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Coming to Terms with Being Type Four in the Enneagram

If you don’t know what the Enneagram is, this post won’t make much sense to you.  Check out The Enneagram Institute for more information, and take one of their tests to find your personality type.


Several days ago, I wrote a blog post about my identity crisis when I realized I was not an Enneagram Type Nine, but was instead a Type Four.  I hated being a Four, partly because my brain was wrong that I’d been misidentifying myself, and partly because Fours just kind of seem awful!  But over the last couple days, I’m coming around to being a Four.

For one thing, Lindsay wrote me a letter about how our friendship is compatible based on our personality types (she’s a Two).  It was helpful to see that me being a Four brings something useful to our friendship.  It helped me see that Fours aren’t ALWAYS self-absorbed and moody, but can use their emotionality to draw others into deeper and more intimate relationships.

For another thing, I read Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me? which is a memoir that is about as self-absorbed and emotional as you can get–and it was great!  She unapologetically admits her faults, finds humor in them, and offers her life as an example to be followed (or not).  I’m pretty sure she’s a Four, and it felt so good to see someone with my personality doing something awesome.

Because the thing is, when I found out I was a Four, I still desperately wanted to be a Nine.  All the emotional chaos that comes with being a Four is absent in Nines, and I liked thinking of myself as someone whose negative quality was retreating (instead of what it is: mulling over everything ad nauseum).  So when I found out I was actually a Four, everything inside me wanted to be Someone Else.  What traits could I learn that would make me more like a Nine?  Anything to not be a Four!!

But.  That’s awful!  I don’t want to be someone I’m not.  I want to learn to be a healthy Four, to use my natural personality and talents and passions for something good.  So with that in mind….I did more research.  Hah!  But this time I focused on the things Fours have to offer the world.

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First, a quick recap from The Enneagram Institute:

The Four is the personality type which emphasizes the subjective world of feelings, in creativity and individualism, in introversion and self-absorption, and in self-torment and self-hatred. In this personality type we see creative artists, romantic aesthetes, and withdrawn dreamers, people with powerful feelings who feel different from others because self-consciousness blocks them from getting outside themselves.

So I am All Emotions, All the Time.  I over think everything, and I apply everything to myself (which is definitely true: at DTS, every time a professor talked about something, I thought “wow, I get me so much better” and then the person next to me would say “this helps me understand my mom” and I would frown, realizing I’d forgotten to think about anyone but myself.)  As for being creative, feeling self-conscious, and feeling different?  Check, check, check.

But now I’m switching over to Enneagram Explorations, because the way they write about Fours is much more encouraging.

Motivated by the need to understand and to be understood, you desire experiences that are rich with feeling and meaning. You may find it easier to deal with painful emotions than to deal with the tedium of daily routine. You have the temperament of an artist and long to freely express yourself. You feel your emotions deeply and are not afraid to go emotionally where others fear to tread. This includes having an exquisite, intuitive ability to distinguish between subtle emotions that others often miss. Painfully self-conscious, you are often overly focused on how different you are from others. A true humanitarian, you have a natural passion for protest. At times intense and contrary, you are not afraid to think for yourself and voice your point of view.

Uh, in just a couple days I’m going to take a 46-hour train ride to Seattle to see my brother, because the idea of crossing the country via train felt like a romantic experience that was “rich with feeling and meaning.”  Everything else about this is also super correct.  And it makes me want to speak my mind even MORE often, because opinions?  I have them.  About literally everything.  But I’m going to call that “a natural passion for protest” from now on.

When you step out of the river of your emotions, you can bring forth your many talents into the world and express them in a way that is extraordinary and original. You are like the lotus flower growing in the mud that is able to transform emotionally painful experiences into fertilizer for personal growth. Attuned to feelings, you have an uncommon sensitivity when it comes to dealing with suffering. You are not afraid to hear about someone else’s troubles, and you can be a great friend to anyone in emotional pain.

Well, good, this is basically a paragraph saying, “Yes, you should definitely continue to blog and be a counselor/work with women who have been trafficked.  Those are things you are literally made to do.”

Virtue
Your greatest strengths are your deep intuition, creativity and ability to transform painful life experiences into opportunities for profound growth and healing. This enables you to identify what is missing, and like a knight on a quest, you search until you find it or create it. Astute about human nature, you believe that everyone is an individual and that all emotions have value. Profound and insightful, you have an uncanny knack for transforming the dull and the ordinary into the exciting and extraordinary. You are able to see and appreciate what is truly unique, special and rare.

Aw, I’m blushing.  I DO like the unique, special, and rare, and when that occurs in people, I think I am pretty awesome at making them feel Awesome instead of Odd.  BECAUSE THEY TOTALLY ARE, I love weird people.

(a conversation from my past as a nanny)
Me:  You’re so weird.
Anju:  That’s mean to call me weird!
Me:  No, it’s not.  I love weird people who do their own thing.  You’re weird, and I love you.
Anju:  Oh.  Hmmm….okay!  *weirdness intensifies*

Mantra
Don’t dwell on the past, and remember to enjoy the pleasure that can be found in each moment. When you have gratitude and the courage to move through your fear of rejection and share your talents, others will honor your original and creative contributions.

*mouth fart*  No, sharing my talents sounds scary.

Okay, okay!  So being a Four is pretty awesome!  I have a lot to offer the world, and I have passion to create beauty from pain, so….I’ve just got to overcome the crippling fear that comes with being a Four and do it!  Woo hoo!

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5 thoughts on “Coming to Terms with Being Type Four in the Enneagram”

  1. This is a great post explaining what fours are like…the food and the bad. I think we all resist what we are when we 1st realize the truth and can no longer deny it. I’m a 6…they can be anxiety personified! But the only way to live better is embrace/own/learn from what we truly are at our core. One type isn’t better than another. We just are what we are. 💕

    Like

    1. I think the enneagram, more than Myers-Briggs at least, reveals our personalities in their entirety, good and bad. I wasn’t expecting so much honesty! But I do think we do best when we embrace and learn from all aspects of ourself.

      Liked by 1 person

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