TYPE FIVE: The Observer

If you are an Observer, you are knowledgeable, analytical, and self-reliant with a strong belief that love and respect are gained by practicing self-sufficiency.

You habitually focus your attention on blocking intrusion and detaching to observe.

You tend to be overwhelmed by the perception that people…and life itself…is going to demand more from you than you are able to manage.


You are driven by avarice for private time and knowledge which you perceive as being scarce. Challenges for you include mentally, emotionally, energetically and physically withholding yourself from others. You tend to find comfort in emotionally detaching and isolating.

Each Enneagram Type has its own idealization, avoidance and defense mechanism which holds the idealization “in place”. 

IDEALIZED SELF-IMAGE: “I am wise and competent.”

AVOIDANCE: Intrusion

DEFENSE MECHANISM: Isolation of affect; emotion can be messy and uncertain, so Fives detach from the emotion by numbing it, intellectualizing it or suppressing it.

The Five may be in conversation about a deep and personal topic but emotionally disconnected at the same time. It’s similar to an academic discussing a tender subject with clinical objectivity.

This detachment prevents connection with life force in the body and in relationships. Both happen in the present moment.

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.


Bring attention to your relationships and people who matter to you. This includes those who have given of themselves in some way. You may want to express your gratitude verbally.

VIRTUE: Non-Attachment; a state of being when you trust that the natural flow provides sufficiently and you don’t have to contract in your body and go to your head to protect your knowledge and resources.

Remember a time when you were engaged in life in the present moment as it naturally occurs without contracting or withdrawing. 


Experience feelings in the moment.

Notice your tendency to withdraw and practice staying connected for a “little longer.”

Allow more people into your protective circle. Begin to trust yourself to discern who you can open yourself up to.

Reveal personal matters, express yourself to those close to you.

At work, you tend to withdraw and withhold knowledge. Try sharing something you normally wouldn’t share.

Pay attention to how long you talk. Fives tend to say too little or talk too long. Work with this is by honing your ability to sense emotional cues. Is the listener interested? How do you know? What are the cues? Are you grounded? Can you feel your feet on the ground and connect to your breath?  A simple practice is to limit your sentences to 3-5 sentences and then check in with others.

Observe people with a high level of interpersonal intelligence. Notice how they connect to others. This includes noticing body language, voice tenor and tone, timing and speaking style.

Engage in physical activity. This helps you become more grounded. Many Fives I know are attracted to the martial arts like tai chi. It allows you to feel your “life force.”


Expectations feel like a burden.

It creates a level of confusion as in, “What do they want from me?”

Your independence is a relief.

Remember that emotional non-involvement is the stance.

“Negatives” like possessiveness might be a sign of caring.

Be prepared to carry the conversation until you find a point of common interest.

Shared interests are pivotal. Shared information is a bond.

Fives respect self-sufficiency and emotional control.

Fives are more sensitive than you may know.

You may not always experience this as they prefer to feel emotions in the privacy of their own space. 

Expect Fives to tighten their belt during hardship vs asking for help.

5s are loyal friends as long as the central focus is about your life.

Don’t take it personally if your 5 has separate interests and friends.

They prefer to compartmentalize friendships in order not to muddy the waters and to keep things emotionally “organized.”

Intimacy is often expressed in non-verbal ways.

Pay close attention to small, non-verbal expressions as it’s often a way of showing they care: the gift of a book, a card, a photograph.

Fives bring clarity to confusion and objectivity to an emotionally charged atmosphere.

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.


Watch Leslie give a short introduction and explanation of Type Five, The Observer:

Interested in learning how we can support you through Enneagram typing or coaching? Click here.

Sources: Helen Palmer; Type Five panelists; Enneagram Studies in the Narrative Tradition

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