I decided to read up a detailed summary of my enneagram type again. I am amazed all over by how this profile seems to know me better than I know myself. Everything I read was absolutely true about myself and some were things I hadn’t realised but that made everything make so much sense. It’s hardly a positive portrait of myself but it’s in knowing our weaknesses that we can become better versions of ourselves, isn’t it?
The Individualist: the summary begins by calling this the sensitive, introspective type. I suppose the fact that I’m writing an entire post about my enneagram findings – about who I am as one of nine types – suggests I am highly introspective … too much for my own good, in fact. As for the sensitive aspect, I couldn’t think of a word to describe me better – except perhaps for the next adjectives: expressive, dramatic, self absorbed, temperamental.
Wow. Need I even say more? Already the test has grasped my incessant need to share my thoughts and feelings with the people I care about and my tendency to overdramatise and feel too much. I say that I make a bigger deal out of things than they really deserve – but who’s to say how important something really is? I overcommunicate and feel too much … Hayley Kiyoko always seems to find a way to apply to me.
I have always been self aware as Fours tend to be. The problem is, this self awareness doesn’t translate to any change. While arguably, self awareness is beneficial in and of itself insofar as it contributes to an understanding of self and an increase of knowledge, it doesn’t fix our problems or our flaws. The same goes for honesty. While I am determined to be honest with myself so that I can know myself, it feels like I’m then left stagnating. What does one do with knowledge?
And yet, for a Type Four, maybe change is in fact less important than understanding. The basic fear of the four is having no identity or personal significance and the basic desire is to find themselves and their significance – to find an identity. I’ve never read a truer sentence. Surprisingly, although I’ve always known that I’m lost at finding my identity, to be confronted with the idea that the need for an identity could be my identity itself is a whole different thing. And at the same time, it’s absolutely true of myself. I feel like I can never quite realise who I am but rather than let it be, I feel this desperation to know and this terror at never finding my purpose and wandering life without knowing who I am and what I’m striving for.
One part I do not exactly relate to is the idea of being fundamentally different from others. I don’t believe I am fundamentally different as I feel that although other people may portray a certain image, I am convinced that they do feel and think some of what I do – except you cannot know for sure unless they choose to confide in you. However, it is true that I see my skill set as being different from others and do tend to see myself as inferior in certain areas – for instance, I maintain that I am horrible at socialising while nearly everyone else has it together. You get to a point where you wonder how much of what you believe of yourself is truth and how much is distorted reality.
The profile mentions the feeling of something missing in oneself. It suggests that we see certain qualities in other people that we feel we lack: will power … Social ease … Self-confidence … Emotional tranquility. But even though I do perceive this disjuncture between myself and others, I do not want to be alone. It is a primary fear, along with the fear of absence of identity. I want deeply to be understood … to be listened to.
I suppose that’s where the self absorbed aspect comes in as well. I am unable to stop thinking about myself and get out of my head and turn my attention to something bigger and more important. It’s always about me. At heart, Fours are apocalyptic teenagers.
At the same time, the profile does offer advice.
“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.”
This is something I have done. Being unsure of my identity, I try on different identities based on people I admire. But the problem I find is that I fit into several different identities.
“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.”
And this helps the search for identity to become clearer. Maybe at the end of the day, there is no such thing as a solid identity. As the profile says, human nature is dynamic and ever changing. There is no reason the different identities aren’t equally “me”. Except that makes identity confusing. I feel like I am more than one person. But is that really such a bad thing? There is a risk to only accepting certain moods as being consistent with identity because they limit oneself. They make a person less whole and less full than they could otherwise be. Just imagine all the creative potential and diversity of experience that would come from accepting that “me” does not mean, let’s say, that I am only a socially anxious, quiet, introspective human who doesn’t belong, but that sometimes I am a happy, carefree, loud person who loves and gets along with other people … because the truth is that I have moments and experiences like these. But I become so fixated on the idea that I am socially inept and forever alone that I don’t let myself appreciate the full happiness and success that I am capable of feeling.
“Fours can become so attached to longing and disappointment that they are unable to recognize the many treasures in their lives.”
Case in point.
I always feel like there’s something out there that I am missing. I feel such an aching. But I’ve come to realise it is probably an illusion. There is nothing magical out there that can remove this longing … not in this life at least. There is happiness to be found in what I know.
“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 any more. The old feelings begin to fall away once they stop telling themselves their old tale: it is irrelevant to who they are right now.”
It’s a scary idea to think that my identity is as a victim and that I’m therefore stuck in a vicious cycle. I suppose it is similar to the idea that people get stuck in abusive relationships over and over because they believe that’s what they deserve. In believing that one is a terrible person and will always fall short, when the opposite happens, it threatens this sense of identity and therefore the mind tells itself that this is not success. This is not happiness. It is not an easy thing to be in pain, so to survive, we tell ourselves that there is beauty in pain. We embrace the pain and make it ours, but we become so intertwined within it that we will in fact, take sadness with us to our graves.
Yet it is also possible to build up a new identity.
“Addictions: Over-indulgence in rich foods, sweets, alcohol to alter mood, to socialize, and for emotional consolation. Lack of physical activity. Bulimia. Depression. Tobacco, prescription drugs, or heroin for social anxiety. Cosmetic surgery to erase rejected features.”
Two words: comfort eating. There was a time when I would eat entire family packs of chocolates at one go. After the first five or so, it was a steady spiral into nausea. It didn’t taste good at all. And yet, I couldn’t stop. I can’t describe the self hatred that came from knowing that I was destroying my own body, that I was making myself fat (a misguided fear but a huge fear of mine nonetheless) which would make me hate myself even more, that I was making myself feel even shittier than I had before, but I couldn’t stop. I find the word comfort eating a little strange. There was no comfort in gorging on sweets.
I will admit becoming a little wary of alcohol now that I’ve started as I do not want to become reliant on it. I use alcohol sometimes to fall asleep when I am in too much emotional pain to do so on my own. It really doesn’t do to numb pain. Pain must be dealt with. But consistent with my over introspective tendencies, dealing with pain means analysing it when maybe sometimes distraction really is better. Maybe I just need to be distracted out of my little bubble and alcohol is good for that.
Advice for Fours include paying less attention to feelings and remembering that negative feelings do not erase the presence of positive ones nor does that become your identity. I especially like the idea that self confidence and self esteem comes from positive experiences. This is true. And yet, before having self confidence and self esteem, it’s difficult to put oneself in the position to have these experiences. But one must do so anyway. At the end of the day, I think a key point for Fours to follow is to spend less time in their mind and in their mire of feelings and more time doing. Being. Meeting people. Making connections. Trying new things and new experiences.
At the end of the day, I also think that simply realising that the obsession with identity is a personality trait makes it seem less serious and less important. It gives perspective in the sense that we see this compulsion not as gospel that we must follow but as an odd quirk of ourselves that we can ignore. We can ignore it … even though it will probably rear its head at the most inopportune of times … we can still ignore it.
The other recommendation I found extremely helpful was that Fours need to focus their thoughts, experiences, and compulsions into creativity. That explains why I get incredibly anxious and depressed when I stop creating. I need an outlet for these impulses and I need a purpose. Creation takes impulse and makes it into art and I feel like I’ve done something of significance. Even if no one should discover what I’ve created, at least … I HAVE created something, and perhaps somewhere, someone will find beauty in it. And through that, I am able to add beauty to another person’s life.