The Melancholic is one of the two introvert temperaments.
Melancholics are creative, capable, lovely people. They are sensitive and loyal and have an appreciation of life. They have high standards, are analytical, self-sacrificing and often talented.
However, they can be negative and struggle to see their own qualities – however much other people praise them. If they have a good day filled with 10 positive things, the one thing that went wrong will change their mood. Their high standards can tip over into an over-the-top perfectionism that creates pressure for themselves and others around them. If they go to a social event their wonderfully analytical minds will go round on all the things they got wrong and how silly they made themselves look and their wonderful sensitivity can soon become subjective.
The key question for a Melancholic is ‘how much am I worth?’ If the answer is ‘not much’ or even ‘nothing’ then depression can easily be the result. The Melancholic is capable of experiencing deep depression and is also the temperament that can suffer from ME/CFS.
A Melancholic needs to feel secure and to find their value through relationship with God and good positive relationships with those around them. It is important for them to talk and share their feelings rather than isolating themselves and also to use their natural creativity as an expression of who they are.
A helpful illustration - the one-armed bandit effect!
A helpful illustration of a Melancholic's thought processes is that of a a one-armed bandit in an amusement arcade - you pull the arm and the three reels go round until they settle into a pattern. However you only win the money if three matching pictures are neatly lined up and, in his thought processes, a Melancholic will keep pulling the arm and spinning the reels until everything is neatly lined up to his satisfaction. The challenge for a Melancholic is to express how he feels and then determine not to pull that arm and set the reels spinning again but to settle whatever the issue is and move on.
Melancholic strengths and weaknesses
The diagrams below depict the strengths of the Melancholic temperament, which can be seen most clearly when God is at the centre of life, and the weaknesses, which are most clearly seen when we live for ourselves.
Melancholic key concepts
How much are you worth?
Sensitive – but to whom?
Talk – don’t isolate yourself
Use your creativity – it is an expression of who you are
Melancholic avoidance tactic
If you are talking to someone with the Melancholic temperament and want to get close to them or try to help them, you may encounter the following avoidance tactics:
His low self-worth can translate into ‘game playing’ – a kind of ‘I’m no good. You don’t need to bother with me. My problems aren’t important. I’ll be alright.’ Yet he clearly needs help! Remember that he paints negative images all the time.
He tends not to hold himself responsible for his own thoughts and feelings (as he feels so worthless!) so he speaks in a way that removes himself, often just one small step, away from taking that responsibility. He will use a phrase like, ‘I have this problem…’
Be aware that a Melancholic can be critical – of others and himself – so help him towards a more accurate, and less subjective, perspective.
A Melancholic cannot hide what he is feeling and thinking – usually it is written all over his face and is seen clearly in his body language. If a Melancholic feels it – it must be right!
Andy has written a helpful article, drawing on his personal experiences as someone with the Sanguine Melancholic temperament, of breaking free from established patterns of depressive thoughts and feelings, and offers practical advice and hope to others.