Enneagram is a typology that points to character types in the human personality. For me, it is way of engaging with my habits of mind..the on-going filtration system that limits how I perceive life, and often, how I predictably respond or react to it. To have this knowledge as a tool allows me, many times, to by-pass triggers instead of being trip-wired into reaction, i.e., screaming and throwing my dress over my head.
These are some of the keys to my type 4 self:
- Melancholy- this mood gets a bad rap by some of the other points on the enneagram- (especially those that don’t deal with emotionality.) Melancholy is not depression, although it can become pervasive if there isn’t a witness around. One can get into investigating one’s navel, caught in nostalgia! The up side of melancholy is tolerance for a certain kind of soulfulness that can become the food for creativity.
- Envy-what a bitch. Envy is such a trap! When captured by the envy monster everything is about comparison and not-good-enough. It is that somebody else has “it”, somebody else is “it.” What can occur is a narrowing of choices and living in a box instead of from my heart. The opposite of envy: being happy for another’s successes. Some days I am very good at this… and other days I say the right words and send others good wishes and inside I am eaten up by what (I think) I am not, and what I perceive they are. It is the most extreme version of self-abandonment.
- Authenticity versus specialness-As a 4, I live to be authentic. Within the desire for authenticity, the focus can turn on a thin dime into wanting to be special, wanting to be seen, to be recognized. The good news is at age 63, I feel more seen by myself than I ever have before. That does not stop me from asking my dear friends, “Am I okay like this?” How funny.
- Deep connection with the emotional and compassion- Good news: I can listen to difficult things-i.e conversations about partners breaking up, parents and/or children dying, suicide, confusion, intensity, as well as what’s going on in your life that might need insight. I can focus, and more than that, I
to hear what you are going through… I want to connect to you through that information, to serve.
- Self-castigation- This is a hard one for my friends to bear. This feeling is harder for me to tolerate or to figure out how to turn it off, or even acknowledge it. It is so old, so much a part of my landscape, that it slips in the door unnoticed and uninvited until well into the second chapter and verse of how I screwed up the class, workshop, conversation with a friend,or the phone company. It is hard for my husband to hear, because he knows how long the whip gets. It often follows a huge success, and tempers how well I can receive criticism. It is the 4 o’clock in the morning demon. Goddamn it!
- What is missing- 200 people ( literally) show up for my party and I am aware of who is not there. Don’t they love me? Am I not worthy? Did I do something wrong?
- Abandonment- Hard to talk about. In the worst, darkest part of my unworthiness, is the fear of abandonment. I can feel that fear. It defined my relationship with my mother. She held the threat of disowning me over my head like the sword of Damocles. She turned emotionally cold to me when I married. My writing about this incident is pure 4-ness. Someone else might say: “Screw her. You are a grown woman…You don’t need your mother to tell you who you are and who you can marry…” And there I am, 4 years old, with my nose pressed against the glass looking in at what I am missing. Painful in a way that only 4’s can appreciate.