Hello and welcome to Enneagram Five Basics! This is part of a 10 part series all about the Enneagram basics, and I’m really excited to share it with you. It gives us a great starting point to have the same Enneagram “language”: terms, definitions, and things like that; as well as helping you understand where I’m coming from when it comes to your Enneagram types. If you want to go back and read the first Enneagram Basics post, it talks all about the Enneagram, what it is, and how I define the the terms; and it can give you a really good place to start before you come here and read the specifics about Type 5.
So go do that.
Did you do it?
A lot of what I’m going to be sharing here is from my book “The Enneagram for Beginners” and you can find a lot more information there in Type Five’s chapter, but this is going to hopefully be a very sufficient introduction to get you started. We’re going to cover a basic summary, motivations, wings, growth and stress points, levels of health, and subtypes.
Now let’s get into it.
A Type 5’s Focus
Type Fives are typically very focused on gaining knowledge and competence, understanding how to do things and the inner workings of what they are doing, and gaining security in life, in finances, in boundaries, and in time; basically, feeling like they have what they need.
Type Fives usually have these traits:
- Curious about life
- Skilled at creative problem-solving
- Very private
Type Fives may not feel a need to share a lot about themselves and may, in fact, feel kind of burdened and overwhelmed if they feel compelled by somebody else to share this way. They feel a sense of depletion when other people or situations require their mental and emotional energy, especially if they feel like they are almost “used up.” They feel that they have a type of “energy battery” and can tell what level it’s at and when it’s running out. At that point, they feel the need to have some time to themselves doing something that fills them up in order to really recharge. They feel very at home in their own minds and imaginations, as well as being by themselves or with a few close people. They can come across as secretive or even a little intense to other people, especially in things that they feel very passionate about. Fives might think it’s necessary to fully understand every aspect of an issue before taking action, because doing otherwise would feel irresponsible, or like they are not going to have the competency and knowledge that they need to achieve it.
Type Fives lean more towards being overly self-reliant, which we will talk about more when we talk about motivations, but they might feel that that keeps them from letting people in too close, because they don’t want to have to rely on people or need things from them. They can also feel easily overwhelmed by the needs and requests of other people on them.
This “summary” of Type Fives that I just kind of laid out very briefly for you really comes from their motivations. That’s what makes you an Enneagram Type 5; not the behaviors that you have, but the reasons why you do them. Our motivations come from an underlying belief that we learned from a very young age in order to feel okay. For Type Five, that underlying belief is “I’m not okay unless I’m competent and self-sufficient. The way to be worthy, loved, or have any kind of connection that I might want is through not needing anything and being able to do it myself: having the knowledge that I need, having the ability and security that I need in my own self and not relying on other people.” That underlying belief is really fleshed out and lived out through our desires, our fears, and what I call our ongoing struggle.
The things that a Type 5 is running towards are:
- To be capable
- To be perceptive
- To be knowledgeable
- To be competent
- To have the security that they need and the ability to get and hold that security for themselves
Those desires mean that they are running away from and fearing or avoiding the equal opposites:
- Feeling obligated to someone
- Feeling incompetent
- Having their person or time invaded upon
- Being depleted of energy (physical, emotional, or mental)
Running away from those things while running towards those desires creates this friction or tension point in the middle, and that’s the ongoing struggle. For Type Fives, this is called avarice or greed; I want to break down what that is, though, because it’s probably not exactly what you’re thinking of.
How this plays out for a Type 5 is really minimizing their needs, holding onto a sustainable amount of the essential resources that they feel they need: energy, possessions, time, personal space, privacy…These are all things that a Type 5 really feels like they won’t be ok without, because it keeps them from being self-sufficient. That belief that a Type 5 needs to be self-sufficient really causes this compulsion to hang on to those very necessary things. This doesn’t necessarily mean the Type 5 is not lavish in their behaviors; it isn’t that they need more money all of the time, which is really what greed or avarice often portrays itself as. It’s more like, “I’m going to need less so that I can have exactly what I need and feel like I have those essential resources.”
An Enneagram 5 can have a 4 wing (5w4) or a 6 wing (5w6). 5w4s are likely more withdrawn, more in-touch with their emotions (and may even come across a little bit more emotional). They more readily empathize with the people around them and are really creative in how they conceptualize new ideas or put them into practice. When they are struggling, a 5w4 can be a little more insensitive to the needs of other people, and might be more likely to have an emotional reactivity (reacting with negative emotions outwardly towards other people.)
A 5w6 tends to be a little more observant, analyzing situations and relationships, more social or sociable, and a little more skeptical. When struggling, they might get worried more often, and they can tend to emotionally withdraw from confusing relationships (as opposed to the emotional reactivity of a 5w6).
Levels of Health
Let’s move to levels. Remember, you can bounce around these on a regular basis, and I’m going to talk about healthy, average or autopilot, and unhealthy “levels” just as indications for where you are in the moment: Are you responding intentionally, the way you want to? Or are you reacting out of your patterns?
When in a healthy place, Type 5s can really see and observe things that other people can’t see, and they are willing to share their insights. They have this idea of abundance and feel very connected to the people that they want to be connected to. They have a gift of neutrality, which is really beautiful, and if used in a healthy way, is a perspective that other people really need. When Type Fives share that generously with other people, the insights and the inspiration is just a beautiful thing to see. When living from a healthy place, Type Fives can engage with other people comfortably while still having their boundaries; they are able to be in a place where they are comfortable with the people they want to be comfortable with.
When Type Fives are in a more average or autopilot place in their health, then they might be more likely to hide their feelings from other people, even the people who are very important to them, because they fear that those people will intrude on them, overwhelm them, and place burdens on them that they don’t want to accept. They start to place a much higher value on autonomy (which should have value, but if we overbalance that, then our relationships can suffer.) Reciprocation might suffer when Type Fives do this, because they are focusing more on their self-reliant tendencies, rather than allowing other people to need them and vice-versa.
An indication that a Type 5 is in an unhealthy place is that they become very focused on withdrawing from other people, or not even entering into spaces that have people, and isolating themselves while holding on tightly to their resources. They’ve lost that healthy abundance mindset that they have in a healthy, intentional place and are more in a fixed mindset where there is depletion of resources, and there might not be enough. Fives are more likely to struggle at this point with dark, conspiratorial, nihilistic thoughts, and can get very defensive and overly sarcastic at this point. Now I’ve said it before, but I want to make sure I say here that unhealthy is just a place where you are, and not who you are. If you find yourself consistently there, I would suggest talking to somebody and finding new ways to cope and new ways to grow from a professional counselor or therapist, or someone who can help you with those specific things; because that is a tough place to be, especially if you find yourself there consistently and for an extended period of time.
Let’s move on to growth and stress points. There are actually four of these points, which would be a fun thing to dive into, but we’ll just talk about growth and stress points today.
When you move across the Enneagram on those lines, we can see that Type Five connects to Types Eight and Seven. Your motivations won’t change, but you can take on some of the tendencies and behaviors of these other types for different reasons, depending on your growth or your stress.
When Types Fives are moving to Type Eight in growth, that really comes from a place of feeling more comfortable in who they are, more confident, ready to kind of reach out of their comfort zone in a way that they may not if they weren’t feeling ready and rested. When moving to a Type 8, Fives start to take on these traits:
- A little more assertive
- More spontaneous and ready to do things (even if they don’t know how to do them yet)
- More confident
- Quicker to take action
- Physically present with themselves, which is a beautiful thing to see for a Type 5, where they are really embodying who they are and feeling present in their own bodies. This can come a lot easier or feel more natural for a Type 5 when they are moving along their growth line to Type Eight.
The stress point that we talk about is when the Type Five’s coping strategies in a difficult situation are not working, and they need a backup plan. At that point, they take on some of the less-than-healthy, more reactive tendencies that a Type 7 tends to use:
- Becoming more destructively impulsive or impatient
- Feeling very distracted from finishing the tasks that they set out to do
- Having a racing mind that really will not slow down.
So moving to Type Seven in stress is really an indicator of needing to do something to help them cope better. “I need to take care of this situation, or I need to go take care of myself. Something’s got to give or else it’s going to get worse from here.”
So those are, again, just a very brief introduction into the growth and stress points.
We’ll move on to subtypes now, and again, please go back and read the Enneagram Basics post at the beginning of this series that dropped if you want to get a bigger definition of what the subtypes are, how we go about them, and how we define them.
Self-preservation Type Fives are a little more focused on creating and maintaining boundaries. There is this feeling of having a castle of sorts, and needing to protect it; needing to have enough in that castle to take care of them so that they only have to leave when they want to. These subtypes are a little more introverted, feel very drained in social situations, and come across as a little bit less expressive to other people; they might hold their emotions and expressions very close to the chest.
Social Type Fives come from the stance that knowledge is power, and that this is how to live life as part of a community; how to find your place is through the knowledge that you have. They are a little more likely to share their insights and values with others to benefit them and the group, which also ends up benefiting them (not a bad thing at all! We know from the subtypes that a social type tends to value the health of the group because the health of the group helps determine if they’re going to be okay, so no shade there; that’s just how it gets done for a social type five.) This subtype might also be searching for their ideal, because without that ideal situation or achievement, then life might lose some of its meaning (or, in extreme cases, might feel meaningless without it.)
Our final subtype is our one-to-one or sometimes called sexual Type 5. This type is a little more romantic and can kind of idealize relationships a little bit more. They might be more likely to search for an ideal person who fits their perfect picture of love that they were holding. They might connect very deeply with just a few people in life; they have “their people” (and they don’t have to be romantic relationships.) When it comes to these very close relationships, they tend to have very high standards for what they look like, and might go looking for that type of person. They are more likely to share their needs out loud, overtly, and are incredibly sensitive to breaches of trust.
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Check out the other posts in this series: