Expressing Enneagram Four Emotions with Fiction

Sometimes when I tell people I’m an Enneagram Four who has a lot of emotions, I can see them silently doubting me.  And it’s true, in daily life (especially work life) I’m fairly even-keeled and logical.  But one day I was listening to the Prince of Egypt episode of the Good Christian Fun podcast, and I burst into tears when they played a ten-second clip of the song “Deliver Us.”

Everything became clear:  I express my emotions through fiction.

It is in books and movies and television shows that I feel comfortable feeling the anger, longing, and joy that lives inside me.  This is probably why the only time I made progress in therapy was when my therapist finally asked me, “If you had to choose one book to symbolize your life, which would it be?” and I immediately said, “WELL.”

This is also why I can be embarrassingly possessive of my favorite stories.  Here is an actual text conversation with my brother from a couple days ago illustrating how well he knows my neurotic mind:

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I infamously got pissed at my mom when we were watching the season 3 finale of LOST and I realized she hadn’t been keeping up with the show while I was at college.  “I just want to enjoy the thing you enjoy with you!” she said (as an Enneagram Two).  I made her leave, because I didn’t want someone who wasn’t emotionally invested ruining my experience.  When I recently told a friend about this, she said, “You’re awful,” and while I see that, I…would do the same thing again.

I see now that as an Enneagram Four, I very often conflate my emotions with my identity.  I’m therefore very protective of them.  I will not show someone The Fall (my favorite movie of all time) unless I am sure they will like it, because my heart cannot handle someone looking at my soul for two hours and then saying, “Eh.”

Now that I think about it a little more, I think that emotionalism is definitely present in me all the time.  But I don’t trust many people to accept, let alone enjoy, the intensity of my feelings, so I keep them inside.  It’s in stories, which are spaces inherently designed for emotion, that I feel safe enough to let everything out.  So if someone doesn’t know the nerd side of me, they will probably be surprised to hear that I’m an Enneagram Four.

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Learning the Enneagram RESOURCES

Books

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  • The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

    This book is a perfect primer for people new to the Enneagram.  It is simple, relatable, and the lists at the beginning of each chapter, “What It’s Like to be a Four,” go a long way toward helping you identify your type.

  • The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr

    A step up in complexity, Rohr’s book brought the Enneagram into cultural, and personal, awareness.  It includes the same sort of descriptions of each type, but with a bit more depth than The Road Back to You.

  • Mirror for the Soul: A Christian Guide to the Enneagram by Alice Fryling

    Once you’re sure of your type and asking, “Okay, now what?” this is the book for you.  Fryling’s focus is personal transformation and using the Enneagram to identify your God-given gifts, how your false self twists them, and how to reclaim your true self.  Really excellent.

  • The Complete Enneagram: 27 Paths to Greater Self-Knowledge by Beatrice Chestnut, PhD

    If you want the equivalent of an Enneagram textbook, Chestnut’s book is what you’re looking for.  Whereas other books devote sixteen pages to a type, this book offers forty-two.  It also delves into the three subtypes (self-preservation, social, and sexual) found in each type, which can help you narrow in even further on who you are.

Podcasts

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  • The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

    Much like their book by the same name, this podcast is an introduction to the Enneagram.  Each episode interviews someone famous-ish from the Christian world, highlighting their type and how it affects their life.  Quite good for hearing practical examples of what it looks like to be aware of your Enneagram type.

  • Typology by Ian Morgan Cron

    After their book was released, Cron continued similar work with his own podcast.  This one goes a bit deeper, though, offering a variety of interviews (so far there has been a panel of Nines and of Sixes) sharing personal experiences AND educational episodes by authors Richard Rohr and Beatrice Chestnut.


Are there other Enneagram resources that have helped you?
Comment and share them with us!

Why Do So Many Enneagram Fours Want to Be Nines?

I still get comments on the blog post in which I discovered that I was not an Enneagram Nine, but a Four, and went through an emotional meltdown of sorts (I’ve since come to terms with being a Four, and now I love it…mostly).  There are apparently many people out there who misidentified themselves as Nines and were super disappointed when they found out they were, in fact, Fours.

It got me thinking: why do Fours want to be Nines so badly?  I can’t answer for everyone, but when I think about my upbringing, the answer seems pretty obvious for myself.

My family was very uncomfortable with emotions when I was a kid.  We were Polite Nice People who didn’t get angry or sad.  When a huge family tragedy/mystery happened my sophomore year of high school, we talked about it for the week in which it happened and then literally never again.  We avoid conversations in which disagreements might arise, and there is very much an unspoken attitude of wanting to maintain the status quo.

Added to this is the fact that my childhood was very much influenced by growing up going to a (white) Southern Baptist Church.  In my faith upbringing, there was a huge emphasis on a salvation that separated the sinful past (which implicitly included “bad” emotions like anger and depression) from the saved present.  There was an implicit, and often explicit, rule that being at church meant being happy.  But also not, like, too happy.  White Baptists don’t raise their hands while worshipping.  Everything in my childhood encouraged me to be even-handed and only mildly emotional.

It’s no real surprise, then, that I would learn to play the role of a Nine who is a peacemaker, who is detached from emotions, who sees all sides of a conflict and can navigate a resolution quickly.  More than learning to play the role, of course I would WANT to be a Nine, because that is the sort of personality that everyone I knew valued.

Not a FOUR, ugh.  It’s funny to think that I thought I was a Nine when looking back, everything I felt internally as a child was very Four.  I constantly felt like an outsider looking in, never special in friendships or achievements.  The things that did make me stand out (my passionate nerd interests) were things to be squashed into appropriate outlets if I wanted to avoid ridicule.  Ah, the number of hours I spent looking up Harry Potter fan theories or creating Lord of the Rings scrapbooks.  Alone.

On top of that, I was full of doubt and sadness.  I’ve talked many times before about the depression I went through in middle school and how I would pray that God would kill me.  It strikes me now that it needn’t have been so bad – the feelings I had weren’t all that strange.  If I’d had safe people who allowed me to be angry and irreverent, maybe I wouldn’t have turned those feelings inward as a toxic self-hatred.

But all the while, I had perfected the Peaceable Nine Mask.  I performed a Normal Happy Person very well, so well that eventually I believed that’s what I was.

I think for Fours, who are so often ruled by their emotions and can feel like we’re drowning in the worst ones, there’s something so appealing about being a Nine who seems to be above all of that chaos.  For those of us trained in the art of suppressing our emotions (I genuinely didn’t think I ever experienced anger until I went to counseling as a 23-year-old), it eventually seems possible to be our “Best Selves.”

What I love about the Enneagram is that it has taught me that my Best Self is not pretending to be a Nine.  It is leaning into my Fourness, admitting and celebrating the fact that I feel emotions far more deeply and quickly than many others.  My love is obsessive, my sadness is total, my anger is furious.  I’m still learning when it is appropriate to share those feelings and when to keep them inside.  But exploring the heights and depths and sidewaynesses of emotions has given me a level of self-awareness that many others don’t have.  And with that self-awareness, I’ve learned about showing grace to myself.  And when I learned to have grace for myself, it became so much more natural to give grace to others.  We’re all crazy beings with desires and fears that contradict, hinder, and inspire us, and I love being with people at their most confused.  My Fourness helps me appreciate people for the things they’re often ashamed of, and that is a gift I could never give if I continued to pretend I was Nine.

 

Podcast Recommendation List | PART 4

It’s been almost a year since I last recommended podcasts that I love, so let’s do this again!

FathomsDeep-Logo1| Fathoms Deep

As reported elsewhere, I am currently obsessed with the absolutely amazing (four seasons and finished) television show Black Sails.  Run by two women who understand how important it is to overanalyze every character, line, and scene, this podcast became so popular with its episode reviews that the hosts were able to interview actors and actresses from the show!  If you love Black Sails, this is the podcast for you.  If you don’t love Black Sails, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?  Go watch it immediately!

170x170bb2| The Kind Rewind

A husband and wife duo rewatch awesome 90s and 00s television shows, and since their tastes align with mine, I’m recommending it!  Each 45-minute(ish) podcast episode covers three television episodes, so the pace is fast and mostly designed to make you say, “Yeah, that WAS awesome!”  So far they’ve covered season one of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season one of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and they just started watching Firefly!

Screen Shot 2017-08-08 at 9.22.54 PM3| Slate’s Dear Prudence

Mallory Ortberg won me over with The Toast, so when I heard she had an advice podcast, I was in.  With rotating guests, she answers written-in questions about all sorts of topics while regularly reminding her listeners that we’re nosy for wanting to listen in on other peoples’ dirt.  Which is very true, so keep the episodes coming!

uploads_2F1489438262024-854z1cbidexe1unj-67d64498cb7e5c5ca56e495c53d040ea_2FBytheBook_FINAL4| By the Book

I am about equal parts intrigued by and skeptical of self-help books, and this podcast indulges both impulses with two hosts with very different approaches to the self-help books they read, test, and report on for two weeks.  So far I’ve mostly been interested in how they report on the books they didn’t like, though I did fall hard for The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up after they described the joy of a gigantic material purge.

typology_1600px5| Typology

For anyone who is mourning the end of The Road Back to You, never fear!  Ian Morgan Cron continues its same format, interviewing someone with a different enneagram type each episode, helping us to learn more about ourselves and others via personality types.

 


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Enneagram 4 Life Hack

  1. Accept that you need to feel special.
  2. Realize that you can determine what “special” is.

For example, I have spent the last four months living in a world in which I lost most of the things that I thought made me special.  While waiting for visa paperwork to come through so that I can return to Greece, I am 1) living with my parents, 2) attending my childhood church, 3) working where I did five years ago 4) at a lower position for less money.

BUT.  When I consider all of that and think, “Wow, it would take a pretty special person to endure all of this and still find meaning and joy,” everything feels better.  I’m not even kidding, it is so easy to trick myself into feeling fulfilled.

Life HACKED!

IRL vs. Online Persona

Recently, a person who mostly knows me through the Internet called me an Enneagram 7. For those not well-versed in the Enneagram, a 7 is a personality that is FUN and ENERGETIC and ALWAYS MOVING.  I (virtually) laughed in this person’s face and said I am a 4, the personality that is MOODY and EMOTIONAL and DEEP.  This person was shocked and argued with me, and I realized…my internet persona IS a 7.

On Facebook, I intentionally try to keep things positive.  There is some internet pressure there, to show the best of your life, but I do try to keep things real with silly selfies or self-deprecating jokes.  But even the “realness” is framed optimistically.  I rarely complain on Facebook, or get into arguments, or share the deep things I’m thinking about.  I’ll occasionally get into those things here on my blog, but on Facebook?  It’s curated to be a safe, fun place for people to mentally and emotionally check out.

I am fine with this, and people who know me well know that this is not every part of me.  It’s not even the most important part of me!  But then there are the people who met me once or twice and then only keep up with me via Facebook.  I don’t really mind that they don’t know me, so long as our relationship stays online.  But when we meet in person?  I’m suddenly all “Let’s stay in and watch five hours of TV and then discuss what emotional themes struck us especially hard and why” and they’re like, “Um, jokes?”

This is why I am very skeptical of online relationships and why, for me, online dating is IMPOSSIBLE.  I cannot meet someone as a 7 and then reveal myself to be a 4.  Especially because, as a 4, it hurts SO MUCH to see someone start to like a version of myself that isn’t actually me.

But I have to say,  I like my online persona, and I’m not going to change it.  I want Facebook to be feel good and entertaining.  I’m comfortable with the knowledge that the people who matter to me know me beyond the Happy Fun Times version available online.


What about you?  Do you have a split personality?  How do you feel about it?

A Brief Description of the Enneagram

I have long been a fan of Myers-Briggs, and I talk frequently about being an INFJ on this blog, but I am totally having an affair with the Enneagram personality type system.

The Enneagram “teaches that there are nine different personality styles, one of which we naturally gravitate toward and adopt in childhood to cope and feel safe. Each type has a distinct worldview and an underlying motivation that powerfully influences how that type thinks, feels and behaves. Unlike other personality typing systems, the Enneagram shows us who we are at both our best and worst and suggests ways we can relax our grip on the self-defeating behaviors that prevent us from becoming our best, most authentic selves” (found here).

I’ll describe the basic characteristics of the nine types based upon information found here and here, and if this is at all interesting to you, I encourage you to take the test online and find out your type!


Type Ones are The Reformers, part of the instinctive center, and they are principled, purposeful, self-controlled, and perfectionistic.  Their worldview is: “The world is an imperfect place.  I work toward improvement.”  Their basic desire is to be right and their basic fear is of being condemned.

Type Twos are The Helpers, part of the feeling center, and they are generous, demonstrative, people-pleasing, and possessive.  Their worldview is: “People depend on my help.  I am needed.”  Their basic desire is to be loved, and their basic fear is of being unloved. Continue reading