During the week of LEVN orientation, each volunteer is asked to take a sample Enneagram Test to find out their Enneagram Type. According to the Enneagram, everyone can be sorted into one of nine interconnected personality types. On both occasions in which my type has been assessed, the test indicated that I am type four, and based on my readings, I would have to agree.
Depending to your source material, type four may often be referred to as the Romantic type or the Individualist type. I prefer the term Romantic to Individualist just because it doesn’t exactly paint a great picture of yourself if you go around telling others you’re an individualist as it makes you sound selfish and egotistical. However, I must agree that to refer to type four as an Individualist is an apt description, at least in my case. I find that I tend to lose sight of the plights of those around me because I am so wrapped up in my own problems and so consumed by my own emotions, which directly leads into another dominant trait associated with type fours. Type fours are known to be deeply feeling. In fact, many mistakenly say that type fours are dominated by their emotions to the point that they can’t be relied on. Just to set things straight, I am a very deeply feeling person and do get overly emotional on occasion, but when put up to a task, I am generally very reliable, or so I’ve been told, and am actually a bit of a perfectionist. That’s just me though.
Let’s consider the following. As a LEVN volunteer, I live in an intentional community with six other individuals. Each of us are from different parts of the country and come from different backgrounds. To live in an intentional community means that we are more than just roommates i.e. people who reside in the same space. To live in an intentional community means that we are expected to openly discuss topics with each other that would not normally be brought up in everyday conversation e.g. religion, money, and social justice. Due to the very nature of these topics, some of the conversations we are asked to have can be difficult. However, that combined with the fact that each of us comes from such a different upbringing and each of us has a different relationship to these topics makes it even more challenging to have such conversations. Any one of these topics may be a source of pain for one person while another person may be encountering the topic for the first time. What’s more is you don’t know what topics will affect certain people and in what ways they will be affected until you are fully submerged in a conversation about that very topic. In conclusion, to live in an intentional community is hard work.
Now, let’s look at how the fact that I am a type four influences how I engage with my LEVN community members. I am type four i.e. I am an individualist i.e. I tend to be self-absorbed. Hence, I struggle to relate to the problems of my housemates. This is partially because I am so caught up in my own personal problems but also because the problems they face are so outside of anything I have ever had to deal with in my entire life. For me to even begin to relate to the struggles of some of my housemates, I find that I literally have to envision myself as them and put myself into the situations they face. However, as the issues they face are so foreign to me, I can’t even begin to imagine what they are going through. Plus, I usually need people to name their problems for me to even be aware of them unless it is inherently obvious. This is not always the case, but it is a frequent occurrence for sure.
I have come to greatly appreciate the Enneagram due to just how closely the description of my type describes my own feelings and tendencies; however, that does not mean that I am bound by those labels. In fact, by naming my tendencies, I have found that I have a greater self-awareness and can consciously make decisions to help me better deal with situations that would otherwise be difficult. For instance, a few weeks ago, I found myself in a situation in which I was asked to make a decision that could potentially impact how I lived out the rest of my tenure with LEVN. However, at that moment, my emotions were running at an all-time high due to the sensitive nature of the matter, and I realized I wasn’t in the right state of mind to make such a decision. Instead of giving a definitive answer, I made it known that I needed time and space to better access the situation and my feelings on the matter at hand. In the days that followed, I wrestled with myself about the issue incessantly. As the days passed, my emotions on the matter eventually leveled out, and I found that I was able to consider the matter with a new sense of clarity. Finally, after about a week of deep contemplation, I had made my decision and have since acted on it. And I feel better about it knowing that I made that decision not based solely on my emotions, which so often tend to dominate my outlook on life.
Due to my new sense of self-awareness, I have also been able to look back on my life and see where I have grown beyond the natural tendencies of my type. For instance, I recall where I was one year ago, versus where I am now, and I see that I have a new sense of confidence about me and about who I am and how I react to situations. Last year, when drama broke out amongst my housemates, I was a nervous wreck. However, when drama struck the LEVN house last weekend, I was unfazed. I was no longer affected by the issues that once triggered great anxiety within me.
In truth, I have barely touched on the many attributes and tendencies of the Enneagram type four and how they apply to me, but to fully discuss such a matter would take a great many more words than I am permitted for this blog. In the end, to be a type four is not easy. No type is. But I am a type four, and I am proud.