Enneagram Type 4
Welcome to the fourth post in my Enneagram Series: Type 5 vs The Enneagram. This week I am covering my experiences with an Enneagram Type 4. You can find the first week link here and sign up for Enneagram related news from me on the right or more general news on the left.
Hi! My name is Jacob Pannell. I am not an Enneagram expert. I am a me expert, and me is an Enneagram Type 5 with a 4 wing and a self-preservation subtype. Earlier this year, I wrote an article on my discovery on the Enneagram (here). It has since become my most visited article this year. Many people have reached out to tell me how much that article helped them. Some even asked me to write more for them, so I am. After a little time of reflection and research, I realized that I couldn’t write about the Enneagram with the substance many of the coaches, authors, and mentors can.
So, I asked myself, “why did my article resonate with people?” I think it resonated because I wrote about me. I wrote about my experience as a Type Five. Many people have trouble connecting with their Enneagram Type because it is talked about in such broad strokes that a natural disconnection exists. I am not talking in broad strokes when I talk about my Enneagram Type 5. I am talking with personal detail. Sure, this limits my approach, but I also think it is much more identifiable. It also makes it easier to take or leave certain aspects of my Type 5-ness.
My experience as an Enneagram Type 5
So, here is the deal: I am going to write about my experience as an Enneagram Type 5 vs. the other Enneagram numbers. This means that both my experience of the other numbers and my own experience is limited. Take it or leave it. It’s my truth. Each article will contain an introduction to the Enneagram Type, how we help each other, hurt each other, and a parenting thought. Finally, I want to wrap up by helping you to imagine your relationships in your life. What has my article helped you see, understand, or change within yourself? Imagination is the key to success from these articles because there are no cookie-cutter solutions because there are no cookie-cutter people.
Here is the additional reading for you other Type 5’s with the itch to research more.
Enneagram Type 4: The Individualist
While Enneagram Type 2’s and 3’s can feel what other people feel Enneagram Type 4’s feel their own feelings. They are more in touch and led by their feelings than any other number. By far the most introspective when it comes to emotions, they make interesting pairings with Enneagram Type 5’s who are the most introspective on their thoughts. That also means one of the greatest clashes on the Enneagram besides maybe the 8s (challenger) and 9s (peacemaker).
Enneagram Type 4’s are led by their emotions. That means they feel all the feels, reaching states of melancholy or ecstasy unavailable to the rest of us. You might think them bipolar, but their feelings don’t always reflect the inner state. More so, it reflects the push and pull to be individually interesting, yet they want to belong in the group or maybe to the group. Enneagram Type 4’s need a home just as much as the rest of us, they just want to be unique in that home. Of all the Enneagram Types, Type 4’s have the hardest road to coming to grips that they can be described in an archetype.
Enneagram Type 4’s are the most unique of the numbers because they have so many layers. Imagine diving into the ocean. After a certain amount of depth your ears start to hurt, then it subsides until you get even deeper and again your ears hurt. Each time your ears hurt represents an increase in pressure. Type 4’s are best equipped to handle the emotional pressure of diving deep into emotions. Because of this everything Type 4’s do has multiple layers of meanings. It depends on how they feel, how you feel, the situation, and a variety of other factors.
Type 4’s leave clues to the layers to those who would take the time or be capable of really noticing. In this way, the Type 4 invites you to belong to their depth. In this way, they also prove their unique artistic expression. We have all experienced this type of behavior. Remember when you observed art for the first time, and you didn’t really understand what you were looking at or listening too. Then someone came along and explained some of the layers to you, that you had no idea even existed. The layers go on and on. As an Enneagram Type 5, it is both highly intriguing and exhausting. Type 4’s don’t limit these layers to art though. They come out every day in conversation, outfits, and actions.
So, I don’t know any Enneagram Type 4’s well enough to write about my experience with them. Rather I will use my 4 wing and what it is like when people move into an Enneagram Type 4 space to talk about the interplay between the emotional detachment of an Enneagram Type 5 and the emotional depth of an Enneagram Type 4. If you are an Enneagram Type 4, I would love to meet you and learn what I got wrong, what I can get right and how to feel deeper.
Type 5: Stability
Perhaps the greatest struggle of the Enneagram Type 4 is being tost in the tempest of their feelings. Enneagram Type 5’s can be that port in the storm. Yes, the Type 4’s emotions don’t just have depth they have height too. Like being stranded on the ocean Type 4’s can get pushed and pulled all over the place by the changing tides and weather of their emotions. Stability is often-times the hardest thing to come by.
If there is one thing Enneagram Type 5’s are, it is steady. We are who we are always. Providing a home base at sea level is one of the greatest gifts we can offer an Enneagram Type 4. Type 5’s can show the Type 4’s that they are not just their feelings. When a Type 4 realizes this truth, more emotional height, depth, and uniqueness is available to them. I am not saying that this is easy to convince a Type 4 of, but it is the truth. Anyone can have emotions, but knowing who you are in and with those emotions is something truly special.
Storm of Emotions
My wife has access to Type 4 energy as a Type 1 when she is stressed. It means that in stress she tends to behave like an unhealthy Enneagram Type 4. The best thing I do for her is to listen, not fix it, and be like a lighthouse. I help her steer clear of obvious rocks and currents to until she is ready to return to a more level and safe port. You can’t logic someone out of emotions unless they are a Type 5. However, the Type 5’s detachment from emotions can keep the storm from swelling as long as we remain immovable, simply listening to the story and emotions.
Type 4: Smashing Walls
Having spoken with people from around the world with different languages and culture, the thing that makes Americans and British most unique is our ability to create walls. We create walls with our time, emotions, friends, knowledge, and just about everything else. No one is better than that Enneagram Type 5’s. Type 3’s wear different masks and so can appear different to different people but usually, there is at least some bleed because the Type 3 wants to achieve for all. The Type 5 has no bleed. I have been friends with people for years that people in other areas of my life no nothing about and they don’t know anything about them. People are constantly surprised that I have written a book, that I write this blog, that I play videogames, I play sports, I am a parent etc. You know big things. Type 5’s are pretty good listeners, but we never show our whole hand. That means a lot of walls and a good bit of loneliness.
Type 4’s let their emotions bleed all over the place. They have no walls. In fact, they destroy their walls to feel all the feels. Walls keep the emotions at bay. This means a Type 5 may go their whole life without ever really feeling anything (by our own design). Enneagram Type 4’s save us by helping us identify our emotions and tear down some of our walls.
So, about two years into our marriage, my wife and I were listening to a sermon by Matt Chandler, and he mentioned the idea of men using a feelings chart. You know the ones that little kids use to first learn what emotions are. Well, my wife thought that would be a good idea for me to get in touch with my feelings, especially during our intense discussions (definitely not fights). It was a big day when I realized that I was feeling two emotions on the chart at once. Also a bit terrifying because I immediately tried to percentage out which feeling I was feeling more. My wife with her access to Type 4 energy was able to help me take down some of my walls and learn how to feel – an incredibly important skill to have for my children.
The layers of a Type 4 and the walls of a Type 5 translate into one another, but they can also destroy or create one another. For Type 5’s, the walls coming down is a good thing to help us experience more. The invalidation of the layers, however, can be quite disastrous. On the other hand, those layers can create even more walls when it is unhealthy.
Type 5: Invalidate the Layers
The Enneagram Type 5 is probably the best at invalidating the layers of emotion and individuality of the Enneagram Type 4. Emotions are ethereal to begin with and a Type 5 could argue and convince the Type 4 that anything they are feeling isn’t real or worth feeling. Since Type 5’s are energy conservers, the quickest way to do accomplish the invalidation is to point out how many before them felt this or had even more difficult emotions. It rips away the Type 4’s unique aspect and forces a shallowness of experience. Type 4’s have no option but to search for their individuality. This leads to poor external and internal behavior, seeking the “real” emotional highs and lows.
Type 4: Layers Become and Protect Walls
There are two ways layers become walls. Perhaps the most common way is that Enneagram Type 5’s come into contact with an unhealthy Enneagram Type 4 and are overwhelmed by the emotions. In reaction, Type 5’s generate even more walls to hold off any emotional bleed.
The other way layers become walls is that an Enneagram Type 5 will actually use emotional layers to build walls between themselves and others. Type 5’s are one of the most introverted numbers, and we can use emotional depth to keep others away. We do this by exposing how much more knowledge and care we have about something. That person could not begin to understand, and so they just shouldn’t even talk to us.
As an Enneagram Type 5 with a 4 wing, I am very prone to using my knowledge and emotions as walls. It allows me to push people away, so that I don’t have to deal with them, at least that is what I tell myself. The real truth is that I don’t have to give myself away. When I push people away with walls it is so that I don’t have to come down and engage them. My layers give me extra protection because now there is a deep moat around my walls. It makes me feel unique and superior and lonely. The unhealthy twist is that I desperately want somebody to hop the moat and scale the wall. It is just as treacherous as it sounds because I am so arrogant and obnoxious.
Feeling are the worst. However, no one needs your help sorting through them more than your children. Get used to it. If you don’t give them the skills to help sort through their emotions then a therapist will have to for hundreds (or thousands) of dollars in their twenties. It isn’t a one and down skill though. It is something you have to practice with your children often – all the way until they leave the house. The feels are something that Enneagram Type 4’s are going to need constantly sorting through without invalidation. In fact, validation of their uniqueness might be exactly what they are seeking.
Practically this means talking about the feelings you are having with them and how you are interacting with them. Then teaching them how to interact with them. Know yourself, so you can teach them. The undertone you are setting is to get an outside perspective on your emotions. There is nothing wrong with emotions and feeling the way you do. The problems come when we don’t get perspective. If you the parent show and talk about feelings in an open and safe manner you will teach your kids to do the same with you, trusted advisors, and even their spouse.
Imagine the creativity that flows between an Enneagram Type 4 and an Enneagram Type 5. Few pairings can generate the emotional depth and artistry as the Type 4 and Type 5. The Type 4 brings the emotional layers to match the mental heights of the Type 5. The combination is a fantastic work to behold because the solutions are elegant. The problem with the two Types is they may never actually get the idea or work implemented because they can get stuck in ideation. That is when we need another Enneagram Type to get us out of ourselves. The ideas are something beautiful to behold.