Picking up from last week: it is the combination of the four basic qualities – hot, cold, wet & dry – that lead to the temperaments.

Hot & Wet – Sanguine

Hot & Dry – Choleric

Cold & Dry – Melancholic

Cold & Wet – Phlegmatic

Let me give you a quick description of these. But before I do, let me point out that very few people are purely of one temperament.Most of us have a dominant and a sub-dominant temperament. In terms of an astrology reading, the lack of a quality – for example, earth – will often be addressed as a way for a person to attain balance.

Choleric: assertive, impatient, forceful, reactive, blunt, desires to lead rather than follow, decisive but sometimes blindly so

Melancholic: analytical, pessimistic, thoughtful, serious, cautious, anxious, reluctant to embrace change, resigned

Sanguine: sociable, outgoing, responsive, optimistic, flexible, avoids melodrama, likes new stimuli, tends to juggle a lot

Phlegmatic: careful, controlled, passive, relaxed, slow to respond, reserved, tendency to ignore or avoid conflict, procrastinating

One way of getting familiar with temperaments is by observing how they’re used in television shows or movies. Seinfeld is a good place to begin because while each character has a main temperament, they also have a sub-dominant one, which makes watching the interactions both interesting and entertaining.

Jerry – Sanguine

George – Melancholic

Kramer – Choleric

Elaine – Phlegmatic

Differences of temperament can go a long way in explaining some of the tensions in relationships, not only between love partners, but between parents and children, business associates and so on. It can also explain what are otherwise inexplicable partnerships, such as the grumpy husband (melancholic) and the sociable wife (sanguine). In that kind of situation, each partner brings qualities that the other lacks. From the outside, their connection is inexplicable but in the relationship each is filling a lack. However, if the individuals don’t use the relationship to develop the absent qualities in themselves, things can turn very sour. The Melancholic husband will be chronically upset with his Phlegmatic wife’s lack of attention to detail, for instance.

Now, here’s where things get even more interesting, or at least complicated. Is temperament the same as personality? No, it is not. Temperament refers to a style of relating to the world. I often use the idea of fabric when I try to explain this. A red wool dress has a different quality, texture, feel, to it than a red silk dress. The fabric is the temperament, but the color – in this case, red – is the personality. Astrologically, it’s possible to have a strong indication for one temperament, but the strongest planet in the chart will reflect a different temperament. For instance, a phlegmatic (cold & wet) with a red hot Mars (hot & dry) at the Midheaven. Depending on the chart, that can mean a number of things but one likely possibility is a mismatch in the kind of signals the person sends.

Finally, it’s critical to keep in mind that the expression of your temperament can be encouraged or discouraged by all kinds of environmental factors. A phelgmatic child may be terrified or, just as badly, feel completely misunderstood, by her choleric father (or mother). We are complicated creatures and our development is dependent on many things.

OK, we’ve come a long way from where we began last week. And next week, we will finish this strange journey from ancient temperament theory to the Myers Briggs test.