The Social Four

An Idealized Self-Image

The social Four is depicted in a fine Enneagram movie, Heavenly Creatures. The storyline is set in England and features two teenage girls, both Fours. The dark haired one, Paula, is a Four with a Five-wing and she is a intimate subtype. Her friend, Gina, is a Four with a Three wing, and she is a social subtype. They are pretty good examples of how the subtypes work.

The issue for the social subtype is shame. The sin of envy is related here to the group opinion. The belief is that the group has what I do not. I'm defective and the group knows it. Therefore I am ashamed because I am different. Perhaps because of the Three wing which increases awareness of group norms, I agree with the judgment of the group. I should be ashamed of my deformity.

Fours have an idealized images, as do all the types, but it is reversed. Fours do have an idealized self-image, but they assess their relationship to it negatively. I know what I should be like and it is such a shame that I can not and never will be able to measure up to that idea. Shame on me.

Stereotypical male homosexual culture has a Four aura about it. That is the stereotype you see in the movies and TV. For them, coming out of the closet and facing their shame is facing their deepest Enneagram problem and social rejection at the same time. For someone with a Three wing to have society reject you at your deepest orientation, it can feel like total rejection. It can be really excruciating, especially if their family -- one's first social group -- rejects them.

Inner reality most important

Fours turn to their inner imaginative life for solace. Social Fours can fantasize how they will become a social celebrity and then heap scorn on all the people who looked down on them before their national recognition. Revenge frequently plays a part in the fantasy life of Fours. Sometimes this revenge sharply colors the real-life relationship and they reject a person before that person can get to place where they might be able to reject the Four. This preemptive strike can emerge as generalized hostility.

Because they see themselves as defective, they are frequently extremely sensitive to criticism. Low self-image is their defining quality, practicality and criticism merely confirms what they have felt all along. Shakespeare's lines of Sonnet 29 begins "When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state. I trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries and look upon myself and curse my fate." That's not a temporary emotional affliction for a social Four. It's a way of life.

With their emotional resources, however, they may resort to charm to cover their inner desolation, especially if they have a Three wing. No one will ever know what I have suffered...kind of attitude. But Condon points out that with a Five wing, they can grow antisocial and depressed like Meryl Streep in The French Lieutenant's Woman. "The shame is more than I can bear." (In Batman Returns, The Penguin is a Four who is defective and wants revenge for the way people have looked down on him.)

Nobody loves me

The group rejection that social Fours feel (and resent) is not based on any specific social skill or attribute they feel they should cultivate. The group just "knows" they are made wrong and should have been rejected at the factory. You see the high side of this in the writings of St. Therese of Liseux, who is a clear Four. She writes so eloquently of the mercy of God because that is her issue: she needs mercy for the inner wrongness she knows darn well is there. She knows she's bad but her faith assures her that even so, God's mercy is greater. (Now we all know that in some way, but it's not the inner song we sing all day...)

The perception that I am wrong inside is only slightly different from the One's inner critical voice. The difference is that Ones are critical of everything, Fours are critical largely of themselves. But both Fours and Ones have the nasty perceptual habit of comparing reality to what should be. This habit costs Fours some important relationships. In the case of social Fours, it makes them social critics and makes them critical of social norms. At times this can give them permission to do things that are immoral because they don't care about social injunctions. They then tend not to like working for organizations or belonging to institutions. And if they do belong, they can be highly critical.

Resources: Tom Condon's video in which he works with a social Four is instructive. You can see the push-pull of relationships: they want them but they want to be left alone to revel/wallow in their own fantasy/emotional world. If you are Catholic/Christian or you are interested in meditation, the Carmelite tradition is known for its superlative development of meditation. Therese of Liseux and St. John of the Cross are both Fours, as is much of the Carmelite tradition. You might profit from reading the material. Beginners are often warned off the stark Spanish Jesuit because of his harshness, but Fours will love the emotional richness, the poetic expression and the vividness of the emotional states.


  1. Do you ever feel "above" society? When? Does that give you any permissions?
  2. How many causes can you identify with? What do you do about/with them?
  3. On a scale of 1 to 10, how good is our government? Defend your rating without getting emotional!