“To be, or not to be: that is the question…” Hamlet’s famous soliloquy typifies the melancholic temperament: thoughtful, reflective, ponderous to a fault; slow to act, yet deeply sensitive and of noble ideals. It is said that the melancholic so longs for heaven that everything on earth falls short. His longing for the ideal can make him appear nitpicking and critical, and lack some “people sense.” Of great intelligence and lofty aspirations, the melancholic can be so thoughtful and careful that he never takes a step forward! Introverted, dignified, and careful of speech, he may appear shy or even aloof. There can be that rare occasion, however, when the melancholic finally ventures out into a social situation, in an awkward attempt to “fit in,” he can sometimes swing to the opposite extreme of being overly loud or inordinately silly. On such occasions, the sensitive and self-critical melancholic will experience deep anxiety and a tendency to brood over his mistakes.
Time alone is vital for this reflective, introspective temperament. A perfectionist at home and on the job, the melancholic is likely the one with the perfectly organized closet and kitchen, the tidy desk-top, and the painstaking attention to religious observances, sometimes to the point of scrupulosity. A melancholic longs for a deep soul mate, yet when he is around people, he often finds himself mistrustful and disappointed. Sensing this criticism, others will keep their distance—thus further entrenching the melancholic in his solitary life. In relationships, the melancholic tends to be slow to initiate, cautious, hyper-critical, and pessimistic–yet, once committed, they are unwaveringly loyal and self-sacrificing.