Hello. Perhaps you’ve landed on this page because you’ve done an Online Enneagram Personality Test which has given you a Five as your main personality type, and now you’re scratching your head wondering what this means in terms of your self-development or therapy journey.
Are personality types no more than just a description of different traits – like a star sign? Or can a deeper understanding of our personality structure, or “self”, and the way it works at a psychological level, help us to play the game of life with a little bit more grace, and less suffering?
[Read more about Personality-Focused Psychotherapy]
One way to think about the Self is that it might work as a kind of Lens or “Operating System” through which our psyche (?) mind (?) “life force” (?) or “soul” (?) flows. Whenever we express a thought, or belief, or opinion about our lives and our struggles, it is usually the Self (an “I”) that is doing the talking for us:
I feel sad about…
I feel satisfied with life when…
I don’t understand why s/he said that…
I find this [thought/feeling/situation] painful to think about or deal with.
Of course we don’t normally think about these utterances as a “Self” talking through us, because it (we) are always just sort of here in the conscious experience of “I”, of Self, with its particular filter on the world always present. Like fish, we swim in the “waters” of Self, but are usually completely oblivious to what “water” actually is.
Therapy is perhaps an opportunity for us to look at, and work through the content of our experience, the different ways we might have filled the gaps above to describe what is going on in our lives, but also to pay a slightly different kind of attention to how our struggles are often being shaped or contained in a certain ways for us through this “Self”, or Ego, or “I”. Not in the negative sense of having a “big ego”, but simply in terms of this psychological “I”. Which is to say: our personality style, character, Ego, Self.
This is not our whole Being or Consciousness. We can also step back (as we often do, especially in therapy) and look at the Self from a more detached, less conflicted perspective. Maybe from the perspective of someone who cares for us, but also knows us really well. This perspective might also become one we develop in our relationship with that person (“me” or another therapist) who would like to accompany you and assist you with your journey into understanding, healing, and developing your Self.
Most of the time though, we experience our Selves either from either the perspective of an Inner Critic who tells us how we’re failing at Life (or how Life is failing us), or from the Driver’s Seat of our Core Self.
Whoever that Core Driving Self is (pick a number!) whoever is driving the bus –driving us to do the things we do, or make the choices we make– it clearly has a special way of operating. Others can often see, for better or worse, how we tend to operate, as we can also see their Selves at work in how they talk, think, and behave. In therapy, we can try to get to know this Core Self a bit better (as well as those of the people we’re in relationship with), and hopefully find out what we’re all about.
As you read about your Five “Self” below, a portrait that reveals both the light and shade of “you”, try not to judge your Self, or feel bad about how this Self comes across when laid out in this somewhat reductive, psychological way.
If reading through this portrait makes you feel a bit uncomfortable, ashamed, or exposed, that is a good sign, it really is.
This is certainly how I felt when I first read about my own personality style. “Am I really like that!?! Oh dear. Well, OK, for good or bad, that does seem to be how “I” roll… [sigh]”
This kind of response might perhaps indicate that we are gaining new insights, or at least a bit more humility about our Selves, especially when embarking on the kind of therapeutic search that you’re engaging with for your Self right now by reading and reflecting on this.
With insight, we can hopefully learn how to handle our Self/Selves a bit better in terms of how we deals with those generic but often unpleasant realities of life: physical and emotional pain, uncertainty, as well as the various forms of constant work, both inner and outer that we seek to fulfil. The Self is always the interface through which we learn how to do this, trying as best we can to put into practice the lessons we’ve learned.
If you find when reading about the Five “Self” described below, that it doesn’t feel like the kind of “I” you identify with, please have a quick look again at my Overview of The Nine Personality Types.
Your Core Self will make itself known to you there, as when you catch sight of yourself in the reflection of a shop-window or a mirror. Each of us holds aspects of every personality type within us (we all come from the same species,) but at a psychological level, our Core Self is usually present through our entire life journey, and shapes how we see the world, inwardly and out.
Human happiness and satisfaction seems to be strongly connected to getting the best out of our core Selves (i.e. our particular personality style, as well as following our unique threads), alongside learning how to manage with the not-so-great, and at times even “crappy” stuff that comes with each “I” or person-ality.
1. SNAPSHOT OF A FIVE: HOW MANY OF THESE TRAITS DO YOU IDENTIFY WITH?
- I see the work I do through the lens of the information that needs to be mastered to get the job done. I enjoy doing research on whatever topics interests me or help me further clarify or do the work I need to do.
- I feel more comfortable with data and facts than people and emotions. I automatically tune in to the mental level of what’s going on and detach from whatever feels overly emotional.
- I enjoy being alone and need a great deal of private time. I don’t need to be around other people to be happy. Much of the time, I would rather be alone than with people.
- I am skilled at looking at things objectively. I analyse things intellectually, without any emotional response or attachment.
- I enjoy working independently. I feel most comfortable when I am alone, and I like to work by myself.
- I enjoy becoming an expert in things I have an intellectual interest in. Reading and researching feels so much less complicated than interacting with people and dealing with their feelings.
- I enjoy work most when it engages me intellectually and I can study something that interests me. I feel satisfied and content when I can learn new things and gain knowledge.
- I value my privacy (very much). Interruptions, surprises, and people who stay in the office too long talking about things I don’t care about can all feel intrusive and uncomfortable.
- I feel uncomfortable in situations where I have to engage in small talk or share information about myself, like cocktail parties and job interviews. It’s much easier to communicate about the intellectual aspects of work than it is to convey personal information.
- I am not very emotional, and when I am, I prefer to feel my feelings when I am alone. Some people may perceive me as aloof, but I mostly feel shy and uncomfortable in social situations because I don’t like to talk about myself with people I don’t know well enough to trust with private information (which is most people).
- I tend to be more of an observer than a participant in the social world. I can find people interesting, but don’t necessarily want to connect with them on a deep level.
- I tend to disconnect from my emotions and feel much more comfortable relating to others on an intellectual level. Although I am a sensitive person and I have keen powers of observation, it feels draining to share my feelings with others or have to deal with theirs.
- I enjoy being in leadership positions that involve developing knowledge and using information in service of furthering a larger cause or enterprise. I excel at accumulating knowledge and information, and I enjoy having an impact through pushing the boundaries on what is known about a given topic.
2. WHY AM I LIKE THIS? THE PSYCHOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT OF A FIVE
Here is a kind of Origen Story or Trauma Story that Fives can sometimes identify with in some way with respect to their own lives:
When she was young, Five tried to create true heartfelt connections with people. However, those people had a tendency to invade her space when she felt like being alone. And then they weren’t around when she really wanted them to be. Both intrusion and unavailability were a cause of constant concern for Five, which made it hard for her to know what to do to relate well to others, especially when she felt intruded upon or neglected. She secretly felt inadequate and different from others. Trying to find ways to connect with them just frustrated her. Again and again, people either left her when she felt she needed them or they didn’t allow her to be alone enough. As time went on, Five finally gave up and disconnected more and more from others and from her feelings.
Five found she felt calm and comfortable when she spent time by herself. And this feeling grew stronger as time went by. Eventually, Five lost her ability to connect with people when she wanted to. And because of all the time she spent alone, she forgot how to let them know when she wanted to get closer to them or when she missed them. To avoid the frustration she had felt before, she decided to wait for others to notice when she felt alone—which, unfortunately, almost never happened. As she grew older, without really realising it, Five forgot about her fundamental need for connection. She got used to being alone. She liked the comfort and safety of being by herself. It was so much easier than being with people.
Five liked learning, because it made her feel smart (and more adequate), and it was something she could do on her own. She was happy with her identity as a self-sufficient, self-contained person who knew a lot about a lot of things. She took secret pleasure in knowing things and even started feeling a little more confident because of how much she knew. She still dodged people who tried to connect with her, however, and she still wanted to avoid the pain of feeling invaded when she wanted to be alone—or of being left alone when she wanted to be with someone. She didn’t want to lose the sense of safety she got from being able to live in her mind, and she didn’t want to risk sharing more of herself. She also didn’t want to share her books or any of her other treasured possessions.
As an adult, Five’s dedication to gathering knowledge, together with her natural mental sharpness, helped her achieve a comfortable position in an area of specialisation that allowed her to feel autonomous and self-sufficient. As a self-employed professional, she managed to avoid the spotlight. Each day, after doing whatever she needed to do, she dedicated time to what she loved most— learning more, hidden away in her private space.
Then one day, Five noticed that everything she did was predictable. She didn’t have much energy; she didn’t feel alive. She usually felt tired, especially when she was around people. She felt exhausted when others asked things of her or wanted to tell her about their feelings. After some anxious reflection, Five fell asleep. And as she slept, she dreamed. In her dream, she felt alone in a way that disturbed her. She had no motivation to study or learn. She mysteriously, almost against her will, felt an extreme amount of love for the people around her. She didn’t want to be alone anymore. She wanted to be close to these people. Five felt as if her world had turned upside down, and she didn’t know what to do. Then she woke up.
Five couldn’t decide whether her dream had been a good experience or a nightmare. She spent some time thinking about this, but then forgot about it and went back to doing the same things she did every day—by herself.
Fives often report that early on in life they were either intruded upon or neglected—either their boundaries were not respected by others and so they developed a need to protect their private space, or they were not given enough of what they needed and had to learn to get by on their own with scarce resources. They sometimes have a history of having to deal with others’ drama or emotional upheaval and learning to withdraw, finding a sense of safety by detaching from feelings (and unwieldy relationships) and taking refuge in their heads.
This habit of retreating to a place of refuge—either a private space where they can be alone or into the comfort zone of their intellect—allows Fives to find protection from intrusion, hold on to scarce resources, and engage with the world in a way that feels both safe and interesting. I sometimes hear Fives say they believed something was “wrong with them” before they found the Enneagram, because they didn’t want to be around people very much—then they realised there wasn’t anything wrong with them, they were just Fives! People with a Type Five personality style experience a kind of inner scarcity because an early need to rely on others took them into what felt like dangerous territory. The need to distance themselves from people who might suck up their time and energy means they need to find ways to get by on less, since they can only rely on what they can get or do on their own.
While Fives may appear unemotional and unsentimental, they are actually highly sensitive; they feel and experience things acutely. To cope, they develop an inner program that tells them the best way to get through life (and work) is to maintain strong boundaries and focus on the mental level of things to protect against being depleted by the needs and feelings of others. When people can be held at a distance, things are kept in separate compartments, private space is protected, and work happens through focusing on data and intellectual interaction, Fives feel a sense of calm and well-being.
3. CORE MOTIVATIONS OF A TYPE FIVE PARTICIPANT: WHAT “DRIVES” A FIVE?
The strategy of maintaining a mental focus and protecting private space leads Fives to focus their attention on their own thought processes, obtaining and assessing information, and maintaining a sense of control around time, space, and energy. People who lead with a Type Five style automatically attend to their own strong needs for time and space so that they have the room they need to think, accomplish tasks, and do what they need to do.
Self-sufficient and autonomous, Fives naturally guard against intrusions from the outside and are quick to read the signs of possible disruptive forces—like needy or overly emotional people—and take evasive action if necessary. They automatically sort people into mental categories according to how much (or how little) interaction they want with them, and when they interact with others, they pay attention to how to establish boundaries and how to take advantage of natural boundaries. While they may sincerely enjoy many social interactions, they may also be keenly aware of time limits, as knowing contact will end at a particular time can help them allay any worry they may feel about how long they will have to engage (and how much energy will be expended). For instance, a Five friend of mine is an A-Level English teacher, and she can fully enjoy the experience of relating to her students during class because she knows that at the appointed time the bell will ring, class will be over, and everyone will leave. And she will be, happily, alone again.
Fives are also highly attuned to their own level of energy. One Five I know put it this way: at the start of the day, he imagines he has a full tank of gas, but as the day goes on, he is aware that each specific task and interaction requires him to consume that fuel. Certain life experiences take more fuel than others—and his attention focuses on which interactions take more or less of his energy, and how he might avoid larger expenditures (and so keep more energy for himself to use as he wishes) or at least be mindful about spending his fuel where he most wants or needs to spend it.
Generally, individuals with a Type Five style view the world in terms of interesting things to think about and get fascinated by. Fives also tend to look for causes they can support and find meaning in. They may lead at work through being the intellectual force behind making an impact related to an effort they believe in, but will do so from a safe distance. They may find deep emotions alien and daunting, but they can be passionate about ideas, fields of study, and social values they find interesting, important, and meaningful.
Fives see the world through an intellectual perspective—they think deeply about things and have a strong thirst for learning and knowledge. They typically have a greater need for information and intellectual understanding than they do for people or relationships. It’s not that they don’t want and need good, supportive relationships—they do. Fives just have less of a need to be surrounded by people all the time, they require less of the people they are in relationships with, and they prefer to be in close relationships with just a few, trusted individuals.
People with a Type Five style also view the world with an eye toward maintaining their sense of personal space. They think in terms of how to navigate the social world while maintaining a sense of comfort and safety. At work, they may engage with people around the tasks and the mental aspects of what needs to be done, but will usually share little or no personal information about themselves. While they can develop solid relationships with coworkers, it may take a Five a while to feel comfortable enough to open up and share personal details or feelings.
4. FIVES AT WORK & IN RELATIONSHIPS
- Ability to access and assess information skillfully and withinterest. Fives’ hunger for knowledge and information makes them naturally oriented to the accumulation and analysis of data. They are both good at it and enjoy doing it.
- Objectivity.Fives automatically separate emotions from thoughts, and so they are able to be neutral when evaluating or communicating about a situation.
- Focus on maintaining appropriate boundaries. Fives understand that people need space—because they do. They are naturally trustworthy with respect to confidences and respectful of people’s privacy.
- Intellectual and thoughtful. Fives operate most comfortably on the cognitive, or mental, level of things. They enjoy gathering information and thinking deeply.
- Detachment from emotions. This makes them very objective thinkers, but can sometimes mean they lack empathy or don’t want to deal with the emotional level of things.
- Private and modest. Fives do what they do without wanting to get a lot of attention for the things they do. Naturally shy and introverted, they tend to be uncomfortable in the spotlight and prefer to work from the background, or from home, or some other private space.
- Tendency to compartmentalise. Whether they be ideas or people, Fives like to keep things in cognitive “file folders” so they can exercise a sense of control of what they know and what people know about them. (For instance, they might not invite people from different arenas of their life to the same party. Then disparate individuals could share information about them with others in a way they couldn’t control.)
Type Fives sometime feel like working or being in relationship with others is hard because:
- I don’t like to have to depend on other people to get work done—I like to be able to work alone and do my own thing.
- It can be difficult to spend a lot of time around the people I need to collaborate with—especially when the team or the collaborators are not of my choosing.
- Sometimes it’s hard for me to know how to relate to people, or to want to get to know them enough to understand how to work well with them.
- I am uncomfortable dealing with other people’s emotions and can become irritated if people bring their personal dramas to work, or if my partner brings something up when I’m focused somewhere else.
- I like to have as much time as I need to review all the information necessary to support the work I do, and make decisions on matters big and small, and sometimes other people don’t have the same view of the importance of fully vetting and evaluating all the relevant data.
- Sometimes people ask more of me than I want to give in terms of time, energy, and personal information.
- Sometimes the work and outcomes aren’t clearly structured and communicated (and this can lead to problems with people and messy emotional issues).
- When work processes and expectations aren’t clear, it can lead to unintentional or accidental dependencies—and I don’t want to have to end up doing work that someone didn’t know they had to do or work with someone on something I didn’t expect I would have to (and don’t want to).
Type Fives’ pet peeves may include:
- When goals, roles and structure are not clearly defined (so I know where the boundaries are) both in personal and business relationships.
- When things aren’t efficient and the leader hasn’t thought through the process.
- When people do sloppy work and I have to deal with their mistakes.
- When people interrupt me when I’m in the middle of a task.
- When people draw me into their personal dramas or expect me to deal with their emotional reactions.
- When people surprise me with a task at the last minute.
- When people expect me to share personal information about myself.
- When people don’t respect agreed upon time limits.
- When people intrude upon my private space or private time or take up too much of my time that I would rather be spending by myself.
- When people don’t respect my knowledge about a specific topic I have studied extensively.
- When people waste my time talking about personal stuff at work. Talking about personal stuff is fine, but make a date for that after work.
5. UNDERSTANDING WHY FIVES THINK, FEEL, AND BEHAVE THE WAY THEY DO?
Fives are “head-based” types who feel most at home in their mental space: thinking, learning, and accumulating knowledge. Thinking is a main focus of living and working and a way of defending against emotions for Fives—both their own, which can feel overwhelming or hard to navigate, and those of others, which can threaten to deplete their energetic resources. They identify so strongly with their thinking function that it can feel to Fives like thinking about things that interest them and developing their understanding of those things is “who they are” and what they can contribute most to the world.
Fives unconsciously detach from their emotions as a habitual coping strategy. This is not to say they don’t have feelings—they do, but their main adaptive strategy involves separating thoughts from emotions and living from the mental level as a way of maintaining a sense of power and control in the world. Fives tend to only be comfortable feeling their emotions when they are alone—you will almost never see a Five display big emotions in public or at work, and if Fives register feelings, they will usually wait until they are alone to fully experience them. If they do show their feelings in a work setting, it will often be some sort of excitement about an intellectual point of interest. Fives may also display anger in support of maintaining boundaries (or if a boundary has been violated or is in danger of being violated)—both for themselves and others they care about.
ives may delay taking action when they think they don’t have enough information on which to act. They prioritize thinking over doing, and often believe they need to learn more before they feel comfortable taking a stand or executing on a plan. People with a Type Five personality style may struggle to feel connected to their feelings or their physical selves. They need a large amount of personal space—they may be quiet and keep their distance, they may avoid the office holiday party or after-work drinks, and they rarely share personal information with colleagues. It can be challenging for Fives to collaborate closely with others on a team—they tend to like to work alone, and may be wary of needing to rely on others or having their work depend upon other people’s contributions.
6. WHAT YOU’RE REALLY GOOD AT AS A FIVE
- Gathering and evaluating information. Fives excel at finding the information necessary to get the job done and finding the meaning in the data they analyse that best supports the work.
- Intellectual understanding and vision. Fives live in their heads—and they tend to have really excellent heads. They are usually highly intelligent, deep thinkers, with quick minds.
- Objective analysts. Fives naturally take the emotion out of whatever they are looking at or doing, so they are really good at contemplating things thoughtfully and evenhandedly.
- Giving people the space they need to be themselves or do what they need to do. Fives like having a lot of personal space and so they naturally offer it to others. You probably won’t be micromanaged by a Five leader.
- Self-sufficient, autonomous, independent. Fives feel comfortable working alone and can function independently, without needing a lot of support or supervision from others.
- Humble and self-deprecating. Fives tend to be shy and so are usually uncomfortable in the public eye—they don’t seek affirmation from others or feel a need to be the centre of attention or get credit for things. Motivated by learning and knowing, they do the work for the meaning they find in it, not to prove themselves worthy in the eyes of others.
When Too Much of a Good Thing Becomes a Bad Thing: How Fives Can Go Wrong When They Try Too Hard to Know It All (or Go It Alone)
- Gathering and evaluating information. Fives sometimes put off taking action when they don’t think they have enough information. They may also get lost in the data—they may be so interested in what they are learning, they don’t move quickly enough on what the data tells them.
- Intellectual understanding and vision. Fives tend to undervalue other forms of information, like intuition or “gut knowing,” or emotions, or “reading the room.” They may overdevelop their intellect and underdevelop their emotional intelligence.
- Objective analysts. Fives excel at separating information from emotion, but may have trouble adding the emotions back in in order to access feelings as a source of information.
- Giving people the space they need to be themselves, do what they need to do. It may be difficult for them to engage with people and share enough about themselves to connect with them.
- Self-sufficient, autonomous, independent. Interdependence can feel challenging for Fives. They may find it hard to connect with others to the degree that’s necessary to establish good working relationships.
- Humble and self-deprecating. Fives’ reluctance to be the focus of attention may also mean they don’t show up when it’s appropriate to give and receive feedback, celebrate successes, and accept credit when it’s due in a way that’s good for the team.
Fortunately, Fives’ sincere interest in drawing on their knowledge and objective vision to have a positive impact on the work they do, or the people they interact with often motivates them to overcome some of the obstacles they experience in forming easy and effective relationships. When they feel valued for the insights they bring and invited to communicate about what they are thinking, they can be active contributors despite their need for extra personal space and independence.
7. HEALTHY VS. UNHEALTHY FIVES
When stressed to the point of going to the “low side” of their developmental spectrum, Type Fives can become even more remote and unreachable. Interpersonal stress, drama, or conflict can be particularly difficult experiences for the Five, who feels most comfortable working alone or with trusted others whose behaviour is predictable. Since interacting with people can be stressful enough for Fives under normal conditions, tensions among people, especially emotionally-charged tensions, may trigger Fives to withdraw even further or stop communicating altogether. Fives may also “hide out” when they experience feelings or emotions that they don’t want to express in public.
The outward signs of a Five’s stress may be relatively subtle. They may isolate themselves more and communicate less, disappear entirely and be difficult to contact, or seek refuge by working from home or being alone as much as possible. Fives dislike conflict and would usually rather leave the scene than have to deal with an emotional disagreement; however, in some cases, they may express impatience or even anger, especially if their boundaries have been violated (or threatened). Fives sometimes use anger to let you know you have encroached on their space, mistreated someone close to them, or are in danger of doing so. When a Five takes a stand like this, however, it may not be “low side” behavior—it may be a healthy reaction to the understandable stress of having someone trespass into private space.
On the “high side,” Fives can be more open, engaging, and communicative. Especially when talking about an area of intense intellectual interest, they can express excitement and passion and be very engaged in sharing what matters to them. Fives can also be very funny, displaying a kind of lightness and humor (when at ease and relaxed) that’s reflective of their personal insights into the things and people they observe. At their best, Fives can enjoy being alone or be more welcoming of others, expressing more warmth and being more sociable and friendly.
Emotionally-intelligent Fives learn the value of accessing and expressing some emotion to establishing good relationships with people, even when it requires an effort. They develop the ability to stretch themselves to share a bit more or communicate more regularly, even though there may be times they would rather not. They work on opening up more so that others can get to know them better, and reap the rewards of having supportive relationships—even though, for the Five, that may feel uncomfortable at first.
8. THE THREE KINDS OF FIVES: HOW THE THREE INSTINCTUAL BIASES SHAPE THE THREE TYPE FIVE SUB-TYPE PERSONALITIES
According to the Enneagram model, we all have three main instinctual drives that help us survive, but in each of us, one of these three impulses tends to dominate our behaviour. The Type Five style gets expressed differently depending on whether a person has a dominant instinctual bias toward asserting self-preservation behaviours, positioning themselves within social groups, or establishing one-to-one bonds with specific individuals.
The Self-Preservation (or Self-Focused) Five
Self-Preservation Fives focus on maintaining firm boundaries with people. They tend to feel most comfortable when they are alone at home or in some other private space, and experience a strong need to be able to withdraw to a safe space whenever they feel overwhelmed or threatened or simply want to. Self-Preservation Fives like to minimise their connections to others and tend to find safety and meaning in only a few close relationships. They may feel nervous asking others for favours because they don’t want people to feel entitled to ask them for favours in return, and focus on managing the boundaries between themselves and others in a careful way, so they don’t accidentally let someone in they’d rather keep out. These boundaries can take different forms—time limits, saying “no” to invitations, avoiding one’s neighbours, or even a friendly attitude that acts as a camouflage so people won’t push them to connect more than they want to. Much of this Five’s attention goes to finding ways to hide or withdraw if someone wants to get too close or if a working relationship threatens to become excessively interdependent.
Self-Preservation Fives are the least communicative of the three Fives and the most warm (or seemingly warm). Despite being wary of people who might take their friendliness as an invitation (when it isn’t), these Fives can be caring people, especially when confident that their boundaries (or escape routes) are solid. Self-Preservation Fives like being alone so much they tend to be choosy about who they decide to spend time with. They can be steadfast friends to the few people they really like, but won’t necessarily want to be friends with everyone they work with.
As leaders, Self-Preservation Fives will be motivated by a concern for getting things right and making an impact through a largely intellectual contribution, but will not need to take the credit for the work that gets done. These Fives can be good leaders in that they will want to engage at the level they need to further the work—but no more than they have to. They may be tempted to keep work in silos—to compartmentalise functions or people—but will need to work against this tendency to allow for more communication than they may feel comfortable promoting. When deeply committed to the values and ideals connected to the work they do, they can be effective, involved leaders, though they may direct things from a distance and use the natural barriers associated with roles, time, and space limitations to avoid feeling overwhelmed or exhausted by what might be required of them. They won’t have big ego needs for attention or recognition, and when they feel trusting of the people they work with, they can be more open and engaged.
The Social (or Group-Focused) Five
In contrast to the Self-Preservation Five, the Social Five focuses less on boundaries and more on furthering values and ideals they share with others, often at a distance. While these Fives also like private space and time to themselves, the main focus of their attention is on how to know more about, become expert in, and work with others to further a cause or a system of knowledge. These Fives look to super-ideals—to overarching values that are important to them—to give their lives meaning and shape. They seek out experts in their field, may work to become experts themselves, and look to join groups that adhere to their values or ideals. They also have a strong sense of who is “in the group” and who is “out of the group.”
For these Fives, the idea that “knowledge is power” is key. They strive to become experts about their topic or cause and feel very sensitive to being shown to “not know” something. They tend to feel more connected to the people who share their interests and values than the people they live with or near who are not part of the group—even people in their own family—even when those individuals are far away. And they may be more intellectually connected to their values than they are committed to actually living them out in their daily lives through their immediate relationships. For instance, they may be intellectually invested in ideas related to promoting greater consciousness or emotional intelligence as part of a professional group, but not actually work on becoming more conscious in daily life.
As leaders, Social Fives can be so passionately committed to a cause or a movement that they focus all their energy and attention on it—even to the detriment of their closest relationships. They may experience an underlying sense of meaninglessness because they may unknowingly deprive themselves of the nourishment and meaning that close relationships and emotional connections provide. So, Social Five leaders may become invested in a cause as a way of acting out a desire for meaning and purpose in their lives without having to feel threatened by too much intimacy or connection with other humans. When they are less aware, this focus can cause problems, as when they put all their energy into a set of ideas without letting those ideas take root in their hearts and lived experience. But at their best, these Fives work tirelessly to further causes that can have a real positive impact in the world and create a deep sense of meaning for people.
The One-to-One (or Relationship-Focused) Five
One-to-One Fives focus more attention on feelings and relationships than the other two Fives. While they are still quite Five-ish and look like the other Fives from the outside, they tend to be more connected to their feelings and have more of a need for relationships under the right circumstances. This is why they are the “counter-type” of the three Type Five subtypes. These are the Fives who have more of an inner romantic streak, which they seek to express through some sort of artistic pursuit or creative outlet like writing, visual art, or music.
Like Social Fives, One-to-One Fives pursue an ideal or “super-value” that gives life meaning, but in the case of this Five, the ideal they want to manifest is an ideal relationship. Although they value private space and are introverted like the other Fives, they have a stronger desire to find special relationships with people they can really trust and open up to. However, while this Five has more of a need for closeness, they may fear sharing more of themselves at the same time. And the ideal of partnership or friendship they seek may be a high ideal—this Five may have trouble finding the people they want to connect with in a deeper way because they require such a high level of trust and openness from the other person.
As leaders, One-to-One Fives tend to be deeply committed and passionate about the work they do, even if it isn’t always obvious. They have more of a desire to connect with the people they work with, and will want to share more of themselves in a personal way, even if they don’t always find a way to do it. These Fives may make very good leaders in that they have an emotional intensity they want to express through the things they do, and so there may be a stream of passion or creativity that fuels their leadership style. In addition, they will want to create strong bonds with key people in the team or organisation as a way of furthering their goals and advancing their common mission.
9. HOW FIVES MIGHT STRUGGLE IN WORK AND IN RELATIONSHIPS: STRESS-POINTS AND TRIGGERS
What blind spots Fives often don’t see in themselves:
- Engagement with emotions and the value of emotions generally. As a part of their drive to stay safe and conserve energy, Fives automatically and unconsciously detach from emotions, and can (conveniently) believe emotions are not important. Their main psychological defense mechanism is “isolation,” which allows them to deal with the anxiety associated with navigating the social world by separating feeling from knowing. Fives automatically focus on thoughts, and may at times think they are feeling when they are really just thinking about feelings. When they are not aware of this tendency, it may be difficult to re-engage with their feelings in a way that helps them to be enlivened by and connected to their relationships and their work.
- The value of sharing more personal information with others. Fives’ programming tells them it’s best to keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves, as getting more involved with people through communicating about their inner world will deplete them of precious resources and threaten boundaries around time and space. They don’t see that sharing more of themselves leads to stronger relationships with other humans, which leads to more nourishment and more inner abundance through accessing support from others.
- The supportive and energizing function of relationships. Fives tend to believe that relationships with others threaten to exhaust their energies, when really, they have the potential to replenish inner energetic resources.
- The value of conflict. Fives usually dislike conflict because it can involve intense emotions and unexpected personal revelations, both of which seem costly energetically to Fives. But in avoiding conflict situations, they also avoid deeper engagement with people, which can end up limiting them instead of protecting them.
- Their own wealth of emotional strength, power, and abundant energy. Fives believe in their susceptibility to depletion and overreact by protecting their boundaries and taking refuge in the mental level of life. But in doing this, they overlook what’s really true—that the false belief that they can be easily depleted of energy limits their ability to manifest their own power, energy, and other inner capacities when it causes them to contract and cut themselves off from support.
10. SELF-MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES THAT FIVEES MIGHT WANT TO WORK ON IN THERAPY
- Distancing from emotions. If you are a Five, you prefer interacting with others on the mental level and tend to want to separate yourself from things that feel too emotional—both your own emotions and others’ emotions. Growth work for you thus usually entails getting more in touch with emotions in the moment and eventually learning to communicate more about your feelings while interacting with others.
- Autonomy, independence, and preference for private space. As a Five, you feel safest when you can work independently and control your private space. However, if you can learn to be more flexible when it comes to wanting to work alone and maintaining your privacy, you can create more possibilities for collaboration and supportive connections.
- Difficulty with sharing personal information. It can feel dangerous to a Five to share what feels personal with people—especially at work. So it’s a good growth stretch for you to try to share a little bit more personal information with colleagues you trust, as a way of expanding your capacity for deeper relationships and more effective teamwork.
- Excessive concern with conserving energy. You sometimes resist growth work (especially at work) because you don’t see a problem with your defensive strategies. But many of them grow out of a false sense that you will become exhausted if you allow for more connection with others. Exercise and other somatic practices can help you get more in touch with more of your natural energy as a way of learning that you have more inner resources than you think you do.
- Belief in scarce personal resources. Your fears of depletion motivate you to hold yourself back from life. By questioning your assumptions about how little you have to subsist on, you open yourself up to a greater experience of abundance.
- Fear of intrusion and emotional entanglements. Recognizing, owning, and challenging the fear of intrusion and emotional demands are good first steps you can take to learn to work against your fears and open up to others. “Feel the fear and do it anyway” is a good mantra for Fives who are tired of letting fear hold them back.
11. LIFE-TRAPS THAT FIVES MIGHT WANT TO WORK ON IN THERAPY
- Tune in to your relationship with your emotions generally. Are you more comfortable relating to others on the mental level? Can you feel your emotions more readily when you are by yourself?
- Observe your ability or inability to access feelings in the moment. Can you notice how you go directly to thinking and detach from emotion?
- Observe how you react if the people around you get emotional or make (what feels to you like) excessive demands on your time or energy.
- Notice any beliefs you have about having a limited about of energy and emotional capacity. What fears or other feelings might be behind this sense that you can be easily depleted?
- Notice the different ways you enforce or protect your boundaries. Notice when this feels right and when it may be excessive (or isolate you).
- Observe how much and how often you share personal information with other people. Notice how many people you feel comfortable communicating your inner experience with and what holds you back when you decide not to.
- Note the consequences of not being more known to more people vs. the comfort of maintaining a sense of privacy.
- Observe any fears you have related to sharing more of yourself with others. What do you imagine will happen if you open up more to more people?
- What kinds of things do you do at work or as a leader to feel safe and grounded? What kinds of experiences feel challenging or risky?
12. WHERE TO START WHEN FOCUSING ON YOUR OWN PERSONAL “FIVE-STUFF”: STRENGTHS TO LEVERAGE & ENQUIRY QUESTIONS THAT I OFTEN ASK TYPE FIVE CLIENTS
It helps Fives to be aware of, actively pay attention to, fully own, and leverage:
- Ability to make and maintain good boundaries. Fives naturally honor other people’s boundaries around private time and space. They’re attentive to the value of spelling out time limits, expectations, desired outcomes, and roles and responsibilities.
- Intellectual curiosity and enthusiasm for knowledge and ideas. Fives have the desire and capacity to gather and analyze large amounts of information—and they usually enjoy the process. This makes them content experts who can take the lead in helping people access and learn about the most important data related to their work.
- Objective thinking. Fives’ automatic tendency to separate out emotions from ideas helps them to analyze what’s happening from an emotional distance that can support rational, intelligent responses to difficult situations.
- Professional and modest. Fives’ distaste for emotional entanglements—especially at work—makes them highly sensitized to the behaviors that constitute professional conduct. They can be good role models when it comes to how to interact with others in a way that is thoughtful, humble, courteous, and respectful of people’s privacy.
- Content expertise. Fives’ hunger for knowledge and love of learning often leads to them accumulating large amounts of expertise about specific fields of study. They are often valuable team members because they know so much about what they do and always want to keep learning and expanding their knowledge base.
Fives can also grow through consciously becoming aware of the unconscious, self-limiting habitual patterns associated with their personality style and learning to embody the “higher aspects” or more expansive and balanced capacities of the Type Five personality:
- Learn to become conscious of the discomfort with working closely with others and the need to maintain strong boundaries and try to ease into opening up more and enjoying collaboration. Realise that the things you fear might happen if you allow for closer relationships probably won’t.
- Learn to notice when you put up boundaries to keep people out and experiment with opening the boundaries more, and more often. Realise that you can maintain healthy boundaries and allow for more contact with others in measured doses and that this can make your life richer and more meaningful.
- Learn to notice when you detach from your emotions and take the risk of staying more engaged with them. Realise that developing the ability to connect with your feelings in the present moment will help you to engage with life more deeply and make connecting with others more appealing and interesting.
- Learn to be conscious of your fears on a more regular basis and challenge them when they seem excessive. Realise that the things we fear most have often already happened, and that you are capable of more courage than you may give yourself credit for.
- Learn to be more aware of what compels you to shut down, contract, or hide in the face of contact with others—especially emotional connection. Realise that you have just as much capacity to connect and collaborate as anyone else, and get in touch more regularly with your desire to make contact in a meaningful way.
- Learn to observe the way you index safety and how seeking to stay safe actually threatens to increase your sense of inner depletion by cutting you off from the support of the people around you. Realise that others may want to support and appreciate you more than you let them.
Overall, Type Fives can fulfil their higher potentials by observing and working against their habitual focus on protecting their boundaries and conserving energy out of a fear of depletion and exposure. When they can understand their sensitivity to external demands and take steps to safely experiment with contacting their own emotions more, they can learn to expand their capacities to be more open with others and allow for a deeper engagement with life, work, and people. When they can combine their excellent minds with greater access to their felt experiences in their bodies and through their emotions, they both open themselves up to a fuller experience of their life and work and expand the range of what they can accomplish through the work they do. They can develop into truly great leaders if they can allow themselves to build on their analytic strengths by learning to enjoy working with others and engaging more deeply in the people aspects of the work they do and the intrinsic rewards that come with personal growth.
A Few More Things for Fives to Think About, Understand, and Explore
- Why are you more comfortable relating to others on the mental level? Why is it easier to feel your emotions when you are by yourself?
- How and why do you detach from emotions, and what purpose does this serve? What is it about expressions of emotion that feel messy or threatening?
- What are you afraid will happen if you share your emotions with others? What beliefs might be behind any fears you have of being more open and emotionally connected to people?
- How does your belief in inner scarcity keep you trapped in an experience of having scarce energetic resources? Could this belief be an illusion that actually cuts you off from generating more energy in your life in different ways?
- What are the consequences of living so much of life from your head alone? How might it help you to develop more of a connection to your body and your heart?
- How do different kinds of boundaries help you to feel safe and contained? What happens when you consider relaxing your boundaries a little bit to experiment with being more available for connection with others?
- What motivates you to limit the amount of information you share with others about yourself?
And what if you’re not a Five, but would like to get on better with a Five in your life. How to do that? Here are some tips:
- Respect space and time. Fives will appreciate you if you set appropriate time limits and stick to a clear schedule. Avoid busting in on them unannounced to talk about your weekend or a personal problem or whatever you are upset about. Have the courtesy to check they’re OK to speak and don’t use work time for personal issues.
- Check in, but in short bursts and measured doses. We all need to communicate on a regular basis when we work together, or even in a relationship, but when collaborating or relating with Fives, it will go well if you check in with them periodically and stick to the point.
- Straightforward, but thoughtful communication. Fives don’t like to expend unnecessary energy when communicating—so plan ahead, focus only on what’s necessary for an optimal information exchange, be clear about your objectives, and stick to the agenda of your discussion if at all possible.
- Be professional. Fives appreciate coworkers (and maybe even friends and partners) who demonstrate the skill, manners and good judgment one expects from a person carrying out something to the best of their ability. They don’t like it when people get messy, emotional, or personal—and if you accidentally do, don’t expect the Five to deal with your feelings.
- Avoid drama and messy emotions. See above. Also, one of the things Fives like most about being at work is that there are usually norms against showing emotion at the office. If you really want your Five colleagues (or friends/partner) to hear you and respond well to what you communicate to them, try your best to take the emotion out of it.
- Leave your personal life out of work matters. When at work, Fives want to be at work—they want to get the job done. Some may enjoy socializing with workmates, but only after work, not during work hours. And don’t expect them to be your friend necessarily, as they only need and want a few, and those slots may be filled.
- Make your communications clear, concise, direct, short, and efficient. Fives tend to believe they have limited energy to expend on human interaction. While this is part of the illusion of the Five personality, many Fives really buy into the idea that they have finite energetic resources and can be wary about spending too much energy on any one interaction. So, when talking with Fives, remember that less is more.
- Leave them alone to do what they do. Fives like to have the freedom, the space, and the time they need to do whatever work they can by themselves. It’s best not bother them with stuff they don’t find meaningful or relevant to what needs to be done.
- No surprises. Fives want to know what the boundaries, time limits, and expectations are in advance. Plus, surprises can also stir up emotions, which Fives would rather experience when they are alone. So, try to avoid springing things on them (or planning a surprise party for their next birthday).
FURTHER RESOURCES FOR FIVES & THOSE WHO LOVE THEM:
This is a great, easy-to-follow overview by Russ Hudson of the Five personality style, which also offers some practices which Fives (or all of us) might find helpful when struggling with “Five-Stuff” in our lives.