Ambitions: Are you an Intellectual, a Realist, or a Romantic?

According to Dr. Abraham Low, a founder of a psychotherapy practice called Recovery in the 1950’s, most people fall into a habit of acquiring a particular philosophy in life.  He claims there are three: intellectualism, romanticism, and realism.  Since I love people and love understanding the basics of human interactions, their thoughts, and the motivations behind why people act in certain ways, this 1950’s book is still fascinating to me.

He describes the romantic as being led mostly by their feelings, letting their feelings be known almost as soon as they are felt.  “He prides himself on being frank and above-board. ‘What is wrong about expressing a feeling?’  asks the romantic enthusiast…  He will tell you, without mincing words, that your furniture is not properly arranged, that if he had planned a house like yours the rooms or entrances or exits would have been differently placed.”

“If it is a woman romantic she will intimate plainly that she has no taste for your jewelry (or makeup) and that her way of cooking a roast is different and ‘if you want to get a real coat let me take you to my tailor.’  It is all an expression of feelings and if in the process the feelings of others are hurt, well, it is about time they got used to language that ‘comes straight from the shoulder.'”

and the realist…

“The realist is inclined to control his feeling and thought responses; the romantic and intellectual tend to express them.  It is all a matter of your philosophy (of life), and if your philosophy is realistic you will exercise control; if it is romantic your feelings may be expressed the moment they are aroused; if it is intellectual your thoughts will tend to be voiced the very instant they are born.”

Realists view themselves with humility, romantics tend to have a very high (and usually unrealistic) view of themselves, and they view things that happen to them in life as extraordinary or unique. 

Intellectuals feel they know things the average person does not – they believe they are unique because of their greater ability to think differently. 

“The intellectual mentality, the counterpart of the romantic soul….  His stock in trade is the insistence, repeated tirelessly and ruthlessly, that he is right, that you better take his advice, that he could have told you how to avoid trouble if you had only cared to listen to him….

Thinking that he is right he promptly assumes that the others are wrong.  Hence, he delights in correcting the statements and opinions of those about him.  He is critical, aggressive, meddlesome.  He not only knows things but knows them better than others.  His views are advanced and modern, theirs are stand-pattish and outmoded.  His supreme delight is to change things, to reform laws and institutions, to do away with the old and to create something new….”

It’s best to be realistic.  Everyone is unique in their own way, and I truly believe everyone is special and has special talents of their own and gifts to give to the world – but it’s best to do so in the humble way of realism.  Pride is destructive, and both the romantic and intellectual are fraught with it.  They consider themselves to be overly wise and all-knowing, neglecting the fact that we are all human and all prone to mistakes – and to arriving at improper conclusions based on our feelings or thoughts.  Low constantly insists that you have to align both to outer reality and to facts.

It’s interesting, the more I’ve learned in life, the more I’ve realized that you cannot ever know everything – and to try to pretend so, is to make assumptions that are harmful to you and to the relationships you have.  

Be humble, but also be brave and creative, it is the only worthwhile way to live.

And lastly:

“Exceptionality is a hope, a dream, an illusion… Averageness is the reverse; it is a subtle fear, a sober fact, a disillusioned self-appraisal, that means a plain, uninspiring reality.  People hope to be exceptional and fear to be nothing but average.  If you choose to live in a world of hopes, dreams and illusions you are a sentimentalist; if you prefer the realm of factual existence and everyday life you are a realist…. You are what you are: sentimental and realistic, imaginative and matter-of-fact at the same time.  What counts is the proportion, balance, and ratio.  Does your realism outweight your sentimentalism?  Or does the balance tilt in the opposite direction?”

(quotes from Mental Health Through Will-Training, Abraham Low M.D., 1950)


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