Suggestions to the Type Four
1. Begin to notice how you unconsciously confirm your feelings of being a rejected outsider. Because you feel flawed and insignificant you look for your environment to confirm these feelings. For instance, you’re at an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting and you’re certain that everyone there thinks you are weird and different, and unlike them. You interpret their actions or inactions, their tone of voice, their lack of attention to you, their glances, to mean something that suggests you’re an outsider. The more self-absorbed and fearful you become, the more you take everything personally, as a referendum of rejection on you. This is done completely in your imagination. You believe your feelings of insignificance, longing, and emptiness come from outside yourself. It’s not true. You imagine people judging you the way you judge yourself, unmercifully and hatefully. Stop assuming others are doing the same.
2. Begin to notice when you avoid activities that feel ordinary and mundane but will save your life. When faced with the methodical actions that you need to take to create more inner stability and capacity to stay sober and clean (be it going to AA/NA meetings, doing necessary reading, writing out your 12 Steps, praying and meditating in the morning, completing creative tasks), you will be frequented by feelings that these life-saving actions are ordinary, boring and not tailored to your unique needs. If everyone else is doing them, how can they possibly work for you? This is a trick of your personality to keep you struggling in misery. You will need support from a kind sponsor, counselor or coach to help you stick with these ordinary, repetitious actions that can save your life. You must be willing to endure these mundane tasks to earn your freedom.
3. Remember you need the help and support of others. You must begin to notice when these thoughts flow through you: “They don’t understand how unique and different I am from them. Only people who understand my idiosyncrasies can be of any use to me.” You think you are a diamond in the rough and need someone to deliver “just right” understanding customized to your needs. Notice this: Just as you decide the right support has arrived, another part of you begins wishing that rather than help you, that they’d wave a magic wand that instantly heals you. Beware! Your addiction wants you to refuse or avoid the help that can save you.
4. With compassion notice how you set yourself up for being an elitist, a special, mysterious, gifted outsider that no one can reach as a way of compensating for feeling like you don’t belong and are ‘nobody.’ Your shame quickly turns to elitism as a defense (I’m more creative and sensitive than you dolts!). When caught in the suffering of the ‘outsider,’ people must pass through the narrowest of doors to reach you while you inadvertently push away one of your special gifts and greatest joy: your ability to connect deeply with the hearts of others. Learn to walk consciously with your shame, as if it were a welcome friend that you invite in, saying, “Yes, I feel ashamed at this moment, but I will not let this stop me from showing up and being with the people who can save my life. I will not let it talk me into believing that I’m so different from everyone that I stop trying to connect with people.”
5. Learn to observe your envy. Your inner critic is constantly infusing you with this line of thinking: “Hey, look over there at that person. He looks really happy and content. He has all the ‘good stuff’ that seems to make him really happy. Money, a car, a spouse, a niche, good looks, attractive body, handsome, funny, smart, intelligent, comfortable in his own skin, not suffering…and look at yourself! You have none of what he has. You are nobody!” Here comes the envy!
Caught in the grip of envy you might say to yourself, “Oh, I’m feeling envious, jealous and enraged based on my imagining what Tom, Mary or Jack is experiencing. This is a waste of time since it has no basis in reality (I think it’s real because ‘I feel it!’ Remember, your feelings don’t necessarily reflect reality.). In fact, I have no genuine idea what he is experiencing! My imagination has created the whole thing.” So you let it go, and return to the present moment—as opposed to being a deer staring into headlights of envy. You might then ask yourself: What might I do today, this moment, to begin moving in the direction of what I love and care for, what I am gifted at, instead of engorging myself on the poison of envy. It’s okay to start right now with resurrecting what you love. You don’t have to do penance for fifteen years before you start.
6. Observe yourself fantasizing. Begin to notice how you live in your imagination, imagining yourself being in an idealized relationship, doing unique creative work, finding a job you like, exercising and getting in shape, learning yoga or meditation, etc. Here is the question: do you actually bring these dreams into reality or do they simply live in your imagination, untouched by real action. Do you get a weird sort of satisfaction from the ‘dream,’ and make no effort to bring it into your real world? Taking disciplined action is the doorway to “significance” and emotional balance for the Four. You may need a “coach” to help you with this, as this addiction to ‘fantasizing a life’ can be utterly blinding—like a powerful drug. In fact, your substance abuse has feed this addiction, fueling your habit of dreaming your gifts rather than developing them. 6. Notice your addiction to replaying your suffering and inflating negative feelings, hoping that by doing so, you will resolve your suffering. Fantasizing arrives in another form—replay mode! Example: the Four has an altercation with someone who offends him, and gets stuck re-playing the scene, the words, the hurt, the shame, the anger over and over again in his imagination. The story and the associated feelings of hurt, shame and rage will re-circulate through him, recycling from start to finish, reinforcing, intensifying and magnifying the negative feelings and making the hurt bigger than the situation (magnified out of proportion). Do what you can to break the trance of this repeating-emotional-fantasy-drama. You are glued, like Velcro, to the inner video of your hurt, shamed or angry self and you must make contact with your body. Exercise—walk, dance, run, bike, swim, do yoga. And ask yourself this powerful question: Do I actually like my repeating, Velcro-like, imagination-fueled dramas because they give me a sense of self, a sense of identity, a sense of ‘I am here’ that relieves the feeling of emptiness and insignificance. Do you actually feel as though you are moving in the direction of your liberation, away from the feeling of being a nobody? Is this another form of addiction that runs your life and which you take ‘negative’ enjoyment from?
7. Notice your attraction to chaos and emotional upheaval. This will not be easy because when in a state of upheaval, the emotional intensity gives you a feeling of being alive, of having an identity and a sense of power as in, “I don’t feel so invisible and empty. My wrenching, anguished feelings of being ‘a nobody,’ a rejected outsider, tell me I am somebody. They give me a sense of solidness and substance, fleeting as it may be.” Learning to appreciate quiet, still moments may put you more directly in contact with your feelings of insignificance. But over time, sitting with the stillness and whatever emotion arises, will invite your deeper heart to arise where your sense of real identity is realized.
8. Use your Artistic Expression as a meditation to observe your inner demons and disidentify with them. Set an artistic goal and decide to work on your chosen art for an hour a day (or 15, 30, or 45 minutes) and watch the flood of feelings and thoughts that coax you to stop engaging in your artistic efforts. You’ll experience waves of feelings from “I’m nobody,” to “This is boring,” to “This isn’t what I really want to do,” to “I’m not feeling passionate enough to continue this,” to “I’ve got a better creative project than this one,” to “This project doesn’t really express my true self.” The trick is to not stop writing, painting, etc. no matter your feelings suggest. Observe the discouraging thoughts generated by your Inner Critic, i.e., “Your disciplined actions are unimportant, ordinary and boring,” or “This writing doesn’t satisfy or move you” or “This isn’t original or unique” or “You’re not feeling this, so you’re not being true to yourself” or “This is mundane, this writing sentence after sentence, so ordinary and uninspiring!” Meaning—stop what you are doing. Please—don’t take the bait of your Inner Critic. As you discipline yourself and refuse to not be taken by the distraction of your changing feelings or the voice of your Inner Critic, you will see that these cycles of emotional/mental distraction arise and fall over and over again, and will begin to quiet as you stick with your work. As you stay one-pointed in your discipline you slowly develop an ‘observing witness’ that can see the emotional storms and not buy into them. You ride out the cycles and you don’t leave the playing field of your desired self-expression, and something substantial will begin to form inside you. You continue with your work, no matter what self-doubt or mood-change tries to pull you away, and emotional equanimity will arise. You quietly say “no” to these temptations. (In fact, this is exactly how your recovery should look and feel—you keep doing the work of AA, NA, CA, and your spiritual practices, while the inner demons try to unsettle and distract you.)
You become a warrior. You don’t care what mood comes, or what story comes—you sit through it. You become the unshakable mountain. With tremendous commitment you watch your emotional rhythms: you feel significant, you don’t feel significant. You feel like a failure, you feel like a great success. You feel like you are a fraud, you feel like you’re a star. You’re less than. You’re greater than. You don’t bite on any of it. You don’t try to figure it out. You continue your creative practice. You will begin to notice the ethereal nature of your moods—sometimes you are inspired, bored, excited, depressed, hopeful, satisfied—whatever! As you stay focused you learn the powerful lesson that who you truly are is deeper and much richer than these transitory states. And that some of your most amazing creativity arises in the midst of the voice that says, “This is pure junk. This is not right for you. Quit this project now!”
9. Notice your tendency to idealize and then devalue what you think will redeem your significance. As a Four you are looking for idealized people—The One!—and idealized situations generated by your Fantasy Self—to destroy your feeling of being insignificant and unimportant. You want the idealized partner and redeemer who will see your capacities, give you the confidence to start your creative endeavors, who’s always attractive and exciting, and even pays the bills. When you discover him (or her), you go into an altered state of infatuation. Oh, the yummy, opiate-like bliss of infatuation (Your substance abuse addiction loves to feed on this!—it licks its lips and say, “Oh yes, a great disappointment is just around the corner. That’s when I step in and make my bid.”). Your inner dream-machine is going full tilt. Here, the principle of gravity rules: whatever you inflate via your imagination or infatuation, glorifying the person (place, job, opportunity or thing), will deflate to the opposite. First you love her (or him) like she is the most precious jewel, finally, you’ve found her. Then, you reject her and disdain her (due to her humanness) as ordinary and insignificant (just like you do to yourself—notice this internal robotic machine!). She, the beautiful flower, has wilted in only one day! What a rip-off, you think to yourself.
The drug-like power of infatuation has hit the hard court of reality, and your soul-mate morphed into an ordinary human (also just like you, hey, you are perfection mixed with imperfection—don’t forget that!). You’re enraged she’s let you down (You find you do this with AA, with your creative endeavors, with your counselors and friends, turning them all into ordinary, insignificant drones after you’ve idealized them—not on purpose, but because your mechanical personality habits wire you this way such that you become disappointed in people and life. “Oh, how they’ve let me down.”). Begin to mistrust these infatuation states and see them for what they are: juicy illusions, there to set you up for being dissatisfied with reality. And, if not attended to, will destroy all of your efforts for intimacy, creativity, and fulfillment.
Try this: you might notice on a given day the ‘polarities’ you travel in with your relationship to your idealized partner (or job, friend, or creative endeavor). You think to yourself (hopefully not speaking this out loud, please—share this with your sponsor or other men): “I love her, I’m inspired by her, I hate her, I’m bored with her, I love her, I’m attracted to her, I’m repulsed by her. She turns me on—yummy! She turns me off—egads!” She (or he) can’t tell if you are coming or going, nor can you. You might say to yourself: “When I notice that I am idealizing and then de-valuing my beloved partner (or AA sponsor, my creative work, etc.) I will recognize that this as the mechanical nature of my fixated personality, and not get caught in the web of these changing feelings. I will wait patiently for these states to pass, not react dramatically to them, and not get identified or worried about what they mean. In time they will be like mosquitoes buzzing in my ear, no big deal.” Try it. The angels will cheer for you!
10. Find some form of regular exercise that you make a part of your daily life. Sweat, work your body, an hour every other day—at least! This will knock you out of your tortured emotional-trances (envy) and imagination escapes (fantasizing) that keep you from engaging your heart, your life, and your path to optimal recovery. Exercise even though it may feel alien at first. Fact: You must learn to like exercise. Take on this necessary discipline (like you would meditation) and your habits of envy and fantasizing will weaken.
The Very Good News
As one Four in recovery said:
“Beloved Four, you are naturally creative, resourceful and whole, capable of profound and intimate relationship with life, with those you love, with humanity. As you grow you will continually deepen your relationship with your abundant and deeply satisfied heart. You will experience the heights of joy, the depth of joy, alongside the depth of sorrow. But you will hold sorrow in such a way that joy dances with it, and you will no longer feel thrown on the rocks of despair and hopelessness, no longer feel that all of who you are is sorrow and darkness and futility. You will arise, you will feel your lightness, your strength and your solidity, and then you will have permission to rest in joy, in expansiveness, in delightfulness, and because you have traveled deep, you will touch both the heights and depths of life. And best of all, you will be home, at peace within yourself and in the world. This is your destiny and where you are headed. The darkness you experience is only a reflection of the treasures that await. This is reality.”
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.