It’s possible that there are more Enneagram Fours in therapy than other numbers. I think this is because they actually like talking about feelings, having feelings, and agonizing over feelings. Whereas other personality types begrudgingly talk about feelings in therapy, Fours feel relief that there is finally a place that they can let it all out. Other types have limited experience and connection with their emotions, but Fours can tell you upfront what’s going on inside. Christian Fours have some unique hurdles as well as gifting. Let’s talk about how therapy can bring out the best in Christian Fours.
Each week, I link the introduction to this series here so that you can understand my take on the Enneagram and its place for faithful Christians and for therapy practitioners and clients. You’ll also want to make sure you’re familiar with Type 4 by reading descriptions at Your Enneagram Coach and The Enneagram Institute. Fours carry the nicknames Individualist, Creative, Romantic, and Originalist. They are concerned with being unique and creative, they are in touch with their emotions, and they often march to their own beat. They also fear being unoriginal, believe they are defective, and have trouble reining in emotions.
When Do Fours Go to Therapy?
Since Enneagram Fours are the most likely to be free with their emotional expression, this is the very thing that can bring them into therapy. Most of the other personality types do not understand the Four’s way of existing in the world. Friends, family members, and bosses will tell them that they are too emotional or dramatic. Fours feel like they might be crazy because they react strongly and make decisions based on feelings. Other types sometimes look down on this unique tendency. Therefore, Fours will make it into therapy because they feel misunderstood by their loved ones and they believe something must be wrong with them.
Because Fours enjoy the intensity of strong emotions, they are more likely to savor emotional experiences. But this also puts them at risk of average emotional experiences morphing into clinical depression or anxiety, or even mood disorders. (This is not unique to Type 4. Each type to the extreme becomes a pathology.) Most Fours that I see have a diagnosis of both anxiety and depression of some sort. They come to therapy when the symptoms of either disorder become unmanageable. At this point they seek help learning to regulate emotions. Having emotions and feeling them fully is very important. It is exhausting and unsustainable to live constantly at the mercy of emotions.
Designing Therapy for Fours
My Type 4 clients have challenged me to think about some of my training and interventions in completely different ways. I use some techniques in reverse of their customary order. For example, one Type 4 client could never identify her automatic thoughts when I tried to instruct her on Cognitive Behavior Therapy. It made both of us feel imcompetent. Eventually, I stopped trying to nail down those thoughts and instead asked her about her emotions. This part flowed easily for her, and from there she was able to go back and determine what thoughts coexisted with those feelings. So now we do CBT, but we do it backwards. When working towards reframing, I first ask her how she would like to feel, then we work on thoughts that would match those feelings.
There have been other times where Type 4 clients needed something different. My willingness to do things differently seems to meet them in that need for uniqueness. It also shows them that they are not defective when they can accomplish helpful interventions with less frustration. Even basic life skills, executive functioning coaching, and goal setting are things that can be approached differently. Instead of setting up a daily or hourly schedule (like a Type 1 would enjoy), a Four needs more room to be whimsical and responsive to unforeseen changes. In setting goals, I have been able to suggest things that Ones and Threes would find ridiculous, but Fours thrive and grow. Keep in mind that beauty attracts Fours. There are myriad ways that beauty can be expressed and appreciated in therapy. Try incorporating nature, art, music, language, and other celebrations of beauty to keep the Four motivated.
More than anything, Fours need the therapist to be accepting and have that unconditional positive regard. We need to show them that there is nothing wrong with being unique, dramatic, and emotional. We celebrate each of these characteristics when they are put to good use. I remember reading an article long ago about teaching pre-teen girls to manage their emotions. (I wish I could remember the author.) It likened emotions to beautiful wild horses. We each need to learn how to bridle our feelings and impulses, even if some of us want to ride bareback.
Fours and the Gospel
Enneagram Fours long to hear the message that they are seen and loved. They want to be noticed in their uniqueness and individuality. At the same time, they want to discover that what they thought was flaw is actually beauty. The Gospel has a wonderful message for people with this core longing. Not only did God make you exactly how He wanted you, Jesus died for your particular expression of humanity. Psalm 139:14 states, “I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” God did not make a mistake when he made Fours with the special ability to cultivate beauty and to feel things deeply. There is a particular need for these strengths in the Kingdom of God.
When therapists are willing to do things a little differently with client’s who thrive on uniqueness, they can help Fours see themselves as God sees them. What better outcome could we ask for, than Christian therapists helping a Christian Fours truly to see themselves and to see God’s character?
Tell Me about Fours
As you might guess, I have certain individuals in mind when I write these blogs. I truly adore working with my Fours. Although I probably have more of a 2 wing, sometimes I draw on a 4 wing as well. So tell me: where did you feel seen in this article? If there was an aha moment for you as a therapist, what was it? I’d love to hear back from you on social media or here in the comments.