Today, I’d love to welcome a guest blogger, Samantha Greenberg, who I had the good fortune of connecting with via Twitter. We found we share some life experiences, not the least of which is the fact that we’re both Type Fives! Sam is a researcher, currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Integral and Transpersonal Psychology and she was kind enough to answer some of my nerdy questions about her work and how she interacts with the world as an Enneagram Five.
1. So, Sam, as a woman Five do you tend to get along with men or women better?
Men! For sure, hands down. For my whole life, I’ve had male friends and an easier time bonding with men, including my childhood. Post-puberty, I often relied on flirting to make social connections with men because I found it easier than forming deeper friendships. I’ve always felt awkward and like I’m not good at conversations, but I find men easy to predict. The conversations and interactions are more formulaic which makes interacting easier. I don’t have trouble navigating emotions necessarily if it’s clear what the emotions are, but women seem more likely to have a complex or multi-layered set of emotions at once.
It’s interesting that I’ve never met another female Five because I know we are out there! I would be willing to bet most female Fives have an easier time relating to men and so it stands to reason we would be unlikely to meet one another.
2. How does being a Five impact your work? How do you move about in the world?
I’m a researcher which I see as the perfect Type Five job. I literally get to pursue curiosity for a living!
I work from home now, which was the best thing to ever happen to my mental health. I prefer to be alone to a fault, to the point that I can become too isolated. My challenge in an office environment was always how to find enough alone time, but these days my challenge is making sure I connect with people enough.
3. Do you think people take your ideas and thoughts and general Five-ness less seriously because you are a woman?
Yes, for sure. Mant things men are encouraged to do, I find I’m discouraged from doing. I was encouraged not to pursue aPh.D.D and not to quit my “stable” job at a non-profit even though I was unhappy. There’s this idea that women shouldn’t be taking risks, whether intellectually, financially, etc., because that’s male territory.
I’ve found academia to be the most sexist space I’ve ever encountered, which is disheartening. I see women in my Ph.D. program passed over and ignored while the men are fawned over—even though we’re in psychology which is a female-dominated field. Also, since women are generally bearing more of a burden at home and with family, almost all of the attrition (def: the action or process of gradually reducing the strength or effectiveness of someone or something through sustained attack or pressure) from my program has been from women. I get along well with the men because I am comfortable with the type of bare-knuckled intellectual sparing they seem to like. But we have a lot of conversations about how feminine approaches to scholarship are marginalized. The worst of it is that I have had male professors and several male Ph.D. students tell me not to pursue my dissertation interests. I’m aiming to make a significant contribution to the literature, so my intended topic will be a lot of work and also an intellectual and academic risk. It’s a risk I’m comfortable taking, but from men, I get this sort of, “Oh honey, you can’t possibly take on this silly project, you don’t know what research is really about.”
4. As a feminist and a Type Five, have you investigated the patriarchy and how it lifts up intellectual men but not women? (I—Melissa—have been SO intrigued by the Divine Feminine and how religion has embraced patriarchy as the “Godly” way—thus repressing women who would be great leaders, thinkers, and do-ers.)
Yes!!! This!! As with many gender double-standards, intellectual men are considered “interesting,” “brilliant,” “exceptional,” and intellectual women are “full of themselves,” “ugly,” and any number of other terrible things. I think this comes from the cultural equating of women’s worth with their looks. I’ve always been kind of a “nutty professor” type of person to where I’m losing my glasses and forgetting to comb my hair. Intellectual men are allowed to be this way and it is even considered attractive, but intellectual women are expected to be put together, attractive, submissive on top of being smart.
In terms of religion, you are absolutely right. I’m working on a paper now about how women were essential to the development of spiritual traditions, but are mostly uncredited. The surviving spiritual texts from most traditions were entirely written by men (even though in many cases the ideas were co-opted from women) so of course, they’re filtered through a male lens. This is the only reason, in my opinion, that many traditions refer to a male God.
5. How do you turn off your brain? How do you relax?
Emotions help to get out of my head. I feel grateful for my strong Four wing, which allows me to become absorbed in my emotions. I can go into my emotions almost at will through listening to certain music or writing poetry. I know feelings aren’t easy for Fives, but they are sometimes a welcome change from the constant thinking and analyzing.
Dance is another primary way for me to get out of my head and into my body. I went through a significant mental health recovery period in my later twenties where I spent time with meditation, yoga, somatic awareness. So at this point, I am pretty good at recognizing when the brain needs to stop. When it does, I try to draw my awareness down into my body. Embodied awareness is great for this and it also helps me sleep. The trouble with being a Five is that sometimes just moving the body isn’t enough. Like today I took a walk to “take a break,” but wasn’t conscious of where my attention was during the walk. I ended up with my brain/mind wandering the whole time and was more tired after the walk than before.
6. Have you found ways to move out of the Five stance and utilize the Arrows toward Seven and Eight in integration? (Using Seven behaviors in stress as a tool for self-awareness.)
The main way I integrate into an Eight direction is to focus on embodiment. If I get out of my head and into my body and trust myself, I automatically feel and project this confidence and assertiveness that feels totally foreign to my Five self. In terms of going to Seven in stress, I have noticed the tell-tale signs that this is happening—a very messy living space, lost keys, wallet etc.—and then I know I’ve been in my head too much. In that case, I will very deliberately work to get out of my head via meditation, yoga, taking a walk, or anything I can think of.
6. Do you find it hard to listen to other people talk or even teach because they can’t seem to communicate in a succinct manner?
I used to. I’m pretty chatty/friendly at this point because I’ve been socialized that way, so I understand when people take a roundabout way to their point. However, if someone’s speech is disorganized or they don’t have a point at all, I’m not able to even process what they’re saying. The thing that confuses and bothers me the most with communication is when people say something subtly or don’t say exactly what they mean. If someone is trying to be subtle I either completely miss the message or get confused/angry that the person can’t be direct. I think this comes up most with accommodating types like Twos and Nines who tend to talk around their point.
7. Are you married or a mom or dating? How does being a Five impact your intimate relationships?
I am not married or a parent at this point. Dating isn’t a priority currently, but I date casually when the mood strikes. I think I have often subconsciously used intimate relationships and dating as a way to fulfill my need for connection and socialization. As mentioned earlier, I find men easier to predict and interact with. If I am interested in socializing, it is easier for me to date than to try to make friends. This is coming up for me a lot recently because I would like to move away from dating for that reason and I’m realizing that places a greater responsibility on me to form social bonds with women.
My intimate relationships in the past have tended towards one of two extremes. In one extreme I’m with a person more passive than me (such as Enneagram Type Fours or Nines), who is understanding of my quirky, introverted ways, but the power is overly imbalanced in my direction. On the other extreme, I’ve been with people more assertive than me (Threes and Eights), who challenge me to be more assertive myself, but I feel like they don’t understand or respect my quirky Five ways. Interestingly, as I integrate more I am more interested in dating Eights, who used to intimidate me to the point that I avoided them entirely. But now a healthy Eight reflects my growth direction and I find more in common with them.
Sam E. Greenberg is a writer and researcher, currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Integral and Transpersonal Psychology. Her research interests include: human sexuality and relationships, personality theory and ego structures (including the Enneagram!), psychospiritual wellness, social power dynamics, and mechanisms for addressing implicit bias. In her “spare” time, Samantha enjoys dancing, traveling, reading fantasy novels, and hanging out with her inscrutable dog, Luna.
You can find her on twitter @IntroverteDiva