“All my life I have yearned for a thing I cannot name.” – Andre Breton, French Poet
I cannot recall the first time I took the Enneagram personality test online, but it’s somewhere around the ballpark of five years ago. My best friend, who is very much a Seven, was telling me all about typology and how it was helping her understand why she is the way she is and the workings of her inner landscape, along with how to better navigate close relationships with friends and family. Interesting! I love this stuff. At the time, I knew my Meyer’s Briggs and had taken a handful of times, each test resulting in the same findings: I am INFJ through and through. Introvert (gets energy from solitude) – Intuitive (guided by inner landscape) – Feeling (emotions over logic) – Judging (thrives with order). Andrew is an INTJ, by the way. As someone who has always been quite introspective, personality tests and reading materials pertaining to this subject matter have always been rather consoling for me. Like little mirrors to my soul, they’ve helped me better understand myself and others intimate ways that have revealed a complex beauty of humanity, for which I am grateful. I not only like digging in and finding meaning as to why people are they way they are, but it’s part of a deep-rooted and ever-present longing I have to continually seek belonging and connection in all that I do. Classic Four, as I would soon come to find out.
Years passed, I had babies, we moved homes, and then one day I was web surfing on Amazon, and a book popped up under the category of something I might like to read given my past bookish history: The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery. I felt called to learn more and so in the cart it went. This purchase lead me back to my dear friend who first introduced me to the sacred and strangely accurate world of the Enneagram, along with an almost obsessive need to gather as much as I could about it. Again, another classic Enneagram Four way of being. We like to understand all the things. After reading several books, many many articles, and listening to podcasts, I can tell you that I am far being an expert on the topic, but that I’ve learned a great deal.
Why does this even matter? If you are asking this, you probably aren’t a Four. If you find yourself feeling intrigued, hopeful, and a bit excited as if maybe this could be a missing piece of the puzzle you’ve been searching for your whole life, you very well might be. This isn’t however that missing piece, but a flicker of light that just might help you journey out of the darkness if you’ve lost your way. Because here’s the thing with Four’s: we were made by the divine to seek meaning. We need meaning to get unstuck. It’s who we are, and we were born this way. Making meaning is how we build connections, and in building connections, we unearth purpose and our divine belonging and worth. This is why many Four’s tend to be very creative beings who, when healthy and not wrapped up in anxiety or depression, can their gifts as a means of self-expression to make meaning come alive, and thus, to connect with others and feel as though they belong here on this strange, perplexing, wild, and awe-inspiring earth home we share.
10 Things I Know to Be True,
From My Personal Experience as an Enneagram Four:
- …relentlessly seek deep belonging and meaningful connection in their everyday lives. I can relate to this as I have always strived to make the ordinary as beautiful and as meaningful as I can. This goes well beyond materialism and into cosmic connection, which can be hard for non-Fours to understand. I have never known any other way of doing life. This way of being feels much more like a calling, rather than something I do merely out of habit or for show. I can remember being a little girl and walking through the grassy fields behind our home and feeling connections in and through everything I saw, wondering as I walked the well-worn path of milkweed and bramble where I fit into this intricate web of life, if at all? And so began my search, and honestly hasn’t stopped: because I am a Four. All of my senses felt uncomfortably heightened back then as they do now, which gave and give me a different perspective from which to view the world and life as a whole. I now know that this longing is woven into who I am, and it’s why I am drawn to create a quiet and gentle celebration of everyday life. Both of my parents growing up were not at all like this, far from it in fact, and it struck me odd that other’s didn’t see the world this way. I internalized this realization, and sadly, came to view my sensitivities and need to make meaning come alive as a weakness rather than a strength. I tried over the years to numb this part of my being, and ended up drinking a lot of alcohol in college. I am only learning now as an adult that this desire to make meaning is a gift and something to be shared with the world. As I have journeyed through life thus far, I have found that building connections from the ordinary strings of life is what gives me purpose while propelling me forward to live out my passions as a writer, homemaker, creator, and nurturer as a wife and mother.
- …often times have a profound fear of being abandoned due to a primal loss we have suffered. Abandonment is something I have struggled with ever since I was very young as an adoptee, and still do in my early 30’s. It is a part of my story – a loss that is very much a realistic (and unfortunately glossed over) part of adoption. I didn’t know it at the time, but it is very common for those who are adopted to feel the primal wound of intimate loss from their roots, ancestral past, and most of all, their birth mother who have them life. Motherhood has given me a new perspective on this fear and at times, has amplified it to the point of severe postpartum depression. I would have a panic attack nearly everyday when Andrew left for work. It was debilitating and it felt like death by loneliness. I’ve since began a spiritual path of healing, and haven’t left it. I have learned that this fear of abandonment is why belonging and connection are so vital for people like me, Four’s, because we almost try and overcorrect ourselves to make up for the fear we carry. There is light in the darkness, and darkness in the light. Living as a Four means embracing both all the time, and it’s why we can be perceived as melancholy.
- …can easily fall into the trap of envy, not exactly jealousy over physical items per se, but an internal longing that they will never measure up because of some internal flaw that cannot be controlled. This is why some Four’s are perfectionists and try to control as much as they possibly can to override the perceived existential flaw they were born with. This kind of envy can both hurt and help Four’s. When too caught up in the trap of comparison, Four’s can become paralyzed and vow to never make anything because they will never measure up to X, Y, or Z. This is how Four’s can ultimately self-sabotage. But if they come to value the unique way they see the world, along with all the gifts they were given, Four’s can use this kind of envy for their benefit as fuel to keep them moving and making as an empath and sensitive human being.
- …have very rich inner lives that must be stewarded with ample amount of stillness and solitude to process and digest their thoughts and feelings. This could not be more true for me, and it’s why I believe most Four’s are probably introverts as they get energy by being alone to breathe and rest. Alone time is not merely a luxury for Four’s, but essential to their mental health and overall wellbeing. I am easily riled up by fast moments, being rushed, surrounded by clutter, and loud noises. I have learned that my soul needs me to carve out several pockets of stillness and solitude throughout the day to give my outer and inner world a break. Having a rich inner life means that therapy for Four’s is a wonderful tool for wellness. Having the opportunity to process verbally with someone they trust is how Four’s can use their sensitive and intuition to grow.
- …are prone to suffering from both anxiety and depression when stressed (their darkness), but have a beautiful propensity to sink into the present moment unlike most people (their light). I have both anxiety and depression, and when I am stressed, I am either living hopelessly fixated on the future (anxiety) or hopelessly fixated on the past (depression). This is why mindfulness and learning how to take the time to connect to the present moment is very healing for me. In this way, life becomes my mediation. I have found like anything else, the more I practice mindfulness, the easier it becomes. Building the mindfulness muscle takes a lot of energy from Four’s because they are constantly feeling all the things and thinking that those feelings are their thoughts. I have learned that building a practice of mindfulness into the rhythm of my everyday takes my intrinsic gift of making meaning and tethers it to my passions, which are: making a home, mothering, and living in close connection to the seasons of the earth, to name a few.
- …feels deeply and is very empathetic, but can also become paralyzed by feeling too much when allowing the world’s pain to flood in without boundary Boundaries are not only helpful for Four’s, they are extremely important in developing self-love and maintaining inner wellbeing. This is why I believe it’s so important to take a step back every so often and reevaluate the boundaries and relationships in one’s life. I recently went through and unfollowed like 100 people on Instagram because I could feel my intuition telling me to slow down and decrease all that I was letting in. Four’s want to feel everything because it comes natural to them and therefore they are pretty good at it, but on the other hand, can be burdened by feeling so much to the point of emotional exhaustion. I have to be careful with how much information, especially from the media, I allow into my day. While some people are able to let media trickle int0 their day and use the world’s pain as fuel to do good and bring about change, some people need quiet healing to build strength to do that kind of work. Recognizing that we all process life very differently is how we can fold compassion to hard conversations, and therefore, build a more loving world.
- …find the arts, culture, beauty, and nature to be life-giving. I find contentment and hope in art, whether it be music, a painting, or a good book. These things are my best friends and they move me deeply. This is why they are all over our home – our sanctuary from the outside world that offers our family restoration and belonging.
- …have a difficult time separating their feelings from their thoughts. When I learned that my feelings are not the same as my thoughts (which is probably very obvious to you) my life completely changed. So many times I have let my feelings in the driver’s seat, regardless of whether they were under the influence of anxiety or depression. But when you learn to separate your thoughts and your feelings, you can begin to let those feelings pass much more easily. This is something I am working on.
- …live with the paradoxical need to be unique and different from everyone, yet understood and accepted. This one could not be more true for Four’s, and it’s often why we are misunderstood. It’s wanting our cake and eating it too, and can be perceived as self-absorbed and confusing to others. We want to be seen as different and special, yet we live with the need to belong. This can really mess with our sense of worth, and is why many Four’s have low self-esteem. We wonder why others are so confident and tend to ponder where they got it? We definitely do not like being lumped into groups or generalized by the masses, yet we fear abandonment, so naturally, this leaves many Four’s in a strange predicament of living in-between. Four’s care about what other’s think because it’s who they are. Some people can shake this and other’s can’t. This caring however can help them greatly if they harness this caring into helping others through empathy, and by not internalizing matters through self-sabotage. So my go-to when stuck on a loop of wanting to be seen and valued as me, yet wanting to be a part of something greater and belong, is to go out into my community and to get out of my head. Serving and helping others by using the gifts God gave me is I am able to break that damaging cycle of negative self-talk and inner chatter of worthlessness.
- …enjoys learning about typology because it helps them make meaning out of the actions of others so they can better connect. And lastly, this. We Four’s love this kind of stuff. Without sounding too nerdy, we feel alive when we are able to connect the dots of life and when something wonderful or joyful or beautiful is made out of meaning we’ve crafted with care. Some people go through life never caring what typology is, or how it affects them. Four’s are likely not those people. And that’s ok! In fact, that’s the beauty of typology – we all perceive life differently, and therefore we all bring a different perspective to life that the other types can learn and grow from. Below are some resources you can dive into if wanting to learn more about your type, Four or not!
Free Test | What is your Enneagram Type?
Podcast | Typology
Okay, where my Four’s at!? I am betting there are quite a few of you who frequent this space given that types tend to flock together. If you’re not a Four, what’s your typology? Do you enjoy learning about typology or the Enneagram? And if you care to share, how has it helped you on your journey to self-discovery and spiritual growth? I am going to be sharing more posts about this as I continue to learn, and would love to know what resources you have used to deepen your knowledge on this subject! With Care, Amanda