22 comments


  • Great blog Wendy! The other thing about 4s I have discovered is that many of them (all of the ones I know) are extremely ambitious and far more “action-oriented” than much of the literature on 4s suggests. Even when impacted by substance abuse or alcohol….they still manage to be very productive. They are also more disciplined than many tend to think….the arrow to type 1, where they can be very forceful and even aggressive in demanding perfection. A close type 4 friend for decades has just published his third book, written hundreds of articles and become a leading expert in his field. This kind of “self-pitying, self-indulgent, chronically negative” stereotype is not wholly true. (maybe at Level 5 on down, more so).

    July 17, 2012
    • editor

      Hi Peter,
      Thanks for joining the conversation. I so appreciate your contributions here in debunking some of the stereotypes. AND I totally agree–I know several ambitious, productive, perfectionistic and disciplined Type 4s–friends, relatives, clients and colleagues.

      July 17, 2012
  • Hello Wendy, thanks for debunking a bunch of myths that surrounds enneagram type descriptions. I was really pleased to see you article since I am currently writing down pages on my own site (in french) where I more or less do the same…

    For the record, my wife is a 4, she is a psychologist, I am an 8, and I am a life-coach and an enneagram/NLP/Hypnosis teacher.

    First of all, I think that we should all remember that the enneagram talks about unconscious motivations not about behaviours. Thanks a lot for reminding this, since many people tend to forget that corner stone…

    Well, here is an excerpt of what I wrote about Type 4,roughly translated into english :

    About 4 being “Artists”

    “People of Enneatype Four construct their identities around their perception of themselves as being somehow unique and fundamentally different from others. This deep felt sense of being “different from” or “other than” pervades the Four’s sense of self.

    About “Envy”:
    Fours often idealize qualities they find in others and then come to envy those same qualities.The envy that Fours experience is a fundamental manifestation of the Four’s feeling of defectiveness and tends to be a recurring problem for type Four individuals until such time as they have learned self-acceptance. Often enough, the envy that Fours experience actually manifests as a longing…a sort of wistful desire that they too be capable of the simpler sorts of happiness that others seem so readily able to achieve.

    When unbalanced, the Four’s envy can take a nasty turn as unhealthy Fours tend to project their self-loathing outward. At such times, the previously sensitive Four can become spiteful and vindictive, feeling justified in being so because they have been misunderstood, and because they have suffered so terribly.

    Fours know how to wound with words, and, when they are unbalanced, they feel incapable of restraining themselves. They tend to lash out at the very ones who have been most supportive and who might be trying to help them. If this causes the Four’s intimates to withdraw, the Four’s abandonment issues are likely to be triggered, resulting in a frantic attempt to re-ignite the relationship. This can become a recurring pattern in the life of an unhealthy Four.

    July 18, 2012
    • editor

      Hello Nicolas,
      Thank you for engaging in the conversation. I had to edit your reply a bit because of the length. I appreciate your fleshing out more of the inner world of Type 4. You add!

      July 18, 2012
  • May

    This will sound kind of silly, but as a recently-“diagnosed” type 4, I found myself slightly depressed by the realization that I fit within the stereotypical idea of what 4s are (had a very woe-is-me kind of day… no surprises there!).

    Anyway, it’s really very nice to get a broader view of things are realize no one type is “bad” or “doomed”, so to speak. As Nicolas said, “the enneagram talks about unconscious motivations not about behaviours.” It gives me hope in being the best kind of 4 I can be!

    July 18, 2012
    • editor

      Hello May,
      Delighted you joined in the conversation. Yes, the good news is that no one is doomed by their Type and no one Type is in a better or worse situation than another. We all have our compulsions and habitual patterns. The journey is to learn to befriend them and to relax our patterns so they don’t have a grip on us. It is the journey home to our true and best self–and how wonderful that you are on the path.

      July 18, 2012
  • Margy

    Hi Wendy:
    In high school, we were all required to take the Enneagram test. I found out early on that I was a type 4. Just like you said here, I always thought that type 4 implied some kind of depressive, artistic fervor. I very much enjoyed how in this post, you get to the root of type 4s motivations rather than describing the “typical type 4.”

    July 19, 2012
    • editor

      Hi Margy,
      I love “… depressive, artistic fervor.” Just great. Glad you found this useful. How wonderful that you learned about the Enneagram in high school. Did you find it helpful / valuable? If so, I would be delighted to learn how.
      Thanks for participating in the conversation, Margy.

      July 19, 2012
  • Chuck

    Hi Wendy, Any advice for helping a Type 4 wife who has gone from an average four to an unhealthy four? I am a 9, we have been together for 18 years, but she recently has expressed her “long buried feelings” and wants out. I can see her suffering but she will not receive any support or encouragement.

    January 04, 2013
    • Hi Chuck, I am very sorry for what you and your wife are going through. My heart goes out to you both.

      My suggestion would be to use the Enneagram for your own personal growth right now … notice how your Type colors the way you are dealing with your situation. As a Type 9, you mention what your wife wants, but what do you want? Are you in contact with your anger? If so, what do you do with your anger?

      I hope you and your wife are seeking some therapy to work things through–even if it means the end of your marriage. These rough times in one’s life are special opportunities for growth, albeit painful. If your wife won’t go with you, perhaps you can go yourself. I wish you both well …

      January 05, 2013
  • Jen

    Hi Wendy, I really enjoyed your post. I read some of the “typical comments a 4 may say”, and I can relate! I had a question about relationships. I have been in a relationship for 2 years with a great guy(type 2). I tend to wonder of there is more out there,or someone that I would connect better with. I know a lot of those feelings come from the fact that I’m a 4. How do I know what part of my feelings are “me being a 4” and what part is that we really aren’t a good match?
    Thanks!

    February 04, 2013
    • Hi Jen,
      Glad you enjoyed my post. I don’t have enough information to adequately answer your question. Any Type could wonder whether there is someone else more suitable “out there.” These feelings are not unique to Type 4. Any Type can experience these kinds of doubts. The questions you ask are common and not necessarily Type related. I wish you well.
      Wendy

      February 04, 2013
  • David

    Hi!

    I am a type 4 and I can totally relate to what you are writing.

    I think the reason why 4’s don’t relate to ‘envy’ is that we often think of the ‘material’ side (envy of someone’s house, car) which I think many of us 4’s are less concerned about. As you explained, it’s easier to discern this envy in personality matters. E.g. I could definitely wish that I had some traits more useful in a workplace than my ‘novelist skills’, so I could get a job instead of dreaming of becoming the next Kafka.

    The problem for some of us romantics/individualists is to persuade an employer to hire someone who is the exact opposite of the traits in job seeking guides: shy, slow learner, bad at numbers, zero leadership qualities, terrible at organizing, terrible at selling (including ourselves, because it goes against our very core value in life of being authentic).

    So, although I suppose am happy to share the same INFP personality type (Myer Briggs) as Shakespeare, since my chances of becoming one is less than one in a zillion, I can’t help but wishing that I had some ‘hard core’ work skill that could give me an income.

    May 19, 2013
    • Hi David,

      Love your “dreaming of becoming the next Kafka.” Why not? Not sure about the Type 4 traits you describe. I know a brilliant accountant who is a Type 4 — great with numbers. I know a successful lawyer who parlayed his skills and knowledge to become a fabulous mediator. I know a Type 4 who is fabulous on stage, radio and in front of groups. I know a very successful banker who is a Type 4. Many Type 4’s have “hard core business skills.”

      What is most important to remember here about authenticity is that by not promoting yourself, you are being inauthentic. The greatest gift you can offer is to bring your special combination of gifts and talents out into the world. We need them, and to not do that because you don’t stand behind and for yourself, is inauthentic. With gratitude and respect,
      Wendy

      May 20, 2013
  • Wendy, what a GREAT article! I am a 4, and have read a lot of Enneagram material, but I have still not fully resonated with some of the details. Your perspectives, understanding, and compassion are wonderful to read and feel!

    You have clarified some specific 4 things that I have read about but not understood until just *this* moment. The longing, the way you describe it, FINALLY makes sense! I definitely see it now.

    And the envy. Oh boy, *yes*. It’s about what’s missing… from me. What’s wrong with me that others (seem to) have right. Etc. I am getting much better at not spinning out quite as much at those moments, and re-anchoring myself in who I am, and that it I am intrinsically valuable as who I am. That’s a work in progress, but progress is being made.

    I see everyone as special and unique in their own way, including myself. The trouble comes from not fully valuing what I am right now, and forgetting that it is enough, that my being is enough. And, of course, I get the personal torture from the persistent looking at what I perceive to be absent that I want and long for, that seems better than whatever I think I am at that time, instead of staying focused on what is authentically mine, and calling it good (as opposed to less-than or finding it wanting.)

    And THANK YOU for calling out the “artist” myth. I’m so tired of that one! I am creative, but that can express in every way because Life is Art. I don’t need to ‘do’ art to qualify as a 4, yet I know many 4s who feel this is somehow wrong and that I “should” be more actively artistic in order to be healthy as a 4. ::eye roll:: So, thanks for the validation on that point. Even when I choose to engage in the arts, I also like knowing that it is simply one mode of self-expression I’m choosing, and that everything has the possibility of being creative, not just an “art”.

    Again, thanks for the information and for the warm, compassionate perspectives present in the article and in the comments. Just lovely!

    June 15, 2013
    • Hi Orilea,

      Thank you for your beautiful and self-revealing comments. I popped over to your blog and you have some very interesting posts there. You’re a great writer too. I very much enjoyed and valued reading what you had to offer. Thanks for your contribution and who you be.

      Warmly,
      Wendy

      June 16, 2013
  • Behzad

    I’m a type 4, and lost in my imaginations as ppl around me say so and i feel they r right.I’m 33 and still in college changing major. Any idea what major will fit type4. should they continue with graduate study at all? I know its not a very wise question, but still like to hear ur idea.
    everyone says art, but art is too late for 33yrs old man.philosophy? psychology? working with minimum wage salary and pay the bills till the last day?
    god bless

    July 05, 2013
    • Hi Type 4. No matter your age or your Enneagram Type, you can always pursue your dreams. There is no “best career” for any Type. Most important for Type 4 is that they are identity seekers … trying to find themselves. It seems others have what they don’t and they envy or long for what they “believe” others have. Don’t compare yourself to others.

      What is it that makes you uniquely you? Don’t sell yourself short and at the same time, do be completely honest with yourself. Ask others for their input and listen. Don’t defend if it is something you don’t want to hear. It takes at least two to know one–we don’t see ourselves clearly and often need others to hold up the mirror for us.

      Maybe you are lost in your imagination. So how can you take your gift of imagination and put it to good use doing something that you love.

      July 14, 2013
  • Tanja

    Wendy,

    Thank you so much for this blog. It helps me understand myself better. I have just recently gone back to my original casting as that of a Four. For the last year or so I was convinced I was a Seven (actually because a therapist told me so and than multiple tests confirmed that assessment). Something didn’t feel right, though. Yes, I am optimistic, adventurous, easily distracted and I am not the quintessential introvert. I am a borderline introvert/extrovert. But, I am also 56. I am in my menopause and thus I don’t have the mood swings anymore. In fact, I am quit even tempered. I was not like that, though, during my fertile years. You could set the clock on my mood swings. the two weeks before ovulation I was on a high, nothing would get to me, I was productive, more extroverted and fun. After ovulation I would go into my downswing, I would become more self absorbed, less productive, moody. In short, I would be the typical Four. During pregnancy I would be more like a Seven again. I always said that I would lie to be pregnant the whole time because I feel so good and that I couldn’t wait to go into my menopause. And yes, I am much more even tempered now, The glass is much more half full than half empty. So I wonder, how much of your personality is determined by hormones?

    Thanks

    February 19, 2014
    • Hi Tanja,
      Quite a journey! No doubt our hormones influence how we express our personality. Most important though is to see where your focus of attention goes. Type 4’s often focus on “what’s missing,” and core compulsions are envy and longing for reality to be different than it is. When you are looking to identify your best fit Enneagram Type, look at the underlying motivations for the ones you are considering. That is what distinguishes one Type from another. Behaviors can be attributed to more than one Type, but it is what is driving the behaviors (fears and desires) that is at core. Image (how you are seen by others) is also front and center for Type 4’s (as well as 2’s and 3’s). It is true for all of us, but more central for these Types.

      I hope this is useful, Tanya and I’m happy for you that your moods have stabilized. Wonderful!

      Kindly,
      Wendy

      February 19, 2014
  • Joe Dooley

    Hi Wendy,
    Thanks for your blog =) I recently discovered that I am a type 4. I keep mulling this over, and feel quite grateful as I consider myself someone that is concerned with “depth,” spirituality, and with original ways of thinking. Besides living in a Benedictine monastery when I was 18 and 19 yrs old, I currently work as an eccentric life coach and licensed therapist that also does tarot readings and hypnosis. The shadow side does seem to be a vague and perhaps subtle sense of envy or longing that I can never quite seem to put into words. And an intense desire to live in Hawaii =)

    The ambition of a 4 can be quite intense, as I’m only 30 and am applying for a PhD in Depth Psychology with hopes of being a Jungian Analyst, Psychologist, and scholar of Religious Studies/Mysticism/Mythology. Maybe one day..
    Even though I don’t seem to have a pragmatic business mind (my mind often feels quite random), others frequently tell me they wish they had my drive and enthusiasm to get things done, by hook or by crook.

    All in all, I’m thankful I’m a 4 type, and even though I have my oddball moments where I wonder if my inner emotions will ever truly be understood by anyone else (or even myself haha), I think living with some type of inner ‘something’ is a gift that is worth living for. It’s also lovely to observe the ‘inner something’ in others as well!

    June 10, 2014
    • Hi Joe,
      Thanks for stopping by to read and comment. I have a wonderful friend (Type 4) who is a brilliant Jungian therapist (Clinical Psychologist). She has found her path, calling and passion aligned with her gifts and we are all grateful and better for that. It sounds as if you too, are aligning with your true gifts.

      I also know at least two Type 4s who either live or have lived in Hawaii 🙂 I think we will always be an unfolding mystery to ourselves … humans are an emergent phenomenon. This exploration certainly keeps life interesting. Enjoy your journey, Joe!

      June 15, 2014

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