A Melancholy Child

I get many letters from individuals asking about their temperaments.  This letter comes from a mother with a Melancholy child.  Remember that a Melancholy temperament is very organized but can be overly analytical and critical.  Here’s the letter:

“Good Day, I have looked at your website and found many interesting facts about the various personalities.  I have a 10 year old very COMPLEX boy.  He is most definitely a Melancholy child.  Please advise me as to how I can get the most out of him, for him to eventually WANT to do things for himself, e.g. school work, sports, etc.  It seems as if he goes through cycles of really not liking himself.  He accepts compliments very skeptically.  Thank you, Michelle.”

My answer:  Michelle, you didn’t indicate whether you know his secondary temperament type — Phlegmatic, Sanguine or Choleric.  His age tends to magnify the problem as he is about to enter adolescence which is a difficult time for the happiest of children.

A Melancholy is usually analytical and critical of others but not of themselves.  If he is not naturally outgoing (possibly a Phlegmatic secondary) he needs to have some sort of peer group where he receives positive attention, activity and feedback.  It probably seems like a cliche but activites such as Tae Kwon Do or other martial arts seem to excel in this type of activity.

If he’s musically inclined, get him a guitar and some lessons.  Again the point being to give him feelings of accomplishment and to focus his attention more outwardly.

Whatever you can come up with to give him a feeling of success and divert his attention from himself should have the effect of gradually raising his self-concept.  At the same time I would avoid competitive groups wehre he will have the tendency to be self-critical (sport teams for example).

Don’t expect this to be an overnight change — realize his temperament is inborn and that his personality is temperament plus his life experience and circumstances.  The only part you can influence directly are the latater two.

All Four Temperaments in One?

I get many emails with questions about temperament.  Here is one on temperament combinations.

“I ws told that I have all four (types) and was told this is unusual.  Am I blessed or cursed. Ewa.”

My response:  I have encountered many who have said that they had “all four temperament types” and this points up the differences between temperament and personality.  Let’s examine a person with a Phlegmatic (laid back, easy-going) temperament.  If this person is raised by Cholerics (hard driving, non-emotionally sensitive),the Phlegmatic will, by necessity, take on some Choleric behaviors simply by being around Cholerics.

Remember that temperament is in-born; personality is your life experience added to your temperament.  You are still most likely a blend of two main types, but circumstances in your life may have caused you to take on the behaviors of temperament types not naturally your own.

To better see your natural temperament, ask yourself two questions.  First, what are my natural weaknesses; the things I “just can’t seem to help”?  If laziness is your weakness, you are probably Phlegmatic.  If you are disorganized, you may be Sanguine.  If you have a tendency to analyze the behaviors of others you may be Melancholy.  If you tend not to care much about how your behavior affects others, you’re probably Choleric.

Secondly, ask yourself how you respond under stress and pressure.  A Phlegmatic will procrastinate, a Sanguine will have sharp emotional outbursts that will quickly go away, a Melancholy will begin to over-analyze everything and a Choleric will get quiet and angry.

Temperament and Marriage

I am not a marriage counselor nor do I play one on the Intarwebs but it seems that some readers think I can help.  Take the following email: “I read some of your info about temperament on your blog.  I am a Melancholy Phlegmatic.  I’ve discovered my temperament capabilities so am cooperating with them and it’s really getting me somewhere!  But I have this trouble; what blend of temperament will suite me as a spouse?  What blend of temperament matches mine?”

To which I reply: There’s never a guarantee in a relationship without the commitment to work on differences with understanding and acceptance.  It also doesn’t work to try and change the other person.  That being said, let’s look at both good and poor natural temperament combinations for your temperament blend.

As a Melancholy Phlegmatic you are a detailed and organized person offset a bit by the lack of drive of the Phlegmatic.  Your weaknesses – a tendency to be openly critical of others and yet a bit unfocused in yourself – would tend to eliminate a Choleric as a match; unless the Choleric drive was their secondary type.

You would be best suited to possibly a Phlegmatic Choleric (laid back but with a bit of drive and able to handle criticism) or a Sanguine Melancholy where the uplifting Sanguine (who is highly unfocused and can be disorganized) is offset by the organized Melancholy secondary type.

It has always been my contention that you need at least ONE of your temperament types to match either the primary or secondary for a degree of temperamental compatibility.  The opposite seems to be true; a Phlegmatic Choleric would have the most difficulty with a Sanguine Melancholy.  In your case you would be least like a Sanguine Choleric.

I want to emphasize however that temperamental compatibility can only go so far without the commitment to the relationship by both parties.  A good relationship is NOT 50/50; it’s 100/100.