Type 4: Embrace Your Inner Everyman

Boat of Boredom

Boat of Boredom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you ever met a Type 4 that couldn’t construct an entire mountain range out of a pebble in the road? Me either. For 4s, there’s always a deeper level of meaning, if not actually a hidden meaning, to almost everything that is said or done or observed. Without it, life would be, well, boring. And boredom is the fate worse than death for 4s. Better to be abjectly miserable than be bored.

4s have extremely active imaginations, which is one of the reasons they tend to be very creative. But one of the ways they misuse their imagination is to interpret an event (especially one involving other people), draw a conclusion, and then act as if the imagined scenario is uncontested fact. They usually accomplish this without going to the trouble of checking in with the other parties involved as to their intentions. This can lead to all kinds of misunderstandings, ruptured relationships, hurt feelings, etc., keeping the emotional pot whipped into a frenzied froth. So drama abounds in the lives of 4s, whether real or manufactured, and they of course are at the center of the drama.

One of the driving forces in the compulsion of 4s is their need to believe they are unique and special. They are exempt from the rules; they deserve special treatment; they can’t be expected to behave like everyone else. Yet they crave acknowledgement and intimacy and fear rejection (which they are quick to identify even when it isn’t there). Trying to maintain a position as both an outsider and an intimate sounds exhausting. One of the personal prices 4s pay for being in the grip of their compulsion is depression.

Come as You Are

What happens when 4s recognize that, although they are indeed special in some ways, there are other ways in which they are just like everyone else? One thing they discover is that they don’t have to put so much energy into creating a unique image so instead they can put that energy to more truly creative uses. They may also find out that they can relate to people more easily, that much of the rejection they “experience” is in the eye of the beholder, and that intimacy and drama are not synonymous.

When 4s embrace their Inner Everyman, they can stop trying so hard to project and protect their image. They can come as they are to the party the common folk are throwing. They will always be recognized and appreciated for the unique qualities they contribute, but they won’t have to hang out on the sidelines forever, sitting out all the dances.

7 responses to “Type 4: Embrace Your Inner Everyman

  1. Not to take it personally or make a mountain range out of a pebble, I have actually met a Type 4 who doesn’t construct mountains out of molehills. 🙂 Two actually, and unless I’m extremely blind to my own behaviour, I’m one of them. (After decades of an unhappy relationship and with the help of a therapist, I finally learned that I’m more prone to understating and excusing and overlooking offenses than the other way around.)

    Ironically, the person in my circles most inclined to creating mountain ranges out of pebbles isn’t a 4 at all. So… not to be too 4-like in wanting an exemption here, but rather to clarify–other types are capable of imagining and inflating injustice, and not all 4s do this. It’s an important point. Not stressing this makes it far too easy for 4s to take full responsibility for failed relationships, and for others to reflexively assume it is of course the 4 responsible for the failure, because who, after all, can really get along with hyper-sensitive drama queens?

    (I am, if you haven’t already figured it out, a 4 with a strong 5-wing. I am also the product of no-nonsense, matter-of-fact, nobody’s-special parenting that allowed no dramatic manipulations of any kind whatsoever, if that helps explain my perspective. I have intense feelings, yes, but I have always, since childhood, known them to be just my feelings, fully my responsibility.)

  2. Connie,

    I really appreciate your thoughtful comments. My partner of 30 years was also a 4 with a 5 wing and for much of the time we were together, he was a very solid presence for me. I definitely agree with you that not all people going off the deep end are 4s. I’ve been there and done that quite a bit myself—and as an 8, I’m pretty much the opposite of a 4.

    And in terms of who would have been to blame if our relationship had gotten wrecked, well that would have to have been me.

    My examples in the “fatal flaws” series are extremes without much shading. Maybe even a little more extreme for the 4s, based on my experiences with many of them when I was a substance abuse counselor. But when I get to 8s, I won’t go easy on myself, either.

    You demonstrate so beautifully how not to run with—and be completely caught up in—the compulsion, whatever the reason: parenting, therapy, your own self-awareness, or some combination thereof. When I need an example of a healthy 4, can I point to you? Please?

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read and reply.


  3. Thank you! I appreciate the value of leaving out the shading in snapshots of personalities; it makes for an effective mirror, something to facilitate recognition, which is the essential starting point.

    But use me as an example, please! 🙂 My own assumption for years, and the assumption so many make, is that because 4s can indeed be drama queens, there is no such thing as a healthy 4 not prone to being one. At the end of a 20 year relationship, in the middle of a last-ditch attempt to salvage it, my husband, on learning my personality type, told me: “No wonder I couldn’t get along with you, who could?” And even though I’d never before in my life found myself unable to make a relationship with family or friends work, I believed this to be a valid statement, and carried much guilt for years over the massive failure that broke up a home.

    It’s always a two-way street, and I’m quick to own my flaws, but I no longer shoulder the mantle of being fully responsible simply by virtue of being a 4.

  4. You point out a valid and consistent problem with personality typing, which is the stereotyping aspect that always occurs when leaving out the shading. Many years ago, I, too, had someone, a not-particularly-healthy 4, essentially use my Enneagram type against me. She had also just found out what it was. That was the point at which our relationship of more than 20 years ended.

    I don’t think it’s ever OK for people to use Enneagram type that way, but it’s bound to happen. And it’s too easy to take on stuff that isn’t really ours when it does. But maybe that’s part of the “sorting” process. 🙂

    Next week I’m posting on the upside of the 4’s (occasional…) penchant for drama. I hope you’ll let me know what you think about it.

  5. Hi Joycelyn,
    Greg was a 4 as well (not sure if he had a wing or two but I would guess a 5) and I found him to also be very stable. I was the unstable one with all my emotions and not being happy in our relationship and always trying to change him.
    He had his problems but I wouldn’t characterize him as a drama “queen”. He could be manipulative in getting what he wanted but he did it with his intellect. I found him to be a very good communicator – much better than me, in fact. He used to tell me that I got my exercise by jumping to conclusions!
    Just thought I would add my experience to the discussion.

  6. Linda,
    I think the 5 wing, especially a strong one, has an impact on the ways 4s act and interact with people. I know my 7 wing really affects the way I “do” 8. People with a significant wing influence don’t always fit the picture of the typical type, whatever it may be.
    4s, 6s, and 8s all have intensity in common. We just experience it and express it differently. It’s interesting how these three types tend to be drawn to one another. I’d have to say that 4s, 6s, and 8s have made up the majority of the people I’m close to.
    I always appreciate your input. Thank you. 🙂

  7. This is what makes the Enneagram so interesting and rich for discussion. I’m really enjoying your blog and I look forward to the posts. I hope others continue to give their experience as well.

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