Type Five – The Observer

The Enneagram Type Five personality – the Observer – believes that knowledge is power. They like to observe what’s going on in the world and then assess the information to understand how things work. Not surprisingly, Fives live in their heads. They’re emotionally reserved, preferring to analyze and synthesize their experiences rather than simply live them.

To their credit, Healthy Fives are highly skilled at performing rational, objective analyses. They’re calm in a crisis. They seek to find the way forward rather than wallowing in chaos; they base their decisions in fact.

Fives need a lot of time alone. They see other people as potential drains on their time and energy, which they perceive as being in scarce supply. They’re sensitive to emotional demands placed upon them and are hesitant to make commitments.

Fives work hard at being self-sufficient so as not to require support from others. This tendency has the unfortunate consequence of cutting them off from nourishing and mutually supportive relationships. They fail to recognize the potential for renewal and rejuvenation through social contact. That being said, when Fives find compatible friends and mates, they are uncommonly loyal and trustworthy.

enneagram type five is the observer

When subject to the influence of the neighboring Four, Healthy Fives become the Iconoclast. They hold to a clear and distinct vision of their place in the world and resist structures that get in the way. When drawn to the arts, they are the creative loners who may have difficulty staying grounded.

When subject to the influence of the neighboring Six, Healthy Fives become the Problem Solver. Their keen insights, organizational skills, and attention to detail make them highly valued analysts and subject matter experts. While they are “go to resources,” they’re not known for emotional sensitivity and may antagonize folks who challenge or disagree with them.

Fives are influenced by their dominant instinct:

  • Self-Preservation Fives have strong needs for boundaries to guard their space and protect against unwanted intrusions. They’re the least expressive of their type and limit their needs to avoid being dependent on others. They’re easily overwhelmed by people and blend into the landscape in social situations.
  • One-to-One Fives look for the ideal partner with whom they can share their inner life. They’re driven to engage intensely but may have their eye on an escape hatch should they feel overwhelmed by the experience or insecure with the partner. They can be open and forthright yet shut down when feeling judged or misunderstood.
  • Social Fives participate in communities where they can be valued for their knowledge and skills. They’re intellectuals who use information as bargaining chips and enjoy spirited discussions with highly engaged, competent individuals. They seek recognition and prestige and generally consider themselves to be superior to others.

Under stress, Fives may adopt characteristics of an Unhealthy Seven. They become increasingly narrow in their focus and pull back into the safety of their own thoughts. They may distract themselves with random activity to avoid dealing with the underlying source of discomfort.

The antidote to stress lies in quieting the mind and body, thereby giving space for the disquieting thoughts and feelings to emerge. They should consider why these sentiments arise and what can be done to address them. They may also take into account the experiences and relationships that have been cut off to avoid feeling their feelings. They need to reach out to others and let the world in.

Fives find strength in movement toward a Healthy Eight. From this position, they “get out of their heads” and feel their presence and power in the world. They embrace their gut instincts and use them to take action in confidence. They stop trying to figure out how life works and just start living it.

I experience my husband as a Self-Preservation Five. He is an analytical guy who has spent his entire career in finance and accounting. He can spend hours on end getting numbers to balance, working through problems as they arise, and developing reports and analyses that highlight important insights. While a sociable guy when approached, he’s as likely to hang in the background at parties and take in the action rather than participate actively in it. And he’s perfectly content to spend a quiet evening at home with me nearby and the dog resting his head on my husband’s foot.