In continuing the subject of the sacrament of reconciliation and purification from sin, there are some interesting concepts to help us understand our tendencies, strengths and weaknesses. Ancient spiritual writers have delineated some components of our human psyche that, once identified, can assist in uncovering root causes for certain types of behavior. These components, known as temperaments, are inclinations and reactions that each person has with regard to a given stimulus. For example: When we are assigned a huge task; or have a large block of free time; or find ourselves at a party — how do we react to these situations?
Spiritual writers and modern psychologists have utilized this knowledge in order to help people know themselves better, and to find good strategies for overcoming bad habits. Rooted in our physiological structure, our temperaments are innate and hereditary. They are permanent and can be modified only secondarily without being totally eliminated or destroyed. Acquiring the moral virtues are the greatest means to shaping and modifying our temperaments in order to make the most out of each.
There are four classical types of temperaments, and these are based on the predominant characteristics of our own internal make-up. Most of us exhibit a combination of these temperaments, but one usually predominates. As stated earlier, these are emotional reactions to situations that we have, and these reactions operate in a typical fashion in each of us. That is to say, there is a predictable pattern to certain responses when presented with certain situations. The four classifications are: sanguine, melancholic, choleric and phlegmatic.
In the next issues, we will take a closer look at each temperament. The following are brief descriptions:
Sanguine: cheerful, optimistic;
Melancholic: sober thoughtfulness, pensive;
Choleric: sharp intellect, great energy;
Phlegmatic: calm, composed.
Next Issue: A closer look at sanguine and melancholic temperaments.