The Individualist, – The Sensitive, Introspective Type

The Healthy Four

Thomas came into recovery eight years ago. He was a 30-year-old-heroin addict and alcoholic and homeless, not a penny to his name. Raised in foster homes, and living on the street since age sixteen, this intelligent, creative, big-hearted Type Four represents the stuff of real miracles: the capacity to endure incredible, soul-killing difficulty and trauma beyond comprehension, and to arise as a deeply loving, sensitive and kind human being. He represents the Type Four’s emotional courage in spades. He has experienced first-hand, the darkest of the dark, he the rejected outsider walking the streets of San Francisco, hoping to cop dope, or find a communal gang of drunks to get loaded with, a fringe-dweller lost in despair, sorrow, shame, and outrage. And yet today he has worked hard to transform himself, and when healthy, is deeply attuned to those around him, and able to sense the emotional undercurrents of unacknowledged feelings. He shoots for the core of emotional honesty and is able to articulate the depths of his feelings, can share them openly, can go where most are unable to in recovery. Because of his inner work he is able to hold and empower others with compassion and confidence when they are lost in the throes of their personal suffering. Deeply committed to his eleven-year-old daughter, he is ever aware of supporting her personal growth and creating safety for her to talk openly with him. No longer as overwhelmed by the tide of his emotions he is often able to focus and follow through on his commitments, i.e., parenting, working, finishing his degree.

At his best he is hilarious when talking about the inner pretzels he finds himself in (which he articulates in graphic, Four style), be he caught in the throes of an envy attack or assuming that others are judging him as harshly as he judges himself. His heart-felt, brutally honest storytelling captures both his suffering and gracious joyfulness at what he has seen and digested. He has done what healthy Fours do so well, transforming his suffering into light-hearted, joy-inducing hope, his ability to laugh at himself while articulating the depths of both his innate beauty and his soul-wrenching personality habits, a tremendous force of healing for others. Because of his enormous gratitude for actually being sober and clean today, and because of his intense labors to resurrect his life, he is deeply committed to helping others in their liberation. At his best he inhabits an overflowing heart that is able to savor the beauty and uniqueness of each moment, and of those around him. Emotionally honest, he embodies tremendous emotional strength, i.e., he could survive and thrive in just about any difficulty thrown at him. Intelligent and extremely self-aware, he invites others to show themselves, flaws and all. He is a warrior and fighter for the emotional truths and depths of others to arise.

The Four in Addiction—Life at Level 6 and 7

In addiction the Four is cut off from these wonderful capacities. Often shrouded in turbulent emotions, their capacity to embrace and express their gifts is terribly narrowed. Instead of feeling a part of the spacious beauty that life expresses, they experience themselves as misunderstood outsiders, their precious capacities and qualities devoured by emotional torment. Disconnected from a felt sense of their own being, their heart-rending question of “Who am I” turns into emotional rants, despair and acts of self-destruction. Furious that they weren’t given the right ingredients and right chances to live happily, they are hypnotized by rage, envy and bone-crushing self-pity.

Identified with being different than their family and culture, they struggle to create a unique identity. Furious they weren’t given the right parenting to experience happiness, their capacity for compassion turns to narcissistic rage and soul-sucking grief; their ability to sense and feel the depths of their being turns to preoccupation with each passing emotional state; their gift of understanding and articulating the suffering in others turns to compelling and sometimes blinding self-absorption. Their innate capacities—gentleness, compassion, emotional honesty and clarity—turns to bitter despair, emotional reactivity, hyper-sensitivity, elitism and hostility.

Fours in addiction recovery long for something unseen that they can’t put words on, that if discovered would allow them to know themselves and to feel comfortable in their own skin. At Levels 6 and 7 this frustrated “longing” has morphed into self-indulgent sensuality, hopelessness, and to extreme emotional outbursts that insult and alienate others. Torn between total despair and fantasizing a tremendous resurrection, they are storm-tossed, emotions swinging back and forth in tidal waves. Their innate creative capacity is side-tracked by their dramatic displays of hypersensitivity and elitism, and lives like a ghost in their fantasy world where real action to land their creativity often cannot occur.

Wanting desperately to intimately connect with life, they are entranced by their hypersensitive reactions to the words and actions of others, by their blinding self-absorption with their emotional reactions, and by their need for reality to attune to them and their uniqueness. People cannot reach them, nurture them or support them, making addiction a powerful and insidious force in their lives.

The First Twelve Weeks in Residential Treatment: Life at Level 6 & 7

When the Four arrives at Thomas House rehab it’s as if he is cloaked in a thick, black veil. Mysterious, he exudes a far away aura. And yet there is the sense that at any moment he could explode. And often he does. Hungry for emotional realness and contact while spurning it simultaneously, he wants the truth of his reality out-front and seen. From his cave of mystery he can arise like a dragon demanding everyone embrace what he has experienced: misery, disappointment, self-hatred, self-rejection, and shame. He anguishes over his losses in relationship, over his inability to anchor his unique gifts, and his many unsuccessful efforts to find happiness and real purpose.


Inner Critic of the Four: Is a hateful inner inhabitant of the Four twisting him into believing that he is falling short of his fantastic possibilities while reminding him that he is utterly insignificant, a nobody—so why try at all. Instead, self-indulge in fantasy or sensuality, food, sex, i.e, as rebellion against soul-cracking shame and hurt. While giving short term relief, this  only reinforces the heart-rending message of his inner critic that he is utterly insignificant, truly a nobody.


At his best he puts into words with exquisite precision and raw clarity, the depth and truth of his suffering. He uncloaks himself and lets you all the way inside his suffering heart giving you a front row view into the inner machinations, fantasies, and the jungle of his confused emotions. Fiercely he rips the covers off himself and his inner world of emotion. He lays the bloody guts of his suffering in the middle of the floor. Everyone in the room grimaces, guts tighten, eyes widen, but all lean forward, his deep confession unlocking the ‘don’t talk rule.’ Other men follow suit dropping to a new depth of courageous self-expression, telling secrets they’ve never told, opening up the dark corners of their inner lives. Courageously he has sacrificed himself and his facade, inviting everyone to unmask. Gratitude touches him. He has inspired others to express deeper self honesty—he has given his gift. But in a few short moments his habit of personality returns, he caught in soul-torturing angst and emotional turmoil, his emotional clarity swept up by the blinding waters of his shame and insignificance. This will be the dance of his early recovery—navigating his emotional depths with lucidness followed by disappearance into the black hole of his hurt and shame.


Michael Naylor, M.Ed, CCPC, LADC, CCS, is a faculty member of the Enneagram Institute, a Certified Professional Coach, an Authorized Riso-Hudson Enneagram Teacher, and IEA accredited teacher, and a Licensed Addictions Therapist. He teaches in the U.S.A and coaches internationally.