I am a type 4 on the Enneagram. For those not familiar with this, the Enneagram is a means of categorising and better understanding our personality traits. I have found it a good way to, I hope, become more self aware and put effort in to balance out the worst excesses of my weaknesses and vulnerabilities. A type 4 is one of the feeling types, so I will tend to react out of my emotions and our dominant core emotion is, interestingly, shame.
I find being a type 4 very difficult as the world is disparaging and unsympathetic to those of us who primarily respond out of emotion. I think this is because most people, especially – although not exclusively – men, are actually in denial about their feelings. They believe they act rationally. But, it is impossible to do anything without emotions being involved in addition to thought processes. Yet, as I am honest and brave enough to acknowledge and own my feelings, as well as think deeply and act reasonably, what I articulate is diminished or dismissed entirely and I become a receptacle for other people’s emotions that they are not willing to observe and acknowledge in themselves.
A manifestation of this is projection. For example, someone familiar with my work liked to say I was a one trick pony. Actually, I have lots of ideas and am working on many different projects at the same time. He is the one trick pony, but he couldn’t own this for himself. Instead, in his envy, he tried to convince himself and others that I was the reflection of what he couldn’t face about himself. I have learnt through bitter and painful experience to no longer just take on these personal criticisms. More often than not they are not about me at all and reveal more about the person expressing the derogatory remark. And yes I have to admit, in the past, I have also been guilty of doing the criticising in order to deflect and protect my own fragile sense of self.
The things I like about being a type 4 is that we are creative, enjoy pleasing aesthetics and can be incredibly original as we gain insights from situations few will allow themselves to experience. One of the reasons for this is we go to the depths. About 11 years ago, when I was going through a similar re-evaluation of my personhood and discernment into what is my unique gift to the world, I felt the Spirit tell me I was like a pearl. I was then thrilled to be reading Richard Rohr’s book on the Enneagram where he likens a type 4 to being a pearl. That’s because we are often the irritant that, if allowed creates the beauty and value. Due to shame, I am also prone to hiding!
Yet, often these unique insights and original ideas come out of intense suffering and soul searching. I don’t know why it has to be this way, but that is what I experience time and again. Yesterday I spent the whole day wrestling with the most unbearable and intense feelings of despair and hopelessness. I slept on and off through the night. I kept reaching out to God and imploring the divine for help and relief. Then having watched the dawn, I had a profound thought which seemed to make sense of my anguish. I was then able to sleep and enjoy some peace.
I do wonder if the revelation is worth it. However, I am reminded of the parable of the pearl of great price. If this is the treasure, the thing of real worth and value, then everything else should be sacrificed to own it. However, there is also a scripture about casting pearls before swine. And, my deep diving to secure the treasure of the kingdom has by some been ignored, suppressed and even actively despised. So, maybe, if we maintain a honest and humble assessment of ourselves, we will be able to move beyond envy and projection. Forgiveness is always available when we admit our failings and seek to make amends. This, in turn, leads to greater maturity and models a mission spirituality that has the power to change us into the perfected version of ourselves that was always the intention of our Creator.