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published: 2009-05-15

During the parent evening at my son’s daycare center, one of the teachers told us about Rudolf Steiner’s outlook on character. Steiner said there are four temperaments: Melancholic, Phlegmatic, Sanguine and Choleric. The teacher went on to describe how every child often has a little of all four, but is usually predominantly one. Each temperament has its virtues and challenges.
Obviously, while she was describing them, we parents were all wondering what temperament we ourselves fit in. I was desperately hoping I wouldn’t end up being the one that sounded so disgusting (Phlegmatic) and think I am somewhere between Melancholic and Choleric. Albeit I pretend to be Sanguine most of the time. And sometimes I actually am (which according to her was an impossibility as Melancholic and Sanguine oppose each other).
So what point am I making here? By now, I’m sure a few of you are thinking “Oh God, Steiner, spare me.” And, “Wasn’t he a racist?” You’ll know someone who went to a Steiner school and is really bad at conflict. Or can’t keep a job nor a relationship. But don’t loads of people have that? I happen to know someone who went to a Steiner school and wrote a book about conflict.
By the way, it wasn’t Steiner who created those temperaments. It was Hippocrates. And in acting school we’ll learn about ‘earth, air, water or fire’ character-types. While writing we’ll be considering archetypes such as trickster or hero. Jung apparently distinguished between The Self, The Shadow, The Anima/Animus and The Persona. You can be sad, happy, angry or lazy. And so on and so forth. So nothing scary about Steiner. Simply a different way of saying what we already know. And usually forget.

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