Life as an Enneagram Average Type 4: What Normal Tom Looks Like

I’ve been recently blogging about Enneagram — the personality model that defines humanity into nine particular “types.” I started with an Enneagram intro, then examined the life of Unhealthy Tom and Healthy Tom. Today, I conclude this Enneagram series with my life as an average Type 4 “Individualist.” It’s the life of Normal Tom.

Most of life isn’t depressing. Most of life isn’t amazing. Most of life is just…normal.

Most of life is driving to work and navigating grocery store aisles and falling asleep to buzzing televisions. Most of life feels quite average.

I’ve been blogging recently about the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly. I’ve talked about Struggle Central as the greatest triumph of my life stemming from the healthiest season of my life. Then there was the isolation and shame of high school, by far the unhealthiest season of my life.

But what about all the other seasons? What about now?

What about life in the middle?

Average Type 4

Photo courtesy topaz mcnumpty, Creative Commons

Life as an Average Type 4: The Middle 3 Levels of Healthiness

The introspective “Individualist” that I am, it’s easy to determine where I land on Enneagram’s healthiness spectrum. Every “type” as its own unique 9-level hierarchy of healthiness. Here’s Enneagram’s take on the middle 3 levels of healthiness for an average Type 4:

Level 4: Take an artistic, romantic orientation to life, creating a beautiful, aesthetic environment to cultivate and prolong personal feelings. Heighten reality through fantasy, passionate feelings, and the imagination.

Level 5: To stay in touch with feelings, they interiorize everything, taking everything personally, but become self-absorbed and introverted, moody and hypersensitive, shy and self-conscious, unable to be spontaneous or to “get out of themselves.” Stay withdrawn to protect their self-image and to buy time to sort out feelings.

Level 6: Gradually think that they are different from others, and feel that they are exempt from living as everyone else does. They become melancholy dreamers, disdainful, decadent, and sensual, living in a fantasy world. Self-pity and envy of others leads to self-indulgence, and to becoming increasingly impractical, unproductive, effete, and precious.

 

In my years removed from high school, I’ve bounced up and down these middle three levels. I’ve lived the “self-pity and envy” of Level 6, and I’ve embraced the “moody and hypersensitive” qualities of Level 5.

Today, I’m currently standing at Level 4. Not quite “healthy” by Enneagram standards, but certainly not “unhealthy.” I’m an average Type 4, perhaps a slightly above average Type 4, basking in the artsy romance of my #RunningTo venture to come.

Talk about “fantasy” and “imagination”; I can’t stop thinking about my trip.

It’s not Level 1, but I’m actually really proud to be at Level 4 right now. I’m proud, because I was only recently down at Level 5.

In the past, I’d occupy unhealthy levels for longer stretches of time. This time, though, I didn’t dwell there long. I did something about it.

I climbed out. I climbed up.

Life as an Average Type 4: Climbing Above Average

Last week I blogged about “being between” and how the middle can be such a strange place. Past the brink of disaster, eyeing the verge of greatness, and yet stuck.

I’ve been in a difficult stretch lately. I have “withdrawn” to “buy time to sort out my feelings.” All the symptoms of Level 5. It’s a game I’ve played all too often. I’m practically the Michael Jordan or Babe Ruth or Takeru Kobayashi of RETREAT.

After living that solitary life, though, I finally said enough. I included people in my pain. I initiated conversations across coffee shop tables and invisible phone lines alike. Over the last month, I’ve connected with numerous others more often and deeper than I ever have.

Before I knew it, Level 5 became Level 4. My life remains difficult, but I’m no longer retreating; I’m actually quite inspired right now. I’ve climbed, and I’ve grown.

I haven’t looked back.

Life as an Average Type 4: Escaping Average

As I prepare to ditch normalcy with #RunningTo, I want to continue climbing upward. I want to ascend the Enneagram healthiness ladder to Level 3 and Level 2. Someday, I want to return to the blissful realm of Level 1.

I want to escape average.

As an average Type 4, I can see the warning signs as they happen. When I’m tempted to retreat, when I take words too personally, when I embrace self-pity or, worse, self-loathing, I know Unhealthy Tom may be budding.

When I feel like I’m inherently missing something that everyone has in abundance.

When I fantasize about my perfect self and yet take no active steps toward becoming that man.

When I clutch past pain and lose sight of my present relational riches.

When I lose my way, may another help me find it. We’re all connected on this Enneagram wheel, and we are especially conjoined in this Christian Body.

Someday, I’d like to examine all the other Enneagram types. Enneagram is so fascinating. I hope you check it out. And I hope you discover your own unique paths to a happier healthier you.

What’s your Enneagram type, and what’s your current healthiness level? Do you live most of your live in the “average”? How can you start actively climbing up one level?

  • Logan81

    I normally stay around Level 3 (type 9), but if I’m being honest, I feel more like I’ve skipped down to Level 5 in the last week or so. All this news about the Sovereign Grace Ministries abuse has definitely knocked me down a couple of pegs.

    Level 5: Active, but disengaged, unreflective, and inattentive. Do not want to be affected, so become unresponsive and complacent, walking away from problems, and “sweeping them under the rug.” Thinking becomes hazy and ruminative, mostly comforting fantasies, as they begin to “tune out” reality, becoming oblivious. Emotionally indolent, unwillingness to exert self or to focus on problems: indifference.

    In a nutshell, when something painful comes up, my first defense is to retreat into myself. I tend to not stay there for long these days, but I definitely need some time to “lick my wounds” before I’m able to dig in and find the root of what’s causing the pain.

    • I can certainly resonate with needing to find the solitude necessary to recover and reassess stressful situations. Normally I would just stay in those lonely dark places, but now I’m learning to reach out and climb out at a quicker pace. It’s still a process, but one that I’m slowly coming to grips with.

      Looking forward to reading all about Type 9s and all the other types before too long! Thanks for your input, Logan.

  • MLYaksh

    Finally took the quiz- Type 2 am I, the Helper. I know that’s probably difficult to imagine…
    I can definitely see how you have gone from level 5 to level 4 the past month. It’s a huge sign of growth for you, to have moved up all the way to the cusp of “Healthy” levels the way you have. I think that’s a filter you need for these levels of healthiness- realizing that different circumstances are going to drop you a few levels. But that’s ok- we all fall down a few levels when bad things happen. A truly healthy 4 or 1 or any number will return to health, passing through all those levels once again. So it’s not really about reaching level 1 and never leaving- it’s about always moving up, no matter what’s going on in your life.
    Anywho, have enjoyed this series! Excited for #RunningTo in just a few short weeks!

    • You definitely seem 2-ish. I seem to have a lot of 2 friends. Excited to read more about your type and understand all 2s even more! Appreciate the kind words, brother.

    • Marshall R

      I am another of Tom’s type 2 friends. I think the healthy type 2 approach to encouragement is the best way to help someone move up a level. You are demonstrating that right here!

  • Rebecka

    I just got my hands on a book about the Enneagram, can’t wait to read it! I hope it can help me “level up”.

    • Glad you’re on your Ennea-way! I hope it blesses you and helps you not only better understand yourself, but also those around you. I’m finding it to be so practical and life-changing all the same.

      • Rebecka

        That’s what I’m hoping for. Thanks for blogging about this!

  • julyy

    Hello! I don’t know if you’re always keeping this blog because the last comments date from 3 years but I’ll try to explain my situation hoping to receive your answer.

    I’m a 16 girl and I discovered few years ago I was a 4 (and infp-MBTI) and that was a real revelation for me. I said myself all the time, and even more since I entered high school: “what’s wrong with me? Why don’t I manage to connect with people? Why am I so different ? Nobody understands me and no one ever will…”
    I’m currently in my first year in high school and i have (very) good marks but i’m anxious and withdrawn as hell there because everyone is outgoing (always talking and laughing…), i often feel trapped because i think i had to socialize with people and then i feel i’m faking a person i’m not ; finally, i find school really exhausted. Some days i wondered how i’ll will endure another day in school. I’m seriously and secretly thinking about dropping out but my parents would’t understand (they are both teacher) and the other problem is that i really love learning, especially history, english, french, philosophy and i’m fond of arts/culture in general.

    I have 4 real friends, with whom i spent most of my time and i feel at ease with them. But sometimes i feel like they aren’t “deep” on the same level as me. I would like to have a lot of meaningsfull conversations about view of life, death, books, universe, travels, philosophy, psychology etc… Whenever i know i’m pretty lucky because i read a lots of comments on how people are abandoned by their “friends” and stuffs like that and i know that we will be friend for long.

    In relationship (out of these friends), i just don’t know how to be myself, most of the time i don’t even talk or if i talk i feel fake, i often adapt myself to whom i have in front of me (ton of voice, mood) in order to fit in, to not show my real feelings that i keep deep inside me. I think it’s a way of protecting myself from the world and from people.

    With my family, it’s all the contrary : i’m all the time saying what i think, even imposing to others my own view of things, sometimes get angry for nothing. I always procastinate for homework and i can spent hours doing nothing on the internet, just listening to some music or making unrealistics plans of travels and it makes my father worry about my future and which job i’ll do later (i have no ambition, yet many desire and projects).

    I have had a really perfect childhood until my parents divorced at age 8 ; I think this event really had a big impact on my emotionnal life and on who I am today. I think I tend to idealize too much my childhood and i see it as a “lost paradise” where i was always happy and easygoing with everyone and it makes me melancholic and sad today (i read that it is a common caracteristic to type 4 so maybe it’s “normal”). Sometimes i feel like i’m abandoned by my parents, like if they don’t love me as much as I love them (I almost never show my feelings so they think i just don’t care but i really do) . Although i want a little more independence.

    About love’s relationship ; uh… I’ve never been in love actually. Perhaps my attempts are too high to reach, i’m looking for a deeeeep relationship in which both give themselves entirely to the other ; i believe in soulmates (it may sounds creep but i do). I’m scared of not finding this person, the unique who really complete me and understand me at a deep level. I truely know that i can’t hang with someone just for fun, just to try or something like that. If i was in couple, I would be sure (even if i’m false) that this person is the only one.
    I have many ideas on how to live my life but i don’t know how to be happy anymore. My idealistic life would be not working(or at least having small responsabilities at work), to free myself from material confort, then travel around the world in a van, spent my time cultivate my mind and stuffs like that (until age around 30 or more maybe)

    At a point, i thought i was depressed and it had frightens me a little but now I know i’m not (thanks to enneagram and i don’t fit the depression’s criteria).
    I might have been at level 5 few months ago but now i’m pretty sure i turned to level 6.

    How can I become a healthier type 4 ? How can find hapiness in life when no one seems to know the real me ? Can give you some advices to get better and realise my dreams ?

    I just thought you could answer a part of my questions because i find your psychology articles on type 4 very interesting and relatable.
    I’ve never open-up myself this way before (i tend to keep all for myself and overthink on it) so i hope you would understand and maybe help me.

    Thanks for reading so far

    PS : sorry for my bad english ; i’m french and not (yet) fluent in english. I hope you’ll understand tough 🙂

  • julyy

    Hello! I don’t know if you’re always keeping this blog because the last comments date from 3 years but I’ll try to explain my situation hoping to receive your answer.

    I’m a 16 girl and I discovered few years ago I was a 4 (and infp-MBTI) and that was a real revelation for me. I said myself all the time, and even more since I entered high school: “what’s wrong with me? Why don’t I manage to connect with people? Why am I so different ? Nobody understands me and no one ever will…”
    I’m currently in my first year in high school and i have (very) good marks but i’m anxious and withdrawn as hell there because everyone is outgoing (always talking and laughing…), i often feel trapped because i think i had to socialize with people and then i feel i’m faking a person i’m not ; finally, i find school really exhausted. Some days i wondered how i’ll will endure another day in school.I’m seriously and secretly thinking about dropping out but my parents would’t understand (they are both teacher) and the other problem is that i really love learning, especially history, english, french, philosophy and i’m fond of arts/culture in general.
    I have 4 real friends, with whom i spent most of my time and i feel at ease with them. But sometimes i feel like they aren’t “deep” on the same level as me. I would like to have a lot of meaningsfull conversations about view of life, death, books, universe, travels, philosophy, psychology etc… Whenever i know i’m pretty lucky because i read a lots of comments on how people are abandoned by their “friends” and stuffs like that and i know that we will be friend for long.
    In relationship (out of these friends), i just don’t know how to be myself, most of the time i don’t even talk or if i talk i feel fake, i often adapt myself to whom i have in front of me (ton of voice, mood) in order to fit in, to not show my real feelings that i keep deep inside me. I think it’s a way of protecting myself from the world and from people.
    With my family, it’s all the contrary : i’m all the time saying what i think, even imposing to others my own view of things, sometimes get angry for nothing. I always procastinate for homework and i can spent hours doing nothing on the internet, just listening to some music or making unrealistics plans of travels and it makes my father worry about my future and which job i’ll do later (i have no ambition, yet many desire and projects).
    I have had a really perfect childhood until my parents divorced at age 8 ; I think this event really had a big impact on my emotionnaly life and on who I am today. I think I tend to idealize too much my childhood and i see it as a “lost paradise” where i was always happy and easygoing with everyone and it makes me melancholic and sad today (i read that it is a common caracteristic to type 4 so maybe it’s “normal”).
    In love relationship ; uh… I’ve never been in love actually. Perhaps my attempts are too high to reach, i’m looking for a deeeeep relationship in which both give themselves entirely to the other ; i believe in soulmates (it may sounds creep but i do).
    At a point, i thought i was depressed and it had frightens me a little but now I know i’m not (thanks to enneagram and i don’t fit the depression’s criteria). I might was at level 5 few months ago but now i’m pretty sure i turned to level 6.

    How can I become a healthier type 4 ? How can find hapiness in life when no one seems to know the real me ?

    I just thought you could answer a part of my questions because i find your psychology articles on type 4 very interesting and relatable.
    I’ve never open-up myself this way before (i tend to keep all for myself and overthink on it) so i hope you would understand and maybe help me.

    Thanks for reading so far

    PS : sorry for my bad english ; i’m french and not (yet) fluent in english. I hope you’ll understand tough 🙂