Enneagram Type 4: The Individualist
The Enneagram of Personality, or just the Enneagram, is a representation of personalities using a geometric figure, also called an enneagram (little e), to express nine interconnected personality types. While each type is unique it is related to other types through the circle connecting the type to each of it’s wings and the lines or arrows in the center connecting the type to the ones it imitates in times of stress or growth. The Enneagram is used in business management training to better understand interpersonal dynamics in the workplace.
Types Two, Three, and Four constitute the Heart Triad. This triad is primarily motivated by their feelings. Those in the Heart Triad are do not believe they are worthy of love so they take on personas to attain it. Because of this, they are more image-conscious than the other triads. Within the triad, Fours are the most introspective. They focus internally on their own feelings but have difficulty understanding others feelings.
At their best, Fours are inspired, immensely creative expressing themselves and the world they see. Their creativity enables them to turn their experiences into value for others. They have superior emotional range and are able to avoid acting on every feeling they have. They know that they don’t have to be something special to win approval from others.
At their worst, Fours become self-destructive, hopeless, and filled with hatred for themselves. Constantly comparing themselves to others, they find themselves lacking. Morbid thoughts permeate their minds as their dreams fail and they fall into self-contempt. Full of shame they put a wedge between themselves and anyone trying to help them. Depression drives them to alienate themselves from others.
Fours try on identities like someone trying on suits in preparation for a big job interview. Because they find something lacking in themselves they are constantly trying different identities to fill that void. If you are a Four remember that you are more than your feelings. You are able to regulate and stabilize them. Friends, coworkers, and partners of Fours can help them by being around them but not getting drawn into their emotional highs and lows. When able to find this balance Individualists will be able to create and maintain deep meaningful relationships in all areas of life. Finally, for a Four to truly grow they need to stop putting off work or artistic/creative projects until they are “in the mood”. Set yourself an arbitrary deadline or just go create, the creative process will help you find balance and pull the intensity of emotions into something beautiful.
The Enneagram Type Four is “The Individualist” or “The Romantic”.
Fours are called “The Individualist” because they see themselves as fundamentally different from everyone else, even other Fours. They are also called “The Romantic” because of their wistfulness and longing to be authentic. The Individualist’s drive to be unique stems from a sense that something is missing from them. They don’t know what it is or where it’s gone but that lack makes them feel “different.” The only way they see to compensate for what is missing in their lives is to create something that distinguishes them from others.
For the Romantic, being authentic is everything. For them the only way to fill the void in their lives is by being truly unique which leads to an almost obsession with authenticity. Because they feel they are so different, Fours think that no-one can love or even understand them. They see themselves as both uniquely talented with special gifts and uniquely damaged or flawed in some way. They often have trouble with a lack of self-esteem and maintain a negative image of themselves.
“Melancholy is the happiness of being sad” ~ Victor Hugo.
Fours have a unique ability to understand and express deep emotions. Not just in a way that makes others understand them but they have the uncanny ability to make others feel those their depth of emotion. While Fours are prone to melancholy it shouldn’t be mistaken for depression. They see something bittersweet in pining away after someone or some quality they wish they could attain.
Romantics have deep thriving imaginations and fantasy lives. When used properly this depth leads to amazing works of art, music, or fiction. However, if not careful the Four can find themselves hiding away from the world pining for their fantasy life or their fantasized past.
Fours are their feelings, their emotions form the core of who they are.
Fours are not satisfied with the standard range of emotions, they want them to excess. They don’t just feel them intensely, but they actively seek to intensify the emotions they are feeling. A Romantic in a good mood wants to feel ecstatic, whereas when down they want to wallow in their sorrows.
A Romantic’s mood is always changing. They don’t so much have mood swings as mood merry-go-rounds. They daftly change from one mood to another, yet if it goes on too much they can become overwhelmed and not know which feelings to talk about first.
As children the Individualists felt as though they were misunderstood by their parents, friends, and siblings. They heard the message that there was something off about them or that they’d never belong. They sense they are not like others so try to find their place by emphasizing their differences. However, this often backfires as they end up ostracizing themselves from the group which they are trying to belong.
The melancholy Romantic craves to belong and for people to “get them”. This desire will lead them to join any group that will accept them and their eccentricities. Not feeling connected, Fours view the present as unbearable and the future is filled with anxiety so they fall into their own fantasy worlds of “What if…” or a fantasized version of their past.
Desires and Fears
The basic desire for the Four is to create an identity or find themselves and that missing piece. They are motivated to express their individuality through creativity. While they may seem sad, their melancholy finds beauty in the sadness. They will find ways to maintain the moods and feelings they prefer and may withdraw into themselves to protect their own self-image. The Romantics will address their emotional needs before anything else.
The Individualists fear is that they have no personal significance or identity. They live with a sense shame that something is missing from their lives be it will power, self-confidence, or emotional peace they aren’t sure. Strangely their uniqueness comes not from a desire to isolate themselves but to connect with others who they see as not lacking whatever it is they are missing. They feel inferior to those with whom they are trying to connect.
Examples (Healthy, Average, Unhealthy)
Healthy Individualists are very personal, introspective, and true to themselves. They are closely attuned to the world around them not only seeing the beauty in it but being able to express it for others to see, hear, and feel. The secure Romantic is aware of their feelings and impulses knowing how and when to act on them. They have a vast emotional range which is managed by not acting on everything they feel.
The average Four focuses on exaggerating their uniqueness in an effort to learn to understand and accept themselves. They see themselves as different thinking they don’t think they have to live the same way as everyone else. They want to be wanted by others, but also play hard to get. Mediocre Romantics use art, poetry, music, and writing to create an environment that allows them to prolong their own feelings. They internalize everything becoming self-absorbed to the point their melancholy nature overwhelms and the retreat into themselves.
Unhealthy Individualists become disillusioned, alienating themselves and emotionally paralyzed. Their contempt for themselves may lead to self-destructive behavior that combined with emotional breakdown makes the prone to suicide. At their worst Fours will constantly compare themselves with others, exacerbating their own self-hatred. Taking on the role of the victim, they become manipulative in relationships.
Envy is the Deadly Sin of the Individualist.
The most unique type on the Enneagram envies the seeming normalcy of others. Fours tend to be ruled by some form of unspoken shame that they are not the same as others. They envy the feelings of happiness and acceptance they see in others. Fours don’t exactly want to be different, but they NEED to be special and unique to fill that missing piece. They despise mediocrity or superficial relationships and people.
Their own uniqueness, the thing that makes them special or different is what hinders them from what they really want which is to be accepted and feel complete. Romantics are at risk of mood altering drugs. They have a tendency to abuse alcohol and other depressants or hallucinogens. They may suffer from an eating disorder or have excessive cosmetic surgery in an attempt to deal with perceived flaws.
Fours with a Three Wing (4w3) are known as “The Aristocrat”.
The Performer influences the Individualist to not only be unique but also be the best at what makes them unique. They have a much more competitive nature than the other Fours.
The image consciousness of the Three helps to reign in the the Four’s quirkiness. The Aristocrat is much less emotional intense than other Fours. However, their outgoing nature will lead to more melodrama.
The Three’s productive influence will push the 4w3 to achieve their dreams and make their ideas come to fruition. Unfortunately when things do not go their way, Aristocrats are prone to more frequent and expansive mood swings.
Fours with a Five Wing (4w5) are known as “The Bohemian”.
The Investigator fuels the Romantic’s introspection creating a more introverted person. The Four’s drive to be unique without social limitations leads to an unconventional Bohemian.
The Bohemian doesn’t need an audience like the Aristocrat which allows them the freedom to be more eccentric. Due to their time alone, the 4w5 doesn’t need to address their emotions by talking about them or acting on them. The Bohemian does their own thing without worrying about the effects it will have on others.
Direction of Integration or Health for Fours points to One.
When moving from unhealthy envious emotionality toward discipline and action, Fours take on the positive aspects of the One or The Perfectionist. Fours moving to One spend less time talking about ideas and what they are going to do and start acting on their creativity.
Healthy Romantics are have more success in relationships since they do not have to express every emotion they feel. More centered, the secure Individualist is calm and focused on what is going on in the moment. They do not live in the fantasy of “What if…” or a romanticized past.
Direction of Disintegration or Stress for Fours points to Two.
Under stress the Individualist becomes over-involved and clingy taking on the unhealthy aspects of the Helper. Unhealthy Fours will stop focusing on themselves, pushing their own needs aside becoming dependent on others.
Their authenticity and uniqueness takes a back seat to the need for reassurance and affirmation from those in their circle. Envy and jealousy come to the front of their emotions as they feel especially empty and fear that what makes them feel whole will be lost.
Interacting With Others
Interactions with Fours.
When interacting with Fours, remember they are motivated to be unique and authentic. They can spot a phony from a mile away. The Individualist is very introspective, while they have a deep understanding of their own emotions they may have trouble expressing themselves in social settings.
Having a flair for the dramatic, the Romantic wants to feel every emotion to the extreme and will bring you along with them for the ride. When they are under stress the Four will need extra reassurances and may pester the people in their lives for it.
Working with Fours.
Fours are drawn to more creative careers. Many of the best actors, musicians, poets, painters, etc are Fours. However they may find creative roles in other careers such as therapy, web design, etc.
Romantics are big picture workers who flounder when given projects with too many detailed tasks. They need to feel that what they are doing makes a difference or serves a higher purpose.
As leaders, Individualists have an amazing ability to build compatible teams and create a climate of cooperation. However, their feelings and intuition based leadership style can be unnerving to more data-oriented coworkers.
Fours need for their ideas to be heard when working on a team. The ideas don’t have to be implemented, but the Four needs to know that they were heard and understood.
Friendships with Fours.
Fours prefer friends who can accept their strong emotions and mood swings. They need people who can support them when they are down and celebrate when they are elated.
Since Individualists tend to stand out from the crowd they have trouble making friends and tend to cling to the ones they currently have. Fours do not have a lot of friends and they tend to be other outsiders or outcasts. They often find their group among the outcasts.
Fours are the most empathic of the Enneagram Types. They just know how to be there when someone is sad or in pain without trying to fix the problem or person. Their unique way of looking at things gives them an enormous sense of irony allowing for hilarious comedy at times.
When hurt the Four’s defense strategy is to retreat into themselves. They will isolate even when they want to be around others. When they do come back they’ll want to express their feelings about the situation.
Relationships with Fours.
When it comes to relationships Fours are high maintenance. They need a lot of attention to overcome feelings of worthlessness.
Romantics are intense partners, they not only feel their emotions to the extreme but want to pull those around them into that world as well. Though the desire for the most extreme emotional experience can lead them to creating drama unnecessarily for the experience.
The Individualist’s sense of unworthiness leads to an intense fear of abandonment. This will cause them to push away their partner to avoid the pain of loss, but when they realize what they have done flip to the opposite extreme pulling them in and becoming clingy. Being in a relationship with a Four requires you to “detach without withdrawing” and not get pulled into their internal drama when they become intense.
Tricks of the Trade
Watch how you categorize things. It’s a diagnostic tool, not a fact. If you ever see it becoming a thing that you treat as reality, versus a model of reality, you are probably going the wrong way with it.