Today there is no shortage of personality type theories. Our pages on personality types and tests are among the most popular pages on this site. This article is about one of the oldest personality type systems in the world — four temperaments system. The origins of this typology belong to Graeco-Arabic medicine where it was successfully used to treat illnesses. In fact, it is still used today by practitioners of traditional medicine around the world.
At the heart of this typology is ancient medical concept — humorism. Humors here refer to bodily fluids that are present within one’s body. Different people have different proportions of these fluids; the predominance of one fluid defines one’s temperament and psychological type. Here are the four temperaments and their predominant humors (bodily fluids):
- Sanguine: blood;
- Phlegmatic: phlegm;
- Choleric: yellow bile;
- Melancholic: black bile.
Arabic terms are as follows:
- Sanguine: Damawiyy;
- Phlegmatic: Balghamiyy;
- Choleric: Safrawiyy;
- Melancholic: Sauda.
The predominance of one humor is said to affect one’s appearance and behavior. However, most people have mixed temperaments, and judging solely by appearance may be difficult for untrained enthusiasts such as ourselves. Useful charts were provided by Dr. Paul Hysen, Ph.D. Here is his chart for pure temperaments, and here is his chart for mixed temperaments.
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Modern medicine rejects this typology, but many new personality theories were developed from this ancient concept, often disguised under different names. Dr. Helen Fisher’s personality types — Explorer, Negotiator, Director, and Builder — bear a striking resemblance to Sanguine, Phlegmatic, Choleric, and Melancholic respectively. Having said that, this doesn’t minimize the value of her original research. Although Jung’s (or Myer Briggs personality types) were based on a completely different typing system, description of their 16 types is very similar to four basic types (four pure temperaments) and 12 mixed temperaments (see below).
Modern psychology is not much kinder to four temperaments concept and, in general, dismisses most personality theories altogether. Despite that, usage of terms — sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric, and melancholic — persists in both scientific and everyday language.
Sanguine Personality Type
People with sanguine personality type tend to be lively, optimistic, buoyant, and carefree. They love adventure and have a high risk tolerance. Typically, Sanguine people are very poor at tolerating boredom and will seek variety and entertainment. Needless to say, this trait may sometimes negatively affect their romantic relationships. Because this temperament is prone to pleasure-seeking behaviors, many people with sanguine personality are likely to struggle with addictions. Their constant cravings may lead to overeating and weight problems.
These people are very creative and may become great artists. In addition, they are fantastic entertainers and will naturally do well if they choose careers in entertainment industry. Their natural abilities will also serve them well if they choose jobs related to
- or sports.
Phlegmatic Personality Type
Someone with phlegmatic personality type is usually a people person. They seek interpersonal harmony and close relationships. Phlegmatic people are loyal spouses and loving parents. They preserve their relationships with old friends, distant family members, and neighbors. People with phlegmatic temperament tend to avoid conflicts and always try to mediate between others to restore peace and harmony.
They are very much into charity and helping others. Ideal careers for phlegmatic personality types should be related to:
- psychology or counselling,
- child development,
- or social services.
Choleric Personality Type
Someone with pure choleric temperament is usually a goal-oriented person. People with choleric personality type are very savvy, analytical, and logical. Extremely practical and straightforward, choleric people aren’t necessary very good companions or particularly social. They dislike small talk and enjoy deep and meaningful conversations. They would rather be alone than in company of shallow, superficial people. Ideally, they want to spend time with people who have similar professional interests.
Ideal jobs for choleric personality type are related to the following industries:
Melancholic Personality Type
People with melancholic personality type love traditions. Women cook for men; men open doors for women. They love their families and friends and, unlike sanguine temperament, do not look for novelty and adventure. In fact, they avoid it at all costs. Someone with melancholic temperament is very unlikely to marry a foreigner or leave their homeland for another country. They are very social and seek to contribute to the community. Being extremely orderly and accurate, melancholic people are fantastic people managers. Perfect careers for melancholic personality type should be in:
- social work,
- or administration.
Jung’s Equivalents for Each Personality Type
Mixed Temperaments (Predominant-Secondary):
- Sanguine-Phlegmatic –> ENFP
- Sanguine-Choleric –> ENTP
- Sanguine-Melancholic –> ESFJ
- Phlegmatic-Sanguine –> ISFP
- Phlegmatic-Choleric –> INTP
- Phlegmatic-Melancholic –> ISFJ
- Choleric-Sanguine –> ESTP
- Choleric-Phlegmatic –> ENFJ
- Choleric-Melancholic –> ESTJ
- Melancholic-Sanguine –> ISTP
- Melancholic-Phlegmatic –> INFJ
- Melancholic-Choleric –> INTJ
Click on the links above to read more about each personality type.
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