Middle-Axis temperaments embody most strongly the “perspiration” stage in formative process, that period where new creation struggles into crude, but now solid, manifestation. While Earlies identify most with the first improvisational sparks of creation, Middles find greatest meaning turning sparks into usable fire. This requires the ability to provoke and nurture the flames—blow air on them so they will heighten—and, simultaneously, to contain the flames, so that the fire burns usefully and safely. The Middle-Axis fire both does work and warms the hearth of community.
A few words of familiar Middles: From Albert Schweitzer, “A man can only do what he can do. But if he does that each day, he can sleep at night and do it again the next day.” From Margaret Mead, “One of the oldest human needs is having someone wonder where you are when you don’t come home at night.” From Douglas MacArthur, “In war there is no substitute for victory.” From Abraham Lincoln, “The better part of a man’s life consists of his friendships.” From Winston Churchill, “This is a lesson: never give in—never, never, never, never.” From Samuel Johnson, “Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance.” And from Jesse James, “Everybody loves an outlaw. At least they never forget ’em.”
Where are we likely to find people with Middle-Axis temperaments? Middles often become teachers, managers in business, military officers, social workers, athletes and coaches, union bosses, ministers or priests, physicians (about an equal balance of Middle/Upper and Late/Upper), politicians (a similar balance), policemen and fire fighters, bankers, loggers, owners of family businesses, machinists, miners, and carpenters. In addition, Middles make up the greater portion of stay-at-home parents. (It is with Middle-Axis that we find the strongest identification with home, family, and community.) Women who think of themselves first as wives and mothers are commonly middles, as are the most devoted husbands and fathers. Middle-Axis individuals of both sexes frequently play strong roles in their neighborhoods and churches, and in social service organizations. Most of the “real work” in society is done by Middles.
Some better known Middles include Teddy Roosevelt, Mother Teresa, Margaret Thatcher, Joe Louis, Billy Graham, George Washington (Middle with some Late), Babe Ruth, Eleanor Roosevelt, Chris Evert, Thurgood Marshall, Florence Nightingale, Colin Powell, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Aretha Franklin, Clint Eastwood, Bella Abzug, Julia Childe, Queen Victoria, Tugboat Annie, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Carter, J. Edgar Hoover, Frederick Douglass, Hulk Hogan, Cesar Chavez, Golda Meir, Mary Lou Retton, Garrison Keiller, Rush Limbaugh, Boris Yeltzin, Betty Friedan, Norman Schwarzkopf, Willie Nelson, Bear Bryant, Jimmy Hoffa, Barbara Bush (Middle with some Late), and Fred and Ethel Mertz. More notorious Middles include Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Ma Barker, and, as above, Jesse James.
Again, Lower Pole figures—particularly Lower/Inners—are not well represented in our list. But Middle/Lower is where we find many of the most important, if unheralded, figures in our lives: the neighborhood policeman or fireman, the friend who is there no matter what, the parent who puts a special note in a child’s lunch box.
Emotional-moral intelligence, the intelligence of heart and guts, orders the Middle’s world (as it manifests within Late-Axis culture). The stuff of heart holds sway in Middle/Inner and Middle/Lower temperaments—where the archetypically feminine is strongest. Harder sensibilities—the stuff of guts and fortitude—dominate with Middle/Upper and Middle/Outer temperaments.
Middle-Axis dynamics move us firmly into the human dimension. Early-Axis and Late-Axis realities are each in their own ways abstracted from the personal. Early-Axis deals with the pre-personal reality of creative buddings; Late-Axis deals with the post-personal world of the intellectual, the social, and the material. Middle-Axis puts us right in the middle, engaged directly in the tasks of mortal existence.
Throughout Middle-Axis we see a strong capacity for hard work, deep emotional and moral convictions, and the ability to persevere and to sacrifice when necessary. (Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “The first virtue in a soldier is endurance of fatigue, courage is only the second virtue.”) Middles are attracted to the basic. Home and family tend to be very important (“Home is where the heart is.”). Loyalty is an especially valued trait. The phrase “salt of the earth” would rarely be used except to refer to a Middle-Axis person. Middle-Axis creativity tends to be less that of glaring originality than of the application of new possibility to what exists. The most skilled crafts people are Middles. With some notable exceptions, Middle-Axis people tend to be incrementalists rather than leapers. “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” is a Middle-Axis sentiment.” Here lie the best day-to-day, hands-on problem solvers, whether in the halls of Congress, in the office, in the home, or on the factory floor.
Middles tend to respect strong moral fiber and often speak with a bluntness not found in other temperaments. (I am reminded of Charles de Gaulle’s admonition that, “People get the history they deserve.”) Middle-Axis personalities tend toward the traditional in their values (though this in does not necessarily translate to conservative). Humility and unpretentiousness are often strong values (though bravado can prevail with outer aspects). It is not uncommon for Middle-Axis parents to admonish a child to not “get too big for your britches.” Teddy Roosevelt said it well for the political sphere: “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” (Note the tendency toward sayings and homilies in these descriptions. Homilies are a peculiarly Middle-Axis art form—”a stitch in time saves nine,” “people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” “haste makes waste,” etc.) Middles tend to love a good story and are often adept at telling them.
Middle-Axis dynamics juxtapose opposites in near equal balance. Like two ends of a teeter-totter, opposites simultaneously battle and collude. In the Middle-Axis psyche, strength struggles with weakness, thoughts against feelings, good against evil, domination against submission, control against abandon, honor against dishonor. Meaning for a Middle is a reflection of timely balance (though often of a struggled sort) between such isometrically interplaying forces. The reward for this creative push-pull is the realization of substance and the satisfaction of a job well done.
Words we might associate with Middle/Upper personalities include fortitude, courage, uprightness, fairness, and moral conviction. Middle/Uppers are often strong leaders. With Middle/Upper/Outers this tends to be organizational leadership—the leadership of politicians, captains of industry, coaches, military officers. We hear both the fortitude and the generosity of spirit often found with Middle/Upper/Outer sentiments in these words of George Patton: “Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of the men who follow and the man who leads that gives the victory.”
Middle/Upper/Inner leadership tends to manifest at a more personal level. Upper/Inner sensibilities are common in teachers, managers, and religious leaders. Middle/Upper/Inner leadership has a strong moral component. It is compassionate, but also resolute. I am reminded of these words from Benjamin Franklin: “Sin is not hurtful because it is forbidden, but it is forbidden because it is hurtful.”
People of Middle/Lower temperaments are often most known for their perseverance, loyalty, capacity to support or nurture, and for their often-irreverent sense of humor. (Middle/Lower/Outers in particular enjoy the jostling camaraderie of a good joke, story, or put-down.) Middle/Lowers place great importance on relationship. For Middle/Lower/Inners, the most defining relationships tend to be with friends, family, and immediate community. Besides being good parents, Middle/Lower/Inners often contribute through working as teachers (particularly with children and adolescents), as social workers, as behind-the-counter sales people, in nursing, or in the food industry. These words of Goethe capture the dedication common to Middle/Lower/Inner temperaments: “It is not doing the things we like to do, but liking the things we have to do that makes life blessed.”
For Middle/Lower/Outers, the key relationships tend to be with community in a broader sense, with team members, or even more broadly, with one’s ethnic group or nation. Middle/Lower/Outers are capable of strong bonds of allegiance. They are the loyal fans screaming at a football game. Middle/Lower/Outer become farmers, soldiers, police officers, carpenters, and professional athletes. It is they who do the hands-on protecting and heavy lifting of society. They like to get thing done. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s familiar poem “The Village Blacksmith” reflects Middle-Lower values.
Under the spreading chestnut tree
The village smithy stands.
The Smith a mighty man is he
With large and sinewy hands.
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.
He earns what’er he can,
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man.
Shortcomings again tend to express the flip side of common strengths. For example, because we see less of both the intuitive sensitivity common in Early-Axis patterns and the refinement and differentiation found in more Late-Axis sensibilities, the attitudes and beliefs of some Middles can seem to others coarse or simplistic, a conclusion reinforced by the common Middle-Axis tendency toward concreteness. (Middles are notorious for retelling all the details of an event rather than summarizing and abstracting).
The Middle’s great capacity for control can also be an impediment—indeed, sometimes his or her undoing. The Middle/Upper’s need to be on top (both of others and his or her own impulses) can make it hard either to surrender authority or to let go of oneself sufficiently to find fulfillment. When we say someone is too “high and mighty” it is most likely a Middle/Upper. The Middle/Lower’s tendency to feel most safe (and in control) if someone else is in charge can also be limiting. If Middle/Lowers are not careful they can become passive or undermining of authority. (As Montaigne said, “Obstinacy is the sister of constancy.”) The need for occasional release of control can make alcohol attractive for both Uppers and Lowers, with the potential for abuse.
When there is significant splitting in Middle-Axis, control dynamics become amplified. In Middle/Upper/Inner patterns, this may manifest as ardent moralism or more personally in harsh self-criticism or compulsiveness. With Middle/Upper/Outer patterns, these dynamics can manifest interpersonally in sadistic patterns or socially in racist and dictatorial attitudes and actions. With Middle/Lower/Inner splitting, we see passivity, undermining behavior, and not infrequently, through undermining oneself, depression. With Middle/Lower/Outer dynamics, the struggle from below usually gets acted out more directly in oppositionalness and aggression—or sometimes criminal behavior. (The great majority of people in prison are either Middle/Lower/Outers or Early/Lower/Outers.)
The Aliveness in Middle-Axis patterns is carried predominantly in the muscles and viscera. In Middle/Upper patterns, it centers largely in the chest, shoulders, arms, jaw, and brow. The muscle mass in Middle-Axis patterns characteristically exceeds what one would expect just from exercise: the isometric posture keeps the musculature in a constant state of exertion. Where the Middle/Upper/Outer predominates, this manifests in the classical “macho” body, with major mass concentrated in the chest, shoulder and neck. Where Middle/Upper/Inner predominates, we tend to see a more symmetrical, block-like body.
In Middle/Lower personalities, the visceral and muscular layers of the body are again most engaged, though here, especially with Middle/Lower/Inner, the focus shifts more to the viscera. Structurally, we find the complement to what we saw with more upper pole patterns. Again there is isometric tension and, with this, structural hypertrophy, but here the primary engagement is from below. Where there is a preponderance of more outer aspect dynamics, we see again a block-like body, relatively symmetrical but strongly bound. Where the inner aspect predominates, the mass shifts into the belly, hips
Some Creative Systems personality cards we might expect to find selected by people with primarily Middle-Axis personality structures:
“I could have easily become a minister or a priest. I’m concerned about moral issues.”
“I’m good at managing people. People respect me and look to me to for leadership. I like seeing things get done.”
“A good education is the key to a productive life. Teachers are society’s real heroes.”
“It was said of General Grant that he wore the expression of someone who had made up his mind to drive his head through a brick wall and was just getting ready to do it.”
“Politics has to do with power—who has it, who doesn’t. If you want to be effective, you must learn how power works.”
“An effective leader needs to be comfortable with making tough, often unpopular decisions. You won’t be loved for it, but in time people will respect your courage and integrity.”
“I fight poverty—I work.”
Sign on a shop wall—
“Cows may come and cows may go, but the bull in this place goes on forever.”
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
“It is not doing the things we like to do, but liking the things we have to do, that makes life blessed.”
“I’m a strong person emotionally. I can withstand a lot of adversity. And I know how to be there for other people.”
“I like people who are plain-spoken, people who are unpretentious and forthright.”
Famous Middles within the various quadrants of poles and aspects:
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