Why Temperament Matters and the Role of Freud, Faith and Spirituality in Keeping Us Cool, Calm and Loving

So often we hear the words "he doesn't have the temperament" from the Democratic Party and even members of the Republican Party regarding Donald Trump.

I'm not here to discuss Trump's temperament.

Instead I'm here to discuss why temperament matters.

Temperament matters in a world that increasingly encourages "no holds barred" self-expression over self-restraint. The less self-restraint people have, the more likely that their temperament might cross over into impulsive and anger based, destructive action.

I'm a psychiatrist and although I was never a staunch Freudian, I think it was a shame that his "ego psychology" was thrown out, when his ideas about the Oedipus Complex, penis envy by women, and other theories caused everything about him to be held in disrepute. The part of his ego psychology I am referring to was about his famous declaration: "Where id is there shall ego be." 

What he meant by that is that where our impulses are in our personality, that they should be replaced by our ego.  Freud's version of ego was not the same as it's referred to currently. He didn't think of ego as being egotistical or self-centered.  To Freud ego meant everyday reality.  He believed that inside our personalities a continual battle was being waged between our lust and anger and impulsive ridden id and our rigid, restrictive and repressive conscience ridden superego. The ego represented our attempts to have our actions dictated more by the reality we are dealing with than by either our wild impulsivity or overly severe conscience.

With the id increasingly winning the battle over the superego and now even the ego, temperament is an increasingly important factor to be taken into consideration in all leaders -- of governments and the business world.

Which now brings me to the matter of faith and spirituality. I recently heard a wonderful sermon on August 7 by Morgan Simpson at Thad's entitled "Surrender, Forgive, Repeat." Thad's is a "mission station", i.e. an experimental community of the Episcopal diocese of Los Angeles that aspires to be a community of "love spreading difference makers."

What struck me most about his sermon (and Morgan is not a minister, but a writer who was a guest speaker filling in as Thad's transitions from its beloved founder Reverend Jimmy Bartz to its almost certain to be beloved, Reverend Jon Dephouse) was when he explained that our God is what we pursue.  If we pursue riches, fame, power, success then that is our God.  He then went on to imply that pursuing all of those Gods are not necessarily bad, but alone is unlikely to make you happy or even successful in the long run.  You might have fleeting fun or excitement, but you will never know joy or meaningful or lasting fulfillment. And it's unlikely that you will make the world better.  

That said, Morgan felt that it was still a good thing for people to have and even pursue those ambitions because they at least cause you to be more productive. However if we first take on an attitude and then act with love and being loving into the world and imbue our ambitions with them, it works out better for us and everyone else. 

Faith and spirituality, at least as it's practiced at Thad's is believing that God (be it Jesus, the God of the Hebrews, Mohammed, etc.) is being loving to everyone, even to sinners and evil-doers. Why the evil doers? Because with enough love, a number of them will see the light.*

There is also something about being loving through your faith, spirituality or just your deeply held values that takes the temperamentality and temper tantrums out of temperament. 

That is something I think we'd all agree that the world needs and not a moment too soon.

* Mission Stories - It is also my good fortune to be mentoring a fortysomething man named Rich Lemcke who is sharing his mission of rage to redemption to help the world be less angry and less violent. Read a couple of his stories of how his faith transformed evil doers and put them onto the path of love.


Dr. Mark Goulston is a #1 best selling author of seven books, former hostage negotiation trainer, speaker, trainer, coach and renowned psychiatrist. He is regarded as an internationally renowned expert in the field of empathy and listening. As a result of his rich and diverse background and experiences, Dr. Goulston increases people’s ability to get through to anyone.