Hello and welcome to Type Four’s Enneagram Basics! This is a part of a 10 part series all about the Enneagram and each individual type. I hope that if you are confused by any of the terms here that I’m using, that you go back and read Enneagram Basics, which goes into the terms, what the Enneagram is, what it’s made of, and how I define the different things that we’ll be talking about. I’m going to keep it all about Type Fours specifically in this post so that we can get through it in a relatively short amount of time. A lot of the info that I’m going to be sharing comes from my book, “The Enneagram for Beginners”; if you want it to kind of go deeper, get some journaling prompts and things like that then you can find the link here.
A Type 4’s Focus
Type Fours really place a lot of importance on what is or feels authentic; what is deep and not superficial; what is unique and not ordinary or mundane. They also have this feeling that something is kind of missing inside of them, something that other people seem to have (we will get into what that looks like and how that feels later on). Type Fours spend a lot of time in their imagination, in their feelings, and in processing, which really gives them some beautiful gifts:
- They see beauty in every area of life
- They empathize easily with other people
- They embrace the entire range of emotions, which not everybody naturally has.
Type Fours naturally have a longing to feel whole, to feel special, and to find that missing part of themselves that they feel like they don’t have yet. They often feel disconnected from other people, and while others may see or perceive that Type Fours have this deep longing for connection that they see other people having, Fours might just withdraw or disconnect because they fear that they can’t have that. This can be a friction and source of tension that Type Fours hold, and this perception of being disconnected can also cause people to see them as coming across as a little “self-absorbed”, in their own head, or even a little more emotionally demanding than what others can provide.
Proving Their Uniqueness
Type Fours often think it’s necessary to cultivate creativity, however that looks to them, in order to prove how unique and special they are (not only to others, but even to themselves.) Remember, Fours have this feeling of missing something, and sometimes creativity can help them show that they are unique and special, and they use this as a way of proving this to themselves. Unfortunately, a lot of this proving can almost widen the chasm that they feel exists between them and other people, and reinforce the idea that they are different from others and misunderstood. This feeling of misunderstanding can leave Fours feeling empty, and can even lead to self-hatred or self-apathy, which if taken to an extreme can cause them to reinforce the differences. Fours can spend time trying to prove to themselves that they know they are different, and they are fine with being misunderstood, when in fact that misunderstanding is quite hurtful to experience.
A lot of these attributes and behavioral tendencies that I just talked about for Type 4 really stem from their emotions and their underlying belief, which is, “Only the special and unique get noticed in life. And I’m not special enough as I am.”
Now, this belief might not be expressed verbally or as words in a Type 4’s thoughts, but this understanding or belief that their worth and value comes from being set apart, having that missing piece, feeling whole and unique, being in touch with their authentic self, leads them to chase after those things. Not only that, but it also causes them to run away from even the thought or pretense of insignificance or the mundane.
A Type 4’s greatest desires are:
- To be special
- To be connected
- To be authentic
- To be in touch, able to understand themselves wholly and be fully understood by their people
On the other hand, they fear…
- Being unnoticed
- Being mundane
- Being cut off emotionally
- Not having that connection
- Being insignificant
This running towards something and running away from something else creates this friction and tension point in the middle, which I call the “ongoing struggle”. Type 4’s ongoing struggle is envy, but I want to break it down for you a little bit, because it’s not what you might consider envy to be, especially if you come from the Christian faith. What I am talking about when I talk about envy is the feeling that you are tragically flawed, that there is something inherently wrong with you that isn’t wrong with other people, and believing that other people have something–this nameless something that you can’t quite put your finger on–that you lack. So Type Fours are left wondering, “What do they have that I don’t? How do I get that?” There is this longing to find that missing piece of themselves, to find what makes them unique, special, and whole.
Of course, this perception isn’t true; there isn’t something missing from Type Fours that can be taken from somebody; it isn’t something at all. It comes from a lie, and not a lie that Type Fours intentionally spoke to themselves, but something that simply trying to feel okay in this world brought out eventually. It all culminated in this idea, the underlying belief that we talked about, that a Type Four feels, “I’m not okay if I’m not special enough. And I am not there yet.” This creates this false sense of envy that Fours don’t need to have, but because they are running towards their desire and away from their fear, it creates this tension point of envy, which is just the natural culmination of believing this false story that they are not enough as they are.
If you want a little more information on wings, levels of health (that we’ll talk about next) or subtypes (that we’ll talk about last), then remember that you can go back and read The Enneagram Basics Introduction post. For a Type 4, the possible wings are either a 3 (4w3) or a 5 (4w5).
A 4w3 often comes across as more extroverted. They might crave the company of other people a little bit more; it kind of fills up their cup a little bit more to be with others. They also tend to be more goal-oriented and ambitious with their creativity. When they are struggling, though, they might tend more towards comparison, competitiveness, and a little more of that emotional turbulence (those ups-and-downs that really affect how they are able to respond and react to people or situations.)
A 4w5 is a little more likely to be more introverted, drained a little bit more by people. They come across as a little more eccentric, in their creativity especially, and a little more intellectually intuitive than a 4w3 because they are getting more into the head triad of the Enneagram. When struggling, a 4w5 might find that they withdraw from other people more easily, become a little more overly independent as a way to not need other people.
These might be some of the different experiences, nuances, and ways that a wing (if they have one) might affect a Type 4, and how they come across to others and move through life.
Levels of Health
So let’s move on to the levels of health. Remember, this is not a linear progression or regression that we see; you can bounce around these levels constantly. This is more of how you are doing in this moment, which can really affect how you come across if you are living from a healthy place, a little more average or unintentional place, or a straight-up unhealthy place.
When a Type 4 is living from a place of health and intentionality, and really putting off the belief that their worth is tied up in finding that missing piece of themselves and that they are already fully who they are, then they have a lot more authenticity coming from a confident place in who they are. They are compassionate and expressive, and they inspire other people to express themselves instead of the Four needing to focus on themselves. They really hold space and open up a beautiful place for other people to also do the same, and it’s really inspirational. They inspire other people in that way, and can experience their emotions with a lot of balance at this point: the good and the bad, not believing that they are only the bad, but also accepting the good and beautiful parts of themselves and believing that they’re just as much a part of them as all the rest of themselves. They allow themselves to be fully themselves, which means believing their good parts and accepting them.
When a Type 4 moves down into average or a little more unintentional autopilot, just living more reactively, then this can look like trying to exaggerate their uniqueness a bit (or a lot), and really feeling like they are missing something that other people have. They feel that they have to try to find that missing piece, or at least don’t let others see what they themselves see, which is that they are flawed. Again, this is a lie; this is not true, it’s a story. But if they are starting to believe that a little bit more, then that’s where a Type 4 exaggerating their uniqueness might come from. This belief can also drive them to be dissatisfied with life; they become very nostalgic, longing for what could have been, and have a feeling of being lonely or misunderstood. Even if objectively, they aren’t actually in that place, this might be their emotional experience; if they were to balance the good with the bad, it’s not actually that bad, but this might be where a Type 4 goes when living more from the belief of missing something that is foundational to who they are, rather than from an intentional place of choosing to believe that they are whole and good as they are.
This is definitely where we don’t want to be, but it’s important to talk about it so that we see when we are going down that path. This is where Type Fours can really fall into melancholy or despair, and feel that they are never going to find that “missing part” of themselves. They feel that people will never fully understand them, and can go from feeling a little more lonely to feeling alone; from feeling like something is missing to feeling that something is broken inside of them. This is a really difficult place to be, and I want to point out that if you get there as a Type 4, it might require some counseling and help that goes beyond just reminding yourself that you are good enough as you are, which is the truth. Having some unbiased and professional help can really help you see and notice all the evidence that is in your favor: that you are good; that you are not more inherently wrong or bad or flawed than other people; that you are unique because of who you are and not unique because of how broken you are.
This is a very brief look at the levels of health for Type 4; let’s move on to growth and stress points.
There are actually four points that we could cover, which will probably be a whole brand new series that we could go into later, but we’re only going to talk about two today: growth and stress lines. Type Fours are connected to types 1 and 2 on the Enneagram. While their main type doesn’t change (they stay a Type 4 and have the motivations of a 4) they can find themselves moving down the lines and taking on some of the tendencies of the types they are connected to.
When in a comfortable place, feeling like they are safe and in their comfort zone, and can branch out and maybe do something that they wouldn’t normally do, Type Fours move towards the healthy tendencies of a Type One:
- They are able to be a little more objective and balanced in their view of what’s going on inside of them internally
- They are able to ground themselves emotionally and not ride the waves as much
- They feel a little more naturally ready to stay with something until it’s done
- They appreciate the procedures and tasks that help them stay on track to accomplish whatever it is they are working on.
When a Type 4 is stressed out, and feels like their normal comfort zone stuff is not helping them right now and they need to pull more “tools” out of the tool belt to cope in this moment, this is when they might move to a Type 2 or take on some of the less-than-healthy, more average Type 2 behaviors:
- Becoming a little more clingy
- Showing what they need in more of a manipulative way (I need you to do these things for me in order to feel okay.)
- A little more possessive of their relationships
- Withdrawing from their relationships as a way of punishing them (being more passive aggressive or giving the silent treatment).
This is an area of growth for you a Type Four; it’s not the only option, but these tendencies can come out in certain stressful situations.
Let’s move on to our subtypes. If you need to know how I use subtypes and what their definitions are, you can check out the Enneagram Basics post.
A self-preservation Type 4 is a little more likely to deal with those darker emotions (melancholy or sadness) internally and privately while maintaining more of a happy facade for other people. This can cause them to come across as a little more stoic, or tough in the face of suffering. They are still suffering internally the same as every other Type 4, but they put on a facade of either happiness or being unbothered. Even they themselves may not see the suffering when it happens!
A social Type 4 is a little more outspoken about the suffering that’s going on. When they are feeling melancholy or alone, they might even take a little comfort in the beauty of the sadness that they are experiencing: the depth of it all and how it adds complexity and beauty to their life experience. They have a strong desire to be a part of the group, but also might find themselves comparing to other people in that same group or community.
A one-to-one Type 4 can be a little more competitive and vocal in expressing their needs, and maybe even a little competitive and vocal in expressing their suffering. They want others to know what they are going through, and to understand it. In extreme or less-than-healthy cases, they might even stack it up against other people’s suffering. They still feel like they are missing something and are flawed, and that can come out as anger: “I’m missing something that you seem to have and now I’m angry.” This can be some of their experience, especially in their closest circle relationships as a one-to-one Type 4.
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