The Dramatic Four
So Long Suffering
Fours share some characteristics of Twos and Threes in the heart center. Fours share some of the emotional habits in that they tend to be excessively influenced by others. All three lack a certain inner density. They are not sure of who they are and they tend to confuse seeming with being. They pay too much attention to what others think of them and they tend to interiorize in one way or another the opinions of others about themselves. Twos do it by emotionally investing in others by helping; threes do it by performing for others.
Fours have a negative relationship to others. They take pride in being different, especially being defective. All the while they lament their lot in life; you can hear a faint bragging: I have been singled out by fate, God, the Universe, name your deity to suffer. And my suffering makes me special. Nobody knows the trouble I've seen, and nobody appreciates how I've handled it, absorbed its bitter dregs and these dregs have become medicine. Nietzsche said, "What does not kill me strengthens me." Fours feel that in some way. Their traditional sin is envy. On a superficial level, one might ask, "Why commit such a painful sin?" Pride looks like fun at times (Two) and deceit has its rewards, (Three) especially in a context of high performance with the applause in the background. But envy?
First, most sins are not enjoyable. They are experiences of powerlessness. St. Paul said, "The good that I want to do, I don't do and the evil I don't want, that I do." Second, and to the point here -- Fours make envy pay off.
The play's the thing
One payoff reveals itself in their speech pattern of lamentation. Listen to an entranced Four for a while and you hear this dramatic recital of how difficult her life is (especially compared to your own ordinary white-bread existence). The drama's the thing. Fours have a keen sense of drama, their esthetic sense is highly developed whether they are healthy or not. So their lamentations are dramatic presentations of an important moment or experience in the life of an important person. Envy is really their ticket to esteem. They are other directed, and expect esteem from others precisely because of their suffering. This frequently can create a disdain for the ordinary. Many Fours have real trouble with the nitty-gritty of life. One Four friend talks with terror about "logistics," getting him and his stuff from her to there on time and in one piece.
This is coupled with a vivid inner life. I had a sensitive Four confide in me that he often couldn't hear what important people in his life said to him because he was paying so much attention to his inner feelings.
The movie, Heavenly Creatures, based on a true story, illustrates, a lot of these dynamics. It's a complex and rewarding movie. Watch for the following. Notice the two girls (both are Fours, Paula has a Five wing and Gina has a Three wing) start their friendship in earnest by comparing illnesses and then declare themselves special because of their flaws. Within the Four trance, that makes perfect sense.
Notice their inner imaginative life is so powerful they can't distinguish it from outer reality and they end up imposing fantasy on reality with real consequences. The life of the imagination takes emotional precedence over family, school, morality -- everything. (They are both probably self-preservation subtypes; but they are different because of their wings. The Three wing of Gina makes her more outgoing and accomplished. The Five wing of Paula tends to make her appear more sullen and introverted). They are both unhealthy and display some of the entitlement attitude often prominent in unhealthy Fours. The envy shows up in the anger against the parents. The parents, regardless of what they have done for them, haven't given them the only important thing - the chance to be together. So they focus on what is not there and get angrier about it as time goes on. Fours have a tendency to compare what is with what is missing and then spend a lot of emotional energy lamenting absence.
For a nice contrast between a little healthier Four and a light-hearted (and selfish) Seven, see Meryl Streep in Out of Africa. Redford is the Seven she loves even though he is absent most of the time (a typical snare for some Fours) and she loves being tragically beautiful. And beautifully tragic. You can feel the violins coming from afar. She is a dauntless Four, taking chances in the real world to prove an emotional inner world point. If you like her Fourness (she is a One in real life with an apparent strong feeling for her Four connection), then watch her really dramatize it in The French Lieutenant's Woman.
If your tastes are literary, here's a self-revealing poem by Shakespeare who was mostly likely a Four. Notice the abandonment, the envy of everyone and then notice he takes consolation in the memory of love, not in the love itself.
When in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes
I all alone beweep my outcast state
I trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
and look upon myself and curse my fate. (There's the lament).
Featured like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least (Now the envy)
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate,
For they sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
(Notice the entire poem describes a succession of inner states. He internally generates the lament, he creates the envy and he solves it by remembering. He never ventures outside).
Four, by God
The Book of Jonah is a brief biting satire on the sense of entitlement some of the Jewish people had developed. (Jewish culture has a strong Four flavor: a sense of entitlement, a large of body of lamentation psalms and a tradition of being special as the chosen people.) I was at a conference and this Jewish lady exclaimed, "Oh, I'm a Four and I'm Jewish, I'm special no matter how you look at it!) When you read the book of Jonah, notice how bad everything Jewish looks and how wonderful everyone in Nineveh from the King down to the cattle behaves (even the cows fast!). Only one Jew could satirize the other Jews with this kind of biting detail. It's funny, it's brilliant and it is an attack on unhealthy attachment to privilege. The Hebrew Scriptures are unique among sacred literature for their ability to be self-critical and this is a superb example.
- Read a good sophisticated commentary on the Book of Jonah. Tom Condon has a video in which he interviews a Four. If you're a therapist or a Four, I strongly recommend it. (The Dynamic Enneagram, specify strategy #4) Notice when you watch how articulate a Four is about her inner life. You get a strong sense of how the Four rejects others in the name of feeling rejected by them. That's how envy does it.
- Read Madame Bovary. Fourishness is on every page. Marianne in Sense and Sensibility is also a clear Four. After reading the book once, go back and read it again with everything except your character in the background and read her lines in the foreground. You get a wonderful sense of the integrity of the character. Try it with Jane Austen. I think Bovary would overwhelm you after while!
- Notice that most male gay stereotypes are Fours. Reality is different, but in pop culture, (like Robin Williams' partner in Birdcage) gay males play Fours.
- If you are a Four, read and record 45 minutes of Lamentation psalms and then play them back. Can you feel the excess?
- If you are a Four, I recommend David Reynolds' work. Constructive Living was invented to deal with Fourishness in Japan. Reynolds is a no-nonsense One and he'll seem heartless to you, but I have it on good authority from several Fours that it really helped them. Try Thirsty in the Lake, Swimming or anything, really, by Reynolds on Constructive Living.
- One piece of good general advice for Fours is to make sure you get plenty of physical exercise. It puts you in better contact with external reality.
Enneagram Coaching Suggestions for Exercises:
- Why do you suppose France is considered a Fourish culture?
- Why do you think physical exercise is recommended so strongly for Fours?
- Analyze the last few paragraphs of Jonah. Why is compassion opposed to envy?
- What would good and bad work situations for Fours look like? (Michael Goldberg's business book, Nine Ways of Working is good on these.
- Contrast bread and pizza. Why can you eat bread more often? Why might Fours be like pizza?
- If you are a Four, do some shopping at Wal-Mart, regardless of what you can afford. How does it feel? Who shops there? Why? Why don't you?
- List five good reasons to stay entranced as a Four. (You can't let go of a trance until you can get some of its goodies in other ways...)
- When does your style work the best for you? The worst?