Continuing my series on the temperaments, here are my thoughts on the melancholic child.
When considering the temperaments, many people have a difficult time identifying their primary, dominant temperament. This isn’t really a bad thing. The goal, after all, is to be balanced in your temperament and to be able to call upon the different parts of your personality when they would be most useful to you. And though it may be difficult to identify one dominant temperament, most people can choose one that they identify with the least.
For me, this is melancholic.
The element that aligns with melancholic is earth, and it’s definitely true that the melancholic feels the weight of the world. The melancholic child can experience her physical body quite strongly and it can feel heavy and burdensome. The melancholic’s physical experience is different than the sluggishness of the phlegmatic, though. Instead, the melancholic’s physical body is like a weight.
In fact, there are certain physical features that I have come to recognize in many melancholics. While the phlegmatic is often typecast as a round, jolly fellow, the melancholic is tall and thin with downcast eyes and a somewhat droopy expression and posture. Think Abraham Lincoln.
Who is this earthy, soulful child in the classroom? How does he or she behave? And how can we make the most of his or her gifts?
The melancholic loves to hear about the pain and suffering of others. She hears stories of this suffering with great sympathy and compassion. As she listens she is right there with the hero, experiencing all of the same woe and sorrow quite vividly. Though those of us who have few melancholic tendencies can get irritated and frustrated with the melancholic’s glass-half-empty approach, the world definitely benefits from the compassion of these tender souls. These are the people who are destined to become environmental and political activists. This is, of course, as long as they can turn their usually downcast eyes upward every now and then.
Another gift of the melancholic is a keen eye for detail. These are the students who agonize over their handwriting and want to start a drawing over four times. As a result they often produce impeccable work. As long as they can get past the hurdle of potential failure long enough to begin.
We often find ourselves feeling sorry for the melancholic and we want to cheer him up, but what we need to remember is that the melancholic is actually at his or her happiest and most satisfied when he or she is experiencing the woe of the world. So when you want to get that melancholic in your pocket think of the saddest, most heart-wrenching story you can come up with and tell it in great detail. The melancholic will be right with you every step of the way.