Fours are very much a “feeling type” on the Enneagram. They rely on their emotions as a guide to what is authentic in life. In their heart center they have a big capacity for so much of the human experience, from the heights of joy to the depths of sorrow. They also have a wonderful receptivity to beauty and the ability to empathize with others.
Are Fours too emotional for their own good? Maybe sometimes they are, but this is a difficult question since in our culture there is so much non-acceptance about feelings, especially sad feelings. Fours are often judged by others, from childhood to the present, for being too emotional. These devaluing messages are internalized, which makes it much harder to learn how to self-regulate. When feelings arise, and they often do, it’s easy to get over-stimulated or physically tense, particularly in the jaw and the diaphragm.The difficulty for Fours is that emotions can overwhelm their nervous system unless they stay very grounded in their bodies. Without this grounding, Fours get caught in one of two patterns (or both). On the one hand they become “hysterical” meaning that they lack the ability for containment. Their feelings spill out in unconsidered ways. In this case their breath is high in the chest but does not go down to the belly. On the other hand, Fours may restrict their breathing (as we all do at times) to diminish their feelings and avoid being overwhelmed. This can lead to chronic melancholy or depression. As romantic idealists, Fours easily become disappointed with ordinary life. Too much disappointment leads to chronic withdrawal as their life force retreats to the core and away from the periphery: face, eyes, hands and feet. Contact with other people is diminished. They may still have a rich inner life but their participation in the world suffers. If you are a Four, what you can do is become more grounded in your body through deep breathing, relaxation and physical sensing practices. You will be less likely to be overwhelmed by feelings and less prone to withdrawal. Those familiar states of longing and melancholy will be mediated by the presence, and the goodness, of the life force itself.
You have probably learned by now that not all feelings are equally important; it’s possible to let some pass through quickly and minimize rather than amplify them. At other times it’s best to be expressive. It’s often true that a good cry, allowing the diaphragm to shake, is better than suffering a week of bad mood. At your best, you can stay in the flow, finding a graceful balance between emotional expression and containment.
You may already be engaged in physical activities such as yoga, dance, making music and crafts, which are ways to channel your emotional energy and increase the flow of your body energy. Being firmly connected to your own body – your breathing, your feet on the floor – also helps establish better boundaries. It reduces your vulnerability to taking in too much of other people’s emotional energy and balances your physical sensitivity.
Your somatic pattern is shaped by the idealization and avoidance of your type: being authentic (or emotionally intense) guards against the deficiency of ordinary life. Yet being fully present to your own life force can make an ordinary day, an ordinary conversation, full of richness and meaning.
Peter O’Hanrahan is an Enneagram teacher, body therapist, business consultant, and Senior Member of the Enneagram in Business Network (EIBN) who teaches internationally and also works closely with the Enneagram Worldwide and the Palmer/Daniels Enneagram Professional Training Program. You can visit his website at EnneagramWork.com | POhanrahan@aol.com