The "Special" Four

Symbols and Metaphors

Let's begin this exploration on style Fours with a look at the Penguin in the movie Batman Returns. I do this not to mock, or even tease Fours, but because Fours more than any style, have an ability to think in symbol and metaphor; they have a rich and intense emotional life and this lends itself to artistic expression, and if not artistic, at least symbolic. Many Fours have trouble connecting to the outside world; they prefer their own interior life to outward reality, but the word symbol means "to throw together," and so Fours do a number of symbolic things to "throw together" their relationship between inner and outer reality.

Jim Morrison (you can see his Fourishness in the movie of his life, The Doors) wrote that the outer world was in black and white but his own thoughts and imaginations were in color. Some Fours say their inner world is more real than the outer world. I know a therapist who has trouble hearing his patients. He tells me that the client will tell him something; he will begin immediately to reflect on his own experience. His experience will be more vivid than what the client is saying and he will miss some of the next words. He has a series of questions and probes to find out what the client said.

The Penguin's drama (and Fours love to dramatize everything) begins with his parents rejecting him. (That mysterious scene in which he is thrown into the river). Many authors see both, but at least one, parent rejecting the child. Many Fours have a recollection of having lost (through abandonment, death, emotional rejection) one or more parent and often if the loss happens a little later in life when they can remember it, it is remembered as the loss of a perfect love.

The Penguin sees himself as a freak, and his freakishness is seen as something to glory in, as when he tells Batman, "You're jealous. You have to wear a mask to be a freak, but I'm a freak even without one." He sees his early deprivation as earning him the right to rule Gotham City, as unhealthy Fours can see their inner poverty a claim on the wonderful things everyone else has. The Four's benefit in being a freak lies in their non-ordinariness. Fours say they can live in agony or ecstasy, what they can't handle is dull ordinariness. This often leads to a secondary gain of making everything they do "special." They will be the bank teller with the $100 dollar fountain pen, the monogrammed shirts from Goodwill industries or as one of my friends does, insist on having a 1984 Buick because it won an award for styling (and was a mechanical disaster in his case). Think Four, think flair. Panache. An Enneagram coach can use this penchant for the extraordinary in their appeal to the Four's creativity.

I have a Four friend who was flamboyantly neurotic, but articulate and artistic. He reported to me with unconcealed delight that his therapist told him that even though he was seriously dysfunctional, "You've got style." Made his day. The following is true: As I am writing this, the above mentioned Four called me and told me of listening to Mozart's Marriage of Figaro. It took him twenty minutes to tell me of his emotional reactions to the beauty of Mozart - and he was never boring or repetitious. He was enthralled and enthralling. The description of his emotional parade as he shared his pleasure was rich, so nuanced and intense only a Four could have spoke thus!

If Fours are entranced enough, they create an outer world of chaos and torture to reflect the inner world of self-pity and search for authenticity. Fours are the stereotypical starving artist. Too good for this world, unable to work at a boring, unfulfilling desk job that would earn money, they live in an unheated garret painting (or writing or composing music) living on fast food and chemical stimulants.

Fours can be an emotional teeter-totter of idealism and criticism. Having lost the early love they spend their lives searching for it. So when they are attracted to someone, they expect that this love is going to fulfill them in the same way the first love did. Of course, this leads them to idealize the lover. But the flip side of idealism is disillusionment and soon the Four begins to notice and become highly critical of small faults. Each fault is symbolic and points to larger, ominous character defects.

When the attraction is real, the Four often will live at some distance from the loved one. While they are together, the Four will be critical, but when the loved one is gone, Four remembers the deep feelings (and nobody has deeper feelings than a Four) he had. Remembering these feelings he begins to idealize the absent lover and the cycle begins all over. When I see lovers who live in different towns (She lives in Denver and he lives in New York and they get together for a torrid weekend of romance every month or so) I usually suspect one or both of them is a Four. What keeps the Four coming back is the remembrance of his feelings. Fours can fall in love with the experience of love more than with the person. Falling out of love is tumultuous and often the Four never really lets go of the lover. A female Four with a rocky romantic road behind her told me she is accused of still being in love with her first three husbands!

    Questions for discussion:

  1. Give three reasons for keeping your Fourish flaws.
  2. How do you use your immediate environment (home, office, car) to manipulate your moods?
  3. How often do you tell yourself you are more sensitive than others? What does that give you permission to do?


Suzanne Zuercher's book, Merton, An Enneagram Profile, analyzes Thomas Merton as a Four. It is a brilliant book, both as Enneagram work and as a description of the contemplative struggle. A Four's delight.

My friend, Karen Blomgren is a Four. She set my poetic descriptions of each style to music. She captured the emotional flavor of each style with uncanny accuracy. My CD, Not Only Angels Have Wings, is a good way to teach/learn the styles emotionally as well as intellectually. (It's very popular, we've sold 2,000 copies).

Fours learn unusually well through symbols and metaphors. I recommend reading of the parables and stories. My book on Parables will be helpful, as will Zen Koans.

Meryl Streep is a One in real life, but she has a strong connection to Four. She plays a good Four in French Lieutenant's Woman and Out of Africa.