The Enneagram or What Being a 4 Means

Ok, at long last I’m going to do my promised Enneagram (pronounced ANY-a-gram) post as personally, learning about this system which studies nine basic types of people, and specifically, figuring out which of those types I am, has helped me immensely.  First, I’m no expert and I’m very new to this, but if you want more information and actually are interested in taking a free test to help you discover your own type, then you may go to the Enneagram Institute.  And if you are interested, there is also an excellent starting book called The Enneagram Made Easy by Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele.

It actually took awhile for me (and my therapist) to fine out what personality type I am, because very early in my childhood I suffered the major trauma of seeing the house my mother was sleeping in burn to the ground with her inside.  I don’t think my father ever recovered from that tragedy, and becoming motherless at the age of 4 (with a 2 1/2 yr old sister) has colored the remainder of my life.  It is true that I was born with a large helping of maternal instinct, but the fact that I never received such maternal care (my mother was a full-time professor of English, and actually completed her doctorate from UCLA 8 months after I was born and by all indications she herself was not very maternal) added to that.  I felt that I was supposed to look after not only my younger sister, but also my father, and I grew up as “the good girl” who tried to do whatever I thought I was supposed to do and to be whatever it was that I was supposed to be, especially to compensate for the fact that I was continually told I was the dumb one, the clumsy one, the ugly one, the one with not a single artistic bone in her body!

Given that background, which by the way I do not recount in any sort of critical way as I know my father was doing the very best he could with the resources he had and it is my path now to find myself, it is no wonder that at first glance I appeared to be a 2 on the Enneagram chart–usually called The Helper.  And in fact, as a 4 I am closely connected to both 1–The Perfectionist and 2.  I certainly never would have even thought that I was a 4 as the title for that in many books is The Artiste, and I’d been told all my life I didn’t have an artistic bone in my body.  However, once I proved that old tape was totally false, and I realized that creativity is a major part of who I am, it became quickly apparent that I am a 4, also called The Individualist or The Romantic.

Knowing my personality type has helped me develop more of an understanding of who I am.  I understand that at my best (and all quotations are from The Enneagram Made Easy by Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele) I am “warm, compassionate, introspective, expressive, creative, intuitive, supportive, and refined” but at my worst I am “depressed, self-conscious, guilt-ridden, moralistic, withdrawn, stubborn, moody, and self-absorbed.”  Fours are the drama queens of the system and are frequently told they are too sensitive or overreacting.   

What I like about being a four is “my ability to find meaning in life and to experience feelings at a deep level; my ability to establish warm connections with people; admiring what is noble, truthful,  and beautiful in life; my creativity, intuition, and sense of humor; being unique and being seen as unique by others; having aesthetic sensibilities; and being able to easily pick up the feelings of people around me.”

What is hard about being a four is “experiencing dark moods of emptiness and despair; feelings of self-hatred and shame; believing I don’t deserve to be loved; feeling guilty when I disappoint people; feeling hurt or attacked when someone misunderstands me; expecting too much from myself and life; fearing being abandoned; obsessing over resentments; and longing for what I don’t have.”

Understanding this about myself (and there is a great deal more to the system if you are interested) helps me see when my emotions and feelings are governing my reactions.  It helps me realize that my innate melancholy is both a blessing and a trap (as is true, my therapist keeps telling me, with everything in life!), in that it fuels my creativity, but if left unchecked or allowed to fester leads to depression.  

Each of us is made up of three basic components, as I understand it, anyway, namely intellectual, emotional, and spiritual aspects.  My intellectual component is highly developed–I may have been the supposedly dumb one in my family, but given the number of advanced degrees and intellectual level of my family, even if I were the dumb one in that family that still left me brighter than the average bear, to quote an old favorite cartoon.  But I have proven myself over the years to be of better than average intelligence and I’ve used the left side of my brain as my survival mechanism from the earliest of years.  However, both my emotional intelligence and my spiritual intelligence are very underdeveloped, and my path now is to work on them.  I’m working with my therapist on my emotional intelligence,  and I’ve also just gotten (but not yet read) Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.  I’ll post more on that when I actually read it.

I am exploring Eastern religions and spirituality now as I feel a real link with them.  I found the following quote while reading yesterday’s blog posts on one of the blogs I follow (specifically–Space and Motion) and it definitely matches my spiritual views as they are evolving:
The most important characteristic of the Eastern world view – one could almost say the essence of it – is the awareness of the unity and mutual interrelation of all things and events, the experience of all phenomena in the world as manifestations of a basic oneness. All things are seen as interdependent and inseparable parts of this cosmic whole; as different manifestations of the same ultimate reality. (Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics)
I’ve now got The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra on order, so I’ll be talking about that down the road.  

Meanwhile, back to this post which has rather wandered away from its original topic.  The Enneagram is a fantastically powerful tool, in my opinion, and it has helped me to understand myself much better.  I hope this brief glimpse into my part of the nine personality types has piqued your interest and I’d love to hear if any of my readers have used the system, and if so found it useful.

2 responses

  1. Oh man, Daphne, what an awful trauma and tragedy you experienced, and as such a little girl! My heart goes out to you!The variety of ways people respond to and cope with traumas of all sorts, consciously and unconsciously, as individuals and groups, is compelling. And trying to figure out what makes me and other people tick has always intrigued me. I have a few books on the topic, and find them interesting. One of these days I'll have to take the enneagram quiz you provided (the short, free one because that goes best with my personality!) :-)Funny that you would have have been thought of (or think of yourself as) unartistic! Our self-image can be so skewed sometimes! The EQ third of my own makeup could definitely use some work (or at least some "shoring up!") most of the time! That's probably true for many if not most of us, and healthy EQ development is sorely neglected by our society, which may in part explain so much lack of civility afoot.Enjoy your latest new books, and thanks for sharing this post!

  2. Thanks for your insights! Yes, it is very funny what makes us tick and fascinating as well. And I know you are right that healthy EQ development is almost non-existent in much of our society. Have a great day!

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