Tag Archives: personality

Ennea-Journaling our Non-Dominant Centers

Our dominant center is the center where our home point is located. Our non-dominant centers are the centers where our stress and security points are located. As an example, the home point for a 7 is in the Thinking center, the stress point (1) is in the Doing center, and the security point (4) is in the Feeling center.

3 Centers

For a list of the center relationships for all types, click here.

One of the ways to get more comfortable with your two non-dominant Centers of Intelligence is to spend some time with them. When you get to know them better, they won’t seem as alien. You’ll be able to rely on and trust them more often and more easily.

Get Acquainted

If you don’t know much about your stress or security point, check out a description of it in a book or online. Notice your reactions to what you read. Do you recognize yourself in any parts of the description? What do you like or not like about? What could you use more of from that type? Write out how you feel and what you’ve noticed about this type.

Visualize

Sit quietly for a few minutes with your eyes closed. Visualize your stress or security point. What does it look like? (What color is it? How large or small? Does it have a texture?) Does it remind you of anyone or anything? Does it have an attitude? How do you feel about it? How would you describe it to someone else? What is its name?

Once you have a visual and visceral sense of this point, write a brief description of it.

Write a Letter

Write a letter to this point, addressing it by its number or your name for it. Pour out your questions, concerns, thoughts, feelings, and desires. In terms of your relationship with it, let it know exactly what you want—and don’t want—from it. Don’t think too much about this while you’re writing. Just let your pen flow across the page.

Have a Dialogue

In addition to, or instead of, writing a letter to this point, have a dialogue with it. A journaling dialogue is like having a conversation between two people, but on paper. It’s usually easiest to begin a dialogue by asking a question, so think of something you’d like to ask this point, then allow the point to respond. Identify who is speaking each time you change voices. Allow yourself to write whatever comes to you.

Mindmap

Mind map

Mind map (Photo credit: Squallwc)

Another way to get acquainted with your stress or security point is to create a mindmap of it. Mindmapping is form of free association in which you use key words and phrases rather than flow writing. You’ll need a piece of unlined paper and a pen (a set of colored pens is useful but optional). Write the number or name of the point in the middle of the page and draw a circle around it. Click here for more directions on mindmapping if you’re not familiar with the process. When you finish your mindmap, review it and then do a quick flow-writing exercise to summarize it.

These journaling exercises can be used individually or in any combination and can be repeated as often as you like.

Giving to Get (Type 2)

2Here are a couple of video clips on 2s. The first one is from understandingpersonality.com. The second is an excerpt from the Type 2 panel at the first International Enneagram Conference held in Palo Alto, California nearly 20 years ago.

I could see that people were needy people. Everywhere. All the time. So it gave me an excuse to do something for them all the time. If someone is not well, I’ll say, “Oh, did you try that? Because maybe it’s good for you.” Really what’s important is to fix.

When I first read the chapter on 2s in the Enneagram, I was relating to a lot of it until it got to this part about giving to get. And I said, “Oh, that’s ridiculous. I never give to get. I’m just the most helpful, giving, nurturing person in the world. I know dozens of people who couldn’t survive without me.”

4s—From the Perspective of a 4

Waves breaking at Porto Covo, west coast of Po...

Waves breaking (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a guest post from Connie Howard, who graciously agreed to share her perspective of being a 4.

Please check out her blog, Sorting it Out, which is full of wonderful writing, straight from the heart.

Thanks for the invitation, Joycelyn.

Being a 4, for me, is lovely, intense, and lonely all rolled into one. We go by a number of names: the Romantic, the Aesthete, the Individualist, the Artist, and the Melancholic. This last one isn’t exactly a name anyone would embrace eagerly, but it has some truth, and that truth, I’m coming to believe, may have something to do with our fast-paced, work-hard, play-hard, bottom-line oriented culture, which 4s don’t always fit into very well.

The name that perhaps resonates most strongly with me is the Aesthete. I experience thundering waves or towering ancient trees or the creamy skin of a newborn as achingly beautiful. And I’m a Romantic, yes, though I am also very, very practical and organized. I like my food saucy and spicy and served with wine in candle-lit rooms, but this does not mean I won’t enjoy plain food by fluorescent lighting too. Nor does being a romantic mean I don’t work hard.

I’m drawn to happy and sad and all things laced with magic. I prefer sad movies to frivolous or sentimental ones, though I love good comedy (which, to be truly good, must in my mind be rooted in the sad material of life.) I love to socialize, but it’s got to have an element of meaningful and substantial, and move beyond small-talk and trivia. I have, since childhood, been known to be a little earnest.

Envy

But first things first, the character flaw we are perhaps most well-known for, and the one I’ve been most frequently judged for—envy. First, envy is not at all the same as feeling insecure. This has so often been assumed I can’t stress it enough. It isn’t one tiny bit the same. I have often been envious of you, but never unsure of your loyalty to me.

Equally important, or maybe more important, envy never, ever means I don’t want you to have whatever it is I envy—it means only that I want it for myself also. Who wouldn’t envy and want your charismatic, magnanimous, agreeable personality? Who wouldn’t sometimes envy your beauty, your good health, your strength, your seemingly limitless ability to make others laugh, your energy and freedom to party and escape the darker side? Who wouldn’t sometimes feel daunted by your brilliant light? It’s a compliment, really.

And there’s also this: I don’t really dance with envy all that terribly much more than you do, not from what I can see. It seems to me that I just admit it more readily, so please don’t judge me too harshly. Besides, it’s not any worse, as character flaws and hurdles go, than the one you sometimes stumble on, just different.

I love what a wonderfully intuitive and empathetic fellow human being recently told me: Sometimes, when your pain or failure is juxtaposed with the robust health or success of another, what could possibly be more normal and human and emotionally honest than envy?  This I will remember, the next time someone suggests I ought to be above envy. I sometimes do want it all, and you might too sometimes, if you’re honest.

Difference

Okay, that’s a relief, to have explained that. The rest matters less. You may think me sensitive and a little flaky, but that’s okay with me. I perceive things you may not consider perceptible, yes. Noise, coming from physical clutter. The space around you as magnetic,  or impervious. Tears where there are none, tension or rage beneath a smile. Genuine empathy in your eyes before you say a word.

About you needing me to fit in when I may not—I don’t respond well to these attempted adjustments, no matter how much you’d like me to, so please don’t fall in love with me if you think you’re going to turn me into a sports fan. And please don’t fall in love with me if you’re going to tell me to dress differently either. What I wear reflects exactly what I need and how I feel. It’s just not me, to be in costume in order to please you.

So we’re not necessarily the best office-tower cubicle material as 4s, no, but we’re warm and compassionate and intuitive and empathetic. We’re good care-givers, therapists, healers. And we’re good friends and partners, if you can accept that we can’t and don’t want to be in this world exactly as you are.

Intensity

As to those intense feelings we sometimes have that might lead you to believe we’re being dramatic—I’m actually usually pretty stoic about my pain. But ironically, whether I’m being stoic or wearing my pain on my sleeve, my pain can be a problem for you.

If I wear it on my sleeve, it is often viewed as attention-seeking, and as a choice to hold on to the Awful Thing of many months ago, to which I say this: You may not be as conscious of it as I am, but you’re still sad too, about your own Awful Thing. I see it in how hard you try to shop and party and work and cheer and pray it into oblivion. I’m just more aware of the currents beneath the surface.

Ironically though, if I’m stoic about my pain, you may conclude I no longer have any, and then expect too much of me, which will irritate me immensely when the facts are shouting otherwise.

I am truly sorry about the dark clouds of failure and shame that occasionally blow in; this is perhaps the darkest part of my shadow. I can see how these would be very difficult for those with front-row seats to witness, and you are a saint for not judging me during those times. For this I love you immensely and will forever be loyal.

In the Shadow of Type 9: Conflict

Disharmony

Disharmony (Photo credit: lewishamdreamer)

9s can be very pleasant and peaceful to be around. They are tolerant, calm, agreeable, supportive, considerate, patient, non-judgmental, accommodating, diplomatic, kind, and adaptable. Their very presence can be reassuring to those who may be more inclined to run in circles, scream and shout. They make excellent mediators, partly because they seek harmony and partly because they are able to identify so well with others.

The flip side is that in order to maintain this serene exterior and create a tranquil space for others, they have to contain all the non-nice thoughts and feelings roiling below the surface. Their compulsion leads them in the direction of tuning out their own preferences and going along with what other people want. True peace of mind is attained by acknowledging and coming to terms with the dark, unpleasant, and unharmonious aspects of life, not by trying to pretend they don’t exist.

Peace at any Price

According to Jerome Wagner, in The Enneagram Spectrum of Personality Styles, the defense mechanism favored by 9s is narcotization:

To avoid conflict you numb your feelings, wants, and preferences. You make everything the same and highlight nothing. You make molehills out of mountains.

9s don’t want to be upset, nor do they want anyone else to be upset. As is true for all the other types and the things they avoid, this is completely unrealistic. No one can escape conflict. It’s a part of life, and it isn’t always negative or harmful. Furthermore, trying to avoid conflict is disempowering to a type that has the potential for great personal, interpersonal, and spiritual achievements.

Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict.
William Ellery Channing

9s think that if they speak out and stand up for what they want and need it will alienate the people closest to them. So they expend a lot of energy in making those molehills out of mountains, suppressing themselves and acting as if they don’t care one way or the other—about anything. While they constantly feel pressured to respond to the external world, they are frequently too tired to muster the energy to do it; hence the need for a nap or some other narcotizing activity.

I usually take a two-hour nap from one to four.
Yogi Berra

The vicious cycle this can create is that by numbing out or checking out, 9s often fail to deal with actual problems that need resolution, which creates more internal pressure that takes effort and energy to contain. It’s exhausting!

The Importance of Being You

In The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Don Riso and Russ Hudson have several good tips for 9s. One of them is for 9s to learn to sense anger in their bodies and to realize it’s OK to be angry and to tell others when they’re upset with them. But the following suggestion regarding personal development seems especially apt, given 9s’ habit of undervaluing themselves:

Take a tip from healthy Threes and invest time and energy in developing yourself and your talents. There are many pleasant, perfectly valid ways to spend your time, entertaining yourself or hanging out with friends or loved ones—but make sure you do not shortchange yourself by neglecting your own development. The initial struggles may bring up many of your anxieties about yourself, but the rewards of persisting in your development will be much greater and more deeply satisfying. Further, investing in yourself will not lead you away from your connection with others: everyone will benefit from a stronger, more fully actualized you.

9s often find themselves in circumstances where others depend on them, which gives them a compelling reason not to pursue their own interests and self-development. But they have played a role in creating those situations, and they have the right and the ability to modify them. As Riso and Hudson say, when they do that, everyone will benefit. Put that way, how could any 9 refuse? I jest, but some 9s may need to view stepping out in terms of their relationships with others in order to be able to take the first steps.

In the Shadow of Type 8: Weakness

Crying..

Crying.. (Photo credit: Anders Ljungberg)

People often look to 8s to take the lead because 8s are perceived of as self-confident, decisive, strong, powerful, direct, courageous, resourceful, just, and of course take-charge. They talk the talk and walk the walk. Since taking charge comes naturally to them, others pick up on it and often fall in line behind them. Hopefully the 8 taking the lead is heading somewhere everyone else wants to go and not for the nearest cliff. That’s a danger since 8s can be very convincing. This is often because they don’t rely on outside authorities but prefer to figure things out for themselves, so they are quite firm in their resulting convictions. That makes them appear extremely confident, which is something we value in leaders.

I think whether you’re having setbacks or not, the role of a leader is to always display a winning attitude.
–Colin Powell

Right. No one wants a weak, wishy-washy, fearful, timid, muddled leader. And no 8 wants to be seen as such. So while 8s really do possess many of those admirable qualities, they also know those are the qualities others want them to project, especially when they are in leadership roles. However, it’s hard for 8s to take off the leader hat when they go home at the end of the day, hard to let down their guard in one setting and keep it up in another.

About that River in Egypt

Jerome Wagner, in The Enneagram Spectrum of Personality Styles, says the defense mechanism of 8s is denial.

To prevent weakness from showing up in your awareness or persona, you deny any presence of it. “I don’t hurt, I’m not nice, I’m not sentimental, I don’t need you,” etc.

Each 8 probably defines weakness in his or her own way, but however 8s define it, it is definitely anathema to them. They don’t want to experience it, and they certainly don’t want others to see any sign of weakness in them. So they power through situations that might leave others gasping at the side of the road. There’s a time and place for that, but not every time and every place.

I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.
–Washington Irving

8s are good at denying, stuffing, covering up, or ignoring what they perceive as weakness. Pretending it’s not there doesn’t make it go away, though, so the better 8s get at denial, the more pressure builds below the surface. Some days you can look at an 8 the wrong way and receive The Wrath of Khan in return. You don’t know what just hit you, and the 8 is as surprised as you are.

Take a Hike!

In The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Don Riso and Russ Hudson have a number of suggestions for 8s that center on getting in touch with their feelings (which they admit is a cliché) and aren’t very specific. I don’t think telling 8s to get in touch with their feelings is particularly helpful, since not all 8s are out of touch with their feelings, or at least not all the time. They just don’t consider them a high priority. The following suggestion seems much more practical and therefore likely to appeal to 8s:

Take some quiet time to restore your soul. This doesn’t mean watching television, eating, or drinking—really take time to be with yourself and enjoy simple things. Take a tip from your next-door neighbors, the Nines, and let your senses be revitalized by nature. Although your type would not be among the first in line for a class in meditation, quiet, centering practices are tremendously helpful to reduce your stress levels.

8s are Doing types, so going for a walk or hike or just getting out in nature on a regular basis can be a non-threatening way for them to center themselves, if they do it alone, or to connect with other people. Physical activity is also an excellent way to de-stress. And the 8s also get to feel that they’ve accomplished something at the same time!

No escape, no effort…no despair

Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986)

Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s an excerpt from a piece in one of the Krishnamurti Foundation Bulletins that Krishnamurti dictated in 1970.It’s titled, “The Problem of Living.” When he speaks about how we act from our centre (center), he seems in this case to be describing how we act from our compulsion.

“As one can observe, we have always acted from a centre—a centre which contracts and expands. Sometimes it is a very small circle and at other times it is comprehensive, exclusive and utterly satisfying. But it is always a centre of grief and sorrow, of fleeting joys and misery, the enchanting or the painful past. It is a centre which most of us know consciously or unconsciously, and from this centre we act and have our roots. The question of what to do, now or tomorrow, is always asked from the centre and the reply must always be recognizable by the centre. Having received the reply either from another or from ourselves, we proceed to act according to the limitation of the centre. It is like an animal tethered to a post, its action depending on the length of the tether. This action is never free and so there is always pain, mischief and confusion.

“Realizing this, the centre says to itself: how am I to be free, free to live happily, completely, openly, and act without sorrow or remorse? But it is still the centre asking the question. The centre is the past. The centre is the ‘me’ with its selfish activities which knows action only in terms of reward and punishment, achievement or failure, and its motives, causes and effects. It is caught in this chain and the chain is the centre and the prison.

“There is another action which comes when there is a space without a centre, a dimension in which there is no cause and effect. From this, living is action. Here, having no centre, whatever is done is free, joyous, without pain or pleasure. This space and freedom is not a result of effort and achievement, but when the centre ends the other is.

“But we will ask how can the centre end, what am I to do to end it, what disciplines, what sacrifices, what great efforts am I to make? None. Only see without choice the activities of the centre, not as an observer, not as an outsider looking inward, but just observe without the censor. Then you may say: I cannot do it, I am always looking with the eyes of the past. Be aware, then, of looking with the eyes of the past, and remain with that. Don’t try to do anything about it; be simple and know that whatever you try to do will only strengthen the centre and is a response of your own desire to escape.

So there is no escape, no effort and no despair. Then you can see the full meaning of the centre and the immense danger of it, and that is enough.

–J. Krishnamurti
Meeting Life

In the Shadow of Type 7: Pain

Nothing Remains the Same

Nothing Remains the Same (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whatever the reason for the party, 7s are the ones who want to get it started, and the rest of us are usually willing to join in the celebration. They’re the fun-loving, enthusiastic cheerleaders who people often want to be around: adventuresome, gregarious, spontaneous, uninhibited, entertaining, optimistic, and imaginative.

In fact, others don’t just want to be around 7s, some actually want to be 7s. The exterior is very appealing, especially to those who don’t naturally have the abundant energy and optimism 7s seem to have. The reverse, however, is that 7s may be viewed as superficial dilettantes—again based on outside appearances. What’s really behind their whirlwind of mental and physical activity?

Escape from Boredom and Pain

According to Jerome Wagner, in The Enneagram Spectrum of Personality Styles, 7s are working really hard to avoid experiencing pain and suffering. Their primary defense mechanism is sublimation:

To keep pain out of your awareness, you sublimate it and turn it into something interesting or good. You automatically look for the good in everything. So you might celebrate the new life of a deceased loved one rather than mourn their loss.

7s don’t just want to be happy, they need to be happy. Therefore, they work and play as hard as they do in order to try to maintain a steady state of happiness. Pain and suffering are a major buzz kill. If 7s can’t outrun or outfox it, they’ll find a way to reframe it the same way 3s reframe failure. This can lead to a variety of risky behaviors—including addictions—that in the long run create a great deal more pain and suffering than they were being employed to try to avoid in the first place.

Too Much of a Good Thing

7s need constant stimulation. They have extremely active, quick, and agile minds that can easily solve complex problems and generate amazing insights, but may also move with lightning speed from one thing to another, never focusing on anything long enough to truly grasp or appreciate it. They may be more concerned with possibilities than actualities. They like what is new and intense rather than what is humdrum and ordinary.

There is more refreshment and stimulation in a nap, even of the briefest, than in all the alcohol ever distilled. –Ovid

You could substitute any substance or activity or emotion for alcohol and the words would still mean the same thing. The relentless pursuit of happiness is also known as escapism. In trying to escape from pain and suffering, 7s only succeed at escaping from themselves.

Finding Fulfillment

In The Wisdom of The Enneagram, Don Riso and Russ Hudson suggest 7s focus on being present in this moment rather than anticipating what might be around the corner in the next one:

Find the joy of the ordinary. Like Fours, Sevens tend to seek out heightened reality—you like things to be extraordinary, fabulous, exciting, and stimulating. The amazing thing, however, is that when we are present, all of our experiences are extraordinary. Cleaning your room or eating an orange can be a totally fulfilling experience if you are in it one hundred percent. Each moment is a unique source of delight and amazement. Your fear of deprivation and your desire to entertain yourself prevent you from finding the fulfillment you seek. Think about which moments from your past were the most alive and fulfilling—a child’s birth, a wedding, a picnic with friends during college, a perfect sunset. What about them made them so satisfying and real? Also notice that these moments do not necessarily make exciting stories, although they have another quality that makes them fulfilling. Your life will change to the degree that you find out what that quality is.

7s have so much to offer. When they slow down, calm down, and learn how to be with themselves without all the external stimulation they habitually surround themselves with, they often  get in touch with a different kind of happiness—a quieter, but deeper happiness that doesn’t depend on the next great thing.

Types and Stereotypes

Latina: Systema taxinomicum

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Any system or method of classifying people has the potential to be used in harmful ways. But classifying things—and people—is one of the ways in which we organize and make sense of the world. Our brains do a certain amount of classifying on their own without our conscious intervention. If they didn’t have that ability, we wouldn’t have survived long enough to have this discussion. It isn’t possible or even desirable to dispense with our classifying behavior.

In order to classify, the first thing we do is observe. From our observations, we then make generalizations. Based on our generalizations, we create classifications.

In terms of the physical/material world, it’s good to know which classifications of mushrooms are safe to eat and which are not, which insects have a deadly sting and which are harmless, which sounds and smells signal danger and which are innocuous.

In terms of people, things can get a bit dicey. We have all kinds of classifications for people based on nationality, religion, race, gender, age, level of education, type of car people drive, whether or not they have children, physical appearance, the language they use, whether or not they just cut you off in traffic, where they live, and even whether or not you know them. We also, of course, classify people by their personalities or temperaments. The Greek physician Hippocrates is the first person we know of to come up with this way of classifying people. Carl Jung may be the most well-known for “typing” people as a result of the MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Inventory) based on his work.

NEITHER GOOD NOR BAD

Although there are some people who object to being classified by personality type, in general typing does not have the bad rap that stereotyping does. But in fact, typing and stereotyping are really the same thing. And I don’t think the problems we encounter with the misuse of typing are a result of stereotyping.

“What people call ‘stereotypes’ are what scientists call ‘empirical generalizations,’ and they are the foundation of scientific theory. That’s what scientists do; they make generalizations. Many stereotypes are empirical generalizations with a statistical basis and thus on average tend to be true. If they are not true, they wouldn’t be stereotypes (emphasis his).”

–Satoshi Kanazawa, Psychology Today

Most of us think that stereotyping people is wrong. I think it’s wrong. Or at least I did until very recently when I started to investigate the concept and came to the conclusion that it isn’t stereotyping that’s the problem. As Kanazawa says, “stereotypes are observations…neither good nor bad, desirable nor undesirable, moral nor immoral.” The problem is that we use stereotyping the wrong way. You could even say we abuse stereotyping.

The first way in which we abuse or misuse stereotyping is that we tend to forget about individual exceptions. Just because something is true in general for an entire group of people (let’s call it Group Type A) doesn’t mean it is true for every single individual within Group Type A. The generalization still applies—it just doesn’t necessarily apply to the particular person from Group Type A you happen to be talking to or working with or in a relationship with.

The second way in which we misuse stereotyping is by using stereotypes against people. The most egregious examples are racism, sexism, religious persecution, and the like. But we also use personality stereotypes against other people.

“Stereotypes tell us what groups of people tend to be or do in general; they do not tell us how we ought to treat them.”

But isn’t that one of the points—and benefits—of learning about systems like the Enneagram? To know how to get along with different types of people? It’s kind of a conundrum, isn’t it?

OUR BIASES ARE ALWAYS SHOWING

Difficulties arise because the “empirical generalizations” that underlie systems like the Enneagram are viewed by each of us through our own set of filters, biases, opinions, judgments, personal experiences, and type. We don’t live our lives as scientists, examining the world through a microscope and trying to be as objective as possible before proceeding from one step to the next. We make snap judgments, we jump to conclusions, we react emotionally. Inevitably conflicts arise or someone says or does something we don’t like. It may be tempting, if we know about the Enneagram, to blame behavior we don’t like on the other person’s personality type. And to let them know we’re on to them.

Using the Enneagram to understand other people better is one thing, but throwing someone’s Enneagram type in his or her face is never OK. Even if someone behaves stereotypically, we can’t be certain their behavior wasn’t the result of something totally unrelated to type. We can never fully know someone else’s story. If we judge them solely on their personality type, we’re doing ourselves, the other person, and even the Enneagram a huge disservice.

The Resilience of 4s

Inner World

Inner World (Photo credit: sea turtle)

I was recently pondering out loud with a friend how the compulsions of our type are sometimes a perfect match with the circumstance or situation we find ourselves in. In that moment we fit the job/situation like a fine, hand-tailored, leather glove. No one else could do what we do—or do it as well as we could.

Then there are other times when the compulsions of our type are diametrically, or at least significantly, opposed to what is wanted and needed in the moment. We are the square peg trying to fit into the round hole. Not even a close match. The old adage if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail applies.

A short time later, I began rereading Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl’s account of his experiences in Auschwitz and his development of what he called logotherapy, an attempt to shed light on the meaning of human existence and man’s search for meaning. Fifty-some pages into the book, I had to get up from my comfy chair to get a highlighter pen. What I was reading struck such a chord with me because of my recent post on the shadow of type 4 and the subsequent comments of a reader.

We both agreed that for various reasons 4s can have a difficult time in our Western culture, which doesn’t often value what they bring to the table. What got me out of my chair was Frankl’s description of some of the personal characteristics and tendencies of those prisoners who managed to best cope with life in a concentration camp. And, surprise of surprises, the people he described were clearly 4s:

Sensitive people who were used to a rich intellectual life may have suffered much pain (they were often of a delicate constitution), but the damage to their inner selves was less. They were able to retreat from their terrible surroundings to a life of inner riches and spiritual freedom. Only in this way can one explain the apparent paradox that some prisoners of a less hardy make-up often seemed to survive camp life better than did those of a robust nature. …

The intensification of inner life helped the prisoner find a refuge from the emptiness, desolation and spiritual poverty of his existence, by letting him escape into the past. When given free rein, his imagination played with past events, often not important ones, but minor happenings and trifling things. His nostalgic memory glorified them and they assumed a strange character….

As the inner life of the prisoner tended to become more intense, he also experienced the beauty of art and nature as never before. Under their influence he sometimes even forgot his own frightful circumstances.

This seemed amazing to me—and at the same time understandable after I thought about it. I know people who don’t have the type of inner life Frankl was talking about, and some of them experience that lack as a kind of suffering in itself. My own experience is that when I am in the best psychological shape, I spend more time daydreaming without it detracting from what I want to or need to do. In fact, daydreaming can have a very positive effect on my productivity (productivity being extremely important to an 8).

I asked Connie Howard (a 4) to read a draft of this post, which she was kind enough to agree to, and one of the things she said was:

I do sometimes see (in 4s I know) this contradiction: sensitive and melancholy and pessimistic on the one hand, and very adaptable and surprisingly strong and hopeful on the other.  On the occasions (during the course of my cancer) where I wasn’t able to hold things together, the feedback I got was surprise that I hadn’t come apart more often. Perhaps it’s kind of a 4 thing to conclude that intense experiences are both the most horrid and the best things to have had happen… a contradiction, I know!

I can see how the ability to retreat into one’s inner world and the past can in some circumstances be absolutely the best possible response—a response other types can and do make to one extent or another, but which 4s seem to be the very best at making. 4s’ inner strength may not always be recognized by other types, but that’s our loss.

In the Shadow of Type 5: Emptiness

Emptiness

Emptiness (Photo credit: herrnanditovsk)

5s like to see themselves as perceptive, logical, reasonable, observant, informed, deep, intelligent, self-sufficient, and objective. Others may see them essentially the same way but put a slightly different slant on those characteristics. They may view 5s as aloof, insensitive, in their heads, eccentric, and maybe even know-it-alls like Sheldon Cooper on TV’s The Big Bang Theory.

5s aren’t the only people who misunderstand how others perceive them, but because of the structure of their personalities they may be the most likely to do so—as well as the least likely to care. Since they prefer to avoid a lot of interpersonal contact, especially intimate contact, they aren’t bothered if their behavior keeps others away. Interacting with other people distracts 5s from what Riso and Hudson call the Inner Tinker Toy they have put together in their heads.

EXEMPLAR OF THE BOY SCOUT MOTTO

Be Prepared… the meaning of the motto is that a scout must prepare himself by previous thinking out and practicing how to act on any accident or emergency so that he is never taken by surprise.

–Robert Baden-Powell

Of course, it’s impossible to be prepared for anything and everything that could possibly occur. The definition of an emergency is that it is an unforeseen event that requires immediate action. An accident, too, is an unexpected, unintentional incident. But it’s hard for 5s to recognize, even in the normal course of events, when the time has come to stop preparing and to act.

I’ll Be in My Cave

In The Enneagram Spectrum of Personality Styles, Jerome Wagner names isolation as the primary defense mechanism for Type 5:

To avoid feeling empty, you isolate yourself in your head away from your feelings and people. You go to your thoughts where you feel full and comfortable. You also isolate or compartmentalize one time or period of your life from the next.

5s not only isolate in their heads, they often create personal spaces into which they retreat. These spaces are often an extension of 5s’ interests and fascinations, which they fill to the brim with materials, tools, books, etc., just as they fill their heads with information and knowledge. 5s are often as loathe to give up these material objects and their tinkering with them as they are to give up their incessant intake of information and mental activity. Both serve the same purpose: to avoid experiencing feeling empty.

QUIETING THE MIND

This suggestion from Don Riso and Russ Hudson in The Wisdom of the Enneagram focuses directly on the shadow issue of emptiness.

Remember that your mind is clearest and most powerful when it is quiet. Take the time to cultivate this quiet in yourself, and do not confuse it with an insistence that your external world be silent. Rather, learn to notice your nonstop internal commentary on all of your experiences. What arises when you simply take in an impression of the moment without connecting it with what you think you already know? Being connected with your physical sensations will greatly help you quiet your mind.

5s fill themselves up with so much information as a way to insulate, as well as isolate, themselves. But what happens is that they eventually lose touch somewhat with the actual world because in observing it from the safety of their minds, all they can see is the construct they have very carefully built up over time.

So practices that quiet the mind can be powerful antidotes to this escape from reality. But since escaping reality—or at least some portion of it—is what they have wanted to do all along, those practices can also be very threatening.

Working on a project with one or two other people is also a good practice. 5s do have lots of insight and expertise to offer. They can be excellent problem solvers, too. Engaging in an activity with someone else who shares one of their interests can be a grounding experience. It can also help 5s develop confidence in the area of interpersonal relations, which is a gateway to the wider world.