No, this isn't biology... Since the beginning of time (I think), human beings have always wanted to put themselves in categories. It is much easier to bear a sense of identity and belonging, compared to being a nameless human strolling the earth.
Race, nationality, ethnic group, and religion are the most basic identifiers all over the world. And we see throughout history how these fundamental human categories influence past eras, wars, policies, and economies. But, these examples are more or less external factors. Today, the focus is on personalities: the very core of a person’s nature, affecting behavior, thoughts, and emotions. In a much deeper sense, an answer to the “who am I” or “what am I” question. We want to make sense of ourselves. If we could write about the type of person we are, what would we say?
In a world where we are surrounded by an overwhelming amount of information, voices, and opinions, it helps a person to “stay true to themselves” in a sense. Compared to older generations, we are a generation that prioritizes mental health and soul searching so much so that there are a lot of ways to present your personality. We have zodiac signs; people draw inferences on their behavior from their birth months and the position of the stars. We have the introversion and extroversion spectrum; people standing on the extreme ends or in the middle. We have the 16 Myers-Briggs personality types based on your degree of Extraversion/Introversion, Sensing/Intuition, Thinking/Feeling, and Judging/Perceiving. (e.g INTJ, ENTP) There are a lot of them. But these are the common ones I see.
For a long time, I used to call myself an introvert. But then I would stumble on videos and write-ups that explained being an introvert and I’d think, “that’s not how I behave.” At the same time, I registered with some of the traits. Same with the Myers-Briggs tests I did. Every time I tried it, I came up with something different. And in each of the results, there was something I identified with and other things I couldn’t identify with. This brings me to say that, human beings cannot be conveniently put in boxes. We're these utterly complex beings with complex emotions and feelings. I would know that first-hand because I am a writer, specifically for fiction. And one of the hardest things you have to deal with after crafting the plot is creating believable characters.
A lot of people don't know, but a lot of work goes into creating characters sometimes. You become the equivalent of a Creator as you breathe life into these imaginary people for your readers. What are their weaknesses, their strengths, and their beliefs? What background story made them who they were? What is their speech like? What words are they most likely to say in a sentence? How do they react to nervousness? And so on. Writers draw up charts and even go as far as taking personality tests for these characters. Because as you write, you must abandon yourself and you must step into the shoes of these people. You don’t make the decisions, the characters do. So you have to portray that using the knowledge of who they are. I thought I had heard it all, until a friend told me, “I am sanguine” regarding his personality. So, ladies and gentlemen, we have another personality marker.
The Four Temperament Tests.
I researched for you. Googled actually.
We go as far back as the era of the Arabic and Greek empires. The period where you begin to see names of famous philosophers like Aristotle. Personalities were classified based on humor. No, it's not what you're thinking. This refers to fluids in the body. Hehe. I know. Humorism is an ancient medical concept and it was used to treat illnesses. Depending on the supposed amount of a particular fluid in your body, you would be classified. In other words,
Sanguine: blood is dominant.
Phlegmatic: phlegm is dominant.
Choleric: yellow bile is dominant.
Melancholic: black bile is dominant.
Of course, thank God for scientific advancement, these theories have been debunked. Tossed into the ocean from where it came from. Instead, with scientists looking into the concept of personalities and using humorism as a foundation, through the years, there have been experiments and various studies on the four temperaments. Somehow, it evolved further and was associated with elements: water, air, fire, and earth. Then seasons: summer, autumn, winter, spring.
Here’s a quick breakdown:
SANGUINE: (air and spring) People with sanguine temperaments are people-oriented, exhibiting traits such as outgoing and extroverted. When you first meet someone with a sanguine temperament, you're likely to feel you've known them for a long time. They are comfortable to talk to and get to know. They are extremely friendly, talkative, and social.
PHLEGMATIC: (water and winter) People with this temperament type are service-oriented, exhibiting introverted personality traits, but will work with others to achieve a common goal. They are easy-going, calm, and unemotional. They are one of the easiest temperament types to get along with because they are agreeable and patient. They tend to live quiet lives centered around home and family.
MELANCHOLIC: (earth and autumn) Those with melancholy temperaments are detail and quality-oriented, obsessing with understanding what is right. The melancholy temperament is a rule follower. They can be cautious and tentative in unfamiliar environments and they’re often perfectionists. This temperament is factual, logical, and analytical.
CHOLERIC: (fire and summer) People with a choleric temperament are extroverted and exude self-confidence. They are independent and strong-willed. They have quick minds and are generally active and practical in their activities. Their communication style is assertive and direct, often brief, almost to the point of rudeness. People with the choleric temperament are creative. They never seem to run out of ideas or plans, all of which tend to be practical.
So, what do you think? If I look closely, I could find a piece of myself in each of these descriptions. But, I lean more toward a particular one. This brings me to another point: despite our complexity, we lean towards particular traits generally. These traits are usually large umbrellas covering different types of people but these people still have a higher percentage of that trait. I’m not introvert-ing like a lot of other introverts, but I’m still an introvert. Makes sense? For example, there are now different types of introverts. Under the temperaments, if the four temperaments are atoms, there are now molecules. Choleric-melancholy, Sanguine-phlegmatic, etc. Our complexity and general traits are being put into consideration. The Myers-Briggs test does this well.
So, the quest to categorize pieces of ourselves continues. And it’s not ending anytime soon. While I find them interesting, I am careful not to immerse myself in these things. I am a work in progress.
A person of many facets. Personalities change and circumstances change too.
I’m not the same person I was five years ago or even two years ago. It’s the flexibility of human nature. A blessing and a curse. The topic for another day.
Meanwhile, if you’re interested in knowing more about the Four temperaments and where you stand, here’s a link. Four Temperaments Test | Psychologia I’ve also attached a chart, just in case you have a short attention span and you want a quick once-over.
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