Enneagram Type Four: The Individualist
To find unique self and significance.
I feel a sense of deficiency and believe that something vitally important and special is missing in me which must be regained.
Enneagram Type Fours thrive when they can express their uniqueness and are not pressured to fit in or feel like a cog in the wheel. They are sensitive, emotional, passionate and warm. Fours find beauty in the ordinary and have a wide range of emotional expressions. They relate to the suffering and disenfranchised, and help others feel uniquely seen and understood.Type Fours tend to process the world in relation to themselves, what they lack, and past disappointments. They think about why their life doesn’t match their expectations and compare themselves to others.
Type Four Key Characteristics
- Emotionally intense
Enneagram Type Four Focus: Feelings and finding what is missing.
Type Fours experienced some form of deprivation or abandonment as children, which they determine—incorrectly in nearly every situation—is their fault. They cope by trying to regain whatever was lost. They’re unable to do this to their satisfaction because not only was the original situation not their fault, they also are plagued with an internal sense of deficiency that often leaves them dissatisfied.
Although they are unable to open themselves up to love because of this deficiency, they crave it. They’re looking for unique, idealized love while simultaneously believing they don’t deserve it. There’s an element of self-sabotage to many of the Four’s behaviors.
Enneagram Type Four Vice: Envy
Each Enneagram Type is associated with a vice, or passion. The vice indicates the primary emotional-motivational issue for a person of that Type.
Type Four’s vice is envy. Fours often compare themselves to others, contributing to their sense of lack and shame. Fours tend to believe that others have what they themselves do not and they also believe that things come more easily to other people.
This vice keeps Type Fours heavily focused on what they believe they’re missing. They spend considerable time yearning for something outside of themselves that they feel would benefit them—often the love and approval of others.
Exploring Enneagram Type Four Further
Centers, subtypes and wings help provide additional insight into how a person operates within their type.
Enneagram Type Four Center
A core tenet of the Enneagram is that people are “three-brained,” meaning that we exist with three centers of intelligence: the body center, the heart center and the head center.
Type Four is part of the heart (or feeling) center, which regulates emotion. Fours are comfortable with their feelings and they strive to foster relational bonds with other people. However, they feel these relationships are not enough because they feel that they intrinsically are not enough for anyone.
The issues of each center revolve around a mostly unconscious emotional response to losing contact with their core self. Type Fours, as well as Twos and Threes which are also in the heart center, struggle with feelings of shame for creating a specific image in an effort to gain love and acceptance from others. The image Fours present is one of uniqueness.
Enneagram Type Four Instinctual Subtypes
The Enneagram system allows for three subtypes in each type. They are Self-Preservation, Social Interaction and One-to-One Bonding.
- Self-Preservation emphasizes behavior related to safety and security.
- Social Interaction focuses on belonging, recognition and relationships in social groups.
- One-to-One Bonding concentrates on individual relationships and interpersonal attraction.
Self-Preservation Type Fours: Tenacity
SP Fours don’t show their envy as overtly as the other Type Four subtypes, but they’ll work tenaciously to get what they want. They are willing to endure difficulties and pain in order to achieve something, and in their mind, this proves that they are worthy of love and acceptance. SP Fours are empathetic to others and want to do good. By focusing on the needs of others, they can project their own internal pain onto someone else.
Social Interaction Type Fours: Shame
Social Fours are very sensitive. They feel that others have what they want and spend considerable time comparing themselves to others, leading to inferiority complexes. Social Fours feel emotions very deeply. They can sit in difficult feelings more comfortably than others, hoping that they’ll be noticed and rescued. They feel ashamed for having desires and therefore don’t often express them, but also feel frustrated that their needs aren’t being met; in this case, they view themselves as a victim.
One-to-One Bonding Type Fours: Competition
The One-to-One Bonding Four’s envy is present as competition. They may not consciously feel their envy, but they work against it by competing in everything they do. They feel inferior inside and overcompensate for this with arrogance. One-to-One Bonding Fours can also be openly hostile, demanding, assertive, angry and intense. These behaviors are the manifestation of the suffering and inadequacy they feel inside.
Enneagram Type Four Wings
Each Enneagram type has two wings, which are the numbers on either side of the Type. One wing is usually stronger than the other and its qualities are more likely to bleed over into the main Type.
A 4 with a 3 wing (4w3) is dramatic and extroverted. They still experience the longing for more that is traditionally associated with a Four but are successful by many other standards.
A 4 with a 5 wing (4w5) is more introverted and less focused on their external image. They’re often artistic and may have loner qualities.
Enneagram Type Fours at Work
Enneagram Type Fours are creative and innovative. People look to them for deep insight and sensitivity. Team members may see Fours as too emotional.
Fours are better set for success in careers that prioritize individuality and personal values. They may be drawn to creative careers like interior design and performing arts or something like psychology, which allows them to delve deep into feelings.
Enneagram Type Fours make the workplace special and meaningful, which helps workers connect with the organization’s values. They excel at finding purpose behind the work and inspire excellence from their teams. Type Four leaders are authentic, self-reliant, creative, expressive and aesthetically-driven.
Futility can be a trigger for Type Four leaders. It pushes them to be emotionally intense, self-absorbed, moody, distant, distrustful and disillusioned with authority.
Type Fours instinctively make decisions based on emotion and may need to wait to choose a course of action if they’re feeling overwhelmed by it. They must think before they act, considering the big picture and the needs of others.
Conflicts and Resolution
Enneagram Type Fours, in healthy conflict, handle strong reactions and emotional outbursts well. They can rationally discuss the issues and lend a creative, authentic presence. When things are unhealthy, the Four is left feeling misunderstood or rejected. This can push them to compare themselves to others or have an emotional outburst, leading to additional tension on a team. It’s important for the Type Four to give themselves time to process their emotions and let them recede before they engage in the conflict.
Giving feedback to a Type Four requires the giver to foster a genuine exchange without implying a need to control or change them. Be aware of the feelings, idealism and sensitivity of this type and allow them to express themselves authentically without attempting to change or control them. Type Fours frequently feel misunderstood so check in to make sure both parties understand the conversation.
For a Type Four delivering feedback, they must recognize what is—not what isn’t. They can use their authenticity to sensitively and creatively size up the situation. Type Fours must watch their intensity, emotions and tendency to refer or compare others to themselves.
Continued Growth and Development for Enneagram Type Fours
Enneagram Type Fours view themselves as unique and different from everyone else. However, they also feel they are “less than” in many ways too. With development, they can close this gap, pinpointing the ways they distance themselves from others and lessening the grip of envy.
Dr. Chestnut suggests in The Complete Enneagram: 27 Paths to Greater Self-Knowledge that each type can benefit from self-observation, self-inquiry, self-reflection and self-development.
For Type Fours, this means:
- Observing the various ways they focus on what’s missing from any situation—or themselves
- Paying attention to how these patterns help them cope and the effects of them
- Acting on what they’ve noticed; Type Fours must actively work to reverse their feelings of inferiority and envy through self-love
All Enneagram types can evolve by moving ahead to their “Growth-Stress” point and back to their “Child-Heart” point. When Type Four moves ahead to Type Two, they can pull themselves out of their self-absorption and adapt to the needs of others. If the Type Four goes back to their “Child-Heart” point, Type One, they can use the One skills of self-discipline to give themselves support and grace, rather than focusing on the negative messages often playing in their head.
Type Fours benefit from getting involved with non-profits or other charitable groups. This allows them to focus on something outside of themselves. Partaking in creative pursuits is important too so the Four can fully express themselves.
Enneagram Type Fours are the embodiment of the natural fear many people have of being abandoned for being themselves. With development, Fours can learn to love themselves completely, allowing them to experience life more fully.
Corporate Consciousness uses the Enneagram to help leaders and teams improve their emotional intelligence. Whether you’re interested in one-on-one coaching, building a high-performing team, or continuing your path of growth among others, Corporate Consciousness can help.