Hello, Ennea-peeps! Happy Monday and welcome back to Enneagram Paths to finish out the Type Four Subtype series. Last up is the Social (So) Type Four. We’ll hear from Graham Liddell about what it’s like for him to be a Social Four and then a bonus interview from Maureen Turner, a Sx Four. I’m so glad to have both of you on the blog!
As we’ve been delving into the Type Four Subtypes, Beatrice Chestnut has been the starting guide. Her book The Complete Enneagram is a comprehensive exploration into all 27 Subtypes. About the So Four she says, “[They can] get caught up in and identified with intense emotions to the extent that they can’t take action when it would be good for them to do so. They tend to be generous and do for others, but they do not take responsibility for their own lives… In public, Social Fours repress ‘frowned upon’ emotions like anger or hatred and may appear sweet, friendly, and soft—but in private, they may express the emotions they store up in social situations and become aggressive… A person with this Subtype may be competent, attractive, and intelligent, and yet still tend to focus on and identify strongly with suffering and a sense of deficiency.” (Beatrice Chestnut, The Complete Enneagram, She Writes Press, 2013)
In all the Four subtypes, there is this push and pull dynamic at play. So interesting! I think it’s important to remind ourselves that our Types and Subtypes are nothing to feel shame about. Even if feeling shame is the Type’s issue! Type forms for all of us, it’s a specific set of survival skills that keep us safe for a long time—until it doesn’t anymore. Then we do the work to unearth all the motivations behind our Type, discovering that we’re just at the beginning of a long journey back home to our True Selves or Essence. The Type is held in love and the work is done lovingly, with self-acceptance.
Thanks, Graham, for being here and sharing with us your experiences as a Social Four.
Graham Liddell is a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan. He enjoys hiking, politics, folk music, indie films, and studying languages.
1. What does it mean to you to be a Social Type Four?
I’ve always understood the concept of subtype as not necessarily indicating which instinct (Social, Sexual, Self-Preservation) is most dominant, but rather, it shows which instinct one has the most hang-ups. Case in point: as a Social Four, it’s very important for me to feel I belong in the groups I take part in, but that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily good at participating in groups in general. I think it’s a misconception that social types are typically the life of the party. I personally abhor parties, that is, unless they are relatively small and attended by close friends—or on a rare occasion, if I’m feeling extra-outgoing. Mostly, when I’m at a party, I find myself sitting in a corner grinding my teeth because I feel I should be socializing, and frustrated with myself for not being more charismatic in these situations. It’s not that I’m bad with strangers, but I do much better one-on-one and in small groups.
I understand being a Social Four in relation to my experience being bullied and excluded as a kid. I had a ton of one-on-one friendships, but in groups, my friends would often turn on me and put me down as a means for them to climb the social ladder. I struggled socially for most of elementary school and a bit of middle school. Throughout the years I was bullied, I kept these experiences almost entirely to myself. My parents didn’t know about it until I was in college. At the time, I thought it was my fault I was being bullied, and telling my parents would have been proof that the kinds of insults I was hearing from peers were true, i.e., that I was too sensitive, weak, a crybaby. In high school, I kind of came into my own, embracing my tendency towards melancholy by playing music and writing. I indulged in a bit of a (tame) rebellious phase, connecting with a few other semi-misfits who embraced me as one of their own.
2. How does the Social Instinct as a Four shade your need for belonging and membership within a larger group and community? Why does acquiring perceived belonging make you feel safe?
To me, being a Social four means being hyper-focused on the fairness of group situations (on a small scale, but also on a macro, political level). If I become convinced that whatever group I’m a part of is not operating fairly, I want to quit the group and critique it with cutting specificity. This isn’t necessarily the best way to go, and in healthier periods, I have taken part in efforts to reform groups from within. Accepting incremental change in a group I’m a part of is difficult for me since I feel that black marks on the group’s record reflect poorly on me. Of course, I’ve learned over the years that quitting with a sense of moral superiority not only leaves me lonely and isolated, but it’s also rather arrogant.
Why does perceived belonging make me feel safe? That’s a tough one. I suppose I enjoy feeling reassured regularly that I am okay, that I am not fundamentally lacking some basic trait or skill that makes me incapable of happiness and love. In undergrad, I lived with a group of best friends and trusted acquaintances for three years in a big, run-down house with an enclosed porch and a garden. These were the years in which I felt I belonged more than ever before. Since graduating six years ago, I have regularly struggled with the fact that I’m unlikely to belong to that particular type of community ever again. It was a specific, hippy-ish time in life. People move on and invest most of their energy into their romantic relationships and careers.
3. What does Stress look like for you as a Social Four? What does Integration/Health look like for you as a Social Four?
I have to be cautious not to spend too much time idealizing those college times (as I do in times of stress). I’ve been doing my best to attempt to cultivate new relationships and strengthen ties to the different communities I belong to now, even if they seem lackluster compared to “the good old days.” In times of health, as I mentioned before, I can appreciate the benefits afforded me by my various communities, and the good things accomplished by the groups themselves. The critical side of me can help me identify areas of potential improvement that open up opportunities for me to lead. In times of stress, I may simply complain about these issues or want to disassociate myself from them. But in times of integration, I can grasp the nuance of group situations—the details of all the positives and negatives—and appreciate the positives, to feel the impact of the negatives, to understand that nothing’s perfect, but push ahead with gentle attempts at reform, anyway. This is the equanimity that is the “bright side” of Type Four’s comfort with melancholy, according to Beatrice Chestnut. On a final note, getting into healthy daily routines—things that remain constant even as my social life fluctuates—has proven very helpful in keeping me on the integration side of things.
* * Bonus Sexual/One-On-One Four Interview! * *
Hi, my name is Maureen Ashley Turner, I am a balanced Type Four, Tritype 4-8-6, Sx, followed by Sp. I am the first generation of Mexican American for my family. I graduated college with a double major Biology, and Psychology. I consider myself an artist of all mediums. I consider myself an intensely passionate person. I am very Ride-or-Die, All-or-Nothing. I love being out in nature, going on hikes with my dog, gardening, kayaking, exercising, and going to the gym. I enjoy traveling and taking the scenic route. I love dressing up and fashion. I especially love Halloween.
1. What does it mean to you to be a Sexual Type Four?
This Subtype can be mistyped with a Type Eight (another passionate and emotionally intense number) and appear more emotionally passionate, aggressive and extreme compared to the other Subtypes. I have been confused for an Eight several times by other numbers, but never by other Fours. I often hear that I am too much (something that passionate Fous’s and Eight’s are really used to hearing). I constantly want emotional intensity, in everything: life, romance, adventure, work, driving. It doesn’t matter. If there lacks intensity, life can feel very mundane and suffocatingly boring.
This Subtype is more direct, and it appears to have an absence of shame. When I try to think about my shame, it can be hard for me to address, especially when I am healthy, because I see myself more as “Competitive.” However, shame is much easier for me to see when I am upset. We see Sexual Fours as the “angry” Four. When someone close to me hurts me deeply, or when I face a situation where I feel that I can’t be heard or seen, this is when I recognize my shame. I now realize that I unconsciously turn my pain into anger, so I don’t have to feel my pain anymore. I tend to suffer by comparison.
When I was younger, my envy looked and appeared as straight-up ENVY. In High School, I was a very jealous type of person. I was envious of other people, their bodies, their sheer talent, their ability to be open, raw and themselves with others, how they dressed, how easy it was for them to make friends since I often felt outcast-ed. I wanted to be recognized by my peers, and in a way, I wanted to be the best and better than everyone else (I had a very stronggggg Three Wing then).
However, now that I am older, I’m not as envious of others’ appearances, personalities, or circles of friends. I also don’t really care about approval from other people (except for my parents’ and a few close friends). Now, I am envious when someone possesses a skill I wish I had. I attach myself to skills now and want to know how I can mirror that in myself (because I still find myself defective in some areas).
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?
Fours believe that love is by far the most important thing in their lives. I know that most Type Fours feel that they have a detachment from one or more parents, however, that wasn’t the case for me. My parents (both Type Ones) gave me an EXTREME illusion of what love looked like. They built my childhood to be perfect—fantasy-like. They never fought with each other, at least never to my knowledge, or in front of me. They always went above and beyond to show how much they cared and how much they loved me. They always fed into how special and unique they believed me to be and that I was just different from other people. They are VERY ride-or die, all-or-nothing type of parents.
So my upbringing is very much apparent in my Sexual Subtype. Their love gave me the belief that I once had perfect unconditional love, but also influenced me to believe that I won’t experience love until it is that category of passionate, and emotional intensity. That this was the happiest I have felt. I love my parents more than anything. They are my Garden of Eden. When I left home for college I soon discovered or at least felt defective and rejected, because others didn’t reflect that same type of love and emotional intensity my parents had given me.
With my friends, it is very easy for me to be emotionally vulnerable and open. I openly love them passionately and intensely. I feel seen by my parents and my friends and it allows me to feel safe and therefore, open, emotionally vulnerable, and creative. In romantic relationships I have found when I am in an unhealthy place, I am very attracted to the things I can’t have. And by that, I don’t mean other people in relationships, but people I KNOW can’t love me back (aren’t attracted to me, aren’t emotionally available, live far away, etc). I blame some of that on my culture. In Mexican culture, love is portrayed by a dance if you will, a tango. A push and pull. I love you while you are absent, but up close I notice you have a lot of faults. But as soon as you go, I idealize you and get in touch with the deep feelings I have for you. Please come back and torture me again. And this plays on loop.
It’s that craving for emotional intensity and wanting some sort of “drama” to make life less mundane. I realize it is actually due to my fear of truly being “seen” by a romantic partner, but also something I crave most.
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 for me as a Sexual Four is moving towards a Type Two. It looks like me getting mad when others don’t meet my needs, being clingy to those I am fond of, drowning others with my emotional intensity, lashing out when rejected, and having many unwarranted, not communicated expectations of others that lead to anger/frustration when not met. I am very self-absorbed and only concerned with my needs.
Growth for me, when I move towards Type One, looks like balancing my emotions and being less emotionally chaotic and intense. I can be profoundly creative without concern of acceptance or envy. I feel like I can truly just “be” and am not concerned with my image. I am more emotionally open, vulnerable, gentle with others, and calm. I feel free and not weighed down. I don’t attach my identity to certain emotions, I allow myself to feel all of them. I also feel that I am more available and empathetic with others, without turning it into self-absorption.
Thank you both so very much!
It’s been amazing to have all you Fours on the blog, we’re so lucky that you’ve chosen to talk about life and relationships and the nitty-gritty of being the three Subtypes of the wonderful, authentic, nuanced Type Four! —Melissa