All the Enneagram types exhibit some measure of concern for truth. However, there are significant differences in both the extent and manner in which they go about seeking it. Although space won’t permit an analysis of all the types, we can gain considerable insight by comparing the Enneagram 1, Enneagram 4, and Enneagram 5 types. Since both Fours and Fives tend to be Myers-Briggs introverts (I) and intuitives (N), they can be seen as having much in common. We will therefore treat Fours and Fives as a group in this post, contrasting them with the One.
Enneagram Ones steadfastly devote themselves to a specific set of beliefs and ideals. Once they develop a deep conviction about something, it usually sticks. As discussed in our Enneagram 1 profile, the strength and clarity of Ones’ convictions can engender a sort of mission mindset which propels them to act as reformers and change agents.
Insofar as youth fans the flames of idealism, it seems reasonable to suspect that individuals in their teens and twenties are more apt to identify as Ones versus some of the other Enneagram types. It’s easy to envision young activists, for instance, allying themselves with the mission-oriented One. Over time, however, their youthful zeal may weaken as their ideals start showing cracks and life appears increasingly grey. Hence, by age 30 or 40, I wonder if many who formerly saw themselves as Ones will identify as another type.
A fair number of Fives, and especially Fours, have at some point tested as Ones. As idea-oriented types, both Fours and Fives can appreciate the romance of aligning their lives with a worthy idea. However, since these types see the world in shades of grey (especially 4w5 and 5w4 types), unswerving conviction, let alone committed action, doesn’t come easily to them.
Fours and Fives exhibit higher levels of Big Five Openness and are often more turbulent or sensitive persons than Ones. Many will experience emotional volatility, as well as periodic shifts in their values, beliefs and aspirations. Those who are Myers-Briggs perceivers (P) may be particularly prone to frequent disruptions or revisions to their inner landscape.
That said, there’s a sense in which Fours and Fives are envious of Ones’ consistency and strength of conviction. Fours and Fives may pine for the days of youth, when the right ideas and actions seemed as clear as day. They may also dream of a future time when they can again experience such clarity of mind and will, freed from the fetters of doubt, uncertainty and ambiguity.
Enneagram Ones also invest more time and energy into implementing and actualizing their ideals than Fours or Fives. Ones tend not to be doubters or philosophers, but “doers”—people of pragmatic action. Hence, whatever they perceive as a potential threat to their ideals or mission may be swiftly resisted or disregarded. Although the Enneagram 4 and Enneagram 5 may admire Ones’ sense of conviction and mission, they may at times criticize Ones for being naive or unnuanced in their approach. In their view, Ones tend to act prematurely, before the truth has been fully confirmed or elucidated.
How Enneagram Types 1, 4, and 5 Influence Others
A key part of effecting change is influencing others. Ones tend to see this process as fairly straightforward. Namely, they believe that the truth will effectively sell itself. In some cases, this approach works fairly well, but not necessarily for the reasons Ones believe. For a small minority of people, truth will sell itself, irrespective of the messenger. But in most cases, the messenger is just as important as the message. So in instances when Ones manage to successfully influence others, we can’t assume it’s because their ideas are necessarily true or optimal. Rather, what usually shines through and does most of the heavy lifting is their strength of conviction. For better or worse, people respond to passionate messengers because they themselves want something to believe in. Hence, the perennial appeal of religion.
Fours and Fives have a greater propensity for doubt and a higher tolerance for ambiguity, making their views of truth more nuanced and provisional, and potentially less actionable. They may also see the prospect and mechanisms of influencing others as more complex and unpredictable.
Many Fours, as well as some Fives, are drawn to some form of artistic expression. So with respect to the question of influence, they might wonder if and how their art changes people. The notion that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” reflects the breadth of subjective responses that art can engender. Such responses are less predictable than how people might respond, for instance, to a sports clip or a scientific study. In light of this unpredictability, some Fours and Fives may disavow any concern for their work is received. As long as their work is honest and authentic, they feel they’ve done their part. They may even believe, like Ones, that the truth or value of their work should be self-evident, even if only recognized by a few.
At least on the surface, this seems to suggest that Fours and Fives are less results-oriented. While Ones will run with a conviction and invest a lot of time implementing or disseminating it, Fours and Fives devote more time to refining their ideas, approach, and worldview. Unless their vision or understanding is crystal clear, they are reluctant to go public—a characteristically introverted (I) intuitive (N) approach (hang-up?). Ones, by contrast, seem ready to start implementing from the outset, suggestive of a more extraverted (E), sensing (S), and/or judging (J) mindset.
That said, Fours and Fives ultimately want to influence others and contribute to the collective conversation. It floors them to see others who are arguably less knowledgeable or talented enjoying great success. The way the world rewards action, almost for its own sake, strikes them as spurious and unfair. Nevertheless, in moments of frustration or impatience, they may find themselves wanting to take shortcuts to expedite their path to action. If they could only find a way to muster the confidence and conviction seen in Ones, then they could finally self-actualize and all would be well. Such grandiose dreams are usually short-lived, however, since the totality of their psyche can’t, in good faith, get behind them.
So instead of focusing on extraverted results, Fours and Fives will often resort to smaller-scale projects that allow for authentic and nuanced expression. But finding contentment with small or private projects isn’t always easy and may lead to questions such as: If my scope of influence is almost negligible, why should I bother doing anything at all? This is a perfectly fair and valid question, one which Fours and Fives will answer in one way or another, either explicitly through self-reflection or implicitly through their actions (or inaction).
Change & Type Development
A final point of consideration is the role of type development. Despite the fact the Fours and Fives (especially IP types) are in many respects the typological opposites of Ones, Myers-Briggs theory suggests that, by developing their tertiary and inferior functions, these types should ultimately become more similar over time. Namely, Ones should become more nuanced and open-minded, while Fours and Fives should develop more courage to act and put themselves out there.
At the same time, there’s always the question of if / when it’s appropriate to perpetuate versus deviate from one’s historical personality patterns. In other words, how can we know if we’re ready to change and try a new approach?
If we were all limited to a single mode of operation for our entire lives, there’d be no need to wrestle with this question. But because people are constantly touting the virtues of things like neuroplasticity and personal growth, we can’t help but consider how and when we should change. For instance, should we expect someone like Stephen King to lay down his pen and become a priest (God help us) or a politician? Maybe. I’m sure that stranger things have happened. But I suspect that many would argue against the idea, perhaps because of King’s tremendous success as a novelist.
I’m not sure there’s a one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how, or to what degree, personality types should shift and come to resemble each other over time. But it’s probably worth remembering that change can show up in a variety of forms, some of which are entirely introverted. So even if someone like King never deviates from his chosen vocation, there are still myriad ways he could embrace the psyche’s desire for self-expansion and integration.
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