Types of Temperament
Everyone has his or her own unique chemical balance, rather than imbalance. At one time, it was thought that all behavior was learned. Since the 1980s, much has been discovered about how chemicals released by glands (hormones) and nerves (neurotransmitters) influence feelings and behavior. Other substances (enzymes) regulate chemical reactions. The major players that mold your temperament are:
FOUR BASIC TEMPERAMENTS
Sensors or on-edge people may have low levels of nature’s tranquilizer, GABA, causing them to be very reactive to their surroundings but to back away from triggers due to a limited comfort zone. They can be sensitive and perceptive or anxious and fearful. Panic attacks, social phobias, and avoidant disorders can become problems.
Focusers or low-keyed people may have high levels of MAO and low levels of serotonin and norepinephrine. This causes them to underreact to external stimuli and turn inward to find interest through fantasy, pondering, reading or ruminating. They can have great powers of concentration and task orientation or brood and feel empty. Obsessions, compulsions, dependency, and depression can become problems.
Seekers or go-getters may have an abundance of nature’s pleasure pill, dopamine, and low MAO. This leads to underreactivity to threat and may cause them to seek excitement and even danger to feel alive. They can be friendly, high achievers, and courageous or restless and dissatisfied. Attention deficits, addictions, and cycles of elation and despair can be problems.
schargers or quick-triggered people may have low levels of serotonin and MAO and high levels of nature’s antagonist, testosterone, causing them to overreact to external stimuli. Because they are outgoing, they lash out at what bothers them. They can be passionate, sensuous, energetic, and lively or explosive and unpredictable. Personality disorders with poor insight and blaming others can be problems.
The chart below can help you identify your temperament. The temperament with the most points may be your type. If the sum of your sensor plus focuser points in the left column is high, you may be introverted. If the sum of your discharger plus seeker points in the right column is high, you may be extroverted. If the sum of sensor plus discharger points is high, you may be over-reactive. If the sum of focuser plus seeker points is high, you may be under-reactive. If your point total for all types is similar, you may be evenly balanced or cycle in moods. It can help to have others rate you.
Identifying Your Temperament
Directions: Give yourself 1–4 points for each item that describes you. Score items that list more than one quality according to how many traits characterize you. For instance, if you both worry and expect the worst, score that item 2 points. If you are a pessimist but don’t worry, give yourself 1 point.
Introverted LIMITED <— COMFORT ZONE —> EXTENSIVE Extroverted
Sensors (SN)—Low GABA
Dischargers (D)—High testosterone, low MAO
See Mastering Your Moods by Melvyn Kinder (Simon & Schuster, 1995) for more on biochemistry and description of temperaments.