Enneagram Type 5: The Investigator

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 Five, Six, and Seven constitute the Head triad. This triad is primarily motivated by their thoughts. Those in the head triad tend to filter life through an intellectual lens. Because of that, they tend to be motivated by a need for security and tend to feel stressed or anxious when that need is not met. They are often accused of overthinking things or living in their heads. Of the three types, Fives tend to see themselves as separate from their environment. The world around them is something to be watched and observed.

At their best, Fives are insightful and curious. They are able to focus on complex ideas and contemplate them deeply. They are able to achieve mastery of complex skills through focused work. They are innovative and can often be visionary pioneers in their particular fields of specialty, being ahead of their time and seeing the world in new ways.

At their worst, Fives become preoccupied with their own thoughts. They can become high-strung and intense while being attached to imaginary constructs in their own minds. They can become isolated, nihilistic, and eccentric.

Fives are reserved, play their cards close to their chest, and are skilled at diving deeply into complex topics. Far from emotionless, fives simply are not led around by their emotions, preferring to let logic guide them. Because of their ability to focus on complex topics, they have a bias towards avoiding extraneous detail in conversations that distracts from the main point. Further, they find social interactions tiring and will need to get away from them to recharge. If you are a five, remember that you exist in an ecosystem of other people, and that you need to manage their perceptions of you. You also need to remember that most other people are more emotional than rational, so will you need to listen well enough to perceive the emotions of others, even if you don’t feel those emotions yourself. You may need to use external tools to make sure that the people in your life don’t feel neglected by your natural tendencies and you need to make sure that the people you are close to understand your need for solitude and privacy. Above all else, remember that these things are important to ensure a quality life lived on your own terms, without being lonely all the time.

Episode Breakdown

Main Characteristics

The Enneagram Type Five is “The Investigator”

Fives are called “The Investigator” because they tend to focus well on complex ideas and skills, becoming preoccupied with their thoughts and mental constructs. The Investigator’s drive to learn stems from a desire to observe life at a distance. They enjoy watching from the sidelines, both because it gives them a larger view of things and because it creates less risk.

For the Investigator, collecting knowledge is everything. For them, knowledge provides them with a sense of control and a defense against feelings of inadequacy. Fives also collect knowledge because they don’t want to appear foolish or uninformed, or be humiliated for not having the right answer. They don’t want to feel inept, or incapable, and a lack of knowledge will precipitate that. Fives are masters of compartmentalization. They tend to believe that their inner resources are limited and thus they try to separate parts of their life so that they can apportion resources appropriately. Life tends to intervene in this pursuit, however.

Fives are also the most emotionally detached. While, like anyone else, they have emotions, they keep them on a tight rein to avoid the unpredictable potential that they have. They require time to process emotions in private, which can make them appear cold and distant to others. Fives fancy themselves as rational thinkers and tend to consider most others to be irrational. While this can result in getting amazing work done due to the ability to turn off emotions at critical points, it can also create difficulties when working with more emotionally-centered types of people.

As children, fives are imaginative, curious, and very comfortable with solitude.

Fives tend to be heavily represented in computer-related disciplines, as well as in groups of people who collect various things. Fives also tend to be quiet and self-contained. They are often uncomfortable when they can’t take care of themselves, so they have learned to be very self-reliant. They tend to look inward for answers and often have information that they don’t share with others.

Fives tend to do well in school, but have mixed feelings about it. While they are self-directed and can keep good grades, the social demands of school are hard for them to handle well. They tend not to be good at sharing feelings and this “social distance” can make it difficult for other kids to understand them. They also have a lot of fear as children, which causes them to act in ways that make them seem more serious than they really are. They often have to be invited to act playfully before they are willing to do so, and even then they feel awkward.

Fives tend to wish that they could be more open with their feelings in general, especially with those close to them, but their internal vulnerability makes this difficult. Fives tend to get the message from society that they aren’t capable of handling the demands of life and relationships, and tend to disconnect as a result.

Desires and Fears

The basic desire for a Five is to be capable and competent for whatever life throws their way. They are motivated to learn more to help prepare them for competence in dealing with new situations that might arise. While they may seem distant and overly focused on their acquisition of knowledge, Fives do actually have emotions, but play their cards close to the vest because they recognize that those emotions can cause problems.

The Investigator’s fear is of being useless, helpless, or incapable of action. Fives tend to feel that they don’t have the ability to do things as well as others and often retreat into their own minds, where they try to work through things before re-engaging with the world. Fives highly value their knowledge, both as it helps them relate well to the world, and because it also makes that relationship safer and easier to control. They also tend to resent being sucked into other people’s emotional drama. Fives tend to be stingy and hold too tightly onto what they have, whether it is material possessions, time, or space.

Examples (Healthy, Average, Unhealthy)

Healthy Fives play the long game and exhibit a healthy balance of participation and observation. This allows them to engage with others from a position of healthy neutrality, making it easier for them to share the depths of their knowledge with others in a way that promotes the ecosystem of people around them.

Average fives have a scarcity mentality, which causes them to hoard resources. They tend to step back from the world to observe. They substitute thinking for feeling and tend to rely on themselves rather than trusting others. They struggle with anything that makes them feel incompetent, incapable, or unprepared. Mediocre Fives being to take an antagonistic stance towards anything that would threaten their personal world or inner vision. They tend to become more extreme and radical in their viewpoints on purpose, eventually becoming reclusive.

Unhealthy Investigators become obsessed with and frightened of their threatening ideas, becoming more detached from reality and prey to phobias. At their worst, Fives will seek oblivion, often through suicide or will have a psychotic break with reality. At this point their personality may resemble that of the Schizoid Avoidant or Schizotypal personality disorders.

Avarice is the deadly sin of the Investigator.

While avarice is often characterized as “greed”, in the context of the enneagram, it refers more to the desire to “retain” what little they already have, versus a desire to obtain more. Because of their desire to hoard the things they have, they often tend to pare back on their needs in an effort to make sure that they can maintain a self-sufficient existence, both now and in the future. This includes “hoarding” solitude and privacy, because they need both to function well.

Their desire to seek knowledge (sometimes to excess) also plays into this as well. Fives often look to knowledge to provide them with things that other people get through relationships. In the end, avarice will catch up to fives who don’t control it. Their greed for privacy will often lead to isolation. Further, their desire to play their cards close to their chest will alienate those who most want to care for them.

Investigators often end up with poor eating and sleeping habits due to minimizing their needs, neglecting hygiene and nutrition. They also are at risk for using psychotropic drugs for mental stimulation and narcotics for anxiety.

Wings and Things (Arrows)

Fives with a four wing are known as “The Iconoclast”

Independent and eccentric, these fives tend to be more creative than the others. When healthy, this creativity combines astoundingly well with the ability to focus deeply on complex topics. They aren’t sure what to do about their feelings, but usually prefer to process them alone rather than in a group.

They are more likely to experience melancholy than other Fives, but this also allows them to be more tender with themselves and less “closed up” emotionally around others. A healthy 5w4 is more able to communicate their feelings with the people close to them than a typical Five.

Fives with a six wing are known as “The Problem Solver”

More anxious, cautious, and skeptical than other Fives, Fives with a six wing are also more social and loyal. Fives with six wings live in their head more, and are more likely to have problems with authority or to question the status quo. They also are more aware of their own fears, which makes them more motivated to build connections to the various groups they are a part of. They find getting to know other people to be less disconcerting than other fives, but they tend to remain skeptical for a while.

Direction of Integration for Fives points to Eight.

When moving from unhealthy avarice toward self-confidence and decisive, Fives take on the healthy aspects of the eight or the Challenger. Fives moving to Eight spend less time in analysis and observation and more time in participation.

Healthy fives are more willing to share what they know with others, knowing that they are making the ecosystem around them stronger, rather than resorting to fear-based hoarding of knowledge. Living in a world of abundance, a healthy Five seeks to apply their knowledge to help the people around them, while still balancing their desire to participate with their need to keep accumulating useful knowledge.

Direction of Disintegration for Fives points towards Seven.

Under stress, the Investigator becomes hyperactive and scattered, taking on the unhealthy traits of the seven. Unhealthy fives will become isolated and unwilling to depend on other people. Their personality becomes fixated around security, privacy, and independence. Their attention to detail will take a backseat to a scarcity mindset that prevents them from sharing and they will begin to express this viewpoint with increasing cynicism and sarcasm.

Interacting With Others

Interactions with the Investigator

While fives like to sit back and observe (and analyze), they also tend to be harder to observe and analyze. Fives tend to play their cards close, and be very reluctant about opening up to others. Fives will rarely initiate social interactions. It’s a rare thing when they do and there is usually a reason for it beyond simply catching up.

Many people include small details when talking about their lives as a way of getting other people to open up. Fives are unlikely to get this, and they are even more unlikely to offer up any more information than you need to know. This tends to make people who interact with Fives wonder if they will ever truly know and understand them. They may also feel like the Five doesn’t truly trust them.

Working with Fives

In a work environment, the Five tends to work in detail-oriented work. Due to strong analytical ability and perceptiveness, as well as a willingness to deal with complexity, the five tends to do well autonomously. In addition to valuing their autonomy, they are more likely to isolate and potentially even see other people as a burden. Their ability to detach from other people makes them good workers, but can also make them lonely as a result.

In complex work, fives are often the source of the sort of brilliant insights only available to someone who has deeply studied for a long time. However, unless they work at it, this ability to detach from people can stunt their emotional and relationship growth. In a work conflict with a Five, it’s best to actually ask them what is going on rather than assuming. Because they keep their details to themselves, it’s unlikely that you have the full story anyway.

Friendships with Fives

Fives are very selective about who they consider to be friends, especially when it comes to sharing details of their lives. It’s not because they are secretive or manipulative – it’s because they don’t see a need to tell everything. Fives also tend to compartmentalize their lives, so if you are a friend in one part of their life, it’s entirely possible that there is a large part of their life of which you are only peripherally aware, if you are aware at all.

Remember that these people find social interactions awkward and tiring. By default, they will attempt to limit the frequency of these interactions, simply to avoid exhausting their limited mental and emotional resources. Above all, in a friendship, a five wants to be able to trust the other party. They aren’t interested in giving out details for the sake of giving out details and they will quickly figure it out if someone doesn’t care about them.

Relationships with Fives

Fives are deeply misunderstood in relationships, due to how difficult they find social interactions and expressions of emotion. If you get either of those things out of them, it’s because you matter to them, even if they aren’t doing it to the degree (or in the way) that you think is correct. While fives may enjoy some social interactions with some people, they will require privacy and solitude to recharge. This may perplex their partner, as it may mean that they want to leave social gatherings earlier.

Fives also don’t want to be involved in drama, the generation of which is often a primary relationship goal for some people. They will listen about your feelings, but they will not be made to feel responsible for those feelings. For a five, independence is not merely a preference, but a requirement and it is one that the other party will need to respect. On the plus side, they aren’t emotionally needy.

Tricks of the Trade

Each of the types we’re talking about has beneficial traits that you can use in your life. While we each have our own personalities, we can learn and grow from each other. The Investigator or Type 5 can teach us how to step out of a situation and observe. As you learn about the Five you’ll start to see how they are able extract their own emotions from a stressful situation and objectively respond to the situation instead of reacting emotionally. Just like the Five has something to teach the rest of us, the Two teaches us to empathize, the Three how to be productive, and the Four to be authentic. As we continue through this series on learning about yourself in the Enneagram don’t just look at other types as learning how to interact with others. Look for what you can learn from that type and what traits they have that you can use in your own life.

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