Withdrawing Stance: Fives

All great models of human persons agree that three basic intelligences give us modes of being in the world—thinking, feeling, and doing. All Enneagram types place thinking, feeling, and doing in one of the three categories—preferred , repressed, and supporting. The Enneagram’s Withdrawing Stance is organized around their shared repression of the doing center.


Unfortunately, your preferred center recognizes only one third of the human experience, and disregards the other two thirds. As you wear your preferred “lenses,” you neglect, to your own detriment, to see and develop the other two centers. Developing your repressed center is some of the most important and difficult Enneagram work. Therefore, this series of posts will focus on how the Withdrawing Stance can nurture their center of doing intelligence.


Withdrawing Stance numbers (Fours, Fives and Nines) are oriented to the past and to what they enjoy. Fives, in particular, are attuned to their own thoughts and can develop strong feelings around those thoughts. Fives seek to feel comfortable in the world through gathering information about a given situation, environment or topic. They long for competence in any area that they deem important and are prone to discount the importance of areas where they lack skills and abilities. Their inward focus of the thinking center makes them intensely aware of their own thoughts and perspectives. Often insightful, they are able to respond to problems with keen listening and critical thinking skills.


For Fives, doing is repressed and feeling supports thinking. Five’s fear being useless or incompetent so they avoid doing anything that might expose their limited capabilities. They get lost in information gathering and the construction of their own mental worlds in hope that they will one day have enough information or skill to be competent and, therefore, comfortable in the world.


The idea that you might repress doing can be hard to grasp in a world where it feels like we are constantly busy, but the Fives automatic response to life is to step back and analyze the situation with theories and frameworks. Often the framework employed is one developed long ago because Fives are always in the process of developing their own cognitive methods of evaluating data or experiences. However, they fail to realize that they already have enough information to proceed. Fives are so busy gathering information and planning their responses that they are actually prepared for many of life’s challenges, but they are not trusting of their own preparedness.


Repressed doing does not mean that Fives do not do anything. Rather, they spend their time doing whatever seems interesting, or fits their skill set or area of expertise. Meanwhile, Fives are avoiding tasks that they fear will expose their incompetence. They must feel and process their fear before they can move forward. Fives, I can’t express the need to befriend your fear in strong enough terms. As a fellow Five, this has been the most important step in my work with the Enneagram. Any contemplative practice that moves your attention from your head to your body will help you get in touch with your fear. If you do not have a contemplative practice, make a plan to spend 10 to 20 minutes a day in silence before God.


We live in a culture that confuses the terms thinking and feeling. This is not beneficial for anyone, but it’s especially confusing for Fives, who go through life thinking and feeling to the point that the two become fused together. Fives must separate the two by distinguishing feelings from thoughts. Once they are separated Fives can encounter feelings directly rather than through their favorite ideas or deeply held beliefs. From this place of feelings, Fives can think productively about their feelings and identify what actions they might be avoiding out of fear. Personally, I have noticed that I also procrastinate on things that I am not necessarily afraid of, but things that do not excite me. It is possible that fear has dulled my doing center of intelligence in a way that has effected the whole center, rendering me generally docile, apart from specific fears.


Fives notice what circumstances make you most uncomfortable in the practical physical world, and what could I do or learn to help neutralize that discomfort? Nnotice when the perspective you offer is one familiar to you because you have held it for a long time. Observe when you are called on without advanced notice and asked to give an answer or response. Do you ever see that your answers or responses are already within you? Gleaned from some book or experience long ago? Is it possible that the necessary response to life’s challenges are already within you somewhere and you only need to relax, be present, and respond with whatever is already inside?


Above all, I hope that you engage contemplative practices so that you too can begin to befriend your fear. It has been a profoundly liberating experience for me, unlocking an encounter with God’s peace, love and safekeeping. Take a look at this post on bringing up feeling for a discussion of what this practice might look like.

David StamileComment