Sunday, March 30, 2014

Melancholic Temperament: Strengths and Weaknesses

Main Characteristics

The melancholic 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 passionately that it is difficult to get rid of it. Melancholic temperament is by far the richest, most creative, innovative and sensitive of the personality types.

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Here some main traits you may use for indication and guidance.

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.

2. Love of withdrawal. 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.

3. Serious conception of life. The melancholic looks at life always from the serious side. At the core of his heart there is always sadness.

4. Inclination to passivity. The melancholic is a passive temperament. It is difficult to move him to quick action, since he has a marked inclination to passivity and inactivity. This passive life approach of the melancholic accounts for his fear of suffering and difficulties as well as for his dread of interior exertion and self-denial.

5. Melancholic 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 tries often to express himself, because it affords him real relief, to pass on the sad, depressing thoughts which burden his heart to a person who sympathizes with him. However, this person should be the one who he considers a friend.

6. The melancholic is indecisive. 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.

7. The melancholic is pessimistic. He is nervous and shy 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 increased effort.

8. The melancholic is slow. Melancholic 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. He is also slow in 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.

9. The melancholic pride. The pride of the melancholic has its very peculiar side. He does not seek honor or recognition; on the contrary, he dislike 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 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.

10. Perfectionism. The temperament is also often a perfectionist, being very particular about what they want and how they want it in some cases. This can result in them being unsatisfied with their own performance or creative works, and always pointing out to themselves what could and should be improved. Melancholic hold himself and others to unrealistically high standards, and get distressed when these standards are not met. This leads to the poor and under-valuated self - because he does not meet his own standards - and critical of others - because those others do not meet his standards as well.

11. Tendency to arguments. Melancholic frequently tends to argue, because he cannot simply let things be if they seem wrong. He provides valid elaborate arguments using reason, evidence, logic, and explanations, delivered analytically or with pleading. He only argues to set wrongs right, rather than to assert dominance.

12. Possessiveness. Melancholic is usually very possessive about the things that he owns and is reluctant to let others borrow or use them, because he treats his own things well, cares about everything deeply, and will worry that others will not look after them with the same level of care.

13. Sensitiveness. Melancholics are very emotional. They are moved deeply by beauty, and by distress. They are very easily hurt, because of their perfectionist tendencies. Often their moods are like delicate glass sculptures; built up slowly, deliberately, and carefully, but easily broken, and hard to repair once shattered. They respond to things that they dislike with misery and with tears rather than with rage. They are very slow to 'snap', but will hold onto emotions for a very long time. They hold grudges, because people who have failed to meet their standards, who have hurt them, will not just suddenly meet those standards without changing drastically.

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Strengths of the melancholic temperament

1. The melancholic serious view of life helps him to find a proper place in the world both in private and in the career. He is usually a very hard-working detail-oriented person, being able to foresee and consider multiple potential dangers on the way and find the optimal guidance to the problem resolution.

2. Melancholic usually possesses sharp and profound intellect. Unwilling to settle for surface knowledge, this individual delves deeply into a wide range of subjects. He truly wants to master the topic. He is careful and detailed.

3. The melancholic is often a great supporter for his family, friends, and coworkers. He is a good counselor in difficulties, and a sensible, trustworthy, and well-meaning superior. He has great sympathy with his fellow men and a keen desire to help them. 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.”

4. The melancholic person is self-motivated, and does not respond to the promise of reward or the threat of punishment. He precisely knows his strengths and limitations and rarely takes on more than he can do.

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Weaknesses of the melancholic temperament

1. Melancholic may easily lose confidence in his friends or coworkers because of slight defects which he discovers in them, which he considers as unacceptable.

2. He is strongly annoyed and provoked by disorder or injustice. The cause of his annoyance is often justifiable, but rarely to the degree felt.

3. It is difficult for melancholic to 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 dislike 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 distaste is evaporated only after the melancholic is separated from persons who incurred his displeasure and at times only after months or even years.

4. He is very suspicious. He rarely trusts people and is always afraid that others have a grudge against him. Thus, he frequently, and without reasonable causes, entertains unkind and unjust suspicions about his neighbor and fears dangers which do not exist at all.

5. He sees everything from the dark side. He is grumpy, always draws attention to the serious side of affairs, complains regularly about the distortion of people, bad times, downfall of morals, etc. His motto is: things grow worse all along. Offenses, mishaps, and obstacles he always considers much worse than they really are. The consequence is often excessive sadness, unfounded displeasure about others, suffering for long on account of real or imaginary insults.

6. While melancholic is very faithful, loyal friend and spouse, the loss of a deep relationship (even by death) is devastating to him.

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Lifetime Development

* Positives: wants to please, serious and quiet, well-behaved, likes a schedule.
* Negatives: dislikes strangers, looks sad, cries easily, clings to parents.

* Positives: thinks deeply, talented, musical or artistic, daydreams, true friend, perfectionist, intense, dutiful and responsible.
* Negatives: moody, whines and fusses, self-conscious, too sensitive, hears negatives, withdraws, sees problems, won’t communicate.

* Positives: good student, creative – likes research, organized and purposeful, high standards, conscientious and on time, neat and orderly, sensitive to others, sweet spirit.
* Negatives: too perfectionist, depressed and critical, inferiority complex, suspicious of people, poor self-image, revengeful, lives through friends, needs to be uplifted.

* Emotional Needs: sensitive and understanding, support when down, space to be alone, silence with no people around.
* Causes of Depression: life isn’t perfect, emotional pain is unbearable, lack of understanding.
* Stress Relief: withdraw from people; read, study, meditate or pray; go to bed.
* Energy Level: moderate energy, drained by people, needs peace and quiet.

Role in society

In our distant ancestors, the melancholic members of a pack may have been the analysts, the information gatherers. They scouted for potential danger, or for food, and reported back to the pack leader. The more accurate their findings were, the better; this led to a trend towards perfectionism, as the 'analysts' closer to perfection survived better than those that made sloppy mistakes.

In current society, they often tend towards analytical roles such as scientists, analysts, programmers, logicians, and so on. In fantasy settings, they may be wizards or sages.


Melancholy is not an easy temperament to live with. However, self-training and self-development may help to sharpen the strength and to minimize the effect of personal weaknesses:

1. He should work on self-affirmation, and, 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.”

2. He must from the very beginning resist negative feelings and emotions in his heart, so the small and large real life tragedies will not through him to the clinical depression.

3. He must keep himself continually busy, so there is less time for melancholy and useless and fruitless self-observation.

4. Meditation is a great way to recharge and reset the troublesome thoughts for melancholic. Melancholics love order and are easily distracted and disturbed when things are out of order. So for a melancholic to be able to meditate he needs to find a time of day and a space in which he will be able to be completely alone and at peace. A meditation class, a special room in the house, an early rising time or sometime after everyone else goes to bed, is a good time for the melancholic to meditate. The melancholic’s challenge is being able to spend that time in meditation focused on themselves instead of other people.

5. Physical exercise should be part of a daily routine for melancholic person. The intense physical activities are helping to alleviate the negative thoughts and sentiments and rebalance inner energy to the more positive state. 

Sources and Additional Information:

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