Getting Out of the Box Series: A Conversation with a High-Mastery Type 4
In the Enneagram world, Type 4, aka The Individualist could arguably be the type that has been over pathologized. They can go deep into emotions and be in touch with darker feelings, which others may find overwhelming or uncomfortable to deal with. Contrary to the myth, 4s don’t live in a bleak and depressing world — but rather in a world that’s intricate, whimsical, and full of possibilities. Authenticity is a big deal for them, there’s a need to always present their true selves to the world.
For the low-mastery of this type, they could get stuck in their painful emotions which then amplifies the illusion of being flawed and the sense of inner scarcity.
When I decided to continue the “Getting out of the Box” series, I knew I had to include my dear friend who I’ve been working closely with. I’ve always been intrigued by his upbringing story and he is a classic case that has taught me to be my own man/woman regardless how I was treated in my growing up days.
I know for sure that he’ll provide great insights and serve as an inspiration to his fellow Fours. His transformation is nothing short of incredible lessons and victories.
- Try “Type-storming”
From the word brainstorming, he coined the term “type-storming” where one embodies or explores what it’s like being another type. When he first stumbled upon the Enneagram, he felt a lot of resistance as the descriptions on Fours was all about being depressed and melancholic at all times. He didn’t go deep into it until he had a crisis in confidence when he was trying to recover from a break-up.
Fours have a nagging thought that they aren’t good enough and that they are intrinsically flawed–he felt this strongly around this time. On an impulse, he went on to order 15 books on Enneagram to search for answers. While attending Enneagram workshops and seminars, he also felt resistance when listening to the Type 7 descriptions. He couldn’t fully grasp the idea of letting himself have fun and go on adventures to enjoy life. “How can someone always be happy about everything in life? That’s so unreal!” Upon deeper reflections, he realised that his adverse reaction towards Type 7s is a mirror for himself. It is probably an area for growth that he has been missing out for a long time! He decided to explore ways to embrace the positive traits of a Type 7.
Upon fully understanding the complexity of each Enneagram Type, he learned how to embody other types (which we’re all capable of). He realised that he could have fun, be carefree, decisive, loving, and a calm while being a Type 4. He said it’s not about getting out of the box but about exploring all the types within you.
- Embrace your Four-ness
He admitted that from time to time, he still experiences dissatisfaction whether from himself or others, and he finds this unsettling. Fours have the tendency to look for what’s missing, and this could be debilitating at times. Over time, he learned that it’s important not to get attached with his ideals as that will lead to suffering. The negative spiral into “I’m not good enough” and dwelling on the ideals might not serve him well. When he feels dissatisfied about something, he no longer allows himself to have layers of emotions (angry about being angry and the likes). Instead, he would consult a trusted friend or mentor to talk about his emotion to gain a different insight on it or advice on how to tackle the issue. He could now acknowledge how he feels about the situation, recognise what is a realistic expectation, and move on.
While some Type 4s who have not mastered their emotions may suppress it in order to “get ahead” in life, temporarily at least, (we see a lot of such Type 4s in our classes as they got stuck in life after too much suppression), he reiterate that there’s nothing wrong about experiencing emotions. It is what you do with those emotions that matter. He celebrates that the beautiful thing about being a Four is the openness to learn about these emotions. He said that having knowledge about different emotions and knowing exactly how he feels, allows him to let go of it.
- Take small steps and embrace growth
“If you don’t feel good enough, get good.” Fours, being part of the Heart Triad, are deeply concerned about their image (yes, it’s not just a Type 3 thing). There is a strong need for validation, both internally and externally. Fours crave for external validation while having a defeating thought of not being good enough. He emphasises on the importance of taking steps to build self-confidence and fostering a healthy relationship with self.
In the past, he would choose not to do something because he was so terrified in receiving a negative feedback and what people would think about him. Slowly but surely, he was able to overcome this negative self-talk by allowing himself to take small steps. He also asked for feedback from his group of trusted friends and continuously worked on to improve himself.
Having said that, we both agreed that it takes a higher mastery 4 to recognise whether your drive to be better is self-destructive or making you thrive. It is destructive when it diminishes your self-worth and self-esteem, stops you from moving forward and keeps you in a downward spiral of emotions. Nowadays, when he catches himself being crawled by envy, he would turn to meditation and write on his gratitude journal. He would make a deliberate effort to get out of his self-loathing state and stay on the bright side.
He added, “When you get out of your head, and out of your internalized feeling. You take action and test yourself, then you will know where you stand. You will realize where you are is “good enough”. You will also realize how you can get “better enough…”Then you will free yourself. The process of seeking is a noble one, keep doing… It only becomes unhealthy if it is just kept in your heart, and you use it to limit yourself.”
Before ending my conversation with him and hopping into another Zoom call (he’s always booked and busy), he went on to say “Art is a thriving trade. We are at the age of renaissance; we are at the re-birth of art again. Type 4s let’s unite because our time is right now. Spend time getting good.”
Curious about your Enneagram type? Here’s a quick overview of the 9 Types. I know reading through these descriptions can be confusing. So save yourself from second-guessing and figure out your type with the help of our online test.