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Enneagram Type Four

Updated on December 8, 2010

The world of the Four

Something fundamental has gone wrong for Fours, but they don’t know exactly what it is, usually. Whatever it is, fixing the loss is so important that everything else in life - work, social responsibilities, family, love, financial success - must be subordinated to the campaign. Despite a tendency to drown their sorrows in addictions, Fours will often cast a cold eye on simpler human pleasures, as if to say, “Why are you trying to distract me with all this trivia? Don’t you know there’s a war on?” For a Four, there is always a war on, and the enemies have breached the gates.

Fours live their lives pushing against a negativity that can present as depression, fears for survival, or despair, in different contexts at different times. It is hard to describe to others not of the type: it is like a permanent offset where everything is twisted 45 degrees. They are prone to bipolar disorders, but can manifest disassociative schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorders, or paranoid delusions as well.

Edgar Allen Poe is diagnostic of a Four on the ropes. Obsessed by horrific situations and darkness in general, he was an alcoholic and an opium addict, with a characteristically wild and unrealistic emotional life with women.

The history of European arts is rife with gay Four men. Whatever factors go into becoming a Four, the events go back very early, early enough, in some cases, to interfere with gender identification in the 18-24 month period.

Unhealthy Fours sail into the wind with the sail luffing. Healthy Fours tighten up the sail and move. They can direct the beam of insight that they use upon themselves outward at the world, seeing deeply into human motivation. Deanna Troi of the Star Trek: The Next Generation crew is the “designated Four” for the show, using her Fourish empathy to help others.

What motivates them

Why are the greatest actors of each generation Fours? At any one time, there are two or three 4/3s like Laurence Olivier and Robert DeNiro and Gary Oldman, then a large number of 3/4s. It is because they are forced to act - act “normal” - from an early age? They are born actors.

Fours very much want to see their inner world projected into the outer world, which may lead them to write fiction, paint or sculpt, make movies or build buildings, in order to see something of their own internal world objectified for others to understand. It is a way of showing them what’s going on inside without labored and humiliating explanations, and a way of healing the schizoid feeling of living in a mental concentration camp while those around you are sucking up lattes and debating their 401K choices. But most of all Fours seek relief from a pain that never quite leaves and sometimes sucks all the color and pleasure from life.

What professions appeal to them

Most Fours have their “job job” and “what they really do”. Fours have already lost their self confidence, especially the 4/5 subtype, so they are not drawn to competition. Unfortunately, the venues they want to work in (and get paid in) are generally arts and crafts that pay poorly and attract a lot of competition. Some Fours simply erect a barrier between their work persona and their passions. Others hang on trying to make their passions pay.

Fours, especially 4/5s, typically have considerable interest in human psychology, and a substantial number wind up working in this general area. Few may make it through a graduate degree program, though, because of the emotional ups and downs changing their plan before the multi-year project can come to fruition.

Fours are also drawn to religious/spiritual interests - atheists in foxholes and all that - and some may take on priestly duties or their equivalent.

Fours may also teach, especially if they have achieved some sort of certification in a field they have a love for, such as music, psychology, literature, or religion.

Talents and Traps

Fours are the most varied type physically and even mentally, after a fashion. They have the commonality of some obscure problem that alienates them from the family, the social group, and possibly even the human race, but beyond this the circumstances of their lives may vary wildly.

At the same time, depending on the level of Type 3 influence, the 4/3 will be driven to compete and excel. The 4/5 subtype will often be more resigned and despairing. With Four as the main influence, they will be dragged around by their emotions, despite the insistence by their Five association that their mind is the key to solving their problems. But while the Four preoccupation with The Problem is in the driver’s seat, the Five’s devotion to reason is swamped. The smarter the 4/5, the worse the situation is. I have seen several brilliant 4/5s drift in and out of disassociative schizophrenia for just this reason.

4/5s often have fixations about diets in general, specific foods, or outright food addictions. In fact, every single 4/5 I know has such issues. One would only eat purple food; others couldn’t abide mushrooms, or garlic, or meat, or food cooked indoors, or eating rabbits that had white fur. There may be organic reasons for such, due to allergies or extreme sensitivity to smells (one 4/5 tells me that the odor of garlic or onions smells like some corrosive industrial chemical).

4/5s are also subject to a strange phenomenon I call “cognitive aphasia”. Under stress the 4/5 may find him or herself unable think in language. It is as if the thoughts are compressed and can only slip sideways through the mind, through cracks. The mind struggles and finally maps the “thought” to a symbol of some sort. Communication becomes something like solving a message contained in a rebus, where a picture of a bee stands for the verb “be”, and eye stands for “I”, and so forth. Don’t ask me how I know this; I’ll have to draw you a picture.

A healthy 4/3, on the other hand, is able to energize his or her passions with the drive of the 3 influence. She can interact with the public and share the riches recovered from within while on her voyage back to life. The healthy 4/5 is able to turn the introspection engine outward to probe the universe of human experience in unique and profound ways.

The sad truth is that there are not many healthy Fours out there in the public eye to point at as good examples. The US culture is heavily biased toward supporting Threeness, and Fours react by - figuratively, in most cases - curling up in a fetal position.

One example of a healthy 4/3 is John Bradshaw, who has written and lectured extensively on treatment of addictions and other problems of self-limitation. Not surprisingly, he has a substantial amount of Three influence in his personality. The poet and writer Robert Bly is probably a 4/5, as is Peter Gabriel (although he is close to the centerline between Four and Five and some type him as a 5/4).

What they avoid

A lot of things; possibly, most things. They may have what is called, in an age that defines everything as an “XXX YYY disorder”, “avoidant personality disorder”. You can bet that Fours will have great difficulty in dealing with family members, perhaps going to the extreme of breaking off relations with them, or at least demanding control over how much contact they have with them.

What they seek out

They will look for things that affirm their sense of specialness, of deserving special treatment, various exemptions, considerations, etc. They can be motivated to sympathy and a desire for justice. Fours often find solace in their relations to animals, whose motives cannot be questioned and whose sympathy cannot be found wanting.

How they deal with fear and greed

You might expect Fours to be fearful, give their generally negative view of life. Often this doesn’t seem to be the case: they have already lost what was important, so there is little to fear. They do have anxiety, and under stress can develop irrational fears, but this is not typical.

Fours are not especially greedy, but they want what they want.

How they handle money and resources

They will spend to avoid pain. If they become convinced that therapy will help, they will spend large sums on it. Or Scientology. Or drugs. Or dining out. Or...

How you can spot them

Fours probably have the most varied physiognomy of all types. They can be recognized, however, by their eyes. They have a certain look that is hard to describe; it’s more than just being in pain, it’s having looked at pain for too long. Nietzsche, a 5/4, wrote “When you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.” Fours may resemble individuals caught up in wars or concentration camps with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Of all types, they are the most prone to bouts or lifetimes of depression. Sometimes this manifests as a bipolar disorder where periods of mania are interspersed with depression, but for most Fours (especially 4/5s) the depression outweighs the mania by four or five to one.

Some famous examples of the type

Marlon Brando, Gene Wilder, Steve Martin, The Ugly Duckling, Robert DeNiro, Eric Clapton, Roger Waters, Dominique Francon, Peter Townsend, Robin Trower, Michael Jackson, Prince, Peter Gabriel, Edgar Allen Poe, W.H. Auden, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Judy Garland, H.P. Lovecraft, Maria Callas, Gary Oldman, Judy Collins, Audrey Hepburn, Janet Jackson, Laurence Olivier, Vincent Van Gogh, Belle Watling, Mussorgskii, Tchaikovskii, Rachmaninoff, Bruckner, Wagner, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Adolf Hitler.


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