Shared Transformation

The Color Code: A New Way to See Yourself, Your Relationships, and Life by Taylor Hartman, Ph.D., Scribner, 1998 ISBN 0-684-84376-5


It's difficult to be successful in relationships unless we know ourselves well and appreciate the basic differences between people. While there is no substitute for simply being present to another human being, I've found knowledge of various character and personality types tremendously helpful in my ability to relate to people.

Some people are wary of typecasting, not without good cause. I didn't think much of astrology (having never studied it) until I met an astrologer who asked me my sign. I knew, but said, "You tell me" (meaning, "If this really works, you should be able to guess my sign by looking at me.") He replied, "You're a Scorpio... they're the skeptics of the zodiac." I was hooked! When I discovered the sixteen Myers-Briggs types, I asked my daughter, who was with her boyfriend and his sister, if they wanted to know their types. They were interested, although her boyfriend was dubious. When I read him his profile, which said he was argumentative, he protested that he was not. Both my daughter and his sister shot back in unison, "You are too!" He immediately tried to argue with them about it, at which point we all burst out laughing. In The Color Code, Hartman has identified four core personality types, although many people are a blend of more than one category. A test is provided at the beginning of the book to identify one's dominant type.

Blues are quality oriented. Their other characteristics include being altruistic, directed by a strong moral conscience and sense of purpose, empathic and emotionally sensitive, creative, artistic, and compellingly drawn to help others. Blues have the most integrity and loyalty of the four types, and are primarily invested in intimacy.

On the minus side, Blues are the martyrs of the bunch. They are, Hartman says, both the most giving and unforgiving of all types. They tend to be self-critical perfectionists who overextend themselves and hold themselves to impossible self-expectations. Blues can be very judgmental and self-righteous. They are most prone to depression and self-doubt, and need to learn to relax and enjoy life.

White types seek ease and tranquility. They are the peacemakers who go with the flow and avoid conflict and confrontation. They get along well with everyone and bring harmony and balance into situations. They exhibit gentleness, patience and kindness, and are likely to be the strong silent type. Negatively, White types are timid, low-energy, stubborn, unmotivated, aimless, indecisive and too detached. They defend themselves through passive-aggressive behavior. They need to learn to be self- assertive.

Yellows are pleasure-seekers and fun-lovers who thrive on adventure and excitement. They are extremely friendly, optimistic, quick-witted and sociable. They are good conversationalists who love to talk and play, and thrive on praise, popularity and being noticed. The downside of Yellows are their irresponsibility, selfishness, sarcasm, superficiality and insensitivity. They tend to be vain, flighty, sloppy and scattered. They need to learn to make and keep commitments.

Hartman, who identifies himself as a Yellow (whose modus operandi is enjoyment) states that "Blues enjoy being self-sacrificing." Nobody enjoys sacrificing themselves. Blues do this to spare others from distress because they are so empathic that if someone else is hurting, they hurt too. To a Blue, it seems better to take the pain upon themselves since either way they will feel it. Reds enjoy power and authority and want most to be respected. They are highly self-motivated, productive, competitive, disciplined, responsible and task-oriented. Negatively, Reds always need to be right, which plays havoc with relationships. They are demanding, self-serving, judgmental, harsh, arrogant, inconsiderate of others, unable to admit to their own failings and prone to power-tripping. They need to learn tolerance of others.

While the Red types are strongly yang and the Blues and whites are yin, Hartman says these types are represented in both sexes. These are just thumbnail sketches; the book goes into far more detail with each type and addresses relationship issues between the types. For instance, Blue and Red relationships are the least compatible (Hartman calls them "Blood, Sweat and Tears"). Reds and Blues are equally intense and both are achievers who throw themselves passionately into their work, but for very different reasons. Reds are interested in efficiency and achieving goals while Blues want to do something meaningful. Their operating style is at odds too: Reds want to win at all costs; Blues would rather lose than cheat. Blues put the needs of others ahead of their own while Reds make others adjust to them. Reds usurp power but Hartman remarks that "Ethically, Blues should be in positions of power, but rarely are." Reds regard Blues as pathetic emotional messes; Blues see Reds as Atilla the Hun. Yellows and Whites do fine together in social settings, but clash in closer relationships. To a Yellow, Whites are insufferably boring; to Whites, Yellows are maddeningly chaotic.

This isn't in the book but deserves mention: the number four is an archetypal division which corresponds to the four elements, the four colors of soil and corn, the four races, and other natural quarternities. The colors, always the same -- red, yellow, white and black -- are found in Native American, Chinese, Japanese, Aboriginal, ancient East Indian and Egyptian lore. Hartman missed most of this in his assignment of character types to each color (although he tries to assert a comparison between his color choices and the four directions).

The heartful qualities he assigns to the color Blue and the harmonious attributes he calls White were highly cultivated in traditional indigenous cultures. The domineering Reds characterize (and are still highly regarded by) much of the Caucasian race. I generally don't go in for politically correct nit-picking and I suspect Hartman used Red to categorize power-seeking types because they are most explosive; White for peace lovers because the dove is white; Yellow for sunny personalities, and Blue for watery, feeling types. If racism were not so prevalent, and if the grotesque assumption of white-skinned superiority didn't underlie so much of our language and attitudes, I would have no objection to the color correspondences Hartman has selected. As it is, they make me cringe.

Since spiritual transformation moves us toward greater self-awareness and wholeness, we are often pushed to develop qualities missing from our basic personality. Reds and Yellows become more compassionate and sensitive to others; Whites become more actively engaged and involved in the world; and Blues become more able to accept life as it is (rather than always striving to make it better). The Color Code is a useful tool for helping us make these transitions...

Talking to Heaven: A Medium's Message of Life After Death, by James Van Praagh, Dutton, 1997. ISBN 0-525-94268-8

Van Praagh has made frequent appearances on TV talk shows, evincing his ability to convey messages from the spirit world. Talking to Heaven is a compilation of poignant transcripts from readings he has done for bereaved people seeking contact with departed loved ones. There are also sections of the book devoted to mediumship and exercises to help readers develop their own ability to communicate with the spirit people. I found this book fascinating and educational, especially in the spiritual information the author has gleaned from his conversations with those who have passed over. Easy reading; I devoured it in a matter of hours.

A Woman's Book of Life: The Biology, Psychology, and Spirituality of the Feminine Life Cycle by Joan Borysenko, Ph.D., Riverhead Books, 1998. ISBN 1-57322-651-3

With fervent wisdom, Dr. Borysenko traces the archetypal development of the female psyche. The life issues she articulates in A Woman's Book of Life are many of those that Kundalini presses women to uncover in their personal journey toward wholeness.

For any woman seeking self-knowledge, it is immensely validating to learn that what seemed to be our private struggles, failings, realizations and triumphs are the legacy of a universal sisterhood. Borysenko posits that women are in the vanguard of a healing shift in global consciousness to the feminine values of love, service and interdependence. A very inspirational book.

The Ecstatic Journey: The Transforming Power of Mystical Experience by Sophy Burnham, Ballantine Books, 1997. ISBN 0-345-39507-7

Sophy Burnham had a powerful mystical experience in Peru while there on assignment twenty years ago as a magazine writer. Burnham's pivotal experience led to an insatiable hunger to understand what had happened to her. From that point on, she immersed herself in spiritual and metaphysical studies. The Ecstatic Journey is the story of her personal journey of awakening and an exposition of mysticism in general. The book is filled with encounters of the Sacred by mystics, saints and ordinary people whose lives were gilded by Grace.

Much of what Burnham says about her experiences fall into the typical Kundalini pattern: a complete upheaval of her life and stripping away of her previous self-identity; physical illness; continuing episodes of "visions... raptures and knowings, illuminations, insights;" and a deep psychological transformation. Yet she seems wholly unaware of Kundalini, even while commenting that inner light and sometimes supernatural heat are common features of the mystical experience.

"I write in case others have had such experiences and want to know they are not alone," she says in the preface. From the vantage point of her personal experiences, what Burnham shares in The Ecstatic Journey is invaluable, as are the numerous accounts of others she includes. But some of the material she presents is based more on collective misconception than wisdom. For instance, in attempting to distinguish between mystical experience and schizophrenia (and other forms of mental illness), she makes some false and harmful assertions:

"I heard of one woman who in the midst of a manic episode decided that she was having a spiritual experience, as she wandered homeless through the streets, subject to energy waves. In these distorted states, the spiritual imagery may include satanic encounters, strange dreams, or the idea that everything is fraught with meaning... Everything becomes a message from God."

Burnham makes several erroneous conclusions in this passage. The woman roaming the streets may have lost touch with reality or she may have simply been indiscrete about declaring her experiences to people who could not conceive of internal energy waves as being something real. (Nowhere in the book does Burnham associate energy currents with genuine spiritual awakening.) It is difficult to tell from this if the woman displayed actual signs of mental disorientation or if Burnham wrongly assumed that sensations of energy were proof of delirium. "Satanic encounters and strange dreams" are hardly indicative of “distorted states;” many of us have had bizarre dreams and confrontations with demonic or negative entities at some point in our awakening. Much as we may wish otherwise, dark and unfriendly forces do exist on many planes, and becoming aware of them does not demonstrate mental dysfunction.

Burnham is also making the common mistake of confusing content with response. The problem for the schizophrenic is not a deluded idea that everything has meaning and is a message from the Divine; shamans and mystics throughout the ages have known that everything is indeed meaningful and have used this knowledge to good purpose. This is where the difference lies. The schizophrenic or manic person lacks the ability to wisely utilize psychic and spiritual information. Seeing that the candle's light signifies Divine Light, the mentally unbalanced person eats the candle or burns himself with the flame in a misguided attempt to merge with God. He cannot distinguish between symbol and essence and therefore behaves inappropriately. He is overwhelmed by the complexity of his perception, while the mystic is able to maintain the same vastness of awareness without losing her powers of discernment. It is not what we see or feel or know, but how we relate to this information that spells the difference between madness and sanity. If our center is strong, we can stay grounded in the face of the awesome and the mysterious.

Burnham tells of another man who claimed to be God rather than to have merged with God. She holds out this subtle distinction as a sign of insanity (not to mention blasphemy), yet later in the book she quotes esteemed mystics as having said essentially the same thing. In fact, God-realization is regarded as the pinnacle of enlightenment in Eastern religions. I had this experience when I was twenty-one years old. Unlike the man Burnham speaks of, I did not thereafter become a megalomaniac. (Egomania is the chief danger of God-Self awakening -- many gurus have succumbed to it.) I knew that El Collie was not God, but that I AM GOD -- the One Self dreaming the whole of creation -- as we all really are. Rather than proclaiming myself enlightened, I simply shut up about it and continued on as always. Prior to this, I have only mentioned it to three other people, two of whom also had this experience. I suppose that while I'm out of the closet I may as well add that contrary to myth, God-realization is not the final step on the path because there is no final step. The journey seems to be an eternal dance.

As Burnham accurately observes, almost nobody stays "high" or in a transcendent state permanently, at least not while we're still embodied here. We keep coming down, keep returning to our humbling human limitations and our incredible human beauty. We get lost and found over and over again, in a profoundly purposeful, multi-leveled game of hide-and-go-seek.