Sexual/One-On-One Type Four: Maria Bowler & Melissa Joy Livermore

Happy Monday! Today, we will continue our investigation into subtypes and look at the Sexual or One-On-One Type Four. I’m excited to have Sx Fours Melissa Joy Livermore and Maria Bowler (she, half of the hilarious Enneadog duo on Twitter) on the Enneagram Paths blog, sharing with us about their unique experiences as this subtype.

Beatrice Chestnut in her book, The Complete Enneagram, describes Sexual Fours rather thoroughly (as she does all the 27 subtypes, it’s definitely worth picking up). She says, “These Fours like and need emotional intensity. Without intensity, everything can seem unbearably dull and boring. When Sexual Fours want somebody’s love, they can be very direct about asking for what they need, or they can become “extraordinary”—make themselves seem special and attractive and superior—in an effort to attract it… Sexual Fours believe it’s good to be the best. Most people want to present a good image to others, but Sexual Fours don’t care very much about image management or being liked. For them, it’s better to be superior. They are highly competitive, and their intense focus on competition takes the form of actively striving to show they are the best.” (Beatrice Chestnut, The Complete Enneagram, She Writes Press, 2013)

And now let’s hear from our interviewees, Maria and Melissa. Thanks so much for being here you two!

biopicMaria Bowler is a poet, teacher, and spiritual director. You can find out more about her work at Catch her Enneagram Twitter memes at @enneadog. See her less frequently @mariaevb.

1. What does it mean to you to be a Sexual Type Four?

I’ll be honest, the term “Sexual Instinct” still throws me off a little, but it relates to the idea that we have a survival instinct to make intimate connections and extend our impact on the world. In practical terms, it’s much broader than actual sex; I experience it as the impulse to make the most of life out of any situation. And it shows up in really mundane ways. 

A small example from years ago comes to mind: The first time I went to the beach on the Atlantic Ocean, I waded into the water by myself as far as I was comfortable, stood still, and let the waves crash onto me to see how it would feel. I wasn’t trying to get hurt—I just wanted to get the most feeling I could! My Sp boyfriend at the time was with me, and he thought that was a little bit bananas.

When I was younger, I thought my Sx instinct meant I was emotionally brave; I saw people turn away from intense people or material, whereas I moved toward it. I was drawn to wherever the fire was, whether it was exciting music, new ideas, or the personalities in a room. Fours, in general, are drawn to “authenticity” (a loaded word!) and I think my Sx logic was, the more extreme something is, the more true or authentic it must be. I was so wrong about that! Turns out you can actually burn yourself and others by standing right next to the metaphorical Fire-of-Intensity-For-Its-Own-Sake at all times.

At this moment in my life, the Sx instinct means that I care about the quality of my interactions a lot, but I won’t force them. I am interested in the edges of things, but don’t necessarily feel the need to push them. I also appreciate a challenge (they’re exciting), provided it doesn’t feel imposed upon me.

2. How does the Sexual Instinct as a Four shade your need for sexual intimacy, close relationships and friendships, and a connection to your bodily energy? Which of these needs do you most require to feel safe?

Sexual Intimacy: I define this as the need to merge with someone on multiple levels; intellectually, emotionally, physically, or spiritually. It’s the need to be mutually affected in some way. This impulse to “click” or “spark” with people (or even environments) is strong, and I feel sad when it’s not possible. On the other hand, I feel very alive when it is possible. A small moment of mutual connection in passing—like “I see you”—can make my day. Of all the things you listed, that intimacy definitely makes me feel the safest.

Close Relationships and Friendships: I feel an intense loyalty to my friends, so I think that’s how the intensity of the Sexual instinct shows up there. I also think it’s my Sexual (or One-to-One) Instinct thing to prefer fewer, closer friends than many, less-close friendships. In the friendships I have, I feel secure when we know we are important to each other without having to talk or hang out all the time.

Connection to Bodily Energy: I think Self-Preservation is my secondary instinct, so I keep a close eye on how much energy I have, except when I’m in a one-to-one conversation with someone. Then, I tend to lose track of time and forget that I’m tired.

In all of these areas, it’s fair to say my energy can be a little bit all or nothing, on or off. Either I’m fully engaged and trying to make the most meaning out of a situation, or I don’t want to be involved at all. That’s probably a very Sx thing. I’m learning to moderate that as I get older.

3. What does Stress look like for you as a Sexual Four? What does Integration/Health look like for you as a Sexual Four?

Stress expresses itself as open frustration that nothing is happening where I wanted/expected something to happen. It can be work stress, interpersonal stress, whatever. I will lament to someone I’m close to, and the more stressed I get the more widely I’m willing to express this frustration. In stress, I will have a desire in mind (even as simple as a desire to be well when I’m sick), and I’ll find it difficult to distract myself from the fact that it’s not happening.

In health, the desire for depth and intensity meets with humor and equilibrium. I don’t have to move toward the heat as much because I trust that there is enough life and goodness wherever I am. I can really enjoy less serious things as they are without wanting them to be more. It’s a more spacious feeling.

headshot.pngMelissa Joy Livermore is an interdisciplinary artist that deeply values connectedness and introspection. Much of her work, from the deconstruction of canvas—thread by thread, to the use of Instagram as a platform for performative action, lies at the intersection of the two ideas.


Instagram: @melissajoylivermore Twitter: @mjoyliver

1. What does it mean to you to be a Sexual Type Four?

My whole life seems to revolve around connection. Living on three different continents in a period of three years has been a very clear illustration of this reality for me. The hardest part was developing and maintaining relationships. Sustaining significant connections at a distance, clinging to connections with other expats due to shared experience, and cultivating relationships in a new cultural context was challenging. Then, those connections were abruptly cut off as I moved to the next place, starting over the cycle of trying to maintain relationships at a distance. As a Type Four, my tendency to feel misunderstood was especially underscored in those spaces. Feeling on the outside, and not in a good place emotionally, it was hard to find one-on-one connections that could provide a sense of being known. This reality perpetuated my tendency to hoard connection, to swallow it whole.

Living overseas magnified my tendencies, however, I have always been drawn to intense connections with people. Growing up in Evangelical spaces, my focus was on getting past the surface to a spiritual connection with people, the deep dive of sharing your whole soul. As an artist, most of my work revolves around the ideas of interpersonal connection, whether that is in examining the way I relate to people on social media or the way language and understanding work hand in hand. With my largest body of work Deconstruction, I focus on the way participation in a shared meditative action can facilitate deep connections with strangers. The same level of intensity I have in relationships is applied to ideas that capture my attention. I dive deeply into them, obsessively focused until the next one arrives; searching for the ways they weave into my everyday experiences and how they resonate with those around me. While I am sure there are other aspects of my life that I am neglecting to mention in this response, it feels like most my of world is summed up in interpersonal connection and the pursuit of composing ideas and concepts—that may or may not be realized.

2. How does the Sexual Instinct as a Four shade your need for sexual intimacy, close relationships and friendships, and a connection to your bodily energy? Which of these needs do you most require to feel safe?

As I have already mentioned, relationships hold a lot of weight in my life, more than I wish they did sometimes. In terms of sexual relationships, I am just starting the slow unraveling of growing up in Evangelical culture, and the shame that surrounds sexuality for me. Growing up, my experience was mostly long, deep, intense crushes on people with whom I connected deeply. Usually, it was someone that I shared musical interests with, obsessing over brooding lyrics together. But because I did not feel that I could operate freely in those spaces, I dove deep into a longing and desire for a connection that I did not think I could have. I withdrew into my thoughts of what could be, longing narratives that I would pick up from books. I would wait for the other person to make a move while imagining all the ways I would try to connect with them if I could.

In my family life, I shut down my tendencies to feel deeply, and my analytical nature went into overdrive. Because that was was what they accepted. The closest my family gets to deep connection with one another is through spiritual conversations. As I start to move away from those old frameworks, there is a fear of losing connection with them, complicating that process for me. Friendships are where most of my deeper emotional connections have developed. I often wonder if I know the meaning of the word acquaintance. If I connect with someone, the deep dive usually follows. If I do not connect with the person, contact is not usually maintained. I have a tendency to want every friendship to have the intimacy of a close relationship. With my body, I’m growing in the awareness of how disembodied I have been. I feel deeply and live primarily in my mind through the endless analysis of feelings—my Five Wing is strong. I feel the safest when I have at least one relationship of mutual and deep understanding near me geographically.

4. What does Stress look like for you as a Sexual Four? What does Integration/Health look like for you as a Sexual Four?

I’m still learning how stress and integration play out in my life, and I feel like I am far more aware of how I operate under stress. In those spaces I see a tendency to introject others—to internalize slight judgments or disappointments as cutting off our connection, feeling the need to make up for those moments or to be on guard against future moments that could cause the same breeches in a relationship. I fixate on past hurts, running them repeatedly through my brain, trying to glean new insight from the situations. There is a feeling that something is wrong with me, I often worry that I am too much, too serious, too intense.

As I am becoming more aware of those spaces, it has been helpful for me to approach them with kindness. My analytical tendency to berate myself for failure is very strong, keeping me stuck inside that loop. I often tie failure to relationships. For example, leaving a difficult job, I was more concerned about the loss of relationships that could come from taking that step. When I get stuck in patterns of self-sabotage artistically, I worry that what I make as I grow and change will lead to loss of relationships. There has been a lot of learning to listen to my own voice, developing a relationship with myself that is kind and gentle. Walking in that direction has brought moments of clarity; an ability to see through the fog of how I think I am perceived and to hold space for the fear of rejection. This has been an incredibly helpful lesson in the last few months.

Thank you both so much! – Melissa

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