I’m going through a bit of an identity crisis. The enneagram is a personality test, and for years I thought I was Type Nine: the Peacemaker with a Need to Avoid. I even wrote up a long blog post about how much I fit that Type. But then I got curious and wondered if INFJs are often Type Nines….only to find out they’re generally Type Fours. So I did a little research and was horrified to discover that I feel a lot like a Four. Naturally I then took two online tests, and it turns out….I’m a Four, with strong Nine tendencies.
What sucks is….Nines are awesome. They’re inclusive, good at adapting, and calm under pressure. Fours, on the other hand, are the WORST. Everything I read about them was just reading all the things I dislike about myself. They’re impetuous and moody, dreamy and unsatisfied. It turns out, I am a Four who desperately wants to be a Nine and has therefore cultivated Nine qualities in her life. But I’m a Four, the Individual with a Need to be Special.
FOURs draw their vital energy from others. Their life question is: “What do you think of me? Do you notice me? Do I catch your eye?”
Reading Richard Rohr’s chapter on Fours in The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective had me underlining everything and then burrowing my face into the couch. Being a Four is being so needy! And…I am! And I hate it! Unfortunately, I later learned that Fours are super hard on themselves, so my reaction to hating being a Four just means I am even more of a Four than I thought!
The life of Fours is primarily shaped by longing: the longing for beauty and the wish that the world and life would fit together into a harmonic whole.
Well, this isn’t so bad. This is super true for me, and this is something I really like about myself. I feel deeply, I know how things ought to be, and I want to get them there. I have vision!
In their childhood Fours have often had the experience of the present being unbearable and meaningless.
OH MY WORD that’s my childhood in a nutshell. Baby Tricia, sitting in corners reading, feeling overwhelmed and overlooked. Ugh, I’m the worst. Realizing I’m a Four is like realizing all the things I dislike about myself are not tangential aspects of myself that I’m moving past, but instead they are Unalterable Facts that make up the very Core of Who I Am. That’s horrifying.
At times the anger over a loss that has been suffered is so deep that it cannot be tolerated. Instead unredeemed Fours direct it against themselves. They believe that for some reason they are themselves guilty for experiencing rejection and privation, and so they consider themselves “bad.”
At least this is explaining a lot of my inner world. This is all…very true. You don’t like me? It’s not because you’re a jerk or we’re incompatible – my heart automatically confirms that I am gross and uninteresting.
Possession brings Fours little joy. Longing is more important than having.
YES. Hey, another good thing. I’m super non-materialistic. I never really put those pieces together, but it’s true. The longing that defines my life can be bad with people: “oh, I have you? now I don’t want you” but it’s really good when you’re talking about inanimate objects. Not so much with people, though, but I’m skating past that.
Fours revere great authorities: important poets, musicians, gurus, counselors, who have something “deep” about them or are something “special.” Only this sort of “inner authority” counts. Formal authorities that aren’t backed up by their personality make no impression on a Four. Their nose for the “authentic” is infallible.
Hahaha, yup. Impress me with your intuition and genuineness and I will follow you and defend you to my death! Enforce rules just because and at best I’ll roll my eyes at you.
Fours’ greatest temptation is to strive frantically for authenticity, often drawn to the simplicity of nature and children. Um. Why is that a temptation, if temptations are negative? OH NO, even worse, I’m not just a Four, I’m an unredeemed Four who can’t even see where my own problem lies! And now I’m overreacting with self-hatred, which is such a Four thing to do.
And Fours tend to use artistic sublimation as a defense mechanism:
Feelings are not expressed directly, but indirectly through symbols, rituals, and dramatic styling. This is supposed to alleviate the pain of real grief and the fear of rejection.
OH NO, very accurate.
This is how self-conscious Fours sometimes appear; inside them a child is struggling with feelings of inferiority: ‘I don’t deserve to be loved. I have to make an impression so that I’m not overlooked and abandoned again.”
This literally just happened in Sunday School earlier this week. We were talking about my upcoming fundraiser, and inside I thought, “No one is going to come.” So instead, I said, “It costs $10 to hang out with me” and did a dumb little shoulder shimmy. OVERCOMPENSATING = my life story.
Fours avoid ordinariness: everything that is current, conventional, and normal. The requirement of being like everyone else can unleash downright panic among them. That is why they refuse to change even more stubbornly than the other types…It’s as if they thought, “I don’t know who I am if I’m like all the others.”
The pitfall of Fours is their melancholy, a “sweet sadness” that lies over their whole lives like a fog. Fours have to be depressed and suffer from time to time in order to be happy…The greater the pain and the depression, the more creative Fours can become.
And this is where I realized I was definitely a Four, because these are the topics of conversation that I had over and over again with my counselor.
“Do you like being depressed?” she would ask.
“Well, no. But yes?” I answered. “I think I’m just scared that if I conquer my depression, then I’ll be useless. I’m most creative when I’m sad.”
WHAT A FOUR.
Since Fours as a rule direct their aggressions against themselves, it often happens that they are disgusted by themselves and their bodies…Partnership with an unredeemed Four is, to be sure, irritating and requires tolerance.
OKAY, we’re moving on, this is super depressing. No wonder we Fours are depressed all the time! We’re awful! Let’s find some good news.
The gift, or fruit of the spirit, of redeemed Fours is balance. At twenty-five Fours have already lived through all emotional spaces and experiences from agony to ecstasy. They know all the nuances of feeling and understand the human soul better than anyone else. If they muster the discipline to bring their emotional life into balance, they can become impressive personalities….
Healthy Fours are capable of a depth of feeling that most of us have no access to. If they can make this genuine emotionality fruitful, if they can express in concentrated fashion their sense of the beautiful and the really painful, then real works of art will be created. They no longer serve mere self-representation, but express something universally valid.
“Mere self-represenation”….like this entire blog? Oh whoops, there I go focusing on the negative. No, but okay. Balance! Deep emotionality! YES, at the least, I am very good at appreciating this. I don’t think I’ve created a great work of art, because my creativity is usually very self-obsessed. But I can appreciate emotion, and I’m comfortable in it, even when it’s deep and dark and scary. Which is, I think, why I was a good counselor. “Some days I think God hates me, and I wonder if life is worth living,” a client would say. “Yeah, wow. That’s a hard place to be in. Let’s talk about that some more.” Oh look, the very next paragraph:
Redeemed Fours are better than most others at understanding and guiding people in psychic distress. They are not intimidated by the difficult, complicated, or dark feelings of others, since they themselves have lived through it all.
I’m a mess, but it’s because I’m a mess that I am a safe place for others. That’s nice, I guess.
Without Fours the world would be deprived of the greater part of its art and poetry. When they learn to serve others with their gifts, they will make an important contribution toward “redeeming the world through beauty.”
Well, that just makes my soul sing. I want to redeem the world through beauty!
Okay, so. It has become increasingly obvious that I’m super definitely a Four. I thought I was a Nine because I wanted to be a Nine – aloof, all-encompassing, above it all. Instead, I’m a Four, stuck in the mud, flailing around and wailing quite a bit. Just to be sure, I used the Enneagram Institute to see why I had misidentified myself as a Nine, and they said this:
The principal reason these types may be confused is that they are both withdrawn types. Fours withdraw from others so that they can protect themselves and give themselves time to deal with their emotions. Nines, on the other hand, are withdrawn in the sense that they remove their attention from people or situations that threaten them, disengaging themselves emotionally so that they will not be anxious or upset. They cut off their identification with others (or never identify with them in the first place), identifying instead with a private idealized version of reality. Average to unhealthy Nines tune out any unpleasantness by dissociating from whatever upsets them, whereas Fours do just the opposite, brooding over their anxieties in an attempt to come to terms with them. Fours are certainly not detached from their emotions–just the reverse, they are keenly aware of them, perhaps too much so.
I’m still feeling bummed about myself and my newly acquired identity, so I’m going to list their website’s qualities of a healthy Four. I may be a mess, but where can that take me? I NEED HOPE.
(At Their Best) Profoundly creative, expressing the personal and the universal, possibly in a work of art. Inspired, self-renewing and regenerating: able to transform all their experiences into something valuable: self-creative.
Self-aware, introspective, on the “search for self,” aware of feelings and inner impulses. Sensitive and intuitive both to self and others: gentle, tactful, compassionate.
Highly personal, individualistic, “true to self.” Self-revealing, emotionally honest, humane. Ironic view of self and life: can be serious and funny, vulnerable and emotionally strong.
Mmmm, okay. That’s cool. That’s me sometimes! Okay. Okay! I’m a Four. That’s not the end of the world.
Have you found your enneagram personality type? HAVE YOU DOUBLE CHECKED IT? Leave a comment and let me know what you are!