Enneagram Type Four: Feeling is Being


Lord Byron and some of the other Romantic poets may have been Type Fours.

I read an interview with Taylor Swift in which she said, “You are what you feel.” That statement, coupled with her notorious relationship woes and her ability to turn personal experience into relatable hit songs, makes me fairly certain that Taylor is an Enneagram Type Four.

The Aesthete, the Romantic, the Artiste: these are some of the titles bestowed upon the Four, a personality highly attuned to the beauty around them and to their own emotions. Most are artistically gifted, and even if they don’t make a living from the arts, they are involved in them somehow. Fours help the rest of us see and experience beauty, often where we would not normally see it. The world has been blessed by the gifts of Fours such a Martha Graham, Judy Garland, Prince, Sylvia Plath and Johnny Depp.

The Four is a Heart Type. If you’ll recall from our explorations of Types Two and Three, the primary emotion underlying the Heart Center is shame. The particular version of shame that Fours carry around is the idea that they are not seen for who they are, that they have no personal significance or identity. As a result, they seek to create an identity out of their inner experience. Hence the idea that “you are what you feel” as Ms. Swift said.

Michael Hamson writes in his book, Head Versus Heart and Our Gut Reactions, “Four is very conscious of the inner life, and that inner life—rather than the outside world—is Four’s natural home. The story of Four meeting the world is the story of Four’s inner life seeking to engage with the outside world from which it feels distant and separate.” Fours feel different, sometimes like they are on the wrong planet. They feel like they are missing something that other people have, and that is the basis of the Four passion, envy. They feel like everyone else’s lives are easier.

In one sense, that may be true. While each Type has its troubles, Fours struggle with a negative self-image – the idea that they are inherently flawed; there is just something wrong with them that can’t be fixed. Living under that kind of emotional burden, particularly for one who thinks that you are what you feel, can be devastating. As one of my dear Four friends pointed out, “A lot of Fours don’t make it.” Life just becomes too painful to continue. Judy Garland and Sylvia Plath didn’t make it.

But the others in the list above did. Again, many factors contribute to each individual’s emotional health and inner fortitude. Once Fours arrive at a healthier emotional state, they are able to process and endure emotional and physical suffering that would destroy many of us. Riso & Hudson call them “the deep-sea divers of the psyche”; they aren’t afraid to go deep and see and feel what they find there.

The flip side of that, however, is that Fours can become mired in their memories and feelings. Since you are what you feel, if you aren’t feeling something—good or bad—you don’t exist. So Fours must continually drum up emotion however they can, and they will often draw on past experiences with a strong emotional charge. These experiences are often negative, causing many Fours to become attached to suffering and to a sense of longing for what was lost or what could have been.

This can wreak havoc on personal relationships. Fours have a rich fantasy life and tend to idealize romantic partners initially. They want to be seen for who they truly are. However, as soon as that partner disappoints, the Four can turn on an emotional dime and despise or resent the person for not meeting their idealized standards. With plenty of highs and lows in play, Fours are often thought of as temperamental. The romantic partner is never sure where he or she stands – and neither is the Four! Understandably, this can make romance, friendship and family relationships difficult, furthering the Four’s sense of alienation.

When Fours are emotionally healthy, they are able to relax out of the equation that feelings equal identity. They can still dive deep into the human experience, and what they bring back for the rest of us is a universal truth, profoundly and beautifully expressed. The poet/prophet Isaiah was a Four, for example. Do you know that the majority of the book of Isaiah was written as poetry? Long before I knew he was a Four, he touched my poet’s heart with his memorable words and images. From Isaiah we receive the mysterious, compelling vision of the six-winged seraphim. From him we get the phrase “I am a man of unclean lips.”

As I write this, I wonder if the seraph cleansing Isaiah’s lips with a coal could be a metaphor of the Four being set free of their perceived wrongness, followed by the healthy response of “Here I am. Send me!” The healthy, free Four willingly goes out into the world with a message of needed truth.

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  1. connectdd on September 4, 2014 at 3:05 am

    As a person with a big Four wing, I can ‘feel the truth’ of much of this. 🙂
    Esp. when I am the only one in the class, family, work team or gathering that wants to go deeper it is easy to feel there is something wrong with me rather than know I bring some things that might otherwise be missed. Thanks for the holy reminder.

  2. […] have beautiful aspects to them. After all, who doesn’t love at least one Johnny Depp movie? Read here for an earlier post I wrote that includes the Four’s gifts. In this post, I’m just trying to […]

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