Being a four is an experience of powerful contrasts. If I am a four I am probably intuitive and sensitive to emotional nuances. My inner experience is a rich, complex tapestry of feelings and flavors. This is both a powerful talent and possibly the most dangerous trap I may face in my personal journey.
At my best, I can be profoundly creative, able to bring into being new expressions of universal truth. I can become a truly inspired source of unique beauty, adding value to the world in my own special way. When I am operating from my real Essence, it is as if I am a channel through which a brilliant light shines into the universe, expressing through me its boundless love for all of creation.
At my worst, I become overly attached to the inner experience of my powerful emotions, causing me to become overly dramatic, self-indulgent, or depressive. I may mistake emotional intensity for real depth of experience, pursuing any passionate feeling, regardless of the consequences. When my real Essence is clouded by attachment to emotions, I might fall into deep spirals of depressive excess, desperately seeking ever-more-intense emotional catharsis, isolating myself from the world and possibly even becoming suicidal.
emotional sensitivity and empathic healing
If I am a four, then I am more emotionally sensitive than most other people. This talent is potentially one of my greatest gifts, because when it is properly used it might bring a deep and fulfilling empathic connection to the emotions of others — their sufferings, their joys, their fears, and all of the myriad shadings of everyday emotion. Such a deep connection, if it is properly allowed to grow, can lead to genuine healing, in both of us.
If I wish, I may begin to explore the talent of empathic healing. When it is fully developed, this talent can provide enormous benefit to the world because through it my friends can help themselves find inner peace and acceptance. I can use my empathy and emotional strength to deeply and fully experience the other person’s pain and help them through it to the joy which is on the other side. By helping my friend to share both the pain and the joy, we are both healed. In the process, I find my own peace and fulfillment.
But before I can find and experience the feelings of others, I need to understand and transcend the grip of my own feelings. Otherwise, I cannot see anyone else clearly enough to sense their emotions.
It could well be the greatest challenge facing me as a four: how do I overcome the tyranny of my own emotions?
How do I respond when my emotions threaten to engulf me?
When someone else is feeling deep, powerful emotions is there a resonance within my own being or do I block off the outside input?
Am I able to listen to the pain of someone else and help them by sharing some of their emotional burden?
doing what is right
Overcoming attachment to emotions leads to an increasing ability to do what is right rather than what I might feel like doing. It means that emotions are not always the primary factor in my actions. It means developing a kind of inner discipline that reminds me, over and over again, that I must watch my motivations. Am I doing this to satisfy my ego’s “needs” or is it because it’s the right thing to do?
Emotional discipline does not mean that I will not feel my own emotions. In fact, it turns out that just the opposite happens. My emotions deepen and become richer, but also more manageable. My growing understanding of who I am brings me to new levels of feeling that may astound me. Yet, the deeper my feelings become, the less they seem to overpower me. It is a matter of not being afraid of what I might find out about myself.
Deep within, I know that I am a much better person than I might think.
Am I able to step outside of my feelings, in order to do what is right instead of what I feel like doing?
Do other people say that I am overly emotional? Are they right?
Do I respond to powerful emotions by diving into them, abandoning myself in the swirling tides of feeling?
Am I able to recognize the simple goodness of my real essence, once all the emotional baggage has been stripped away?
aloneness and social time
As a four, I probably need to spend a good deal of time by myself. I may find that when I am alone I can sort out my feelings better. They are not so overwhelming when I can take the time to let them be felt and understood. It is important that I allow myself sufficient alone time to take care of my inner state.
If I am growing and learning, I know that I must also move out, into the world of people, where the interactions with others will stimulate me and provide new experiences for my soul’s education.
How can I come to know myself if I do not learn to know others?
Do I seek out people who are different from myself, in order to learn about myself through their differentness?
Do I see other people as mirrors for my own soul?
I might find it useful to become a regular participant in some kind of social activity. Although I may find myself shuddering at the thought of becoming a “member” of any group, it is probably a good idea to have some kind of circle of friends. Perhaps if I use my talent for creative insight, I might see a way to create a group around myself.
Do I like to dance?
Do I enjoy games like chess or bridge?
Is there a social circle at work that I can become a part of?
Do I have any special interests that I can share with others by offering or attending workshops or classes?
Am I striking the right balance in my life between the time I spend alone and the time I spend with friends?
When was the last time I went to a party?
If I am a four, I am a member of the most deeply creative type in the enneagram. But my creativity is probably a fickle beast. It is likely that although I would like to be producing wonderful works of art, performance, literature, or other self-expressions, I have experienced times when I felt that I was unable to tap into the flow of it. I may have been blocked and stuck, frustrated because I wanted to say something but for some reason unable to say it.
Maybe I felt that the creative effort was not worthwhile if others did not “get it.” Maybe someone criticized some of my former efforts, triggering self-doubt within me. I may have felt that my own efforts could never be good enough. My own sense of how much talent I possessed may have been rather fragile. Perhaps I felt that other responsibilities in my life were draining my creative juices. For whatever reason, it just would not come and my experience of life became impoverished as a result.
Have I experienced times when I wanted to do something creative, but somehow the source was blocked?
Are there any factors in common among all the times when I felt blocked?
When my creativity was finally released, what was the trigger? Did it come from inside, or was it something from out in the world?
Help! Being a four is not easy. The urge to create, to make new forms of beauty, is so easily blocked. How can I release my inner voice?
How can I find the message so that it can express itself?
Do I have expectations about the volume or type of creative effort that I should be producing?
Do I judge my work based on the overall quantity of creative effort, or on its aesthetic effect on me?
Where is the muse within?
Who is my real audience? If I can find the courage and sincerity to create for myself and for God, then perhaps I will discover renewed inspiration. To do this, I must let go of my concerns about what all those other humans will think of my work. Creativity never likes to be constrained by the expectations of others.
Can I be brave enough to show the depths of my inner being without caring whether others will really understand what I am saying?
Do other people get a chance to see the results of my creative efforts?
Is there some form of creative effort that I would like to do but feel embarrassed about because it is not “sophisticated” or because my parents or other authorities disapproved of it when I was young?
When I am involved in creative work, who is doing the work?
If someone I greatly respect were to harshly criticize my creative work, how would I respond?
How do I feel about myself? It is possible that part of the reason I get blocked is because there are things I know about myself that I would rather not admit. Strangely enough, if I am a four the chances are that those things are actually good things.
Can I find the courage to recognize my best qualities?
Do I hide my best features from myself and others? If so, why?
Can I pay attention to what is right about me, so that I can feel good about myself?
Can I realize once and for all that I really do deserve to be happy?
Am I happy with who I am right now?
If I can be honest, courageous, and sincere enough, I might discover that the real value of creative effort is what it reveals to me about myself. Any value that others find in it is merely incidental.
envy and jealousy
If I am a four, then envy is a potentially devastating trap. I might ruin every hour of the day comparing myself to others, wishing for what they have. This one has a better body, that one has a better house, that one’s girlfriend is prettier than mine, his job is more desirable, her vacation was nicer. On and on the comparisons go, each one making me feel worse about my own condition.
How can I escape from this trap of better and worse?
Must I always feel the pain of knowing that someone else has it better than me?
Is there a way to feel good about myself as I am today, at this very moment, regardless of how I compare to others?
As I examine my own envy of others, I may notice that it is in the comparing that the trouble starts, not the difference itself. The pain comes from a comparison in which I seem to come up short.
The facts are the same, whether the other is here or not. It is the existence of the comparison that changes things. But how can I avoid comparing myself with other people? Isn’t it necessary to do so in order to know where I stand? Isn’t it a natural function of the human mind?
Which is nicer, an orange or a plum? Whatever answer is right for me, there will be many people for whom the opposite answer is right. Who is happier, a rich man or a poor man? I can ask a happy poor man and an unhappy rich man. Then I can ask a happy rich man and an unhappy poor man. Who is luckier, a gorgeous movie star with a string of passionate, exciting lovers or a plain, mousy little woman who is married to an honest, reliable, salt-of-the-earth man?
My own view of what-is-better-than-what is guaranteed to be radically different from those of many other people. Does that mean that any of us are wrong in our views? Is there some way that I can view myself and all of life from a higher perspective, where comparisons cease to be so important and the wholeness of all-that-is becomes more obvious?
Does God ever feel jealousy?
Coming out into the world might be a real challenge. I may have great difficulty being among others, perhaps because they are insensitive, insulting, judgmental, unrefined, and generally not fit company for the likes of me.
Do I deliberately avoid certain people because they are not up to my standards?
Why should I associate with such people?
Why try to relate to people who could never really understand me?
Do I judge people based on externals like age, sex, race, occupation, mode of verbal expression, or style of clothing?
Am I able to see beyond the external factors, into the heart of the other person?
Have I ever felt an honest heart-to-heart connection with anyone else?
Have I ever really loved anyone?
Have I ever loved myself?
I might need to remind myself that these are all God’s people. Like me, they have their own problems and talents, and I am no better or worse than they are. Some of them are blinded by their own egos, and others can see more clearly than I can. To set myself apart from them could be a mistake. I am a human being just like the rest of the race, as difficult as it may sometimes be for me to admit that.
Maybe by looking for the goodness in the ordinary inhabitants of the world, I might begin to see new kinds of goodness in myself.
respect for the “ordinary”
If I am a four, I might have difficulty with the mundane. Everyday life might seem too ordinary because surely I must be destined for something more special, more sophisticated, more refined than the humdrum everyday routines of an average life.
Of course, I have every right to make my life as extraordinary as I like. Of course I can be different, special, in every way a totally unique expression of my real essence. But if I forget the importance of the ordinary, then my own specialness might become a trap, preventing me from finding the joy in everyday pleasures. If I am unwilling to accept anything less than the exceptional in my life, then I will definitely deprive myself of a large amount of simple joy.
Here again, the habit of comparing can be a trap. If I am always looking away from what I have, comparing it with what I might have, then I will not be able to enjoy the moment. But if I can turn my attention to the goodness that is present in my experience right now, I’ll be able to enjoy it to the fullest degree possible. I might find that there is enough, after all.
Do I respond to daily routines with disdain and boredom?
Do people who work in unglamorous jobs seem less than human?
Do I go out of my way to seem different and especially sophisticated?
What would it mean to be an “ordinary person?”
Is it possible for an “ordinary person” to be happy?
Am I an “ordinary person?”
I might choose to pay more attention to the miraculous nature of everyday life — and the miraculous fact of my own glorious existence. What a privilege it is to take part in this incredible drama! What an amazing chance we all have to create deeply meaningful roles in this unfolding story. It is entirely up to me to decide whether my own role will be tragic, comic, pathetic, or filled with deep joy and meaning.
Am I ready to take the lead role in my life?
Can I let go of who I might have been in the past, in order to continuously re-create myself in this moment?
Can I use my profound creative talents to craft a deeply meaningful story using the simple elements of my day-to-day existence?
Am I brave enough to joyfully explore the full depth of my experience — including especially the best aspects of life?
at their best
Healthy fours are creative and compassionate. Because they do not compulsively dramatize their emotions, the emotions they do feel are appropriate and deeply meaningful. Their ability to intuitively discriminate between ever-so-subtle feeling states makes them talented artists, writers, and composers, as well as powerful counselors. They find profound satisfaction in creating beauty and sharing it with the world.
Balanced fours let their natural grace show. The elegance and refinement are real, combined with playful innocence. Healthy fours shine with compassion and equanimity, knowing they are valuable and complete. Their eyes radiate deep wisdom. They express the hidden purpose of life, by embodying it directly. Healthy fours are the essence of meaning and compassion.
When healthy fours misuse or misunderstand their innate talent of emotional sensitivity, they might fear that there is something wrong with them. They begin to use their talent of passionate feeling compulsively, at times when it is inappropriate. They begin to feel that there is some inner flaw in them that makes it impossible for them to be emotionally stable like everyone else. This flawed feeling interacts with their emotional sensitivity, possibly sending them into spirals of depression and self-criticism.
Average fours taste tasteful, usually. There is great difference between the two wings. 4/3s are typically much more conscious of their unique appearance, while 4/5s usually want to be unique in other ways. But most fours like to dress up, whatever their wing. Many average fours, especially the 4/3s, take on airs and attitudes, posturing in different ways and making gestures thought to be graceful and elegant. Sometimes it works. Other times, there might be a forced quality to the whole show.
The more compulsively they dive into their emotions, the harder it becomes for fours to escape from the feeling of being hopelessly flawed. Self-hatred may lead them to protect themselves by projecting it out at others, in the form of intense jealousy towards those who seem more fortunate. They might use their own “sickness” as an excuse to garner whatever sympathy they can get from those around them, maybe staging dramatic temper tantrums. They might try to support their eroding self-image by filling imaginary needs in others, like an unhealthy two. Eventually, the emotional self-torment may grow so severe that suicide is possible.
Off-balance fours get caught in emotional spirals. Thoughts of worthlessness and self-hatred become sticky, hard to shake off. Envy and anger might turn bitter, reflecting outward in hostility or obsequious groveling. As the need for uniqueness becomes a compulsion, appearance elements might be taken to extremes. What happened to the good taste? What a bleak, ugly mood. Unbalanced fours are the essence of misery and despair.
more questions for fours
Do I value emotional and aesthetic sensitivity, the search for genuine meaning, passionate depth of experience and self-understanding?
Do I see the world as beauty and ugliness, splendor and deformity?
Do my own flaws distract me?
Does deep beauty distract me?
How do I measure the value of my feelings?
Are there times when wholeness is undeniable?
Are there times when grief is joy?
Am I a self-pity robot?
Do I envy other people?
Do other people envy me?
Do I make other people into royalty and peasants?
Is it possible to love myself?
Do my role models enjoy life?
Do I find wisdom through appropriate self-expression?
Do I find meaning through ethical rationality?
Does despair make me manipulative?
Does feeling special lead me into depression?
Do I deserve my own self-image?
Am I ready to recognize the beauty and completeness of who I really am?
Do I turn diamonds into coal?
Do I insist on special treatment even if it means annoying ordinary people?
Do I pretend to hurt even when I’m having a reasonably good day?
Am I here to live a flawed, tortured life?
Am I here to suffer proudly?
Am I here to teach deep compassion?
Do I try to enhance my emotions?
Do I feel more real when I am experiencing strong emotions?
Do I ever feel guilty for feeling good?
Do I feel good about feeling guilty?
Do I feel guilty about feeling good about feeling guilty?
How would it feel to have no emotions at all?
Are there other people in the world who feel as deeply as I do?
Are their emotions any easier to express than mine?
Does it matter whether other people understand my feelings?
Does it matter whether I understand other people’s feelings?
Does it matter whether I understand my own feelings?
Is God the ultimate meaning?
Does God love me?
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