”—an apt metaphor for “showing one’s true self,” whichis what understanding and appreciating our own personality helps us to do.Lowry knew that he could not do what he wanted to do, as quickly as he wanted to do it, througha long, written self-assessment. He realized that high-Orange Types would resist this this type ofassessment, which would skew his data for whole populations. He also knew that many youngchildren would not sit through a long questionnaire. He wanted to reach everybody, of everyType—adults and children alike.It occurred to him to use entertainment, where he would use characters to demonstrate the fourtypes; and he would use farce, a genre of satirical comedy, to further highlight the differencesbetween the four Types—the four Colors.With no background in philosophy, literature, or the history of theater, Lowry had never heard ofMenander, much less Theophrastus, much less Ben Johnson’s “Comedy of Humours.” Thistheatrical branch of Temperament had never been discussed in psychological literature, becausepsychology is viewed strictly as a branch of medicine. Nor had Dr. Keirsey heard ofTheophrastus’ having assigned Types to dramatic “characters,” or Menander’s use of thosecharacters in Athenian New Comedy, to create the foundation for one of the basic formulas forWestern theater. In fact, Dr. Keirsey doubted that Lowry could accomplish such a thing ascreate theater based upon Temperament; but Lowry felt instinctively that this was the best way tobring the healing concepts of Temperament to all. Little did Lowry know, that using theseuniversal concepts in theatrical farce, would be such a resounding success.Copyright Erica Echols Lowry 2009 All Rights Reserved Page 6
In fact, it was a risk. Don had no professional supporters—and so he wrote, produced, andperformed the show by himself, playing all four parts—without knowing what the outcomewould be, for audiences.To further assist audiences in recognizing the “Colors” within themselves, Lowry had created aplaybill containing four “Character Cards,” depicting characteristics of the four Colors. So thataudience members could understand the cards very quickly and in a playful manner (as there isvery limited time, between the moment when an audience is seated, and when the curtain rises),Lowry used vivid pictures on one side, showing symbols and mimes to depict aspects of the fourpersonality types, and he used highly condensed verbiage on the other side of the cards, toquickly describe the types as they behave in a variety of contexts.The use of four colors served as an easy “language” for audiences to immediately begindescribing and talking about one’s “True Colors,” one’s “true self”—and the advent of the use ofpictures (not just words) made the Temperaments very easy and quick to understand. The use ofcards, which reminds people of a game, made self-understanding interactive and fun. Lowry’splaybill instructed audiences to sort the cards from “Most Like Me” to “Least Like Me,” with theunderstanding that we each have all four Colors within us. Then, audience members were towatch the show, to see which character was most like themselves.This was the first time that people of all ages had easy access to the complex theories behindTemperament and Type, and it was the first time that people could accurately decide upon theirown Temperament themselves, without being “told” by an expert. With True Colors, Lowry putself-understanding squarely into the hands of the individual.His shows were an enormous success. Every audience member saw him or herself, and everyonethey knew—in the comedy they were watching, onstage. Dr. Keirsey sent Lowry acongratulatory letter, admitting that he didn’t think that it could be done, saying, “I standcorrected.”Lowry’s next foray was in an ABC pilot, “What Are Your True Colors?” But his greatestsuccess was in live theater, due to the interactive nature of the plays. In 1980, Lowry haddeveloped “The Game of Games,” an entertaining play that was performed by four actors.Audience members could not only “watch themselves” onstage, acting out various comedic life-scenarios, the audience could interact with each of the four characters, to further enhance andenjoy their newfound self-understanding.Lowry understood that the generic use of “color” as a language, enabled people to discuss andapply the general “Temperament” of any human ideology, event, or societal system, as itreflected the values of those responsible for an ideology, an event, or a system. UnderstandingTrue Colors enables us to recognize a “Gold school,” an “Orange party,” a “Blue restaurant,” ora “Green idea.” The use of color broadened the lens of Temperament, to apply to everything.This method wasn’t without its strong detractors in the Temperament community, who felt thatlay-people were not capable of understanding such complex information, much less have theability to decide for themselves their own Temperament. Lowry decided to go his own way,Copyright Erica Echols Lowry 2009 All Rights Reserved Page 7
because he felt very strongly that if Temperament is true theory, then everyone would be able torecognize their own Temperament. He felt that the “black boxes” (of scientific questionnaires,where one needs an expert to “interpret”) weren’t needed, for people to be able to recognizethemselves. (In fact, the validity of True Colors’ methodology bears out in scientific research.3)In the 1980s, Lowry adapted the show for schools—“Discovering the Best in All of Us.” Seeingthe value of entertainment as a tool to educate, he created several simple, powerful, entertainingworkshop processes4 that enable participants to discover their greatest strengths, needs, values,joys, and stressors—and processes that enable participants to deeply appreciate one another andimmediately apply what they’ve learned, within their personal lives, their communities, and theirworkplaces. He included these processes in his workbook, “The Keys to Personal Success,” andthe Facilitator’s Guide to that workbook, first published in 1980. Lowry began to certifyprofessional trainers, to facilitate his workshops. Thus his invention became much more than apersonality assessment—it became a way to dramatically enhance lives and relationships.Lowry brought True Colors to inner city schools, community centers, and public agencies, andbegan to train educators in how to use this exciting new tool within their classrooms, with thenew materials he’d authored for teachers, “The Keys to Successful Teaching,” and “The Actionand Communication Guide.” (In these books, True Colors is used as an effective LearningStyles model.) He created systemic programs for schools and organizations, which encompassall participants in learning and applying the benefits of self- and mutual understanding andappreciation. In his first school-wide program (in 1989-1999), 350 schools in Tennesseeparticipated continuously, where everyone understood and used True Colors in every context—all staff, students, teachers, parents, and the community participated. The use of True ColorsShows was the key to the program’s success, in bringing all participants together in a commonunderstanding. Don enlisted students to act in comedy scripts based on True Colors, which wereperformed for the community. These inspired students brought the whole community onto itsfeet, not just to cheer for the students, but for their own newfound understanding of one another.True Colors shows are an uncanny revelation that people never forget.It should be noted, that until this writing, the history of the use of Temperament in theater, datingback to the “New Comedy” of ancient Athens, has never been touched upon in anycomprehensive history of Psychological Temperament, because in modern times, the primaryfocus of the study of Temperament (until the advent of True Colors) had been strictlypsychological. True Colors is the only Temperament model that embodies both thepsychological and the theatrical, and is based firmly in the theatrical.Don married his wife Erica in 2002. Erica is an author of True Colors’ accredited courses forteachers, comedy scripts performed for schools and corporations, corporate trainings andworkbooks, and its children’s books. She is the author of True LoveStyles, True Colors’application to love relationships. (truelovestyles.com) She has also expanded the four Types inTrue Colors, to provide detailed descriptions of all 24 possible True Colors Spectrums, in“TrueColors24.”3 “Reliability and Validity of True Colors,” by Judith A. Wichard, Ph.D., June 2006.4 “The Discovery Process,” “The Brightening Process,” “The Ideal Process,” “The Blending Process,” “The‘Commercial’ Process,” and other processes.Copyright Erica Echols Lowry 2009 All Rights Reserved Page 8
True Colors programs have been adapted for extensive use in Health and Wellness, Teaching andLearning, Leadership, Conflict Prevention and Resolution, Sales, Teambuilding, Diversity,Career Development, Family Relationships, Criminal Justice, and dozens of other applications.It is currently used in diverse settings in nearly every walk of life—from executive boardroomsto kindergarten classrooms, with a wide range of client groups that include many Fortune 100and 500 companies, and thousands of schools. True Colors is translated into sixteen languages.Don resides in Laguna Niguel, California, with Erica. They can be reached atDonLowryTrueColors@yahoo.com.Copyright Erica Echols Lowry 2009 All Rights Reserved Page 9