The 4 temperaments of the human being

One of the great areas of psychology is the study of personality.

However, when looking for ways to classify and describe the behavior and thinking style of human beings, not only has there been talk of personality, but there is another concept which throughout history has was also used to try to capture the peculiarities of each person. This concept is called temperament, And try to account for those inclinations and tendencies of each which are more fixed, unchanging and difficult to change.

What are the types of temperament?

Each person’s temperament type is generally understood as the basic structure on which each person’s personality is built., With all its details and peculiarities.

Over the past few decades, this means that the term temperament has been used to refer to one’s genetics, the inherited part of the personality, meaning that one’s temperament would remain more or less unchanged no matter what things happened to us. , how we learn to manage our emotions, etc.

But … how did the idea come about that we humans have different types of temperaments that differentiate us from each other? The answer is in the theory of the 4 basic temperaments, Which starts from the idea that our way of being depends on various types of substances, or “humors”, which circulate in our body.

The theory of four humors

One of the first historical personalities to develop the theory of 4 humours which would later give way to that of temperaments was the Greek physician. Hippocrates.

Around the 5th and 4th centuries BC. C., in ancient Greece inhabited by Hippocrates, was of great importance the belief that everything in the world was made up of a few elements combined with each other. Hippocrates took this point of view by defending the idea that the human body is made up of 4 basic substances, also called humors.

For Hippocrates, these moods are as follows:

  • some blood, The associated element is air.
  • phlegm, Whose element is water.
  • yellow bile, Which corresponds to the fire element.
  • black bile, Associated with the earth.

But Hippocrates did not cease to be a doctor, and this is why he made this humoral theory enter more into the field of medicine than into the field of psychology and personality. According to him, the fact that all these substances are in balance in our body makes us healthy, while a decompensation of mood levels produces illnesses.

was Pergamon Galley which in the second century a. C. made greater efforts to transform the theory of moods into a theory of basic temperaments.

The theory of basic temperaments

Galen started from the idea that everything is composed of a mixture of 4 elements and that each of them corresponds to one of the moods of the human body to end up applying this vision to the primitive psychology of the time.

For this Greek doctor, the levels at which each of the moods of a human body are present explain personality styles and the temperament of this one, which means that by observing the quantities of these substances one could know the style of behavior of a person, how he expresses his emotions, etc.

The 4 basic temperaments proposed by Galen were as follows.

1. Blood temperament

Bloody people are characterized according to Galen to be cheerful, optimistic and always looking for the company of others.

They show warmth when dealing with other people, the way they act more on feelings than on conclusions generated by rational analysis. In addition, they change their mind easily and are reluctant to disciplined behavior, as they are guided by the pursuit of immediate pleasure. That’s why they often leave things unfinished. Its associated element is air.

2. Phlegmatic temperament

Phlegmatic temperament expresses a propensity to a serene and calm way of behaving and a way of approaching objectives with perseverance and based on rationality.

According to the theory of the doctor, people who are distinguished by this type of temperament value precision in their thoughts and actions, rarely get angry and do not show their emotions too much, appearing a little cold. Additionally, they tend to be a bit shy and avoid being the center of attention or taking a leadership role. According to the theory of the 4 temperaments, to these people the water element corresponded to them.

3. Cholera temperament

People who are distinguished by their angry temperament are particularly energetic, proactive and independent. They tend to be always engaged in an activity or undertaking projects and eagerly defend their opinions and positions in the face of different situations they experience.

In addition, they trust their own judgment and are not afraid to confront others, so they assert themselves and do not hesitate to take up managerial positions. However, if this type of temperament is very extreme, it can lead to the emergence of many conflicts and hostilities. The element they were linked with was fire.

4. Melancholy temperament

People with a melancholy temperament are characterized, according to Galen, to be emotionally sensitive, creative, introverted, altruistic and perfectionist. Either way, this type of temperament may relate to the recent concept of Very Sensitive People (PAS), albeit much more ambiguously defined.

Although they find pleasure in tasks that require personal effort and sacrifice, they find it difficult to decide when to start projects precisely because of this perfectionist spirit and the worry produced by the insecurity of not knowing what is wrong. is going to happen. Their mood varies easily and they show a propensity for sadness. Its element is earth.

The theory of 4 temperaments and psychology

Galen’s work has been a benchmark for many centuries of history, however today it is considered valid neither in medicine nor in psychology.

The reasons are that, on the one hand, it was not formulated on ideas and philosophical positions accepted today (humoral theory) and on the other hand, that the way in which the different temperaments are described is very ambiguous. . This means that while it can be inspiring to see your own personality reflected in one of these finicky types, it is very possible that part of the interest that this simple classification system produces in us is due to the ‘Forer effect, in this case. example with the enneagram of personality.

After all, in Galen’s time psychology as a science did not exist, And we are only just beginning to understand the workings of the world and the human body with the help of vague concepts, composed of various ideas which although we might intuitively relate them to each other, beyond that, they cannot be justified together. For example, there is no reason why in the phlegmatic temperament the serene character and the rational way of thinking appear together. Wouldn’t there be a serene and irrational temperament?

Galen’s inspiring potential

However, the fact that the theory of the four temperaments no longer has scientific validity does not mean that it has not served as inspiration for various theories of personality in modern psychology. Many personality specialists have relied on the concept of temperament to develop their tests and personality measurement tools, and genetic inheritance is now seen to play an important role in how we are.

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