"I write so that my handful of pebbles, cast into still waters, will create a ripple."

Friday, January 3, 2014

Love, Hate and Everything In-between

Sometimes holiday get togethers can be a bit sticky. Siblings and children arrive from far corners. Logs burn. Alcohol soothes. A lethargic atmosphere loosens the tongue and memories flow.   

I used to cringe in my corner while I waited to hear what the new batch of memories unearthed. But no more. Because now I’m armed with the wisdom of Hippocrotes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_temperaments . I’ve been re-reading a couple of books that discuss his theory of personality types. One of them, an out-of-print copy of Tim LaHaye’s Transformed Temperaments  (and his wife Beverly’s The Spirit Driven Women) invite a Christian introspection that for me has been life-changing.    

I was first introduced to Meyers Briggs and Hippocrates in Psych 101-- the Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholy and Phlegmatic personalities. Another book, The Delicate Art of Dancing with Porcupines calls them the Expressive, Driver, Analytical and Amiable.

What I love about studying the personality types are the charts and wheels that show the negatives. Since I’m not so good at changing, it’s important to understand how my negatives grate on other people. And how they can be less difficult for me to handle!  

Give you an example. I’m a Sanguine-Phlegmatic. According to Rev LaHaye, that means I’m happy, outgoing, honest and quick to jump into the fray. But I’m also egotistical, given to exaggeration, undisciplined and think before I speak. Apparently a great story teller, which is a good thing for a fiction writer. I’m saved from doom by the Phlegmatic part that provides my calm, loyal and tenacious side (if someone can prod me to action.) Apparently some behavioral specialists feel this combination is a winner. Oh, did I mention that  Sanguines tend to be chubby?   

Detail oriented and analytic, I am not. But then neither do I possess a tendency toward negativity—that would be my husband, the Melancholy-Choleric. He’s the jet fuel for my engine, the inventive, romantic doer (unless I disagree with him and then he’s pushy and cranky.)   

This year instead of a second (or third) glass of champagne, I analyzed my kids and siblings. It was a bit like putting together a huge fruit salad—there was something in the bowl for everyone.
 
Knowledge is Power. I wish I had understood that my mother-in-law was a full-blown Choleric and that her reaction to me was textbook. Maybe I wouldn’t have taken her criticism so personally. God grant me the strength to accept what I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference. Or in my case, the strength to shut my mouth before I speak.

I recently spoke with a Phlegmatic woman who raised five stepchildren and five of her own on a tight budget. She was a stay-at-home mother who ran the books on her husband’s construction company and to my knowledge, never indulged in the luxury of pedicure or facial. She mentioned that one of her stepsons recently threw out the complaint that she never attended his ballgames. Of course the kid felt unloved (and of course he exaggerated and feels terrible about blurting this out forty years after the fact.) He is a total Sanguine who craved her attention while she showed her love by staying home, cooking dinner and tending to the household chaos while her husband represented them at the ballpark.     

Mistakes are made. But they don't have to be. We owe it to everyone to be better versions of ourselves. Not to be bossy, but go on-- Google Hippocrates or Myers-Briggs and take a personality test. Make your mate take the test and start the New Year with a better foundation.


And please share your personality combinations with us.