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E-SymFourlabeledThe Sensitive, Introspective type:
Expressive, Dramatic, Self-Absorbed, and Temperamental

For more about the meaning of the arrows, see below.

Type Four in Brief

Fours are self-aware, sensitive, and reserved. They are emotionally honest, creative, and personal but can also be moody and self-conscious. Withholding themselves from others due to feeling vulnerable and defective, they can also feel disdainful and exempt from ordinary ways of living. They typically have problems with melancholy, self-indulgence, and self-pity. At their Best: inspired and highly creative, they can renew themselves and transform their experiences.

  • Basic Fear: That they have no identity or personal significance
  • Basic Desire: To find themselves and their significance (to create an
  • Enneagram Four with a Three-Wing: “The Aristocrat”
  • Enneagram Four with a Five-Wing: “The Bohemian”

Key Motivations: They want to express themselves and their individuality, to create and surround themselves with beauty, to maintain certain moods and feelings, to withdraw to protect their self-image, to take care of emotional needs before attending to anything else, to attract a “rescuer.”

The Meaning of the Arrows (in brief)

When moving in their Direction of Disintegration (stress), aloof Fours suddenly become over-involved and cling to Two. However, when moving in their Direction of Integration (growth), envious, emotionally turbulent Fours become more objective and principled, like healthy Ones.

Examples: Ingmar Bergman, Alan Watts, Sarah McLachlan, Alanis Morrisette, Paul Simon, Jeremy Irons, Patrick Stewart, Joseph Fiennes, Martha Graham, Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Johnny Depp, Anne Rice, Rudolph Nureyev, J.D. Salinger, Anaîs Nin, Marcel Proust, Maria Callas, Tennessee Williams, Edgar Allan Poe, Annie Lennox, Prince, Michael Jackson, Virginia Woolf, Judy Garland, “Blanche DuBois” (Streetcar Named Desire), Thomas Merton.

Type Four Overview

We have named this type The Individualist because Fours maintain their identity by seeing themselves as fundamentally different from others. Fours feel they are unlike other human beings and, consequently, no one can understand or love them. They often see themselves as uniquely talented, possessing unique, one-of-a-kind gifts, and as uniquely disadvantaged or flawed. More than any other type, Fours are acutely aware of and focused on their differences and deficiencies.

Healthy Fours are honest with themselves: they own all their feelings and can look at their motives, contradictions, and emotional conflicts without denying or whitewashing them. They may not necessarily like what they discover, but they do not try to rationalize their states or hide them from themselves or others. They are not afraid to see themselves as “warts and all.” Healthy Fours are willing to reveal highly personal and potentially shameful things about themselves because they are determined to understand the truth of their experience—so that they can discover who they are and come to terms with their emotional history. This ability also enables Fours to endure suffering with quiet strength. Their familiarity with their darker nature makes it easier to process painful experiences that might overwhelm other types.

Nevertheless, Fours often report missing something in themselves, although they may have difficulty identifying exactly what that “something” is. Is it willpower? Social ease? Self-confidence? Emotional tranquility?—all of which they see in others, seemingly in abundance. Given time and sufficient perspective, Fours generally recognize that they are unsure about aspects of their self-image—their personality or ego structure. They feel they lack a clear and stable identity, particularly a social persona they feel comfortable with.

While it is true that Fours often feel different from others, they do not want to be alone. They may feel socially awkward or self-conscious, but they sincerely wish to connect with people who understand them and their feelings. The “romantics” of the Enneagram, for someone to come into their lives and appreciate the secret self they have privately nurtured and hidden from the world. If, over time, such validation remains out of reach, Fours build their identity around how unlike everyone else they are. The outsider comforts herself by becoming an insistent individualist: everything must be done on her own, in her way, on her terms. Fours’ mantra becomes “I am myself. Nobody understands me. I am different and special,” while they secretly wish they could enjoy the easiness and confidence that others seem to enjoy.

Fours typically have problems with a negative self-image and chronically low self-esteem. They attempt to compensate for this by cultivating a Fantasy Self—an idealized self-image built primarily in their imaginations. A Four we know shared that he spent most of his spare time listening to classical music while fantasizing about being a great concert pianist—à la Vladimir Horowitz. Unfortunately, his commitment to practicing fell far short of his fantasized self-image, and he was often embarrassed when people asked him to play for them. His actual abilities, while not poor, became sources of shame.

In their lives, Fours may try several different identities for size based on styles, preferences, or qualities they find attractive in others. But underneath the surface, they still feel uncertain about who they are. The problem is that they base their identity primarily on their feelings. When Fours look inward, they see a kaleidoscopic, ever-shifting pattern of emotional reactions. Indeed, Fours accurately perceives a truth about human nature—dynamic and ever-changing. But because they want to create a stable, reliable identity from their emotions, they attempt to cultivate only certain feelings while rejecting others. Some feelings are seen as “me,” while others are “not me.” By attempting to hold on to specific moods and express others, Fours believe they are true to themselves.

One of the biggest challenges Fours face is learning to let go of feelings from the past; they tend to nurse wounds and hold onto negative feelings about those who have hurt them. Indeed, Fours can become so attached to longing and disappointment that they cannot recognize the many treasures in their lives.

Leigh is a working mother who has struggled with these complicated feelings for many years.

“I collapse when I am out in the world. I have had a trail of relationship disasters. I have hated my sister’s goodness—and hated goodness in general. I went years without joy in my life, just pretending to smile because real smiles would not come to me. I have had a constant longing for whatever I cannot have. My longings can never become fulfilled because I now realize that I am attached to ‘the longing’ and not to any specific end result.”

A Sufi story relates to this about an old dog that had been badly abused and was near starvation. One day, the dog found a bone, carried it to a safe spot, and started gnawing away. The dog was so hungry that it chewed on the bone for a long time and got every last bit of nourishment that it could out of it. After some time, a kind older man noticed the dog and its pathetic scrap and quietly set food out. But the poor hound was so attached to its bone that it refused to let go of it and soon starved to death.

Fours are in the same predicament. They cannot allow themselves to experience or enjoy their many good qualities if they believe something fundamentally wrong with them. To acknowledge their good qualities would be to lose their sense of identity (as a suffering victim) and to be without a relatively consistent personal identity (their Basic Fear). Fours grow by learning to see that much of their story is untrue—or at least not actual. The old feelings begin to fall away once they stop telling their old tale: it is irrelevant to who they are.

(from The Wisdom of the Enneagram, p. 180-182)

Next Actions

  • Are you locked in the past examining relationships that might have been?
  • Do you tend to gravitate towards the dramatic side of life – clothes, food, and people?
  • Do you often experience so many emotions that you are unsure of your feelings and become overwhelmed?
  • Do you suffer a sense of loss or abandonment even in a close, nurturing relationship?

Tips to try to minimize the negative aspects include:

  • Mourn a past relationship but make sure you can let it go. Stop dwelling on and reinventing the past.
  • Work on reducing the dramatic tantrums and learn how to control your mood swings.
  • Recognize the merits of your current life and partner.
  • Use your sensitivity to help others deal with their pain while building a support network to comfort you when needed.

You can minimize your introspective behavior and feelings of discouragement and concentrate on loving yourself and using your natural abilities to show compassion and help your fellow man.