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.
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.