A contributing factor to how we handle stress is our temperament. This is something that is imprinted on our DNA and is a part of the picture that determines how we approach and deal with life. We all know of the types who can laugh at any situation and see the positives in everything that comes their way. Then there are those who face the same situation and may find it overwhelming and not be able to see any good whatsoever.
The original temperaments were developed by Hippocrates who developed it from a physiological theory of four basic body fluids (humours): blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile. According to their relative predominance in the individual, they were supposed to produce, respectively, temperaments designated sanguine (warm, pleasant), phlegmatic (slow-moving, apathetic), melancholic (depressed, sad), and choleric (quick to react, hot tempered).
There is some question as to the scientific validity of temperament theory that I would like to acknowledge. But, as you read through the temperaments we all will recognise people we know who are just like the description. There are also combinations of temperament that we all with have to some degree. This must also be a part of the context by which we use any such description. The description of the temperaments is only a tool to allow you to know yourself just that little bit better.
Finally a warning: Don’t allow your temperament to determine who you are. We are more than just the sum of a few personality traits and should look at a range of tools to contribute to the picture that we have of ourselves.
But in the meantime enjoy the unique qualities that you have and learn to enjoy the differences in others as you understand more those differences.
THE SANGUINE TEMPERAMENT Men and women with the sanguine temperament are warm, buoyant, and lively. They are naturally receptive, and external impressions easily find their way to their hearts. Their emotions rather than reflective thoughts are the basis of most of their decisions.
Sanguine types enjoy people, shy away from solitude, and are at their best when surrounded by friends, where they can take center stage. They have an endless repertoire of interesting stories to tell, making them fun to be around at parties or social gatherings.
Back when they were in high school, the sanguine types were voted “Most Likely to Succeed,” but they often fall short of this prediction because of weak wills. Sanguines who find themselves ineffective and undependable tend to become restless, undisciplined, egocentric, and emotionally explosive.
THE CHOLERIC TEMPERAMENT The choleric temperament is found in people who are hot, quick, active, practical, and strong-willed. They tend to be self-sufficient, independent, decisive, and opinionated, finding it easy to make decisions for themselves as well as for others.
Adversaries seldom frighten them; conversely, cholerics welcome the challenge because they want to prove they are right. They possess dogged determination and often succeed where others fail not because their plans are better than anyone else’s but because they push long after others have become discouraged and quit. These natural-born leaders will storm the hill or take on city hall. Their motto: Either lead, follow, or get out of the way.
The choleric’s emotional nature is the least developed part of their temperament. They do not suffer fools gladly, nor do they sympathize easily with others. Male cholerics are often embarrassed or disgusted by the sight of other men crying. They have little appreciation for the fine arts because their primary interests lie in the utilitarian values of life.
Cholerics, male or female, have a hard time with people skills. They don’t need babying or pampering, and it’s hard for them to adapt their styles to the needs of other people. Cholerics are difficult folks to live with. They can come across as hot-tempered, cruel, impetuous, and self-sufficient. The person with this temperament is often more appreciated by friends and associates than by members of his or her family.
THE MELANCHOLY TEMPERAMENT Melancholy people are often dark, moody individuals prone to analyzing everything to death. Nonetheless, they can be self-sacrificing, gifted perfectionists with sensitive emotional natures. That’s why many of the world’s great artists, musicians, inventors, philosophers, and educators have been of the melancholy temperament.
These self-described introverts come hardwired with a variety of moods dominated by their emotions. Sometimes melancholics’ moods will lift them to heights of ecstasy (“I just loved the new Julia Roberts movie!”), but five minutes later, they can become gloomy and depressed (“I just can’t seem to snap out of it”). If this occurs, spouses need to watch out. Withdrawn melancholics can be quite antagonistic and hard on a marriage.
When they’re in a good mood, melancholics are your best buddies and friends. Unlike sanguine men and women, however, they do not make friends easily. Melancholics are initially reserved when meeting people, preferring for new acquaintances to come to them. They are perhaps the most dependable of all the temperaments because their perfectionist tendencies do not permit them to let others down.
Melancholics have an uncanny ability to figure out what to do when obstacles are placed in their paths. If a project needs to be completed within a seemingly impossible time frame, you can be sure a melancholic will find a way. This foresight contrasts sharply with cholerics, who rarely anticipate problems but are confident they can handle anything that comes their way.
THE PHLEGMATIC TEMPERAMENT Everyone loves to be around those with phlegmatic temperaments. They act calm, cool, and collected. They travel through life in the slow lane, content to take it easy. Life for phlegmatic people is one happy, pleasant experience after another, which is why they avoid entanglements with others as much as possible.
Phlegmatic types seldom get ruffled. They are the types who rarely express anger or laugh until tears are running down their cheeks. Their temperament remains steady. Beneath their cool, reticent, almost timid personalities, phlegmatics draw from a good combination of abilities. They feel more emotion than appears on the surface and have a great capacity to appreciate the fine arts and the better things of life.
Since phlegmatics enjoy people, they do not lack for friends. They are natural-born conversationalist who love to hear a good story as much as they enjoy telling one. Known for their dry sense of humor, they have the ability to see the lighter side in everyday situations. Their retentive minds delight in poking fun at the other temperament types.
The chief weakness of phlegmatics, which often keeps them from fulfilling their potential, is their dearth of motivation. Some husbands will say this about their phlegmatic wives: “She is a wonderful wife and mother, but she is one lousy housekeeper.” A frustrated wife might say, “Joe is a wonderful husband, but he can’t seem to get a promotion.”
 The temperaments are summarised from “How to Be Happy Though Married”, Tim LaHaye. Published by Tyndale House Publishers.