Enneagram Type 4 is called the Individualist, the Artist, and the Romantic because of their focus on individuality, authenticity, and full expression of their emotions. This type owns the emotional spectrum—they’ve been up, they’ve been down, they’ve been everywhere in between, and they often are on a regular basis. Individualist 4s experience the world with great emotional intensity, and their attention naturally goes to what is missing in their lives. They are very committed to authenticity and are comfortable operating far outside of the range of mainstream taste. Strong emotions serve as a guide for what is important.
Individualists/Artists/Romantics are original and authentic, with intense feelings spanning the entire emotional spectrum. They have felt great emotional highs, deep emotional lows and can feel everything in between on a daily basis. This person favors intensity (either positive or negative) to commonplace and routine. Drawn to what is missing, Individualist 4s spend a lot of time thinking about what they don’t have and experiencing longing.
The magnifying glass goes to what is missing, distant or unavailable. They see what they don’t have and long for it. The darker emotions of sadness, despair and melancholy tend to feel familiar and comfortable. Their attention moves away from what they do have and from feelings of satisfaction and fulfillment.
Enneagram Type 4 Gifts to the World
Profoundly committed to authenticity and willing to operate outside of the mainstream, Type Fours offer the world ingenuity, inspiration and originality. They can access profound creativity and offer the world inspired creations. Because they feel so intensely, they can channel this intense emotion into creative works that impact others profoundly. In addition, because of their mastery of the emotional spectrum, Type Fours teach the rest of us how to feel more and how to access a fuller range of emotion. No emotion scares them, and this fearlessness can be deeply healing for the rest of us.
Enneagram Type 4s Typically Report
1) Extreme Emotional Sensitivity and a Preference to Intense Emotions over Flat, Moderate Emotions
Individualist 4s really do feel more than many of the other types. They can access more of the emotional spectrum and spend more time focusing on and processing their feelings.
“They say that Eskimos have about 50 words for “snow” because as an Eskimo, a lot of your life revolves around the snow. I have this same experience for the emotional world. I have 50 words for sadness. I spend a lot of time feeling my emotions and processing exactly what I’m feeling.”
Individualist 4s also typically report they prefer having big emotional ups and downs over having a “regular day.” They like the emotional intensity, even though they report it can be extremely exhausting. For Individualist 4s, the emotional spikes are often what make life worth living.
”I would take a good, deep, dark depression over a regular day anytime.”
Hear four Type 4s talk about having intense emotions (excerpted with permission from a Type 4 workshop taught by Lynn)
2) They Struggle with Their Identity
Individualist 4s often struggle with wanting a stable sense of their own identity and their ever-changing emotions. Authenticity is a core value for Individualist 4s, and since they use their emotions as a guide, it feels inauthentic to downplay their emotional world. But this emotional world can also feel unstable, so they often are torn between over-identifying with their emotions and seeking something more stable to use as a foundation for their identity. Most Type Fours report they struggle to establish a clear and authentic identity.
“I had been thinking about changing my name for a few years – not because I hated my birth name, but because I wanted a name that communicated something true and deep about my inner life. Naming myself was an act of integration and authenticity: a way to reclaim power over my life, to stand inside my experience and say, “This is who I am in the world.” “
3) Chronically Undervaluing Themselves
Individualist 4s chronically undervalue themselves and their achievements. While they are often very accomplished in their respective fields, they don’t recognize this as their attention naturally goes to what is missing in their lives. This can manifest as low self-esteem or internal conflict between feeling inferior and at the same time feeling superior.
“It isn’t exactly a “grass is always greener” feeling. It feels more like, well, if I could do it, it must not be very hard…”
Tools for Compassion If You Have Enneagram Type 4s in Your Life
1) Don’t tell them they are too sensitive or dramatic
Individualist 4s experience the world very intensely. This is their experience. Telling them not to be so sensitive or dramatic isn’t helpful. They aren’t choosing to experience life the way they do—it is how their brains are wired.
2) Be supportive and use humor to lighten up a situation
Individualist 4s assign disproportionate importance to their emotional world so helping them to lighten up with humor and support goes a long way. They can get a lot of benefit from others who hold the space for their emotions but don’t get caught up in the drama of them. A good dose of lightness and humor can diffuse some of the intensity.
3) Recognize that genuine compliments mean a lot
Individualist 4s undervalue themselves so getting positive feedback regularly can be really healing for them. However, make sure the compliments are genuine. Individualist 4s are very sensitive to anything that feels inauthentic to them so a disingenuous compliment can do more harm than good.
Enneagram Type 4 Subtypes
“Tenacity” Self-Preservation Subtype:
The self-preservation Individualist (4) expresses emotional intensity more stoically than the other subtypes. This is a person who suffers in silence and is sometimes referred to as the “Sunny” Individualist (4).
To the outside world, this person can seem reserved and introspective. Internally, this person is often feeling a wide range of intense emotions on a regular basis. However, this intensity is often not expressed to others. They have the title “Tenacity” because of their tendency to hold it all together, to suffer in silence.
In intimate relationships, the self-preservation Individualist (4) may subconsciously link stoic suffering with love and acceptance. This is a less dramatic, more autonomous Individualist (4) who is less likely to involve others in their mood swings. While this Individualist (4) may have a masochistic element, to the outside world, they are empathetic, nurturing, and sensitive.
On the positive side, this is someone who channels feelings of inadequacy into working hard to be successful.
On the less positive side, this can be an Individualist (4) who struggles with workaholism and self-sabotage and who has a difficult time ever feeling secure enough.
“Shame” Social Subtype:
The social Individualist (4) openly expresses the emotional intensity of the type, feels things deeply, and presents the sense of shame closer to the surface than the other subtypes. This is sometimes called the “Sad” Individualist (4).
To the outside world, this is someone who communicates suffering openly and regularly. Others may see this person as dramatic and overly emotional. Internally, this is a person who feels a lot of suffering and whose attention goes naturally to their own deficiencies. They have the title “Shame” because this type openly experiences and identifies with shame more than the other subtypes.
This Individualist (4) needs to have their suffering witnessed and validated. Unlike the self- preservation Individualist (4), this is someone who relies on others to get their emotional needs fulfilled.
On the positive side, because this Individualist (4) talks more about their emotions, they can bring emotional awareness and emotional processing to the relationship. This is someone who helps their partner pinpoint, discuss and process emotions.
On the less positive side, this Individualist (4) can over-identify with their suffering and can have a difficult time being happy or content.
“Competition” Intimate Subtype:
The intimate Individualist (4) expresses emotional intensity and envy through competition and an attempt to establish superiority. This type has been characterized as the angriest type in the Enneagram, and this person typically has a colorful, vivid personality. It is hard to forget an intimate Individualist (4). This type is sometimes called the “Mad” Four.
To the outside world, they appear intense, opinionated, strong-willed, and sometimes angry. Internally, this person is feeling misunderstood, competitive and a mix of inferiority and arrogance. Conversely, this type can also express great sensitivity, understanding and tenderness. This person is a study in contrasts. They have the title “Competition” because of their keen focus on competition and being the best.
In intimate relationships, intimate Individualist (4)s can have an “all or nothing” attitude that their partners may experience as demanding.
On the positive side, this person likes and needs emotional intensity, and this can open up a new world to less emotionally driven partners. Intimate Individualist (4)s are colorful and direct and can shake their partners awake.
On the less positive side, anger and competition can be central themes as can a push-pull relationship. Because the emotional intensity is so externalized in intimate Individualist (4)s, partners often can’t avoid being drawn into the mood swings.
For more information on Enneagram Type 4 subtypes, I recommend Beatrice Chestnut’s book “The Complete Enneagram.”
Enneagram Type 4 Levels of Awareness
Individualist (4) When Self-Aware
Deeply creative, original, and expressive, Individualist (4)s are able to share their authenticity with the outside world in a profound way. Healing, inspiring, and regenerating, they harness their intense emotional energy in a positive way. They are highly self-aware, self-reflective, and balanced. They are sensitive to others, compassionate to themselves, and able to experience self-love. They start to recognize some of their talents and accomplishments. Individualistic, self-revealing but not self-wallowing, they come forward honestly and clearly. They become easier to relate to because their emotions, while intense, are more managed. They may be funny and ironic with a beautiful balance of emotional strength and vulnerability.
Individualist (4) With Tightening Defenses
They are poetic and sensitive in their approach to life, feeling deeply touched by small things and with a heightened sense of reality. Emotional intensity, passionate feelings, and ever-shifting moods characterize their experience. In an attempt to stay connected to their feelings, they begin to internalize everything. Their imagination and fantasy world become very rich and vivid, making reality dull by comparison. They are moody, introverted, hypersensitive and self-absorbed with a tendency to take everything personally. They withdraw to process their feelings. They may start to exhibit antisocial behavior. They feel alien to others and experience themselves as outsiders. They may live in a rich fantasy world and become disengaged and disdainful of practical reality. Self-pity, envy, depression, and melancholy are often present. Maintaining a regular routine becomes challenging.
Individualist (4) When Fixated
They experience themselves as a failure and feel shame. They become drained of energy and angry at themselves and others. They have difficulty functioning in normal society and feel increasingly alienated. Full depression may set in. Everything becomes a source of self-torture and a reminder of their sense of failure. Their sense of reality is lost and replaced with despair and hopelessness. The future seems dark. They drive away anyone who tries to help. Feelings of despair and hopelessness intensify. They feel trapped and may become self-destructive, with mental, emotional or physical breakdowns in the picture. Suicide attempts are possible.
For more information on Type 4 subtypes, I recommend Beatrice Chestnut’s book “The Complete Enneagram.”
Enneagram Compatibility: Type 4s in Relationships
To learn more about Enneagram Type 4 Individualists and what they are like in relationships, go to page 167.
Tools to Relax the Habit of Attention for Enneagram Type 4s
The information on this page is excerpted from Headstart from Happiness and The Nine Keys by Lynn Roulo.