Type Four: The Individualist
If you are a Four, you are empathic, intense, idealistic and a unique thinker with a strong belief that others enjoy the connection and full life that you have been denied.
You habitually focus your attention on what’s missing. You believe there’s something out there that would make you feel more whole and complete whether it is a better relationship, a better workplace, a better career, home or something else. You feel shame when you believe you are “less than.” You have a tendency to amplify moments when you believe you haven’t put forth an ideal image of yourself.
The distinction is that you are looking outside yourself to feel whole. You identify with being unlike any others and you tend to unconsciously accumulate qualities which would make you appear special and unique.
You are driven by envy and longing fueling the search for whatever seems necessary to make life fulfilling. It may not be that you envy one person…you may simply envy some of their qualities. Challenges for you include comparing, moodiness, and self-absorption.
Each type has its own idealization, avoidance and defense mechanism which holds the idealization “in place”.
For Type 4:
Idealized self-image: “I am unique and special”.
Avoidance: The commonplace, the ordinary
Defense mechanism: Introjection; internalizing idealized people, relationships and situations to overcome a feeling of deficiency.
What to expect if you are in a relationship with a Four:
- Expect mood shifts that are unrelated to what you do or don’t do.
- Fours are reassured by your steady mindedness under pressure.
- Expect pursuit when you are distant, push away when you are here.
- Stay grounded in your own degree of availability.
- Expect complaints when life gets predictable. Keep life juicy. It’s also helpful to let a Four know (without judgment) how it impacts you when emotions run so high and low.
- Maintain equanimity during emotional storms. It’s about needing intensity.
- Anger is expressed outwardly and sadness expressed inwardly.
- Encourage Fours to slowly take in genuine, positive feedback and bring it to their attention if they skip over it quickly.
- Give space in times of moodiness and once this passes, maintain equanimity.
Learning to recognize the patterns of type, accepting them with compassion and learning to relax them brings us to the present moment where life can be experienced more fully. Recognizing these patterns in others helps us understand and relate to them.
The practices for growth for Fours:
- Focus on what is positive in the present.
- Be consistent in action despite fluctuating and intense feelings. Take one small, mundane action towards your goal even if it’s kind of boring and even if you are processing deep feelings. (One Four I knew told me she began to objectively count how many minutes an hour were focused on her feelings. It was great reality check).
- Recognize that feelings are not the only reality. Begin to incorporate objective facts into your view of the world.
- Notice how you pull the conversation to yourself and gently shift your attention to the other person and really listen and get a sense of the other person. (You may be a Fours who does this internally and you redirect attention to yourself and stop listening to the other.
- Appreciate the gifts in the ordinary in yourself, others and at work. Make a practice of noticing what you can appreciate about the most common of things.
- Move your body as this keeps thoughts and feelings from “getting clogged” inside of your body. Walk, run, do some yoga.
- Don’t believe everything you feel. Check it out.
- At work or in public, allow yourself to be seen. Take on a role which will put you in front of people. This allows you to practice working on your tendency to be self-conscious in front of a group of people.
- Leslie’s meditations for Fours or you can find it on iTunes
Feeling grateful for something helps keep our focus and energy on it. This is helpful when working with the Enneagram because gratitude automatically shifts focus away from those things which habitually grab attention to perhaps more productive or nourishing things. Intentionally cultivating a gratitude practice is an excellent way to broaden our focus of attention.
If you are a Four, you tend to see exquisite beauty in simple things. Train your eyes towards something for which you can be grateful. Notice small things in relationship that may not be perfect, but bring simple appreciation. In these ordinary moments, you will train yourself to appreciate an ordinary moment in which nothing is missing.
Sources: Helen Palmer; Type Four panelists; Enneagram Studies in the Narrative Tradition
Here’s the 4 video for my Enneagram Shorts series: