The Four Temperaments in Healing

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By: Anne Creadick-Kennedy, R.N.

What does it mean to hear someone say "She has cancer!" How does it feel when you hear "You are HIV-positive!" In each case, the domi­nant emotion can be, and often is, fear. Un­fortunately, fear is one of the most signifi­cant barriers to healing. Some people I have worked with choose to tell no one of their diagnosis, not because they are in denial, but because of the debilitating nature of the fearful and negative thoughts of others. Bernie Siegel, MD, who introduced heal­ing imagery twenty years ago, reports of patients who don't use terms of war and ag­gression when imaging the healing of their bodies. War and aggression are fear-based, reactive behaviors, rather than proactive.

Are there differences in reactions to a serious diagnosis whether or not the patient is male or female? Perhaps. I think it is even more interesting to explore reactions based on the four temperaments, which transcend gender.

The four temperaments were pro­posed by Paracelsus, and based on the medieval concept of the four humors (con­tained in heart, lungs, liver, spleen).

They are a familiar point of view for parents and teachers in Waldorf schools, and are explained most lovingly by A.C. Harwood in his book The Way of the Child (Anthroposophic Press, Hudson, NY).

The choleric temperament, related to the color red and the planet Mars, is de­finitive, and tends to take an aggressive course in the fight against illness. The predominantly choleric person profits greatly from veil painting after being given an opportunity to ventilate rage and grief with perhaps more kinetic activities.

The melancholic person tends to re­act with a statement such as, "I knew it." A patient of mine confided, "I've wanted to die my whole life." Here the task is to enkindle hope. There is an exquisite painting exercise from Dr. Margarethe Hauschka which does just that.

Sanguine per­sons need help not to exhaust them­selves flying all over the world seeking the next "miracle cure." I've never discouraged a pa­tient from exploring anything they believe might be helpful; in fact, I encourage them to try anything resonant with their nature and their (not my) intuition. BUT, a sig­nificant nursing (or physician) task is to help the patient conserve their forces and keep up their strength. Many anthroposophical therapies call on the etheric body, the life forces, to be strong enough to enable heal­ing to occur. Frantically exhausting oneself isn't supportive of these life forces.

The phlegmatic person takes a reasoned approach, carefully exploring possibilities. The problem here is motivation to activity, and not contemplation alone. This "liver" type benefits greatly from the oft-prescribed Fragaria Vitis Comp, but also may be en­couraged to walk daily and faithfully un­dertake the curative eurythmy exercises pre­scribed. The usual art therapy for this pa­tient is clay; however beeswax modeling may be substituted for a cancer patient.

The human being who has a life-threatening illness has an enormous chal­lenge ahead. For this reason it is important to develop a "team" around the patient op­timally consisting of oncologist/specialist, an­throposophically-extended medical doctor, rhythmical massage practitioner,* art thera­pist, counselor (or spiritual counselor), cura­tive eurythmist, an R.N. knowledgeable in anthroposophic hydrotherapy, a peer sup­port group, and the patient, its Team Leader.

Ideally, the group surrounding the patient consists of colleagues who trust one another and communicate on a regular basis.

Besides treating the physical body, in anthroposophically-extended medicine we have had success in healing from the direction of the life- or etheric body; and the direction of the ego, the higher, or eternal Self. A brief look at some thera­pies prescribed may be seen in light of the fourfold nature of the human being.

Physical therapies can include com­presses, oral- and injectable medications. Etheric or life-body therapies would in­clude walking, painting, rhythmic mas­sage. Music and counseling address issues of the Soul or Astral Body. A direct ap­proach is made to the Ego or Higher Self via fever-baths and mistletoe preparations, therapeutic eurythmy and meditations.

Fortunately, research has finally pro­duced data supporting this approach. Friends who have gone to the Lukas Clinic in Switzerland, or Park Atwood Clinic in England consistently report a profound sense of healing in these hospitals where all the therapies and "teams" are in place.


*other types of massage are contraindicated for cancer patients.


Anne Creadick-Kennedy, R.N. is currently practicing in Portland, Oregon, and working with the Takacs medical group.

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