Which Enneagram Type is the rarest?
The Rarest Enneagram Type
What is the rarest enneagram type? The Aesthete, the Romantic, the Artiste: these are some of the titles bestowed upon the Four, the rarest Enneagram type. Fours have 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 as Martha Graham, Judy Garland, Prince and Sylvia Plath.
Let’s take a look first at a quick overview of Type Four, followed by what Enneagram Fours are like in relationships and what their gifts are. We’ll then go over the various elements that make up Fours and how to deal effectively and compassionately with them. We’ll finish with tips on how Type Fours can grow and develop.
Enneagram Type 4 Overview
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. The phrase “You are what you feel” was surely coined by a Four.
Michael Hampson 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 do make it. 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 all that 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 that contain 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.
Enneagram 4 in Relationships
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.
Gifts of Type 4
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.”
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.
The Building Blocks of Type 4
Let’s take a look now at different aspects at work in Type Four. If you need a refresher on what these terms mean, click on the linked words below.
Center: Heart/Feeling (the underlying emotion is shame)
Hornevian Group: Withdrawn
Harmonic Group: Emotional realness
Object Relation Group: Frustration
Like its sister Heart types, Two and Three, Type Fours process the world through their emotions. But Riso & Hudson are quick to point out that Heart types rarely make contact with their true hearts and instead “substitute all kinds of reactions for the power of real feelings.”
This group is concerned with image, and Type Four is concerned with its perceived failure to live up to a desired image. This is rooted in that sense of shame common to Heart types—not only “Something is wrong” but “I am wrong”—and reinforces that belief as Fours continually feel estranged from the world, themselves and the Beloved.
Separation from the Beloved (God) lies at the core of this type. Fours feel this loss more acutely than the other types, though it is subconscious and most are not aware that this is what’s going on. Fours experience a deep, persistent longing; they know that something has been lost but aren’t always clear on what it is or how to get it back. They just know that, for them, something is missing. Sandra Maitri describes it well; she says that Fours “remain loyal to the lost Beloved” in an attempt to stay connected to the Beloved.
This produces sorrow, but it’s usually got a quality of sweetness to it, like an old friend. Maitri refers to Type Four as Ego-Melancholy. Because Fours fear that they only exist if they feel something, they get caught up in a whirlpool of emotional highs and lows. The emotional realness Harmonic mechanism is at work here; Fours must express their feelings about an issue and know where you stand on it, too. They don’t want a static, soulless list of pros and cons to help them resolve conflict!
Fours are part of the Frustration group, as well. They are frustrated because they think that they are never able to get what they truly need, which ultimately goes back to the feeling of losing the Beloved and the fear of never being seen for who they truly are. This, in turn, causes Fours to be Withdrawn; they retreat into a romantic, idealized fantasy self because the self they perceive as real is hopelessly flawed.
So, shame creates frustration and a desire to withdraw from others and into an idealized self. Coming from the Heart/Feeling Center, Fours long for and demonstrate emotional realness in conflict situations as if their lives depend on it – because it feels like it does.
How to Deal with Enneagram Type 4
Now, don’t forget that all Types have beautiful, higher aspects to them. Scroll up if you need to be reminded and reassured of the Four’s gifts. I am grateful for the Fours in my life and hope that this post helps to dispel the notion that Fours are merely moody, purple-wearing, self-indulgent weirdos. Let’s work on discarding stereotypes so we can really see what’s going on with all people and have greater compassion.
With that in mind, let’s consider how to deal in a compassionate, healthy way with Type Four:
- Don’t discount their emotions: Fours are part of the Heart Center; they are feelers. They are likely to feel things more intensely than you – both sadness and joy. Rather than judging them for what you perceive to be their moodiness, try to step into their shoes for a moment and feel something with that same intensity, to its fullest extent. You may be surprised by what you find in that vulnerable, no-holds-barred heart space.
- Don’t expect them to “get over it”: Remember, Enneagram Fours are the rarest personality type; they are not like you. Things that you didn’t even notice might devastate their intuitive, Heart-centered selves. Instead, ask what specific thing hurt them and imagine how that thing would seem to a person who feels intensely and thinks there’s something inherently wrong with them. That should give your perspective.
- Tell them how you’re feeling: Fours aren’t the only ones who have emotions! They can get lost in their own feelings, but they can empathize enormously with yours, too.
- Appreciate their aesthetic bent: Fours can create beauty where none other would see it and often have a singular personal style. Pay attention to and express appreciation for their own artistic endeavors or those that they lead you to.
Enneagram 4 Self-Growth
All Types struggle with over-use of their personality’s patterns and tend to run on Enneagram autopilot. However, all Types can also learn strategies to overcome their autopilot setting. Here are ways Fours can experience personal growth:
- Learn to observe your emotions: You are not what you feel, but your emotions are important signposts to help you understand what’s going on beneath the surface. Cultivate the practice of observing your emotions rather than getting swept up by them. If you can observe something, that means it isn’t you. This will give you greater self-understanding and equilibrium.
- Get grounded: Fours typically have a hard time being in their bodies; they belong to the Heart Center but are right next door to the Head Center, so they get stuck in a thinking-feeling loop and leave out the body. Yoga, tai chi and other somatic practices will help you incorporate your body into your existence.
- Feed your soul: Make sure to regularly take part in the artistic endeavors that nourish you. Whether you are dancing, painting, sculpting, writing etc. or experiencing them, these forms of deep wisdom and truth with connect you with the creative life force that runs through you.
- Watch out for the “false message”: Riso & Hudson discuss in their phenomenal book The Wisdom of the Enneagram the “unconscious childhood messages” of each Type. For the Four, the message is “It’s not okay to be too functional or too happy.” This lie can cause Fours to self-sabotage when things are going well for them. When this idea flits across your mind, pay attention to it. Observe it, remind yourself that it’s not true and enjoy the happiness you find yourself in.
Finally, if you’d like to dive deeper into discovering you true self as part of your spiritual journey, I’ve created a four-part audio program and companion journal called “Know Yourself to Know God.” You can check it out here.
Quick Start Guide to Centering Prayer
This short guide gives you the essentials for learning to be still and quiet before God so you can hear his voice and feel his love in a deeper way.