The Enneagram Type Four personality – the Sensitive Soul – has a large capacity for emotional sensitivity and depth. They see themselves as having one-of-a kind gifts as well as heart-wrenching flaws. They are emotionally intuitive and want to connect deeply with people who understand them and their feelings.
Fours tend to focus on what is missing in a given situation and long for whatever they deem to be ideal. This sensibility gives rise to a dominant emotion of envy. It grows out of a feeling that there is something good that is just beyond the reach of their experience. Fours can be unreasonably yet intentionally drawn to the unattainable. The loss can engender both competitiveness and melancholy.
Fours have a keen aesthetic sensibility. Their capacity to explore and narrate the human experience gives them a distinctive edge in artistic expression. They’re also stalwart family members, friends, and colleagues who will not shy away from crises or buckle under intense emotional pressure. They understand suffering and are not afraid to share in it.
When subject to the influence of the neighboring Three, Healthy Fours become the Aristocrat. Their creativity and ambition find expression in areas that garner attention from their audience while providing for self-improvement. They are drawn toward refinement, sophistication, and culture. They are sociable folks.
When subject to the influence of the neighboring Five, Healthy Fours become the Bohemian. They express their creativity in more idiosyncratic ways with relatively little concern for status or recognition. They revel in the creative process and find the real world far less interesting than their interior landscape. They enjoy their privacy.
Fours are also influenced by their dominant instinct:
- Self-Preservation Fours are the most practical and materialistic of the type, working hard to get what others have that they lack. They’ll surround themselves with beautiful objects whether or not they can reasonably afford them. They tend not to share their pain with others, preferring to suffer in stoic silence.
- One-to-One Fours hold to the romantic ideal of the knight in shining armor who will rescue them from the dreary suffering of this world. Failing that, they project their suffering outward, expressing their needs and making demands of others. A competitive drive propels them to “be the best” and secure their place among the “chosen few.”
- Social Fours experience their distinctiveness as both a gift and a burden. They revel in the intensity of their feelings and experience and may look upon others as crude and insensitive. Yet they covet a place among the beautiful and elite and doubt their ability to gain acceptance. This duality may lead to an affinity for alternative lifestyles.
All Fours tend to have an uneasy relationship with authority. They don’t think that rules and regulations apply to them. In fact, they may take pride in breaking rules, especially if they can get away with it. That notwithstanding, they’ll still crave the respect and attention of folks who traffic among the “best people,” however defined.
Under stress, Fours may adopt characteristics of an Unhealthy Two. When feeling isolated, disconnected, or misunderstood, they may respond with forced friendliness that borders on clinginess. While this behavior stems from a desire to put the relationship on solid ground, it may drive people away.
The antidote to stress lies in remembering that feelings are not facts. They are informed by the sum total of past experiences, sensitivities, and unrealized fantasies that may color current perceptions. Take a step back to facilitate a dispassionate view of the current landscape. Seek out friends who will speak the truth… lovingly. Move forward with favorable interpretations of the facts wherever possible.
Fours find strength in movement toward a Healthy One. From this position, they commit to principles and actions beyond the constraints of subjective emotions. They become more grounded and self-disciplined. They accept the prevailing circumstances without excessive lamentation and work toward meaningful goals to effect change. They stay present to themselves and the world.
As an active member of the performing arts community, I have a fair amount of experience with Four energy. In the best of worlds, I’ve seen this type manifest in extraordinary expressions of originality that hold me in awe of the special gifts with which these individuals have been endowed. In less healthy manifestations, I’ve witnessed and experienced the competitiveness, jealousy, and disharmony that disrupt the creative process essential to a group effort.