Parenting the INDIVIDUALIST
Today, we delve into the fascinating world of the Enneagram Type 4, also known as the Individualist. These are individuals who have a unique and deep connection to their emotions and have a desire to be seen as unconventional and special in the world. Let's explore the characteristics of Type 4s and discover how we can parent them to bring out their best qualities.
The Individualist is sometimes called the romantic, the dreamer , the emotional explorer, they can be arty and melancholic, sensitive and expressive. But you can't be unique and fall neatly under a title! So no boxing here, in fact, one of the things a type 4 will tell you is that they struggle to feel they belong.
However, there are characteristics they will recognise or you will recognise in them: They’re comfortable with being introspective and in touch with their emotions.
They can sit in the discomfort of pain, loss or grief as opposed to other characters who would prefer to drown it out with action, achievement, music…
Authentic Expressive Genuine Can be dramatic Sensitive to criticism Need to be understood Self conscious Creative misunderstood Can be eccentric, in trying to be unique
The individualist is often introspective and deeply in touch with their emotions. They can sit with the sad music and like sharing their inner feelings with people they trust. Sometimes people might choose to steer clear of them if they feel overwhelmed by all the feelings of an enneagram type four. Here are some famous fours:
Vincent Van Gogh
Lana Del Rey
Their strengths are in their ability to be feelers, authentic, artistic and unusual
But the flip side is a need to be mysterious and unique and if this becomes unhealthy, they can sit too long in their melancholy and take on the role of victim. They can lose sight of themselves as they create a persona to be true to their aura of being unique and paradoxically become slightly inauthentic.
Their insecurity is that they feel that something important is missing from their makeup. They’ve picked that up somewhere along the line. As odd as that sounds, it makes pure sense to a four and to those that know them well. They may have received a message from their early environment that they were somehow different, flawed or not like others. That’s not necessarily poor parenting by you, it can be something that they’ve picked up – inadvertently or indirectly through criticism or a perception of rejection or an emotional need that wasn’t met. We’ve all had experiences that throw us off track and the enneagram 4 picks up that something is missing. They’re not quite sure what, but they know they feel deficient and ashamed about it and it causes them to be ill at ease or uncertain about themselves. They don’t compare well to others in their minds.
Everybody Hurts, by REM could be a soundtrack for their lives, when in their introspective space.
But it doesn’t mean they’re depressed. Many might be in that space! But for them it’s the feathers to their nest. Comfy, fitting, apt. Sad topics and suffering don’t necessarily have a depressive effect on them. They just have a bigger appetite for the darker more inense side of life – it’s where they explore their meaning. They embody their feelings. They call it in-tune.
Sound like your child?
Sound like you?
Sound like anyone you know?
Some might find this a little intense.
I remember being around a four for a season and always wanting to buoy them up. Life seemed as though it was a bit dramatic around them, like a sad poem that goes on a bit too long. But tap into their superpowers and you’ll find a great friend, a hard-worker, generous to a fault and ridiculously creative. They’ll sit with you in your pain, they’ll accept your weirdness and idiosyncrasies, you can be emotionally safe with a healthy type 4.
As well as pensive, they can be fun to be around, expressive and a little wild at heart, not openly rebellious necessarily but non-conformist. They have an appreciation of beauty and see it in all it’s forms. Their heightened aesthetic sense can find beauty everywhere and appreciate shapes, colours, depths and light that others might pass by without noticing. They’re not afraid of personal growth, so their introspection and self reflection are a part of their self-discovery and growth.
So if you are noting some traits and think you might be or have a type four among your children or in your life, they probably won’t match all the descriptions,, but if a high percentage correlates to the person you have in mind, they could well be a type 4; And we need this type of person, to inspire, push the norms, be present, create something from nothing and be loving and loveable.
If I had a child with those wonderful strengths and insecurities, I would want to help them to know that they are special but that they don’t need to strive to be so.
Let’s take a deeper dive into parenting the Enneagram Type 4, the Individualist...
1. Encourage their diversity and self-expression through appreciation, but also allowing them to go a little off piste. They love to create their own artistry rather than following patterns.
I was making a simple top for a doll with a type four and she snipped the sleeves off and made them into leg warmers. Roll with it…
Unique ideas are their superpower and it’s what feeds them and gives them energy and soothes their big emotions
2 Validate their emotions: Type 4s have a deep emotional life, and it's important to acknowledge and validate their feelings. Create a safe and non-judgmental space for them to express their emotions openly and honestly so they build trust with you. They are sceptical of people who don't accept their emotional world.
But don’t let them get stuck there. The past is fine to explore so long as you don’t get lost there. They need to find their way back to the present. And not let the past define them. And make space for other people to have big emotions too, or they can get self-absorbed. Help them to hone their listening skills and let other’s have the drama’s sometimes.
3. Foster a sense of individuality: Encourage their self-discovery and allow them to explore their interests and passions freely. Help them understand that their uniqueness is valuable and that it's okay to be different from others. But normality is ok too…the whole world doesn not need to be a platform. The mundane can play its part too.
4 Teach them self-compassion and self-acceptance: Type 4s can be highly self-critical and prone to feelings of inadequacy. Help them cultivate self-compassion and emphasise the importance of accepting themselves, flaws and all. Help them to focus on what is present, good enough and and not always look for what is missing Help them not to compare with others. Envy and comparison are the thieves of joy. Take their minds off idealism
5. Support their need for introspection and solitude: Type 4s often require time alone to recharge and reflect. Respect their need for solitude and provide opportunities for them to engage in introspection and self-reflection without judgment.