Madness, then, has a job to do, that is, to conceal our dark secret, so that we have an excuse for failing to live up to our expectations and for setting aside one or more of the tasks of life—working, communing, mating. The function of absurd rituals—madness—is thus concealment. D. W. Keirsey
You may know him as the world-renowned author of Please Understand Me, Please Understand Me II, and his recent seminal work, Personology. If you don’t, you should. You can read more about David Keirsey here. You can also go to his website here. And you can visit his blog too. Yes, at 91, he has a blog, here. If that weren’t enough, believe it or not, his newest work – a treatise on madness – will be released soon. It will be, I believe, historic.
I first met David West Keirsey 30 years ago. He was my first professor at Cal State Fullerton. I was 37 years old, a father of four, in my profession for about 8 years. I had a middle management position at a Mental Health facility for children in Corona, California. I wasn’t expecting much from school. I just wanted to get my Masters degree and get out.
Well, much to my surprise, that first class – the only class I took from him – was life altering. Like no one else I heard before or since – I’ve been a lifelong critic of educators and what they call education – this professor made sense. The best part was that he didn’t speak psychobabble. After 8 years in the business I had my fill of psychobabble.
I used to stand at the doorway of his office at school and ask him questions. Why? Because of his answers, that’s why. Those answers, by the way, changed the way I did my business from then until now. I’ll be talking about those useful answers – and a lot more – in future blogs.
For now, here’s an excerpt from an article I wrote a few years ago. It‘s about that first class. (See Your Kids Aren’t Sick here.)
. . . My first class in my first semester was counseling 735. It was also the last class for Dr. David Keirsey before he retired from a long career. He had already written Please Understand Me with Marilyn Bates. Since then he has written several other books, including his seminal work, Please Understand Me II. He is the preeminent temperament theoretician in the world. If you want to understand human behavior, and yourself, read this book. Millions of others have, around the planet.
As the Department Head for the Counseling/Psychology Department he developed a unique program based on the practice of doing therapy rather than learning the various theories of therapy. He was also a walking bibliography when it came to the history and evolution of human psychology. That made it easy for me. Why go through all the pain of reading this stuff if he already had, I reasoned to myself. Better to see if he had anything worth saying.
Turns out he did. A number of things. A few that changed my entire view of psychology, including an orientation to Holistic Theory that I will reserve for another time. It was at one of his initial lectures that my ear perked for the first time. There were only fifteen of us in the class, so it was comfortable.
He somehow got onto the subject of medicating children. Before academia, he had a career as a child psychologist. He worked with troubled kids in a variety of settings. He had an opinion. He expressed it, and when someone pressed him as to what, exactly, did he mean, he turned, looked at his student, and declared:
“I said I think it (the practice of medicating children), should be criminalized.”
Did I hear him right? Did he just say that giving these chemicals to children should be against the law? Yes he did. I sat up in my chair. He didn’t sound at all like that doctor from UCLA. If I were hearing him right, he would have had that doctor locked up.
This was affirming. Though he was unknown to me, this was Dr. David Keirsey, Clinical Psychologist, and the head of the Counseling Psychology Department at Cal State Fullerton . . .
So, thirty years later, about a year after retiring, I thought I’d look him up. Maybe he was still around, I wondered, and maybe he could answer a few more questions, I hoped. I was able to locate his son, Dr. David Mark Keirsey – an accomplished scientist himself – and he gave me his father’s email address.
I was delighted to find out that not only was he around, he was available. I asked to see him, and for the past several months I’ve been meeting with him every week. Our four-hour conversation usually begins with him asking “any questions?” to which I eagerly reply “yes.”
It’s a little different now though. He’s not just my old professor anymore. He is, I’m proud to say, my friend.
If you continue to follow this blog, it’s very likely you will hear a lot more about David West Keirsey.