Understanding Personality Traits

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Article: The Four Humors of Human Personality

The purpose of this article is to discuss the origin and basic development and structure of human Personality. 

The Four Humors/Temperaments or Personality Traits are considered ancient indicators for diseases of the body, behaviors of individuals, and emotional disorders. In Psychology, a Humor or Temperament is the innate aspect of an individual’s personality. It is defined as part of the personality which is genetically based. Along with character, and those aspects acquired through learning, the two together are said to constitute personality. There are nine Temperament Characteristics: 1. Activity-the amount of physical energy in a person; 2. Regularity or Rhythmic - predictability in a person’s biological functions such as waking, tired, hunger and bowel movements; 3. Initial Reaction/Approach or Withdrawal - how does a person responds to new people or environment; 4. Adaptability - how long does it take for a person to adapt to change; 5. Intensity - the energy level of a positive or negative response; 6. Mood - a person’s general tendency towards a happy or unhappy demeanor; 7. Distractibility - a person’s tendency to be distracted by other objects or situations going on around him/her; 8. Persistence and Attention Span - a person’s ability to stay with a task through frustrations and length of time to complete that task; and 9. Sensitivity - how a person is disturbed or handles changes in their environment

In 131-200 B.C., Galen, a Greek Physician, developed the first typology of humors in his writing, “De Temperamentis”, as he searched for the physiological reasons for different behaviors in humans. Immanuel Kant, Alfred Adler and Ivan Pavlov theorized that the four temperaments greatly shaped our modern theories of personality. Dr. Hans Eysenck was the first psychologists to analyze personality differences by the use of a psycho-statistical method he called “Factor Analysis”, which led him to conclude that temperament is biologically based.

The word Humor derives from the Greek “Chymos” meaning juice, sap, and metaphorically flavor. Humor, Humorism or Humoralism dictated that the Four Humors were special fluids associated with the basic elements of nature, that are thought to permeate the body and influences its physical and psychological health and well being.

The Four Humors/Temperaments/Personality Traits by definition are:

1. Sanguine - indicates the personality of an individual with the temperature of blood, the season of Spring(wet and hot), and the element of Air. A person who is sanguine is generally optimistic, cheerful, even-tempered, confident, rational, popular, and fun-loving. They can also be a day-dreamer and off-task to the point of not accomplishing anything and can be quite impulsive, possibly acting on whims in an unpredictable manner. Sanguine persons have a great deal of energy, but have a problem finding a way to direct that energy. This may describe the manic phase of a bipolar disorder.

2. Melancholic - This humor is responsible for the investigative and sober part of the personality. A person who is thoughtfully pondering an idea or situation has a melancholic disposition. Often kind and considerate, melancholic persons can be highly creative as poets and artistic. They can be somewhat of a perfectionist, being very particular about what they want and how they want it always pointing and to themselves what could and should be improved. This temperament describes the depressed phase of a bi-polar disorder. The element of Water.

3. Phlegmatic - is also the fifth humor, which will be discuss later in this article. Maintains balance of mind, body and soul. Phlegmatic are often self-content and kind, their shy personality can often inhibit enthusiasm in others and make themselves lazy and resistant to change. They are very consistent, relaxed, rational, curious, and observant. They make good administrators and diplomats. The phlegmatic is more reliable and compassionate than the Sanguine personality type. These characteristics typically make the phlegmatic a more dependable person.  The element of Earth. 

4. Choleric - A person is a doer and a leader. He/she has a great deal of ambition, energy, and passion, and they try to instill that in that in others. They can dominate people of other temperaments, especially phlegmatic types. This trait is mostly among military and political figures, as William “Bill” Clinton, General George Patton, President Eisenhower, and George Bush, etc.  The element of Fire.

Dr. Tim LaHaye believes that there are temperament blends or mixtures of the four traits: Mel-Chlor, Chlor-San, San-Phleg, Phleg-Mel, Mel-San, Chlor-Phleg; Chlor-Mel, Sn-Chlor, Phleg-San, Mel-Phleg, San-Mel, and Phleg-Chlor. These blends are based upon which temperament is most dominate in a person. There can be blends of three or four, but again it is based on the most dominate and least dominate trait. Blends are defined by three categories: Inclusion, Control and Affection. I will discuss these three categories in a future article on the four elements of man with a personality chart that align with the planets.

Therefore, to understand the personality of man we must know and understand the ancient four humors that constitute and establishes our traits that cause us to develop into the persons that we are.

© 2008

More about this author: Al Harven Sr

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