Which Enneagram Type is the rarest?

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.

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28 Comments

  1. Tracy Kendall on July 5, 2020 at 10:07 pm

    Really needed to hear this, thank you dear! I so appreciate you taking the time to delve into the world I live it and bring some light and understanding to it.



  2. hhavlick on July 7, 2020 at 1:20 pm

    You’re so welcome, Tracy! And thanks for reading. So glad it resonated.



  3. Peter Curry on July 31, 2020 at 11:19 am

    Introduced to Enneagram 50 years ago by Don Riso. Didn’t do much. Now I’m delighted it has returned at 72. Sorry Don isn’t here to participate in this personal turn around for me He had faults, as most of us. But brought much to our world.



  4. hhavlick on July 31, 2020 at 1:13 pm

    Thanks for reaching out, Peter. I never had the privilege of meeting him, but I am a Riso-Hudson Certified Enneagram teacher, which means I studied with Russ Hudson. He is a great teacher and a neat person. I hope you’ll continue to find great benefit in the Enneagram as you go through your personal turnaround.



  5. Karen on September 11, 2020 at 6:23 am

    As a Type 4, these were good words to hear. Thank-you.



  6. hhavlick on September 13, 2020 at 7:11 pm

    You’re so welcome, Karen. I really appreciate getting feedback and especially glad that this post encouraged you. That makes my day!



  7. Matthew on September 13, 2020 at 9:31 pm

    Oh my gosh thank you! I’m a 4!!! I have the book The Road Back to You and that has helped me tremendously. I’m so glad I came across this! I can let out sighs of relief when people understand. 🙂



  8. hhavlick on September 14, 2020 at 7:14 pm

    I’m so glad you came across it, too! And thanks for leaving a comment; I do this because I want us all to grow and be our truest selves. 🙂



  9. AJ on September 14, 2020 at 9:05 pm

    I’m a four and this has been so helpful. I am so thankful to know that Isaiah was a 4. Before I knew anything about enneagram, I had “Send Me” tattooed on heels. I love that this is a healthy response of a 4 to be sent into His World with His Message. So amazing.



  10. hhavlick on September 14, 2020 at 10:26 pm

    So glad to hear it, AJ! And what a great story about your tattoo. Yes, go out into the world in the way only you can. 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to comment; it means so much to me!



  11. E.L.F on October 11, 2020 at 2:20 pm

    Thanks a lot, it feels nice to hear somebody can understand me without knowing me but also have their own view points on it! Great read



  12. hhavlick on October 11, 2020 at 4:52 pm

    Thanks so much for your comment! I’m glad you felt understood & I’m always grateful for feedback.



  13. Vanessa on December 8, 2020 at 11:08 am

    Wow this is amazing! I’m working with a therapist and she suggested I do the test because she is a 4 and knew I was one also! This hits the nail on the head for me!



  14. hhavlick on December 8, 2020 at 5:58 pm

    I’m so glad to hear it, Vanessa! The Enneagram is an amazing tool for understanding the self and others. Blessings on your journey.



  15. Marielle on December 14, 2020 at 8:45 pm

    It’s nice to know who am I for real. Right now I am having a mental breakdown due to my relationships with my family. I would always feel like no one would really understands me and I am always bitter about everything. To be honest I am crying while reading this because it accurately define myself. And seeing this was an eye awakening for me. Thank you! now I can understand my emotions better than the way before.



  16. hhavlick on December 14, 2020 at 10:01 pm

    I’m sorry for your pain, Marielle, but so glad you found this information. Fours have such deep and beautiful hearts that things can affect them much more strongly than other types. You are rare, and you are beautiful. I hope you will continue to learn about Type Four and the whole Enneagram model; there is tremendous peace and freedom to be had.



  17. Vicki Harris on January 24, 2021 at 8:38 am

    Thank You so much for this! Knowing the type 4 is rare explains a lot for me. I would love to know if there is a book to help type 4’s live at our healthiest.



  18. hhavlick on January 24, 2021 at 5:20 pm

    Hi, Vicki – thanks for your comment. I don’t know of a book specifically for Type 4, but I always recommend “The Wisdom of the Enneagram” by Riso & Hudson. There’s a great, long chapter for each Type and other great information that’s applicable for all types. Hope that helps!



  19. Senia on January 29, 2021 at 11:43 am

    Hello, you mentioned “Scroll up if you need to be reminded and reassured of the Four’s gifts.” Where?! Lol I hardly seen any mention of gifts except that at our best we can be creative. That’s everybody in the world. From the beginning to the end of this, I felt terrible. I barely see anything positive in what was written. I read it twice wondering if I missed anything and I feel the same.
    Also, You stating that 4 personality is absolutely devastating, saying that it’s actually rare is just reinforcing the fake and deluded belief that we’re different ,misunderstood, and have no chance at a real meaningful life. Reading all of this makes me feel worse. I didn’t feel that bad about myself to begin with but I absolutely do now.



  20. hhavlick on January 29, 2021 at 7:27 pm

    Hi there – it’s never my intention to make anyone feel bad. The blog posts are meant as a short introduction to each type, and the focus is on the average to lower range of experience, because that’s where most people are. If you read the other comments in this post, you’ll see that other readers had very different, positive reactions. I write these posts to help people get a better understanding of their type so they can become aware and present. Awareness and presence are what transforms us, and we all need transformation. Nowhere did I suggest that Fours can’t have a meaningful life. That has to do with a person’s Level of Development, not their type. I recommend the excellent book, “The Wisdom of the Enneagram.” It has an in-depth section on each type as well as on the Levels of Development.



  21. steve daugherty on March 27, 2021 at 3:03 pm

    Hi Heath. Four here. Great stuff.
    In my years of study, I have still never come across a clear teaching on the self-sabotaging of a Four’s “It’s not okay to be too functional or too happy” and how this a) plays out and b) how it’s picked up in our early years. Any recommendations.
    Also, per more recent negative comments…Yoda warns that one only finds in the cave what one takes with them. I think your content was helpful.



  22. hhavlick on April 1, 2021 at 6:53 pm

    Hi, Steve, and forgive me for the slow response! Lots going on here. And you’ve won me over with your reference to Yoda! One of my faves.

    Well, you raise a good question about the Four’s false message. I’m thinking that this message stems from the Four’s need to be original and to experience life through their feelings. If they’re too functional, that’s probably interpreted as average, boring, lacking in creativity OR in the ability to see the pain behind the scenes. I think that’s also why it’s not okay to feel too happy; it’s like, “Don’t you realize the deep pain all around you? Don’t you see what’s really going on?” Though Fours are capable of experiencing extreme joy as well as extreme sorrow, it seems like the former is looked down on by Fours if it’s sustained because it seems shallow and “common.”

    Also, in my Riso-Hudson training, a teacher spoke of the Four getting addicted to dipping into past painful memories. It’s a way to feel something, because Fours fear that they don’t/won’t really exist unless they’re feeling something all the time; their Feeling Center is overly dominant. “You are what you feel.”

    I hope that makes sense! I also often find helpful insights in the book “Personality Types” by Riso & Hudson. Thanks again for your comment; I especially appreciate your encouragement about those negative comments. 🙂



  23. Holly on May 7, 2021 at 8:25 pm

    Hi there! I’m a 4 too and this was profoundly relatable for me. I have two adult children. My daughter is 29 and she tested as 4 and we are very close, and I would agree she is a four. My son is 25 and he also scored as a four and I can see that to be accurate for him as well! If fours are rare it must be really rare to have myself and both of them, all be fours. Can you tell me what causes someone to become a four? I had early childhood trauma and so did my son. Or could it be that I imprinted on them strongly by spending so much quality time together? I really don’t think we are mistaken in our findings.



  24. hhavlick on May 9, 2021 at 1:33 pm

    Wow – if this is true, that IS quite rare! But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. My mom and I are both Self-Pres 7w6s, for instance (though I have three other siblings who aren’t). While it’s not possible to say definitively when and how our personalities are formed, the Riso-Hudson thinking on this topic is that we’re born with our personality type already wired into our brains. Nurture is what determines our Level of Development (awareness and emotional health).



  25. Lanning Taliaferro on May 16, 2021 at 4:24 am

    I’m a 4w5 and I am wondering if you could point me to any teachings about 4s and crying (I’m a watering can and have been since childhood). From what I can detect it happens whenever I feel vulnerable, and that isn’t limited to loss and sadness but also to frustration, anger, problems: dealing with the counter agent after a missed flight, a disagreement with the insurance company, getting a less than stellar employee evaluation, singing a hymn where the last verse is about aging and dying… BTW I appreciated your description.



  26. A person on May 17, 2021 at 5:28 pm

    this is amazing its almost scary how accurate this is



  27. hhavlick on May 17, 2021 at 5:52 pm

    Hi, Lanning – I wish I did have such specific resources for you! I’ve found that Riso & Hudson’s books, “The Wisdom of the Enneagram” and “Personality Types” have deep information on each type. So, perhaps you could piece together an understanding of why you cry in a number of scenarios. It may be idiosyncratic to you or a wider Four issue; I just don’t know. Thank you for your comment and I’m glad you appreciated this description.



  28. hhavlick on May 17, 2021 at 5:52 pm

    This is how you know the Enneagram is real!



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