In the course of their lives, Fours may try several different identities on for size, basing them on styles, preferences, or qualities they find attractive in others. But underneath the surface, they still feel uncertain about who they really are. The problem is that they base their identity largely on their feelings. When Fours look inward they see a kaleidoscopic, ever-shifting pattern of emotional reactions. Indeed, Fours accurately perceive a truth about human nature—that it is dynamic and ever-changing. But because they want to create a stable, reliable identity from their emotions, they attempt to cultivate only certain feelings while rejecting others. Some feelings are seen as “me,” while others are “not me.” By attempting to hold on to specific moods and express others, Fours believe that they are being true to themselves.
One of the biggest challenges Fours face is learning to let go of feelings from the past; they tend to nurse wounds and hold onto negative feelings about those who have hurt them. Indeed, Fours can become so attached to longing and disappointment that they are unable to recognize the many treasures in their lives.
Leigh is a working mother who has struggled with these difficult feelings for many years:
I collapse when I am out in the world. I have had a trail of relationship disasters. I have hated my sister’s goodness—and hated goodness in general. I went years without joy in my life, just pretending to smile because real smiles would not come to me. I have had a constant longing for whatever I cannot have. My longings can never become fulfilled because I now realize that I am attached to ‘the longing’ and not to any specific end result.
There is a Sufi story that relates to this about an old dog that had been badly abused and was near starvation. One day, the dog found a bone, carried it to a safe spot, and started gnawing away. The dog was so hungry that it chewed on the bone for a long time and got every last bit of nourishment that it could out of it. After some time, a kind old man noticed the dog and its pathetic scrap and began quietly setting the food out for it. But the poor hound was so attached to its bone that it refused to let go of it and soon starved to death.
Fours are in the same predicament. As long as they believe that there is something fundamentally wrong with them, they cannot allow themselves to experience or enjoy their many good qualities. To acknowledge their good qualities would be to lose their sense of identity (as a suffering victim) and to be without a relatively consistent personal identity (their Basic Fear). Fours grow by learning to see that much of their story is not true—or at least it is not true anymore. The old feelings begin to fall away once they stop telling themselves their old tale: it is irrelevant to who they are right now.
5. THE INVESTIGATOR
The Intense, Cerebral Type: Perceptive, Innovative, Secretive, and Isolated
Type Five In Brief
Fives are alert, insightful, and curious. They are able to concentrate and focus on developing complex ideas and skills. Independent, innovative, and inventive, they can also become preoccupied with their thoughts and imaginary constructs. They become detached, yet high-strung and intense. They typically have problems with eccentricity, nihilism, and isolation. At Their Best: visionary pioneers, often ahead of their time, and able to see the world in an entirely new way.
Basic Fear: Being useless, helpless, or incapable
Basic Desire: To be capable and competent
Enneagram Five with a Four-Wing: “The Iconoclast”
Enneagram Five with a Six-Wing: “The Problem Solver”
Want to possess knowledge, to understand the environment, to have everything figured out as a way of defending the self from threats from the environment.
The Meaning of the Arrows (in brief)
When moving in their Direction of Disintegration (stress), detached Fives suddenly become hyperactive and scattered at Seven. However, when moving in their Direction of Integration (growth), avaricious, detached Fives become more self-confident and decisive, like healthy Eights.
Type Five Overview
We have named personality type Five The Investigator because, more than any other type, Fives want to find out why things are the way they are. These Enneagram personality types want to understand how the world works, whether it is the cosmos, the microscopic world, the animal, vegetable, or mineral kingdoms—or the inner world of their imaginations. They are always searching, asking questions, and delving into things in depth. They do not accept received opinions and doctrines, feeling a strong need to test the truth of most assumptions for themselves.
John, a graphic artist, describes this approach to life:
Being a Five means always needing to learn, to take in information about the world. A day without learning is like a day without ‘sunshine.’ As a Five, I want to have an understanding of life. I like having a theoretical explanation about why things happen as they do. This understanding makes me feel in charge and in control. I most often learn from a distance as an observer and not a participant. Sometimes, it seems that understanding life is as good as living it. It is a difficult journey to learn that life must be lived and not just studied.
Behind Fives’ relentless pursuit of knowledge are deep insecurities about their ability to function successfully in the world. Fives feel that they do not have an ability to do things as well as others. But rather than engage directly with activities that might bolster their confidence, Fives “take a step back” into their minds where they feel more capable. Their belief is that from the safety of their minds they will eventually figure out how to do things—and one day rejoin the world.
Fives spend a lot of time observing and contemplating—listening to the sounds of wind or of a synthesizer or taking notes on the activities in an anthill in their back yard. As they immerse themselves in their observations, they begin to internalize their knowledge and gain a feeling of self-confidence. They can then go out and play a piece on the synthesizer or tell people what they know about ants. They may also stumble across exciting new information or make new creative combinations (playing a piece of music based on recordings of wind and water). When they get verification of their observations and hypotheses or see that others understand their work, it is a confirmation of their competency, and this fulfills their Basic Desire. (“You know what you are talking about.”)
Knowledge, understanding, and insight are thus highly valued by Fives, because their identity is built around “having ideas” and being someone who has something unusual and insightful to say. For this reason, Fives are not interested in exploring what is already familiar and well-established; rather, their attention is drawn to the unusual, the overlooked, the secret, the occult, the bizarre, the fantastic, the “unthinkable.” Investigating “unknown territory”—knowing something that others do not know, or creating something that no one has ever experienced—allows Fives to have a niche for themselves that no one else occupies. These Enneagram personality types believe that developing this niche is the best way that they can attain independence and confidence.