“I envy people that know love. That have someone who takes them as they are.” ― Jess C. Scott, The Devilin Fey
“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” ― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
Happy Monday everyone! Today on Enneagram Paths we have an interview with Liz Johnson, an Enneagram Type Four. Just to refresh our memories, The Enneagram Institue defines Type Fours as people who, “[are] self-aware, sensitive, and reserved. They are emotionally honest, creative, and personal, but can also be moody and self-conscious. Withholding themselves from others due to feeling vulnerable and defective, they can also feel disdainful and exempt from ordinary ways of living. They typically have problems with melancholy, self-indulgence, and self-pity. At their Best: inspired and highly creative, they are able to renew themselves and transform their experiences.”
Welcome, Liz, and thank you so much for sharing about yourself and what it’s like to be a Type Four!
Enneagram Type Four
1. Emotions are dominant for Fours as part of the Heart Triad. Are there things you’re learning to do that help balance energy and get in touch with your thoughts and body?
I’ve been learning to not dwell on my emotions. I’ll catch myself in the act of letting an emotion consume several hours of my day — or sometimes the entire day. Lately, I’ve been telling myself that when something hits (feeling defeated, sadness, anger, etc) to not let my whole self become that feeling. I take the feeling out of my body and let it go. The Enneagram has opened my eyes to how much I allow myself to fully immerse my mind, body, and spirit in an emotion. I hadn’t realized how deep into an emotional rabbit hole I’d go. The more I awaken to this as it’s happening, the more I make the initiative to be productive. Breathing has helped with emotions. Just being still, focusing on the breath going in and out. Emotions can take such a toll on my body. I have to be kind to myself and remember to “breathe” it back to somewhat of a homeostasis, or even do some yoga. Release the negative energy.
2. What do you love about your number? What do you hate about your number?
I love that Type Fours can poetically explain how certain emotions feel. This can happen through the lyrics of a song because a Four can cause a person to say, “Yes! that’s exactly how that feels!” Sometimes, the lyrics don’t even make sense but they impact someone in a specific way. Same with art. Fours can take those emotional wounds and create art that stirs something deep within the soul.
Also, Fours can hold space for pain without the need to fix it with unrealistic optimism. People need to process suffering organically and at their own pace. If someone shares their pain with me, I want to help them allow themselves to feel it and not prematurely cut it off. It’s part of the healing process. A Four will not encourage you to “just get over it” and brush your pain under the rug. That is not the nature of a Four and I love this part of me. Sometimes, I hate the physical toll emotions have on my mind and body — like I just want to move on already! When I experience an emotion, it is as if it’s held in place by a really strong magnet and it becomes paralyzing. It takes some serious intentional effort to let go.
3. What happens when you’re stressed and go along your Arrow to Type Two? What happens when you’re in a healthy place and go along your Arrow to Type One?
In stress to Type Two, I can recall times when I’ve been worried about the status of a friendship and would attune to my friend’s needs — while disregarding my own needs. I now see the damage that does to my self-worth. I learned a long time ago that if there’s tension with someone, I can’t set myself aside and selflessly make sure they’re okay. It’s so important to maintain boundaries. It’s also been said that Fours get “clingy” in Two. This could happen if I allowed myself to be that way, but I also know people have their own boundaries, and I have enough common sense to not “cling” a relationship to exhaustion. I keep my distance (because Fours hide a lot anyway), and have had overall decent relationships for a while now.
In health towards a Type One, I notice some of my better days are when I’m intentional and actually commit to creating something. There have been many times I daydream about doing a project, but never actually execute it. My overall mood is a lot better on days when I actually let go of clinging to my emotions and fantasies and create. However, there is still much to process on this Arrow as well.
4. How does envy play out in your interactions with people? Do you find yourself comparing your life, experiences, career, etc. to others?
It made sense when I read that envy was the “deadly sin” of Type Four. At times, envy has caused me to feel as though my life and creations are worthless and pale in comparison to others. Sometimes, if someone shares an accomplishment I may have a thought like, “I wish I could do that”, instead of fully embracing their joy. I can also relate to the Four’s tendency to feel as if something is missing from an experience. It seems like others experience life to the fullest. I want to be fully engaged in the present like everyone else around me appears to be. It’s so challenging to let go of anything outside of the moment and trust that it doesn’t lack anything.
There has also been a divine sweetness in realizing my own story helps me to let go of envy. I am special (said like a true Four) and as I create from my soul, I see more and more that I truly am needed in this world. In realizing this truth, there is no room for envy.
5. Talk about what the words Unique and Authenticity mean to you today.
Unique makes me think of how I always had this sense that I had to look unique and stand out by wearing outfits that set me apart from everyone! I went through several different phases: grunge, punk, goth, retro, futuristic, etc. This was a way to express myself because I felt like my voice had no worth or wasn’t being heard. I had a lot of emotional pain, therefore fashion was a means by which I could communicate to others.
I’ve realized I’ve been doing Enneagram work unawares for a couple years now. Now that I have a name for this work, it’s shown me how much I long for a vocation — job/work/calling/purpose — that isn’t something I just settle with and do for a paycheck. Over time I’ve come to understand that what I naturally like to do is unique AND authentic, I’ve just been avoiding it. I avoided painting, drawing, and writing because it seemed like a waste of time. But, after taking the time to work on myself and process my pain, I now see that creativity is a means through which I can share myself; by letting others know they’re not alone and encouraging them on their healing journey.
Authenticity. I wonder who I am without the personality of Type Four and it’s coping methods? Who is anyone without their Enneagram number keeping them from being their true, authentic self? It’s so worth the time/energy/money/etc to discover our true selves.
6. Are there any spiritual practices you’re drawn to as a Type Four?
When creating a piece of art, I not only create from my personality but with a mysterious presence that dwells within me. I tend to live life through a Type Four filter, but even deeper there is a good, true, divine image of our creator and source of life. Often, I’m surprised by what stirs in my soul when I finish a drawing or painting. I’m in awe of the ways my creations have revealed mysterious wonder, wisdom, and truth. I see this as spiritual because these creations do not come to life solely by my humanity, but with a spiritual presence as well. I love to hike and have had incredible divine insight as I walk in the woods. I suppose this has become a spiritual practice as well.
7. How has learning about your Enneagram Type impacted your life and relationships? Has it changed the way you view yourself or others?
We all have some kind of pain or wounding from childhood. Before I knew I was doing the work of the Enneagram, learning about my childhood led me to discover ACEs (adverse childhood experiences). What we experience in childhood can have a huge impact on our minds and bodies, and ACEs research, along with many other similar subjects, has shown the science behind adversity/toxic stress. I came across a TED Talk by Nadine Burke Harris, a pediatrician who is on a mission to encourage ACEs screenings at all childhood wellness visits. I agree with Nadine and hope that with enough awareness of ACEs, there will someday be ACE screenings at all pediatric wellness visits, and ACEs/trauma training in schools.
The work of the Enneagram involves addressing one’s childhood in order to understand why we are a particular Type. I can’t expect my center to move towards health unless I process and heal from childhood wounds. I continue to research my childhood in relation to who I am as an adult which has changed the way I view all my relationships. Knowing and processing my own story and Type has helped me to have grace for the times when I live in a fantasy world rather than live with intention, believe the negative lies in my head, hurt others (or when others hurt me), and numerous other ways I miss the mark.
8. Do you know if you have a Three or Five Wing? If so, tell us about how your Wing supports and enhances the Type Four characteristics.
I think I might be a Five Wing, but I’m unsure about it. Sometimes it seems like I fit the description of a Three Wing and sometimes a Five wing. I can be both social and private. Sometimes I create with an audience in mind and sometimes I create for myself. The thing that draws me to the Five Wing is the fact that I love to research. When something sparks my interest, I’ll read several books, search about it on Youtube or podcasts, and follow experts on the subject on social media. What I discover from researching fuels an inward fire that impacts what I create. From this fire also comes strength, like that of a Five’s growth towards a healthy Type Eight. As a Four, I desire to have the strength of an Eight. If that’s possible, that is so worth the hard work of the Enneagram!
Liz resides in northeast Ohio, a place where she’s able to experience the beauty of each season, welcoming winter with the most joy. She lives with her husband Jon, daughter Roxy and son Kai. She’s an artist and writer, blogging her journey with a focus on ACEs advocacy, personality, spirituality, and the science behind those subjects. She loves to hike, research, and frequently enjoys the creativity and wisdom of a children’s picture book. Instagram: @lizjartist Blog: @painsplatteredholygenes.wordpress.com
*Photos by Agnieszka Boeske , Keagan Henman , Erik Witsoe , Juliette Leufke on Unsplash