Overview of Type Four
In the artist of all kinds I think one can detect an inherent dilemma, which belongs to the co-existence of two trends, the urgent need to communicate and the still more urgent need not to be found....
What more fruitful way to redressing the balance than by portraying one's inner world in a work of art and then persuading other people to accept it, if not as real, at least as highly significant? Part of the satisfaction which a creative person obtains from his achievement may be the feeling that, at last, some part of his inner life is being accepted which has never been accorded recognition before. Moreover, since art became an individual matter rather than a task for anonymous craftsmen, creative work is generally recognized as being especially apt for expressing the personal style of an individual (which is of course closely related to his inner world). The value we place upon authenticity is often exaggerated; yet there is a sense in which it is justified. However good a painting or a piece of music may be, taken quite apart from its creator, the fact that it is or is not another expression of the personality of a particular artist is important. For it either is or is not an addition to our knowledge of that artist; a further revelation of that mysterious, indefinable and fascinating thing—his personality. (D. W. Winnicott, quoted in Anthony Storr, The Dynamics of Creation, 58.)
The nature of creativity will probably always remain mysterious because its basis is irrational—in the feelings and unconscious of those who create—and because, as Winnicott notes, part of the motive for creating is to remain concealed, to be unfound by others. Yet the motives given for artistic work—to communicate and to conceal the self—are but two possible motives which any person may have for creating. These two motives are, however, particularly appropriate to the Four, the artistic temperament among the personality types. Of course, members of any other personality type can become artists in the sense of making a livelihood by producing works of art, however that is defined. Fours, however, are in search of their identities, and art is the foremost means they have of finding themselves, as well as their way of reporting to the world what they have discovered.
In the Feeling Center
The Four is the personality type which emphasizes the subjective world of feelings, in creativity and individualism, in introversion and self-absorption, and in self-torment and self-hatred. In this personality type we see creative artists, romantic aesthetes, and withdrawn dreamers, people with powerful feelings who feel different from others because self-consciousness blocks them from getting outside themselves.
Fours are the most self-aware of the types, and this is the basis of what is most positive and negative about them. The constant conflict we see in Fours is between their need to be aware of themselves, so they can find themselves, and, at the same time, their need to move beyond self-awareness, so they will not be trapped in self-consciousness. The tension between self-awareness and self-transcendence can be resolved in creativity. In the creative moment, healthy Fours harness their emotions without constricting them, not only producing something beautiful but discovering who they are. In the moment of inspiration, they are, paradoxically both most themselves and most liberated from themselves. This is why all forms of creativity are so valued by Fours, and why in its inspired state, creativity is so hard to sustain. Fours can be inspired only if they have first transcended themselves, something which is extremely threatening to their self-awareness. In a sense, then, only by learning not to look for themselves will they find themselves and renew themselves in the process.
The problem with average Fours, however, is that they try to understand themselves by introspecting upon their feelings. As they move inward in a search for self, they become so acutely self-conscious that their subjective emotional states become the dominant reality for them. And, because even average Fours are so involved with their emotions, they do not usually express their feelings directly. Instead, they communicate their feelings indirectly though art, if they have they talent and training to do so.
The overall direction of their personalities therefore is inward, toward increasing self-absorption, because Fours feel that they are different from other people, and they want to know why they feel this way. Ironically, however, they try to find their place in life by withdrawing from it so they can trace the labyrinth of their emotions. But the result of their withdrawal is that even average Fours have noticeable difficulties coping with life, while unhealthy Fours have some of the most severe emotional difficulties of all the personality types.
Fours tend to compound their emotional difficulties in some striking ways. Because Fours have identified themselves with their feelings, they begin to look for intensity of feeling in all of their activities. The more intensely they feel something the more real they feel. Thus, average Fours begin to employ their imaginations to "stir up" their emotional life. They can take even the most transitory encounter and dwell on it for hours to extract all of its "emotional juice." The problem is that it becomes difficult for Fours to dwell deeply in their moods and fantasies if they are still interacting with others. Their feeling states and self-image become rarefied to a degree that reality will not support. Increasingly, they begin to withdraw from life and real relationships and experiences, both to prevent others from interfering with their strong reveries and moods, and to avoid potential embarrassment and humiliation. As they draw the curtains and turn away from life, however, they cut themselves off from the wellspring of their feelings and their creativity—participation in the world.
In healthy Fours, however, the rich life of the unconscious becomes accessible and is given shape. More than any other personality type, healthy Fours are the bridge between the spiritual and the animal in human nature because they are so aware of these two sides of themselves. They sense in themselves the depths to which human beings can descend, as well as the heights to which they can be swept up. No other personality type is as habitually aware of the potentials and predicaments of human nature: human beings are spiritual animals occupying an uneasy place between two orders of existence. Fours sense both sides of their potentially conflicting natures, and they suffer intensely or are ecstatic because of them. This is why, at their best, healthy Fours create something which can move others deeply because they have been able to get in touch with the hidden depths of human nature by delving deeply into their own. By doing so, they transcend themselves, and are able to discover something universal about human nature, fusing personal conflicts and divergent feelings into art.
But, like everyone else, most Fours do not live at the peak of their potential. In response to anxiety, they turn inward, becoming self-conscious, particularly about the negativity they discover in themselves. To offset their negative feelings, they use their imaginations to make their lives more bearable. As a result, average Fours begin to withdraw from ordinary life. They become self-absorbed and do not learn how to relate to people or how to manage in the practical world. They feel like outsiders, somehow flawed and different from others, unable to break through the barrier of self-consciousness that separates them from easy commerce with the world.
And if they are unhealthy, their negative feelings feed upon themselves because Fours have closed themselves off from any other influences. Unhealthy Fours are so completely alienated from others, and ironically, even from themselves, that they despair of ever finding a way out of their excruciating self-consciousness. They realize that their search for self has led them into a world of useless fantasies and illusions. Understanding only too clearly what they have done to themselves, and fearing that it is too late to do anything about it, unhealthy Fours hate and torment themselves, turning against themselves to destroy what they have become.
Problems with Identity
Fours find it difficult to transcend self-consciousness because just the reverse is what they want: to become more conscious of their states and feelings so that they can find themselves and arrive at a firm sense of identity. But as they become more self-conscious, Fours become increasingly drawn into unresolved, contradictory, and irrational feelings which they want to sort out before they dare express them.
Self-discovery is an extremely important motive for Fours because they never feel that their sense of self is strong enough to sustain their identities, particularly if they need to assert themselves. Because their feelings change so readily, their sense of identity is not solid, dependable, in their own hands. They feel undefined and uncertain of themselves, as if they were a gathering cloud which may produce something of great power or merely dissipate in the next breeze. Fours can never tell how the next moment will affect them, so it is difficult for them to count on themselves. Something is missing in the self, something they cannot quite put their fingers on, but which they feel they lack nonetheless.
The difficulty is that average Fours may not know what their feelings are until after they have expressed them personally or artistically. But if they express all that they feel, they fear that they may reveal too much, exposing themselves to shame or punishment. On the other hand, by not expressing their feelings, average Fours undermine the possibility of discovering themselves by getting caught in endless self-absorption. They become aware of being aware of themselves—their consciousness is filled with little more than fantasies and memories, ultimately leading to illusions, regrets, and a wasted life.
As Fours become more fearful that they cannot find a solid identity in themselves, they begin to create one out of whatever random tendencies they find. Thus, matters of taste, likes and dislikes, and emotional reactions become the materials which Fours use to construct an identity. Because their sense of self is so tenuous, however, Fours begin to put a great deal of weight on what would be for others relatively unimportant traits. ("I only wear black." "I listen to Puccini, but never Wagner.") It is important to note that most of these personal traits function by negation. Fours may not know who they are, but they certainly believe they know who they are not. While these idiosyncrasies can be fairly harmless in and of themselves, as Fours increasingly depend on them to figure out who they are, they begin to paint themselves into a corner. In the interest of maintain a narrowly defined self-image, Fours may refuse to engage in many basic activities necessary to live their lives. ("Poets don’t work in an office.")
As we have seen in the other types of the Feeling Center, the Two and the Three, much of the Four’s energy goes into maintaining a consistent self-image which is somehow at odds with the real, essential self. Twos did this by looking for others to respond to their goodness in ways that would make them feel lovable. Threes kept their self-image intact by getting validation for their achievements and giving themselves inner "pep talks." Fours do something akin to the inner talk of the Threes in that they maintain the sense of identity through a continuous inner dialogue and referencing of their emotional reactions. Of course, Fours want someone to validate their self-images, too, but they are less dependent on the affirmation of others than Twos or Threes. In fact, much of their identity is tied to their feelings about not having the affirmation of others. Feeling different and misunderstood is as central to the Four’s false self-image as being only good and loving is to the Two’s or being a totally competent "winner" is to the Three’s.
Fours are disconnected from both parents. As children, they did not identify with either their mothers or their fathers. ("I am not like my mother; I am not like my father.") They may have had either unhappy or solitary childhoods as a result of their parents' marital problems, divorce, illness, or simply because of personality conflicts within the family. In some cases, Fours may have had relatively "normal," uneventful childhoods. Nonetheless, even with a supportive environment, they did not see themselves reflected in either parent: they felt that their parents did not see them as they actually were or that what their parents conveyed to them was somehow irrelevant. Lacking definitive role models, Fours as children turned inward to their feelings and imaginations as the primary sources of information about themselves from which they could construct their identities.
From childhood, Fours felt essentially alone in life. It seemed to them that, for some reason they could not understand, their parents had rejected them, or at least, that their parents did not take much interest in them. Fours therefore felt that there must be something deeply wrong with them, that they were somehow defective because their parents did not give them the kind of nurturing attention which, as children, they needed. As a result, they turned to themselves to discover who they are.
Self-knowledge became their most important goal, the means by which they hoped to fit into the world. Fours felt that if they could discover who they are, they would not feel so different from others in the deep, essential way that they do. However, instead of creating themselves through introspection, Fours ironically become trapped in self-consciousness. Their self-consciousness alienates them, making them feel vulnerable and arouses their aggressions at themselves and others, particularly their parents. But because they also feel powerless to express their aggressions or to do anything about their condition, they withdraw from their parents and from others, turning their aggressions mostly against themselves.
Because the formative relationship with their parents was primarily one of disconnection, Fours also begin to develop a sense of ego identity based on their difference from others. There were few qualities in their parents that they identified with, so Fours began to inventory all the things that they were not—all of the ways in which they were unlike the people around them. Eventually, this sense of difference becomes a strongly developed and defended part of their self-image and many Fours have difficulty seeing the many ways in which they are like everyone else. To be "ordinary" becomes a frightening prospect, since a sense of "being unique" feels like one of the only stable building blocks of their identity.
Their disconnect from their parents also produces a longing for the "good parent"—the person who will see them as they truly are and validate the self they are trying to construct. Fours usually experience this as a longing for an ideal mate or partner. They will often project this role onto new acquaintances, idealizing them and fantasizing about the wonderful life they will have together. Unfortunately, as Fours get to know the person better, they become disenchanted, realizing that the other is not the "good parent" who will rescue them from all their problems. He or she is just another human being with flaws and shortcomings. The other’s "blemishes" soon become the focus of the Four’s attention, and they lose interest in the person. Before long they are back to their search and fantasizing again, but generally with less hope of finding the person "of their dreams."
Problems with Hostility and Despair
Like Twos and Threes, the other two personality types of the Feeling Center, Fours have a problem with hostility. They direct their hostility at themselves because like the Twos and Threes, Fours have rejected their real self in favor of an idealized self-image. However, because of their self-awareness, Fours are always becoming conscious of all of the ways in which they are not like their idealized self. They come to disdain many of their real qualities which they see as barriers to becoming the self of their imagination. Angry with themselves for being defective, Fours inhibit and punish themselves in the many ways which we will see.
Of course, Fours also experience hostility toward others. They can become enraged if others question or dismiss their self-image or moods, but they tend to express this by "dropping" people, suddenly and without explanation. The creativity of Fours can also be employed in sarcastic, withering remarks directed at those who have wounded their "sensitivities." Fours also can experience intense hostility at the very people they have idealized. When others fail to live up to Fours’ hopes of the "good parent," they may relive the original pain they felt at not being able to connect with their parents, but project this onto the new love interest. They may dramatically express the rage and emotionality that they could not with their own parents, but usually withdraw quickly before the intensity of their feelings overwhelms them or does further damage to their relationships. More often, Fours will simmer and seethe in silence.
On a deep, unconscious level Fours are hostile toward their parents because they feel that their parents did not nurture them properly. Fours feel that they were not welcomed into the world; they feel out of place, unwanted—and they are deeply enraged at their parents for doing this to them. However, their rage at their parents is so deep that Fours cannot allow themselves to express it. They fear their own anger, and so withhold it, trying to come to terms with it themselves.
As awareness of their hostility and negative feelings gradually wears them out, average to unhealthy Fours sink ever more deeply into self-doubt, depression, and despair. They spend most of their time searching for the courage to go on living despite the overwhelming sense that the essential flaw in themselves is so deep that it cannot be healed. Indeed, the feeling of hopelessness is the current against which they must constantly swim. And if the undertow of hopelessness is too strong, unhealthy Fours either succumb to an emotional breakdown, or commit suicide because they despair of ever breaking free of it.
As soon as Fours devote themselves to a search for self by withdrawing from life, they are going in the wrong direction. No matter how necessary this search may seem to them, they must become convinced that the direct search for self is a temptation which eventually leads to despair.
On the other hand, what makes healthy Fours healthy is not that they have freed themselves once and for all from the turbulence of their emotions, but that they have found a way to ride that current to some further destination. Healthy Fours have learned to sustain their identities without exclusive reference to their feelings. By overcoming the temptation to withdraw from life to search for themselves, they will not only save themselves from their own destructiveness, they will be able to bring something beautiful and good into existence. If they learn to live this way, Fours can be among the most life-enhancing of the personality types bringing good out of evil, hope from hopelessness, meaning from absurdity, and saving what appeared to be lost.
(from Personality Types, p. 135-143)
The Enneagram Institute is a Service Mark of Enneagram Personality Types, Inc.
All Images, Content and Layout Copyright The Enneagram Institute 1998-2013.
[Home] [Back to Top] [Free RHETI Sampler] [Free QUEST Test] [Full RHETI Enneagram Test] [QUEST–TAS Test] [IVQ Instincts Test] [The Enn. Cards–Sorts] [Interpreting Test Results] [Type Descriptions] [How the System Works] [Levels of Development] [The Traditional Enneagram] [Practical Applications] [Relationships—Type Combinations] [Personal Growth] [Enneagram & Spirituality] [Addictions & Type] [Business Resources] [Enneagram FAQs] [Articles & Interviews] [Discussion Board] [Free EnneaFeatures Viewer Download] [Free RHETI Sampler Download] [Free Materials] [Books & Resources] [Schedule] [Training Program] [Workshops] [Private Consultations] [About The Institute] [Institute Network] [Teachers & Referral Listing] [Guestbook] [Contact The Institute]