Learn, UnLearn, Learn: Rinse and Repeat

The reward of the scientist, mathematician, or computer scientist is the emotional thrill of being the first person in the history of the world to see something or to understand something. Nothing can compare with that experience

On The Rise of Gestalt Science

My father died on July 30th, 2013 and I intend to honor him, if I can, by writing a blog about him, his ideas, and their consequences, every year.  This is the ninth year.  First year.  Second YearThird YearFourth Year. Fifth YearSixth Year,  Seventh Year, Eight Year.

If you don’t understand something said, don’t assume you are at fault

Dr. David West Keirsey
David Keirsey self portrait
Self Portrait

Prometheus Unbound (1921-1941)

Posthumous Portrait of Shelley Writing Prometheus Unbound (1845)

In Ancient Greek mythology, Prometheus was said to be the wisest of all the Titans. In the form of fire Prometheus is credited with bringing mankind knowledge and enlightenment. He stole fire from the Gods of Mount Olympus. For acting against the decree of the Gods, who wanted to keep the power of fire to themselves, Prometheus was harshly punished. He was chained to a rock to have his liver eaten out every day by an eagle. Every night his liver would grow back. This was to be his punishment for all of eternity.

My father had questioned the conventional consensus all his life.

Prometheus — “forethinker, foreseer,” from promēthēs “thinking before,” from pro “before” (see pro-) + *mēthos, related to mathein “to learn”

But in the beginning he was a kid in a small town in Southern California, free to roam like Huckleberry Finn in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The outside world of the Roaring Twenties and Depression of the 30’s was a buffeting environment but my father was pretty oblivious the wider currents of the world.

“… I had learned a lot, but not at school. I began reading when I was seven. Read (most of) a twelve volume set of books my parents bought, Journeys through Bookland. Read countless novels thereafter, day in and day out. I educated myself by reading books. Starting at age nine my family went to the library once a week, I checking out two or three novels which I would read during the week. Then, when I was sixteen, I read my father’s copy of Will Durant’s The Story of Philosophy. I read it over and over again, now and then re-reading his account of some of the philosophers.

I mention Durant’s book The Story of Philosophy because it was a turning point in my life, I too become a scholar as did Durant, thereafter reading the philosophers and logicians …”

David West Keirsey, Turning Points, 2012

Prometheus Bound (1942-1945)

“The second turning point occurred when there came a sudden, drastic, and permanent change in my life. In May 1942 I was drafted. I quit school immediately and joined the Navy to become a fighter pilot. Why fighter pilot? Because as a child I had read every book I could find about the fighter pilots of the first world war, finally resorting to 5 cent pulp books, many well written (I have no idea why these planes and their pilots fascinated me). So when called to war I could not imagine my engaging in any other kind of warfare. Not that I wished to go to war. Far from it ─ I wished to pursue, not the enemy, but college studies. Even so, I found flight training fascinating but challenging and hazardous, many cadets failing to pass the frequent tests at each stage of training. Incidentally, it was during flight training that I learned the crucial difference between education and training. An educated person has acquired knowledge; a trained person has acquired skill. An effective person has acquired both.

Do the Work

So from August 1942 to November 1945 I was a Naval Aviator, the last eight months of my war career piloting the F4U Corsair fighter attacking enemy forces at Okinawa, Borneo, and the Japanese islands between Okinawa and Formosa. Deadly dull. Boring beyond belief. Fly for two hours on another’s wing, with nothing to do but stay in formation; ten minutes on target with extreme concentration shooting rockets and machine guns, then two more hours of doing nothing but staring at a wing. Then hours of playing cards and acey-ducy in the ready room for fighter pilots.

“During those eight months I had only one book to read—Man the Unknown by Alexis Carrel”

[Editor note]: Because of that book, my father decided he would become a psychologist, if he survived the war.

A page from his aviator’s log book
Japan surrenders August 15th, 1945

In being trained to fly and shoot rockets and bullets and drop bombs I learned how to train others; not, mind you, to teach others, but to train them in how to take action effectively. I applied what I learned about training when I designed a counseling department in a large university in 1970. It was the largest department in the university with 400 graduate students flocking to the department from all over the nation, because it was the only place in the nation where one could be trained to do corrective intervention. 

The war changed my life in another, more vital, way. I appreciated being alive. It was like being born again. Hey, I get to live! Fantastic! What, I asked myself, am I going to do with my new lease on life? Before the war I was going to be a high school English teacher. After the war I was going to be a clinical psychologist.

Prometheus Tethered (1946-1950)

November 1945 came home from the war with a new lease on life. In poor health (no exercise, boredom, and occasional stress for 8 months) having lost 17 pounds of muscle—165 lbs down to 148 lbs. What was I to do with my life? 

Got married on December 22 1945 to my beautiful and bright and enterprising sweetheart from Junior College days before the war. Had she not consented to marry me I’d have joined my two pilot buddies and gone to Washington to set up an airfield for commercial transports (which they tried, but failed, becoming crop dusters and later bush pilots in Alaska).

The training of naval aviators entailed years of study and practice, for which I was credited with three semesters of college studies, leaving three semesters for my BA degree. I decided to become a psychologist. Took most of the psychology courses offered by three of the colleges in Claremont. September 1947 I attended Claremont Graduate University—the fourth turning point in my life.

In 1949 I interned at a fifty-inmate asylum for the so-called “insane”. There I met three “psychiatrists”. I was not only unimpressed with them, but appalled by them. They seemed ignorant of psychopathology and incompetent in psychotherapy. I and the other intern met with them each Saturday to discuss our findings on the inmates we had studied during the week. Each inmate that we had studied would appear before the three “psychiatrists” and the two interns. None of the three knew how to interview, glibly pronouncing each to be “schizophrenic.” Then came the weekly electro-convulsive “therapy”. All 50 inmates were in bed, 25 on one side of the room and 25 on the other side, each awaiting his turn to be zapped. This happened every Saturday for as long as each inmate was resident. Having studied the many varieties of madness since 1946 I was astonished that all inmates would be treated the same. Indeed, I was astonished that anyone would be so treated. But I did not find out how terrifying and damaging electro-shock can be until I read Mad in America in 2010—seven decades later!

[Editor’s note:]. My father discovered and knew about the invasion of psychiatry into the American school system into the narcotherapy abuse of school children [first Artisan boys] and the eventual capture of “mental health” system by big Pharma and psychiatry, before David Rosenhan and Thomas Szasz publicized it.

Prometheus Revisited (1950-1970)

Prometheus stealing fire from Olympus giving it to Mankind

To us it seems that Hermes’ speech is to the point.
What he
commands to you is to relax from your
self-will and seek the wisdom that’s in good advice.
Do as he says, since wrong is shameful in the wise.

–Chorus Prometheus Bound

In 1950 I dropped out of the doctoral studies program. I was out of money, out of patience, out of incentive, and had acquired an enemy on the faculty to boot, she regarding me as too independent. She was outraged to find that I had devised my own scoring method for the Rorschach Ink Blot test, which I had practiced with for years. After all, she supposed herself to be an expert in the use of the Rorschach test, having studied with Bruno Klopfer, no less. So she kicked me out of her case study seminar and required me to study the Rorschach under her toady, this to teach me a lesson and make me subservient and humble—I failed to achieve either subservience or humility. Later she tried to block acceptance of my thesis, but was foiled by her mentor Bruno Klopfer, the world famous Rorschach expert, he praising me for my intuitiveness. At my thesis examination she was kept quiet by no less than Charlotte Bϋhler, world famed Gestalt theorist and wife of even more famed Gestalt theorist Carl Bϋhler (who later championed my doctoral dissertation in 1967). My mentor was professor Theodore Perkins, the only American Gestalt psychologist still living at the time, he seeing to it that I, his only Gestalt disciple, was supported by the Bϋhlers for my MA and PhD degrees. 

Being a dropout, I got a job in 1950 as a counselor in a reform school for delinquent teenage boys, run by the county probation department — the fifth turning point in my life

 I had practiced responsive listening (“non-directive counseling”) for four years, so I found the method very useful in helping troublesome boys accept themselves. I was their friend. Two of the other counselors, untrained, adopted the method, and were somewhat successful using it. It was a very unusual kind of work, we counselors living at the school for three days, then going home or work elsewhere for three days. 

At the same time I worked for three days a week as a credentialed school psychologist (also licensed as a clinical psychologist) in a small elementary school district (five schools) not far from Claremont. Nobody told me what I was to do, so I asked the teachers to identify all troubled and troublesome kids. Each school had a few of both troubled and troublesome kids. I started with the troublesome ones, all boys. Figured out a way to stop them from troubling their teachers. Called it “systematic exclusion.” Got the mother, teacher, and principal to agree that if the boy made a single noise or motion without permission he was to be immediately excused from class and sent home for the rest of the day, with nobody (teacher, principal, or parent) saying anything to him about his departure from school or his arrival at home. Being a member of a class was defined as a privilege which, if abused, was lost for that day. As long as the boy was not troublesome he could stay in class; the instant he was troublesome in the slightest degree, such as getting out of his seat without permission, he could not stay. (see Abuse It—Lose It ). In contrast, how to help troubled children was an entirely different matter, which took me a long time and a lot of experimentation to figure out how to do.

Starting in 1955 got a job coordinating psychologists and counselors in a much larger district with twenty five schools—nineteen K-6, two 7-8, and four 9-12. Stayed there fourteen years in frequent contact with each psychologist and counselor, while working in the four high schools myself. Was continuously in search of method, while weekly discussing these methods with each psychologist and counselor in the K-8 schools. I also met frequently with the principals to clarify the function of psychologists and counselors as corrective intervention rather than mere testing and reporting. Since graduate schools had no practitioners to train graduate students in corrective intervention, it was necessary that psychologists and counselors learn how on-the-job. Each year they practiced they improved. Many improved a great deal, a few improved a little. The staff of psychologists and counselors became noted in Los Angeles County Schools for the change in their function from the study of pupils to the correction of the action of pupils, teachers, parents, and—yes—principals too.  

[Editor’s note:] My father also started collecting students that had “high IQs” (~ 160-180) and interacting with them. I also was able to observe them when they dated my elder sister. He told me that these individuals had a different problem with the school system. These students saw their teachers, parents, and all authorities as not very smart and would often “lose their way” — finding high school boring and pointless (and not interested in college because they never could tolerate the classroom environment). Meanwhile, I also was observing individuals from a personality perspective, and our family discussed issues regarding human behavior and interaction between individuals and social systems. My personal interest in Science, Mathematics, Computer Science, and Evolution was helped immensely by this perspective.

Crossing paths with Isabel Myers got me in the habit of typewatching way back in 1956. Myers completed her book The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator in 1958 and published it in 1962, though Educational Testing Service had been using her questionnaire for some years doing personality research in numerous colleges and high schools around the country, and this is where I first encountered her work.

[Editors Note:] In 1957 my father starting taking classes at Claremont Graduate School again, while having a full time job as the head clinical school psychologist and being a parent. Being primarily self-educated in personality and psychopathology (madness), he was collecting and developing corrective intervention methods [like Systematic Exclusion] in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s and he was training his staff of counselors to help students navigate between their parents, the school system, school teachers, and administrators. Having observed people in action and interaction, he realized that the problems arose from the clash of Temperaments, and their differing agendas.

My father being a researcher in psychopathology (“crazy people or abnormal? people” like in the old vernacular 20th century phrase “abnormal psychology”) and personality (“normal? people”); and, being on the frontlines of the school system, when he encountered Isabel Myer‘s work, he quickly realized the link between the two. Every individual can exhibit “productive” (positive) human behavior and “defensive” (negative) behavior depending on the circumstances. Isabel Myers illuminated the kinds (“types of personality”) of long-term “normal” patterns of human action, generally being productive within society. Ernst Kretschmer and William Sheldon covered “mad, bad, crazy, and stupid” human behavior (thru Physique and Character, Varieties of Delinquent Youth) and my father seeing this defensive (“mad”) human behavior as a function of the kind of inherent personality of the individual and the circumstances surrounding that individual they find themselves in. My father devoted his life in understanding the nature of productive and defensive (madness) behavior relative to his Framework: Temperament.

I soon found it convenient and useful to partition Myers’s sixteen “types” into four groups, which she herself suggested in saying that all four of what she referred to as the “NFs” were alike in many ways and that all four of the “NTs” were alike in many ways — although what she called the “STs” seemed to me to have very little in common, just as the “SFs” had little in common. However, four earlier contributors, Adickes, Spränger, Kretschmer, and Fromm, each having written of four kinds of personality, helped me to see that Myers’s four “SJs” were very much alike, as were her four “SPs.” Bingo! People-watching from then on was a lot easier, the four groups being light years apart in their attitudes and actions.

[Editors note:] Being a practicing Gestalt Psychologist, my father tasked himself to finding methods of corrective intervention, and discovered the writings and work of Milton Erickson and Jay Haley.

Prescribe the Symptom

Milton Erickson tutored Jay Haley for ten years in how to manage madness, whereupon Haley wrote a series of books defining Erickson’s method of managing madness, thus creating a revolution. It started with Haley’s book Strategies of Psychotherapy (1963). This book totally changed my take on both madness and its management, elevating Haley and Erickson far above all others in my view.

What was the counselor to do when asked for help? Tell the client how, when, and where to practice his symptom, and report what happened during and after the practice. The method came to be known as “prescribing the symptom” and “psychotherapy” was forever changed. So was I ─ a turning point in my career.  

I hired Marilyn Bates from a State University to teach my counselors and psychologists her model of group counseling. Her model was brilliantly designed such that it was very helpful to participants. At the end of my contract she suggested that I apply for a job as professor at the University. I applied and was accepted, this a major turning point in my life equal in effect to that of my becoming a fighter pilot. 

Prometheus Unbound (1970-2013)

Bates and I wrote three books, one of them titled Please Understand Me, the contents taken from transcriptions of my lectures and conversations with Bates, she the scrivener. [Marilyn Bates died, in 1977]. I then retrieved and rewrote the manuscript entirely and, finding no publisher, published it myself in 1978—a turning point.

[Editor Note:] Advertised only by word of mouth, Please Understand Me and Please Understand Me II became international best sellers. More than 4 million copies in more than a dozen languages have been sold in the past 40 years.

Bates died in January of 1977 (as did both of my parents, all three within a span of only ten days, my brother died two months later). So I became chair of the department. From September 1970 to October or November 1976 I had been very active and fascinated with ideas on training graduate students in understanding and managing troubled and troublesome children and their mentors, the latter far more difficult to manage than the former. After all, parents, teachers, and principals only rarely saw their own actions as contributing to the troubled-ness and trouble-some-ness of their children. With Bates’s departure from the chair in late 1976 I was suddenly confronted with a totally different task: managing the largest graduate department in the entire university.

Do the Search and ReSearch

[Editor Note:] The Keirsey Temperament Model (KTM) is a Framework for understanding yourself and others. The impact of the Keirsey Temperament Model has been lasting and substantial, helping individuals, groups, and institutions deal with themselves and others in the world.

For more information on David Keirsey and the impact of his ideas.

  1. Professor Keirsey’s blog
  2. David Mark Keirsey’s blog
  3. ProfessorKeirsey.org
  4. David Mark Keirsey’s home page
  5. The Facebook Private Group: Keirsey Temperament Model
  6. Keirsey.com
  7. Wikipedia Page for David West Keirsey (generally correct, but beware)

The Yearly Tributes of Dr. David West Keirsey

First year.  Second YearThird YearFourth Year. Fifth YearSixth Year,  Seventh Year, Eight Year, Ninth Year.

Mondays with David

Editor:
[This is a tribute to my father by Dr Randy Cima, also posted by Dr. Randy Cima to his blog, Your Kids Aren’t Sick]

Mondays with David

Dr. David West Keirsey with self portrait.
Dr. David West Keirsey with self portrait.

It has taken me more than a month to write this.

My friend, David West Keirsey, died July 30, 2013. He was 91. I’m so proud, and fortunate, to call him my friend. Up until a few years ago, he was Professor Keirsey to me, and I hadn’t seen nor spoke to him for 30 years.

As far as I know, Dr. Keirsey was humankind’s last Gestalt psychologist, and that’s something you should know. His ideas are historic, and I’ll be writing much more about them, and similar things, for the rest of my life. First, though, before I tell you more about Dr. Keirsey, I want to tell you about my friend, David, and the loves in his life.

David loved his country. He was a proud veteran of World War II. He joined the Navy in 1942. After flight training, he took his commission as a Marine fighter pilot and flew several missions in Japan towards the end of the war. He wrote in some detail about his military experience in his autobiographical essay, Turning Points.

Those times, and the depression before the war, had a lifelong impact on David, as it did with everyone from the greatest generation. He believed we were morally obligated to fight World War II, and he knew many who gave their lives protecting our freedoms. He considered himself lucky to come home, and grateful, for the rest of his life, that he did. Thank you David, for your service, from all of us.

David loved questions. For the past 18 months or so I’ve been meeting with him on Mondays for three or four hours, often with his son David Mark, talking about temperament and psychology, and many other things. I often took notes on my iPad. I put them in my “Mondays with David” file on my computer. I love asking questions, he loved answering, so our friendship grew. We had much to talk about, and it was always fun. (You can read more about this from a prior blog, here.)

At times he became frustrated, his memory sometimes needing more and more of his depleted energy. More than once, when I arrived for a visit, I’d ask, “how was your weekend David?” He’d reply, with a smile, “I don’t remember, but I’m sure it was fine.” Once he added, again with a smile, “. . . although I could try to retrieve the information for you if you wish.” It takes energy to retrieve information. At 91, you have the privilege of choosing where you want to spend your energy. It was a polite question anyway. I always knew where he was every weekend. He was with his wife and his family. He cherished his weekends.

 Once we started talking about something he was interested in, he became focused, taking his memory to task, retrieving important ideas, if triggered by the right question. Precision, more than anything, was his forte, organizing and analyzing ideas to a depth only a very few can imagine, simplicity his reasoned pursuit, efficiency always a welcome bi-product. He never stopped “tinkering,” often spending hours at the computer, changing single words at a time in his many essays about temperament and “madness.”

I put madness in quotes because, well, David wouldn’t have it any other way. Professor David West Keirsey was so much more than Temperament Theory. His humane, holistic, and thoughtful explanation of “madness,” is above all else, his legacy to humankind, as far as I’m concerned. His seminal work, Dark Escape, provides our species, for the first time in human history, a way out of the “madness” of modern day psychology and psychiatry. I will be writing much more about this.

David loved to read. He read everything. I mean everything. I mean anything, and everything, and that started when he was a seven year old, and it never stopped. The last time I saw him he was reading a favorite novel, for the fifth time. Why? “I might find something new – and I like it,” he said. This wasn’t unusual. From Turning Points:

I began reading when I was seven. Read (most of) a twelve volume set of books my parents bought, Journeys through Bookland. Read countless novels thereafter, day in and day out. I educated myself by reading books. Starting at age nine my family went to the library once a week, I checking out two or three novels which I would read during the week. Then, when I was sixteen, I read my father’s copy of Will Durant’s The Story of Philosophy. I read it over and over again, now and then re-reading his account of some of the philosophers. (Long afterwards I read his magnificent eleven volumes—The Story of Civilization. I also have read his The Lessons of History many times, this being his brilliant summary of the eleven volumes.)

I mention Durant’s book The Story of Philosophy because it was a turning point in my life, I to become a scholar as did Durant, thereafter reading the philosophers and logicians—anthropologists, biologists, ethologists, ethnologists, psychologists, sociologists, and, most important, the etymologists, all of the latter—Ernest Klein, Eric Partridge, Perry Pepper, and Julius Pokorny—of interest to me now as then.

So, I said to myself, who better to ask questions than someone who has read everything – over and over? He had so many useful answers. I’ll be sharing them with you too.

David loved words. Not as a wordsmith or author, though he was certainly both. He loved words as an etymologist – the only one I’ve ever met. He often said he may be the only one left. David studied words. From Turning Points:

I became a scholar, one of three boys in the scholarship society in 1942. I took a course in word study. I have studied words ever since, even during the war, pasting lists of words on the bathroom mirror wherever I stayed. Why etymology (word signs) instead of linguistics (word sounds)? Because word sounds shorten with use becoming only remnants of what they were, while word signs are written and therefore remain the same. My interest was in what is written, not in what is spoken.   

Many times on Mondays, triggered by something we were talking about, we’d go upstairs and sit at his computer in his comfortable, book-filled library – me to his left, him behind the keyboard – looking at an online etymology site, researching a word. He called it “fun” and, wouldn’t you know it, so did I.

David loved kids. He started working with troublesome teenagers at the Verdemont Boys Ranch as a young psychologist, figuring out ways to manage these boys, and to help their families. He worked in schools most of his career, doing the same, training thousands of teachers and counselors and psychologists in methods that work, not theories that don’t. He began collecting the many techniques to manage and counsel adults and children that was to become the core of his unique and highly successful Counseling Psychology graduate program at California State University, Fullerton.

He wrote some remarkable essays in defense of children, and every parent and professional should read them. So, please, do that. You can read Drugged Obedience in the School  here, and The Evil Practice of Narcotherapy for Attention Deficit here, and The Great ADD Hoax, here. There are many other important and useful essays you will find at the same site.

His solution to helping troubled and troublesome children? “Be nice to them, and keep them away from those drugs.” We had a lot in common about kids. I’ll also be writing about useful child management techniques, from a temperament point of view..

David loved his family. David Mark, his son and lifelong companion, joined our Monday morning conversations often, and I cherished those times in particular. A gifted computer scientist, David Mark called his father “Daddy.” He honored his father.

The two of them could, and often would, debate an obscure, yet important idea with the same passion as when the debate started 30, or 40, or even 50 years earlier. His father honored him too. Often, when it was just David and me, he would boast about his son Mark, as fathers who love their sons often do. How lucky they were to have each other. I envied them.

Every weekend David and his wife Alice went to Del Mar to meet with the rest of the Keirsey clan and, when they didn’t, family members came to their home. David and Alice traveled and vacationed with their children and grandchildren. The two of them together made sure they gave their family the best gift you can give to people you love: wonderful memories.

Mostly, David loved Alice. What was the first thing this returning WW II veteran did when he came back from the war? He married his junior college sweetheart, Alice. He admired her so. “Alice has done such a wonderful job of keeping our family together and close over the years,” he often said, with much pride.

When you walk up the circular stairs of their beautiful home you will meet all of the family. Alice has dozens of family pictures and other mementos adorned on the walls and on the stairs – and everywhere else throughout their warm, loving home. This, you can tell, is a family that cares for each other, and they are grateful to have each other to love. I recognized their family quickly. I come from one too.

Alice – he called her “babe” sometimes – from they way he like to tell it, was a dynamo of her own when she was working in elementary schools. David said she was always the head of a department or committee or project, or part of some other crusade to care for all those kids for which she loved and cared.

They never quarreled, he told me, more than once, because, he said, more than once, “we were made for each other.” That certainly proved to be true. They were married in December, 1945. I was two months old.

Why did it take so long to write this, and anything else, for that matter? Well, honestly, I’ve been mourning my friend. Just a few days before he died, my wife and I visited David and Alice at their home. As we were leaving, I leaned over, gently grasped his hand to say goodbye, and to tell him, “I’ll see you soon, David. I have another two or three thousand more questions to ask.” Without hesitation, he replied, “Good,” and added, “I have two or three thousand more answers.”

His spirit, more than willing, his body, so weary. During some of our best conversations, he would remind me, and David Mark, “there’s still much work to be done.” Lucky for me, he trusted me with all that he has written. The answers to my questions are all there, and that’s good. I will be doing a lot more reading. It’s not the same though, and not nearly as much fun, as asking my friend, David, just a few more questions.

You can tell a lot about a person when you know the loves in his life. I admired him. I loved him too. I miss him, very much.

Mondays, for me, will never be the same.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“I just want the world to understand, there’s no such thing as ‘madness.’”

– David West Keirsey