The melancholic temperament (A Guide)

The melancholic temperament (A Guide)

In this blog post, we will describe the melancholic temperaments. We will also talk about the 4 temperaments, according to Galen of Pergamum; the theory of the 4 senses of humour and the theory of basic temperaments.

The melancholic temperament – key features 

People with a melancholic temperament are characterized as being emotionally sensitive, creative, introverted, self-sacrificing and perfectionist. In a way, this type of temperament can be related to the recent concept of Highly Sensitive People (PAS), although defined in a much more ambiguous way.

Although they find pleasure in tasks that require effort and personal sacrifice, they find it difficult to decide when starting projects precisely because of that perfectionist spirit and because of the concern caused by the insecurity of not knowing what is going to happen. Their mood varies easily and they show a propensity for sadness. Its element is earth.

The melancholic temperament (A Guide)

People of this type of temperament are inclined to loneliness, sadness, and sometimes theatre. In the theatre, sad souls have an opportunity to express their pain, and not as a complaint or moan, but as a way to resign themselves to taedium vitae, the weariness of life. 

Melancholics are analytical, detail-oriented people with a deep or thoughtful temperament. They are introverts and try to avoid large groups of people.

A melancholy personality leads to independent individuals who are attentive, reserved and often anxious. They often strive to improve spiritually. Therefore, it can be said that they behave in an orderly manner both with themselves and with their acquaintances and friends.

As negative traits, we can mention the fact that the melancholic is not an effort-resistant person, he is often sad and shy.

  • Worried and emotional. Melancholics have a strong emotional energy. They tend to be tense, tense, worried. If they do not learn to discipline their emotions, they will not be able to work under conditions of mental pressure.
  •  Creative. Melancholics are suitable for research, arts, writings, philosophy. They are good at any job that requires solving problems and / or creating things. Studies have shown that people who have a high level of anxiety have great results on tests before saying “yes” to creativity. 

Even in other areas, such as dental technology, the most creative technicians are the melancholic.

  • Conscientious and perfectionist. Melancholics generally have a strict and authoritarian conscience. If they do not follow their conscience exactly, they will have strong feelings of guilt. These high standards help them do an excellent job, sometimes even perfect. But their standards are so high that one could hardly live by them.
  • Whimsical, thoughtful and sensitive. Melancholics are usually very sensitive people. They cannot tolerate criticism and suffer when insulted, despised or disregarded. Melancholy people cannot easily forget a rebuke, a humiliation or a rebuke, but tend to think of it.
The melancholic temperament (A Guide)

The 4 temperaments according to Galen of Pergamum

One of the great areas of psychology is the study of personality.

However, when looking for ways to classify and describe the style of behaviour and thought of human beings, not only has personality been discussed, but there is another concept that throughout history has also been used to try to capture the particularities of each person. 

This concept is called temperament, and it tries to account for those inclinations and tendencies of each one that is more fixed, invariable and difficult to change.

What are the temperament types?

The type of temperament of each person tends to be understood as the basic structure on which each person’s personality is built, with all its details and particularities.

In recent decades this means that the term temperament has been used to refer to the genetics of each, the inheritable part of the personality, which means that the temperament of each would remain more or less unchanged regardless of the things that we happen, the way in which we learn to manage our emotions, etc.

But … How is the idea that human beings have different types of temperaments that differentiate us from each other? The answer lies in the theory of the 4 basic temperaments, which starts from the idea that our way of depending on various types of substances, or “humour”, that circulate in our bodies.

The theory of the four senses of humour

One of the first historical figures to develop the theory of the 4 senses of humour that would later give way to that of temperaments was the Greek physician Hippocrates.

Around the 5th and 4th centuries BC. C., in ancient Greece that Hippocrates inhabited, the belief that everything that exists in the world was composed of a few elements combined with each other was very important. Hippocrates adopted this point of view when defending the idea that the human body is made up of 4 basic substances, also called senses of humour.

For Hippocrates, these moods are as follows:

Blood, whose associated element is air.

Phlegm, the element of which is water.

Yellow bile, which corresponds to the fire element.

Black bile, associated with the earth.

But Hippocrates was still a doctor, and that is why he made this humoral theory enter the field of medicine more than that of psychology and personality. According to him, the fact that in our body all these substances are in balance makes us healthy, while a decompensation in the levels of the senses of humour would produce illnesses.

It was Galen of Pergamum who, in the 2nd century BC. C. made greater efforts to transform the theory of senses of humour into a theory of basic temperaments.

The melancholic temperament (A Guide)

The theory of basic temperaments

Galen started from the idea that everything is made up of the mixture of 4 elements and that each of them corresponds to one of the humour of the human body to end up applying this vision to the primitive psychology of that time.

For this Greek doctor, the levels in which each of the humour is present in a human body explain its personality and temperament styles, which means that by observing the amounts of these substances, one could know the behaviour style of a person, how he expresses his emotions, etc.

Galen’s work has been a benchmark for many centuries of history, but today it is not considered valid in medicine or psychology.

The reasons are that, on the one hand, it was not formulated on accepted philosophical ideas and positions today (the humoral theory) and on the other hand, that the way in which the different temperaments are described is very ambiguous. 

This means that although it may be inspiring to see your own personality reflected in one of these temperamental types, it is very possible that part of the interest that this simple classification system produces in us is due to the Forer effect, as is the case, for example, with the enneagram of the personality.

After all, in Galen’s time psychology as a science did not exist, and it was only beginning to understand the functioning of the world and the human body by resorting to poorly defined concepts, made up of various ideas that, although intuitively we could relate them to each other, beyond this, they cannot be justified. 

For example, there is no reason why a calm character and rational way of thinking should appear together within the phlegmatic temperament. Could there not be a calm and non-rational temperament?

The melancholic temperament (A Guide)

Galen’s inspiring potential

However, the fact that the four temperament theory no longer has scientific validity does not mean that it has not served as an inspiration for various personality theories in modern psychology. 

Many personality scholars have relied on the concept of temperament to develop their personality tests and measurement tools, and genetic inheritance is now considered to play an important role in our way of being.

The 4 temperaments, according to Galen of Pergamum are choleric, sanguine, phlegmatic and melancholic. But, according to this theory, each person falls into one of these types, but there is also the possibility of overlapping two or more temperaments.

So, most people have the characteristics of a personality type, but there are also influences from other temperaments.

The melancholic temperament (A Guide)

FAQ about the melancholic temperament

What is a melancholic person?

A melancholic person is someone who finds pleasure in tasks that require effort and personal sacrifice.  Their mood varies easily and they show a propensity for sadness. People with a melancholic temperament are characterized as being emotionally sensitive, creative, introverted, self-sacrificing and perfectionist. 

Are Melancholics romantic?

Yes, melancholics are romantics, that unconsciously are looking for the ideal love and the ideal partner. A melancholy personality leads to independent individuals who are attentive, reserved and often anxious. 

Is it bad to be melancholic?

It is not bad to be melancholic, as it means you are also very sensitive, creative and detail-oriented.  Melancholy can make you a great artist, can make you work harder and appreciate more the joys of life.

How do I overcome melancholic temperament?

In order to overcome the melancholic temperament anxiety and tendency to sadness, you have to practice self-awareness and mindfulness. Learn to be aware of your emotions, embrace then, but also try to not be afraid to feel good, also. 

How do Melancholics behave?

A melancholy personality leads to independent individuals who are attentive, reserved and often anxious. They often strive to improve spiritually. Therefore, it can be said that they behave in an orderly manner both with themselves and with their acquaintances and friends.

Why do we like melancholy?

We like melancholy because it is a bitter-sweet feeling IT reminds us of good times, it makes us feel grateful for what we have, for the people in our lives, it can even motivate us to do more pleasurable things. 

Conclusions

In this blog post, we described the melancholic temperaments. We also talked about the 4 temperaments, according to Galen of Pergamum; the theory of the 4 senses of humour and the theory of basic temperaments.

The type of temperament of each person tends to be understood as the basic structure on which each person’s personality is built, with all its details and particularities.

In recent decades this means that the term temperament has been used to refer to the genetics of each, the inheritable part of the personality, which means that the temperament of each would remain more or less unchanged regardless of the things that we happen, the way in which we learn to manage our emotions, etc.

Melancholics are analytical, detail-oriented people with a deep or thoughtful temperament. They are introverts and try to avoid large groups of people.

A melancholy personality leads to independent individuals who are attentive, reserved and often anxious. They often strive to improve spiritually. Therefore, it can be said that they behave in an orderly manner both with themselves and with their acquaintances and friends.

If you have any questions or comments, please let us know!

Further reading

Understand Your Temperament!: A Guide to the Four Temperaments – Choleric, Sanguine, Phlegmatic, Melancholic, by Gilbert Childs

Four Temperaments (Who Are You?), by Virginia Loh-Hagan 

Know Yourself Through the Four Temperaments. by Fr. Conrad Hock

The Temperaments and the Adult-Child Relationship, by Kristie Burns 

References

Britannica.com – Melancholic temperament

Openpsychometrics.org – OSPP Four Temperaments Test

Betterhelp.com – Benefits And Traits Of A Melancholic Temperament

The melancholic temperament (A Guide)

Nadejda Romanciuc

Nadejda Romanciuc holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and a diploma in Addiction studies. She is part of the Romanian Association of Integrative Psychotherapy as a psychotherapist under supervision. She's practicing online counselling for over two years and is a strong advocate for mental health.