Enneatype Four

Type Description

People of Enneatype Four construct their identities around their perception of themselves as being somehow unique and fundamentally different from others. This deep felt sense of being “different from” or “other than” pervades the Four’s sense of self, and functions as the basis for the Four’s attempt to create a persona that properly reflects who they feel they really are. Fours are not content (or even able) to live out the role assigned them by their societies or their families; they self-consciously search for an expression they feel will be truly authentic. Of all the types, Fours are the most acutely aware that the persona is a construct – something which has been created and can thus be re-created. This is indeed the fundamental respect in which Fours are artists; they may or may not be artists in the conventional sense of the term, but all Fours have a sense that their identities are, in some respect, their own creation.

Fours generally construct a persona and project an image which has flair or “style.” This style may be, for instance, one of casual elegance (“shabby chic” perhaps), or it may be more flagrantly counter culture, but whichever image is chosen, it will tend to bear the Four’s own original stamp and will be an expression of the Four’s current sense of self.

There is a paradoxical quality to this whole endeavor. Fours strive for authenticity, for an expression of themselves which is “true,” but the image they portray is, by its nature, delusory, and inevitably fails to convey the true depths and complexity of the self. It also necessarily falls short of the Four’s own personal ideal. This sense of perpetually “falling short” contributes to the Four’s sense of inadequacy, as Fours feel that they are not only unable to live up to society’s ideal but to their own individual ideals as well. This dynamic of striving and falling short is at the core of the Four’s sense of shame, frustration and heightened feelings of self-consciousness.

To be sure, Fours compensate for their feelings of inferiority with an equally strong sense of superiority. Fours tend to feel a sense of disdain for whatever is ordinary and for the “common” sorts of lives with which most people seem to content themselves. They tend to feel that their outsider status, their sense of style and their heightened sense of self-consciousness, confer on them a stamp of genuineness and “class.” Thus a feeling of being a member of the “true aristocracy” alternates with deep feelings of shame, and fears of being somehow deeply flawed or defective.

The Four’s inner landscape is thus complex, and their issues surrounding identity fraught with frustrations. There is even an enervating quality to the whole psychic drama, which, along with the Four’s emotional sensitivity, contributes to the Four’s characteristic need to withdraw. When Fours withdraw, they immerse themselves in their own mental landscapes where they are free to cultivate and analyze their feelings. In the realm of fantasy, Fours are not constrained by the mundane considerations which are the plague of everyday life; the inner life can thus become more real than the outer.

Fours are primarily emotional by nature, and of all the types, probably have the most complex palette of emotional states. While Fours are not blind to the “facts” and the supposed “objective” state of affairs, they tend to interpret reality at least as much in terms of its symbolic content and emotional resonance. John Keats, a Four, expressed this well when he stated: “I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart’s affections and the truth of the imagination.” Fours are thus emotionally attuned to meaning, and this attention to meaning sometimes gives Fours access to a dimension of reality that others miss. Such insight might find expression in art, literature or music, but is often enough simply manifested in an idiosyncratic lifestyle which expresses the Four’s own personal vision. When Fours are unbalanced however, their emotional sensitivity, which is generally accompanied by an introspective nature, can result in states of self-absorption or descents into melancholia or despair.

Fours tend to inhabit their emotional states, making them often seem somewhat moody or temperamental. This emotionality feeds the identity issues which are at the core of enneatype Four. As Fours introspect, looking for who they “really are,” they encounter a constantly shifting play of emotional states emanating from a wellspring which seems to have an infinite depth. There seems to be no ground, no center for the Four to hold onto. The “true self” cannot be found, so the Four shifts focus to the level of presentation and persona.

Some Fours act out their emotional states in episodes of high drama, while others are more likely to withdraw, but as those in the Four’s life are frequently unaware of the inner chain of connections which has given rise to the Four’s current emotional state, there tends to be an unpredictable quality to intimate relations with Fours. Fours are often in search of the perfect lover, someone who will rescue them from their self-absorption, but as they have high expectations of lovers, suffer from a sense of shame, and easily feel misunderstood, love relationships seldom progress smoothly. On the high side, they are highly sensitive to the emotional states of those they love, are non-judgmental (of everything except bad taste) and are unafraid of looking at the dark side of human nature. They can therefore be highly supportive of friends and lovers.

In the traditional Enneagram, Fours are said to suffer from “envy.” Fours often idealize qualities they find in others and then come to envy those same qualities. By a process known as introjection, they sometimes try to incorporate those very same qualities into themselves. This, in turn, once again, triggers the Four’s struggle for authenticity, as the idealized quality is seen as basically belonging to “the other.” The envy that Fours experience is a fundamental manifestation of the Four’s feeling of defectiveness and tends to be a recurring problem for type Four individuals until such time as they have learned self-acceptance. Often enough, the envy that Fours experience actually manifests as a longing…a sort of wistful desire that they too be capable of the simpler sorts of happiness that others seem so readily able to achieve.

When unbalanced, the Four’s envy can take a nasty turn as unhealthy Fours tend to project their self-loathing outward. At such times, the previously sensitive Four can become spiteful and vindictive, feeling justified in being so because they have been misunderstood, and because they have suffered so terribly. As Fours have a well developed emotional intelligence, they know how to wound with words, and, when they are unbalanced, feel incapable of restraining themselves. They tend to lash out at the very ones who have been most supportive and who might be trying to help them. If this causes the Four’s intimates to withdraw, the Four’s abandonment issues are likely to be triggered, resulting in a frantic attempt to re-ignite the relationship. This can become a recurring pattern in the life of an unhealthy Four.

Fours sometimes masochistically cultivate their negative emotional states. They actually “fall in love with suffering” as they come to believe that suffering is a sign of their depth of soul. The idea of themselves as being melancholic can thus become a part of their idealized self-image, making it difficult to overcome. Bouts of self-indulgence and even dissolution are not uncommon, as unbalanced Fours feel justified in attempting to compensate for the general lack of pleasure that they experience in their lives. Rather than looking for practical solutions to their difficulties, Fours are prone to fantasizing about a savior who will rescue them from their unhappiness.

Healthier Fours, on the other hand, are grounded in an identity much deeper than their currently chosen persona or their shifting emotional states. Healthy Fours retain their emotional sensitivity and receptivity without experiencing either as a source of pain and wounding. Having learned self-acceptance, they are capable of experiencing a sort of happiness that embraces both the light and dark sides of life. Their happiness is thus devoid of the grasping after pleasure that characterizes so much that goes by that name. It has a fullness and depth to it that is the deepest and truest source of creativity.

It has always been the task of enneatype Four to confront the complexities of the emotional life, and it is very often Fours who retrieve for us much that would prefer to stay comfortably hidden from consciousness, much that is dark and unsavory, much that is disturbing and unsettling. But, when healthy, Fours show us our happiness too.

Fours with a Three wing are generally more outgoing, practical and competitive than Fours with a Five wing. They often have a dramatic flair and tend to be emotionally expressive. Fours with a Five wing are more withdrawn and, while still predominantly emotional, more likely to be intellectuals who infuse their feelings with ideas. They tend to be introspective, often to the point of self-absorption.

Type Exemplars

Existential Philosophy is attractive to many Fours and several of the most significant Existentialist writers have been Fours: Soren Kierkegaard who searched for a truth that was “true for him” was a Four, as were Albert Camus and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Dotoyevsky’s “underground man” was also a Four…an unhealthy one to be sure. At one point he declared in typical Fourish fashion “My debauchery I undertook solitarily, by night, covertly, fearfully, filthily, with a shame that would not abandon me… I was then already bearing the underground in my soul.”

Many singer/songwriters have been Fours, including Bob Dylan (“the voice of his generation,” a label he always detested), Annie Lenox, Prince, Alanis Morrisette. Also the more classical composers: Beethoven, Chopin, Mahler and Tchaikovsky.

The photographer, Diane Arbus, was likewise a Four. Her obsession with those whom most consider to be “freaks” demonstrates a typical Fourish interest in whatever exists outside the boundaries of the conventional. About a collection of photographs aptly entitled Freaks, Arbus said: “Freaks was a thing I photographed a lot. It was one of the first things I photographed and it had a terrific kind of excitement for me. I just used to adore them. I still do adore some of them. I don’t quite mean they’re my best friends but they made me feel a mixture of shame and awe. There’s a quality of legend about freaks. Lke a person in a fairy tale who stops you and demands that you answer a riddle. Most people go through life dreading they’ll have a traumatifc experience. Freaks were born with their trauma. They’ve already passed their test in life. They’re aristocrats.”

Famous artists include Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Frida Kahlo, Kasimir Malevich, Amadeo Modigliani, Edvard Munch and Francisco de Goya.

Many famous writers have been Fours. To name a few: Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, D.H. Lawrence, William Faulkner, J.D.Salinger, Marguerite Duras, Isabel Allende and Anais Nin. Nin’s diary is a captivating portrait of a talented but unhealthy Four caught up in a state of narcissistic self-absorption.

The romantic movement was replete with Fours: Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron and John Keats were all Fours.

Actors include: Sarah Bernhardt, Rachel Weisz, Laurence Olivier, Judy Garland, Jeremy Irons, Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder.

Famous fictional characters include The Bell Jar’s Esther Greenwood, Anna Karenina, and Blanche du Bois.

Possible Mistypes

Fours and Ones are both oriented towards an ideal, although the One’s ideal generally has a moral torque whereas the Four’s is more aesthetic and personal. Both can also have perfectionistic streaks. But Fours tend to be self-absorbed, and, when stressed, become self-indulgent and more emotionally expressive, whereas Ones under stress become increasingly self-denying and emotionally repressed.

Fours and Twos can both be emotionally expressive, and Fours, like Twos, can experience neediness under stress, but it is Twos, especially those who have artistic inclinations, who are more likely to mistype as Fours than the converse. The principle difference centers around the fact that Twos tend to be focused on others, whereas Fours tend toward self-absorption. Fours are introspective and tend to magnify their perceived flaws whereas Twos tend to have a self-flattering self-image.

Both Threes and Fours are concerned with image and, when the wing is strong, can mistype, although here, once again, it is typically Threes who mistype as Four rather than the converse. Threes however, are generally more comfortable with self-presentation and are more likely to achieve “success” in the conventional sense of the term than are the more reclusive and self-conscious Fours. Fours are introspective whereas Threes tend to focus outward. Finally, Threes tend to detach from emotions under stress and to focus on being competent, whereas Fours are likely to want a time out to process their emotions.

Fours and Fives share many traits in common and can easily be mistyped, especially when the wing is strong. Both types are frequently introspective, intellectually inclined and prone to withdrawal. The principle difference lies in the relationship that each type has to emotional experience. Fours generally know exactly how they are feeling and are generally comfortable dealing with emotional expressions from others. Fives, on the other hand, tend to detach from direct emotional experience under stress, and need to take time to process their emotional response. Finally, Fours are more inclined to self-revelation than are Fives, who generally find self-disclosure to be especially taxing.

Fours and Sixes can mistype, especially if the Six is artistically inclined and individualistic. But Fours are less attuned to the needs and expectations of others than are Sixes, who are usually very involved with friends and family and, more generally, in affairs of the world. Sixes frequently suffer from inner conflict but they are not essentially self-absorbed. Most Sixes form interpersonal bonds quite naturally, something which doesn’t come as easily to more reclusive and self-conscious Fours.

While almost the opposite in some respects, Fours and Sevens can both be unconventional, creative, and self-indulgent, and both can be attention seeking. Surprisingly, it is not especially uncommon for Sevens to mistype as Fours. When they recognize the disparity between the optimistic, fun loving persona that they project to the world and their own often anxious internal mental states, they can confuse their pain with the melancholia of type Four. Sevens are in flight from this pain however, whereas Fours often cultivate their negative mental states. Moreover, Sevens are generally far more extroverted than Fours.

It is not common for Fours and Eights to be mistaken for one another, but Fours with Three wings can present as passionate, expressive and domineering, and such behavior might generate a mistype. Eights however tend to repress from consciousness any feelings of vulnerability whereas Fours are comfortable exploring such emotions. Eights are practical people of action, Fours require a good deal of time alone and often work on projects which have no practical application.

Fours and Nines are both withdrawn types, and both can be creative and sensitive. Fours have a far darker inner mental landscape than do Nines however, who tend to detach from unpleasant emotions. Nines are conflict avoidant whereas Fours sometimes invite conflict as a means to intensify experience. Nines tend to relate well to others and to find a niche in their social circle; Fours tend to feel like misfits who can’t quite find their place.

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