Type Five: The Observer

If you are a Five, you are a knowledgeable, analytical, self-reliant personality with a strong belief that love and respect are gained by practicing self-sufficiency. You habitually focus their 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”.

For the Five:

Idealized self-image: “I am wise and competent”.

Avoidance: Intrusion

Defense Mechanism: Isolation of affect; emotion can be messy and uncertain, so there is a way Fives detach from the emotion by intellectualizing it, numbing it or suppressing it. So the Five may be in conversation with another about something deep and personal, but emotionally disconnected at the same time. It’s similar to an academic talking about a tender subject with a sort of clinical objectivity.

Virtue: Omniscience/three centered knowing in head, heart and body

The Five’s incredible ability to detach prevents a connection with life force in the body and connection in relationships both which happen in the present moment.

What to expect if you are in a relationship with a Five:

  • Be prepared to carry the conversation until you find a point of common interest. Shared interests are pivotal. Shared information is a bond.
  • Don’t take it personally if your Five has interests and friends separate from you. They prefer to compartmentalize friendships in order not to muddy the waters and to keep things emotionally “organized” i am an island
  • You may not always experience this, but Fives are more sensitive than you may know, but they prefer to feel emotions in the privacy of their own space. 
  • Fives bring clarity to confusion and objectivity to an emotionally charged atmosphere. They are loyal friends so long as the central focus is about your life.
  • Expect Fives to tighten their belt during hardship rather than ask for help.
  • Fives respect your self-sufficiency and emotional control.
  • Your expectations feel like a burden as it creates a level of confusion as in, “What does he want from me?” Your independence is a relief.
  • 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.
  • Remember that emotional non-involvement is the stance. “Negatives” like possessiveness might be a sign of caring.

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 type Five are:

  • Experience feelings in the moment.
  • Notice your tendency to withdraw and practice staying connected for a “little longer.”
  • you_outside_the_circle_of_trust_iphone_se_5_5s_case-r9076efd23eb444a89bcdc95c32562525_80cs8_8byvr_324Allow 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 who are 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. The way you can 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.”
  • Leslie’s meditations for Fives

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.

For the Five, you can 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.  

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

In this video, you can hear the perspective of how someone with the Five pattern operates within the realm of relationship.


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