||You are a "nervous"
Melancholic, with an abundance of black bile. Melancholics are characterized
by the element of Earth, the season of Autumn, middle-aged adulthood, the
colors black and blue, Saturn, and the characteristics of "Cold" and "Dry."
Animals used to symbolize the Melancholic include the pig, cat, and owl.
To ehnance your Melancholic tendencies, listen to music in the Mixolydian
Mode; to diminish those tendencies, listen to music in the Hypomixolydian
Famous Melancholics include St. John of the Cross, St. John the Divine,
St. Francis, and St. Catherine of Siena.
If you were living in the Age of Faith, perfect career choices for you would
be contemplative religious, theologian, artist, or writer.
From "The Four Temperaments," by Rev. Conrad Hock:
easily embarrassed, timid, bashful.
before a group; when obliged to he finds it difficult.
Prefers to work
and play alone. Good in details; careful.
slow in making decisions; perhaps overcautious even in minor matters.
Is lacking in
self-confidence and initiative; compliant and yielding.
Tends to detachment
from environment; reserved and distant except to intimate friends.
Tends to depression;
frequently moody or gloomy; very sensitive; easily hurt.
Does not form
acquaintances readily; prefers narrow range of friends; tends to exclude
Worries over possible
misfortune; crosses bridges before coming to them.
seclusive; shut in; not inclined to speak unless spoken to.
Is slow in movement;
deliberative or perhaps indecisive; moods frequent and constant.
Is often represents
himself at a disadvantage; modest and unassuming.
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 MELANCHOLIC
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 retirement. 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 his work.
3. Serious 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 cravings. The melancholic is a stranger here below
and feels homesick for God and eternity.
4. Inclination to passivity. 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 he aware of these peculiarities
and must take them into consideration; otherwise he will do a great deal
of harm to his charges.
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 is irresolute. 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
4. The melancholic is slow and awkward.
a) He is slow in his thinking. 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 his speech. 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 humiliations.
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 TEMPERAMENT
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
2. In communication with God the melancholic finds a deep and indescribable
He, better than anyone else, understands the words of St. Augustine: "Thee,
O Lord, have created us for yourself, and our heart finds no rest, until
it rests in Thee." 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 TEMPERAMENT
1. The melancholic by committing sin falls into the most terrible distress
of mind, 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
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 professional occupation.
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 forgive offences. 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 years.
d) He is very suspicious. 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 become pessimists, 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
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
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.
6. St. 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."
VII IMPORTANT POINTS IN THE TRAINING OF THE MELANCHOLIC
In the treatment of the melancholic special attention must be given to the
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
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 encourage him. 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.
5. Because 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
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.
To read about the
other 3 personality types, see these pages: