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The biggest area of growth for an Enneagram Type 4 is probably our ever-changing feelings.
We Fours tend to pay too much attention to how we feel.
Even though understanding our emotions can help us understand why we act and behave a certain way, we have to be careful not to over-identify with our emotions and use them to define our sense of self.
We are not our emotions.
We feel intensely but we are not our emotions. Our emotions only show us how we feel at a particular moment. They change all the time. Fours who keep searching for themselves in their feelings will find themselves being dragged along by their emotions, experiencing constant emotional high and low but without any form of stability.
Alternatively, we might get too stuck in one particular emotion, usually melancholy, for a pretty long time.
The virtue of type 4 is equanimity. What Fours need to learn is how to maintain a sense of calmness without being affected by our overwhelming emotions. This also includes not being affected by seemingly positive emotions such as excitement, pride, and infatuation. If we remain mindful enough, we can draw great insights from our hearts.
Enneagram Type 4 Growth: Cultivating Equanimity
As an INFJ Type 4, I do a lot of self-reflection and I encourage other Fours to do the same. The same emotion that caused us to feel misunderstood, unloved, and hurt can be a gift not just to ourselves, but to the world.
Type 4 is like a diver. We have access to emotional depth. But we need to be clear about our intention for diving into the deep sea. The purpose of introspection is so that we can come back up with treasure and share it with the rest of the world through our creativity. We are not meant to stay in the sea forever. We live on the land, not in the sea.
Many times, when we are not careful enough, we get so hung up with the stories from our past and self-analysis that we forget our purpose of going deep and end up drowning ourselves in the process.
The purpose of diving deep is to come back up with insights.
It’s not for us to indulge in our emotions.
That’s not to say we don’t pay any attention to our emotions. The ability to feel deeply is our gift. Plus, suppressing our emotions isn’t good. But we have to be careful not to dig too deep when we couldn’t find an answer to our questions because we might just lose ourselves in the process.
If you don’t get your answer the first time, go back down multiple times. Come back up and get some air before going down again. You don’t have to figure it out all at once. The more you practice equanimity, the better you get at it.
The Direction of Disintegration (Stress): From Type 4 to Type 2
Apart from cultivating equanimity, there are two points in the Enneagram that are closely related to the Four. They are point Two and point One. For a Four, point Two is the stress point (direction of disintegration), while point One is the growth point (direction of integration).
Let’s look at our stress point first.
In Enneagram, Type 2 is the helper. When they are healthy and at their best, they are empathetic, caring, and generous. Unfortunately, Fours tend to adopt the unhealthy aspects of Type 2 when we move toward the Two. We might people-please or become over-involved in other people’s business.
Helping others when you are stressed vs
feeling stressed after helping others.
There are two scenarios when Fours move toward Type 2 negatively. The first scenario is internal. When we are under some stress, we start to help others more than we normally do. The second scenario is more externally-driven. It’s the stress we experience after we help others or the thought of helping others make us feel stressed.
Let’s look at each scenario separately.
Scenario #1: Why Type 4 Becomes Over-Involved and Clingy?
As an INFJ, I enjoy helping people. But I’m also aware that sometimes there is this hidden desire to satisfy my own needs of feeling needed, approved, and acknowledged by others.
It’s not always easy to spot your ego’s hidden motive. Usually, I have a good sense of the motive only in hindsight. If after helping someone, I feel insecure or worried when the person didn’t respond the way I expected them to, then I know that I was seeking approval. What I will do is to stop, work on my insecurity, and wait for it to subside first. I will only act again when I feel connected with the compassion within me.
Helping others from a place of insecurity makes you clingy.
Unfortunately, in my early 20s, I wasn’t that aware of my insecurity. Sometimes, I find myself being too clingy and possessive. Trying to help others when others don’t want to be helped. Fours often believe that there is something wrong with them. When we feel uncertain in our relationships, we want to know how the other person feels about us. So we do that unconsciously by helping others and getting their affirmations.
The problem is when we don’t get the response that we expected, we start to overthink: Did I say or do something wrong? Why did the person react so coldly? Is he or she angry with me? This makes us more insecure about our relationship and so we help the other person even more and become more intrusive to get the approval we need.
It’s a vicious cycle and this can turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. We ended up being rejected by others which fulfills our beliefs that we are fundamentally flawed and not likable.
Scenario #2: When Helping Others Makes You Feel Apathetic and Ashamed
Of course, when I mention “helping others” here, I don’t mean simple gestures such as holding the lift doors for others. Fours don’t have a problem with that. For an INFJ Type 4 or a 4w5, helping others usually, come in the form of giving others advice.
Months ago, I wanted to share my insights with a friend in the form of a letter. I was torn at first. But after a few days of going back and forth, I decided to write him the letter. However, after the decision was made, I noticed my body started trembling for no reason, especially my left hand. So I asked my inner child what’s wrong and it told me: I beg you. Don’t do this to me. I would not be able to take it if it doesn’t go well.
Where does this irrational fear come from?
I was taken aback. I always knew that I experience some internal conflict when it comes to helping others and offering advice. But I didn’t realize that I had so much fear around it! What’s more interesting is I noticed that after I gave the letter to my friend, I wanted to disappear and hide immediately as though I did something wrong.
Helping others is supposed to be a good thing. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Why is there a part of me that is so against helping others? I started to investigate my fear and over a period of two months, I received several insights.
Don’t Close Your Heart for Others
One of the main contributors to my fear I realize is my past interactions with my mom. Similar to an unhealthy Two, my mom is over-generous to the point that she doesn’t take care of her own needs. Since I was a teen, I had been trying to get my mom to see that her needs are important too and find ways to help her. But she often ignored my advice.
Yet, she kept coming to me with her problems. After hearing her complaints about my dad and her situation for years, one day I suggested: Why don’t you share your problem with dad and let him know how you feel? What didn’t I anticipate was her huge reaction: You want your dad and I to divorce?
Later, I stopped helping her with her problems and became apathetic to her situation. But changing from “caring deeply for someone” to “I don’t care about the person anymore” really hurts the Fours because the Fours don’t wish to be emotionally cut off from others. It took me quite a while to find a balance and to learn how to care for my mom again without wanting to fix her problems.
You don’t have to pretend to be aloof anymore.
Recalling this incident helps me empathize with my inner child. As an adult, I could understand that my mom reacted in a fit of anger. There is no need to take it personally. But as a teen, I was deeply hurt. I had been nothing but well-intention. Not only was my advice unappreciated, but it was also misconstrued as though I was a bad child, trying to break up my parents.
Now, I realize why growing up I often have to pretend to be aloof, withdrawn, and uncaring. My inner parent is just trying to protect the inner child from feeling hurt and ashamed. However, by blocking off these painful feelings, it also closes off my love and compassion for others. This makes forming deeper bonds and connecting with others much harder for me.
So that day after I processed my grief, I told my inner parent: It’s okay. I know how to handle the inner child’s emotional pain now. There’s no need to pretend to be aloof or maintain a wall to keep people out and protect the inner child anymore.
The Direction of Integration (Growth): From Type 4 to Type 1
In Enneagram, Type 1 is the Reformer. They are principled and have a strong sense of right and wrong. They are perfectionistic and well-organized.
It’s actually rather easy for me to move to point one. I love things to be in order and organized. In fact, I was quite righteous when I was young. I didn’t like it when other students cheat during tests and examinations. But it kind of died down as I grew up, especially after my mom asked me not to be a whistleblower and ruin my relationship with my peers.
Going to Type 1 makes Fours more balanced.
For an enneagram 4w5, I have my 4 in the heart center and my wing 5 in the head center. Moving to Type 1, a body (gut) center is great because it creates a balance in all three centers. It’s like a stable three-legged stool. Whenever I move toward Type 1, I feel that my mind becomes more settled and clear. This really helps me with my work.
Let’s look at how moving toward Type 1 will help a Four in greater depth.
Benefit #1: Fours Become More Objective and Discipline
I didn’t know how much my mood affects my work until I became self-employed three years ago. It’s easier to have self-discipline when you are working for someone because you don’t want to disappoint others or slow the team down.
But when I became self-employed, my ability to meet deadlines diminished greatly. I was so easily distracted by the things around me. Sometimes, when I didn’t feel like doing something, I just don’t do it. There was no one I need to be accountable for, except myself! So I can always move the deadlines to a later date.
Understanding Enneagram makes me realize that
I focus too much on my mood.
Before knowing about the Enneagram, I already had checklists and daily routines in place that kept me in check. But I wasn’t aware that it’s my mood and daydreaming tendencies that are causing the problem. When I did things that are too administrative and boring, I often find myself drifting into la-la land, thinking about something else.
Being aware of my personality type and the habits of a Four help me to stay more focused on my tasks and get things done. Whenever I found myself distracted by my emotions and fantasy, I gently bring myself back to the present. I also learn to enjoy the mundane stuff more now. Even though some things you don’t love to do or have the mood to do it, you still have to do it, right? It’s part of life!
Benefit #2: Fours Focus Less on Themselves
The ability to feel our emotions deeply makes Fours a little self-absorbed at times. Previously, when I had depression, I was so focused on my own suffering that I couldn’t see anything else. But when I had the insight: Maybe I experienced depression so that I could write about it and share the lessons I learned, everything changed.
You’ll naturally find significance when you have a higher purpose.
Instead of focusing on myself and my emotions, I started to focus on the greater good and helping humanity. Suddenly, I had a purpose in life. Like many Fours, I tried to find personal significance from within and by creating a unique identity. But how could Four find the significance we need from within when we believe that there is something missing in us?
It’s only when we focus on humanity that it takes away some of the attention and heat off ourselves. Sometimes, we focus too much on what we love to do and ourselves that we become disconnected from the rest of the world.
Ultimately, the meaning that we have been seeking in our work and career and the connections we desire are actually out there in the world. You can’t find it by digging deeper within yourself or through fantasizing.
Be Careful of Being Too Righteous and Judgmental Though
Even though moving to Point One provides security and balance to Fours, Fours can end up being too critical of themselves and others like an unhealthy One too.
In my early 20s, my inner critic was rather noisy. It kept telling me the things that I did wrong and the things I should do or not do. This created a lot of unnecessarily negative self-talk. Now, I have a new agreement with my inner critic: If you want to tell me something, tell me nicely. If not, I’m not going to listen. This keeps the inner critic in check.
Don’t expect everyone to be like you.
Also, when we move to Point One, we have to take note of our subtle desires to be right and better than others. For a Four, the internal dialogue might be: I’m so authentic while other people are so fake. I’m unique, special, and different from others, and I’m not like the rest.
Not everyone wants to explore their emotional truth or emotions in-depth like a Four, especially those thinking and happy types. The truth is liberating but it can hurt too. We can’t expect other people to be like us.
My relationship with my family improves when I stop imposing my expectations on them. I don’t need them to tell me how they feel to feel connected with them. Plus, they are responsible for their own journey. If they deny their emotions and pretend everything is okay when it’s not, then it’s their choice and I’ll respect their decision.
My role is to be the best version of myself and stay on the sideline like a reserve player in a soccer game. I only get onto the pitch to help when I’m called upon.
Conclusion: Both Points Can Provide Growth for Type 4
For a Four, moving to Point One (the direction of integration and growth) seems to be a better choice than moving to Point Two (the direction of disintegration and stress).
However, Fours should never avoid moving to Point Two. All the nine personality types in the Enneagram bounce from point to point. If there is any point on the Enneagram you can’t move toward, then aren’t you creating a block and a restriction for yourself?
Even though moving to Point Two might make me stressed sometimes, I want to overcome my fear and shame that is associated with helping others. I don’t want it to remain an obstacle for the rest of my life.
Integration is about embracing the different parts of you
instead of suppressing them.
For real integration to happen, we have to embrace both the high side and the low side of the different points. So don’t limit your growth to only the direction of integration. Both points can provide growth in different ways.
For those who are interested to watch the Enneagram Type 4 interview I did for my friend recently, click here.
If you want to find out more about how to love yourself as an INFJ, be sure to download my free eBook called Self-Acceptance for INFJs.
Featured Photo Credit: Man’s Hand is Trying To Reach The Sun / VIKTOR HANACEK