Other ways of sorting personality types

Human beings have for long attempted to describe and explain how they can be so different from each other:

  • Galen in the second century CE publicised Hippocrates’s belief that differences in human moods come as a consequence of imbalances in one of the four bodily fluids: blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm. An imbalance of each humour corresponded with a particular human temperament (blood-sanguine, black bile-melancholic, yellow bile-choleric, and phlegm-phlegmatic). Individuals with sanguine temperaments are extroverted and social. Choleric people have energy, passion and charisma. Melancholics are creative, kind and considerate. Phlegmatic temperaments are characterized by dependability, kindness, and affection.
  • Almost every culture has believed that the position of the stars influences human events and the idea that their position at the time of our birth influences our personality is the oldest form of personality typing. In astrology, as with humours, the elements of earth, air, fire and water create subdivisions of personality types.
choleric Yellow bile Fire Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius Action orientated
melancholic Black bile Earth Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn Common sense
sanguine Blood Air Gemini, Libra, Aquarius Thinking and communication skills
phlegmatic phlegm Water Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces Ability to feel and intuitively know


  • Carl Jung’s interest in personality types emerged from his attempt to reconcile the differences between the psychological approaches of Freud and Adler. He concluded their conflict arose because of their different personality type (Freud’s theory was extraverted and Adler’s introverted). His book Psychological Types is the basis of Myers Briggs approach.
  • Among a number of contemporary approaches to personality typing, the Enneagram is popular. It has 9 basic types: Reformer, Helper, Achiever, Individualist, Investigator, Loyalist, Enthusiast, Challenger and Peacemaker. (Wikipedia has a useful table describing these). In spite of unease in the Vatican, this method for learning more about ourselves is widely used in Retreat Centres.