Rev. Conrad Hock
Revised and enlarged
by Rev. Nicholas M. Wilwers S.A.C., M.A., S.T.B.
NIHIL OBSTAT: H. B.
Ries Censor Librorum
IMPRIMI POTEST: Otto
Boenki, S.A.C. Superior Maior
IMPRIMATUR: + Samuel Alphonsus Stritch
l. Modern educators
realize more and more that a well
rounded, complete education demands not
only training of the intellect but training of the will and of the heart as
well. In other words, the formation of character is as important as, if not
more important than, the acquisition of knowledge.
ability is no proof that a man will be able to master the difficulties of
life and to adhere to right principles of action in times of distress. Only
a strong will and a firm character enable man to stand such trials
unshaken. Life is filled with trials; hence the necessity of character
3. The formation of
character requires, first of all, the knowledge of an ideal that will "give
direction, measure, and value to effort," (Monsignor William J. Kerby) from
which the aim and the ways and means of education must be derived. The man
who aims at being the perfect gentleman, i.e., the Christian, will of
necessity follow other ways and use other means than he whose aim is only to
make as much money as possible.
4. It requires also a fair knowledge of one's self, of one's powers of body
and soul, of one's strong and weak points, of one's assets and defects. The
old Greek saying, "Know yourself!" holds true also today.
5. There is no lack
of, nor interest in, books on selfimprovement. Man is painfully conscious
of his many shortcomings and feels a great desire to eliminate
unsatisfactory personality traits in order to achieve greater harmony
within himself and with his environment.
Such self-knowledge is often offered in
learned and high sounding phrases, but more often than not is of little help
in daily life. A knowledge of the Four Temperaments, (though sometimes
frowned upon by modern psychology) has proved very helpful in meeting and
mastering the situations of everyday living. A short but valuable knowledge
with practical suggestions is supplied by Conrad Hock: The Four
Temperaments. Having been out of print for some years it is now herewith
revised, enlarged and offered to the public.
THE PALLOTTINE FATHERS
I. THE FOUR
TEMPERAMENTS . .
Introduction. The Four Temperaments in
General. How to Determine One's Temperament. The Knowledge of Temperaments
II. THE CHOLERIC TEMPERAMENT
Character. Dark Sides.
Bright Side. Things to be Observed by the Choleric in His Training. Special
Considerations in the Training and Treatment.
III. THE SANGUINE
Disposition. Dark Sides. Bright Sides. Methods of Self-Training. Points of
Importance in Dealing with and Educating a Sanguine Person.
IV. THE MELANCHOLIC TEMPERAMENT
Fundamental Disposition. Peculiarities. Bright Side. Dark Side. Method of
Self-Training. Important Points in the Training.
V. THE PHLEGMATIC TEMPERAMENT
Disposition. Bright Side. Dark Side. Training.
Character Traits arranged according to
Temperaments. Sanguine Temperament. Choleric Temperament. Melancholic
Temperament. Phlegmatic Temperament.
Socrates, one of the
most renowned of the Greek sages, used and taught as an axiom to his
hearers: "Know yourself."
One of the most
reliable means of learning to know oneself is the study of the temperaments.
For if a man is fully cognizant of his temperament, he can learn easily to
direct and control himself. If he is able to discern the temperament of
others, he can better understand and help them.
I. THE FOUR TEMPERAMENTS IN GENERAL
If we consider the
reaction of various persons to the same experience, we will find that it is
different in every one of them; it may be quick and lasting, or slow but
lasting; or it may be quick but of short duration, or slow and of short
duration. This manner of reaction, or the different degrees of excitability,
is what we call "temperament." There are four temperaments: the choleric,
the melancholic, the sanguine, and the phlegmatic.
temperament is marked by quick but shallow, superficial excitability; the
choleric by quick but strong and lasting; the melancholic temperament by
slow but deep; the phlegmatic by slow but shallow excitability. The first
two are also called extroverts, outgoing; the last two are introverts or
Temperament, then, is
a fundamental disposition of the soul, which manifests itself whenever an
impression is made upon the mind, be that impression caused by thought - by
thinking about something or by representation through the imagination - or
by external stimuli. Knowledge of the temperament of any person supplies
the answer to the questions: How does this person deport himself? How does
he feel moved to action whenever something impresses him strongly? For
instance, how does he react, when he is praised or rebuked, when he is
offended, when he feels sympathy for
or aversion against somebody? Or, to use another example, how does he act if
in a storm, or in a dark forest, or on a dark night the thought of imminent
danger comes to him?
On such occasions one may ask the following
1. Is the person under the influence of such
impressions, thoughts, or facts, quickly and vehemently excited, or only
slowly and superficially?
2. Does the person under such influences
feel inclined to act at once, quickly, in order to oppose the impression; or
does he feel more inclined to remain calm and to wait?
3. Does the excitement of the soul last for
a long time or only for a moment? Does the impression continue, so that at
the recollection of such impression the excitement is renewed? Or does he
conquer such excitement speedily and easily, so that the remembrance of it
does not produce a new excitement?
The replies to these questions direct us to
the four temperaments and furnish the key for the understanding of the
temperament of each individual.
The choleric person is quickly and
vehemently excited by any impression made; he tends to react immediately,
and the impression lasts a long time and easily induces new excitement.
The person of sanguine temperament, like the
choleric, is quickly and strongly excited by the slightest impression, and
tends to react immediately, but the impression does not last; it soon fades
The melancholic individual is at first only
slightly excited by any impression received; a reaction does not set in at
all or only after some time. But the impression remains deeply rooted,
especially if new impressions of the same kind are repeated.
The phlegmatic person is only slightly
excited by any impression made upon him; he has scarcely any inclination to
react, and the impression vanishes quickly.
The choleric and sanguine temperaments are
active, the melancholic and phlegmatic temperaments are passive. The
choleric and sanguine show a strong tendency to action; the melancholic and
phlegmatic, on the contrary, are inclined to slow movement.
The choleric and melancholic temperaments
are of a passionate nature; they shake the very soul and act like an
earthquake. The sanguine and phlegmatic are passionless temperaments; they
do not lead to great and lasting mental excitement.
II. HOW TO DETERMINE ONE'S
In order to determine one's temperament, it
is not wise to study the bright or dark sides of each temperament and to
apply them to oneself; one should first and foremost attempt to answer the
three questions mentioned above.
1. Do I react immediately and vehemently or
slowly and superficially to a strong impression made upon me?
2. Am I inclined to act at once or to remain
calm and to wait?
3. Does the excitement last for a long time
or only for a short while?
Another very practical way to determine
one's temperament consists in considering one's reactions to offenses, by
asking these questions: Can I forgive when offended? Do I bear grudges and
resent insults? If one must answer: usually I cannot forget insults, I brood
over them; to think of them excites me anew; I can bear a grudge a long
time, several days, nay, weeks if somebody has offended me; I try to evade
those who have offended me, refuse to speak to them, etc., then, one is
either of choleric or melancholic temperament.
If on the contrary the answer is: I do not
harbor ill will; I cannot be angry with anybody for a long time; I forget
even actual insults very soon; sometimes I decide
to show anger, but I cannot do so, as
least not for a long time, at most an hour or two - if such is the answer,
then one is either sanguine or phlegmatic.
recognized that one is of the choleric
melancholic temperament the following questions should be answered: Am I
quickly excited at offenses; do I manifest my resentment by words or
action? Do I feel inclined to oppose an insult immediately and retaliate?
Or: Do I at offenses received remain calm outwardly in spite of internal
excitement? Am I frightened by offenses, disturbed, despondent, so that I
do not find the right words nor the courage for a reply, and therefore,
remain silent? Does it happen repeatedly that I hardly feel the offense at
the moment when I receive it, but a few hours later, or even the following
day, feel it so much more keenly? In the first case, the person is choleric;
in the second, melancholic.
Upon ascertaining that
one's temperament is either sanguine or phlegmatic one must inquire further:
Am I suddenly inflamed with anger at offenses received; do I feel inclined
to flare up and to act rashly? Or: Do I remain quiet? Indifferent? Am I not
easily swayed by my feelings? In the first case we are sanguine, in the
It is very important,
and indeed necessary to determine, first of all, one's basic temperament by
answering these questions, to be able to refer the various symptoms of the
different temperaments to their proper source. Only then can self-knowledge
be deepened to a full realization of how far the various light and dark
sides of one's temperament are developed, and of the modifications and
variations one's predominant temperament may have undergone by mixing with
It is usually
considered very difficult to recognize one's own temperament or that of
another person. Experience, however, teaches that with proper guidance, even
persons of moderate education can quite easily learn to know their
own temperament and
that of associates and subordinates. Greater difficulties, however, arise in
discovering the temperament in the following instances:
1. A person is
habitually given to sin.
In such cases the sinful passion influences man more than the temperament;
for instance, a sanguine person, who by nature is very much inclined to live
in peace and harmony with others can become very annoying and cause great
trouble by giving way to envy and anger.
2. A person has
progressed very far on the path of perfection.
In such cases the dark sides of the temperament, as they manifest
themselves, usually, in ordinary persons, can hardly be noticed at all.
Thus, St. Ignatius Loyola, who by nature was passionately choleric, had
conquered his passion to such an extent, that externally he appeared to be a
man without passions and was often looked upon as a pure phlegmatic. In the
sanguine but saintly Francis de Sales, the heat of momentary, irate
excitement, proper to his sanguine temperament, was completely subdued, but
only at the cost of continual combat for years against his natural
Saintly people of
melancholic temperament never allow their naturally sad, morose,
discouraging temperament to show itself, but by a look upon their crucified
Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, conquer quickly these unpleasant moods.
3. A person
possesses only slight knowledge of himself.
He neither recognizes his good or evil disposition, nor does he understand
the intensity of his own evil inclinations and the degree of his
excitability; consequently he will not have a clear idea of his temperament.
If anyone tries to assist him to know himself by questioning him, he gives
false answers, not intentionally, but simply because he does not know
himself. If such persons begin to devote themselves to a more spiritual
life, they can usually acquire a fairly reliable diagnosis of their
after they have
practiced meditation and examination of conscience for some length of time.
4. A person is very
With such persons the signs of nervousness, as restlessness, irritability,
inconstancy of humor and resolution, the inclination to melancholy and
discouragement, manifest themselves so forcibly that the symptoms of
temperament are more or less obscured. It is especially difficult to discern
the temperament of hysterical persons, if the so-called hysterical
character is already fully developed.
5. A person has a
so-called mixed temperament.
Mixed temperaments are those in which one temperament predominates while
another temperament also manifests itself. It will be a great help in such
cases to know the temperaments of the parents of such person. If father and
mother are of the same temperament, the children will probably inherit the
temperament of the parents. If father and mother are of a choleric
temperament, the children will also be choleric. If, however, the father and
mother are of different temperaments, the children will inherit the
different temperaments. If, for instance, the father is of a choleric
temperament and the mother melancholic, the children will be either choleric
with a melancholic mixture, or melancholic with a choleric tendency,
according to the degree of influence of either of the two parents. In order
to learn the predominant temperament, it is absolutely necessary to follow
closely the above-mentioned questions concerning the temperaments. But it also
happens, although not so often as many believe, that in one person two
temperaments are so mixed that both are equally strong.
In this case it is
naturally very hard to judge with which temperament the respective person is
to be classified. It is probable, however, that in the course of time, e.g.
on occasion of ordeals or difficulties one of the temperaments will manifest
valuable help for the discernment of the mixed, and especially of the pure,
temperaments is the expression of the eye and more or less the manner in
which a person walks. The eye of the choleric is resolute, firm, energetic,
fiery; the eye of the sanguine is cheerful, friendly, and careless; the eye
of the melancholic looks more or less sad and troubled; the eye of the
phlegmatic is faint, devoid of expression.
The choleric steps up
firmly, resolutely, is more or less always in a hurry; the sanguine is
light-footed and quick, his walking is often like dancing; the gait of the
melancholic is slow and heavy; that of the phlegmatic is lazy and sluggish.
The expression of the
eye rather quickly reveals the choleric temperament (the wellknown type of
Napoleon, Bismarck) and the temperament of the melancholic (perhaps the Curé of Ars). If, from the expression of the eye neither the resoluteness
and energy of the choleric nor the gloom of the melancholic can be
discerned, it is safe to conclude that a person is either sanguine or
phlegmatic. After a little experience, one quite easily determines a
person's temperament, even at the first meeting, or even after a casual
observation on the street. Physical symptoms of different temperaments,
however, such as the shape of the head, complexion, color of the hair, size
of the neck, etc., are worthless despite the insistence on such like
characteristics frequently found in popular writings.
III. THE KNOWLEDGE OF TEMPERAMENTS
It may be difficult in
many cases to decide upon the temperament of any particular person; still we
should not permit ourselves to be discouraged in the attempt to understand
our own temperament and that of those persons with whom we live or with whom
we come often into contact, for the advantages of such insight are very
great. To know the temperaments of our fellow men helps us to understand
them better, treat them more correctly, bear with them more patiently. These
are evidently advantages for social life which can hardly be appreciated
A choleric person is
won by quiet explanation of reasons and motives; whereas by harsh commands
he is embittered, hardened, driven to strong-headed resistance. A
melancholic person is made suspicious and reticent by a rude word or an
unfriendly mien; by continuous kind treatment, on the contrary, he is made
pliable, trusting, affectionate. The choleric person can be relied upon,
but with a sanguine person we can hardly count even upon his apparently
serious promises. Without a knowledge of the temperaments of our fellow men
we will treat them often wrongly, to their and to our own disadvantage.
With a knowledge of
the temperaments, one bears with fellow men more patiently. If one knows
that their defects are the consequence of their temperament, he excuses them
more readily and will not so easily be excited or angered by them. He
remains quiet, for instance, even if a choleric is severe, sharp-edged,
impetuous, or obstinate. And if a melancholic person is slow, hesitating,
undecided; if he does not speak much and even if he says awkwardly the
little he has to say; or if a sanguine person is very talkative,
light-minded, and frivolous; if a phlegmatic cannot be aroused from his
usual indifference, he does not become irritated.
It is of the greatest
benefit furthermore to recognize fully one's own temperament. Only if one
knows it, can he judge correctly himself, his moods, his peculiarities, his
past life. An elderly gentleman, of wide experience in the spiritual life,
who happened to read the following treatise on temperaments said: "I have
never learned to know myself so well, as I find myself depicted in these
lines, because nobody dared to tell me the truth so plainly as these lines
If one knows one's
own temperament, he can work out his own perfection with greater assurance,
because finally the whole effort toward self-perfection consists in the
perfection of the good and in the combating of the evil dispositions. Thus
the choleric will have to conquer, in the first place, his obstinacy, his
anger, his pride; the melancholic, his lack of courage and his dread of
suffering; the sanguine, his talkativeness, his inconsistency; the
phlegmatic, his sloth, his lack of energy. The person who knows himself
will become more humble, realizing that many good traits which he considered
to be virtues are merely good dispositions and the natural result of his
temperament, rather than acquired virtues. Consequently the choleric will
judge more humbly of his strong will, his energy, and his fearlessness; the
sanguine of his cheerfulness, of his facility to get along well with
difficult persons; the melancholic will judge more humbly about his
sympathy for others, about his love for solitude and prayer; the phlegmatic
about his good nature and his repose of mind.
The temperament is
innate in each person, therefore it cannot be exchanged for another
temperament. But man can and must cultivate and perfect the good elements of
his temperament and combat and eradicate the evil ones. Every temperament is
in itself good and with each one man can do good and work out his salvation.
It is, therefore, imprudent and ungrateful to wish to have another
temperament. "All the spirits shall praise the Lord" (Ps. 150,6).
All of man's
inclinations and peculiarities should be used for the service of the Lord
and contribute to His honor and to man's welfare. Persons of various
temperaments who live together should learn not to oppose but to support
and supplement one another.
I. CHARACTER OF THE
The choleric person is quickly and
vehemently excited by any and every influence. Immediately the reaction sets
in and the impression remains a long time.
The choleric man is a man of enthusiasm; he
is not satisfied with the ordinary, but aspires after great and lofty
things. He craves for great success in temporal affairs; he seeks large
fortunes, a vast business, an elegant home, a distinguished reputation or a
predominant position. He aspires to the highest also in matters spiritual;
he is swayed with a consuming fire for holiness; he is filled with a
yearning desire to make great sacrifices for God and his neighbor, to lead
many souls to heaven.
The natural virtue of the choleric is
ambition; his desire to excel and succeed despises the little and vulgar,
and aspires to the noble and heroic. In his aspiration for great things the
choleric is supported by:
1. A keen intellect.
The choleric person is not always, but usually endowed with considerable
intelligence. He is a man of reason while his imagination and his emotions
are poor and stunted.
It is said that
Julius Caesar was able to dictate different letters to several secretaries
at the same time without losing the line of thought for each dictation.
2. A strong will.
He is not frightened by difficulties, but in case of obstacles shows his
energy so much the more and perseveres also under great difficulties until
he has reached his goal. Pusillanimity or despondency the choleric does not
Hamilcar of Carthage in North Africa took his
son Hannibal to the altar o f their god and made him swear eternal hatred
for Rome, their implacable enemy. Later, Hannibal assembled a complete army
and elephants and led them through Spain, over the Pyrenees, through
Southern France and over the Alps into Italy, a feat never equaled before or
after, and came very close to conquering and destroying Rome.
3. Strong passions.
The choleric is very passionate. Whenever the choleric is bent upon carrying
out his plans or finds opposition, he is filled with passionate excitement.
All dictators, old and new, are proof of this statement.
4. An oftentimes subconscious impulse to
dominate others and make them subservient.
The choleric is made to rule. He feels happy when he is in a position to
command, to draw others to him, and to organize large groups.
A very great impediment for the choleric in
his yearning for great things, is his imprudent haste. The choleric is
immediately and totally absorbed by the aim he has in mind and rushes for
his goal with great haste and impetuosity; he considers but too little
whether he can really reach his goal.
A high Nazi
official told a former chum, (later a priest) "We cannot back out; we have
gone too far."
He sees only one road, the one he in his
impetuosity has taken without sufficient consideration, and he does not
notice that by another road he could reach his goal more easily. If great
obstacles meet him he, because of his pride, can hardly make up his mind to
turn back, but instead he continues with great obstinacy on the original
course. He dashes his head against the wall rather than take notice of the
door which is right near and wide open. By this imprudence the choleric
wastes a great deal of his energy which could be used to better advantage,
and he disgusts his friends, so that finally he stands almost alone and is
disliked by most people. He deprives himself of his best
successes, even though he will not admit
that he himself is the main cause of his failures. He shows the same
imprudence in selecting the means for the pursuit of perfection, so that in
spite of great efforts he does not acquire it. The choleric can safeguard
himself from this danger only by willing and humble submission to a
II. DARK SIDES OF THE CHOLERIC
Pride which shows itself in the following instances:
a) The choleric is
full of himself.
He has a great opinion of his good qualities and his successful work and
considers himself as something extraordinary and as one called upon to
perform great feats. He considers even his very defects as being justified,
nay, as something great and worthy of praise; for instance, his pride, his
obstinacy, his anger. The Italian dictator Mussolini had himself called
"Il Duce," the Leader. Adolf Hitler followed his example by assuming the
title: "Der Fuehrer," The Leader.
b) The choleric is
very stubborn and opinionated.
He thinks he is always right, wants to have the last word, tolerates no
contradiction, and is never willing to give in. The Russian dictator
Stalin brooked no opposition. A friend of his, during a drinking bout,
voiced his disagreement with Stalin's opinion. Fearing for his safety some
of his friends approached Stalin the next day to excuse their friend on the
ground o f having been drunk. Stalin cooly told them that their intervention
came too late.
c) The choleric has
a great deal of self-confidence.
He relies too much upon his own knowledge and ability. He refuses the help
of others and prefers to work alone, partly because he does not like to ask
for help, partly because he believes that he is himself more capable than
others and is sure to succeed without the help of others.
Hitler relied on
his "hunches" in his war against Russia despite the advice
convinced that he knew better. He lost the war and everything.
It is not easy to
convince the choleric that he is in need of God's help even in little
things. Therefore he dislikes to ask God's help and prefers to combat even
strong temptations by his own strength. Because of this self-confidence in
spiritual life the choleric often falls into many and grievous sins. This
trait is one of the main reasons why so many cholerics do not acquire
sanctity in spite of great efforts. They are infected to a great extent with
the pride of Lucifer. They act as if perfection and heaven were not in the
first place due to grace but to their own efforts.
d) The choleric
despises his fellow man.
To his mind others are ignorant, weak, unskilled, slow, at least when
compared with himself. He shows his contempt of his neighbor by despising,
mocking, belittling remarks about others and by his proud behavior toward
those around him, especially toward his subjects.
A Russian general,
asked what he would do i f his soldiers came to a mine field, responded that
he would order a company of soldiers across it. The fact that he would
sacrifice the lives of these soldiers meant nothing to him. (Gen.
e) The choleric is
domineering and inordinately ambitious.
He wants to hold the first place, to be admired by others, to subject others
to himself. He belittles, combats, even persecutes by unfair means those who
dare to oppose his ambition.
Julius Caesar said
that he would rather be the first in the smallest Alpine village than the
second in Rome. Alexander the Great, considered one o
the greatest generals
all times, was found
by a friend o f his one clear night looking at the stars and weeping. Asked
why he wept he said: "See those thousands o f stars in the sky to be
conquered, and I cannot even conquer this world
f) The choleric
feels deeply hurt when he is humiliated or put to shame.
Even the recollection of his sins fills him with great displeasure because
these sins give him a lower
opinion of himself. In
his disgust over his sins he may even defy God Himself.
The choleric is vehemently excited by contradiction, resistance, and
personal offenses. This excitement manifests itself in harsh words which
may seem very decent and polite as far as phrasing is concerned, but hurt to
the core by the tone in which they are spoken. Nobody can hurt his fellow
man with a few words more bitterly than a choleric person. Things are made
even worse by the fact that the choleric in his angry impetuosity makes
false and exaggerated reproaches, and may go so far in his passion, as to
misconstrue the intentions and to pervert the words of those who irritated
him, thus, blaming with the sharpest of expressions, faults which in reality
were not committed at all. By such injustice, which the choleric inflicts in
his anger upon his neighbor he can offend and alienate even his best
The choleric may even
indulge in furious outbursts of anger. His anger easily degenerates into
hatred. Grievous offenses he cannot forget. In his anger and pride he
permits himself to be drawn to actions which he knows will be very
detrimental to himself and to others; for instance, ruin of his health, his
work, his fortune, loss of his position, and complete rupture with intimate
friends. By reason of his pride and anger he may totally ignore and cast
aside the very plans for the realization of which he has worked for years.
P. Schram says:
"The choleric prefers to die rather than to humble himself." [Theolg.
disguise, and hypocrisy.
As noble and magnanimous as the choleric is by nature, the tendency to
pride and self-will may lead him to the lowest of vices, deceit and
hypocrisy. He practices deceit, because he is in no way willing to concede
that he succumbed to a weakness and suffered a defeat. He uses hypocrisy,
deception, and even outright lies, if he realizes that he cannot carry out
his plans by force.
For the true
Communist everything that will help his cause is right and just: he makes
and breaks treaties and promises; robbery and lies and murder are considered
justified if done for the Party and the Cause, without consideration
the cost in human suffering.
4. Lack of
The choleric, as said above, is a man of reason. He has two heads but no
concentration camps, the death of millions of people meant nothing to modern
dictators like Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tse Lung, and their like.
This lack of human
sentiment and sympathy is, in a way, of great advantage to him. He does not
find it hard to be deprived of sensible consolations in prayer and to remain
a long time in spiritual aridity. Effeminate, sentimental dispositions are
repugnant to him; he hates the caresses and sentimentality which arise
between intimate friends. False sympathy cannot influence him to neglect his
duties or abandon his principles. On the other hand, this lack of sympathy
has its great disadvantages. The choleric can be extremely hard, heartless,
even cruel in regard to the sufferings of others. He can cold-bloodedly
trample upon the welfare of others, if he cannot otherwise reach his goal.
Choleric superiors should examine their conscience daily, to discover
whether they have not shown a lack of sympathy toward their subjects,
especially if these are sickly, less talented, fatigued, or elderly.
III. BRIGHT SIDE OF THE CHOLERIC
If the choleric
develops his faculties and uses them for good and noble purposes, he may do
great things for the honor of God, for the benefit of his fellow men, and
for his own temporal and eternal welfare. He is assisted by his sharp
intellect, his enthusiasm for the noble and the great, the force and
resolution of his will, which shrinks before no difficulty, and the keen
vivacity which influences all his thoughts and plans.
the infant Church, became Paul, the great
Apostle who, as he himself said, did more than any other apostle for the
spread of Christianity. He made himself "all things to all men that I might
save all." (1. Cor. 9:22) He suffered all kinds o f trials and persecution
(see 2 Cor. ch. 12) in order to preach Christ, and Him Crucified, and sealed
his mission by his martyrdom for the Gospel.
Many Saints, men
and women, have done likewise, dedicating their unremitting labor and
intense sufferings under severe persecutions to the service of Christ, as is
proved by the thousands and thousands of martyrs of years past and of the
present, outstanding among them Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty of Hungary.
The choleric may with
comparative ease become a saint. The persons canonized, with few exceptions,
were choleric or melancholic. The choleric who is able to control his
temperament is recollected in prayer, because by his strong will he can
banish distractions and especially because by force of his nature, he can
with great facility concentrate his attention upon one point. The latter may
also be the cause, why the choleric so easily acquires the prayer of
simplicity, or as St. Francis calls it, the prayer of recollection. With no
other temperament do we find the spirit of contemplation, properly so
called, as often as with the choleric. The well-trained choleric is very
patient and firm in endurance of physical pains, willing to make sacrifices
in sufferings, persevering in acts of penance and interior mortification,
magnanimous and noble toward the indigent and conquered, full of aversion
against everything ignoble or vulgar. Although pride penetrates the very
soul of the choleric in all its fibers and ramifications, so much so that he
seems to have only one vice, i.e., pride, which he shows in everything he
undertakes, he can, nevertheless, if he earnestly aspires for perfection,
easily bear the greatest and most degrading humiliations and even seek them.
Because the choleric has not a soft but a hard heart, he naturally suffers
less from temptation of the flesh and can practice purity with ease. But, if
the choleric is voluntarily addicted to the vice of impurity and seeks his
satisfaction therein, the outbursts of his passion are terrible and most
The choleric is very
successful also in his professional work. Being of an active temperament, he
feels a continual inclination to activity and occupation. He cannot be
without work, and he works quickly and diligently. In his enterprises he is
persevering and full of courage in spite of obstacles. Without hesitation he
can be placed at difficult posts and everything can be entrusted to him. In
his speech the choleric is brief and definite; he abhors useless
repetitions. This brevity, positiveness, firmness in speech and appearance
gives him a great deal of authority especially when engaged in educational
work. Choleric teachers have something virile about themselves and do not
allow affairs to get beyond their control, as is often the case with slow,
irresolute, melancholic persons. A choleric can keep a secret like a grave.
IV. THINGS TO BE
OBSERVED BY THE CHOLERIC IN HIS TRAINING
1. A choleric needs
high ideals and great thoughts.
He must draw them from
the word of God by meditation, spiritual reading, sermons, and also from the
experience of his own life. There is no need of a multiplicity of such
thoughts. For the choleric St. Ignatius it was sufficient to think: All for
the greater glory of God; for the choleric St. Francis Xavier: What does it
profit a man if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his soul?
One good thought which deeply impresses the choleric acts as a miraculous
star which leads him, in spite of all obstacles, to the feet of the
2. A choleric must
learn day by day and repeatedly to implore God fervently and humbly for His
long as he has not learned to beg he will
not make big strides on the road to perfection. To him also apply the words
of Christ: "Ask and you shall receive." The choleric will make still greater
progress if he can humble himself to ask his fellow men, at least his
superiors, or his confessor, for instructions and direction.
3. The choleric must above all keep one
strong resolution in his mind: I will never seek myself, but on the
contrary I will consider myself:
a) An instrument in the hands of God,
which He may make use of at His pleasure.
b) A servant of my fellow men,
who desires to spend himself for others. He must act according to the words
of Christ: "Whosoever will be first among you, shall be the servant of all"
(Matt 20:27 or Mark 10:44), or as St. Paul says of himself: He must become
all things to all men, in order to save them. (1 Cor. 9:22)
4. The choleric must combat his pride and
anger continually. Pride is the
misfortune of the choleric, humility his only salvation. Therefore he should
make it a point of his particular examination of conscience for years.
5. The choleric must humiliate himself
voluntarily in confession, before his superiors, and even before others.
Ask God for humiliations and accept them, when inflicted, magnanimously. For
a choleric it is better to permit others to humiliate him, than to humiliate
6. He must practice a true and trusting
devotion to the humble and meek Heart of Jesus.
CONSIDERATIONS IN THE TRAINING AND TREATMENT OF THE CHOLERIC
Cholerics are capable of great benefit to
their family, their surroundings, their parish, or to the state on account
of their ability. The choleric is naturally the born and never discouraged
leader and organizer. The well-trained choleric apostle indefatigably and
without fear seeks souls who are in danger; propagates good literature
perseveringly, and in spite of many failures labors joyfully for the
Catholic press and societies and consequently is of great service to the
Church. On the other hand, the choleric can, if he does not control the weak
side of his temperament, act as dynamite in private and public and cause
great disturbance. For this reason it is necessary to pay special attention
to the training of the choleric, which is difficult but fruitful.
1. The choleric should be well instructed
so that he can apply his good talents to the best advantage.
Otherwise he will in the course of time pursue pet ideas to the neglect of
his professional work, or what is worse, he will be very proud and
conceited, although in reality he has not cultivated his faculties and is
not, in fact, thorough.
Cholerics who are less talented or not
sufficiently educated can make very many mistakes, once they are
independent or have power to command as superiors. They are likely to make
life bitter for those around them, because they insist stubbornly upon the
fulfillment of their orders, although they may not fully understand the
affairs in question or may have altogether false ideas about them. Such
Cholerics often act according to the ill-famed motto: Sic volo, sic jubeo;
stat pro ratione voluntas: Thus I want it, thus I command it; my will is
2. The choleric must be influenced to
accept voluntarily and gladly what is done for the humiliation of his pride
and the soothing of his anger. By
hard, proud treatment the choleric is not improved, but embittered and
hardened; whereas even a very proud choleric can easily be influenced to
good by reasonable suggestions and supernatural motives. In the training of
Cholerics the teacher should never allow himself to be carried away by anger
nor should he ever give expression to the determination to "break" the
obstinacy of the choleric person. It is absolutely necessary to remain calm
and to allow the choleric to "cool off" and then to persuade him to accept
guidance in order to correct
his faults and bring out the good in him. In
the training of the choleric child one must place high ideas before him;
appeal to his good will, his sense of honor, his abhorrence of the vulgar,
his temporal and eternal welfare; influence him voluntarily to correct his
faults and develop his good qualities. Do not embitter him by humiliating
penances, but try to show him the necessity and justice of the punishment
inflicted; yet be firm in what you must demand.
I. CHARACTER OF THE SANGUINE TEMPERAMENT
person is quickly aroused and vehemently excited by whatever influences him.
The reaction follows immediately, but the impression lasts but a short time.
Consequently the remembrance of the impression does not easily cause new
II. FUNDAMENTAL DISPOSITION
The sanguine person does not penetrate the depth, the essence of things; he
does not embrace the whole, but is satisfied with the superficial and with a
part of the whole. Before he has mastered one subject, his interest relaxes
because new impressions have already captured his attention. He loves light
work which attracts attention, where there is no need of deep thought, or
great effort. To be sure, it is hard to convince a sanguine person that he
is superficial; on the contrary, he imagines that he has grasped the subject
wholly and perfectly.
Because the impressions made upon a sanguine person do not last, they are
easily followed by others. The consequence is a great instability which must
be taken into account by anyone who deals with such persons, if he does not
wish to be disappointed.
St. Peter assured our Lord that he was ready
to go with Him, even die for Him, only to deny a few hours later that he did
even know "this man."
The crowds hailed
our Lord with their Hosannas on Palm Sunday but cried: Crucify Him!
The sanguine is always changing in his
moods; he can quickly pass from tears to laughter and vice versa; he is
fickle in his views; today he may defend what he vehemently opposed a week
ago; he is unstable in his resolutions. If a new point of view presents
itself he may readily upset the plans which he has made previously. This
inconsistency often causes people to think that the sanguine
person has no character; that he is not
guided by principles. The sanguine naturally denies such charges, because
he always finds a reason for his changes. He forgets that it is necessary to
consider everything well and to look into and investigate everything
carefully beforehand, in order not to be captivated by every new idea or
mood. He is also inconsistent at his work or entertainment; he loves variety
in everything; he resembles a bee which flies from flower to flower; or the
child who soon tires of the new toy.
3. Tendency to the
The sanguine does not like to enter into himself, but directs his attention
to the external. In this respect he is the very opposite of the melancholic
person who is given to introspection, who prefers to be absorbed by deep
thoughts and more or less ignores the external. This leaning to the external
is shown in the keen interest which the sanguine pays to his own appearance,
as well as to that of others; to a beautiful face, to fine and modern
clothes, and to good manners. In the sanguine the five senses are especially
active, while the choleric uses rather his reason and will and the
melancholic his feelings. The sanguine sees everything, hears everything,
talks about everything. He is noted for his facility and vivacity of speech,
his inexhaustible variety of topics and flow of words which often make him
disagreeable to others. The sanguine person in consequence of his vivacity
has an eye for details, an advantageous disposition which is more or less
lacking in choleric and melancholic persons.
The sanguine looks at everything from the bright side. He is optimistic,
overlooks difficulties, and is always sure of success. If he fails, he does
not worry about it too long but consoles himself easily. His vivacity
explains his inclination to poke fun at others, to tease them and to play
tricks on them. He takes it for granted that others are willing to take such
things in good humor and he is very much surprised if they are vexed on
account of his mockery or improper jokes.
5. Absence of deep
The passions of the sanguine are quickly excited, but they do not make a
deep and lasting impression; they may be compared to a straw fire which
flares up suddenly, but just as quickly dies down, while the passions of a
choleric are to be compared to a raging, all-devouring conflagration.
This lack of deep
passions is of great advantage to the sanguine in spiritual life, insofar as
he is usually spared great interior trials and can serve God as a rule with
comparative joy and ease. He seems to remain free of the violent passions
of the choleric and the pusillanimity and anxiety of the melancholic.
III. DARK SIDES OF THE SANGUINE
1. Vanity and
The pride of the sanguine person does not manifest itself as inordinate
ambition or obstinacy, as it does in the choleric, nor as fear of
humiliation, as in the melancholic, but as a strong inclination to vanity
and self-complacency. The sanguine person finds a well-nigh childish joy and
satisfaction in his outward appearance, in his clothes and work. He loves
to behold himself in the mirror. He feels happy when praised and is
therefore very susceptible to flattery. By praise and flattery a sanguine
person can easily be seduced to perform the most imprudent acts and even
2. Inclination to
flirtation, jealousy, and envy.
The sanguine person is inclined to inordinate intimacy and flirtation,
because he lacks deep spirituality and leans to the external and is willing
to accept flatteries. However, his love is not deep and changes easily. An
otherwise well trained sanguine would be content with superficial
familiarities as tokens of affection, but in consequence of his levity and
readiness to yield, as well as on account of his optimistic belief that sin
may have no evil consequences, he can be easily led to the most grievous
aberrations. A bad woman with a sanguine temperament yields herself to sin
without restraint and stifles the voice of conscience easily.
Vanity and tendency to
love-affairs lead the sanguine person to jealousy, envy, and to all the
petty, mean, and detestable faults against charity, which are usually the
consequence of envy. Because he is easily influenced by exterior impressions
or feelings of sympathy or antipathy, it is hard for the sanguine person to
be impartial and just. Superiors of this temperament often have favorites
whom they prefer to others. The sanguine is greatly inclined to flatter
those whom he loves.
3. Cheerfulness and
inordinate love of pleasure.
The sanguine person does not like to be alone; he loves company and
amusement; he wants to enjoy life. In his amusements such a person can be
4. Dread of virtues
which require strenuous efforts.
Everything which requires the denial of the gratification of the senses is
very hard on the sanguine; for instance, to guard the eyes, the ears, the
tongue, to keep silence. He does not like to mortify himself by denying
himself some favorite food. He is afraid of corporal acts of penance; only
the exceptionally virtuous sanguine succeeds in performing works of penance
for many years for sins committed in earlier youth. The ordinary sanguine
person is inclined to think that with absolution in the sacrament of penance
all sins are blotted out and that continued sorrow for them is unnecessary
and even injurious.
disadvantages of the sanguine temperament:
decisions of the sanguine person are likely to be wrong,
because his inquiry into things is only superficial and partial; also
because he does not see difficulties; and finally because, through feelings
of sympathy or antipathy he is inclined to partiality.
b) The undertakings
of the sanguine fail easily
because he always takes success for granted, as a matter of course, and
therefore does not give sufficient attention to possible obstacles, because
he lacks perseverance, and his interest in things fades quickly.
c) The sanguine is
unstable in the pursuit of the good.
He permits others to lead him and is therefore easily led astray, if he
falls into the hands of unscrupulous persons. His enthusiasm is quickly
aroused for the good, but it also vanishes quickly. With Peter he readily
jumps out of the boat in order to walk on the water, but immediately he is
afraid that he may drown. He hastily draws the sword with Peter to defend
Jesus, but takes to flight a few minutes later. With Peter he defies the
enemies of Jesus, only to deny Him in a short time.
of the sanguine person is deficient
because he always caters to the external and is loath to enter into himself,
and to give deeper thought to his own actions.
e) The life of
prayer of the sanguine suffers from three obstacles:
1) He finds great
difficulty in the so-called interior prayer for which a quiet, prolonged
reflection is necessary; likewise in meditation, spiritual reading, and
examination of conscience.
2) He is easily
distracted on account of his ever active senses and his uncontrolled
imagination and is thereby prevented from attaining a deep and lasting
recollection in God.
3) At prayer a
sanguine lays too much stress upon emotion and sensible consolation, and in
consequence becomes easily disgusted during spiritual aridity.
IV. BRIGHT SIDES OF THE SANGUINE
The sanguine person has many qualities on account of which he fares well
with his fellow men and endears himself to them.
a) The sanguine is
he readily makes acquaintance with other people, is very communicative,
loquacious, and associates easily with strangers.
b) He is friendly
in speech and behavior
and can pleasantly entertain his fellow men by his interesting narratives
c) He is very
pleasant and willing to oblige.
He dispenses his acts of kindness not so coldly as a choleric, not so
warmly and touchingly as the melancholic, but at least in such a jovial and
pleasant way that they are graciously received.
d) He is
whenever a mishap befalls his neighbor and is always ready to cheer him by a
e) He has a
remarkable faculty of drawing the attention of his fellow men to their
faults without causing immediate and great displeasure.
He does not find it hard to correct others. If it is necessary to inform
someone of bad news, it is well to assign a person of sanguine temperament
for this task.
f) A sanguine is
quickly excited by an offense
and may show his anger violently and at times imprudently, but as soon as he
has given vent to his wrath, he is again pleasant and bears no grudge.
The sanguine person has many qualities by which he wins the affection of his
a) He is
pliable and docile. The virtue
of obedience, which is generally considered as difficult, is easy for him.
b) He is
candid and can easily make
known to his superiors his difficulties, the state of his spiritual life,
and even disgraceful sins.
punished he hardly ever shows resentment;
he is not defiant and obstinate. It is easy for a superior to deal with
sanguine subjects, but let him be on his guard! Sanguine subjects are prone
to flatter the superior and show a servile attitude; thus quite
unintentionally endangering the peace of a community. Choleric and
especially melancholic persons do not reveal themselves so easily, because
of their greater reserve, and should not be scolded or slighted or neglected
by the superiors.
3. The sanguine is
not obdurate in evil.
He is not stable in doing good things, neither is he consistent in doing
evil. Nobody is so easily seduced, but on the other hand, nobody is so
easily converted as the sanguine.
4. The sanguine
does not grieve long over unpleasant happenings.
Many things which cause a melancholic person a great deal of anxiety and
trouble do not affect the sanguine in the least, because he is an optimist
and as such overlooks difficulties and prefers to look at affairs from the
sunny side. Even if the sanguine is occasionally exasperated and sad, he
soon finds his balance again. His sadness does not last long, but gives way
quickly to happiness. This sunny quality of the well-trained sanguine
person helps him to find community life, for instance, in institutions,
seminaries, convents much easier, and to overcome the difficulties of such
life more readily than do choleric or melancholic persons. Sanguine persons
can get along well even with persons generally difficult to work with.
V. METHOD OF SELF-TRAINING FOR THE
1. A sanguine
person must give himself to reflection on spiritual as well as temporal
is especially necessary for him to cultivate those exercises of prayer in
which meditation prevails; for instance, morning meditation, spiritual
reading, general and particular examination of conscience, meditation on the
mysteries of the rosary, and the presence of God. Superficiality is the
misfortune, reflection the salvation of the sanguine.
In regard to temporal
affairs the sanguine person must continually bear in mind that he cannot do
too much thinking about them: he must consider every point; anticipate all
possible difficulties; he must not be overconfident, over-optimistic.
2. He must daily
practice mortification of the senses:
the eyes, ears, tongue, the sense of touch, and guard the palate against
overindulging in exquisite foods and drinks.
3. He must
absolutely see to it that he be influenced by the good and not by the bad;
that he accept counsel and direction. A practical aid against distraction is
a strictly regulated life, and in a community the faithful observance of the
spiritual aridity is a very salutary trial for him,
because his unhealthy sentimentality is thereby cured or purified.
5. He must
cultivate his good traits:
as charity, obedience, candor, cheerfulness, and sanctify these natural
good qualities by supernatural motives. He must continually struggle against
those faults to which he is so much inclined by his natural disposition,
such as, vanity and self complacency; love of particular friendships;
sentimentality; sensuality; jealousy; levity; superficiality; instability.
VI. POINTS OF
IMPORTANCE IN DEALING WITH AND EDUCATING A SANGUINE PERSON
The education of
the sanguine person is comparatively easy.
He must be looked after; he must be told that he is not allowed to leave his
work unfinished. His assertions, resolutions, and promises must not be taken
too seriously; he must continually be checked as to whether he has really
executed his work carefully. Flatteries must not be accepted from him and
especially constant guard must be kept lest any preference be shown him on
account of his affable disposition. It must be remembered that the sanguine
person will not keep to himself what he is told or what he notices about
anyone. It is advisable to think twice before taking a sanguine person into
In the education of a
sanguine child the following points should be observed:
1. The child must
be consistently taught to practice self-denial especially by subduing
the senses. Perseverance at work and observance of order must be continually
2. The child must
be kept under strict supervision and guidance;
he must be carefully guarded against bad company, because he can so easily
3. Leave to him his
and let him have his fun, only guard him against overdoing it.
I. CHARACTERISTICS OF THE
The melancholic person
is but feebly excited by whatever acts upon him. The reaction is weak, but
this feeble impression remains for a long time and by subsequent similar
impressions grows stronger and at last excites the mind so vehemently that
it is difficult to eradicate it.
Such impression may be
compared to a post, which by repeated strokes is driven deeper and deeper
into the ground, so that at last it is hardly possible to pull it out again.
This propensity of the melancholic needs special attention. It serves as a
key to solve the many riddles in his behavior.
II. FUNDAMENTAL DISPOSITION OF THE
1. Inclination to
reflection. The thinking of the
melancholic easily turns into reflection. The thoughts of the melancholic
are far-reaching. He dwells with pleasure upon the past and is preoccupied
by occurrences of the long ago; he is penetrating; is not satisfied with the
superficial, searches for the cause and correlation of things; seeks the
laws which affect human life, the principles according to which man should
act. His thoughts are of a wide range; he looks ahead into the future;
ascends to the eternal. The melancholic is of an extremely soft-hearted
disposition. His very thoughts arouse his own sympathy and are accompanied
by a mysterious longing. Often they stir him up profoundly, particularly
religious reflections or plans which he cherishes; yet he hardly permits his
fierce excitement to be noticed outwardly. The untrained melancholic is
easily given to brooding and to day-dreaming.
2. Love of
The melancholic does not feel at home among a crowd for any length of time;
he loves silence and solitude. Being inclined to introspection he secludes
himself from the crowds, forgets his environment, and makes poor use of his
senses - eyes, ears, etc. In company he is often distracted, because he is
absorbed by his own thoughts. By reason of his lack of observation and his
dreaming the melancholic person has many a mishap in his daily life and at
conception of life.
The melancholic looks at life always from the serious side. At the core of
his heart there is always a certain sadness, "a weeping of the heart," not
because the melancholic is sick or morbid, as many claim, but because he is
permeated with a strong longing for an ultimate good (God) and eternity and
feels continually hampered by earthly and temporal affairs and impeded in
his carvings. The melancholic is a stranger here below and feels homesick
for God and eternity.
4. Inclination to
The melancholic is a passive temperament. The person possessing such a
temperament, therefore, has not the vivacious, quick, progressive, active
propensity of the choleric or sanguine, but is slow, pensive, reflective. It
is difficult to move him to quick action, since he has a marked inclination
to passivity and inactivity. This pensive propensity of the melancholic
accounts for his fear of suffering and difficulties as well as for his dread
of interior exertion and self-denial.
III. PECULIARITIES OF THE MELANCHOLIC
1. He is reserved.
He finds it difficult to form new acquaintances and speaks little among
strangers. He reveals his inmost thoughts reluctantly and only to those whom
he trusts. He does not easily find the right word to express and describe
his sentiments. He yearns often to express himself, because it affords him
real relief, to confide the sad, depressing thoughts which burden his heart
to a person who sympathizes with him. On the other hand, it requires great
exertion on his part to manifest himself, and, when he does so, he goes
about it so awkwardly that he does not feel satisfied and finds no rest.
Such experiences tend to make the melancholic more reserved. A teacher of
melancholic pupils, therefore, must be aware of these peculiarities and must
take them into consideration; otherwise he will do a great deal of harm to
Confession is a great
burden to the melancholic, while it is comparatively easy to the sanguine.
The melancholic wants to manifest himself, but cannot; the choleric can
express himself easily, but does not want to.
2. The melancholic
On account of too many considerations and too much fear of difficulties and
of the possibility that his plans or works may fail, the melancholic can
hardly reach a decision. He is inclined to defer his decision. What he could
do today he postpones for tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, or even for the
next week. Then he forgets about it and thus it happens that what he could
have done in an hour takes weeks and months. He is never finished. For many
a melancholic person it may take a long time to decide about his vocation to
the religious life. The melancholic is a man of missed opportunities. While
he sees that others have crossed the creek long ago, he still deliberates
whether he too should and can jump over it. Because the melancholic
discovers many ways by his reflection and has difficulties in deciding which
one to take, he easily gives way to others, and does not stubbornly insist
on his own opinion.
3. The melancholic
is despondent and without courage.
He is pusillanimous and timid if he is called upon to begin a new work, to
execute a disagreeable task, to venture on a new undertaking. He has a
strong will coupled with talent and power, but no courage. It has become
proverbial therefore: "Throw the melancholic into the water and he will
learn to swim." If difficulties in his undertakings are encountered by the
melancholic, even if they are only very insignificant, he feels discouraged
and is tempted to give up the ship, instead of conquering the obstacle and
repairing the ill success by increased effort.
4. The melancholic
is slow and awkward.
a) He is slow in
He feels it necessary, first of all, to consider and reconsider everything
until he can form a calm and safe judgment.
b) He is slow in
If he is called upon to answer
quickly or to speak without preparation, or if he fears that too much
depends on his answer, he becomes restless and does not find the right word
and consequently often makes a false and unsatisfactory reply. This slow
thinking may be the reason why the melancholic often stutters, leaves his
sentences incomplete, uses wrong phrases, or searches for the right
expression. He is also slow, not lazy, at his work. He works carefully and
reliably, but only if he has ample time and is not pressed. He himself
naturally does not believe that he is a slow worker.
5. The pride of the melancholic has its
very peculiar side. He does not
seek honor or recognition; on the contrary, he is loathe to appear in public
and to be praised. But he is very much afraid of disgrace and humiliation.
He often displays great reserve and thereby gives the impression of modesty
and humility; in reality he retires only because he is afraid of being put
to shame. He allows others to be preferred to him, even if they are less
qualified and capable than himself for the particular work, position, or
office, but at the same time he feels slighted because he is being ignored
and his talents are not appreciated.
The melancholic person, if he really wishes
to become perfect, must pay very close attention to these feelings of
resentment and excessive sensitiveness in the face of even small
From what has been said so far, it is
evident that it is difficult to deal with melancholic persons. Because of
their peculiarities they are frequently misjudged and treated wrongly. The
melancholic feels keenly and therefore retires and secludes himself. Also,
the melancholic has few friends, because few understand him and because he
takes few into his confidence.
IV. BRIGHT SIDE OF THE MELANCHOLIC
1. The melancholic practices with ease
and joy interior prayer. His
serious view of life, his love of solitude, and his inclination to
reflection are a great help to him in acquiring the interior life of prayer.
He has, as it were, a natural inclination to piety. Meditating on the
perishable things of this world he thinks of the eternal; sojourning on
earth he is attracted to heaven. Many saints were of a melancholic
temperament. This temperament causes difficulties at prayer, since the
melancholic person easily loses courage in trials and sufferings and
consequently lacks confidence in God, in his prayers, and can be very much
distracted by pusillanimous and sad thoughts.
2. In communication with God the
melancholic finds a deep and indescribable peace.
He, better than anyone else, understands the
words of St. Augustine: "You, O Lord, have created us for yourself, and our
heart finds no rest, until it rests in You." His heart, so capable of strong
affections and lofty sentiments, finds perfect peace in communion with God.
This peace of heart he also feels in his sufferings, if he only preserves
his confidence in God and his love for the Crucified.
3. The melancholic is often a great
benefactor to his fellow men. He
guides others to God, is a good counselor in difficulties, and a prudent,
trustworthy, and well-meaning superior. He has great sympathy with his
fellow men and a keen desire to help them. If the confidence in God supports
the melancholic and encourages him to action, he is willing to make great
sacrifices for his neighbor and is strong and unshakable in the battle for
ideals. Schubert, in his Psychology, says of the melancholic nature: "It
has been the prevailing mental disposition of the most sublime poets,
artists, of the most profound thinkers, the greatest inventors, legislators,
and especially of those spiritual giants who at their time made known to
their nations the entrance to a higher and blissful world of the Divine, to
which they themselves were carried by an insatiable longing."
V. DARK SIDE OF THE MELANCHOLIC
1. The melancholic by committing sin
falls into the most terrible distress of
because in the depth of his heart he is, more than those of other
temperaments, filled with a longing desire for God, with a keen perception
of the malice and consequences of sin. The consciousness of being separated
from God by mortal sin has a crushing effect upon him. If he falls into
grievous sin, it is hard for him to rise again, because confession, in which
he is bound to humiliate himself deeply, is so hard for him. He is also in
great danger of falling back into sin; because by his continual brooding
over the sins committed he causes new temptations to arise. When tempted he
indulges in sentimental moods, thus increasing the danger and the strength
of temptations. To remain in a state of sin or even occasionally to relapse
into sin may cause him a profound and lasting sadness, and rob him gradually
of confidence in God and in himself. He says to himself: "I have not the
strength to rise again and God does not help me either by His grace, for He
does not love me but wants to damn me." This fatal condition can easily
assume the proportion of despair.
2. A melancholic
person who has no confidence in God and love for the cross falls into great
despondency, inactivity, and even into despair.
If he has confidence
in God and love for the Crucified, he is led to God and sanctified more
quickly by suffering mishaps, calumniation, unfair treatment, etc. But if
these two virtues are lacking, his condition is very dangerous and pitiable.
If sufferings, although little in themselves, befall him, the melancholic
person, who has no confidence in God and love for Christ, becomes downcast
and depressed, ill-humored and sensitive. He does not speak, or he speaks
very little, is peevish and disconsolate and keeps apart from his fellow
men. Soon he loses courage to continue his work, and interest even in his
He feels that he has
nothing but sorrow and grief. Finally this disposition may culminate in
actual despondency and despair.
3. The melancholic
who gives way to sad moods, falls into many faults against charity and
becomes a real burden to his fellow men.
a) He easily loses
confidence in his fellow men,
(especially Superiors, Confessors), because of slight defects which he
discovers in them, or on account of corrections in small matters.
b) He is vehemently
exasperated and provoked by disorder or injustice.
The cause of his exasperation is often justifiable, but rarely to the degree
c) He can hardly
The first offense he ignores quite easily. But renewed offenses penetrate
deeply into the soul and can hardly be forgotten. Strong aversion easily
takes root in his heart against persons from whom he has suffered, or in
whom he finds this or that fault. This aversion becomes so strong that he
can hardly see these persons without new excitement, that he does not want
to speak to them and is exasperated by the very thought of them. Usually
this aversion is abandoned only after the melancholic is separated from
persons who incurred his displeasure and at times only after months or even
d) He is very
He rarely trusts people and is always afraid that others have a grudge
against him. Thus he often and without cause entertains uncharitable and
unjust suspicion about his neighbor, conjectures evil intentions, and fears
dangers which do not exist at all.
e) He sees
everything from the dark side.
He is peevish, always draws attention to the serious side of affairs,
complains regularly about the perversion of people, bad times, downfall of
morals, etc. His motto is: Things grow worse all along. Offenses, mishaps,
obstacles he always considers much worse than they really are. The
consequence is often excessive sadness, unfounded vexation about others,
brooding for weeks and weeks on account of real or imaginary insults.
Melancholic persons who give way to this disposition to look at everything
through a dark glass, gradually
that is, persons who always expect a bad result; hypochondriacs, that is,
persons who complain continually of insignificant ailments and constantly
fear grave sickness; misanthropes, that is, persons who suffer from fear and
hatred of men.
f) He finds
peculiar difficulties in correcting people.
As said above he is vehemently excited at the slightest disorder or
injustice and feels obliged to correct such disorders, but at the same time
he has very little skill or courage in making corrections. He deliberates
long on how to express the correction; but when he is about to make it, the
words fail him, or he goes about it so carefully, so tenderly and
reluctantly that it can hardly be called a correction.
If the melancholic
tries to master his timidity, he easily falls into the opposite fault of
shouting his correction excitedly, angrily, in unsuited or scolding words,
so that again his reproach loses. its effect. This difficulty is the
besetting cross of melancholic superiors. They are unable to discuss things
with others, therefore, they swallow their grief and permit many disorders
to creep in, although their conscience recognizes the duty to interfere.
Melancholic educators, too, often commit the fault of keeping silent too
long about a fault of their charges and when at last they are forced to
speak, they do it in such an unfortunate and harsh manner, that the pupils
become discouraged and frightened by such admonitions, instead of being
encouraged and directed.
VI. METHOD OF SELF-TRAINING
FOR THE MELANCHOLIC PERSON
1. The melancholic
must cultivate great confidence in God and love for suffering,
for his spiritual and temporal welfare depend on these two virtues.
Confidence in God and love of the Crucified are the two pillars on which he
will rest so firmly, that he will not succumb to the most severe trials
arising from his temperament. The misfortune of the melancholic consists in
refusing to carry his cross; his salvation will be found in the voluntary
and joyful bearing of that cross. Therefore, he should meditate often on the
Providence of God, and the goodness of the Heavenly Father, who sends
sufferings only for our spiritual welfare, and he must practice a fervent
devotion to the Passion of Christ and His Sorrowful Mother Mary.
2. He should
always, especially during attacks of melancholy, say to himself: "It is not
so bad as I imagine. I see things too darkly," or "I am a pessimist."
3. He must from
the very beginning resist every feeling of aversion, diffidence,
discouragement, or despondency,
so that these evil impressions can take no root in the soul.
4. He must keep
himself continually occupied,
so that he finds no time for brooding. Persevering work will master all.
5. He is bound to
cultivate the good side of his temperament and especially his inclination
to interior life and his sympathy for suffering fellow men.
He must struggle continually against his weaknesses.
Theresa devotes an entire chapter to the treatment of malicious
melancholics. She writes: "Upon close observation you will notice that
melancholic persons are especially inclined to have their own way, to say
everything that comes into their mind, to watch for the faults of others in
order to hide their own and to find peace in that which is according to
their own liking." St. Theresa, in this chapter touches upon two points to
which the melancholic person must pay special attention. He frequently is
much excited, full of disgust and bitterness, because he occupies himself
too much with the faults of others, and again because he would like to have
everything according to his own will and notion.
He can get into bad
humor and discouragement on account of the most insignificant things. If he
feels very downcast he should ask himself whether he concerned himself too
much about the faults of others. Let other people have their own way! Or
whether perhaps things do not go according to his own will. Let him learn
the truth of the words of the Imitation (I, 22), "Who is there that has all
things according to his will? Neither I nor you, nor any man on earth. There
is no man in the world without some trouble or affliction be he king or
pope. Who then is the best off? Truly he that is able to suffer something
for the love of God."
POINTS IN THE TRAINING OF THE MELANCHOLIC
In the treatment of
the melancholic special attention must be given to the following points:
1. It is necessary
to have a sympathetic understanding of the melancholic.
In his entire deportment he presents many riddles to those who do not
understand the peculiarities of the melancholic temperament. It is
necessary, therefore, to study it and at the same time to find out how this
temperament manifests itself in each individual. Without this knowledge
great mistakes cannot be avoided.
2. It is necessary
to gain the confidence of the melancholic person.
This is not at all easy and can be done only by giving him a good example in
everything and by manifesting an unselfish and sincere love for him. Like
an unfolding bud opens to the sun, so the heart of the melancholic person
opens to the sunshine of kindness and love.
3. One must always
Rude reproach, harsh treatment, hardness of heart cast him down and paralyze
his efforts. Friendly advice and patience with his slow actions give him
courage and vigor. He will show himself very grateful for such kindness.
4. It is well to
keep him always busy, but do not overburden him with work.
melancholics take everything to heart and are very sensitive, they are in
great danger of weakening their nerves.
It is necessary, therefore, to watch nervous troubles of those entrusted to
one's care. Melancholics who suffer a nervous breakdown are in a very bad
state and cannot recover very easily.
6. In the training
of a melancholic child, special care must be taken to be always kind and
friendly, to encourage and keep him busy.
The child, moreover, must be taught always to pronounce words properly, to
use his five senses, and to cultivate piety. Special care must be observed
in the punishment of the melancholic child, otherwise obstinacy and
excessive reserve may result. Necessary punishment must be given with
precaution and great kindness and the slightest appearance of injustice must
be carefully avoided.
I. NATURE OF THE PHLEGMATIC
The soul or mind of
the phlegmatic person is only weakly or not at all touched by impressions.
The reaction is feeble or entirely missing. Eventual impressions fade away
DISPOSITION OF THE PHLEGMATIC PERSON
1. He has very
little interest in whatever goes on about him.
2. He has little
inclination to work, but prefers repose and leisure.
With him everything proceeds and develops slowly.
III. BRIGHT SIDE OF THE PHLEGMATIC
1. The phlegmatic
works slowly, but perseveringly,
if his work does not require much thinking.
2. He is not
easily exasperated either by offenses, or by failures or sufferings.
He remains composed, thoughtful, deliberate, and has a cold, sober, and
3. He has no
intense passions and does not demand much of life.
IV. DARK SIDE OF THE PHLEGMATIC
1. He is very much
inclined to ease, to eating and drinking; is lazy and neglects his duties.
2. He has no
and does not aspire to lofty things, not even in his piety.
V. THE TRAINING OF PHLEGMATIC
The training of
phlegmatic children is very difficult, because external influence has little
effect upon them and internal personal motives are lacking. It is necessary
to explain everything most minutely to them, and repeat it again and again,
so that at least some impression may be made to last, and to accustom them
by patience and charity to follow strictly a well-planned rule of life. The
application of corporal punishment is less dangerous in the education of
phlegmatic children; it is much more beneficial to them than to other
children, especially to those of choleric or melancholic temperament.
Most people have a
Some persons, however, have one predominant temperament, for instance, the
choleric; but the fundamental characteristics, the light and dark sides of
this principal temperament are extenuated or accentuated by the influence of
the other temperaments. In general a person is happier if his temperament
is not a pure one. The combination smoothes the rough edges of the main
temperament. In order to facilitate the recognition of one's own temperament
these mixtures of temperaments are herewith mentioned briefly.
In the choleric-sanguine temperament the excitement is quick, and the
reaction also; but the impression is not so lasting as with the pure
of the choleric is mixed with vanity; the anger and obstinacy are not so
strong, but more moderate than in the pure choleric. This is a very happy
The sanguine-choleric temperament is similar to the choleric-sanguine
temperament; only the sanguine characteristics prevail, the choleric ones
recede to the background. Excitement and reaction are quick and vehement
and the impression does not fade so quickly as with the pure sanguine, even
though it does not penetrate so far as with the pure choleric. The sanguine
fickleness, superficiality, extroversion, and garrulity are mitigated by
the seriousness and stability of the choleric.
The choleric-melancholic and the melancholic-choleric temperaments.
In this one, two serious, passionate temperaments are mixed; the pride,
obstinacy, and anger of the choleric with the morose, unsocial, reserved
temper of the melancholic. Persons who have such a mixture of temperaments
must cultivate a great deal of self-control, in order to acquire interior
peace and not to become a burden to those with whom they work and live.
The melancholic-sanguine temperament. In this the impressions are
feeble, the reaction is weak, and it does not last as long as with the pure
melancholic. The sanguine gives to the melancholic something flexible,
friendly, cheerful. The melancholic persons with a sanguine alloy are those
cordial, soft-hearted people who cannot bear to hurt anyone, are quickly
touched, but unfortunately also fail where energy and strength are needed.
Sanguine persons with a melancholic mixture are similar. Only in this case
the sanguine superficiality and inconstancy prevail.
The melancholic-phlegmatic temperament. People of this type succeed
better in community life than the pure melancholic. They lack, more or less,
the morose, gloomy, brooding propensity of the melancholic and are happily
aided by the quiet apathy of the phlegmatic. Such people do not easily take
offense; they can readily bear injuries and are contented and steady
To help you discover your temperament. Be
completely honest in answering the questions. They refer to your natural
inclinations rather than your present practice, acquired by effort and self
control. The numbers added at the end will give the key to the respective
1. Are you quickly excited at offenses and feel
to retaliate and oppose an insult
2. Do you look at life always from the serious
3. Do you easily lose confidence in your fellow
4. Are you greatly inclined to flatter those
whom you love?…………………………………………………………...
5. Are you won by quiet explanation of reasons
and motives, but embittered and driven to strong resistance by harsh commands?
6. Do you love company and amusements? ……………..
7. Does your thinking easily turn into
reflection which may stir you up profoundly, yet not let your excitement be
noted outwardly? ……………………………………………...
8. Are you vehemently provoked by disorder or
9. Do you have, and show, very little interest
in what goes on about you? ……………………………………………
10. Do you find it hard to trust people, and are
you always afraid that others have a grudge against you?…………
11. Do you dislike prolonged reflection, and are
easily distracted? ……………………………………………………..
12. Do you usually not feel an offense at the
moment, but feel it so much more keenly a few hours later, or even the next
13. Is it very hard for you to deny yourself
some favorite food? …………………………………………………………..
14. Do you easily get angered by an offense, but
soon are pleasant again? ………………………………………………..
15. Are you a person of enthusiasm, i.e., are
you not satisfied with the ordinary, but aspire after great and loft things,
temporal or spiritual?…………………………………..
16. Are you unwilling to admit a weakness or a
and consequently try to deceive others, even by
outright lies? ……………………………………………………………
17. Do you love silence and solitude and
seclusion from the crowds? …………………………………………………….
18. Do you easily become jealous, envious, and
19. Do you feel happy when in a position to
20. Do you spend much time deliberating, yet
reach decisions only with difficulty?………………………………….
21. Do you like to be flattered? …………………………..
Do you easily complain of insignificant ailment
and constantly fear grave sickness?…………………………………
23. Are you very much inclined to ease, to
eating and drinking? ……………………………………………………….
24. Do you feel discouraged by difficulties in
25. Do you find it difficult to form new
acquaintances, to speak among strangers, to find the right words to express
26. Do you pay keen interest to your appearance
and that of others; to a beautiful face, to fine and modern clothes?……..
27. Do you persevere under great difficulties,
until you reach your goal?………………………………………………...
28. Do you become suspicious and reticent by a
rude word or an unfriendly look?…………………………….
29. Is it very hard to guard your eyes, ears,
tongue, and keep silent? …………………………………………………….
30. Are you loathe to appear in public and to be
31. Do you allow others to be preferred to you,
but at the same time feel alighted because you are being ignored?……….
32. Do you dislike, even hate, caresses and
33. Can you be heartless, even cruel, in regard
to the sufferings of others, even trample cold-bloodedly upon the welfare of
others, if you cannot otherwise reach your goal?…...
34. Do you have little inclination to work,
preferring repose and leisure? ……………………………………………..
35. Do you lack perseverance; does interest in
things fade quickly? ………………………………………………………...
36. Are you inclined to inordinate intimacy and
37. Do you lack courage in correcting people; it
may show itself in these two forms: a) you go about it so carefully and tenderly
that it can hardly be called a correction,………….
or b) you shout your correction excitedly and
38. Do you see everything, hear, and talk about
39. Do you love light work which attracts
attention, where there is no need of deep thinking or great effort?………………
40. Do you consider yourself as Somebody; as
extraordinary, as always right, and not needing the help of
41. Do you belittle, or by remarks and unfair
means even persecute those who dare oppose you?…………………………
42. Can you quickly pass from tears to laughter?
and vice versa? …………………………………………………………..
43. Are you easily captivated by every new idea
44. Do you love variety in everything?…………………
45. Do you remain composed, thoughtful,
deliberate, with a sober and practical judgment, in the face of suffering,
46. Do you like to poke fun at others, tease
them, play tricks on them? ………………………………………………
47. Does a strong aversion easily take root in
your heart against persons from whom you have suffered or in whom you find
fault, sometimes so strong that you do not want to speak to them or cannot
stand the sight of them without new excitement? …………………………………………………….
48. Do you get vehemently excited by
contradiction, resistance, and personal offenses, and do you show this
excitement in harsh words which may be, and sound like being polite, yet hurt to
49. Which of these bad dispositions are yours
(check one or two) a) obstinacy, anger, pride?……………………………..
b) sloth, lack of energy?………………………………...
c) lack of courage, dread of suffering?……………………
d) talkativeness, inconsistency?………………………...
50. Which of these good traits come natural to
you (check one or two)
a) good nature, repose of mind?………………………...
b) Sympathy for others, love for solitude and
c) strong will, energy, fearlessness, ambition?
d) cheerfulness, facility to get along well with
Some of the preceding questions refer to two or
more temperaments; they are overlapping.
The choleric temperament is indicated by
the following numbers: 1, 5, 8, 15, 16, 19, 27, 32, 33, 40, 41, 47, 48, 49 a, 50
The sanguine temperament: 4, 6, 11, 13,
14, 20, 21, 24, 26, 29, 34, 35, 36, 38, 39, 42, 43, 44, 46, 49 d, 50 d.
The melancholic temperament: 2, 3, 5, 7,
10, 12, 13, 17, 18, 20, 22, 24, 25, 28, 30, 31, 37, 47, 49 c, 50 b.
The phlegmatic temperament: 9, 23, 34,
35, 45, 49 b, 50 a. Note: Answer the questions first, honestly, simply,
sincerely; then try to classify according to the numbers.
The next list will arrange the different
characteristics according to each temperament. It will help to get an even
better knowledge of one's temperament(s).
Character traits arranged according to
self-composed, seldom shows signs of embarrassment, perhaps forward or bold.
2. Eager to express himself before a group;
likes to be heard.
3. Prefers group activities; work or play; not
easily satisfied with individual projects.
4. Not insistent upon acceptance of his ideas or
plans; agrees readily with others' wishes; compliant and yielding.
5. Good in details; prefers activities requiring
pep and energy.
6. Impetuous and impulsive; his decisions are
often (usually) wrong.
7. Keenly alive to environment, physical and
social; likes curiosity.
8. Tends to take success for granted. Is a
follower; lacks initiative.
9. Hearty and cordial, even to strangers; forms
10. Tends to elation of spirit; not given to
worry and anxiety; is carefree.
11. Seeks wide and broad range of friendships;
is not selective; not exclusive in games.
12. Quick and decisive in movements; pronounced
or excessive energy output.
13. Turns from one activity to another in rapid
succession; little perseverance.
14. Makes adjustments easily; welcomes changes;
makes the best appearance possible.
15. Frank, talkable, sociable, emotions readily
expressed; does not stand on ceremony.
16. Frequent fluctuations of mood; tends to
frequent alterations of elation and depression.
1. Is self-composed; seldom shows embarrassment,
is forward or bold.
2. Eager to express himself before a group if he
has some purpose in view.
3. Insistent upon the acceptance of his ideas or
plans; argumentative and persuasive.
4. Impetuous and impulsive; plunges into
situations where forethought would have deterred him.
5. Self-confident and self-reliant; tends to
take success for granted.
6. Strong initiative; tends to elation of
spirit; seldom gloomy or moody; prefers to lead.
7. Very sensitive and easily hurt; reacts
strongly to praise or blame.
8. Not given to worry or anxiety. Seclusive.
9. Quick and decisive in movement; pronounced or
excessive energy output.
10. Marked tendency to persevere; does not
abandon something readily regardless of success.
11. Emotions not freely
or spontaneously expressed, except anger. 12. Makes best appearance possible;
perhaps conceited; may use hypocrisy, deceit, disguise.
1. Is self-conscious, easily embarrassed, timid,
2. Avoids talking before a group; when obliged
to he finds it difficult.
3. Prefers to work and play alone. Good in
4. Deliberative; slow in making decisions;
perhaps overcautious even in minor matters.
5. Lacking in self-confidence and initiative;
compliant and yielding.
6. Tends to detachment from environment;
reserved and distant except to intimate friends.
7. Tends to depression; frequently moody or
gloomy; very sensitive; easily hurt.
8. Does not form acquaintances readily; prefers
narrow range of friends; tends to exclude others.
9. Worries over possible misfortune; crosses
bridges before coming to them.
10. Secretive; seclusive; shut in; not inclined
to speak unless spoken to.
11. Slow in movement; deliberative or perhaps
indecisive; moods frequent and constant.
12. Often represents himself at a disadvantage;
modest and unassuming.
1. Deliberative; slow in making decisions;
perhaps overcautious in minor matters.
2. Indifferent to external affairs.
3. Reserved and distant.
4. Slow in movement.
5. Marked tendency to persevere.
6. Constancy of mood.