The 4 Temperaments and Being the Melancholic Friend

Oh those wiley Greek philosophers.  Always sitting around just thinking.  In this case, it was actually the Greek physician Hippocrates.  Very interesting to note was the fact that as early as 460BC people were just sitting around wondering why others behaved as they did.  He started thinking that certain human moods, emotions, and behaviors were caused by an excess or lack of body fluids and they were called “humours”.  In society we have heard the phrase to be in good humor, and no doubt it came from that.

Galen, another Greek physician and philosopher, wrote a dissertation (of course he did) called De temperamentis, and searched for physiological reasons for the behaviors and he wished for a balance between the qualities.  The word temperament came from the Latin “temperare”, to mix.

So what is a temperament?  In theory, a person’s temperament is formed as an infant and never changes (I am not sure about that last part myself).  Some studies have shown temperament remains constant as you react to certain situations, but honestly, I have known many people who seem to mellow with age, and some who, well, let’s just say they Hulk out as they get older.

Now, I get that this study over here talks about your brain-stem process and if that is true, and your brain stem cannot change over the course of your life, then that is why studies say our temperament doesn’t change, but I think anything is possible.

In today’s time, Psychologists recognize the work of Galen and agree there are 4 primary types.

The four main temperaments are known as:

  • Choleric
  • Sanguine
  • Melancholic
  • Phlegmatic

It is said that choleric types are a bit rare.  They are practical, independent and strong willed.  They are often natural leaders and are driven, goal oriented people.

Sanguine is said to be more common.  They are talkative, social and out going.  They are very lively folks and you likely know many who fit this.

Melancholy people are often confusing to others.  People think about sadness and depression, but they are just a bit more cautious.  They are usually a rule follower, they are anxious, and they do care what others think.  They tend to be perfectionists, and they are empathetic as well.

Lastly, phlegmatic are are a bit passive, often known as peacemakers and service oriented.  They are introverted and work with others in an unemotional way.  They are very easy to get along with, stick to routines, but they do resist change.

One of these is your primary temperament and another might actually be your secondary.  If you tend to overthink things, and you find yourself feeling more “melancholic” one day, ask yourself what is going on in your world that is causing you to feel that way?

When you are negative and other temperaments don’t really dwell in that, you can always message a friend who is the exact opposite of you to go walking with them and get you out of whatever mood you might be in.

Here are a few things to help you manage your temperament:

  1. Understand the need to be a perfectionist and learn to compromise.  Who would you work better with if you know that perhaps you and a friend both think this way?  Don’t get bogged down in the thinking, the prep and the planning, get with someone who is more likely to actually do the thing. (Like thinking about renovations, working out, coloring your hair and anything else that seems like you plan it for a long time and then don’t do it).
  2. Learn who isn’t a people person, and then respect that.  Maybe it’s you…and that’s okay.  Some people are not expressive and don’t talk to people, so use a list with these types of folks or assign tasks.
  3. Look at where the real problem lies.  An emotion arises from a thought.  Not the other way around.  The thoughts are not always reality…like no one likes me, etc.  It is merely a thought.  Just like “I don’t fit in” or “I am different” and that causes all kinds of spirals.  The reality is that someone is just like you and would love to be your friend…you just have to pull all these thoughts back and take a good look at who else seems to be just like you in your world?  The sadness we feel isn’t always real as it comes from our perception of what we think is real.  A conundrum.
  4. Take action and stop overthinking.  If you are worrying about something that hasn’t happened and might likely never happen, you are actually pulling that problem to you.  However, if you take action and say hi to people, reach out to someone, go on a walk, start exercising instead of just thinking about it, and actually get out of your head and into your body, it is more likely you can learn to balance these temperaments and not feel like you are on a roller coaster with your thoughts.  DO something!

Hope this helped you think about what is going on in your life and what might need you to take action.  But just in case you are still in a dysfunctional friendship, you can read this as well.

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