Peering into the Perfect Melancholy Mind

By Robine Jean-Pierre

a man blurred in the background looking at a chessboard in focus in the foreground

provided by Pixnio

my previous post, I talked about the concept of the Four Temperaments, which is discussed in depth in Florence Littauer’s book, Personality Plus. After taking the personality profile included in the book, I discovered that I am primarily a Perfect Melancholy. I would love to share some of my exciting and challenging realizations with you. Maybe this will help you if you have the same temperament, or if you know someone who does.

My Strengths
For one thing, my intellectual, analytical nature has contributed to my success at school. I won’t say it’s been easy or effortless to get high grades; what I will say is that I’ve had more of a desire and an aptitude to excel in academic pursuits. It helps that I love to learn for the sake of learning.

Creativity and artistic ability are also strengths of mine. I sing, compose, write, play piano and guitar, and draw pretty well (at least in my opinion!). It’s easy for me to catch the melody of a song I’ve only heard once, draw realistic cartoons, or write haikus on the spot, for example.

My Weaknesses
Being the analytical, planning type can also be a setback. Sometimes I get so stuck in my mind that it’s hard to turn thoughts into actions. I gave my fiancé Angel a hard time when he taught me how to play chess, because I felt as if every move I made had to be the “right” one. You can imagine how long our games went on for.

The need to do things the “right” way leads into the bigger issue of perfectionism. I’ve often set unrealistically high expectations for those closest to me. With my sister, I’ve been too critical, practically looming over her shoulder and correcting her every move. As you can imagine, this has often annoyed her. (It doesn’t help that both my mom and aunt are also Perfect Melancholies.) With my fiancé Angel, my reserved, introverted tendencies make me self-conscious and easily embarrassed. As a Popular Sanguine, he can be very over the top in expressing himself–loud declarations of his love for me, singing on the train, dancing in the streets–and I can be harsh in the way I express my disdain, with jabs or death stares.

My Outlook
The way I see it, knowing my strengths and weaknesses can set the tone for all areas of my life, from my relationships to my career path. Understanding my temperament means avoiding situations that I am not well-suited to handle (unless there is room for growth or other gain). For example, being a planned and orderly person, I would not take on a job that seems to be too chaotic and spontaneous; teaching a kindergarten class could potentially lead to an emotional breakdown.

Conversely, understanding my temperament means making choices that will highlight and reinforce my strengths. To give one example, I often take the initiative in planning dates with Angel because we both agree that I do this well.

I hope this helped you get a better understanding of what Perfect Melancholy people are like. Chances are you or someone you know has a personality that aligns with this temperament. What are some takeaways that might change how to interact with them, or how you view yourself? Please feel free to share your thoughts with me below.

Personality Plus: An Ancient Idea with a Modern Flair

by Robine Jean-Pierre

My fiancé Angel and I can say that our initial friendship deepened as a result of some important exchanges. To name one, I introduced him to the world of contemporary Christian music, and he unlocked the door to the library of positive mental attitude (PMA) books. One of the first books I saw him read was Personality Plus by Florence Littauer. I made it very clear to him that I was curious about it, and he made it clear that it would change my life. Once I got a hold of it, I dove right in.

In short, the book did change my life. It introduced to me the idea that while there are plenty of things that make people unique and distinct, we all naturally tend to fall into certain identifiable patterns and habits. It becomes way easier to understand ourselves and communicate with others when we take these patterns and habits into account.

Throughout history, there have been various studies that expound upon these distinct sets of patterns and habits. This book specifically addresses and builds upon the ancient Greek idea of the Four Temperaments. Littauer describes them as Popular Sanguine, Powerful Choleric, Perfect Melancholy, and Peaceful Phlegmatic. I’ll offer a simplified summary of each below.

Popular Sanguine
People with this temperament tend to be bubbly, talkative, friendly, and outgoing. They are often considered “the life of the party” and “the center of attention.” They often struggle with forgetfulness, following through on a commitment, and can swing between emotional highs and lows pretty quickly.

Powerful Choleric
These people are often considered “natural leaders” because they have a bold, straightforward demeanor and a strong will. If a task needs to get done, they most likely will take the initiative. At the same time, they can be bossy, stubborn, and, as the name implies, they can have a bad temper.

Perfect Melancholy
Those who fall under this category are “the thinkers.” They can be quiet and reserved at times, but their minds are brimming with intellect and creative talent. On the negative side, they can be too hard on themselves and others because of their perfectionist mindset. Their emotional cycle of highs and lows tends to be more intense and slower paced (it may take longer to recover from an offense).

Peaceful Phlegmatic
These individuals are very mellow and “chill.” They make great listeners because of their passive nature, and they do not waste time making decisions because their answer will usually be “either one” or “I don’t care.” At the same time, they are more likely to procrastinate because they sometimes lack self-motivation to make more important decisions. They can also come off as indifferent because they do not express their emotions easily.

Similarities and Differences
The temperaments within themselves share certain similarities. For instance, Perfect Melancholy and Powerful Choleric tend to be more intense, independent, “task-oriented.” As a result, they may at times come off as emotionally detached, or too serious, but their determination and resolve can definitely be beneficial. Someone of either temperament might isolate herself in her room until she is finished with her homework, for example. On the flip side, Popular Sanguine and Peaceful Phlegmatic are more “people-or
iented.” Either one would be willing to drop whatever they are doing to help a friend. They are more likely to let emotions influence their decisions, which can be helpful or harmful.

These relationships are further explored in a similar theory, the Disc Model, developed by Harvard psychologist Dr. William Moulton Marston in the 1920’s (learn more in the Disc Personality Testing Blog).

a diagram comparing and contrasting personalities within the DISC model

taken from Discovery Report


Keep Calm and Read On
Now, I know some of us are skeptical and do not like the idea of putting people into boxes. Rest assured, the summaries above have certainly been oversimplified, and the truth is that most of us exhibit characteristics that fall under all of the temperaments (or perhaps, at the very least, two). I can’t say whether the temperaments are the best personality model, or why they exist (if only in our minds), but I can say that this knowledge has improved my understanding of myself and others. For example, knowing that Angel is primarily a Popular Sanguine, I’ll be more understanding if he forgets to bring me something because he was wrapped up in conversation along the way. (As for me, I’m predominantly a Perfect Melancholy. I may elaborate on my experience more in a future post.)

If you are interested in taking these theories into consideration, I would advise you to use them as a guideline, rather than a standard. If you know of any promising personality quizzes, please feel free to comment the links (and/or results) below!