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?
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 Stay withdrawn to protect their self-image and to buy time to sort out feelings.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?