DL Fowler's Blog

Who is Right?

A recent post in this blog celebrated Abraham Lincoln’s declaration “Right Makes Might.” When I looked at who ‘liked’ that post on Facebook, I was fascinated by the contrasting political and religious opinions of those who gave it a thumbs up. I wondered, how can opposites claim to occupy the same moral high ground?

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Right Makes Might

On February 27, 1860, Abraham Lincoln closed his address at New York City’s Cooper Union with the following words that turned an age old phrase on its head.

Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.

His speech at Cooper Union set him on track to win the Republican nomination for president. The world view he capsulized in this quote is what fueled his greatness.

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Political Theater

A recent news item reminded me of an ominous episode of political theater that took place some 153 years and twelve days ago. Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not my intent in this post to compare or contrast the two occasions, or the people involved. I’ll leave that to you.

By the way, the event I recalled isn’t the one that happened on April 14, 1865. My mind is too complex to travel somewhere that easy.

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Gettysburg Address – the rest of the story

Gettysburg Address

We shortchange ourselves when we study history as discreet events, dislodged from the context of what happens around them. That’s especially true when we divorce those incidents from the personal circumstances of those who put historical events in motion. (more…)

Lincoln’s Shame

Posted in Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln Raw, Lincoln's personality, Lincoln's Psychology by DLFowler on February 18, 2015

Last night I was talking with a small group of folks at Gig Harbor Public Library about my biographical novel, Lincoln Raw, and the Building Blocks of Abraham Lincoln’s Personality. Most of our focus was on his innate personality, beginning with his boyhood as a highly sensitive child. A couple of questions arose that prompted me to think about additional points I need to bring into future conversations about Lincoln. One of them is the role shame might have played in forging his personality, his world view, and ultimately his impact on history.

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Building Blocks of Abraham Lincoln’s Personality

 During a decade of research into the life of Abraham Lincoln, I’ve become convinced that history is not about events. It’s about people. People cause the events that we call history. They are its roots. As such, we must study people to understand our past and learn the lessons they can teach.

I’ve captured my understanding of Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln Raw—a biographical novel. It’s a journey into his heart and mind, beginning with his boyhood, based on stories told by his contemporaries as well as stories he told about himself.

Following is an outline of my discoveries about Abraham Lincoln and how his personality emerged and the force of his character impacted history. It addresses four areas of inquiry that are essential to understanding one of the most pivotal personalities to set foot on the world stage:

  • What was Lincoln like out of the womb?
  • What preferences grew out of Lincoln’s innate personality?
  • How did Lincoln’s early life influence to his personality development?
  • How did Lincoln’s personality influence his values?

I hope you find the information enlightening, and welcome any contributions or questions you might want to add.

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Lincoln suffered from PTSD?

Abe Lincoln was anything but normal in many ways, including behavior that demonstrated hyper-vigilance, suicidal thoughts, exposing himself to mortal dangers, extreme emotional swings, unexpected eruptions, etc.

After almost drowning in a creek at 7 years old, his mother died when he was 9. He sat on her grave during a storm to be sure her body didn’t float up out of the ground. He had a similar reaction a dozen years later when Ann Hathaway, his first (maybe only) true love died.

During the Civil War he sometimes ventured to the front lines and was nearly wounded. Once he stood on the ramparts of a fort, wearing a top hat, giving Rebel soldiers a 7 foot target to shoot at. He even talked about suicide during Cabinet meetings.

Twice as a young man he was on suicide watch. Once he subjected himself to torturous medical treatments that were the equivalent of self mutilation.

All of these behaviors could be symptomatic of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Lincoln Raw-a biographical novel explores the possibility. Read it and decide for yourself.

Was Lincoln an ‘S’ or ‘N’ on Myers-Briggs?

Here’s a revealing insight from William Herndon, Lincoln’s law partner who was possibly his closest personal relationship between 1844-1860. It gives us a peek into the way Lincoln processed information in making decisions.

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How Would Lincoln Have Scored on Myers-Briggs?

For you Myers-Briggs fans, I’m trying to pigeonhole Abraham Lincoln’s personality type ala Carl Jung’s perspective. If you’re not up to speed on Jung’s personality types and the Myers Briggs Type Indicators, click here. By the way, the best book I’ve read on Lincoln was Lincoln’s Melancholy by Joshua Wolf Shenk. I would have enjoyed his insight into this subject, but its’ something he didn’t address directly.

 In my research, I’ve seen three takes on the question. ENFJ, INTJ and INFJ.  Okay, so the N and J are solid. There’s agreement that Lincoln gave greater weight to ideas that to things he could touch and feel – that’s the N part. And he was decisive – that’s where the J comes in. The controversy is over whether he was an introvert or extrovert and if his decisions were driven by logic or relationships.

 And this is where it gets messy.

 If Lincoln was introverted, he would have tended to mask his weakest strong trait. So he would have shown his thinking skills to hide his sensitivity to relationship issues, or he would have focused attention on relationship issues so he didn’t have to expose his logic to criticism. If he was extroverted, that kind of masking wouldn’t have fit.

 Since Lincoln was renowned for his debating skills, his almost faultless logic, ENFJ seems to drop to the back of the pack in this three-horse race. And by default, INFJ would move into the lead.

A couple of observations add weight to the introversion argument. First, he withdrew inside himself frequently. So much so at times that he could block out all sensory stimuli. His associates couldn’t even shake him out of his trance-like states. He also brooded often, sometimes spiraling into near-suicidal episodes of depression.

And the masking of F with T may have been one of his most practiced skills. So much so that he never shrank from a debate, even surrounding himself with critics. He appointed one such detractor to the Supreme Court as Chief Justice. When his appointee argued that the Emancipation Proclamation was unconstitutional Lincoln argued that he had power as Commander-in-Chief to appropriate enemy property to advance the war effort. But if slaves weren’t property, no emancipation was necessary. The slaves were already free.

When his adversaries pointed to the Tenth Amendment to justify deferring to the various states to settle the slavery issue for themselves, Lincoln countered that the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution, was the higher law. Therefore, no part of the Constitution could be used to give authority to the institution of slavery.

 Notice that in each case the primary motivator for Lincoln’s decision based on human relationships – specifically the humane treatment of enslaved people. The logic was used means to an end, not the end in itself.

 Lincoln’s struggle with relationships was the common thread running through his entire life. From his mother’s death to surviving a brutal winter with his sister during his father’s absence – from the loss of his first love to his heartbreaking marriage – from being estranged from his father to losing two of his sons – and the loss of several family members in the war that he was often accused of starting – his live was defined by broken unions that he was impotent to save.

 So what kind of person was Abraham Lincoln? An extrovert? An introvert? A man who made decisions based on how they impacted people’s lives and relationships. Or someone who towed the line of facts and logic, regardless of where they led?

 What do you think?