Some people see the world as dangerous, and some see it as safe. Some see it as just or unjust. Nevertheless, we all live in the same world. Elements of our personality color our views, and human perception is little more than an inkblot test. One purpose of the Enneagram of Personality is to describe the various lenses that distort our perception of the world. If you believe that the world is fundamentally different from you, that you must be unique, and that the objective of life is to find your identity, then you might be:
TYPE FOUR: THE INDIVIDUALIST
(Also known as “The Identity Seeker”)
I. Introduction to the Enneagram of Personality
The Enneagram of Personality is a personality classification system comprised of nine types. Each one of these nine types represents a distinct set of motivations, fears, desires and virtues. This article (and the other articles in this series) are designed to present each of the nine types in an understandable and comprehensive way. Many of you are no doubt familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, as it is the most popular personality instrument discussed on PersonalityCafe. The Enneagram is a fantastic compliment to the MBTI test because the Enneagram deals with core motivations, while MBTI deals with information processing. When taken together, MBTI and Enneagram can provide an accurate description of an individual's personality.
These articles are intended to describe each Enneagram type from the ground up, starting with the most fundamental motivations of that type and moving up to how those motivations are expressed in the real world.
II. Quick Facts about Type Four
These facts will be described throughout the article.
Holy Idea: Origin
Virtue: Equanimity (calmness and composure)
Enneagram Triad: Image (Associated Emotion: Shame)
Hornevian Triad: Withdrawn
Harmonic Triad: Reactive
Basic Drive: Isolation vs. Connection
Basic Fear: Loss of Identity
Basic Desire: Uniqueness
Freudian Association: Ego
III. Type Four Description
One of the basic principles of the Enneagram is that as an individual is exposed to the world, they become more short-sighted based on the natural inclinations of their type. Development lies in transcending those inclinations.
Before the Type Four was exposed to “reality”, they were deeply in touch with the holy idea of Origin. This represents the notion that everything ultimately comes from one source and by extension, everyone is connected to everyone else. This quote from Marcus Aurelius in his “Mediations” describes Origin well:
“Constantly regard the universe as one living being, having one substance and one soul; and observe how all things have reference to one perception, the perception of this one living being; and how all things act with one movement; and how all things are the cooperating causes of all things which exist; observe too the continuous spinning of the thread and the structure of the web.”
But life has a corrupting influence, and this awareness of the universe as one living being becomes corrupted into the idea that everyone is fundamentally separated from one another and no such connection exists. Fours turn away from this idea, looking to find identity in other places.
Type Four can be described as the “identity seeker” because they are looking to form their own identity after they have been split off from the holy idea of origin. This creates a puzzling situation for the Type Four, because they want to acknowledge on some level that they are fundamentally united with others, but they reject that fundamental premise. This creates the vice of envy, where they desire what someone else possesses because they wish to unify with those traits.
In the practical world, Fours tend to be very individualistic and take great measures to make sure that they distinguish themselves from others. This is why Type Four is in the image triad. Type Fours are focused on the image they present, as the image serves as proof of their uniqueness and confirmation of their fundamental belief that they are different than others. Every type is inherently weak in that they seek validation of their unspoken and unconscious presumptions about the world; Type Four is no exception, and having a unique identity is how they confirm to themselves that they are, indeed, not appropriately part of the world.
Fours are often called Romantics, because they spend a great deal of time in their own heads, contemplating ideal situations and fantastical possibilities that may be completely unrealistic, but are nevertheless emotionally gratifying. Fours tend to collect little elements of life that they desire – true love, heroism, perfect friendship – and blend it all together to create an idealized version of the world.
They can be very withdrawn, as they feel the most comfortable in their own romanticized world. This means that Type Fours are deeply in touch with their own emotions, and feel secure in them. Even when they are upset, they are at home in their upsetness.
The emotion associated with the image triad is shame, and Type Fours experience shame when they cannot live up to the idealized version of themselves. (This motivation can be similar to Type One, which explains the growth arrow from Four to One.) Fours constantly desire an idealized version of themselves, which contains all the traits that Fours might desire from others. For this reason, Type Four individuals are easy to mistype.
Manifestation of Traits:
1) Focus on origin creates a fixation on identity
2) Fixation on identity creates a desire to be unique
3) Desire to be unique inspires the Type Four to be creative and artistic
4) Drive to be creative causes Type Four to withdraw and be self-concerned (creates an attachment to their own emotions)
IV. Developmental Progression of Type Four
Early in life, the Type Four is sensitive to the concept of origin. “Origin” is the idea that everything in the universe came from the same origin point, and thus, everything is part of a whole. In a spiritual sense, this is the idea that all spiritual beings are fundamentally connected to each other.
The material world (life) corrupts this ideal into the delusion that unity is a lie and everyone is fundamentally fragmented and separated.
The Four relies on envy to give the illusion of unity; envy is used as a way to connect to others in a counter-productive fashion.
The Four’s virtue, equanimity (calmness, composure) leads them to their growth point of One.
Enneagram theorists quickly discovered that each Enneagram type can have traits of the types around it. This is called “wing theory”, and while some theorists dispute the finer points of it, it's generally agreed that each type has a connection to the types around it and one of these connections will be dominant. For example, Type Two is surrounded by Types One and Three. Someone could therefore be a Two with a One Wing (Two as their main type with some Type One traits), or a Two with a Three Wing (Two as their main type with some Type Three traits.) The notation for this is 2w1 and 2w3, respectively. It is generally held that one wing is more dominant than the other; while you may have traits of both wings, one is more pronounced. Some believe that you can have balanced (equal) wings, but this Enneagram type description operates under the “dominant wing” theory, which is the most prevalent in the Enneagram community.
Type Four shares wings with Type Three (4w3) and Type Five (4w5). Both like to feel unique and creative, but they go about it in different ways.
Type Four with a Three Wing:
Type Three is associated with the desire to appear successful, and the Three Wing means that a 4w3 has a very vibrant and flashy personality. They are unique and they want everyone else to know it. They may exude this uniqueness in ways they don’t even consciously perceive; there seems to be an element of it in everything they do. They tend to be outgoing and many 4w3s are extroverts.
4w3s strongly desire to live up to their idealized image.
Type Four with a Five Wing:
Type Five is associated with detached observation, so the 4w5 is a more sedate and contemplative version of the 4w3. 4w5s find it easier to get lost within their own heads, and may identify themselves as dreamers or idealists. They are less likely to flaunt their individuality to others, and in fact, may often be oblivious to other people because they spend so much time in their heads.
4w5s possess a sense of emptiness due to their detached Five wing.
VI. Growth and Stress Arrows
One theme in the study of the Enneagram is interconnectivity. Each type is distinct, but it does not stand alone. We discussed Wings earlier, which shows how a type can have traits of the types next to it. Another example of interconnectivity are stress and growth arrows. When an individual is in a state of stress or growth, they can take on traits of other types. There is some disagreement within the Enneagram community as to what precipitates a stress or growth condition, but I believe that the most logical interpretation of this is that a type becomes stressed when they succumb to their vice, while a type grows when they are following their virtue. Following a vice is a natural response, as it is the easy way out. Virtues are risky because they cause a person to confront their “dark sides” or fears and may result in a radical reassessment of one's thoughts and actions. Nevertheless, the Enneagram is a system of personal growth and the stress/growth arrow dynamic reflects that, as it embodies the concept that transcendence is hard work, and it's always darkest before the dawn.
This is also in line with the overarching theme that the Nine types are basically just different means of perceiving reality, and no type is more correct than any other.
Growth Arrow to Type One:
The virtue of Type Four is equanimity, which means calmness or coolness under pressure. An equinanimous person diligently meets the challenges of life as they come, maintaining a level head and even emotions. Because Type Four has a deep connection to emotionality, this virtue can be difficult to attain but allows Type Four to enter its growth state of Type One.
Type Ones are diligent, self-critical, and perfectionist. These are traits that a Four can sometimes lack because their emotions may lead them all over the place. By gaining a firm grasp of their own emotions, Fours can truly fulfill their desire for an independent personhood because that sort of discipline allows one to avoid the pressures and temptations of others.
Stress Arrow to Type Two:
On the other hand, if a Type Four loses control of their own emotions, they may appear to act like an unhealthy Type Two. This would include unhealthy clinginess and neediness, as they have stopped looking within themselves for fulfillment and instead are looking at others.
Ironically, this focus on their own emotionality actually leads them further away from individuality because they can become clingy. This is an example of how a type's vice leads it down the wrong path.
VII. Type Four Variants
Self-Preservation Fours tend to admire physical security and will attempt to build their identity around that. (You might see this kind of behavior in the stereotypical survivalist.) They are also more likely to be materialistic.
Social Fours want to replicate the social status of others in themselves, thus they direct their energy to the social realm. They may consciously or subconsciously be very aware of what kind of social status others have attained, and they desire the same thing.
Sexual Fours desires the personal success, intimate relationships, or vitality of others. They are naturally inclined to incorporate these ideals into their romanticized, idealized version of reality.
VIII. Comparison within Triads
Within the Head/Body/Image Triads:
Head: These types are primarily concerned with their own thoughts.
Image: These types take action when it comes to their image, which they equate with reality.
Body: These types focus on the border between themselves and the world around them.
Within the body triad…
(Compared to Eight) Fours embrace their emotions while Eights reject them. Fours also can lack the self-assuredness and ego of an Eight.
(Compared to Nine) Fours are more involved with themselves than a Nine. They are also more in touch with their needs than a Nine. While Nines will go with the flow, Fours take pride in breaking the system.
(Compared to One) Fours usually lack the discipline and perfectionist tendencies of a One. Fours like to indulge their emotions, while Ones abhor doing so.
Within the image triad…
(Compared to Two) Fours do not place as much importance on being liked as a Type Two. In fact, some Fours may relish the idea of being disliked in order to be different.
(Compared to Four) Fours seek a unique image, while Threes generally seek a favorable image. Sometimes these can overlap. Additionally, the Three image tends to be more polished and careful.
Within the head triad…
(Compared to Five) Fours are more concerned with their inner world than Fives are. Fours are also far more in touch with their emotions than Fives. Emotions can be like an alien influence to a Five, while it is natural for a Four.
(Compared to Six) Fours tend to be more daring than Sixes. Sixes look before they leap, while Fours may not.
(Compared to Seven) Fours do not fear their inner world like a Seven would. Sevens keep active to avoid their inner world, while Fours feel at home there.
Within the Hornevian triads:
The Hornevian triads describe how each type copes with a situation. They were originally developed by psychologist Karen Horney.
In this context, “aggressive” means “action-oriented.” It doesn't mean belligerence.
Type Three – Takes action to gain success.
Type Seven – Takes action to keep engaged in interesting activities.
Type Eight - Takes action to secure more resources and to continue to consume.
Type Four – Withdraws to protect themselves from being absorbed into the crowd; to maintain their uniqueness.
Type Five – Withdraws to defend themselves and to get a better/clearer view of the situation.
Type Nine – Withdraws to maintain peace.
In this context, these types are compliant to their superegos. It doesn't mean that they are pushovers.
Type One – Complies with the superego because they will feel corrupt if they don't.
Type Two – Complies with the superego because they will feel useless if they don't.
Type Six – Complies with the superego because they will feel insecure if they don't.
Within the Harmonic triads:
The Harmonic triads describe the primary problem-solving skill employed by each type.
Type Two – Twos focus on their own goodness and virtue.
Type Seven – Sevens adopt an “it doesn't affect me” mentality.
Type Nine – Nines focus on the “silver lining” in a situation instead of negative aspects.
Type One – Ones must be competent to maintain their set of ethics.
Type Three – Threes must be competent to avoid challenges to their success.
Type Five – Fives must be competent to survive in the “outer world.”
Type Four – Fours may take things very personally, which makes them very emotionally intense.
Type Six – Sixes are observant of their world and react accordingly.
Type Eight – Eights are quick to react to challenges and to assert their boundaries.
IX. Enneagram and MBTI Interaction
The Enneagram describes motivations, while the MBTI describes modes of information processing. It would stand to reason that MBTI is subordinate to Enneagram, as the Enneagram deals with more basic motivations. Imagine that two people want to tell the same story, but one is a writer and one is a musician. One will write a book while the other will write a song but both have the same origin point.
So let’s look at each type and how that form of information processing would appear when directed by the Four drive for uniqueness.
Extroverted Sensation Types (ESTP and ESFP)
Extroverted Sensation is associated with a strong connection to the “present moment” and places an emphasis on practicality in life.
This sort of “practical excitement” makes the ESxP Four a dynamic (although sometimes flighty) personality. They also have a tendency to be creative, especially with the physical arts (more along the lines of painting, sculpting, and so forth.)
Extroverted Intuition Types (ENTP and ENFP)
Extroverted Intuition is essentially the opposite of Extroverted Sensing: instead of focusing on present information, Extroverted Intuition brainstorms a myriad number of possibilities that may or may not be true.
Young ENxP Fours have a tendency to put on different guises, trying on each new identity in order to find their own. When they grow older and more mature, they still retain that flexibility although their identity has now coalesced into something solid. ENxP Fours are very likely to be described as flippant.
Extroverted Thinking Types (ENTJ, ESTJ)
Extroverted Thinking breaks a process down into its logical components and checks it for logical consistency.
Extroverted Thinking Fours are likely to be less artsy and more like avant garde business types. The stereotype of the businessman who invents a “game changer” business strategy or product, based entirely out of their own unique insights, is probably an ExTJ Four.
There are differences between ENTJ Four and ESTJ Four, namely that the ENTJ Four is more likely to reinvent a system from the ground up, while an ESTJ Four is likely to take an existing system and put a unique spin on it to make it work more efficiently.
Extroverted Feeling Types (ENFJ, ESFJ)
Extroverted Feeling refers to an awareness of the emotions or hidden beliefs of another, but does not necessarily imply that an Fe-dominant person must bend to those emotions.
ExFJs will naturally feel a connection to other people, and when this is combined with their Type Four tendencies, they can experience an unusual tension where they are fundamentally disconnected from others but in touch with the desires (unspoken or not) of others. They may have a deep sense of caring about others, but ultimately, they fear that they will never truly achieve unity with anyone else.
Introverted Sensation Types (ISTJ, ISFJ)
Introverted Sensation types tend to use their experience to guide them. Type Four ISxJs probably have the most consistent image because they subconsciously gravitate toward “what works” in setting themselves apart from the rest. For that same reason, ISxJs can be the most disciplined and introverted Fours.
Introverted Intuition Types (INTJ, INFJ)
Ni Dominant types tend to have brilliant insights into “what’s going on”, although they do so in different ways.
INTJ Fours rely on their innate ability to determine what’s “out of order” and respond accordingly. They may see this as an example of their individuality, e.g., “I can understand the way things fit together and others cannot.” This can lead to great frustration with others.
INFJ Fours, on the other hand, are more perceptive of the unspoken needs and wants of others. They may develop the idea that part of their unique identity is a special insight into the inner workings of others.
Introverted Thinking Types (INTP, ISTP)
Introverted Thinking types (IxTP) emphasize the particular meanings of words and how each individual piece fits together within a concept. IxTP Fours may be very withdrawn, as Introverted Thinking is one of the most withdrawn functions and Four is one of the most withdrawn Enneagram types. They usually are contemplative, introspective and often academic, as they see their analytical skills as something that sets them apart from the rest. They are generally drawn to negative thoughts, and can wallow in the idea that their ability to pick things apart sets them completely off from everyone else.
Introverted Feeling Types (INFP, ISFP)
Introverted Feeling types are concerned more about the essence of a particular subject than the gritty particulars. (This is the opposite for Introverted Thinking types.) As a result, an IxFP Four tends to be contemplative and cautious while observing the essential qualities of the world around them. They can be very withdrawn and tend to be artistic in that their inner world is extremely abstract and must be expressed through some kind of artistic venture.
X. Paths to Security
Type One - “I will be secure if I'm perfect.”
Type Two - “I will be secure if I'm loved, appreciated or respected.”
Type Three - “I will be secure if I am successful.”
Type Four - “I will be secure if I am unique.”
Type Five - “I will be secure if I withdraw from harm.”
Type Six - “I will be secure if I am always aware of danger.”
Type Seven - “I will be secure if I can plan for the future.”
Type Eight - “I will be secure if I can control the world around me.”
Type Nine - “I will be secure if I have peace.”
XI. Freudian Association
From my article, “The Freudian Theory of Enneagram”
Type 4: Ego Identity.
Basic Fear: To lose their identity.
Basic Desire: To be unique and authentic.
The ego is in a tough position: it's the mediator between the id, superego, and the outside world. It takes a great deal of libidinal energy to juggle this many factors at one time: so, to compensate, Type 4 withdraws and constructs a unique image inside themselves to rise above the stresses caused by their most basic impulses. Indeed, according to enneagram theory, the Type 4's highest virtue is "equanimity", which means balance under stress.
Consequently, Type 4s are artistic and unique individuals. They are inherently romantic, relishing in the bittersweet separation they feel from the rest of the world. On one hand, it's bitter because they'll never see themselves as integrated into the rest of the world. But it's also sweet, because it confirms how unique they are, thus alleviating the identity confusion that inherently comes with the id-superego tension. Instead of bowing to the id, or the superego, or the outside world, they take a fourth path - that is, withdrawal from the world. This makes Type 4 possibly the most creative enneatype.
Type 4s often favor esoteric ideas, but not always. Concepts that are just as unique as they are often appeal to them. Their ego is constantly filtering, deciding what to integrate and what to discard. The Type 4 identity snowballs, growing more expansive as they gain more experiences. Eventually they integrate to Type 1 as their identity solidifies.
To Encourage Integration: You have to acknowledge that your identity is a work-in-progress at all times. If you're putting something off because you think you're not ready… well, stop putting it off!
To Avoid Disintegration: Be careful: negative emotions can distance you further and further from other people, possibly resulting in depression. Don't let your ego drive to be unique spiral out of control.
Type 4 Wings:
Type 4 with a 3 Wing (Ego-Id): A 4w3 is more in touch with their id desires, giving them a greater outward intensity than the 4w5. 4w3s are often very passionate and active.
Type 4 with a 5 Wing (Ego-Ego): The withdrawn traits of 4 and 5 combine here to create a more cerebral 4. 4w5 is usually more esoteric and mystical, and is more likely to withdraw from the world to explore their inner selves. 4w5 may be one of the most contemplative types in the enneagram.
“The only journey is the journey within.”
- Rainer Maria Rilke