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Temperaments, cont.

'Well, all our children are soooo different' OR 'You know, there isn't much one can do as a parent because each child develops in its own way anyway'.....  Those types of sentences, uttered next to a swing in the playground, or overheard unwillingly in a cafe have never been much help to me in demystifying relations between grown-ups and between grown-ups and children.  I see that there are similarities in the ways our children have developed, and I see their own unique parts. It was the idea of temperaments, in combination with the psychological development of individuals, that helped fill in the picture.

Growing up in the 1970s in the United States, the idea of the 'type A' personality drew a lot of rancour and media attention. A little nervously, such (usually) men were praised for their business acumen and strength, and/or lambasted by their first wives as they were left behind in their ex-husbands' wake. I was also vaguely aware of words such as 'depressed', 'successful', 'irresponsible', 'lazy'. But, how these adjectives -- lobbed off like missiles, heard in descriptions of other people -- might relate to that person's fundamental temperament or, even more puzzling, how those adjectives had nothing at all do to with their temperament even though the behaviors appeared identical always stumped me. The idea of temperaments, and how those influence my way of mothering, and how they describe my children in how they respond to my rules and values, I have found very interesting. I have seen how our children, all born naturally and into a loving and warm environment, were also fundamentally different in how they latched on, how they slept, how they snuggled, how they reacted to wool and light and sound and heat and cold in the very first days. Though we have parented them in broadly the same way - and, of course, they are actually very similar in many things because of this - they have grown and developed with us differently in part because of their temperaments and, of course, in part because of their birth order and their friends and teachers and the psychology of our social environment.

I first enountered the idea of temperaments in readings about Waldorf education, the most popular alternative to public education in Germany. Here, temperaments are divided into four labels: Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholic and Phlegmatic. They can be used to shed light on nutrition, on life phases, on classroom dynamics and social interaction, and on personal development. And it is these broad categories that I write about in Motherlands - not because I believe they explain everything, but because I have found them non-invasive and often very insightful.  


History of temperaments


There are also other systems of temperaments and other words for the idea of temperament. For example, the Indian Ayuvedic tradition describes three fundamental mind/body types, or doshas, called Vata, Pitta and Kapha, which embody different combinations of the five elements: air, ether, fire, water and earth. Each person contains all doshas to varying degrees, and their balance can be determined through examination of eyes, nails, tongue, skin, voice, by pulse diagnosis, and through the insight of the Ayurvedic practitioner. Doshas can become aggravated or imbalanced due to inappropriate or inadequate diet, change of seasons, climate, lifestyle or stress, and result in disease in the body. [View source]

The European idea of Temperament theory has its roots in the ancient four humors theory. It may have origins in ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia, but it was the Greek physician Hippocrates (460-370 BC) who developed it into a medical theory. He believed certain human moods, emotions and behaviors were caused by body fluids (called "humors"): blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm. Next, Galen (AD 131-200) developed the first typology of temperament in his dissertation De temperamentis, and searched for physiological reasons for different behaviors in humans. He mapped them to a matrix of hot/cold and dry/wet taken from the Four Elements. There could also be "balance" between the qualities, yielding a total of nine temperaments. The word "temperament" itself comes from Latin "temperare", "to mix". In his 'ideal' personality, the complementary characteristics of warm-cool and dry-moist were exquisitely balanced. In four less ideal types, one of the four qualities was dominant over all the others. In the remaining four types, one pair of qualities dominated the complementary pair; for example; warm and moist dominated cool and dry. These latter four were the temperamental categories Galen named "sanguine", "melancholic", "choleric" and "phlegmatic" after the bodily humors. Each was the result of an excess of one of the humors that produced, in turn, the imbalance in paired qualities. [View source]

For more information, and references lists, see original text in

In The Canon of Medicine, Avicenna (980-1037 AD) then extended the theory of temperaments to encompass "emotional aspects, mental capacity, moral attitudes, self-awareness, movements and dreams." Nicholas Culpeper (1616–1654) disregarded the idea of fluids as defining human wikipedia logo behavior, and Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925), Alfred Adler (1879–1937), Erich Adickes (1866–1925), Eduard Spranger (1914), Ernst Kretschmer (1920), and Erich Fromm (1947) all theorized on the four temperaments (with different names)  and greatly shaped our modern theories of temperament. Hans Eysenck (1916–1997) was one of the first psychologists to analyze personality differences using a psycho-statistical method (factor analysis), and his research led him to believe that temperament is biologically based. The factors he proposed in his book Dimensions of Personality were Neuroticism -- the tendency to experience negative emotions -- and Extraversion (E) -- the tendency to enjoy positive events, especially social ones. By pairing the two dimensions, Eysenck noted how the results were similar to the four ancient temperaments. [View source]

For more information, and references lists, see original text in

Other researchers developed similar systems, many of which did not use the ancient temperament names, and several paired extroversion with a different factor, which would determine relationship/task-orientation. Examples are DiSC assessment, Social Styles, and a theory that adds a fifth temperament. One of the most popular today is the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, whose four temperaments were based largely on the Greek gods Apollo, Dionysus, Epimetheus and Prometheus, and were mapped to the 16 types of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). They were renamed as Artisan (SP), Guardian (SJ), Idealist (NF), and Rational) (NT). The Interaction Styles of Linda V. Berens combines Directing and Informing with E/I to form another group of "styles" which greatly resemble the ancient temperaments, and these are mapped together with the Keirsey Temperaments onto the 16 types. [View source]

For more information, and references lists, see original text in

Recently, I attended a seminar on the Enneagram approach to personality. Enneagram, from the Greek words ennea (nine) and grammos (something written or drawn), describes nine types of personality. Principally developed by Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo, it is also partly based on earlier teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff (1866?-1949). The Enneagram approach is not commonly taught or researched in academic psychology. It has been widely promoted in both business management and spiritual contexts through seminars, conferences, enneagram logobooks, magazines and DVDs. In business contexts it is generally used as a typology to gain insights into workplace dynamics. For example, by identifying whether members of a team are head (motivated by fear), heart (motivated by image) or stomach (motivated by anger) personalities they might be able to more constructively work together. The lecturer theorized that the perfect team would have all nine types of personalities to function at maximum creative capacity. The types are normally referred to by their numbers but sometimes their "characteristic role" is used instead. Certain connecting lines between the different types are believed to be significant as well. For example, someone classed as a One type may begin to think, feel and act more like a Four type when stressed, or more like a Seven type when relaxed. [View source]

For more information, and references lists, see original text in

The study of the particular types, when done well, seems to be complex and based on an assumption that each person is born with a certain predisposition and his/her subconscious motivations are formed in great part by early childhood experiences. I found this intriguing but cannot at the moment find a way to combine this way of defining personalities with the four-temperament method. 




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