Do you guys get the daily Enneathoughts? I do, and they’re great. Even though none of the information is new to me, getting little reminders of how my type manifests itself wakes me up a little. Sometimes I sit in shock after reading it and think, wow, someone gets it.
As I’m sure you know at this point, I am core type 5, but it’s worth taking a moment to look at some of the peripheral stuff. I have a strong phobic 6 wing. I’m also self-preservation dominant. (If you don’t know what any of this means, you can stick around for future posts where I go more in depth on these topics or check out my Enneagram Starter Pack here.) I’m also about at an average level for my type.
The picture this creates is someone who struggles with anxiety about the outer world and copes with this by seeking safety (6 wing, SP focus) through mental clarity (5 core). As such, Enneathoughts like this never rang truer:
Your Basic Fear is of having no ability to know what is real and true. See if this is affecting your state today. (Understanding the Enneagram, 95)
So let’s think about what this means for the 5. If you are not a type 5, don’t worry, because we all have a Basic Fear (or fears) that drives our personality. The idea is to consider what yours may be and how it is affecting you, whether or not you relate to the particular battle for type 5.
(Thanks to Richard Wearn for the above stock photo.)
Trusting the perception of reality
In life, I’ve caught myself agonizing over decisions. I’ve struggled with the fear that I cannot trust myself or my own judgment, which is a typical type 6 behavior. What 6s tend to do is over-rely on systems of authority outside of themselves, be it their significant other, their parents, their religious organization, their boss, their government. Whoever or whatever gives them a sense of security by handling the authority part of things doesn’t matter, because at the less healthy levels, it’s not the 6. That is the problem. The 6 gives away their personal power by depending too much on someone or something else to think for them, as it were, and gains security by following a structure set for them by someone they view as more authoritative.
However, when a 5 faces ambiguity of thought, they respond to it differently. Like 6s, they may have difficulty trusting others and feel that the outside world is dangerous and threatening. However, unlike 6s, the 5 will go inside their own mind to make up a sense of authority in the form of an inner world, complex ideas, and specialized interests. They become very protective of what occupies their mental space and may spend more time retreating to this safe inner zone where they have control. 5s are deeply suspicious of the authority of others and may lash out or challenge this sense of imposed authority when unhealthy, choosing instead to favor the landscape of their mind. So what happens when a 5 cannot trust their own thoughts?
The personality becomes less stable. The 5 begins to distrust not only the world, but themselves, which makes them even less effective. 5s are smart, and not simply in an “intellectual” way. They are smart because they learn, they study, they observe. However, as Riso and Hudson point out, this drive may not be motivated by the best of intentions. 5s feel they can never learn enough, and while that’s the key to a lifelong love of knowledge, it’s also how 5s keep themselves from fully participating in life. After all, we can’t know everything, can we?
This type can be especially sensitive to gaslighting. I think everyone is to some extent, but to 5s, gaslighting is a special form of torture. They pride themselves on being able to see what’s real and true about the world. Being told that they are unable to do this, or that they cannot trust their own perceptions (because someone wants them to doubt themselves) is a horrible psychological weapon. The reason why it is so effective against those who are vigilant about their minds is that on some level, 5s already fear and doubt their ability to perceive accurately. It is truly one of their worst fears. Yet, as Riso and Hudson point out, it is their ultimate fate unless they learn to reconnect with the world.
I’ve noticed 5s (including myself) engage in critical behavior against things they feel threaten the mind’s acuity, such as emotions, drugs, popular opinion, etc. It’s not uncommon to see 5s (INTxs on the internet, for instance) come off as deeply critical of emotional expression. Why would they do this? They are afraid that emotion clouds judgment, which clouds the mind’s ability to accurately perceive the truth. For these 5s, nothing could be worse than willingly giving in to raw emotion or drugs or the rush of a physical experience or popular opinion because these things degrade one’s autonomous and ultimately detached perspective.
It can lead to some unsavory behavior. 5s can act out or behave in subversive, counter-culture ways because they don’t want to be seen as following the crowd, the “hive mind.” The 4 wing plays a role in this drive for individuality as well. 5w4 types often want to be seen as individual, unique, and innovative while 5w6 types often have the push-pull of security versus autonomy. Still, type 5 expresses itself by being unattached to others, and this includes expressing a detachment to the dominant Zeitgeist.
For instance, I have a funny habit of not allowing myself to get affected by things. I used to watch horror movies just to prove I wouldn’t get scared, or romantic movies just to prove that I didn’t give a shit about the romance. I wouldn’t clap at events or cry at funerals. I wouldn’t get swept up at weddings or coo at babies. Alright, I still don’t do these things. At this time, however, I recognize that my resistance to expressing or experiencing group feelings is my type pattern. I can’t let myself become affected by things or I am in danger of being overcome or inundated with, gasp, other people’s emotions or opinions. When I recognize this happening now, I laugh. (I still don’t clap or cry, though.)
From this, you can see how the 5 battles to maintain a sense of mental independence for the sake of keeping a clear, “accurate” picture of reality through detachment. They depend on their ability to see the world clearly, to see it objectively. To glean the truth from a sea of perception. Is this possible? Probably not. After all, the world is only a matter of subjective perspective, and the 5 would be better off accepting this and enjoying it. Enjoying it means releasing their need to be the detached observer, for one thing. It also means that one is truly free to experience life, rather than simply trying to understand it. Life can’t be understood while living it, anyway.
So maybe, for this type, the battle isn’t whether they are able to know the Truth. The battle is about whether they are able to enjoy what they’re experiencing.