The Lonely Five

Just an Observer

John Donne said that "No man is an island," but Fives have the best shot at it of all the Enneagram types. They are most explicitly antisocial of all the types. They are that way because they are so sensitive.

Fives are polarized about boundary issues in the following way: They are extremely emotionally sensitive, often hypersensitive. So to protect this sensitivity, they develop unusually strong boundaries.

These boundaries feature detachment. Noninvolvement, being just an observer, is one way of insuring that one is not invaded. Fives fear invasion. Fives, Sixes and Sevens are all fear-based; but the specific fear of the Five is of being invaded, of being overwhelmed. Their island is protected by distance, not by hostility or placation.

Fives are also the most intellectual. They are frequently highly intelligent (any number can be intelligent), but their intelligence is both a gift and a means of handling the world. Fives love to replay and rehearse. If the baseball game is on Sunday, they mentally rehearse it on Friday and Saturday, play on Sunday and replay it in their minds on Monday and Tuesday. I have it on dubious authority that a Five invented instant replay. Only when they get it into their mind does it become real. There they can exercise their gifts of analysis and synthesis and make sense of their experiences.

Many Fives are excellent writers because they are keen observers, they can make minute analyses and relate what they saw to all the rest of the information they have. And they have a lot. And while they are distant, they are also objective. They don't allow emotion to cloud their judgment --easy for them, they're not involved!

The movie, A Heart in Winter (Un Coeur en Hiver) depicts a Five (the main character, Stephan) in clinical detail. Subtitles bother some, but this is a must see. As a movie, it is exquisitely done. The story line is simple: Stephan, a violin repairman is in partnership with a man who divorces and begins to live with a beautiful violinist. But she learns to love Stephan and the story is his inability to love her.

As you watch Stephan, notice his attention to detail as a repairman (he's a genius), his hyper-intellectualization in conversations, his inability to experience feelings (he has them so strong he almost passes out when he sees his partner preparing a home for the woman he loves but he can't allow them into consciousness; they will flood him). Notice his keen skills of observation. Feel that he is a "nice" guy and then says really harsh things.

His life is contrasted with the older couple with whom he lives or goes to see. They actually care for one another but they fight all the time. You can tell this noisy, invasively interactive, messy example is what he does not want in his own life.

The girl, Camille, is sort of Two, and the partner is vaguely a Three, but we identify with Stephan so the director deliberately makes their personalities vague to make it clear that this entranced Five really only sees himself.

Camille thinks he is good friends with her lover, his business associate, but Stephan says he is only a partner. When you think you are friends with an entranced Five, you better check it out. They are not as involved with you as you are with them. The same is true with Stephan and Camille. She is the aggressor, because even though he loves her, he keeps his distance. This is a special Five loop that causes them much pain. People are attracted to them because of their sensitivity and intelligence. But they can be in love with their own constructs (Camille says that music arouses Stephan's love, but he coolly replies, "Music is a dream."). Like Fours who are in love with their own emotions, Fives are in love with their own understandings. This is the reality behind the metaphor of the Ivory Tower.

Fives have a long time-line. When Robert McNamarra confessed after 25 years that he knew full well the folly of Vietnam, that our government had lied systematically and we had no chance of winning etc., people asked "Why didn't you tell us this back then?" Part of the answer is understandable - passions were so high he would have been prosecuted, and unhealthy Fives have a notion that people are going to prosecute them anyway if they get a chance. But part of the reason he waited is that Fives often require a long time to process material. Fives hate surprises when entranced and they love privacy.

All numbers have a specific mode of impoverishment. Fives practice the sin of avarice in Enneagram tradition. But they don't just hoard money. More frequently they hoard emotions, time and personal giving of time and energy.

Fives are antisocial, not in their manners or even behavior. They see people as draining them. People are not an asset as much as a liability. The self-talk is that "I only have so many inner resources and as often as I interact with people, I am depleted. Not that people are bad, it's just that they are draining. I've had Fives describe themselves to me as a battery. They are drained by social interaction and recharged by solitude. A popular (and theologically awful) book of piety in the early part of this century was the Catholic classic, Thomas a Kempis', The Imitation of Christ. He said "As often as I go among men, I come back less a man." This was put forth as a call to contemplation, but it was just his preference as an entranced Five.

To see how a Five and Seven can be connected in a person, go watch Awakenings, starring Robin Williams. Yes, Robin Williams, that flaming Seven in real life, plays a Five well as a research doctor. Remember this movie when you read about Nines. The whole movie is a Nine metaphor.

    Resources: (Besides the Library of Congress)

  1. Physical exercise is good for Fives. It gets them out of their heads.
  2. Small group support is helpful. The group has to be small; it should keep the same members. The discussion of something like the Enneagram is fruitful, but be careful; it could be entirely head talk and never include any sharing. Fives must learn to trust, then share. One of the ground rules must be that everything said in the group is under the rubric of confidentiality. Nothing said may be repeated outside the group without permission.
  3. One more fine movie to discuss: Sex, Lies and Videotape.
  4. The parable of Jesus' feeding the multitudes is in all four Gospels. It is a metaphor for how sharing, not hoarding is the way to overcome impoverishment. (See Matthew 14:13).
  5. Sartre's play No Exit proclaims that "Hell is other people." It is brilliant.

    Discussion questions:

  1. When you watch The Heart in Winter, are you surprised when Stephan tells Camille of his lack of feelings for her? What does this tell you about entranced Fives?
  2. Discuss some of the ways that Stephan is into control. How do you or your Five friends do it?
  3. How old is Stephan's Five strategy? How old is yours? Elaborate.
  4. What does Stephan's strategy cost him? What's in it for him?