The Self-Preservation Five

Something Like a Recluse

The self-preservation subtype of the Five is usually characterized as most like a hermit. I read a book on fasting by a monk and his opinion was that you could fast quite easily all day long as long as you were in the hermitage, because it was contact with people that drained one's energy. He felt highly energetic, even without eating until 5 - 6 pm, as long as he could be alone. He had lots of ideas, he felt confident in his creative writing and his scholarship. He recommended this discipline to all serious people who were interested in the hermit's life. And this life was pleasurable to him. Can you imagine what it would do to an emotional Two, looking for juice in interpersonal relationships?

Many Fives of this type are thin, whether they formally fast or not because they try to control both their intake and their output because of a deep feeling of impoverishment.

One way other people drain a self-preservation Five's energy is through their expectations. The acute sensitivity of the self-preservation Five senses what the other person wants and feels obliged to respond to their wants and expectations. Even though self-preservation Fives are usually quite introverted, they can often be pulled into a social role if that is expected of them.

These are the Fives who can live in their rooms for long periods of time. A library can be heavenly. Enforced silence and lots of information around. I know a scripture scholar, fluent in French, German, Polish, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, English, Italian and Aramaic who told me that he used to do term papers for people in high school and college because he simply loved footnotes! He said he was never so happy as when looking things up in the library and then making footnotes when he found his quarry.

The self-preservation Five strategy is illustrated in Awakenings. Robin Williams does a good job playing the self-preservation Five with his consuming interest in research, his energy drawn in sharply, his reluctance to make any moves romantically and his habit of liking to be alone. The SP Five is perhaps the most alienated of all the subtypes.

I talked to a self-preservation Five on an airplane six months ago and he told me his life was best symbolized by a battery. People drained him, solitude restored his battery - his life. He liked to golf - alone. This is where he recharged.

Fives love privacy and none more than the self-preservation Five. They tend to hoard space and time even more than money. My Father was a self-preservation Five. He loved to fix radios. He would not allow any of us 10 kids (!) in the "radio room" and he would stay in there from 8 pm until 2 am, fixing anything electric. He loved the intellectual challenge and the detailed information he had to apply. He had the thin body of a Five, 6' 2", 140 pounds.

All Fives tend to compartmentalize their life, having friends who do not know each other, having a strong relationship but not thinking about that person for long periods of time because they're thinking about something else. The self-preservation Five tends to physically act this out a bit more, hiding in books and removing themselves from social engagements for long periods. The self-preservation Five will have to physically isolate him or herself in order to let strong feelings emerge into awareness. Only when they are alone can they trust these feelings not to get them into trouble. Like all self-preservation's they tend to worry more than the other two subtypes.

Self-preservation Fives, if they have any connection to Eight, tend to identify with Scrooge. I know several Fives who pride themselves on being scrooge-like, despite that gentlemen's seasonal bad press.

As with all the subtypes, their isolation and stinginess is for the sake of superiority and safety from being overwhelmed by emotions. They are intensely sensitive, so they build extra sound boundaries and the self-preservation Five builds their boundaries physically. They stay home and haunt their own castle. (Some self-preservations have a ghost-like quality, with their thin bodies, love of solitude and emotional distance.)


  1. Chapter Five in Karen Horney's Our Inner Conflicts makes the Five style come to life.
  2. Read a life of Rene Descartes. He was a frail and sickly Five and his neurosis affected the very structure of science for 200 years.

    Discussion Questions:

  1. Why is the computer a trap or a help for an self-preservation Five?
  2. Are there any collections in your life you should examine?
  3. How can I use information as a wedge to enter the outer world?