The Self-Preservation Four

Dauntless, NOT Ordinary

Even though one might think of Fours with their emotional intensity as primarily passive in the outer world, Self-Preservation Fours can be extremely aggressive. Even if you don't follow basketball, you'll still have heard of Dennis Rodman. With his Technicolor hair, cross-dressing, and aggressive style of professional basketball, you can probably see (vividly, as Fours would prefer) the style of the Self-Preservation Four. If your interests are more esthetic, you can follow the adventures of Nicholas Cage, with his motorcycle exploits and flamboyant lifestyle.

Remember the starting point for understanding Fours is Envy. Emotionally that means that Fours see themselves as defective. They turn that defect into a badge of entitlement as way to get what they have coming to them. Everybody has it better, so they should get compensated.

Self-Preservation Fours are termed Dauntless by the Enneagram tradition. The compulsion is to spice things up in order to make sure that I am special. To avoid the ordinary, Self-Preservation Fours take reckless chances, are drawn to the bizarre, even death, and see their lives as catastrophes. An Enneagram coach might reframe a chronicle of emotional turmoil as bragging: "I have more turmoil than anyone." Why?

Search for Emotional Intensity

What's going on here? Well, if one's worst fear is ordinariness, then you want your life to look like the evening news. Where's the drama, the emotional intensity, the juice? Self-Preservation types of all numbers have a stronger physical preoccupation than the others, so their risks, their exploits, their flamboyancies tend to be more physical.

Most types have an idealized self-image. The one that plagues the Self-Preservation Four is immortality. No matter what chances I take, I won't get hurt. I'm invulnerable. But if I do die, then you will miss me terribly, probably erect a monument and I will live on in the hearts and minds of millions. Shakespeare, a Four, told the lady of his affections that his poetry would confer immortality on her. But Self-Preservation Fours confer it on themselves. There must be a way around death.

Depression is one way of anticipating death. If I rehearse death through feeling dead, then I will be able to handle it when it really happens. If I can go to the depths and deaths of depression and recover, I'll get the hang of it so when I die... And during the process, at least I'm involved in something important, something of a life-and-death issue. And if I'm involved in this important struggle, I certainly am not just numbly going through life. After all, Thoreau was right, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation."

Watch Meryl Streep in Out of Africa. One way to take chances is to run off to Africa and try to create a farm without having the wherewithal to do it. And then, extend your risk-taking by falling in love with a Seven (Robert Redford) who offers dash and panache and precious little in the way of security. Then organize supply trains to bring to the military and be heroic when everything fails. But lament your state as though everything were God's fault.

Death Rehearsal

Most Self-Preservation types have a paranoid streak somewhere. That's why their concern is Self-Preservation. The self is under attack in some way. The specific way the self is under attack in the Four strategy is through dull, unimaginative, unrelenting ordinariness. One might as well be dead as stuck here in this (small town, boring relationship, monotonous job) environment. Life without emotional intensity is not really life.

The worst case scenario of a depressed Self-Preservation Four is, of course, suicide. Read Hamlet's soliloquy from the point of view of a Self-Preservation Four and it is quite enlightening. The fundamental question of a Self-Preservation is being: how to be, and more radically, whether to be or not to be.

An upside to this lust for intensity is that when a crisis does hit, they can often be heroic. When the floods hit or the car crashes, they can be superhuman in their struggles to help themselves and others. The drama of the situation calls forth all their resources and with their powerful imaginations, they understand the situation and can demonstrate tenacious perseverance. Fours naturally have the widest and deepest range of emotions anyway, so when the situation calls for it, they can access depths nobody dreamed they had.

If that dramatic struggle is an artistic one, they can do without everything but the barest survival necessities while they devote themselves to completing the great American novel or the finest in impressionist painting. The intensity of the struggle contributes to the greatness of the art. This is the artistic temperament. (A note: many beginners assume that every artist is a Four. Artist refers to talent and can occur in any number. The artistic temperament, so called, is frequently a Four, especially the starving artists who can often be Self-Preservation Fours locked in life-and-death-battles, being fought largely in their imaginations.


  1. Is struggle necessary for an artist? Why?
  2. Why do you think people drive too fast, drink too much, take chances with their life?
  3. Do not try to diagnose too many teenagers as Self-Preservation Fours. I've taught high school and most of them, in trying to establish the extreme individuality so prized in America, do many of the things we attribute to adult Self-Preservation Fours.

Resources: Fours are helped by their connection to One. Constructive Living is a therapy, borrowed from Japan to help with their Fourish doldrums. The therapy is called Morita Therapy in Japan and in the US it is promulgated by David Reynolds as Constructive Living. It is very One-ish but excellent for Fours. Thirsty, Swimming in the Lake is the book I like the best, but he has a number of them.

If you wish to strengthen your connection to One, there's always the Seven Habits of Effective People, which is a whole program that should be titled How To Be a One Like Good Mormon by Steven Covey. Covey (a Seven! Have you heard him perform?) has strong Mormon connections and that is his source of One-ness.