type 5


Being a five is a profoundly intellectual experience. If I am a five I probably attach great importance to deeply understanding the world. I might spend much of my time alone, thinking deep thoughts and improving my internal model of reality. 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 a gifted perceiver of the truth, able to deeply penetrate reality by picking up amazingly subtle clues from my observations of the world. My inner talent for intuitive understanding combines with powerful outer perceptions, producing a kind of effortless near-omniscience. When I am operating from my real Essence, the universe seems to open up like a beautifully illuminated text, becoming the glorious self-fulfilling answer to the question of its own existence.

At my worst, I become overly attached to my private ideas about the world, possibly causing me to mistrust (and eventually ignore) the constant flow of sensory impressions that led to those ideas in the first place. When I lose sight of the real world, I might create elaborate systems that bear little relationship to actual truth, unconsciously ignoring evidence that does not support my carefully constructed fantasies. When my real Essence is clouded by attachment to imaginary systems, I might sometimes block out the world in favor of my own internal models, perhaps eventually retreating into a kind of fearful, pathologically detached, semi-autistic fugue.

paralysis and courageous action
If I am a five, it is likely that I am a very careful, thoughtful person. I take the time to consider my actions before I begin, so that I can be sure to make the right decisions and avoid complicating mistakes. I want to live lightly, minimizing my impact on other people’s lives so that I can keep my own life simple and comfortable, and I am willing to wait before acting if it means that my actions can be more well-considered. This careful, gentle way of being can be a great talent, if it is used correctly. But it can also be a trap.

I may feel paralyzed when there is some action that I know I should take. It could feel as if I am afraid to start for some reason, or as if I want to do anything other than what I know I should do. I might start some new project, only to put it down as soon as it begins to seem like it’s well under way. I might pace back and forth nervously, or possibly get lost in television or use drugs. In every case, what I am doing is avoiding the task — which doesn’t get it done.

Do I avoid tasks that I know I should do?

Am I afraid of being noticed?

Am I afraid that other obligations will be incurred?

Do I start finding dozens of reasons why projects can’t be completed?

Do I give up on projects when I encounter minor difficulties?

Is it simple psychological inertia?

Whatever my reasons for delaying action, it is vitally important that I develop the ability to act when action is called for. I must become able to courageously take charge of my life, so that I can confidently pursue worthwhile goals.

It might help me if I can list all the things I would like to accomplish. I can take a systematic approach and do first the things that I feel most confident about. Once I have broken the inertia, I might be able to move to some of the more difficult challenges on the list.

Another approach is to take the most difficult task of all and break it down into smaller sub-tasks. By doing this, I give myself a little breathing room, so that I don’t feel like I have to do everything without pausing. Then I can feel the satisfaction of crossing off items from the list, one by one.

Yet another useful approach is to simplify my life as much as I can. Do I have too many projects? Perhaps it is time to clear the decks and focus only on one or two of them. Maybe I can help myself by physically getting rid of some percentage of my “stuff.” I could go through my library and give away half of the books. Do I have huge boxes or drawers of papers and files? Maybe it’s time to clear out some of that mass. Strangely enough, if I lighten my personal load of possessions, my ability to act may be enhanced dramatically.

I must be honest with myself about what I can and cannot do. Sometimes, especially when life may have been a little more difficult than usual, I might make “grand plans” for future projects. Are these plans allowing me to escape the needs of the moment? Life is generally more pleasant if I frequently ask myself what the highest immediate priority is, and address that before anything else.

Are there any projects at this moment in my life that are languishing untouched because I have not been able to get past my own inertia?

Have I ever found myself stuck and blocked from acting by some kind of inner hesitation that prevents me from moving forward?

Once I overcome the inertia and get moving, how does it feel?

detachment and emotional depth
If I am a five, then I probably have a strong tendency to separate myself from my feelings. When others are experiencing great stress, I can be a stable point of reference for them, because I have the ability to remain calm in the midst of emotional turmoil. I can step outside of myself, looking at myself as if I were someone else, which enables me to view the situation objectively. If I have developed genuine compassion, this detached attitude can help me to help others deal with painful feelings in a useful, growth-oriented way.

But habitual emotional detachment can also be a tremendously dangerous trap. If my natural ability to detach from my feelings becomes compulsive, then I might spend long periods, perhaps even my entire life, without any conscious feelings stronger than an occasional chuckle or sigh. My life can become a dry imitation of a real life, where intellectual pursuits provide a kind of pseudo-passion that substitutes for real feelings.

Do I substitute intellectual stimulus for real emotions?

Why does this happen?

Am I so afraid of real emotions that I must shove them down into some hidden box deep inside myself?

Do I fear that too much emotionality might be overwhelming, perhaps preventing me from seeing myself and other people clearly?

If I am a five I might find that the times when I have the most trouble feeling real emotions are the times when I am involved in social interactions, especially with groups. Being on display in front of a group can be a terrifying experience. So I might pull into my shell of detached intellectualism, saving all of those troubling emotions for later.

Are social situations (parties, family dinners, etc) difficult for me?

Am I afraid of the attention from others that might result if I were to show obvious emotion in a social situation?

What happens when I find myself alone after a lot of social interaction?

Do I suddenly begin to feel some of the repressed emotions?

I can help myself by remembering to stop and breathe deeply, to let my feelings through so that I can sense them clearly. If I practice at it, I can develop the ability to feel my emotions without being overwhelmed by them. Then I become a more complete person.

Sometimes I will have feelings that are unpleasant. It is especially important to let the unpleasant feelings come through clearly, because otherwise they can become all bottled up inside of me. When that happens, my entire emotional mechanism can clamp down because of the effort to avoid the bad feelings. I might become a dry, argumentative person, because all that I can feel are the “safe” emotions (and unfortunately, even love might not be “safe” because it opens me up to potential pain).

Once I have become able to feel my emotions with depth and clarity, they will no longer be so overwhelming, even though they have become much more powerful. That is because I have become emotionally stronger myself.

By learning how to be truly and completely in my feelings, I become able to know them much better. And because of my innate talent of intuitive knowing, once I understand something I no longer fear it. Then I will be able to step into my emotions when that is useful, or move out of them (without denying them) when being detached and analytic is more useful. Of course, I must always remind myself not to become so detached that my feelings begin to get bottled up again.

When things get difficult, do I react by “clamming up?”

When I feel annoyed, am I more likely to go away or to confront the person who is causing me to make myself feel annoyed?

Are there emotions that I have great difficulty letting myself feel?

Can I feel anger? Hatred? Fear? Sexual lust? Raw unadulterated joy?

Can I feel genuine love?

being the expert
As a five I probably have a highly developed ability to explain things to people. Sometimes this can be a great advantage, especially if the audience really wants to know what I have to say. But it’s possible that, far more often than I might realize, I am not addressing people who are listening well.

I must remember to be connected with my audience, watching them carefully to see how they are responding. If they seem the least bit uninterested, I should stop for a while until they ask for more. They may not be as interested as I am in what I have to say.

It is difficult to be someone who knows a great deal about many things, because of the continuing temptation to step in with a more complete explanation of something. Recognizing this, I should probably make a conscious effort not to engage in long monologues about anything (unless I am being paid to do so…!)

Do I stop frequently during conversations to discover whether people are still interested?

Do I interrupt other people?

Do people have a tendency to get into arguments with me?

Am I able to listen closely to someone else’s point of view without commenting in any way even if I know that they are wrong?

The best way to show knowledge to others is by demonstrating it directly, not by explaining it. By setting an example for others, by directly living in my knowledge and using it to improve my own life, I can show others how it could be useful to them.

As I five I am probably inclined to want to put everything into neat categories. I want to understand the world, and I may think that the best way to do that is to take it apart and file all the bits in separate drawers of my mind.

Certainly, there is a place for that kind of analysis. If we didn’t dissect things we might never figure out what was inside them, to say nothing of knowing how they work. We’ve got to make distinctions in order to understand relationships between parts of things.

But if I examine the world (and myself) more and more closely, I may begin to see how everything is all bundled up together. There is, after all, only one reality, and everything that exists is part of it. Perhaps I can begin to see how everything depends on everything else for its very existence.

If I can stay centered while experiencing myself as if I were the whole universe (which I am) then what new insights will come?

Where is the edge of me, where I end and the rest of the universe begins?

What is the difference between me and someone else?

As my emotions begin to deepen and take on new colors, I may begin to notice that other people seem deeper too. If I let this compassion grow, I come closer to finding my true calling in life.

Before we can reach our full potential, all of us must come to the point where we use what we have learned to help make the world a better place. If I examine my changing feelings about other people I may get some new clues to my own best place in life.

In what ways am I able to lovingly return value to the world?

thinking too much
I probably have a very active mind. There is so much going on that sometimes it might become difficult to keep track of it all. It may get kind of noisy sometimes, which can interfere with the clarity of my thoughts.

Have there been times when my mind has gone into “overdrive?”

Do thoughts and ideas ever fly about chaotically, maybe with snatches of songs and sentences repeating themselves over and over?

Have there been times when I just wished I could turn myself off for a while and take a rest from the internal junk mail?

If I take the time to clear my mind several times a day, if I can stop what I am doing and be utterly still for even a few seconds, I may notice an immediate difference in the depth and creativity of the next thoughts. The “calm forest pool” is not always easy to attain, but it can be immensely valuable and pleasant.

How long can I let my mind be still?

Do the thoughts start up again all by themselves, or does the mind remain calm until I deliberately start thinking again?

Having cleared the mind, what do I find? My greatest talents can begin to emerge. Because I have lifted myself out of the “small” mind in the body, the larger mind can begin to express itself through me. The larger mind knows infinitely more than my small biological brain ever can.

This is the beginning of the omniscience of the enlightened five. Gradually or suddenly, as I let go of the need to know everything right now, I will find that I know things I didn’t know I knew. Answers will come when I need them, helping me to become ever more confident, ever more in charge of my own life. I will begin to trust the infinite knowledge that is ever more accessible to me, ever more joyfully fulfilling, and reveals ever more clearly the awesome miracle of reality.

at their best
Healthy fives are perceptive and insightful. Because they do not compulsively try to understand everything, the understanding they do have is deeply penetrating and may seem almost magical to others. Their ability to intuitively comprehend things and processes is a result of an ability to see reality with tremendous clarity and sharpness. Their precise vision and ability to see the truth without excess analysis enables them to live confidently, completely present in the experience of the moment.

Healthy fives know how to relax the analysis-engine, which gives it greater power for use when it is really needed. They see with penetrating clarity, and their gaze takes on a deep solidity. They move with sure deftness. Can I walk across the meadow without leaving a trace? They develop powerful confidence, acting immediately and intuitively without needing time to think. Yet their actions reveal deep insight and comprehension of reality. Healthy fives are the essence of intelligence and perception.

average fives
When healthy fives misuse or misunderstand their innate talent of understanding, they may begin to fear that they do not know enough. They may begin to use their talent compulsively, at times when it is inappropriate. If they do not immediately see how something works, they may feel that they must take it apart, reducing it to its essential components. It can become extremely frustrating not to know. In order to understand the world, they might detach from it, standing apart from emotions, and from their immediate experience, in order to see more clearly. The more they try to reduce things to smaller components, the more they need to detach so that they can keep it all straight. Analysis continues, and complexity increases still further.

They usually don’t put a lot of effort into appearance, mainly because it is just not that important to them. They are probably more interested in having as friends people who are intelligent and well-educated, not necessarily the most physically attractive ones. Average fives are usually clean but often plain. Some have a rough, scruggy feel. Others are thin and rangy. They might have a distant, distracted, somewhat absent flavor. They seem absent because their thoughts easily take them into strange, complicated spaces.

unhealthy fives
The more compulsively fives analyze, the harder it becomes to understand the increasingly complex world-model they have constructed. Their theories may become incredibly bizarre, as they shore up the ever-more unstable house of cards they have built. In their desperate attempts to deal with the unpredictable world, they may act impulsively, like an unhealthy seven, further damaging their ability to make sense of it all. Eventually, the whole system may fall into ruins, resulting in a paralyzing, schizoid fugue, the only escape from an incomprehensibly complex, threatening world.

The mind’s grip tightens as unbalanced five falls. Ideas become illusions, then illusions become gods, and they make extreme demands. Unhealthy five is imprisoned behind misperceptions, trapped by imaginary walls. Everything is horribly complicated and difficult to convey, but there may be some who will listen. Wild-eyed and manic, insistently spouting complex claims and proofs, building and elaborating the model, until in the end the world collapses and the mind is disrupted, mirrors shattering all around. Unbalanced fives are the essence of chaos and isolation.


more questions for fives

Do I value deep contemplation of reality, clear and detailed perception, elegant understanding and confident mastery of truth?

Do I see the world as simplicity and chaos, form and formlessness?

Do interesting ideas distract me?

Do unanswered questions distract me?

How do I measure the value of my knowledge?

Are there times when analysis increases my confusion?

Are there times when not knowing is wisdom?

Am I an intellectual robot?

Do I analyze other people?

Do other people analyze me?

Do I make other people into geniuses and morons?

Is it possible to love someone who insistently demands something from me?

Do my role models know the limits of their understanding?

Do I find confidence through clear vision?

Do I find gnosis through self-mastery?

Does feeling overwhelmed make me act impulsively?

Does frantic mania confuse me?

Do I deserve to be omniscient?

Am I ready to admit that I know nothing at all?

Do I build precarious castles out of half-baked ideas?

Do I explain every detail even if it means losing my audience?

Do I pretend to know what I am talking about even when I am out of my depth?

Am I here to understand everything?

Am I here to take the universe apart?

Am I here to teach true perception?

Can I ask a question without immediately trying to figure out an answer?

Does the world seem overwhelmingly complicated?

Do I find convenient excuses to avoid confronting people?

Do my feelings seem more accessible when I am alone?

Can I act on intuition, trusting the process of living?

Is it possible to understand something as a whole, without trying to take it apart?

Is God the ultimate knowledge?

Is there a God?



Next in Enneagram 101: type 5 with 4 wing

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