By A.J. Drenth
One of my favorite pastimes as a type theorist is exploring how different personality models overlap and correlate with each other. For instance, in our popular post, Myers-Briggs / MBTI – Enneagram Correlations, we consider how each Enneagram type corresponds to various Myers-Briggs types / preferences. Examining personality through the lens of multiple models can help us achieve a more nuanced and comprehensive understanding of who we are.
In this post, we will focus our attention on the Enneagram 4 and Enneagram 5 types. Type junkies may already know that most Fours and Fives are Myers-Briggs introverts (I) and intuitives (N), with the majority of Fives being INTP and INTJ types (i.e., “INTs”) and Fours being INFP and INFJ types (i.e., “INFs”). These may well be the clearest and most consistent type overlaps between these two personality models. In types 4 and 5, the Enneagram seems to have effectively captured the essential personality of a broad swath of INFs and INTs.
Among the more interesting features of the Enneagram is its notion of “wings,” which suggests that, in addition to our primary type, we will exhibit certain features of one of two neighboring types on the Enneagram diagram. Thus, Fours are said to possess either a 3 or 5 wing, respectively expressed as “4w3” or “4w5,” and Fives a 4 or 6 wing (“5w4” or “5w6”).
Our objective in this post is to better understand why Fours and Fives might gravitate to a certain wing versus the other. To aid our analysis, we will enlist the Myers-Briggs judging (J) -perceiving (P) dichotomy, as well as the turbulent (T) – assertive (A) variable. Those unfamiliar with the latter are encouraged to consult my recent post, Turbulent (T) vs. Assertive (A): Overlaps with Neuroticism & the Myers-Briggs. In a nutshell, turbulent types (e.g., INFP-T), typically score higher on the Big Five’s neuroticism scale, exhibiting greater emotional volatility and negative emotions than their assertive counterparts.
Enneagram 4 & 5 Wing Preferences (4w5 vs 4w3, 5w4 vs 5w6)
Fours and Fives are among the most introverted of the Enneagram types. Both exhibit a similar proclivity to withdraw for the sake of self-reflection or self-preservation. This resembles the behavior of turbulent types who, due to their inherent sensitivity and vulnerability to stress, are inclined to retreat from the world. Hence, when Fours take a 5 wing or vice-versa, they are in many ways doubling down on their introverted propensities.
The other option is for Fours to adopt a 3 wing and Fives a 6 wing. What these wings have in common is a stronger penchant for doing. Enneagram type 3, commonly dubbed “The Achiever,” is clearly more assertive, outgoing, and thicker-skinned than the Five. Consequently, Fours who adopt a 3 wing (i.e., 4w3) are generally more practical and productive than the 4w5 subtype.
Similarly, the 5w6 tends to be thicker-skinned and, at least by external standards, more productive than the 5w4 type. In their classic Enneagram book, Personality Types, Don Riso and Russ Hudson explained it this way:
The Six-wing gives this subtype [5w6] a great ability to cooperate with others and to bring a disciplined, persistent approach to their endeavors. There is more aptitude and interest in the practical matters of life, and with sufficient talent…they can combine their innovation with business savvy, sometimes with very lucrative results.
As discussed in my aforementioned post on turbulent vs. assertive types, the perceiving (P) and turbulent (T) variables tend to reinforce with another, as do the judging (J) and assertive (A) variables. We can thus think of the 3 and 6 wings as having more J and A qualities, and the 4 and 5 wings as having more P and T qualities:
In this light, these are the expected and most theoretically coherent Myers-Briggs – Enneagram type combinations:
That said, we know that for many people, the P-J and T-A variables don’t align so neatly, as is true for INTP-A, INTJ-T, INFP-A, and INFJ-T types. Predicting the Enneagram wing preference for these four types is far more difficult.
The above insights have brought a lot of clarity to my understanding of the types. I’ve long sought to understand, for instance, why INTJs and INTPs both frequently test as 5w4s. This is especially perplexing if we’re only thinking in terms of J-P differences. But once we incorporate the turbulent variable, it’s easier to understand why an INTJ might be a 5w4.
Another factor worth mentioning is the inferior function. Namely, if INTJs (or other IJs) invest a disproportionate amount of time and energy into their inferior function (i.e., Extraverted Sensing for INTJs and INFJs) as opposed to their auxiliary judging function (Te or Fe), they may, in effect, operate more like P types.
This discussion also sheds light on why so many people are confused about their J-P preference. If you are a turbulent J or assertive P struggling to know your type, any amount of type confusion you may have is understandable. These combinations not only complicate the process of determining one’s Enneagram wing, but also one’s Myers-Briggs type! If you’re in this boat, understanding the T-A variable may help clarify for your personality type.
You may also want to explore our type clarifier tests: