The study of the four temperaments goes back to the time of the Greek Physician Hippocrates who theorised that personality traits and human behaviours are based on four separate temperaments associated with four fluids of the body: choleric temperament (yellow bile from the liver), melancholic temperament (black bile from the kidneys), sanguine temperament (red blood from the heart), and phlegmatic temperament (white phlegm from the lungs)the dispositions people have are related to imbalance of liquids in the body. Modern science has disproved this theory.

The purpose of this article is to help us understand ourselves Better.

Gaining a greater insight into ourselves can help us to discover if we have what it takes to effectively deal with a demanding situation such as a violent encounter.

Finding Your Temperaments

Some people find it easier than others to work out what temperaments fit them best, often because of the temperaments that they are!

This article will hopefully make it easier to decide which temperaments you probably are.

Superficial Personality Versus Innate Nature

As has already been established, the temperaments don’t determine your personality wholly. They only describe the basic foundation, the ‘skeleton’ of your attitude towards others.

It’s entirely possible to put on ‘acted’ behaviour, either through upbringing or through conscious choice. These behaviours will ‘mask’ a person’s basic temperaments, but they’ll always feel ‘put on’ or ‘fake’ to the person using them. Like they’re how they ‘should’ behave rather than how they ‘naturally are’.

If you ever feel that you have to ‘control yourself’ in any of your behaviour, look to the part that is being controlled, rather than the bit doing the controlling, to work out your temperaments.

Beliefs and temperaments are not the same thing. For example, most sensible people will have empathy for others and will feel distress when they see them harmed. This doesn’t make you part phlegmatic, however, as the *reasons* behind it are different.

The Big Picture

You shouldn’t dissect temperaments trait by trait, wondering whether every single one fits you in every way!

The temperaments should be seen as wholes, not as lists of properties or traits that need to be completely matched to get a fit.

Most people will find that they fit ‘most’ of the traits listed on the pages of one or two of the temperaments, as well as ‘some’ traits from the other two.

Some people might actually only fit a few *traits* for a specific temperament, but the whole ‘big picture’ that the traits describe fits them better than the other temperaments.

Opposing Blends

Does one of the four temperaments really ‘speak to you’, really seem to describe you quite well? If so, it’s probably your Primary.

If another seems to fit you better than the others, too, then that’s probably your Secondary. Many people will be able to choose their blend this way.

However, some people find that none of the four temperaments stand out to them at all; they can see traits from all of them that they match, and feel that none or all of them are applicable.

These people are usually of opposing blends.

Choleric and phlegmatic are ‘in opposition’, as are melancholic and sanguine.

People of the choleric/phlegmatic, phlegmatic/choleric, melancholic/sanguine, and sanguine/melancholic blends tend to feel more well-rounded than people of other blends, and find it significantly harder to decide on what to choose.

This is because they have traits from two extremes, which even out to make a complicated personality that’s hard to clearly define.

If you find yourself in this position, you should first think whether or not you’re particularly emotional.

Phlegmatic and choleric are unemotional temperaments, so the blends of the two are the least emotional of all blends. If you’re not emotional, you may be one of those.

Melancholic and sanguine are very emotional indeed though, so if you are emotional, you’re probably one of those blends.

Then, wonder whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert. Do you prefer to keep to yourself, or to be around others?

If you prefer to be alone, maybe you’re phlegmatic/choleric or melancholic/sanguine.

Otherwise, maybe you’re sanguine/melancholic or choleric/phlegmatic.

MelancholicCholericPhlegmaticSanguine
Hard

Melancholics are ‘intense’, serious, and ‘deep’. They care strongly about things and it’s important to them that things are as close to perfection as possible.

Hard

Cholerics are tough, strong, and focused. They set their minds on a goal and strive to achieve it, to get things done. They do not back down when challenged.

Soft

Phlegmatics are calm and submissive; they wish for peace and quiet, a simple life free of worries and conflict. Compromising to achieve peace is more important than being right.

Soft

Sanguines are fun-loving and easy-going. They believe that people who take things too seriously need to take a chill pill, get a life, go out and have some fun.

Introverted

Being around other people is fine in small doses, especially when the Melancholic can exchange thoughts, feelings and ideas, but it gets draining fast. Melancholics need time alone in order to recharge; being alone is when they feel most at ease.

Extroverted

Being superior to others needs others to feel superior to. You can’t rise above the heads of others in a crowd of one, so cholerics seek other people to add to their tribe, to lead and command, to give them a sense of authority.

Introverted

Phlegmatics are social – as quiet listeners, anyway – when approached, but feel that it’s not their place to approach others. They do enjoy social gatherings because they like making people happy, being useful to them, but they prefer quieter, calmer interactions.

Extroverted

Sanguines get BOOOORED when not surrounded by people. They don’t feel alive unless they’re with friends, strangers, anything, expressing themselves and being involved in the energy of social interaction.

Reserved

Melancholics have very specific ideas about what they like and what they don’t like. The outer world is chaotic and full of things that they dislike, so they keep inside their inner worlds. They are sensitive and fear being hurt, so they keep things to themselves.

Expressive

Cholerics are not afraid to speak their minds. They want to have influence and control over the world, to make themselves known. As natural leaders, if someone’s doing something that they don’t like, they’ll stop them. If they want something, they’ll get it.

Reserved

Phlegmatics are calm and quiet; they are great listeners, but don’t assert themselves because they don’t want to be a bother. They’d rather let others speak or run things, keeping their own thoughts to themselves.

Expressive

Sanguines express their extreme and ever-changing emotions very openly; you can always tell how they’re thinking or feeling because they make it very apparent. This gets them attention.

Slow Reactions

Melancholics will grit their teeth and bear the things that they dislike over a long time before finally snapping. It takes them a long, long time before they can learn to love and accept any given thing, because their perfect worlds of feelings and opinions are built up carefully, deliberately, and are difficult to change once established.

Quick Reactions

Cholerics have short fuses, and will snap if challenged before their dominance has a chance to be threatened. They are quick to jump to action when a leader is needed, quick to seize opportunities before others have the chance to.

Slow Reactions

Phlegmatics are calm and reserved, and they seek peace and hate change. Their emotions tend to stay at a constant relaxed level. They will endure all kinds of abuse because they put others above themselves, and they are reluctant to seize new things because they are indecisive.

Quick Reactions

Sanguines’ moods are all over the place; elatedly high one minute, maudlin and melodramatic the next. They ‘live fast’ in terms of emotions, and are very quick to make friends. They flit about between views and interests as the world changes around them.

Long Duration

Once a melancholic has added a truth to their perfect, carefully-built inner universe, this truth will stay there for a very, very long time. They hold grudges, they are upset for ages by the slightest things. If something makes them happy, it will continue to do so for a long time because their love for it was built up slowly, and with much thought and planning, rather than being a whimsical, impulsive decision. They become deeply devoted to their interests.

Long Duration

Cholerics remember their enemies, their rivals, as they assert their power by making any who wrong them deeply regret doing so. They honour their friendships, keep their promises, as any good leader should.

Short Duration

Phlegmatics are quick to forgive and forget, as they are nice and eager to assume the best of others so that everyone can just get along. Grudges bring conflict, which they avoid. Their moods are like still pools; any ripples are fleeting, and soon the calmness returns. Positive and negative moods are expressed weakly and disappear quickly. They rarely get very high or very low, and will usually be back to normal the next day.

Short Duration

If the phlegmatic’s mood is a still pool, the sanguine’s might be a raging ocean. Up one minute, down the next, forever in motion and never staying in any state for very long at all. They’ll be raving mad one minute, in tears the next, happy again moments later, then asking what’s for dinner as if nothing ever happened at all.

Emotional

Melancholics are deeply sensitive, and moved strongly by emotion. They are prone to tears, either by beauty or by distress, and they feel fear readily and strongly too.

Unemotional

Emotions are a sign of weakness. The only emotions that cholerics are likely to show are rage when defied, and joy when their enemies are humiliated. Crying is for wimps.

Unemotional

Phlegmatics are calm, their minds are at peace. They rarely stray from this peace, and any emotions are fleeting. They don’t want to be a bother by expressing their own feelings on others.

Emotional

Sanguines blow the smallest things out of proportion. I can’t find my keys! AGH!! I HATE THE WORLD!! EVERYTHING IS MISERY!! I’M CRYING NOW!!! Oh! Here they are! Hooray!! Doin’ a little jig! This is like the best day ever!!

Low Self-Esteem

No matter how hard they strive for perfection, melancholics know that they can never reach it. They spend much time alone, and their analytical minds become aware of every one of their faults through deep and rigorous introspection. They can’t be perfect, which makes them feel unhappy about themselves.

High Self-Esteem

Cholerics are the biggest, toughest, strongest, bestest people around. They’re great, they’re better than you, they’re at the top of the food chain. Could an alpha be any other way?

Low Self-Esteem

Phlegmatics defer to others, and never seek to glorify themselves. They feel they are not more important than anyone else. They’d hate to brag, because that’d be a bother, it’d assert themselves above others. If mistakes are made, they blame themselves for upsetting the calmness, being a bother. Could it be anyone else’s fault but theirs? No, it’d be mean to think so.

High Self-Esteem

Sanguines are great! They’re excellent at everything they do! They love how showing off about their many varied abilities and excellent tastes make people compliment and praise them! Oh happy, oh joy! Everything’s great! Look at me, everyone!

Pessimistic

The world is not a perfect place… The worst always seems to happen. People are nasty to each other, and it’s so distressing… Why try anything? I’ll probably only fail… I’ll never reach perfection.

Optimistic

I’m confident that I’ll succeed. That other guy? Not so much. I’ll beat him, that’s right. I’m just so great, I can’t see how I’ll fail. Haha, those jokers in politics are always screwing up, though, lemme tell ya! If I were in charge, I’d do things right.

Pessimistic

Oh, I hope I can do this right… I’m worried that I might not be able to. I’m not really very good at things, after all! Someone much better than me would be able to do this a lot better than I could.

Optimistic

Things’ll turn out alright, you’ll see! Look on the bright side! Every cloud has a silver lining! Just sit back and enjoy the show, that’s what I always say! Don’t stress so much!

About Dave Kay

Provided security for high net worth clients. Successfully gained Krav Maga Instructor Certification in Israel. Studied and successfully passed Sports Science degree. Led expeditions in mountain, jungle and other inhospitable environments. Regularly update skills and knowledge base in different combat sports. Specialties: Krav Maga, Self Defence, Boxing, Fitness training, Nutrition and Diet. Undertake mountaineering, ice climbing, rock climbing, skiing, fell running, orienteering, mountain biking.
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