Riemann-Thomann Model and Cross


Increase self-knowledge, self-reflection, and awareness of personality traits.



Teenagers and young adults


55 minutes


The Riemann-Thomann model describes an individual’s typical behaviour and actions from the perspective of identifiable basic orientations. In this context, the term “basic orientation” can be defined in a simplified way as a holistic state in which one aspires to reach the state of well-being or has already reached it successfully.

The four poles of personality originally come from the work Grundformen der Angst (Basic Forms of Fear) by Fritz Riemann, a German psychoanalyst, psychologist and psychotherapist, published in 1961.

According to Riemann, one’s personality is determined by their coping strategy for the four primary forms of fear. He postulated that everyone has two pairs of conflicting needs, each with a structure of fear or anxiety.

The first pair was the need to be an individual versus the need to be part of a group. The corresponding fears were fear of love and commitment and fear of loneliness and self-actualization.

The second pair was the need for constancy versus the need for change. The corresponding fears were fear of insecurity, instability and fear of confinement, and constancy.

Riemann stressed that everybody experienced all these fears to varying extents. However, if one of the fears became so dominant within a person that it eclipsed the other fears, the person was mentally unhealthy.

Each fear thereby came with its type of disorder; when the fear of love was dominant, Riemann spoke of schizoid people; when it was the fear of loneliness, he said of depressed persons; fear of change corresponded with obsessive characteristics, and fear of constancy brought out “hysterical” personalities.

Christoph Thomann, a Swiss psychologist, took up Riemann’s theory and re-formulated it in 1988. He made a typology of personality based on four basic needs as follows.

  1. need for closeness: harmony with others, harmony in relationships,
  2. need for distance: independence from others, defending one’s personality
  3. need for stability: the permanence of habits, regularity
  4. need for change: flexibility, spontaneity, creativity

The four basic orientations can be integrated into a coordinate cross. There is a space and a time axis. The time axis is vertical, with the two extremes of duration and change. The space axis is horizontal with the extremes of distance and proximity. Space and time are thus the criteria by which people differ from others in their behaviour.

Each person has not only one basic orientation but a mixture of all of them. He can have a 0% to 100% value in each basic orientation, even if the extreme discounts will hardly ever apply.

The sum on the two axes of space (near-distance) and time (stability-change) does not necessarily have to be 100% but can be above or below. But: Everyone has priorities. This means that home areas can be larger or smaller. A larger home area means that one has more possibilities of behaviour, while a more small home area means that he has fewer possibilities.

This home area also has a centre, which the personality centre represents. It is challenging to determine one’s direction, as each primary approach is influenced by given situations and other people’s behaviour. However, if you try to classify yourself, you should remember that all basic directions are to be evaluated equally.

Every human being can experience and live all four possibilities if and when the constellation offers, requires or pushes them into a role/reaction. The Riemann-Thomann model is not a typology of human characters but rather a model of possible conflict reactions. Thus, in the final analysis, the home area is nothing more than a collection of one’s most frequent/favourite/worst experiences in relationships, and at best, an array of personal retreats the individual can turn to in conflict scenarios, in a chronic, comfortable and preventive manner.


In the beginning, every participant may freely and without previous knowledge, enter their presumed home area in a Riemann-Thomann cross.

Afterwards, the “official” questionnaire will be handed out, in which questions will be asked about each area. The result is a scale of points for each axe.

The participants can enter the “scientifically” determined home area in a new cross and compare it with the original one.

Differences are analyzed.


  • The questionnaire,
  • the Riemann-Thomann cross.



Fritz Riemann and Christoph Thomann
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