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Three Ways To Be Four: Enneagram Four Subtypes (Self-Preservation, Sexual, Social)

Type Four represents the depth and mystery of the heart. Fours tend to be artistically creative, introspective, and idiosyncratic. They gravitate toward the melancholic, symbolic, and darkly beautiful. In seeking to accentuate the significance and dimensionality of their experience, Fours are willing to probe deeply, without reservation of what they might uncover. They tend to be withdrawn and highly attuned to their inner states, so most of their attention is on the nuances of their subjective impressions. Fours express themselves primarily through artistic creativity and are extremely individualistic, living according to a deeply personal outlook that they stray little from.

Like types Two and Three, Fours also experience an instability of identity, but unlike Two and Three, they don’t find mirroring in the external world. Instead, they invest their attention in introspection, as if searching for something deeply buried within. When they lose presence, they become increasingly preoccupied with their inner world, and the practical demands of life begin to seem at odds with this concentration. They seek to find depth by rejecting anything that seems ordinary, shallow, or mundane, but this only reinforces a sense of alienation and inability to “be themselves” in a natural way.

This hyper-attunement to their subjectivity makes for an excessively narrow focus, and they can imbue their impressions with undue significance, amplifying internal, largely-negative states and symbolism with dramatic flair while dismissing people and experiences that are not in accord with their moods or aesthetic orientation as “inauthentic.”

As Fours lose a sense of their true identity, they become increasingly self-referential in search for something that feels distinctly their own and increasingly occupied with differentiating themselves from others. To further set themselves apart from others and to solidify their individuality, Fours become increasingly misanthropic, melancholic, and disdainful of the mundane. They can neglect to take concrete steps to connect their sense of self with their living experience, resulting in further self-hatred and estrangement from life while becoming dependent on others for emotional and practical support.

Fours become focused on acting out their suffering, rejecting the present to long for a person or circumstance they imagine will complete them or save them from their torment. As they become even more entranced, they become extremely self-absorbed, self-indulgent, and dramatic. They can become deeply depressed and turbulently morose, feeling profoundly misunderstood and prone to lashing out with hatred toward loved ones and against themselves.


Self-Preservation Fours strive to experience Essential Depth through their lifestyle, creativity, and self-expression. Self-Preservation Fours are usually very creative, with a highly developed craft like painting, music making, or design that they can spend hours absorbed in.

They usually require periodic bouts of solitude to be immersed in their creative projects, but they struggle with finding a lifestyle that is congruent with their needs and inner experience.

The Self-Preservation Instinct results in a highly sensual and tactile Type Four. They’re especially sensitive to matters of aesthetics and ambiance, and their preferences of environment and home often have more to do with emotional resonance than comfort.

Textures, colours, smells, and lighting are all very specific and important and can take on an emotionally saturated mystique.

Self-Preservation Fours are looking for their home, work, and overall lifestyle to be as close an expression of and congruent with their subjective experiences as possible. Their lifestyle and environment should be a container for their self-discovery, aesthetically evocative of what draws them inward while being sheltered from outside intrusion. Typically, their home, office, or place of practice will be highly personalised. Some people of this type love to collect unique objects, often antiques or works of art, while others have a minimalistic austerity that nonetheless serves as a mode of aesthetic expression. They gravitate toward objects and materials that evoke a correspondence with their self-image and the environment itself.

Within this type, Envy lends itself both to a struggle with feeling functional and capable and, more centrally, to a frustration that the overall picture of one’s lifestyle doesn’t accord with an idealised self-image. Some Self-Preservation Fours can therefore have a pattern of building something up, such as a business, a practice, or a home, and then abruptly shifting gears or abandoning it all to start over.

They have a stridently individualistic vision for how they want to live their lives and express themselves, but they often face practical obstacles that limit them, like difficulty in making money and sustaining their energy. The small bit of additional pragmatism that Self-Preservation Four has over Sexual and Social Fours is often countered by a kind of insularity that can make it difficult for their aspirations to take flight.

Autonomy and self-determination are very big issues for this type, especially when it comes to how they earn a living, so they typically gravitate toward fields that don’t require being closely managed or contain facetime with a lot of other people. They can become so myopically devoted to forging a personalised path that they fail to develop practical and interpersonal skills or make certain compromises which may help them achieve their aim.

Self-Preservation Fours are dramatic but are even less transparent about their moods and inner states than Social and Sexual Fours. Much of the drama of the Self-Preservation Four is contained within a sullen, morose atmosphere, and a great deal of their fluctuating emotional life is inflicted on the body itself, through physical neglect, substances, or sensuality. Conversely, they may be extremely physically robust in other domains. They may feel nauseous when in a room with aesthetically offensive colour choices, but may also spend weeks mountain climbing.

When imbalanced, Self-Preservation Fours can “paint themselves into a corner,” limiting their possibilities and opportunities for growth by rejecting all that doesn’t accord with their self-image and abhorring anything that limits their creativity. While some Self-Preservation Fours are skilful with money, people of this type can have an indulgent streak, especially when it comes to spending beyond their means to acquire objects of beauty or to pursue situations, travels, or opportunities that speak to them. This can be a strength—a devotion to feed their inner life—or a way they shoot themselves in the foot. They are often tenuously balancing between financial security and collapse. These ups and downs can provide an intensity that makes them feel alive and authentic. Emotional states and self-comforting are modified through indulgence in excessive eating, drinking, sex, and carelessness. Unhealthy Self-Preservation Fours are prone to masochistically acting out against themselves physically, by going without food, sleeping in bizarre places, and even self-injury.

Self-Preservation Fours relax their personality structures when they recognise that they themselves bring the personal depth they seek rather than looking for their experiences to mirror their own depths.


Sexual Fours long to experience Essential Depth in their relationships, creativity, and intense experiences. The artistic temperament of Type Four combined with the attraction displays of the Sexual Instinct lends themselves to a strong creative drive coupled with a voracious desire for the object of their attraction.

Whether introspectively or externally, this type seeks to be in a state of fascinated engagement with something that presents an avenue of self-discovery. Sexual Fours are prone to demonstrating their creativity and depth as a means to entice and sexually attract, and they can fetishise emotional, intellectual, or spiritual depth, imbuing it with an erotic mystique and deep contempt for the mundane.

Both Type Four and the Sexual Drive emphasise characteristics that distinguish oneself from others; so combined, Sexual Fours cultivate identities that are hyper-specific and elaborate. Their creative expression, interests, appearance, and even their thinking style are typically highly specialised. This hyper-specificity aims to be very attractive to a few and to repel those deemed too “banal” to appreciate their unique flavour. Like a switch, however, Sexual Fours can shift from being wholly absorbed and engaged in a creative project to having their full attention on their partner, and then back to their personal project, which can create a confusing push-pull experience for others.

A central element in the attraction strategies of Sexual Four is in striving to be uniquely fascinating, living by the ideal that no one else could provide the depth, intensity, understanding, and charge that they could. Sexual Fours strive to be someone their object of desire will never be able to find anywhere else. For people of this type, mediocrity is worse than death. The pursuit of being interesting and unconventional can extend to their lifestyle. They are drawn to unconventional paths and are willing to make major upheavals in pursuit of their desired partner. They want to be uninhibited in pursuing attractions, so they’re typically resistant to structure, confining jobs, and adherence to routines. There is often a struggle to sustain themselves practically.

Envy lends itself to chronic doubts about attractiveness and the ability to keep those they wish to attract interested in them.

Hypersensitivity to their partner’s perceived level of attraction generates great distress if there are any lulls or mellow periods, so Sexual Fours tend to be sexually competitive—they feel they can’t be magnetic enough, and therefore are always trying to shore up their display of talents while never feeling adequate. They may feel the need to be the greatest love of the partner they’re with or, at least, the most impactful and unique one, the most attractive, and the best lover. Envy also creates an excessive focus on perceived personal defects, which a Four will inevitably find, that disqualifies them from having and keeping the person they want. Yet it’s often their own turmoil around this issue, and not the perceived defects themselves, that drives others away. This can lend to Sexual Fours testing their partners and desired objects in various ways: possessiveness, suspicion, or causing fights to feel “entangled.”

They’re prone to acting out stormy swings between idealisation and disillusionment, extremes of love and hatred. Sexual Fours can play out a pattern of frustration with their loved ones, wanting their loved ones to be everything for them and rejecting them when their partner is unable to meet unrealistically high expectations.

This can lend to Sexual Fours testing their partners and desired objects in various ways: possessiveness, suspicion, or causing fights to feel “entangled.” They’re prone to acting out stormy swings between idealisation and disillusionment, extremes of love and hatred. Sexual Fours can play out a pattern of frustration with their loved ones, wanting their loved ones to be everything for them and rejecting them when their partner is unable to meet unrealistically high expectations.

When deeply unbalanced, Sexual Fours can be completely dysfunctional in the practical sense: unable to hold jobs or sustain themselves while looking to be bailed out by a partner or someone else. They can become easily infatuated and throw themselves at partners, then quickly reject them. They become so wedded to forging their own unique path that they never develop basic practical skills.

Disintegrating Sexual Fours are prone to self-harm, emotional abusiveness, and physical violence toward themselves and their partners, acting out intense hatred and possessiveness toward their partner and adopting a reckless, “burn it all down” approach to ending relationships or their own lives.

Grounding themselves in the sensations of the body helps Sexual Fours find a supportive balance to their drive for depth in a way that brings them into closer relationship with themselves and reality. They can find the depth they seek when they’re not pushing away from practical, ordinary life.


Social Fours are looking to experience Essential Depth in their relationships, creative offerings, and social roles. Social Fours combine an appreciation for depth and authenticity with an interest in other people, lending to deeply personal self-revelation in their artwork, interests, and general self-expression. Much of their talent and attention is focused on communicating a deeper view of life.

Social Fours often find ways to use their creativity as a means to engage and maintain connections with other people, like a performer in an obscure music scene, for example. They’re typically funny and quick-witted, but can quickly switch to a sullen brooding at a moment’s notice.

Social Fours are more likely to be consistently engaged with other people than Self-Preservation and Sexual Fours and are often among the defining characters of certain unconventional subcultures or scenes, like artist collectives and academic circles, or even esoteric spiritual groups. These Fours can adapt themselves to social situations with greater ease than other Fours, yet they still need to maintain a sense of being different from others in some remarkable way.

The Four’s desire to be a unique individual comes into tension with the Social Drive’s need to be available for connection, so in Social Four, there’s a special effort to embody and share a deeper view of life in a way that is comprehensible and useful to others without compromising their personal vision. What this lends itself to is a fear of being too strange, sensitive, or challenging for people, which becomes a source of both pride and shame because they aren’t willing to compromise their authenticity. While they are often more charismatic and have a greater social ease than other Fours, yet may still feel a concealed, but close to the surface, inner brokenness or feeling of being alien. Therefore, there’s a longing and search for people who will accept them in all their unconventionality, moods, and eccentricities and who aren’t afraid to mine the depths with them.

  Whereas the Social Drive generally wants to find “common ground” with others, Social Fours crave connection while feeling uneasy about that which is “common,” so they seek to cultivate extraordinary connections with a select few. People of this type are usually not “people persons.” They often gravitate toward eclectic people and subcultures in search of those who reflect and can share in their inner world. They are likely to fantasize that a social group, friend, or lover who will see who they “really” are is elsewhere, often ignoring the love and acceptance that’s already present for them in the relationships at hand.

Authenticity is paramount for Social Fours, yet they often struggle to know what remaining “true” to themselves means. Social Fours are perhaps most sensitive to whether the image loved ones hold of them matches their self-image, and they long to be with those who share their values and worldview, to find a family that may be more real and personal than their biological family. Incongruencies between self-perception and how others view them can induce a great deal of shame and angry frustration.

Social Fours are prone to experiencing themselves as deeply exceptional and simultaneously lacking or flawed. They feel that their differences and unique perspective is a strength, one they long to be recognized for, and at the same time, Envy often brings their inadequacies into extreme focus, making them self-conscious and feeling unable to connect, comparing themselves to how they could be if only they had some other characteristic or quality. Social Fours have an uneasy dynamic with the need to feel special and wanting recognition for it. On one hand, they feel ashamed of this very desire, and on the other hand, they indulge it. They can adopt an exotic, mysterious, or sophisticated persona. They can identify with being an outsider and appreciate the mystique that affords while also longing to be among a more elite, studied, or chosen circle.

When feeling slighted or unacknowledged, Social Fours are prone to adopt an arrogant, elite attitude. Distressed Social Fours can make dramatic public displays of their anger, with accusations of betrayal and cutting criticisms. They can easily feel humiliated, leading to exaggerated motivations for revenge and seriously undermining others for perceived slights, and they can become so focused on their own pain as a justification for their behavior that they fail to see the extent of their impact. People of this type are especially prone to stubbornly clinging to the need for others to see or acknowledge how they’ve been violated with an additional desire to punish wrongdoings. Self-pity or feeling victimized is common, and it undermines the connections that Social Fours hold most dear.

Acts of retaliation stemming from a view of having been wronged and an inability to function are typically present in unhealthy Social Fours.

By having greater acceptance and appreciation for themselves as they are, Social Fours can learn their own value and unique identity without needing to be self-conscious about it. When they’re able to relax into being themselves without reservation, they attract the connection, love, and belonging they desire.

[Source: Luckovich, 2021]