Personality Type FOUR: The Individualist
The Sensitive, Withdrawn Type:
Dramatic, Self-Absorbed, and Temperamental
Generally, Fours are intuitive,
sensitive, impressionable, quiet, introspective, passionate, romantic,
elegant, witty, imaginative, and self-expressive.
Fours get into conflicts by being moody, emotionally demanding, self-absorbed, withholding, temperamental, dramatic, pretentious, and self-indulgent.
At their best, Fours are creative, inspired, honest with themselves, emotionally strong, humane, self-aware, discrete, and self-renewing.
Type Four exemplifies the
desire to be ourselves, to be known for who we are, and to know the
depths of our hearts. Of all the types, Fours are the most aware of
their own emotional states. They notice when they feel upset, anxious,
attracted to another person, or some other, more subtle combination of
feelings. They pay attention to their different changing emotions and
try to determine what their feelings are telling them about themselves,
others, and their world. When Fours are more in balance, their
exquisite attunement to their inner states enables them to discover
deep truths about human nature, to bear compassionate witness to the
suffering of others, or to be profoundly honest with themselves about
their own motives. When they are less balanced, they can become lost in
their feelings, preoccupied with emotional reactions, memories, and
fantasies, both negative and positive.
Fours are nothing if not subtle and expressive, and they are
able to put words to feelings and states that others may recognize but
could not have expressed as eloquently. (“That poem exactly captures
how I felt about leaving home.”) By being emotionally honest, and by
taking time to see what they really feel about things, they encourage
others to look more deeply into themselves.
Fours are also people who care a great deal about beauty and taste.
Many Fours, for instance, are involved in artistic pursuits. Even if
they are not artistically creative themselves, Fours seek out art,
poetry, music, and other expressions that they find beautiful, because
they feel these things reveal something true about themselves and about
human nature. Fours often dress in ways that accentuate their own sense
of personal style but also in ways that symbolically let others know
how they are feeling (dressing entirely in black or in shades of
violet, for instance). Similarly, they typically decorate their homes
with objects and colors that evoke a strong sense of image and mood and
reflect personal feelings and associations.
Above all, Fours want to distinguish themselves from others—they want to
feel that their taste, their self-expression, and their emotional depth are
unique. Thus, they tend to emphasize all of the ways in which they are
unlike other people—especially their own family. They deeply want to know
who they are and that who they are is special in some way. Being complimented
or told that they are loved is nice, of course, but what Fours really want is
for others to recognize and appreciate the pattern of qualities that is unique
to them—that they are not generic.
Because of their powerful need to see themselves as different from others,
Fours often end up feeling alone and misunderstood. They become creative
“outsiders,” and they are proud of it. If they are working in a regular
nine-to-five job, they will find ways to put their unique stamp on their
work. This can run the gamut from finding their own way of presenting reports
to having a recognizable design style to decorating their office in a way that
reflects their tastes and feelings. They may run their own company (as long
as there’s a creative component to their work and it’s emotionally satisfying),
or they may be in a profession that makes use of their personal touch, such as
a clothing designer, or counselor, or a therapist of some kind. Fours are often
professional artists, writers, or teachers. Above all, Fours want their life to
be a work of art. They want to achieve something beautiful despite the loneliness,
suffering, and self-doubt they have so often felt.
Unfortunately, the Four’s need to be different can also lead to
alienation and a tendency to become engrossed in feelings of loss,
sadness, and melancholy. All nine types can feel sad, lonely, or
depressed, but Fours feel this way frequently—even when there is
nothing in their current lives to cause such feelings. They often
become convinced that these painful feelings are more real and
authentic when compared to more passing feelings of happiness or
enthusiasm. Indeed, Fours begin to feel that they are being the most
real, most honest people because they are focusing on
disappointment and sadness. Ultimately, this can lead them to foster
and prolong these painful feelings in themselves.
In brief, Fours want to express themselves and
their individuality, to create and surround themselves with beauty, to
maintain certain moods and feelings, to withdraw and protect their
vulnerabilities, to take care of emotional needs before attending to
anything else, and to attract a “rescuer” who will understand them. Fours do not want to restrain or lose touch with
their emotions, to feel ordinary, to have their individuality
unrecognized, to have their taste questioned, to be required
at social settings, to follow impersonal rules and procedures, to spend
time with people they perceive as lacking taste or emotional depth.
Their Hidden Side
On the surface, Fours can seem to suffer from chronic self-doubt and extreme
sensitivity to others’ reactions to them. But part of the reason for this is that
Fours often hold a secret, inner image of who they feel they could be. They have
an idea of the sort of person they would like to become, the kind of person who
would be fantastically talented, socially adept, and intensely desired. In short,
Fours come to believe that if they were somehow different from who they are,
they would be seen and loved. Unfortunately, they constantly compare themselves
negatively to this idealized secret self—their ‘fantasy self.” This makes it very
difficult for Fours to appreciate many of their genuine positive qualities because
they are never as wonderful as the fantasy. Much of the growth for type Four
involves letting go of this idealized secret self so that they can see and appreciate who they actually are.
As the romantics of the Enneagram, Fours focus a great deal of
their time and attention on their relationships. High-functioning
Fours are sensitive to others—especially to others’ feelings—and
enjoy any kind of authentic personal sharing. They are excellent
listeners and give their full attention when someone they care
about is trying to express herself. Unfortunately, Fours also
tend to get caught up in their own emotional reactions and dramas.
When this happens, they have difficulty seeing others or hearing
them objectively. Their strong emotional reactions can make it
difficult for them to sustain interpersonal connections. Fours
tend to have the following issues in relationships:
- Becoming self-absorbed and uninterested in others’ feelings or problems due to feeling overwhelmed by their own feelings.
- Idealizing potential partners, then feeling disappointed once they get to know them—often devaluing and rejecting them.
- Placing great expectations on the partner for nurturing and support.
- Being moody and temperamental—making others “walk on eggshells.”
- Withholding attention and affection to punish the other.
- Imagining that others have worse opinions of them than they do—being touchy and hypersensitive to slights.
The Passion: Envy
At some level, Fours believe that they are missing something
that other people seem to have. They feel that something is wrong with
them or with their relationships, and they start to be acutely aware of
what is not working in their lives. Naturally, given this frame of
mind, it is difficult for Fours to feel good about themselves or to
appreciate the good things in their world.
Fours rightly perceive that there is something inadequate or incomplete
about the ego self, but they incorrectly assume that they alone suffer from
Fours then get in the habit of comparing themselves to others,
concluding that they have somehow gotten “the short end of the stick.”
Fours feel that they have been singled out by fate for bad treatment,
bad luck, unsatisfying relationships, bad parenting, and broken dreams.
It comes as something of a shock to many Fours to discover that other
people have suffered as much or even more than they have. This doesn’t
mean that Fours haven’t suffered or that their painful pasts are
inconsequential. But Fours need to see how they perpetuate their own
suffering by continually focusing on old wounds rather than truly
processing those hurts and letting go of them in a way that would allow
them to heal.
At Their Best
Healthy Fours strive to be true to themselves. They are
emotionally honest and aren’t afraid to reveal themselves to others,
“warts and all.” They combine self-awareness and introspection with
great emotional strength and endurance. They bring a heightened
sensitivity to their experiences and are able to share with others the
subtleties of their inner world. This invites others to do the same.
They are highly intuitive and creative and add a personal, human touch
to whatever they are involved with. They treat others with gentleness,
tact, and discretion. They can be wonderfully expressive with an
ironic, witty view of life and themselves, often finding humor in their
own foibles and contradictions. They bring a sense of beauty,
refinement, and emotional richness into other people’s lives.
Thus, high-functioning Fours are profoundly creative,
expressing the personal and the universal, possibly through art but
also in their daily lives. They are in touch with the ever-changing
nature of reality and are inspired by it. High-functioning Fours are
able to renew and regenerate themselves again and again, transforming
even their most painful experiences into something beautiful and
meaningful that others can benefit from as well. They have a deep sense
of “allowing,” and they are able to hold even the most painful feelings
with compassion and sensitivity—whether their own or someone else’s.
Personality Dynamics & Variations
Under Stress (Four Goes to Average Two)
Fours attempt to defend their hurt feelings (and gain
attention) by withdrawing from people and withholding their own
affection and attention. They may recognize on some level, however,
that their emotional storminess and withdrawals are driving away the
people who are most supportive of them. Then Fours go out of their way
to reestablish their connections and reassure themselves that their
relationship is still on solid ground. But because they are reacting
out of stress, Fours may overcompensate by trying to win others over,
by doing favors, or, more darkly, by manipulation and creating
dependencies, all in the manner of average-to-unhealthy Twos. To do
this, they keep talking about the state of the relationship with the
other person and try to make themselves more needed. Favors, help, and
reminding others of their support are part of the picture. Troubled
Fours also become more possessive of loved ones, not wanting to let
them out of their sight for long, like lower-functioning Twos.
Security: (Four Goes to Average One)
With trusted intimates, or in situations in which Fours feel
sure of themselves, they may risk being more openly controlling and
critical of others. Their frustration with others and feeling of
disappointment in how others are behaving (especially toward them)
finally erupts. Fours can become impatient and critical, demanding that
people meet their exacting standards, constantly pointing out how
others have made errors. Nothing about the other person (whom they may
have idealized and regarded as their longed for “rescuer”) now
satisfies them or gives them much hope or pleasure. Everything about
the person and their situation becomes irritating and annoying and they
can’t seem to get the other person’s faults out of their mind. Fours in
this state may also compensate for their ragged emotions by driving
themselves excessively, feeling that they are lazy and unproductive if
they are not constantly working and improving.
Integration (Four Goes to Healthy One)
As Fours become more aware of their tendency to brood and to
fantasize about their many hurts and disappointments, they also become
aware of the cost to themselves of this way of being. As they relax and
accept themselves more deeply, they gradually become free of their
constant emotional turbulence and their need to maintain emotional
crises or to indulge themselves as a consolation prize for not
fulfilling their potential. Gradually and naturally, they become more
objective, grounded, and practical, like healthy Ones. They also become
more realistic and able to operate in the real world. Without imposing
harsh disciplines or expectations on themselves, integrating Fours want
to become involved in matters beyond themselves, such as in community
work, politics, the environment, or in other worthwhile ways to engage
their minds and hearts. On some level, they choose no longer to indulge
themselves but to live within the constraints of reality. When they do
so, they find the payoffs and the pleasures—and their creativity—are
deeper and much more fulfilling.
Self-Preservation Fours: The Sensualist (Ichazo’s
Self-Preservation Fours focus their envy and hypersensitivity on their
concerns about their immediate environment and on their quest for physical
comfort. They attempt to deal with emotional issues by surrounding themselves
with as much luxury and beauty as they can afford, by indulging in their
favorite foods, and by giving themselves “consolation prizes” for their
suffering. They might be disappointed about a job situation or a failing
relationship, and so stay up late at night drinking expensive cognac and
watching a favorite movie. Self-Pres Fours are particularly sensitive to comfort
issues—the temperature of a room, the quality of the lighting, the humidity
or lack of it, the weather—all produce powerful emotional responses.
Self-Pres Fours become frustrated that the environment is insufficiently
attuned to their personal needs. Attempts to control the environment and
self-indulgence in rich foods, drink, drugs, or other sensual distractions
can exhaust Self-Pres Fours, leaving them unable to function well outside
of their own narrowing world.
Sexual Fours: Infatuation (Ichazo’s “Competition”)
Sexual Fours focus their envy and hypersensitivity in their
intimate relationships. They are perhaps the most emotionally intense
type of the Enneagram, which is both their gift and their potential
downfall. They possess both a capacity and a desire for profound
intimacy, and they derive tremendous insight into human nature through
the ups and downs of their romantic lives. They have a sultry, sullen
quality that can be attractive and mysterious, or at times, off-putting
to others. Sexual Fours pour their energy and attention into the object
of their affection, often becoming infatuated or even obsessed,
sometimes after only one meeting. Sexual chemistry triggers their
powerful imaginations, leading them to create enormous expectations of
potential partners. Sexual Fours tend to be drawn to people who possess
qualities and talents that they believe they lack. They want to
complete themselves by associating or merging with the valued other.
But this almost never works, so they may also end up envying and
resenting their romantic partner for unintentionally reminding them of
what they feel they are missing. In any case, Sexual Fours go through
tremendous shifts of feeling about their loved ones—everything from
idolization to unbridled hatred. Generally speaking, this type is aware
of these feelings, including the dark ones, and finds ways to express
them, sometimes in self-destructive ways.
Social Fours: The Outsider (Ichazo’s “Social Shame”)
Social Fours focus their envy and hypersensitivity in the
social realm; thus, they are people who deeply want to belong, to be a
part of an “in crowd” with a glamorous lifestyle, but who often fear
that they are not up to it. Social Fours tend to be more extroverted
than Fours of the other two instincts and can resemble Twos or Sevens.
Social Fours can be quite funny, using droll, ironic humor to make a
point or simply to stimulate conversation. They enjoy expressing their
individuality and sense of style in a more public way, although they
also attempt to conceal the extent of their feelings of social
inadequacy or shame. Social Fours may work hard to develop a public
persona through which they can communicate the depths of their
feelings, but this persona is usually more glamorous and free than they
actually feel. Social Fours are acutely aware of the artifice of their
persona, but they use it nonetheless as a way of finding some sense of
belonging and involvement in the world. When they are more troubled,
Social Fours fear social humiliation to such a degree that they may
retreat from much social contact, becoming isolated and reclusive. They
may also develop a personal style cultivated to show the world how
wounded and different they feel.
The Levels of Development
Below is the complete Levels of Development diagram for Type Four.
The levels range from most healthy, Level 1, to least healthy, Level 9.
To understand these charts, start with the Basic Fear, at the top right
of the chart. This fear gives rise to the Basic Desire, which is the
Desire at the second level of health, the Level of Psychological Capacity.
The Desire of each level gives rise to the internal Attitudes (the A-Terms)
of each level, which create the external Behaviors (the B-Terms).
Over time, due to internal conflicts, these behaviors and attitudes
create another layer of Fear at that level.
Each new Fear generates yet another desire at the next lower level,
which gives rise to a new set of attitudes and behaviors, creating a
spiral structure in which a person becomes increasingly enmeshed in
self-destructive reactions and increasingly terrifying fears. The
process of growth is to become aware of each of the cluster of attitudes
and behaviors as they occur, bringing conscious awareness into the
moment. As we do this, the underlying fears and desires also begin
to emerge into consciousness, and the person begins to shift up the levels.
TYPE FOUR: The Individualist
|THE HEALTHY LEVELS:|
Level of Liberation
| Lets go of their identification with a
particular self-image, that they are more inherently flawed
than others — that they are missing something that others
|That they have no identity or personal significance
Level of Psychological Capacity
|To find themselves and their significance (to create an identity
out of their inner experience)
|Of being dull, ordinary, and indistinguishable:
of being without feelings
|3. Level of
|To express their individuality to themselves and others (through
|That their changing feelings won’t sustain them
and their creativity
|THE AVERAGE LEVELS:|
|Social Role: The The Mysterious One /
The Special Case
|4. Level of
|To cultivate and prolong selected feelings (Fantasy Self)
||That others will not see them or understand them
(their feelings and needs will not be recognized)
|5. Level of Interpersonal
|To be reassured of others’ interest and concern for them (by
playing “hard to get”)
|That life’s demands will force them to give up
their Fantasy Self (others will not rescue them)
|6. Level of
|To be absolutely free to “be themselves”||That they are ruining their lives, wasting their
|THE UNHEALTHY LEVELS:|
|7. Level of
|To reject everyone or anything that does not support their
|That they are cut off from others and from life
|8. Level of
Delusion & Compulsion
|To punish themselves (and, indirectly, others)||That their situation is hopeless — everything is futile
|9. Level of
crimes of passion
|To escape their crushingly negative self-consciousness||Basic Fear comes true: they have lost their identity
and personal significance
Personal Growth Recommendations
for Enneagram Type Fours
Fours grow by recognizing
that while the hurts and losses of the past were real enough, there is
no need to keep revisiting them in the imagination. On the contrary,
doing so keeps drawing them out of the richness and depth of the
present moment—the one time and place in which their real feelings and
their true identity can be found. Fours need to see how working up
their feelings actually moves them further away from their most
authentic self and their truest self expression.
- Do not pay so much attention to your feelings; they are not
a true source of support for you, as you probably already know.
Remember this advice: “From our present perspective, we can also
see that one of the most important mistakes Fours make is to equate
themselves with their feelings. The fallacy is that to understand
themselves they must understand their feelings, particularly their
negative ones, before acting. Fours do not see that the self is
not the same as its feelings or that the presence of negative
feelings does not preclude the presence of good in themselves”
Types, p. 172). Always remember that your feelings are
telling you something about yourself as you are at this particular
moment, not necessarily more than that.
- Avoid putting off things until you are “in the right mood.”
Commit yourself to productive, meaningful work that will contribute
to your good and that of others, no matter how small the contribution
may be. Working consistently in the real world will create a context
in which you can discover yourself and your talents. (Actually,
you are happiest when you are working—that is, activating
your potentials and realizing yourself. You will not “find yourself”
in a vacuum or while waiting for inspiration to strike, so connect—and
stay connected—with the real world.
- Self-esteem and self-confidence will develop only from having
positive experiences, whether or not you believe that you are
ready to have them. Therefore, put yourself in the way of good.
You may never feel that you are ready to take on a challenge of
some sort, that you always need more time. (Fours typically never
feel that they are sufficiently “together,” but they must nevertheless
have the courage to stop putting off their lives.) Even if you
start small, commit yourself to doing something that will bring
out the best in you.
- A wholesome self-discipline takes many forms, from sleeping
regular hours to working regularly to exercising regularly, and
has a cumulative, strengthening effect. Since it comes from yourself,
a healthy self-discipline is not contrary to your freedom or individuality.
On the other hand, sensuality, excessive sexual experiences, alcohol,
drugs, sleep, or fantasizing have a debilitating effect on you,
as you already know. Therefore, practice healthy self-discipline
and stay with it.
- Avoid lengthy conversations in your imagination, particularly
if they are negative, resentful, or even excessively romantic.
These conversations are essentially unreal and at best only rehearsals
for action—although, as you know, you almost never say or
do what you imagine you will. Instead of spending time imagining
your life and relationships, begin to live them.