Kid T is out of town and I’m left with no dancing and not much to talk about. I was trying to come up with something but, for me, writing sort of has to flow organically. I’ve got to have an experience or an event that just screams ‘DO A POST ABOUT THIS!!!” and then the words just come. (Yes, the event actually screams at me)
But since I introduced the concept of the Enneagram and the Type 4, I thought I’d cheat and just take a canned description and see what fits and what doesn’t. I’ll do that in my own particular idiom.
I’ve said before that I love personality stuff like this. Well, mostly I love it about me but it helps when I look at others as well. I don’t claim that this is a 100% match and the Type 5 is close as well but there are some things that ring true here so let’s go with it and see what happen. I hope “quirky” doesn’t show again.
Oh, I should give credit even though I’m such a small blog that nobody would really notice. I grabbed this from the enneagram institute site. I hope this is easy to follow. I’ll go paragraph by paragraph. Their stuff is in Italics. My responses are not.
We have named this type The Individualist because Fours maintain their identity by seeing themselves as fundamentally different from others. Fours feel that they are unlike other human beings, and consequently, that no one can understand them or love them adequately. They often see themselves as uniquely talented, possessing special, one-of-a-kind gifts, but also as uniquely disadvantaged or flawed. More than any other type, Fours are acutely aware of and focused on their personal differences and deficiencies.
I don’t feel like I’m unlike other human beings. I am unlike other human beings. Well, I’ve noted before how many times I’ve never felt like I fit in so I guess this fits. If I dug deep enough, you might get me to admit to having gifts but I do focus more on my disadvantages and flaws. OK, we’re off to a good start.
Healthy Fours are honest with themselves: they own all of 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, nor do they try to hide them from themselves or others. They are not afraid to see themselves “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 a quiet strength. Their familiarity with their own darker nature makes it easier for them to process painful experiences that might overwhelm other types.
Well, you the readers may have to judge how healthy I am. I reveal a lot here because I can do it anonymously and not have to face people afterward. I don’t do it so much in person. I did write some pretty emotional letters to Z to try and explain my side of things so maybe. Yeah, I’m still trying to discover who I am. Not sure what an emotional history is. It feels like a contradiction to say I reveal highly personal things but then suffer with a quiet strength. And the whole bit about being familiar with my darker nature sounds ominous. But then everybody’s got a dark side. And I’ve used that phrase in posts. Alright, we’ll say this is mostly true.
Nevertheless, Fours often report that they feel they are missing something in themselves, although they may have difficulty identifying exactly what that “something” is. Is it will power? 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 itself. They feel that they lack a clear and stable identity, particularly a social persona that they feel comfortable with.
I ain’t missing you. Oh sorry, I segued into that John Waite song. Yeah, I’ll own this one as well. There are so many times when I struggle to figure out what that “something” is. Lack a clear and stable identity makes me sound a bit weird but that feels somewhat true. This paragraph is a little heavier than I’d like but it sounds somewhat like me.
While it is true that Fours often feel different from others, they do not really want to be alone. They may feel socially awkward or self-conscious, but they deeply wish to connect with people who understand them and their feelings. The “romantics” of the Enneagram, they long for someone to come into their lives and appreciate the secret self that they have privately nurtured and hidden from the world. If, over time, such validation remains out of reach, Fours begin to build their identity around how unlike everyone else they are. The outsider therefore comforts herself by becoming an insistent individualist: everything must be done on her own, in her own way, on her own 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.
“socially awkward or self-conscious”. DING, DING, DING. We have a winner. Now tell them what they’ve won. Yeah, the whole part about wanting to deeply connect is spot on as well. And not wanting to be alone. I can be alone for awhile but I can’t be a complete hermit. The whole connection thing is a huge part of my life. I hate idle small talk and I want to get beyond it and talk about meaningful things. I don’t know about the longing for someone to come into my life and appreciate my secret self. That makes me sound pretty pathetic. See, I can reject the parts I don’t like even if they might actually have some degree of truth in them. I haven’t become a insistent individualist so maybe I do get that validation somehow. The first two sentences describe me perfectly. The rest is hit or miss but this is a pretty good fit.
Fours typically have problems with a negative self-image and chronically low self-esteem. They attempt to compensate for this by cultivating aFantasy Self—an idealized self-image which is built up primarily in their imaginations. A Four we know shared with us 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.
Oh dear, here’s something else that hits a little too close to home. Yeah, I’ve done the whole negative self-image thing and I certainly have my battles with self-esteem. I mean, come on, I’ve written about the imposter syndrome. I’m not going to tell you if I have a Fantasy Self. Sounds more like an imaginary playmate to me and that also sounds pretty pathetic. (On a side note, I’m going to have to read some of the other descriptions, I’m picking up of a lot of bad vibes in this one. Do they slam each type like this?)
In the course of their lives, Fours may try several different identities on for size, basing them on styles, preferences, or qualities they find attractive in others. But underneath the surface, they still feel uncertain about who they really are. The problem is that they base their identity largely on their feelings. When Fours look inward they see a kaleidoscopic, ever-shifting pattern of emotional reactions. Indeed, Fours accurately perceive a truth about human nature—that it is 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 that they are being true to themselves.
Well, I don’t know. I’d like to tell you I’m the same person everywhere but I know that isn’t true. Around my family, I have one part to play but that is slightly different from what people at work see and that is slightly different from what the others at the studio see and that is slightly different from people I’ve known a lot longer. I don’t know if I see a kaleidoscope inside me although that sounds pretty cool. I would probably spend all my free time staring at it if there was one. OK, this one sounds a little too deep for me. I’ll go with may be true, may not be. But I can’t categorically deny everything in this paragraph.
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 are unable to recognize the many treasures in their lives.
Yes, there is some truth here. I’ve been screwed over in the past. With some people, I got past it although I’d never fully trust them again. With others, I just ignored them every other time I saw them. Probably some truth here. There is a comfort sometimes in diving into the negative emotions and just trying them on for awhile to really explore how they feel. (That sounded weird) Alright, we’ll give this one some credit at well.
Leigh is a working mother who has struggled with these difficult 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.
Can’t say anything about this example except that it sounds nothing like me. I’ve not had a trail of relationship disasters or hated goodness.
There is a Sufi story that 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 old man noticed the dog and its pathetic scrap and began quietly setting food out for it. But the poor hound was so attached to its bone that it refused to let go of it and soon starved to death.
A story about a stray abused dog that starves to death! You want me to start crying right now! What kind of sicko casually tosses in this story about a dog that starves to death. Do you know how painful and slow that is? And why doesn’t the man take the dog in and figure out a way to give it some food. Leaving food out is one thing but not doing anything while an animal starves to death. How am I supposed to get the moral of this story when all I can focus on is the poor dog. I’d kick the crap out of any learned sage who tried to use this story to impart a lesson.
Fours are in the same predicament. As long as they believe that there is something fundamentally wrong with them, they cannot allow themselves to experience or enjoy their many good qualities. 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 not true—or at least it is not true any more. The old feelings begin to fall away once they stop telling themselves their old tale: it is irrelevant to who they are right now.
So, this is supposed to be the point of the dog story. Sorry, you lost me at the dog. I’m not taking anything from this paragraph.
Don’t dwell on the past, and remember to enjoy the pleasure that can be found in each moment. When you have gratitude and the courage to move through your fear of rejection and share your talents, others will honor your original and creative contributions.