I am writing a longer article for publication elsewhere about the “four temperaments”, but for now, this brief introduction will have to do.
The classic theory, coming from the Greeks, was that there were four basic personal temperaments: choleric, sanguine, melancholic and phlegmatic. They were related to the “four humors”: blood, yellow bile, black bile, phlegm.
While the biological aspect of the four humours has lost relevancy, I don’t think that the “four temperaments” did. In fact, recent personality theories are pretty much in agreement with the basic division, except that they are more complicated and call them something else (INTP, INJP, etc), or “The Big Five” personality types.
I don’t know, the old system seems much more intuitive. Also, four makes numerically and symbolically more sense than five or other larger numbers — and it makes it much easier to organize them in a square matrix, such as this one.
The Sanguine personality type is described primarily as being highly talkative, enthusiastic, active, social, and a bit superficial. Quick and shallow excitability – they always look for something new and keep changing their point of view).
The Choleric tend to be more extroverted, independent, decisive, goal-oriented, and ambitious, but also violent, vengeful, and short-tempered. Quick, but long-lasting excitability. They react rapidly and with energy to stimulus.
The Melancholic are introverted, analytical and detail-oriented. Deep thinkers and feelers, creative, but also reserved, indecisive, fearful and often anxious. Slow and deep excitability. They don’t react immediately, but impressions last long and can mark them deeply.
The Phlegmatic individuals tend to be relaxed, peaceful, quiet, and easy-going; they like mostly to eat and sleep and are not anxious at all, but also not so extroverted or filled with lofty ideals. Slow and shallow excitability. They forget things easily and don’t get worked up by most stuff.
A good and more detailed description of each type can be found here. For those too lazy or too phlegmatic to look into it, Wikipedia has the basic info.
According to the classification, I would obviously be a melancholic (although the system allows for a combination of types, so I could have elements of others, too). Melancholics are associated with autumn, with the Earth element, with the color blue (or black), with cold and dry qualities, with introversion and emotional instability, and with “black bile” (the bodily humor). Tendency to insomnia, dark dreams, pessimism, rheumatism. Also generally thin — body type is ectomorph. (More about the health aspects here).
It doesn’t seem to be possible to change your temperament, although you can train or educate yourself to reduce its most negative aspects.
I will shortly publish a longer article about all this, probably in our own magazine that is coming up.