University Congregational Church
Aug. 5, 2018
The Enneagram is a system of mapping human character types. The premise of the Enneagram is that there are nine distinct types of human characters. The word Enneagram is a Greek word that means nine-pointed, or nine-sided figure, or drawing. Each of the points on the star represents one of the nine human character types. Within the star are lines that cross and connect the various types in different ways showing how character types relate to each other. You’ll find this diagram on the front of your bulletin.
Within each personality type, there are three distinctions – how that type operates as an unhealthy person, an average person, and a healthy person.
The Enneagram says that each of the nine different human types feels the same problem in life, but we are looking in different directions for the solution. Each of us feels the same brokenness in our human situation, but we describe the brokenness in different ways, and as we seek to put the brokenness of existence back together again (which is the spiritual journey) we have different conceptions of what wholeness will look like. We all feel unsatisfied, but in different ways. Different parts of existence rub us the wrong way. What fires up one of us to action, doesn’t bother someone else. You’ve noticed that. And what reliably gets somebody else going, doesn’t appeal to us. And because we are motivated by different needs, we also seek to satisfy those needs by reaching toward different goals. One text in the Bible has always intrigued me…”and Mary pondered all these things in her heart. What does that mean? I’ve always wanted to know more.”
Today we are taking a look at type 5. The Enneagram #5 is sometimes called the “Investigator” or the “Observer.” Fives believe they must conserve their time and resources in a world that demands too much and gives too little. Their style is to acquire knowledge and self-sufficiency, and to defend their privacy. They are great observers, but participation is more difficult.
A Five is an intense, cerebral type who is perceptive, innovative, secretive, and sometimes isolated. Their basic fear is being useless, helpless, or incapable while their basic desire is to be capable and competent. Their motivations are to possess knowledge, to understand the environment, to have everything figured out as a way of defending the self from threats.
Fives, Sixes and Sevens are head people. They think before they act. Fives are discoverers of new ideas, researchers and inventors, objective, questioning, and interested in exploring things in detail. They are good listeners, because they pay close attention. They have a quiet inner power and are tender, gentle, and polite. Fives may appear aloof or absentminded, but just the opposite is true.
Fives need a closed off and protected private sphere. Most Fives are introverts. Fives often wear glasses… because their whole energy is concentrated on seeing everything, on taking it all in. As kids, Fives are curious, imaginative and comfortable being alone. Many are computer whizzes and voracious readers who enjoy collecting things. Many Fives like to take pictures. They like everything that allows them to play the part of observers. Fives try not to be drawn into the whirlpool of feelings and events, but instead to develop something objectively.
They often have difficulty showing their feelings – even when they want to. While they may seem snooty and cold, the reality is that most Fives have an intense emotional life. When they have an experience, they register it with the eyes, ears, and brain. When they are alone – later – they begin to evaluate it in their brain. That’s when they get in touch with their feelings, but it is head work for them. Many Fives dislike words like “share” or “communicate”.
In order to defend themselves against all the demands of interaction, Fives will compartmentalize their lives. It is their signature defense mechanism. They assign their job, marriage, hobbies, friendships and other commitments to separate mental cubbyholes. This way they can determine precisely how much energy each will require to maintain, apportion it correctly and deal with one compartment at a time. I know a guy who has communicated to his family that they are not to call him at work unless it is urgent. Needing a ride is not urgent. An injury with blood is not urgent. An ambulance ride with red light and siren might – on a good day – might be considered urgent. One day, his son called him at work for something totally NON-urgent. “Hey there! What are you doing, Dad?” asked the son. This annoyed the Dad beyond reason. He used a few expletives to describe his office tasks because he didn’t want to be bothered. Ever since, the whole family uses that same profane phrase to explain that they are busy and don’t want to take time to deal with trivial issues. Even in texts, this family quotes their dad and then writes, “Rah. Rah. Shit. Rah.”
Many great people were Fives. Rene’ Descartes, the “father of modernity” is one example. He wrote, “I doubt, therefore I am; I think, therefore I am.” Some other notable Fives are: Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking, and Jane Goodall.
For Fives, knowledge is power. They are fascinated by intellectual systems that explain the universe or the human soul. They are information junkies. A good number of psychologists are Fives. In fact, one of our best friends is a Ph.D. psychologist and he fits this profile to a T. His wife often jokes that she cannot stand to be on the phone when he and their daughter are talking… or rather listening. One person says something and then there is a long spell of quiet while they both absorb what was said. Then another person speaks. And there is quiet. The conversation goes on – talking and then silence. It takes forever to make a decision or a plan for dinner.
The symbolic animal for a Five is the owl… its immobile eyes are aimed forward; its hearing is very well developed. Owls see everything, but they themselves are hard to locate. If you start talking to a Five, they will listen intently. If you talk too long, their eyes may still regard you like a snow owl, blinking and staring as if to say, “When does this end?” An old children’s rhyme describes the Five:
A wise old owl sat in an oak,
The more he heard, the less he spoke,
The less he spoke, the more he heard,
Why aren’t we all like that wise ole bird?
The symbolic country that we use for Fives is Great Britain. It is the archetype of the conservative, polite, reserved, coolly distanced English gentleman. And they symbolic color of Fives is blue… the color of introversion, repose, and distance, more receptive than radiant.
One of the gifts of a Five is that they can listen for a long time and withdraw themselves emotionally to observe. Because of this, they can look at a very tense emotional situation objectively and say, “Now I think the issue can be viewed from this side and from that.” I’ve seen our friend do this in the hairiest situations with high drama. He can simply sit back and observe and then calmly say only a few words that cut to the core of the issue.
If you ask a Five what she feels, she’ll tell you what she thinks. Fives have tall, thick boundaries. They’ll take responsibility for their own emotions, and they expect you to take responsibility for yours. They place a high value on privacy and keep their cards close to the vest. They rarely initiate social interactions.
In the professional world, Fives are valued for their cool, clear, pioneering, analytical minds. They may choose careers as engineers, scientific researchers, librarians, professors, computer programmers or psychologists. They can also be magnificent artists. Artist Georgia O’Keefe is an example… as well as Author Joan Didion and actor Anthony Hopkins. Some other notable Fives are: Tim Burton, Charles Darwin, Stephen King, Vincent Van Gogh, Amelia Earhart, Howard Hughes, The Buddha, Alfred Hitchcock, and Warren Buffet. What Fives need most at work is predictability. They do not like meetings. And they can over focus on a project and end up not supporting or paying enough attention to other people.
One of the main temptations of a Five is emotional greed. Fives are not givers. They tend to hoard their intellectual, material, and emotional possessions. Unhealthy Fives can become misers like Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. They can justify their stinginess as securing their futures, when in fact they are destroying their relationships in the process. Their need for privacy and their fear of self-disclosure lead to isolation. They believe the old maxim “knowledge is power”.
Fives have an excessive desire for acquiring knowledge, information, ideas, conceptual models, expertise, interesting facts and understanding for how things work. Fives look to knowledge to provide them with what most people find through relationships, such as love, comfort and support. In fact, one person I know who has Five tendencies actually appreciates it when – instead of arguing verbally – his wife sends him emails or leaves written arguments for him. He can study her writing and respond in his own time instead of having to think on his feet and give verbal arguments!
Although Fives appear self-sufficient, they need the experience of secure love in their soul. They need God and they need love from others. And to be healthy, Fives must practice expressing emotions directly instead of storing them up inside.
When it comes to spiritual work, Fives have an advantage over the rest of us. They don’t cling to their egos with as tight a grip. Their love for solitude makes them natural contemplatives. Many monastics were Fives. From them, we have received incredible spiritual depth and insight. Dietrich Bonheoffer was a Five.
But most Fives have some spiritual work to do. They need to recognize how often their actions are driven by fear. Spiritual advisors help Fives learn to live with a different mindset – one of abundance. This change helps Fives realize that when we give, we receive. Fives can learn to trust that there is more than enough to go around in life, and that they can give more away – emotionally and physically. Instead of living so self-sufficiently, Fives must work to allow others to be close to them. Some unhealthy Fives set so many boundaries that they never get to experience depending on anyone else, and that sets them up for great loss. Jesus spoke this great truth when he said, “Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” Luke 6:38
This is the spiritual truth for Fives and for all of us. As people of faith, we are called to live in a spirit of abundant grace. Love is unlimited! There is plenty to go around – and it’s true that what you share, you receive back exponentially. Even money, it has been said, is like manure, if you stack it up it will begin to stink. If you spread it around, it will help things grow. We live in abundance. The measure of love, gratitude, money, joy, trust, grace, and happiness we share will be the measure we receive! So go out and spread it all around – don’t let fear stop you from being a Jesus follower – be free to live with abundance and love!
Cron, Ian Morgan and Stabile, Suzanne. “The Road Back to You; An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery.” InterVarsity Press. 2016.
Heuertz, Christopher L. “The Sacred Enneagram; Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth.” Zondervan. 2017
Rohr, Richard. “Discovering the Enneagram; An Ancient Tool for a New Spiritual Journey.” Crossroad. 1992.