What is Sanguine Temperament?

Shannon V. McHugh, PsyD
February 6, 2019

Many theories about personality and general psychology come from theories developed long ago that still hold true today. Theorists like Freud and Jung often are credited for a lot of the ways that current psychologists conceptualize the symptoms they notice in human thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and how to treat what ails them. Sometimes, a theory may have even more history than those born in the 19th century. Hippocrates, a Greek physician that lived from 460-370 BC, had a theory that connected the inner workings of the body to a person’s personality and behavior and lead to the development of the Four Temperament Theory. Hippocrates theorized that human feelings and behaviors were connected to an overload or depletion of body fluids that he called humors; later, many theorists took the ideas of the Four Temperament Theory and generalized it to characterize and identify four main personality types: sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic. While modern medicine has not found a biological link to the theories of Hippocrates, theorists continue to use the language of his early understanding of temperament to describe different character traits of humans today.

sanguine temperament

Over time, theorists have defined sanguine temperament mostly with characteristics similar to an extrovert. Highly energetic and outgoing, people with sanguine temperament are talkative, charismatic, friendly, and full of life. As with any personality trait, there are many positive attributes about the sanguine temperament, but there are also things that often become problematic for the people with these traits as well. Here’s a list of some of the positive attributes of someone who may have sanguine temperament:

  • Full of energy
  • These people are usually the ones who never seem tired or down. They’re quick-witted and people find them clever and funny.
  • Thrill Seeking
  •  They love adventure and new experiences
  • Social Butterflies
  • They love being around people and crave the energy of interacting with others
  • Easy Going
  • They usually don’t take life too seriously and are able to get over any conflicts that arise without much difficulty.
  • Optimistic
  • These people usually have a positive outlook on life and can see the bright side of things.
  •  Strong Communicators
  • They love to talk and are able to convey information to others easily and comfortably, sharing ideas in a way that can interest others.
  • Confidence
  • Generally people with sanguine temperament have higher self-esteem and portray themselves as confident in who they are.
  • Mindful
  • People with these traits can often seem to live in the moment and remain pretty centered on what is happening in their life moment to moment, not focusing too much on the past or the present.

Like any personality, there are many positive attributes that come with the sanguine temperament, but there are often some more negative characteristics that come with this as well. Here is a list of some of the things people with sanguine temperament may struggle with:

  • Recklessness
  • Their constant thrill seeking tendency can cause them to put themselves in unsafe situations that could harm themselves or others.
  • Impulsivity
  • Making quick, irrational decisions is a common trait of someone with sanguine temperament.
  • Concentration
  • People who have this temperament may bore easily and find it hard to stay focused on a task.
  • Addictive Personality
  • Because of the impulsivity and the high need for excitement, people with this temperament can develop dependency to substances or other things that feed that “high” that they seek out all throughout their life.
  • Neediness
  • Often people with sanguine temperament need reassurance of their positive attributes from others, even if they feel confident about it themselves. This can lead to a sense of neediness where they require a lot of reminders of their importance to others.
  • Attention Seeking
  • People with this temperament often need the reassurance from others so much that they may struggle to feel completely devoted to relationships in their lives because they never feel like one person can give them all the attention they need. These people end up engaging in activities that demand a lot of attention from crowds to show off their creativity and their talent to a wide array of people.
  • Mood Swings
  • With intense energy comes intense emotional shifts. Those with sanguine temperament can have mood swings and very big emotional outbursts without warning, but as quickly as these emotions begin is also how quickly they can end.

While there is no research based psychological or medical principle that discusses the four temperaments and their characteristics, it is often interesting to look at what theorists imagine each one involves to try to understand ourselves and our loved ones within that context. If you, or someone you know struggles with the negative aspects of sanguine temperament as described above, a mental health professional can definitely work with you to provide insight into where some of these negative traits come from and how to overcome them to have a happier, more deeply connected life.

Shannon V. McHugh, PsyD

Dr. Shannon McHugh is a Licensed Clinical and Forensic Psychologist in Los Angeles, California. She specializes in assessment and treatment of children, adolescents, and adults who have developmental and social delays, behavioral difficulties, and those who have experienced traumatic events

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