Wednesday, July 23

Melancholy-Choleric-Phlegmatic- is it possible?

There is a personality test that dates back to ancient scholars. These days we call it the four personalities. Evidently, after centuries of observing people all over the world the four personalities always appear. Sure, there may be different cultures and customs, perhaps a hierarchy, or democracy, but these personalities still shine through. The four basic personalities are: Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholy, and Phlegmatic.

Sanguine is the token fun person; popular, outgoing, talkative, and friendly. Sometimes their desire for fun encourages neglect of daily chores, finances, and schedules. Choleric personalities are business, no-nonsense people. They want something done and done now, are often right, and can make great leaders if their bossy side doesn’t turn into overbearing. A Melancholy is clean, orderly, analytical and deep thinking and often overly-sensitive. A Phlegmatic is usually quiet, peaceful, easy going and can make a great intellectual. Sometimes their peace filled attitude makes them oblivious to important details, other’s feelings, and daily life.

I began learning about the four personalities about a month ago, after calling a friend and leaving a message, explaining through tears, that sometimes it is almost impossible to communicate with my husband. My friend had been reading about the personalities recently, and thought these concepts might help. After hearing my desperate (probably difficult to understand) voicemail she purchased Personality Plus for Couples, by Florence Littauer, online and a week or so later we receive it.

I was skeptical, as I am with anything that’s title reads like a value meal from McDonald’s with a large French fry and soda. See, I despise putting people in a box through a personality quiz, then stamping a “You’ve been figured out!” on their forehead, followed by a, “NEXT!” as you look down the line of your friends, family and co-workers. Inevitably, I feel like I’m telling them and myself that no one is really special or different. However, since overcoming our communication break downs and differences is top priority for me and my husband, I decided to give the book a try.

While the author uses extreme examples- like one Sanguine female deciding to wallpaper her dining room only five hours before their dinner guests arrive- and often writes like a commercial for the personalities, her emphasis seems to be more informative. This is what kept me reading. In the book are: a personality test, various lists and thoughts about each personality and their emotional needs, and examples of their strengths and weaknesses. She also includes suggestions on how to love those around you with different personalities.

After reading the book and taking the personality test three times I’m beginning to accept that in the four categories I do carry many traits as a Melancholy (Skepticism, for example). Also, I actually feel enlightened about why Matt and I are together. His was 60% Sanguine with some Choleric tendencies- we are the token couple. Perhaps those hundreds of people who have told us time and time again are right- opposites do attract.

Even though the book is an easy read and sometimes makes one feel trapped in an infomercial, I feel like I learned more from it than I did in my pre-marriage class. For instance, I learned that I have a lot of melancholy strengths and weaknesses, but also have strong Choleric and Phlegmatic tenancies. I am a perfectionist and orderly, and hold high standards for myself and everyone else. I am argumentative and artistic, deep and sometimes depressive. I prefer working alone, gain energy from silence and space. I joke at the right time, but my need for fun and friends is relatively low. My tendency toward the phlegmatic, gives me the flexibility to follow and serve, on the other hand, I sometimes take no notice of things that do not affect me directly, and have a hard time expressing my true feelings. But, when things need to get done, my strong Choleric work ethic gets them done and usually I get them done quickly, plus I feel comfortable leading, but only when I want to.

While this description of my strengths and weaknesses is a snap shot of what I am learning about how the special way I was created, it also opens my eyes to the weaknesses of my humanity. It provides an avenue for me to be grateful for my complete opposite, Matt, and also for God who knew what he was doing when Matt and I met selling salmon.

Thanks for the book Debbie.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello; My name is Louis (, and I am an anonymous blogger who happened to find your page in Google, when I was looking for "Melancholy-Choleric-Phlegmatic." You are the first one I find that has this rare temperament blend. I have it too, and have not found anyone like that until now. Only Jesus Christ can work in us and mold us into who He wants us to be. Mel-Chol-Phlegs can be very destructive but also a powerful asset in the hands of the Lord. He is the One who makes the difference!