Monday, February 3, 2014

The Melancholic


Hello there. Let's continue looking at the four basic temperaments. And because we are in the land of the Melancholics, we will examine it all very seriously, and quite thoroughly.

Remember Mrs. Perfect? The one making lists, getting all in order, and yet can't relax and have fun at the party? Yep, it's kind of sad. A real Melancholy wouldn't bother organizing a "party", of course. Why not, you ask? Because - they are the truly introverted, and having a lot of people around is NOT a Melancholy's idea of a good time.

Being introverted is the trait shared with Phlegmatics, and being task-oriented is the trait shared with Cholerics. If I can draw a little diagram:

Simple, but it helps. Many people would be able to pinpoint where they are on this, though a little self-awareness and objectivity is needed. If a person tends to be energized by being with others, they are more extroverted. If someone feels exhausted after being with people, then introverted. If you tend to measure your day (and your worth) by what you've accomplished - tasks are the focus. If you are driven by relationships, be they close and one-to-one (phlegmatic) or more varied and dispersed (sanguine), your personality may be on the lower half of this diagram.
"I Don't Care!" you might be saying. That's alright! It's not everybody's thing.
"Know Thyself." It's written on the acropolis at Delphi. An ancient Greek quote attributed to Plato...and sometimes Socrates...and quite possibly Jack Black.... Plato also apparently said,
"Love is a serious mental disease."
So, the guy must have some credence. Obviously knew his stuff.

Melancholy temperaments tend to see the Downside of Things. If you are discussing, say, anything at all, they will point out what could go wrong, and the reasons why it probably will. This can be good if you are considering getting a tattoo, or going bungee jumping on your wedding day. It can be a real kick in the pants if you're trying to run a meeting, go on a trip, or perhaps launch a mission to Mars. I'm sure NASA has it's fair share of Melancholies checking, double-checking, and triple-checking the spaceship thingy. And they would die before calling it a "thingy"!

"Know Thyself? If I knew myself, I would run away!"

                                                            - Goethe

Melancholies tend to analyze things. People, situations, bits of paper on the ground, whatever. They will hold it up, look at it from every conceivable angle, and then walk away and stew about it some more. There's a whole lotta thinkin' goin' on. And this can be very good, when important decisions have to be made. And this can be very bad, when important decisions have to be made. A-HEM! (cough, cough)
 For example, if the decision involves what kind of paint to use in the kitchen, and it takes 5 years to decide.

Melancholies are perfectionists. The Ideal is so important, that the Real sometimes never happens. If, as a child, a person erased and re-drew pictures or sentences in a scribbler for school that weren't quite right.....they might be a Melancholy. If they rearrange the furniture a lot, or conversely if they NEVER rearrange the furniture. There is this curious thing about it being both ways, depending on other factors.
Melancholies match their clothing. Makeup, socks, jewelry, belt, sweater - all carefully chosen.
There is a right way to do everything, and melancholy temperaments have a tough time watching someone do it wrong.
A Phlegmatic-Melancholy will watch quietly from a distance, going crazy inside at whatever wrong thing is happening. Perhaps someone is stirring their tea aggressively, or washing windows with large, sloppy swipes. Ahhh!! SO annoying.
A Choleric-Melancholy will step in, grab whatever is offending and put it right. "No, like this", they are often heard saying. Your collar sticking up offensively? Your hair? They will pat it down. Taking too long to wash the car? They will take the pressure washer right out of your hands and show you exactly how to wash the car. Which can be fun, if you're smart about it.

Melancholies are also sensitive. Prone to anxiety and nervous habits, they can become depressed fairly easily. Moods are not the most stable, and can swing back and forth, but not in a showy, fantastic way. Melancholies often keep their moods to themselves, feigning a sort of calm exterior.
This sensitivity results in Melancholies being wonderful musicians, artists, and the like. Not always - but they will at least have a deep appreciation for music and art. There is a need to create that can be a great outlet for the inner emotional life of the Melancholic. When creative outlets are stifled they can become deeply depressed, and need to watch for this.

Many people who consider themselves of the Melancholy temperament love the color blue. It's not a rule or anything, they just do. 

Quiet, intensely thoughtful, carefully organized, the Melancholic can be a blessing to have around. If they become lost in a sea of dark thoughts, it can be hard to bring them around again to the light.
A few famous Melancholies are Sylvia Plath, Martin Luther, Sir Isaac Newton, Vincent van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway. Poet, theologian, scientist, painter, writer.

If you are a Melancholy, you will need quiet time alone. You will need to think, feel, express, create.
And remember - other people are not always the problem. Sometimes, the problem lies within, and it's brave and helpful to face that reality.

Understanding ourselves can open the door to understanding others. Which can be a beautiful thing.



  1. Here's a test comment. See:

  2. Hi Chuck, thanks, I've tried umpteen dozen times to reply or comment, from my phone and from a different computer, to no avail. Each time, no matter what profile I selected or what I did next, the comment immediately deleted. Let's see if this one does.....


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