Temperament Project 01: Getting Started

Blogging has helped me stay focused on some subjects, so why not use it to focus on writing my book about temperament? My aim is to write regular blog posts that will help shape and inspire an eventual book. Hope you like it!

What is temperament, and why should I care?

Temperament is the foundation of your personality. It’s the part of your personality hard-wired from birth, biologically based, that determines how you respond to the world.

It’s significant in the same way that physical attributes like height are significant. Some people are taller and some are shorter; and while your height doesn’t dictate anything about you, it does shape your experience and make certain outcomes more, or less, likely.

Being tall will give you an advantage in basketball, netball, swimming and some other sports, but it might be a disadvantage in weight-lifting, ballet, gymnastics or horse-racing.

Temperament is more complicated than height, but it has an analogous impact on your choices in life and the shaping of your personality.

Life-long traits

Contemporary psychology has studied aspects of temperament and found that traits identified in infancy will persist throughout life.

The ancient Greeks observed this too, and in their own proto-scientific context they came up with theories to explain these fundamental differences in temperament.

If the world was made up of four basic elements: earth, air, fire, and water, then obviously the human body must be governed by four basic substances too.

Blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile were the four fluids or humours that determined health or illness, as well as the foundation of the personality: the temperament.

The word temperament itself means blend or mix and refers to the blend of humours within the individual.

We each have all four humours within us, but one or two tend to dominate. Depending on the blend, individuals are categorised as sanguine (blood), phlegmatic (phlegm), choleric (yellow bile), or melancholic (black bile).

A perfectly balanced person would have all four in proportion. But most of us can be described by a primary-secondary blend. Thus a person with primary choleric and secondary phlegmatic is a choleric-phlegmatic.

But Greek medicine was wrong…wasn’t it?

Absolutely!

There’s no such thing as black bile, and there’s no indication that the other bodily fluids mentioned have any impact on personality or behaviour in the way the Greeks envisaged.

But observations are still valid data, even if the theory that attempted to explain those observations has been discarded.

In the case of temperament what we have inherited from the Greeks and the civilisations that adopted Greek medicine is a robust yet pragmatic set of observations spanning millennia.

We may not know yet what causes differences in temperament, but we do know that such differences exist, and the four temperament model remains a valuable framework for understanding, interpreting, and responding to those differences in ourselves and others.

Inspired or desperate?

Do you know the difference between inspiration and desperation?

Some days I’d open a book and be blown away by the love and wisdom flowing from its page.

Other days I’d go grinding page by page searching through the same book or others for that elusive gem.

I’d tie myself in knots trying to love God, trying on a hundred different methods one after another.

That’s the difference between inspiration and desperation.

Whenever you feel as if taking action, gaining knowledge, or exerting effort will “fix” everything for you, you are being tempted by desperation, and only disappointment will come of it.

But if you can feel good without acting, relish the feeling without doing anything to grasp it, revel in the energy flowing through you regardless of circumstances, then you are inspired.

Sometimes it’s not entirely clear. I can write a blog post and the act of sitting down to write allows that energy to flow.

But I can go searching for the perfect quote, and be lost in frustration within minutes, lost in the searching for an answer “over there”.

Don’t worry about making mistakes. The mistakes will awaken your sensitivity and inform your awareness. The more you care about inspiration the quicker you will sense it’s path.

Happiness Day 30

For thirty days I’ve been focusing on happiness, wanting good feelings to be the norm and bad feelings the rare exception.

So how did it go?

It went really really well 😄

Right from the beginning it reframed my inner landscape. The intention to feel good got me to look up instead of down, and start appreciating how often I felt good already.

Abraham teaches that our reality is created primarily by our inner being (God) who is pure positive energy. The role of our physical self and our worldly focusing mind is significant, but in terms of negativity it can only really create friction, it can’t halt the power of our inner being.

That’s why it is always possible to feel better, whether better be less bad or genuinely good.

In other words things are always better than they seem. Happiness is attainable, it just takes practice to retrain our focus.

What is life like now?

Life is really good now.

I’m laughing and smiling a lot more. I’m finding deeper appreciation of the many good things in my life.

I’m handling the contrast so much better! I can soothe bad feelings much more easily, and I even appreciate contrast because I can see how it’s helping me to focus in certain directions.

I’ve had insights just come to me on subjects dear to my heart. By day 30 I found myself musing on inspiration and the question I’ve long deferred: what do I really want to be doing in my life?

I no longer feel like I need to explain, justify, or apologise for my mood and lack of energy, because I’ve shown myself for thirty days that it’s entirely up to me how much energy I have, since I can decide what to focus on and how I focus!

Satisfied and eager for more

Last night my 1yo daughter slept through the night in her cot. That is a genuine miracle! I never even thought it would happen, and yet it all happened so suddenly and so easily.

And I allowed it to happen. My focus on being happy weakened my resistance and my negativity, and opened the tiniest crack in my old story, and circumstances that seemed unwanted opened the path for this new sleeping routine.

Many other things have shifted, small but meaningful and sometimes enormous in their significance to me. Things that were difficult have gotten easier. Things that felt hopeless feel easy. And things I already enjoyed and appreciated have become even more satisfying and wonderful.

What next?

This challenge has only whetted my appetite for more.

I can feel so much potential to feel better and refine my processes. There are many things I would like to allow into my experience, and now I know how to do it.

And without planning it, blogging has become a new experience for me and a wonderful discipline and tool for helping me train my focus.

Being able to write here fulfils an old desire that my writing become more like my private journaling in terms of ease and content.

I’ve written 55 posts in this thirty days. To put that in perspective, the previous 55 posts took about six months to write.

Blogging each day not only kept me focused, it also helped me develop my thoughts and deepen my understanding of this path I’m on.

I don’t yet know what form the next segment will take, but I want blogging to be part of it, and I want it to take my new habits even further.

Thank you for following, reading, and liking my posts! Having you reading my posts has helped keep me honest and on-track!

Why I’m not on Facebook

A friend recently suggested I start a facebook account to give my articles greater exposure.

She’s probably right, yet I can’t help but resist the thought.  I may come around to it in time, but for now I can at least express my misgivings about facebook as a medium.

Firstly, I do know what I’m talking about: my wife has a facebook account and somehow I end up logging on to it more frequently than she does, which is still not saying much. We’re a bit like the parable of the two sons: one says ‘yes’ but doesn’t do it, the other says ‘no’ but then goes and does it anyway.  Which of these is greater in the kingdom of facebook?

Secondly, I’m fully aware that I’m the kind of person who would spend way too much time obsessing over facebook if I ever did get my own account.  I’m not a terribly virtuous person, and it’s really only due to the peculiarities of my temperament that I tend to spend more time at home reading and thinking, than out in public disgracing myself. Facebook would bring those two worlds together, and I could full well end up publicly disgracing myself in the thoughtful privacy of my own home.

Thirdly, all the usual stuff that people complain about in relation to facebook – I enjoy being free of it, knowing it only vicariously through my wife’s account.  I don’t have to worry about facebook stealing my thoughts, injecting mood-altering drugs into my coffee, superficially boosting my social status, or whatever it is they’re up to these days.

But I fear my facebook hermitage may come to an end, if it proves in the long run that the most effective way of building my writing career is through some kind of symbiotic relationship with the ubiquitous corporate giant.

There but for the grace of blog go I.

Update:

My friend replied:

But you missed the main problem with facebook: it is an endless temptation to misrepresent oneself to gain the admiration of others, and also to constantly envy everyone else’s life despite knowing they also are misrepresenting their own lives!

I wish I’d thought of that one!