“The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.” ― Christopher Hitchens,
Hello, fellow Enneagram lovers! Today on the blog we have a returning guest, Sam Greenberg, interviewing yours truly—Melissa—Enneagram Paths writer, creator, and a Type Five with Four Wing (5w4).
Sam and I connected on Twitter because we are both women Type Fives—shocking! Neither of us had met another woman Five before, so we e-met. It has been a bit like Christmas getting to email back and forth and ask each other all kinds of questions. She sent me some good, meaty ones that I think are really helpful if you are a Type Five, know a Five, or are in any kind of relationship with a Five. Enjoy all the nerdy mental processing about to come your way!
1. [Melissa] how do you avoid obsessively tinkering something to death before sharing it with the world? How do you know when something is “done”?
Oh, this hits me deep. I’m a visual artist and a writer and I’ve literally had to make it a wellness practice to cut off my projects at a certain point. Nothing ever feels perfect enough. I have loads of ideas—notebooks filled with ideas—and I can execute right up until the end. For some reason, the end of a project or painting feels like death, like someone is peeling off my skin. The energy of it gets all screwed up and where I was breezing through a piece with confidence at the beginning, I’m clawing with fingernails to the end. Understanding that this is a normal Type Five trait has helped me have grace on myself—sometimes. I try to be nice to the inner Melissa who gets caught in mental loops as she strives for perfection OR the fear that whatever it is will fail/not sell/not make a client happy. And in the art world, rejection and failure happen a lot—which is not fun for a Five like me. It reinforces my belief that I’m not competent and should give up. I have both self-published and traditionally published novels and I LOVE traditional publishing. My Five mind can’t handle all the minute details it takes to self-publish, give me editors and cover artists and please take all the executing of many to-do lists out of my poor, tired hands.
I do also have help bringing my work out into the world, I have a Type Three husband who kicks my butt, encourages me, and will take over some of the technical stuff when I feel overwhelmed. I also have a Four wing that creates a strong need for self-expression and visibility. Sometimes, I feel like a Four unicorn and that everyone else must recognize my unique specialness. (Said with heaps of sarcasm.)
2. What is your relationship to things like clothing/shopping, keeping the house clean, or remembering to go to the doctor?
In the clothing area, I am total a mix of Type Five and Type Four. I’m a thrift store junkie because I both abhor paying full-price for anything (cheapskate Five) and don’t want to look like anyone else (special snowflake Four). It’s really hard for me to spend money on anything; I get hives thinking about it and intense guilt after said money is spent—even if it’s on toilet paper! I’m working hard on generosity, on giving more to others and also trying to spend money on myself. For fun. Like normal folks do. My tendency to save and skimp is part of the Five hoarding of resources. It feels dangerous to take anything out of the bank.
Keeping the house clean is an obsession—that I hate. I have two kids now, which compounds this problem. Before kids, I had a very mishmash Five/Four home. It was super clean and minimalist, but also pretty. All our furniture is second-hand or refinished by me. I’m notorious for dumpster-diving and nabbing things off the side of the road. But the Four wing has a definite aesthetic and most people can’t tell how little cash I spend on making my home nice to look at. Now that I have kids, home is one area where the Arrow to Type Seven has kicked in. When I’m stressed, I clean the house. I angry clean. How dare these people live? How dare they drop a crumb? How dare they have specks of earth on their shoes? I’m trying to notice this spiral more—my kids start to feel like an infringement on my safety (I’m a self-preservation Five and home is my Castle of Isolation and Fortitude) and this creates a false need to clean. Instead, what I really need to do is to enter into the moment and enjoy the crazy, and/or sit down and rest.
Also, errands, doctor’s appointments, laundry, parent-teacher conferences, grocery shopping?? OMG, what a waste of my life and precious mental processing time! I try to pawn off as much as I can to the Three hubby who loves Getting. Things. Done. What stinks is that I’m actually super great at grocery shopping because I stick to the budget—life as a Five is so draining!
3. In our email exchange, you said you don’t navigate emotions easily. How has that been for you as an artist?
As an illustrator and painter, it’s easy. Give me good music or a deep podcast and I tap into my emotional self with ease. As a storyteller, one of my greatest weaknesses is presenting the emotions of characters. I can set a damn good scene, but I struggle to invite the reader into a character’s heart with emotion. I think as I do more work to integrate to my healthy Eight Arrow, emotions and a sense of bodily presence might more readily flow into my work.
4. What is your relationship to expressions of emotion such as crying? What about crying in front of other people?
My family does not tolerate crying. When I cried as a child my mother often told me I was, “Out of control.” So I learned to hide. My household was verbally and emotionally abusive and if I wanted to cry about it I had to go into the woods alone (without my Eight brother) or take a long shower where the sound of the water would drown out the sound of my tears. Now, as an adult, they still don’t allow me to cry. If I cry—or show any emotion—I’m told to “calm down” or “stop being ridiculous”. This from my mother, father, and brother.
So, crying about anything going on inside of myself feels shameful even though I will easily tear up when someone else is hurt or in pain—even people I don’t know. I can’t watch the news or see horrific things on the internet, it guts me. Most people find me incredibly empathetic and able to hold space for their emotions, but I’m total crap at feeling my own emotions. It will take a day or two for any emotion to kick in after a conflict or something that upsets me. The Enneagram work I’m doing now with a therapist is to discover my backbone—and to start to feel my emotions as they arise. I want to empathize with myself more. Curiously, bodywork like meditation and yoga have been helping my trapped emotions emerge and I cry more. But not yet very much about myself. And not yet very much in front of others. Work in progress!
5. How has it been for you being a parent?
It is the hardest thing ever. Ever. Ever-ever. As a Type Five and the most introverted introvert I’ve ever met, having a (for now) Type Seven child and Type Eight child with a Type Three husband has burnt the shit out of all my energy reserves. Oh my gosh. It’s so freaking hard. I can’t state enough the difficulty of caring so deeply about two beings (one who is adopted and that’s a whole other thing) and yet I don’t want to be around them 95% of the time.
I’m not nurturing and I’ve had to figure out how to be nurturing. I’m not in my body and yet I’ve had two tiny humans clinging to me all day. I thrive being left alone with my thoughts and these days not thirty seconds goes by without someone hollering, “Mom!”
I’m learning a ton about self-care. I got a therapist for my son who has Reactive Attachment Disorder to help me support him better. I’m learning from my kids: my Seven daughter teaches me to lighten up, laugh, and enjoy things! My Eight son teaches me to have boundaries and feel experiences with my body and that it’s okay to be angry. I have zero support from either side of our families and that is exhausting. I would love help, but I don’t get it, nor am I likely to. So, I’m having to ask for help from friends and also be okay with vetted summer camps and school programs that give me a break. My daughter is going to all day pre-school (she’s four-years-old) five days a week this year. I had to let go of my “mom expectations” and acknowledge that it was best for her and for me.
Seriously, parenting is teaching me all the good-hard things. It’s “brutiful” (brutal and beautiful). And yes, sometimes I do yell, “For the love, would you all just let me think?!”
6. My research is about human sexuality so I am most curious about your dating, romantic and intimate relationship experiences. How have those been for you? Sometimes Fives are so used to being powerless in the world that we like to exercise power in relationships. This would be more of the “shadow” side of 5 relationships.
Well, I’m a weird nut in that I’ve only ever dated my husband. No, it was not some crazy courting thing (not a Duggar), but I was super shy in my teens. I had lots of guy friends in high school because I relate better to males in general, but I definitely sent out an “I’m not available vibe”. Even though inside I was dying for romantic attention.
When I got to college and I finally came into myself, I became much more outgoing and starting dating the guy who would become my husband four years later. I have seen the shadow side of Five in our relationship more than any other. Fives tend to push off emotions and needs, but they build up. And when the dam bursts, it can be explosive! I have lost my freaking mind with my husband and exhibited behaviors like screaming at the top of my lungs or verbal bullying (I “word” him into a corner with insults and sarcasm and “logic”) This shadow side emerges only when every last inch of my boundaries have been crossed and I can’t take any more. The problem is I don’t communicate my feelings or needs or boundaries! So, when a Five finally speaks up, it’s often in a roar. We’ve been pushed past our limits. I’m finding grace for myself when this happens and actively working to make it not part of my life.
The key for me is to learn to start speaking up in small ways about my emotions, needs, and boundaries. I have to let people into my inner world a bit at a time. Then blowups are prevented because I don’t have a giant backlog of grievances and unfelt emotions.
It’s really scary, but I’ve started doing this with my husband and friends and have found so much health and healing in letting out emotions and needs as they arise.
Interviewer 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
Melissa Kircher is an artist, writer, and student of the Enneagram. You can find her work on both Enneagram Paths and her website www.melissakircher.com. She’s currently working toward an Enneagram teaching certification and hopes to offer Enneagram mentoring services late 2018. You can connect with her on Twitter @enneagrampaths and Instagram @enneagrampaths.