By Clare Walker, Holy Trinity In-House Writer
Do you dread your family’s Thanksgiving get-together because of a certain relative who drives you nuts? Do you have a co-worker whose behavior makes no sense to you? Do you always butt heads with one of your kids? If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, read The Temperament God Gave You, by Art and Laraine Bennett. It will help you understand why people behave the way they do, making encounters with the difficult people in your life a little more bearable. You’ll also learn why you behave the way you do, despite every effort to “do better” or “be different.”
The premise of the book is that every human being has a dominant temperament that influences how he or she thinks, reacts, responds, and behaves. The word temperament refers to “the sum of our natural preferences” and is but a part of our overall personality. Temperament determines what motivates a person.
The four primary temperaments are: choleric, sanguine, melancholic, and phlegmatic, based on ancient medical words that referred to the “humors” in the body: choleric was so-named for yellow bile from the liver, sanguine for blood from the heart, melancholic for black bile from the kidneys, and phlegmatic for…well, phlegm from the lungs.
The first two temperaments, choleric and sanguine, are the extraverts: they are outgoing, sociable, and talkative. They make friends with ease, and are generally more focused or concerned with realities and activities outside their own heads. Extraverts not only enjoy company, they relish it and actually feel energized and refreshed after socializing with people. They are natural leaders and entrepreneurs. Extraverts tend to have quick tempers and are highly reactive.
The melancholics and phlegmatics are, by contrast, the introverts. They are quieter, thoughtful, and less talkative. They are usually shy about making friends, and prefer to concern themselves with what’s going on inside their own heads. Introverts enjoy company, but too much company is draining. They regain energy in solitude. They are natural philosophers. Many introverts are creative. Introverts are externally even-tempered and tend to be less reactive and more reflective.
The two extraverted temperaments differ from each other in what motivates them. Cholerics are like pit bulls: once they sink their teeth into a project, or an idea, they are unlikely to let it go until it is completed—or until they get their way. They do not like loose ends and they thrive in a well-ordered environment. They are self-motivated go-getters. Unfortunately, this can make them harsh and demanding on other people.
Sanguines are more like Golden Retrievers: if it’s not fun, they don’t want to do it. They will throw themselves cheerfully into their favorite pursuits with gusto, but as soon as it becomes challenging, boring, or routine, they lose interest. Constancy is the constant struggle of the sanguine. Loose ends and many stops and starts are the hallmarks of the sanguine’s life.
The two introverted temperaments differ primarily by the depth of their emotional reactivity. Melancholics think and feel deeply and are the most likely temperament to be drawn to the arts: theatre, film, painting, music, writing, poetry. They are also highly sensitive and naturally spiritual, even mystical in their search for God. They are perfectionists, and their high ideals often set them up for bitter disappointment, both with themselves and with others.
Of all the temperaments, phlegmatics are the most even-keeled. You seldom see a phlegmatic angry, giddy, or hysterical—they are ones who are keeping their heads when all about them are losing theirs. They can defuse conflict with a single, soft-spoken word of wisdom. Phlegmatics are team players and the most undemanding temperament, which makes them very easy to get along with. However, just as it difficult to get a phlegmatic all riled up, it is hard to motivate him, even to do pressing and important tasks.
The book’s subtitle is “the classic key to knowing yourself, getting along with others, and growing closer to the Lord.” It includes chapters on parenting children with various temperaments, how well different temperaments combine in marriage, and an extensive diagnostic test with which to determine your own temperament. Understanding yourself, your friends and family, and everyone you interact with regularly will help you grow in self-awareness, make you appreciate people for their natural gifts, and may ease difficult relationships.
The Temperament God Gave You is available from Sophia Institute Press (www.sophiainstitute.com) and other online booksellers. For more specific advice on raising children of various temperaments, see the authors’ companion book, The Temperament God Gave Your Kids.
Clare T. Walker, a Holy Trinity Parishioner since 2003, writes for the National Catholic Register (www.ncregister.com). She is also an independent fiction author. Here are some handy links to her website and her books:
Clare T. Walker
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