Withdrawing Stance: Fours

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[1], 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.Fours, in particular, are attuned to their own feelingsand they process what they feel with thinking. Fours seek fulfillment through relationships and have a deep longing for something or someone to make them feel whole. Their inward focus of the feeling center makes them intensely aware of their own likes, dislikes and desires. Often charming, they are able to respond to problems, pain and suffering with compassion, insight and understanding.

For Fours, doing is repressed and thinking supports feeling, which gives Fours a special attunement to their own emotional world. They take the world in on a personal level and ruminate and analyze both their own and others’ feelings.[2]As they think about their feelings, they seek insight and understanding into why and how they developed into the person they have become. This process develops a rich imagination, critical thinking skills, and a curiosity that allow Fours to internally question everything until they finally understand. Through all of this thinking activity, fours are searching for what is authentic and they are often adept at finding it and some can express it powerfully in words and other creative outlets.

Their automatic response to life is to analyze feelings. They are trapped in trying to understand their place on the planet. They, more than any other number are obsessed with understanding the reasons for their behavior. They often get ahead of themselves trying to plan how they will respond to life in a meaningful way. They ask themselves, “How will I communicate with depth and texture when I respond to this?”

All Enneagram Types take the way they are and project it onto the rest of the world. For Fours, this means that they are dumbfounded and often frustrated that others do not or cannot turn inward, find authenticity and communicate it. In our culture, which is colored with so much Three energy, they see a slick shell of a world, and Fours cannot understand the lack of reflection and inauthenticity. Meanwhile, most other Enneagram types cannot figure out why Fours are not out there in the world getting things done.

Fours have repressed their doing center, which is hard to hear or comprehend for most doing repressed types (Fours, Fives, and Nines), but for the Fours, this means they are not comfortable with and tend to ignore the practical and mundane realities of everyday life. This does not mean that they do not do anything. Rather, they spend their time doing whatever seems interesting, exciting and unique. Meanwhile, mundane tasks like laundry, managing finances or cleaning are either left undone or left for someone else to do. According to Hurley and Dodson, “doing center qualities like stamina, determination, self-assurance and self-confidence are generally unavailable to compulsive Fours.”[3]

We live in a culture that confuses the terms thinkingand feeling. This is not beneficial for anyone, but it’s especially confusing for Fours, who go through life feeling and thinking to the point that the two become fused together. Fours must separate the two by distinguishing feelings from thoughts. Once they are separated Fours can focus on critical thinking, and objectivity to plan their day and make decisions. From this place of objectivity, Fours can think productively about their feelings and actions, and decide what needs to be done. Fours need to get out of their feelings and think as a gateway into doing.

It would be helpful to all of us if we took 30 minutes every day for Spiritual practices. Fours should consider reading Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation. Merton was a four on the Enneagram so his work will be helpful for Fours. Additionally, consider what causes your emotional temperature to go up and down and try interrupt it instead following the emotional lead. This is contrary to your nature, but you must interrupt it before it becomes so intense that it controls you. I find that a sacred word or phrase that reorients you to God rather than your own feelings is helpful here. Remember, Fours, that you seek authenticity, but when you artificially inflate your feelings you are conjuring an inauthentic experience.

Another component of emotional inflation involves rehearsing wounds from the past. Fours, when you find yourself doing this try to consider the story from another person’s vantage point. Consider what the other people involved might have seen and felt. Acknowledge your pain and then let it go. Pick one relationship and work on it for a month. Cherish this relationship, be creative and give without asking or demanding anything from it. Pay attention and notice if you are tempted to push them away after drawing close to them for a month. Think carefully what is behind the temptation to push them away. Finally and most importantly, remember that you are truly the only individual of your kind on this planet. God only made one like you and God is holding you dearly. Rest in that and see how your compulsion to assert your uniqueness might fall away.

[1]Some enneagram teachers use the language of “dominant.”

[2]At lower levels of healthy Fours are only aware of their own feelings.

[3]Hurley and Dodson,