Enneagram 4: Walking Through the Hard Emotions

I’m an Enneagram 4, which means when I feel an emotion, I think, “Let’s feel more of this,” even when it’s a bad emotion.  That said…


My word, this week has been heavy, and it’s only Tuesday. I had a rough weekend-I felt lonely and alone (two similar but different emotions), overwhelmed by the idea of continuing to live in a foreign country, hopeless that I could ever create a community here like the ones I had in Peoria, Jackson, Fatick, and Dallas. I threw myself a pity party by staying isolated the whole weekend and eating more chocolate than is perhaps healthy.

Then I went to work and it all got heavier. Staff members shared some extremely difficult life circumstances that they are dealing with. I led our morning temperature check with the participants, and it took three times longer than usual because they too were dealing with huge things.

One of the things I love about the enneagram is that it states that the best things about our personality are also the worst things. And the worst things are actually the best. As a 4, one of the key aspects of my personality is my emotionality. This weekend I lived out the worst of that – feeling bad and then doing everything possible to make myself feel worse. My comfort with feeling bad led me deeper into self-pity and doubt.

But this comfort with negative emotions is also such a gift, and one I got to practice at HD. I can sit with people in pain and not try to distract them. I can validate their agony and assure them that it’s okay to not immediately cope with things healthily. Being a 4 is what makes me a good counselor.

What makes the difference between being a healthy or unhealthy 4? What makes my comfort with negative emotions a blessing and not a curse?

I think it’s when I get outside myself. It’s so easy to live in my head, ruminating over the things I’m sad about. That quickly turns unhealthy. But when it’s outside of me, dealing with someone else’s pain, I can be such a gift.

There’s another side of this, that is much harder for me. Getting outside of myself means…getting my negative emotions outside of myself. Expressing my hurt and fears. Being vulnerable. UGH, I don’t want to do that. But again, here HD helped me. During the temperature check with the participants, I shared one thing that was bothering me. And then another. And then all of them. And I was met with understanding and sympathy. I no longer needed to pity myself-someone else was taking care of that.

Another aspect of all this is my faith. All of these hard things that we’re dealing with…amazingly, after our 1 1/2 hour temperature check, we looked at the day’s devotional, which was titled “With Us Always” and used this verse:

Then Jesus arose and rebuked the wind , and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was great calm.

I love my emotionality. And I love that when I’m struggling, I don’t hide from my pain or try to ignore it. But I’m so grateful to learn how to manage all of this in a healthy way-by moving through the pain and telling others before ultimately, giving it to God. Only he can fully rebuke my anxieties and sadnesses and bring calm to my life.

It’s been a day. Wow. But I’m glad I am who God made me, and I’m glad that I’m gradually becoming a healthier me.


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