I've learnt something new this week about my temperaments and how they work together, in this case to condemn me, and I'm writing this in the hope that it might help others with the same temperament mix. I have the Choleric and Melancholic temperaments and over the years I've come to understand how much the Choleric condemns my Melancholic, which can be very negative about who I am anyway, and this can lead to a cycle of guilt and low self-worth. I'm much better at understanding and identifying this dynamic and dealing with the feelings it produces. However this week I've experienced a situation which has highlighted this to me again and, combined with the grief I'm still struggling with, floored me for a while.
I've heard John talk about situations where others with the Choleric/ Melancholic temperament would feel dreadfully guilty about events not directly related to themselves and the muddles that would cause but never related to that or felt that it was how I operated. However this week I discovered that it is and it is only through understanding that dynamic within myself that I’ve been able to find peace again.
My husband died of brain cancer 7 weeks ago and, whilst the last weeks of his life were difficult and he did suffer much pain, it was well managed by the nursing staff and he never lost his mind or his ability to be aware of and relate to the people around him. It’s something I’d prayed much about during the course of his illness and am so thankful to God for. He died very peacefully and when I look back at the last weeks of his life I remember them with a considerable amount of pain but an overriding sense of peace and of the Lord walking through it with us. This week the husband of a good friend of mine, who has also been seriously ill for a while, has been in hospital and doesn’t have long to live. Yet their experience is very different to mine; he has lost his mind, doesn’t know his family and has become violent and aggressive.
They are having an incredibly difficult time and I’ve been very upset about the situation they’re facing but have also got myself in a dreadful muddle. In addition to the obvious upset at what my friend is going through and the understandable sadness at the reminder of my own situation, I’ve felt very guilty that her experience is so much worse than mine – combined with grief it’s a toxic mix and one which has paralysed me and prevented me from praying effectively for them or moving on with my own life.
It’s only been by talking this through at length and sharing my very mixed up feelings that I’ve been able to sort them out and understand what has been going on inside me. It’s been quite a painful process (as is much of understanding yourself because it involves facing up to the bits of you that you don’t like!) but very worthwhile. I still feel the sadness for my friend and her family alongside the sadness at the loss of my own husband but I’ve been able to separate that out from the guilt of feeling that, if someone else is suffering, I have no right to have a different experience. It sounds ridiculous as I write it and very illogical – and being a good Choleric, and a numeracy tutor, I like to think that I’m very rational and logical! However our feelings aren’t always logical or rational and being able to accept that has enabled me to process them and regain a sense of peace in the midst of everything that is going on around me. That peace has freed me to pray effectively for my friend and her family and also to enjoy spending time today with my daughter on her birthday. Yet another example of the benefits of understanding yourself!