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Enneagram Type Five

Updated on December 7, 2010

The world of the Five

It is worth comparing types One and Five. They both use their minds, but Ones do it to figure out what is right, and Fives do it as a way of apprehending their world. Fives live in their minds more than any other type, and their meditations have brought forth the revolution in science and technology we see today all around us. Five are the computer engineers, the programmers, the scientists in our midst. The list of famous scientists is a roll call of Fives: Einstein, Oppenheimer, Bohr, Fermi, Rodger Penrose, Stephen Hawking, even - no comparison of stature intended - Bill Gates.

Fives use a particular feature of the human mind - pattern matching - to form theories about cause and effect and the nature of the world. They use the data they obtain to build a sort of mental model of an object, procedure, program, or anything they find amenable to this process. The goal is to build an elaborate model, then submerge it out of conscious way, so that the model is always there for reference, but does not get in the way of observation.

When this process goes wrong, the pattern matching machinery may develop a bandwidth problem, where too much is admitted as contextually related. If the problem becomes severe, the Five may begin to feel suspicious of sets of superficially unrelated facts that, under the surface, seem to take on ominous meanings. Perhaps the connections are being deliberately concealed by the Bad Guys for their own purposes, and the Five has just happened to luckily stumble on the web of interactions and has pierced the veil with the power of her intellect. Our non-Five name for this is, of course, paranoia. Nietzsche quipped, “Whatever is thought about long enough is finally thought suspicious.”

Their devotion to the analytical parts of their minds leads them to compartmentalize their interests and activities in various ways. They learn to separate from their emotional lives and compartmentalize them too, so they may seem unemotional when involved with others. Another reason for this is a greater or lesser degree of compulsiveness in analyzing their emotions, like a surgeon cutting a patient to pieces to find out where life is hiding. Compartmentalization helps bring a sense of order to an aspect of life that defies it. In their work they may demonstrate great detachment and remarkably little personality. One good example of a fictional Five is Commander Data of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

What motivates them

Fives live by their minds and need data to work from. This causes them to reach out into the world of books for ideas, and to some extent into the world of action for events to observe. Like any of the types, they can be manipulated by working directly with their obsession - in this case, figuring things out. Fives may also withdraw, like Fours, but to clear the decks of distractions so they can think matters through. They may need to retreat for such recharging quite frequently.

What professions appeal to them

Fives are the premiere research scientists and often make excellent teachers, but not in every case. Fives with some amount of Six influence will be found in all the sciences, with a preference for physical sciences that can be tested and touched. The 5/4s tend more toward hands-off sciences like astrophysics and computer programming.
Fives also find work as accountants, writers, engineers, architects, and musicians (especially woodwinds and piano).

Talents and Traps

The quality of a Five’s intellect is different than it appears in other types. While intelligent individuals all use their minds as tools, there is an intent and relish to a Five’s use that sticks out. And from the other direction, Fives encountering intelligent individuals who aren’t Fives may find others’ attitudes to their own thinking processes surprisingly different from a Five’s. This identification with the mind, to the exclusion of the rest of the being, is the Five’s great trap. Five who rise above it can find a peace of mind and position from which to act with great energy.

Such identification is more than balanced, however, by the evident usefulness of the Five’s ability to solve puzzles and build models. The mind is, by human nature, our primary means of dealing with the universe, and there really is no substitute for intellect. Huge litter sizes and short gestation periods were fine in their day, but it has passed.

A secondary issue for Fives is monomania. They can get involved with problems that involve holding a lot of data in place at once in the mind, which holding requires much low-level mental effort to keep refreshed. Fives are tempted to hold data like this almost as if were some macho contest. It were better if they built and submerged sub-models, which can be integrated into larger models. Five who understand this can build multi-level logical models that are wonders to analyze. In Fives, monomania can mean either that the problem is insoluble and the Five can’t give up the hunt, or that the Five is trying to carry too much simple data and he is afraid of losing track if he eases up on his attention.

A sad but exceptional example of the trap of monomania is the story of Phaedrus, the former personality of the writer Robert Pirsig. In his justly famous book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, he describes how Phaedrus’s monomania led to a schizoid mental implosion that resulted in hospitalization and electroconvulsive therapy to destroy the Phaedrus personality.

What they avoid

Fives need a substantial amount of recovery time from their cogitations, and they need peace and quiet for reflection. For this reason they must have control over their interactions with others. They will get away from situations where others will impose on them for their time or resources. Along with the 4/5 subtype, Fives may seem reclusive or antisocial to others, but this is because they are.

What they seek out

About the only thing that Fives can be relied upon to seek out is information (after the items mentioned above: control of their circumstances and resources), since this is the raw material of their mental activity. Accordingly, they may look for things that support this. Fives were the first to get DSL or cable modem internet connections. They may spend money for library privileges with special collections unavailable to the public, or pay for membership in professional societies or to attend important seminars in remote areas. If their research requires equipment or elaborate facilities, such as astronomy, they may cultivate ways to get access to the gear. If their research is modest, they will finance it themselves.

How they deal with fear and greed

Fives are often described as avaricious. Just to be sure, I looked it up in the dictionary, which lists it as a synonym for greed. What I have observed about Fives is not so much a greed to acquire, but a marked aversion to loss. Fives typically do not have a lot of material goods in their environment but do not want to lose the ones they have, or the money it would take to replace them. And this applies even more to the Five’s nonmaterial resources, time and energy and emotions. Fives are especially troubled by involvement in emotional scenes with others, either positive or negative, because they fear being overwhelmed. Others may feel that Fives are insufficiently whelmed and need more. Fives report that they may need considerable time, or sleep, to recharge after going through intense emotional experiences.

How they handle money and resources

Fives do not “enjoy” their money very much. They are usually content to spend it on essentials, but special expenses in the cause of research are to be considered essentials, too. Along with Ones, Fives are the worst bet for impulse buying. They will do all sorts of research to satisfy themselves before taking the plunge. They do not care for the hurly-burly of business, so they shy away from running their own, unless it is as low-key as a professional accountancy, legal research, or technical writing.

How you can spot them

Five stay out of the spotlight, so they may make a low profile. They favor subdued clothes and personal items like glasses.

The 5/6 subtype may have a more physical presentation, with flannel shirts or other outdoorsy wear, and may spend considerably more time outside than the 5/4 subtype. 5/6s will also be more willing to engage with others. 5/4s partake of Type Four gloom to a greater or lesser degree, and may have a morbid turn of mind. In common with Fours, they are fans of fantasy and science fiction.

Some famous examples of the type

Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, Galileo, Jean-Paul Sartre, Madame Curie, Albert Camus, Franz Kafka, Paulene Kael, Colin Wilson, Doris Lessing, James Blish, Albert Einstein, Larry Niven, Anais Nin, Michael Stipe, Stephen Baxter, Greg Egan, Susan Sontag, and Vladimir Putin.

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