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Men and women with melancholic personality share many traits. They tend to be loyal to their family and friends and extremely careful. Respectability and moral issues are particularly important to them. They love to follow norms and traditions. They are respectful to authority, follow rules and feel comfortable in hierarchies, where structure, rules and order are implemented. It is important for them to feel themselves a part of the larger community and they see their loyalty to it as a duty. Melancholic personality traits are associated with serotonin, which suppresses aggressive tendencies. This explains why melancholic people are calm and self-confident, deeply attached to their family and community and loyal. As it was mentioned, they are very orderly and don't like unpredictability. They enjoy making plans and keeping schedules. They love routines, which they find relaxing. This should not come as a surprise - any repetitive motion increases serotonin levels. It is relaxing in its nature, but nobody enjoys it more than a melancholic! These people pay attention to details: they remember special dates, anniversaries, details about their neighbors and colleagues. Family and social ties are not seen by melancholics as something that limits their freedom and flexibility, as this could be with a sanguine or a choleric. In fact, to them these are safety nets, kind of soft place to fall but in a grander scale. It is also something that adds meaning to their life. Since society and family ties are such an important part of their life, they absolutely can't see themselves without it . Take it away from them and they will be devastated. They might literally die. This is why the melancholic is not likely to be somebody who would marry a foreigner or leave to another country for permanent residence. Melancholics need to be orderly even in their speech. They express themselves precisely, accurately, providing all of the relevant information. If you interrupt them or ask them a question they will think you are not interested in what they are talking about. Unlike sanguine, they hate distractions and get frustrated by them. If you want to impress them don't talk about your big ideas, instead give them precise information, stick to details. Their need for order is expressed even in their jokes. They don't like nonsense humor or unresolved humor, their jokes reflect order, predictability and closure. People with melancholic personality are not only orderly, they are also accurate. They are process-oriented. They like to pursue their goals in a precise straightforward way. Before they start a specific task, they need to organize themselves and break down the task into the manageable steps. This is not the kind that works under the pressure. To be comfortable, they need to be in a clear-cut situation, where the details are known and proven.
Melancholics are persistent and patient. They don't get bored easily and excel at tasks that require attention and repetition. Interestingly, repetitive actions raise levels of serotonin even more. This is why some people repeat one and the same action over and over when they are anxious, like checking to see if the door is closed well or if they turned off the stove, re-checking their suitcase before going to the vacation. Sadly a misbalanced melancholic is most susceptible to OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), where person engages meaningless rituals, like counting, washing hands or excessive cleaning in order to prevent some disaster he imagines. Some of them may suffer in a less obvious way, but probably the hardest - ruminating over and over about the same thought and rethinking it hundreds, if not thousands of times each and every day. Their orderliness is also reflected in their tastes. Melancholics love geometrical designs that are simple, orderly, predictable, repetitive and symmetrical. If you give a melancholic man one stripped shirt and hundred shirts with asymmetrical design, he will be wearing that one stripped shirt every day. Asymmetry simply makes them too uncomfortable. Note however, that most people are actually a mix of several personality types that make them much more flexible. In geometrical shapes the particular favorites of melancholics are pyramids. These people do excellent managers and administrators, because they follow the rules, stick to the facts, they are reliable and maintain the social ties. They are superb at managing people, be that at work or at home. One of their strongest needs is the need to belong. This is why they want to be reliable, respectable and charitable. Their emotional well-being depends on their social networks. Melancholics are proud of their accomplishments, displaying their trophies, medals, diplomas, certificates, their photos with influential people. Generally, they want to do the things in an accepted way, they prefer to plan things in advance, and to know ahead of the time what they are going to do. On the negative side, people with melancholic personality may become close-minded, dogmatic and stubborn. They also tend to pessimism, which may turn into fatalism, believing that nothing will ever change for better. Sometimes they get overly critical, judgmental, expressing their own moral superiority. Their frugality may turn into stinginess. Some melancholics can become fixated on the past, where they ruminate for hours how their life would be if they did or choose something else in the past. Also they may have difficulty with stopping what they are doing, so hoarding is their common problem.
The Melancholic Temperament: Understanding the Negatives
The melancholic temperament* is a very intriguing and multi-faceted disposition. This individual has much to offer others, but to be able to do so; he must be carefully guided and disciplined. His strengths must be cultivated and the weaknesses eliminated or neutralized. Parents who wisely learn more about the melancholic temperament are able to rear their child to be the best he can be. It is time well-invested. The weaknesses of the typical melancholic personality are the following:
Tendency to sadness and melancholy--He has a propensity to magnify difficulties and lose confidence in himself. Exaggerated reserve and timidity are the result. In The 4 Temperaments, Father Conrad Hock explains, "He has a strong will coupled with talent and power, but no courage." Although this person loves deeply and empathizes with all who suffer, he finds it hard to reveal himself and his feelings. He desires and yearns for closeness but it is very hard for him. He has problems discussing ideas, feelings and so forth. This may lead to misunderstandings. Inclined to be passive and inactive--Because he tends to be pessimistic, the melancholic hesitates to begin projects; "there might be too many problems." Without guidance, he fears and dreads suffering and self-denial because of the exertion necessary to deal with them. Irresolute--The melancholic can easily become despondent and discouraged. He can be the "man with the missed opportunities." He hesitates to make decisions because there are too many considerations. He postpones projects, then they become even more time-consuming and onerous. Slow in thinking and speech--He needs time to consider every angle and cannot be pressured. If he is asked to answer quickly and without preparation, the person may become flustered and frightened. Therefore, he may stutter, say the wrong thing, leave ideas unfinished. He may thoroughly bungle it. In his work, he is very careful and thorough...and slow. This may be mistaken for laziness. It is not! Great reserve--Pride takes the form of tremendous fear of shame or humiliation. Although he really is naturally reserved, his modesty is compounded by exaggerated anxiety about the possibility of disgrace. He will even let others less talented be promoted ahead of him. Then he feels resentment that, if not checked, can become entrenched. In the future, he may grow suspicious of others because of incidents like this cause.
The parents of a child with the melancholic temperament have their work cut out. The youngster has so much potential, so much to offer and is so endearing. Making the time and effort to gently guide and discipline him is completely worthwhile and rewarding. This is clear as he grows into adulthood and his thoughtful and kind ways blossom with amazing results.
The phlegmatic-melancholic is introverted (though less so than the melancholic-phlegmatic), which means that his deep emotions and anxieties tend not to be clearly expressed. They tend to react extremely slowly when confronted by antagonism or strong emotions. They are personable, quiet, and gentle. They value harmonious relationships. When you are first entering a relationship with a phlegmatic-melancholic, you may be struck by how easy-going and agreeable they are, but be aware that they are not revealing the depth of their emotions to you. They are deeply sensitive and value harmony and high ideals within a relationship. As a result of his delayed and sometimes dull response, a phlegmatic-melancholic will be slower to speak out, tempted to procrastinate, and reticent. They may appear – or believe themselves -at times to be “lazy.” At times when the melancholic aspect dominates, he will have plenty of time in which mull over in his mind what his response should have been. He may become easily offended (though he may not reveal this to you) or discouraged. The phlegmatic attentiveness to relationships, and to getting along and keeping the peace, will “take the edge off” some of the melancholic tendency to perfectionism and critical judgments of others. On the other hand, because he may be more easily offended, he may want to be critical of others yet hesitant to confront directly. The dominance of the phlegmatic temperament may also drive the melancholic proclivity to order and neatness out of the picture. If you are a phlegmatic-melancholic, you will show a cooperative spirit and a desire to please, and will value harmonious relationships. You are particularly gifted in teaching, mediating among groups, and at counseling individuals. And though yours isn’t the most dynamic temperament, your lack of defensiveness, calmness under pressure, and gift for mediation in critical situations can make you a very effective servant-leader, one who is willing to roll up his sleeves and work along with those he leads by example. This temperament combination can face at times a greater challenge to his confidence than other temperaments (especially the choleric or sanguine). For this reason, when you are facing a major challenge or have been given a multi-faceted and demanding project, it will be absolutely critical for you to maintain your level of energy and motivation — not to mention your prayer life-- to complete the project. You will want to anticipate the way your moods can get you off track, and take concrete steps to maintain accountability in order to remain focused and energized throughout the task. Motivational tapes, exercise and a healthy diet, spiritual guidance, and a strong sacramental life will be critical. You will also need to maintain your focus on the big picture at all times, and not be distracted by the “urgent” demands of the moment, or by what other people may ask of you. To this end, it is always wise to seek regular professional, personal, and spiritual guidance from qualified individuals. In order for the phlegmatic temperament to achieve success and reach his goals, he should always work with a motivational program that provides structure, inspires confidence, and ensures accountability. If you are phlegmatic-melancholic, it’s likely that you are a bit more upbeat than the melancholic-phlegmatic, a little less introverted, more trusting, slightly less moody, more generous with your time, and a more gracious host. You will rarely find yourself angry (though your feelings may be easily hurt), forgive more readily, and do not hold onto hurts in the same way that a more dominantly melancholic temperament would. You are compassionate, sensitive, caring, and tend to gravitate to the helping professions. You are a patient and caring teacher. You are not as “perfectionist” as a pure melancholic, and generally struggle with
organization, planning, and a tendency to procrastinate. You find it difficult to set limits or turn someone down who asks a favor of you; you may be especially drawn to volunteer or missionary work, the apostolate, or other works of mercy. Though very generous, you may find it difficult to set priorities or limits. Your phlegmatic side makes it hard to say “no” – although you really want to. Sometimes your generosity can result in not enough time to “get organized,” be prepared, or to relax. Burn-out and feeling overwhelmed may result. If your temperament is phlegmatic-melancholic, for a better understanding of your temperament it is recommended that you read the full descriptions of the phlegmatic and melancholic. The emotion of melancholy is not unique in its richness and its dual nature-we have pointed out that the sublime enjoys an analogous position-but it deserves more attention in the context of aesthetics. What is specific, perhaps even unique, to melancholy is the role it can play in our everyday life, in contexts that are not aesthetic in the prima facie sense. When mourning transforms itself into melancholy, when the desperation of a loss has calmed down and is mixed with pleasurable memories, then we have an instance of melancholy, which in itself seems to create an aesthetic context of its own. The calmness and reflection involved in melancholy resemble the traditional requirement of contemplation in the aesthetic response. Melancholy in this everyday context may lack the intensity of artistic experience, but its refined harmony is no less a significant aesthetic feature. The pleasure of melancholy does not come from excitement or intensity, but indeed rather from overall harmony we are experiencing. When feeling melancholy in the sense we have outlined, we are in control of the 'lower' emotions; we have won both overwhelming sorrow and joy. The reflection constitutive in melancholy makes it a rational, controllable emotion. We have been able to take some distance from our previous experiences; we have given them a place in our own history. The result is that we are more in harmony with our past, and we can enjoy the feeling of melancholy, rather than sink into sadness. This feature, perhaps more than any other, makes melancholy an 'educative' emotion. It is an instance of a mature, reflective emotion, the experience of which provides a way to cope with painful events in human life. It is clear that melancholy is no substitute for feeling sorrow and sadness; when facing loss we have to go through these emotions. But melancholy can step in at a later stage, and do justice both to the dark and bright sides of our existence. We have also seen that melancholy is not a strange emotion in art, or in our aesthetic encounters with nature. It occurs in many forms of art, both in the modern and in the classical. It is in no way an archaic phenomenon, although in the extremities of the present culture, it easily goes unnoticed. Those looking for joy or sadness-not to mention horror-are not satisfied with the subtle mixture of pain and pleasure in melancholy. But there are those-as the quote from Kierkegaard in the beginning of our paper suggests-who have had a sense for melancholy, and who have been able to enjoy the very distinctive pleasure it brings along.
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