Enneagram Type 5: The Investigator/ Observer

Enneagram Type 5 Observers/Thinkers/Investigators are typically introverted, curious, analytical and insightful. These are the owls of the Enneagram with a very boundaried approach to life. This person is quite observant and curious but generally likes to observe from a distance, slightly out of the group. Eventually, he or she gets bored or lonely and joins the group. But joining the group often provokes anxiety and brings a tendency to withdraw. They are constantly asking the question “Should I engage?” or “Should I withdraw?” Their instinct is to withdraw.  Facts and information serve as guides for what is important to Investigator 5s.


Hear directly from Enneagram Type 5s

Watch the 4-Minute video on connection and communication from Type 5 panel during an online training.


Attention bias

Their attention goes to maintaining self-sufficiency and avoiding demands from the outside world. This often leads to disengagement from others.


Enneagram Type 5 Gifts to the World

Investigator 5s are the intellectual deep divers of the Enneagram. Their ability to focus, penetrate and go deep into information enables them to create systems, inventions and infrastructures that often benefit the rest of us. Sparks of genius often fuel their inventions, and Investigator 5s are responsible for some of the most transformative inventions in the world.


Enneagram Type 5s Typically Report

1. A Desire to Understand Exactly What Is Being Asked of Them in a Situation

Investigator 5s report feeling uncertain and sometimes anxious about being able to meet the needs of others. They like to understand very clearly what is being asked of them in a situation. This desire stems from a concern about resources and a general feeling of scarcity. While there can be exceptions, they generally don’t like surprise meetings, unplanned activities, unscheduled assignments or nebulous instructions.

“The feeling is like I start each morning with a quarter of a tank of gas, and I have to figure out how I’m going to make it through the entire day. I’m very aware of who I need to see, how much time it will require, and so forth.”

2. A Strong Need for Time Alone Each Day

Investigator 5s typically report needing some time alone each day. During this time, they process feelings, they think and recharge, and they reflect on the events of the day. Investigator 5s typically report they do not have problems establishing personal boundaries with others. They tend to approach the world on their terms, and because of their independent nature and their relative comfort with isolation, they don’t easily get swept into doing things they don’t want to do.

“The idea of not getting time alone each day is almost inconceivable to me. If I don’t get it, I’ll find it. If I don’t find it, I feel like I’ll have a nervous breakdown. It is that critical to me.”

3. They Spend a Lot of Time in Their Heads

Investigator 5s typically report they spend a lot of time in their heads. A highly cerebral type, most Investigator 5s report they can easily spend hours thinking, studying and reading without interruption. This recharges and nourishes them. They also report that the distance between their head and mouth is very long. They have many thoughts that are never verbalized.

“When I was younger, I used to think my body was just a vessel to carry my head around. I really didn’t see the point of the body, and I definitely didn’t feel connected with mine.”


Tools for Compassion If You Have Enneagram Type 5s in Your Life

1. Understand it is hard for Investigator 5s to say yes to a request without very careful consideration

Investigator 5s  are keenly aware of resources, including their personal energy, and they often experience concerns about scarcity. Keep this in mind when asking them to do something (a personal favor, a work project). Generally, they will only agree to a request with a lot of thought and analysis. For Investigator 5s, the instinctive answer for a request or favor is often No. This isn’t personal as much as they feel anxious that they don’t have what it takes to meet the request. They also report a concern about disappointing the person making the request.

2. Understand it can be difficult for Investigator 5s to openly discuss emotions

Investigator 5s often don’t know what they are feeling in the moment and need to process the events after the fact to really tune into their emotions. Investigator 5s are more comfortable in the world of facts and information than in the world of emotion. Because Investigator 5s have an underlying concern of being overwhelmed, and the emotional world can quickly turn overwhelming, they gravitate away from discussing feelings. It’s important to understand this isn’t personal, and it doesn’t mean they don’t care— their minds just move away from the emotional world.

Be aware surprises aren’t usually a positive thing for most Investigator 5s

Investigator 5s like to understand the requirements of each situation. They like to plan, and they don’t always like surprises. It can come as a shock to many friends of Investigator 5s that a surprise visit isn’t welcome. Some Investigator 5s even report hiding when they have an unscheduled visitor at the front door, even if that person is a good friend.


Enneagram Type 5 Levels of Awareness

“Castle” Self-Preservation Subtype:

The self-preservation Investigator (5) expresses concerns about resources by having very clearly-drawn boundaries. This is the most guarded, remote, and introverted of the Investigators (5)s. This is a person who sometimes describes feeling like they hide. To the outside world, this is someone who may be hermit-like and not overly social. They tend to live very frugally, even if they have plentiful resources. This is the least communicative of the Investigators (5). Internally, this is someone who feels a great awareness and concern about scarcity and an intense drive to live without the trappings of the physical world. They have the title “Castle” because of the way they isolate themselves.

This is the most isolationist Investigator (5), so there generally isn’t a high level of socializing outside of the relationship. This Investigator (5) rejuvenates by spending time alone and generally only allows a small group of people into their inner circle.

On the positive side, this person is not needy or intrusive and gives their partner a great deal of independence. This is likely a low-maintenance relationship without a lot of drama.

On the less positive side, this person can isolate to the extreme and can have difficulty socializing normally. While they attach strongly to a few people, they don’t always enjoy the level of emotional and social support that would be available to them if they were less closed down.

“Totem” Social Subtype:

The social Investigator (5) expresses concerns about resources and boundaries by minimizing the need for emotional connection and in some cases interpersonal relationships in exchange for the pursuit of knowledge. At the core, this is a person who relates more to values represented by certain people than to the people themselves. To the outside world, this Investigator (5)s is more social and engaging than the other Investigators and is someone who can become very idealistic or spiritual. Internally, this person is searching for the meaning of life and ultimate ideals. They can feel disinterested in ordinary, everyday life. They have the title “Totem” because of the way they orient around symbols and representations more than actual people and tangible reality.

Social Investigator (5)s are steady, independent people who give their partners freedom while offering practical support. Social Investigators are not overly emotional, and, in some ways, they prefer not to feel.

On the positive side, this Investigator (5) is more engaged in the practical world and brings new ideas, passions and information to their relationships.

On the less positive side, this is someone who can have difficulty connecting with and expressing their emotions. This can be an engaged, yet simultaneously disengaged partner.

“Confidence” Intimate Subtype:

The intimate Investigator (5) expresses concerns about resources and scarcity through the ongoing search for an ideal partner. All Investigator (5)s are seekers, and this person is seeking the most perfect, safest, idealized union with another. This subtype is a more emotional, romantic, and sensitive Investigator (5). Trust is a key issue. To the outside world, this is someone who still appears very contained, reserved, observant and emotionally stoic. However, internally this is someone who has a very intense, vivid, and romantic emotional life. They feel and suffer a lot, almost resembling the experience of Individualist (4). They have the title “Confidence” to mean someone who can be confided in. They are given this title because of their search for one ideal partner to bond with completely.

This is a person who is deeply emotional but in a controlled way. Because their standard for an ideal partner is so high, it can be easy for this Investigator (5) to feel disappointed. Feelings can be confusing and overwhelming, particularly the softer emotions like compassion. This person can have a push-pull relationship with their own emotions, both wanting emotional intensity and feeling a need to guard against it.

On the positive side, partners can bond deeply on an emotional level with this Investigator (5), and this can be a very passionate partner.

On the less positive side, this person can feel easily hurt and disappointed when their partner demonstrates regular human flaws. There can be a great deal of internal turmoil for this Investigator (5).


Subtypes for Enneagram Type 5

Investigator (5) When Self-Aware

Investigator (5)s experience sparks of genius that can lead to original inventions, creative solutions and innovative thinking. They are open-minded about the world while penetrating deeply into subjects of interest, striving not just for rational knowledge but also knowledge of the heart. They develop wisdom. Investigator (5)s are keenly observant, discerning, and insightful with a heightened awareness of the world. Nothing misses their attention, and they can use their observation and concentration skills in a productive, beneficial way. They may be reserved but not isolationist, and they can share insights and stay engaged with others. At this level, they can synthesize experience with knowledge. They understand there is value in the emotional world. They become skilled masters of their field of interest as excitement about knowledge increases their pursuit. They develop original thinking, innovative approaches, and rare inventions. They are highly independent, quirky, and distinctive, and their off-the-beaten-path genuineness often gives them a certain charm.

Investigator (5) With Tightening Defenses

The Investigator (5)’s decision-making slows as the mind tries to solve all elements before acting. Their concerns about scarcity, including resources and energy, intensify. Their planning process can be lengthy to consider and ensure adequate resources from all angles. Their focus remains intense, and in areas of interest, they may develop a specialization. They may challenge the norm with their outside-the-box thinking. As Investigator (5)s focus on complicated ideas, imagined worlds, and abstract scenarios, they become less connected with reality. They are more hypothetical in their thinking and less grounded. They can become highly strung and intense. They often experience unrealistic concerns about the environment and may feel threatened by seemingly small disturbances. Isolation from the outside world intensifies as a way of guarding against disturbances in their inner world. Investigator (5)s may become provocative and outrageous with extreme views and beliefs. They can be secretive, private, cynical, and argumentative. They may have difficulty behaving appropriately in social environments.

Investigator (5) When Fixated

Isolated, eccentric, and withdrawn, they start to develop misanthropic tendencies. They become increasingly disconnected from reality and the practical world. Fear and anxiety start to dominate their experience, and feelings of instability and aggression may arise. They distance themselves from all social attachments and become hermit-like. Investigator (5)s become obsessed yet disturbed by their own ideas as the reality distortion grows. They have a tenuous connection to reality, and practical matters become difficult to navigate. They may fall prey to phobias and their own fears and paranoia. They begin to have psychotic breaks with reality as their imaginary world takes over. Barely functioning, they become deranged and self-destructive.

For more information on Enneagram subtypes, I recommend Beatrice Chestnut’s book “The Complete Enneagram.”


The Wings

5w4: The Iconoclast

Type Fives with a Four wing are typically more philosophical, ethereal and poetic than
their Six wing counterpart. The Four wing brings an artistic, abstract way of thinking and
a creative orientation


5w6: The Problem Solver

Type Fives with a Six wing are typically more technical, precise and scientific than their
Four wing counterpart. The Six wing brings an analytical, intellectual way of thinking and
an orientation towards logic.


Enneagram Compatibility: Type 5s in Relationships

Learn more about Individualist 5s in relationships in “The Nine Keys: A Guide Book To Unlock Your Relationships Using Kundalini Yoga and the Enneagram.”


Tools to Relax the Habit of Attention for Enneagram Type 5s


The information on this page is excerpted from Headstart from Happiness and The Nine Keys by Lynn Roulo.


Additional resources for Enneagram Type 5s

Download Your Free Ebook “3-Minute Meditations for Each Enneagram Type"

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