When I used to see a counselor, he would invariably bring up my personality. He’d encourage me to use the strengths of my personality to help me deal with difficulties in life. Just recently, I began to wonder if someone also could use these strengths to help them battle mesothelioma.
I checked with Monte Drenner, a licensed mental health counselor in Orlando, and he said personality strengths can indeed help you fight cancer.
“What many people fail to realize is that one of their greatest assets to face cancer lies within, and that is their personal strengths,” he told me. “It is difficult for many people to realize this fact when they have cancer because they focus on the disease rather than the abilities they have that have made them successful.”
Four Personality Types
There are dozens of personality tests out there, but the one I’m most familiar with is the Four Temperaments test. This test describes four distinct personality types:
Many years ago, I read a great book about these personality types — “Personality Plus” by Florence Littauer — and I recently attended a retreat with some women from my church, where we also studied these temperaments. I learned that each person usually falls into two personality types, with one being dominant over the other.
I sat down with Drenner to get a better understanding of how a personality study could help someone with mesothelioma.
“Strengths can be difficult to identify, but understanding your temperament can be helpful,” he said. “Temperament in psychology is that part of you that is ‘hard wired.’ In other words, you were born that way, and the strengths that come with each temperament are innate. They go with you wherever you are, like a hospital, for example, and with whatever you are doing, like fighting cancer.”
Playful Sanguine: The Talker
Sanguines are outgoing and make friends easily. They are optimistic, creative and have a positive outlook on life. These characteristics have key benefits in getting through cancer treatment.
“An individual’s mental attitude while facing cancer is paramount to the outcome,” Drenner said. “I counsel with people to ‘expect the best but be prepared for the worst.’”
“Sanguines can use their creativity to develop mental images of the body fighting the cancer cells. I have worked with several clients dealing with cancer who have used this imagery successfully.”
Powerful Choleric: The Worker
“Cholerics are known to be focused and determined,” Drenner said.
These are the natural-born leaders who have a strong work ethic and excel in emergencies such as an unexpected cancer diagnosis. They are organized and decisive.
“When working with people with this temperament, I challenge them to have ‘focused determination’ on the goal, which drastically increases the chances for success,” Drenner said.
Purposeful Melancholy: The Thinker
Individuals with a melancholy personality tend to be perfectionists with high standards. They are sensitive, thoughtful and devoted.
“Melancholies are empathetic and great thinkers,” Drenner said. “When someone is struggling with any challenge, even cancer, it is amazing how helping others can help themselves.”
“Showing empathy to others, even while ill, can help the healing process. The ability to understand the treatment and the disease empowers them to fight.”
Peaceful Phlegmatic: The Watcher
“Phlegmatics are well balanced and easy going emotionally,” Drenner said.
They are patient, agreeable and are good listeners.
“What many people do not realize when fighting cancer is that they put a great deal of stress on themselves ‘to get better,’” Drenner said. “This temperament does not do that, which helps the healing process, and they avoid the emotional highs and lows of having cancer.”
Identify Your Strengths
I’ve had to face many difficulties in my life, but nothing even close to mesothelioma. By focusing on my personality strengths — I am a mix of melancholy and choleric — I have been able to overcome. And so can you.
“Fighting cancer is one of the biggest challenges anyone will face,” Drenner said. “In order to win this battle, the individual will need to utilize every resource at their disposal, to include a team of physicians, medication, a support group, among others.
“Taking an online assessment will help you identify the strengths of your specific temperament and how these strengths can help you fight your battle with mesothelioma.”