Over the last quarter of a year, I’ve been doing an in depth study on the Enneagram. I started the Enneagram journey over three years ago when I was out spending time with my best friend in California, and she said, “I really want to know your Enneagram number.” Turns out, we’re the same number. This Enneagram journey has been a spiritual experience for me.
So what is the Enneagram? In short, it’s related to personality typing, but the system is so much more. It categorizes people into one of nine numbers based on things like their motivations and sin patterns. But it’s a fluid system, which is one of the coolest things about it. Each number has two wings—the two numbers on each side. And speaking in Christian spiritual terms, each number type goes to different numbers than their own: one in consolation (health) and a different one in desolation (stress). I’m really drawn to personality tests. Some family members roll their eyes and laugh about it like I should be ashamed or something, but I think the Enneagram can help us better understand why we and others do the things we do.
Where number goes to integration or health in direction of arrow; where number goes to disintegration or stress in opposite direction of arrow
It can take a very long time to determine your number for a number of reasons. You recoil at the descriptions, especially the number you probably are and think, “That number is definitely not me.” Or you think you are pretty much every number and think they all sound like you. I did both. It’s also difficult because you have to take into account the fact that you go to different numbers in stress and in health, and there is also a range of health (low and high sides) of each number.
It took me a while, but I figured out I’m a 4. I’m also heavy into 5, but I wouldn’t say I’m a 5. You could say I’m a 4 wing 5, but I like to say I’m a 4—5. Mainly, it was my husband who helped me figure out that I’m a 4. Fours are supposed to go to 1 (the perfectionist) in health, but I go to 1 in stress and in health. I can go to 2 in stress, but I have to be at a very unhealthy place to go there.
The numbers are divided into triads: 8’s, 9’s, and 1’s are the body triad; 2’s, 3’s, and 4’s are the heart triad; and 5’s, 6’s, and 7’s are the head triad. You’ve heard the term being a “feeler” right? Fours aren’t just feelers, they are their feelings as the Road Back to You podcast put it.
The characteristic things about Fours are that they most value depth, authenticity, and aesthetics. When I get myself out into the world, I can end up talking in parking lots or cars until wee hours of the morning. Go deep, or go home! I struggle with idle chit chat. I’ve found that my need for depth can bring things to the surface in others who aren’t ready for it, can’t handle it, or are unwilling to go there. As a Four, I sense that as rejection, but really it’s the other person unable or unwilling to bring her/himself to vulnerability. It’s not wrong, it just is what it is. I also struggle with superficial exchanges. I intuitively sense if someone is willing to go deep. I can also sense when someone is wearing a facade. If they’re not genuine, I don’t bother. They don’t need me. Life is too short. I’ve also learned that my world has to be rich in aesthetics or I struggle. I need to regularly be out in nature to absorb God’s beautiful world. I need art exposure—seeing and creating—and I particularly love the watercolor medium. I love listening to strings in acoustic or worship music. I love beauty.
The Road Back to You podcast described Fours as being the most complex number of the Enneagram. As a Four, I believe it. Fours are attune to what’s missing. Their deadly sin is Envy, and they struggle with comparison. I key in on whether or not I’m connected with people, and I feel disconnected all the time. I have almost always been on the outside looking in.
I remember the first week I moved into the athlete’s dorm at TCU. I met up with the other freshman swimmers, but I was across the hall from them and down one slot. My diver roommate wouldn’t arrive for a full semester because she was coming from Zimbabwe. I told my teammates to come get me before they walked over to the Main for dinner, and they never showed up. I eventually went and knocked on their suite doors. They were gone. I went down the hall to a window and saw them walking away without me. I was devastated. I’m pretty sure I ran out and caught up with them, but that took some courage. As a Four, I automatically felt rejected.
I was offered a small scholarship to the University of Kansas for swimming—which I’d wanted to go to my whole life except for the last two years of high school—so it was a real honor. But I turned it down because I’d heard the coach was a real jerk. Instead, I walked on to the swim team at TCU and earned a scholarship after my freshman year. I couldn’t keep up in workouts, but I was competitive at races. I was an anomaly, and I knew it. I think I always had that feeling of being less than. I still feel rejected when it comes to my former teammates. Fours dwell on their relationship with people and how they are lacking. This can lead to envy and shame. My Fourness explains a lot.
As I mentioned, I also fit heavily into the Five category. Fives are knowledge-based, head people. I’ve operated from the head most of my life, so some people—myself included once upon a time—find it hard to believe I’m more of a heart than a head person. I love knowledge. I sometimes get upset thinking of all the books I’ll never read and the knowledge I’ll never have before I die. I also heavily identify with Five’s deadly sin: Avarice. This is a hoarding of things like space and time. In me, I call it selfishness, but I’ve also realized that even though I’m selfish with my time, I just need more downtime and more alone time. I enjoy it. It’s who I am, but it can be sinful. I can be very social, but oftentimes, my husband has to get me out of the house to be social. So mixing this with my Fourness, I can feel very lacking.
What’s the point of this post? It’s really to ask if there are any Four’s out there with whom I can talk deep stuff. I crave this, and I haven’t met many people who are willing or have the desire to go deep. For my mental health, I need to find those of you whom I can spend time with who are like me and want to contemplate the philosophical, theological, and mystical questions of the world. It seems to always be about identity with Four’s, and it can be a lonely world for us.