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Religious Life & Temperaments


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TeresaBenedicta

(I did a quick search and didn't see anything at first glance... so if this has been discussed before, I apologize!)

I'm curious what everyone's take is on the four temperaments and their relation to prayer, and more particularly, to religious life. (I'm thinking of the sanguine/phlegmatic/melancholic/choleric breakdown.) What was your experience as a religious (your temperament, the temperaments of those around you)? Did you find that a certain temperament was more prevalent than others? Or that there was a good mix?

I've been more and more interested in these types of questions lately. There's a good book out there called "The Temperament God Gave You" that goes into some of these questions and having read it, my curiosity has sparked immensely in the subject. I wonder if paying attention to temperaments might help in discernment if there does in fact seem to be a correlation between different temperaments and different orders, different types of life, etc.

I myself am a melancholic-choleric.

Take this topic however you please-- I'm just curious about everyone's thinking on the subject. Here are a couple of interesting sites I came across when I was looking stuff up:

http://www.gloriana.nu/temperaments.html

http://www.fisheaters.com/fourtemperaments.html

*If you take the test he links to, you can find out your temperament and then read about the different temperaments and their relationship to prayer etc.

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I don't have a lot of time to respond, but nunsense, I think you're getting the wrong idea that people are trying to push you to like temperaments, and I don't think anyone is. Personally I don't care

[quote name='Innocent' date='06 April 2010 - 06:16 PM' timestamp='1270534597' post='2087546'] The temperaments were discussed here on the Phorum lately. Here are the links to the threads: [url="ht

I was reading the posts where people mentioned they are an INFP, INFJ, ASPCA, or CSI: Miami and I realized the most important personality/ temperament acronym. The one we all should be working for,

Although I think these things can be of interest in many ways, I would hesitate to judge one's personal prayer or spiritual life on such things. St John of the Cross would probably come across as a melancholic while St Teresa would be more likely to be a sanguine/choleric, and yet these two Carmelites founded the reform (along with Father Gracian who must have been a bit phlegmatic). And melancholic/choleric seems like almost diametrically opposed to each other and yet you are both? Wow.

I would be very wary of labelling someone according to these standards as much as I would be with any other system such as ennegrams or Myer-Briggs etc, although many swear by them. The minute ones gets labelled, it is very hard to get that label off. 'Oh, that's just because you are a choleric." (or J type personality, or Scorpio, or any other label).

Do it for fun, but heavens, I hope they don't start using these as a tool for judging candidates! :)

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TeresaBenedicta

[quote name='nunsense' date='05 April 2010 - 10:36 PM' timestamp='1270517794' post='2087362']
Although I think these things can be of interest in many ways, I would hesitate to judge one's personal prayer or spiritual life on such things. St John of the Cross would probably come across as a melancholic while St Teresa would be more likely to be a sanguine/choleric, and yet these two Carmelites founded the reform (along with Father Gracian who must have been a bit phlegmatic). And melancholic/choleric seems like almost diametrically opposed to each other and yet you are both? Wow.

I would be very wary of labelling someone according to these standards as much as I would be with any other system such as ennegrams or Myer-Briggs etc, although many swear by them. The minute ones gets labelled, it is very hard to get that label off. 'Oh, that's just because you are a choleric." (or J type personality, or Scorpio, or any other label).

Do it for fun, but heavens, I hope they don't start using these as a tool for judging candidates! :)
[/quote]

I agree that these sorts of things oughtn't to be used exclusively, or even heavily relied upon, but I think they do have the potential for being helpful. When one knows better their own personality, they know better their own strengths and downfalls. In the book I mentioned above, "The Temperament God Gave You," the author notes that as one matures spiritually and grows in prayer, one mellows down a lot from the extremes of their temperaments. Sometimes even to the point that the original temperament might not even be as evident to observers.

Usually one has a dominant temperament and then a secondary one-- and they can be complimentary of one another. So, for myself, my dominant personality is melancholic. I'm generally an introvert, meaning that I get my energy from alone time and usually get pretty drained from constant group activities. I'm highly idealistic and prone to depression. At the same time, my secondary temperament is choleric, which gives me confidence, accounts for my argumentative side, my leadership, etc.

I've also found that having something of an understanding of the temperaments has helped me in understanding others. For example, I recognize in myself a serious difficulty with judging others harshly, particularly when it seems to me that they do not care deeply about the same ideals as myself. Of course, this could all be hashed down to: "Everyone is not just like you," I think it's helpful, at least for me, in learning where some of my downfalls are and [i]why[/i] I tend toward them, while also learning the motivations of other personalities.

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IgnatiusofLoyola

[quote name='nunsense' date='05 April 2010 - 08:36 PM' timestamp='1270517794' post='2087362']
Although I think these things can be of interest in many ways, I would hesitate to judge one's personal prayer or spiritual life on such things. St John of the Cross would probably come across as a melancholic while St Teresa would be more likely to be a sanguine/choleric, and yet these two Carmelites founded the reform (along with Father Gracian who must have been a bit phlegmatic). And melancholic/choleric seems like almost diametrically opposed to each other and yet you are both? Wow.

I would be very wary of labelling someone according to these standards as much as I would be with any other system such as ennegrams or Myer-Briggs etc, although many swear by them. The minute ones gets labelled, it is very hard to get that label off. 'Oh, that's just because you are a choleric." (or J type personality, or Scorpio, or any other label).

Do it for fun, but heavens, I hope they don't start using these as a tool for judging candidates! [img]http://www.phatmass.com/phorum/public/style_emoticons/default/smile.gif[/img]
[/quote]

These tests are "fun" and may help us understand ourselves a little better--or realize that we are not alone in how we act and respond to particular situations, but I agree, that taking them too seriously and using them to label people could make you misjudge a potentially great candidate.

I am also melancholic/choleric and it's a tough mix to live with. For me, "balance" is usually veering been one aspect of my personality and another. It is a constant battle between the part of me that is very much into study and reason, and the part that is emotional and relies a lot on intuition.

BTW--my unusual mix of personality traits (and it IS unusual) has also shown up on a number of personality tests approved and used by the current psychological community, so my results on this "test" came as no surprise at all.

Edited by IgnatiusofLoyola
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I took that test, and became almost a pure melancholic which I think is very correct after reading the description on that other site.
I think being that way can help me in religious life(if that ever happens)

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Oh, Iam not against these things, only how they can be used. I was a psychiatric nurse so I worry a little about people getting pigeonholed into anything at all. Have you ever noticed how if you take a personality test on one day, you will give totally different answers than you might on another day? Sometimes mood can make you answer differently. And then sometimes I hate all of the choices and feel like saying, "Excuse me, none of these answers apply to me."

So, yes, learn a little insight from them, but I think a good contemplative prayer and examen of conscience can do a lot in helping us to overcome some of our weaknesses. After all, none of the saints needed these tests to help them overcome their vices.

I know I sound very negative, and I don't mean to. I just want to make sure that these things don't become 'gospel' for anyone, especially communities who might think that these are some sort of guarantee that they are going to be able to find a suitable 'fit' through them. Anytime a person can give their own subjective answers to a questionnaire, you have to ask first about the quality of the questions (and options for answers) and second about the mood or physical state of the person at the time they answered them. I also used to work at producing exams for accreditation, and creating questions that are psychometrically sound and non-stereotypical isn't easy. I am sure they all try, but humans create them....

But they can be fun. Don't let me rain on your parade :D

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I think that it can be very valuable to understand temperaments in living community life... it helps to realize differences that you have with others, and understanding temperaments allows you to see why you have those differences, and oftentimes helps one to see ways in which they can work on getting along better with others.

For example, I am predominantly melancholic and part of the time that I was an extern, I was working with another sister that was phlegmatic/sanguine... the exact opposite of me... and we were constantly having misunderstandings... it really helped when my superior pointed out to me the temperament that she thought I had (she was totally right too!) and that I would had a tendency to be sort of quiet, to keep things to myself... the sister I was working with was not like that at all... she was totally straightforward... and so just recognizing that helped to make things much smoother, that we just needed to make some compromises an see the beauty of the differences God had given us. It helped me to grow tremendously.

I don't think that one should use their temperament to determine what spirituality is best for them though. Like, the idea that sanguines should be Franciscans and melancholics should be Carmelites and cholerics should be Dominicans, etc. A healthy religious community should be diverse... that's often key to the members growing in holiness! If everyone was all similar and got along perfectly, where would the struggle be to make you a saint?! It is that important to stretch yourself too... not to look for a community that seems like a merely natural fit for your personality.

As for melancholic/choleric... that really is not a diametrically opposed combo, although sanguine/melancholic is, and phlegmatic/choleric is.

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I would have to say that in most of the communities I've visited and/or entered, there were not only introverts but also extroverts. Watching the sisters in recreation, or how they handled difficulties in their tasks, there really was a wide range of personalties and temperaments. I saw boisterous and calm, I saw impatience while doing tasks and a more even keel. This was especially apparent with the Sisters of Life. It was so heartening to see that they weren't only searching for one 'type' of sister.

More and more communities are asking for not only physicals and dental exams before admission but they're also asking for mental health exams. One community I applied asks all its candidates to provide an exam, with required components listed on a form that I was to give the psychologist/psychiatrist. I was afraid that some mental health professionals would be biased against religious life, thinking it an anomaly as it is, so I contacted the diocese who gave me a list of Catholics in this field stating, 'Many communities nowadays ask for mental health exams as a part of their admission process'. So I'm gathering that this really isn't unusual. The psychologist I met with told me he does one 'every couple of months'. Anyway, he proceeded to use a similar test that you mention above (although this was some years ago, so I cannot remember exactly which test was used). I am not sure of my results as he was required to send it all under separate cover. But apparently the results were fine as I was admitted. I'm also sure he didn't say that I was a _______, because that would imply the superior would know what that meant.

I'm not so sure these tests are good tools for religious superiors unless they know how to interpret the results. But I see where you're coming from. And so, along those lines, if I were to 'teach' superiors anything, I'd want to remind them that there are all sorts of personalities that our Lord calls to religious life. Some fit in more quickly than others, some take longer but are no less called.

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Indwelling Trinity

I think terming one as sanguine, melancholic, choleric etc... is kind of archaic now in the psychological field and definitely too simplistic. I think a better gauge although not new would be the Briggs Meyers Personality type testing given the fact that it takes into account the more complex aspects of personality typing. It was used in my community informally and served as a excellent understanding of each other and significantly cut out some of the inherent frustrations of community life by developing and more open understanding of each others uniqueness and ways of seeing and relating to the world around them.

I have found in my own studies that the greater number found in the religious life and helping professions are of the NF typology. Ideally the idea of the Meyers Briggs testing is that although one will be predominantly a certain collection of personality traits, the ideal is to balance all aspects into a more fully integrated person while still maintaining ones basic personality set.

I found taking the test for myself to be extremely confirming of the lifestyle choices i have made. I am an INFJ however once the extreme introvert, I have now almost balanced it with the extrovert albeit introversion, intuition and feeling factors still strongly influence the truest part of me.

Understood clearly both personally and communally, this knowledge can be a big boon in discerning ones vocation as well as encouraging loving forbearance of the individual personalities you will encounter in community.

Tenderly,

Indwelling Trinity

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IgnatiusofLoyola

Indwelling Trinity--This has nothing to do with this thread, just a funny observation on your Avatar.

To the left of the face of the nun, there is a line of the sleeve of the habit that goes down from the neck to the arm.

However, whenever I look at the face, it looks to me as if the nun is smoking a cigar!!! I know she isn't, but I have to stop a minute when I see your avatar. Here is the avatar. Does anyone but me see the cigar? (Even though it's obviously the edge of the sleeve? Don't worry, my meds should kick in soon. LOL


[url="http://www.phatmass.com/phorum/index.php?showuser=9543"][img]http://www.phatmass.com/phorum/uploads/av-9543.jpg[/img][/url]

Edited by IgnatiusofLoyola
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Indwelling Trinity

[quote name='IgnatiusofLoyola' date='06 April 2010 - 12:46 AM' timestamp='1270525571' post='2087452']
Indwelling Trinity--This has nothing to do with this thread, just a funny observation on your Avatar.

To the left of the face of the nun, there is a line of the sleeve of the habit that goes down from the neck to the arm.

However, whenever I look at the face, it looks to me as if the nun is smoking a cigar!!! I know she isn't, but I have to stop a minute when I see your avatar. Here is the avatar. Does anyone but me see the cigar? (Even though it's obviously the edge of the sleeve? Don't worry, my meds should kick in soon. LOL


[url="http://www.phatmass.com/phorum/index.php?showuser=9543"][img]http://www.phatmass.com/phorum/uploads/av-9543.jpg[/img][/url]
[/quote]

Laughing.. that's me and it is the other side of my veil when i was a novice! But now that you mentions it... I wonder what brand i was smoking?:P

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While I don't have a problem with the MBTI per se, I am concerned about how it gets used.

It is not really designed for selection and like all tools needs to be used carefully...

[quote]"The results of the assessment should not be used to "label, evaluate, or limit the respondent in any way."Since all types are valuable, and the MBTI measures preferences rather than aptitude, the MBTI is not considered a proper instrument for purposes of employment selection. Many professions contain highly competent individuals of different types with complementary preferences."

[i][size="2"]From Wikipedia - Source: Ethics for Administering the MBTI Instrument". http://www.myersbriggs.org/myers-and-briggs-foundation/ethical-use-of-the-mbti-instrument/ethics-for-administering.asp. Retrieved 2009-02-15.[/size][/i] [/quote]

So although many communities do use it today and one must be prepared to accept this, I would suggest that it isn't always the best way to judge a vocation. I wonder how Jesus and Our Lady would have fared on the assessment, and if He would have considered it a good way to evaluate who should be an apostle? St Peter, what would his assessment have shown? :P

Edited by nunsense
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Indwelling Trinity

[quote name='nunsense' date='06 April 2010 - 01:37 AM' timestamp='1270528658' post='2087493']
While I don't have a problem with the MBTI per se, I am concerned about how it gets used.

It is not really designed for selection and like all tools needs to be used carefully...



So although many communities do use it today and one must be prepared to accept this, I would suggest that it isn't always the best way to judge a vocation. I wonder how Jesus and Our Lady would have fared on the assessment, and if He would have considered it a good way to evaluate who should be an apostle? St Peter, what would his assessment have shown? :P
[/quote]

Smiling... I never said in my post that it should be used in assessing true vocations , I only stated that it can be a help for the individual and community in mutual understanding of the dynamics of community life as well as helping one to acertain what feels closest to their own aspirations. Razzzzberryy back at ya! :P

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The temperaments were discussed here on the Phorum lately. Here are the links to the threads:

[url="http://www.phatmass.com/phorum/index.php?showtopic=103463&st=0"]The Four Temperaments.[/url]

[url="http://www.phatmass.com/phorum/index.php?showtopic=103646"]Resources on Temperaments.[/url]

[url="http://www.phatmass.com/phorum/index.php?showtopic=103644"]Ebook: The Four Temperaments[/url]

My personal experience with learning about the Temperaments is that it has helped me very greatly in recognising what sins I'm prone to and thus to be wary of proximate occasions to those, and it has also helped me to get along well with others.

I think that the Catholic resources on temperament address nunsense's concerns in that, as far as I can tell, they don't project any one temperament or temperament combination as the best, or the worst, but rather insist that saintliness is possible whatever the temperament, and point out the weakness and strengths of each temperament and temperament combination, in such a way that it is helpful for us to manage our spiritual lives.

Edited by Innocent
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