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.

It is 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.

Now, we’ve come a long way from where we began, which is the relationship between astrology, Carl Jung and the Myers Briggs test. Let’s finish what we started. How do the temperaments square with Jung’s functions and attitudes. Something like this:

Sensing – Melancholic – (Earth)

Feeling – Phlegmatic – (Water)

Thinking – Sanguine – (Air)

Intuitive – Choleric – (Fire)

Now, to my mind, what’s truly odd is the next evolution of Jung’s theory. Fast forward to World War II, when a woman named Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers adapted and built on Jung’s functions to create a questionnaire that would help women figure out what kind of war-time jobs they might be suited for. Along the way, the two women added more functions – judging and perceiving – resulting in a system of 16 types (which, by the way, is the exact same number that one would get with all the combinations of the four temperaments). The test was officially published in 1962 and is now a standard evaluation tool for companies around the world.

Here’s the key to the Myers Briggs system:

N – Intuitive

T – Thinking

F – Feeling

S – Sensing

J – Judging

P – Perceiving

E – Extravert

I – Introvert

ISTJQuiet, serious, earn success by thoroughness and dependability. Practical, matter-of-fact, realistic, and responsible. ISFJQuiet, friendly, responsible, and conscientious. Committed and steady in meeting their obligations. INFJSeek meaning and connection in ideas, relationships, and material possessions. INTJHave original minds and great drive for implementing their ideas and achieving their goals.
ISTPTolerant and flexible, quiet observers until a problem appears, then act quickly to find workable solutions. ISFPQuiet, friendly, sensitive, and kind. Enjoy the present moment, what’s going on around them. INFPIdealistic, loyal to their values and to people who are important to them. INTPSeek to develop logical explanations for everything that interests them.
ESTPFlexible and tolerant, they take a pragmatic approach focused on immediate results. ESFPOutgoing, friendly, and accepting. Exuberant lovers of life, people, and material comforts. ENFPWarmly enthusiastic and imaginative. See life as full of possibilities. ENTPQuick, ingenious, stimulating, alert, and outspoken.
ESTJPractical, realistic, matter-of-fact. Decisive, quickly move to implement decisions. ESFJWarmhearted, conscientious, and cooperative. ENFJWarm, empathetic, responsive, and responsible. ENTJFrank, decisive, assume leadership readily.

(The description above, which are partial, are from the MBTI website:

In contrast, the astrological equivalents are as follows:

S – Sanguine

C – Choleric

M – Melancholic

P – Phlegmatic 

SOutgoing, flexible, dislikes melodrama CForceful, leading, impatient MAnalytical, perfectionist PCalm, timid, not energetic
SMCan be moody, gets down on themselves CMDetail oriented, autocratic if not careful MSDisciplined, exacting but with a strong human touch PSEasy to hang with, sympathetic, flexible
SPGenerally happy, can be overly emotional CPStarts & stops, alternates between brusque and personal MCWorks hard, doesn’t understand people who don’t PCSympathetic, can be effective in combination with others
SCHighly extraverted, resolute CSHigh energy, fearless MPFocused but can become overly withdrawn, PMLow key, perceptive, needs motivation

So where does that leave us? It’s important to see all the descriptions above as a general portraiture, not as a final word or definitive statement. Overly reductive thinking has quite a few dangers. On a certain level, all of these systems – astrology, Jungian psychology, Myers Briggs, and so on –  are essentially maps. And much like a map, their purpose is to give people roads and directions to help understand themselves, to develop, to go forward, to change. Keep in mind the famous saying “the map is not the territory”.

My own interest in astrology stems from my belief that of all the available maps, it has the most potential benefit in terms of helping people see themselves objectively. Consider what it takes to cast a birth chart:

  • Date of birth
  • Time of birth
  • Place of birth

Now consider Jung’s famous statement: “whatever is born at a certain moment in time, takes on the qualities of that moment in time”. The chart marks a unique, specific moment in time and place – your birth – the essence of which is not dependent on your own self-evaluation or beliefs about yourself, as most personality tests are.

Anyway, these are the threads connecting astrology, Jung and Myers Briggs. It’s unlikely we’ll ever get completely away from a theory of “types” or temperaments, but we can use the concept in our lives. Consider any group of friends or any workplace dynamic. There’s the guy who argues about everything, there’s the woman who’s always working behind people’s backs, there’s the boss who nitpicks everything, there’s the person who cannot bear change. These are all “types” in action, and there are many, many more. How you are able to use them depends on how well you understand both yourself and others. In the words of Idries Shah, when asked by someone what he should do about a certain situation:

“What you should do depends on what you are like.”