Temperament: nature, character, personality
Pre-aged people often see aged folks as being set in their ways. And in terms of temperament, this is spot on. As human beings we each seem to be wired to view our world and react to it with a particular temperament category from birth on. By the time we reach the later stages we’ve had a lifetime of living with this nature, so we rarely think about it and the effect it has on the way we are engaging with our aging. Still, self-awareness of our ever-present temperament is useful in helping us to understand why we are set to deal with our aging the way we do and why others do so in very different ways. It also enables us to recognize how it is dictating both general and specific ways of managing both our age related changes (ARCs) and their impact on us and our daily living.
Differing temperaments began to be acknowledged in early times in Mesopotamia and Egypt. Hippocrates (BC 460-370) gave names to four different “humors”. Galen (AD129-194) saw them as body fluids that needed to be kept in balance to be healthy. Medicine tended to be based on this body fluid theory until the 1500-1600s when Andreus Vesalius and Wiliam Harvey disproved it when they dissected bodies.
Currently temperament tends to be seen in terms of personality traits we carry with us from birth. Like so much of life, it varies in the scale of intensity with different individuals. Some will be extreme examples of it, others mildly or less so.
Whatever the category and intensity of our individual temperament, it’s us. Neither good nor bad, it is what it is, our reality and our lens for viewing ourselves and our world.
I’m not sure how others see my temperament, but I see myself as being primarily Phlegmatic but tending a bit toward Sanguine when the situation seems to call for it. You may recognize it in my approach to the aging experiences in these EWA blog pieces.
Acknowledging our own wiring and taking the reality of our temperament into account as we interact with our age related changes and circumstances is an important constant. So is recognizing and accepting the “built-in” temperament of others who are sharing our aging life. How is it congruent with ours? How is it different? How can we use this knowledge enable us to relate more effectively in affected areas? Again, neither good nor bad, just reality to be dealt with, both as an overall frame of reference and in specific ways.
So here we are, “up in years” having to engage with our own aging and our ever- changing capacities and with others at varying points in their own life span and with each of us having our own temperament. It really is never easy, but then it’s rarely dull either.