Series 27: For the Love of the Enneagram | Episode 06
Enneagram Fives – Dr. Avon Manney & Knox McCoy on The Investigators
Today we begin a deep dive into the head triad, starting with Type Fives—the Investigators. And because there’s so much to learn about the complex Fives, we have not one but two guests to share their input: Enneagram expert Dr. Avon Manney, and podcaster/author/Enneagram Five Knox McCoy. Dr. Avon (a Nine married to a Five!) shares how she started applying the Enneagram to her osteopathy practice so she could help patients heal emotional issues that were manifesting in her patients’ bodies. She talks about how Fives are explorers who want to know how and why things work the way they do. Taking Dr. Avon’s insights a step further and giving us a peek under the hood, Knox explains how that exploration shows up in his own life—as a Five, he’s motivated to make sure he shows up as competent and prepared in every situation. Knox also breaks down something Fives suffer from called “catastrophic depletion,” which basically means Fives have a limited energy reservoir, and once it’s gone for the day, it is gone. As profoundly efficient fixers, Fives possess a beautiful clarity of thought, a thirst for knowledge, and an unparalleled loyalty for those they love. And just wait until you make it to the end, when we hear from composer Ryan O’Neal (AKA Sleeping At Last), about how he completed a music piece inspired by Fives—his longest piece in the whole series!
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Dr. Avon: [Fives] have that capability to be able to facilitate this beautiful quality of intelligence. And the world’s waiting for that, the world is waiting for their gifts.
Jen: Welcome to the For the Love Podcast with me, Jen Hatmaker. Today, we dive into Enneagram Fives with Enneagram expert Dr. Avon Manney and podcast host and Enneagram Five himself, Knox McCoy.
Hey, everybody, it’s Jen Hatmaker here. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast, super glad you’re here today. You’re gonna be, too.
Right now, as you know, we are in a series called For the Love of the Enneagram, easily one of my favorite series we’ve ever done. So today we are talking all things Enneagram Five, sometimes called the Investigators. They are the ones with this very, very keen insight, and their brains are all about finding out why things work the way they do and why things are the way they are. So to help me step through the wonderful complexities of the Enneagram Fives, I have two guests because you Fives, man, you’re a complex bunch. I need two people.
So first, I am talking to an Enneagram expert who will shed light on these analytical fives, and her name is Dr. Avon Manney. All right. So, Dr. Avon Manney holds an osteopathic medical degree and a master’s degree in marriage, family, and child counseling. So she knows everything about the human body and the human mind. And so, following a pretty life changing event, she was introduced to the Enneagram and began this quest, walking toward her own spiritual healing and uncovering all this incredible truth. And so today, Dr. Manney is a certified Enneagram specialist who 100 percent, like so many of us, believes in its power for healing and for transformation and growth. She has studied under some of the greatest spiritual teachers of our time, like Father Richard Rohr, who was our Enneagram One guest on this series.
And then, to just sort of give us the rundown on what it is really like to be inside a Five’s mind, we talked to an absolute For the Love favorite and Enneagram Five himself, Knox McCoy, known and beloved to our community. Knox is the co-host of an absolutely hilarious podcast called The Popcast, where he and our other fan fave, Jamie Golden, educate the world, as they say, on the things that entertain but do not matter. That tagline makes me laugh so hard. I’m so angry I didn’t write it.
Knox is also, by the way, a fantastic writer, and he has recently released a brand new book called All Things Reconsidered: How Rethinking What We Know Helps Us Know What We Believe. Which, now that I said that out loud, what an Enneagram Five title. I mean, it’s all knowing, rethinking what we know helps us know what we believe. That is the most Five title I’ve ever actually heard.
So I think you’re going to love this episode. Dr. Avon and Knox, between the two of them, just absolutely unpacked what a Five looks like in the world. Such a wonderful way to be. The Fives in my life are so valuable to me: the way that they help me see the way, they help me analyze and sort of come down out of the stratosphere and look at something pragmatically. They’re just so—and then, of course, incredibly loyal too. So I love, love, love talking about the Enneagram Fives today. I hope you do, too.
And of course, stay ‘til the very end so you can hear all the fascinating things that composer Ryan O’Neal has to say about what inspired his piece on Enneagram Fives, which you will hear woven in and out of this episode. Don’t you love Ryan’s music in this series? Isn’t that so special? My producer Laura made that happen. That was her idea. And it is just so, so lovely, and so I just love it.
Okay, with that, I am so pleased to share my conversations with Enneagram expert Dr. Avon Manney and delightful Enneagram Five himself Knox McCoy.
Jen: It’s my delight, Dr. Avon, to welcome you to For the Love Podcast. Thank you so much for being here today.
Dr. Avon: Thank you, Jen. It’s really wonderful to be joining you today.
Jen: I promise you that the pleasure is mine, and it is my community’s. I have told our listeners a little bit about who you are and what it is that you do. Would you mind talking a little bit—if you can go backwards in your story—and tell us how you came to know about the Enneagram? When did it first cross your path? When did you know, This really has something to teach me? And then when did you decide, I want to make this a regular part of my practice, what I’m teaching others?
Dr. Avon: So things just really came to a hit towards the end of 2012, and I had heard of someone who was going to be giving a talk in the area on the Enneagram. And at the time, I was a little bit suspicious and a little bit wary about Okay, what is this?
Jen: What’s this new weird thing?
Dr. Avon: Yes. But it seemed to just to speak to me, it just wouldn’t go away. And I kept giving myself excuses like, It’s too early, it’s going to be on a Saturday. But I kept coming back to it.
And so finally, one particular night I was literally coming down to having a very dark night of the soul, if you will. And again, the Enneagram came out that it was time to reach out and to explore this further. And so once I began working with the Enneagram and learning about it, everything just seemed to fall in place. It was like, Oh my gosh, there’s actually something that’s written about these experiences that I’ve been having, and it’s almost to a tee, like someone had written my life’s story, so to speak.
And so then I began just having so many revelations from the Enneagram. And also, there was quite a bit of healing that was coming out of that, as well, because I was so spiritually depleted, coming out of my medical training, and then going through the grief, periods of grief. And so it seemed to be sustaining me in a way, just learning and going inwards and being with myself in a different way, which changed my relationship to myself as well as to the people around me.
And I just started noticing I was having more connections. So for Enneagram type Nine, which is the type that I’m dominant in, that was huge, that was key, because I had just [been] drifting through my life and not really connecting, say with people, but now there were things that were just changing and opening up for me. And so just the shifts, the incredible shifts that I was going through, I just could not keep it to myself. So I started talking about it with my family, and they probably were really sick with me.
Dr. Avon: And I knew that there was no going back. It was only going forward and working with becoming more present and just more showing up more deeply in my life.
And so from my family to some friends, I began using it in my work, in the work that I do, which as an osteopathic physician working with people who are having bodily issues that are coming up for them, but also wanting to be able to address some of those deeper elements that were coming up as well. And so that’s how I started using the Enneagram with my work, and then that led to teaching the Enneagram. So it just keeps going. This is for life for me.
Jen: Yeah, totally. I really love how you initially decided to thread the Enneagram through your practice initially. I’m so curious about that. Can you talk a little bit about how you saw people transform in your exact practice when you overlaid the Enneagram on top of their body work, on top of their physical work?
Dr. Avon: For people who are coming to me primarily because they were having some sort of issue that was coming up in their body, so let’s say there’s some sort of issue with either there being back pain or neck pain, something like that. As I would work with people using the hands on, there was this sense that somehow they were not connecting to their bodies, they were not connecting to how things were arising in their body, which may have origins in other aspects of their life. So, if there was some sort of emotional aspect or piece to what was arising in their body, then the Enneagram allowed for that connection to be made.
And primarily or initially, it was more from my observation, so without necessarily knowing if someone had any type of experience with the Enneagram, there was a sense that as I would work on certain areas, they would begin to have experiences of, “I’m feeling anger, like, you’re touching my…” “I’m feeling anger,” or if I’m in their hearts areas, “Wow, I don’t know where this is coming from but I’m feeling the set coming up.” And people would start to express this and to release and talk to it, and then I was able to say, “Okay, based on these body centered regions, these things are being absorbed in their bodies.”
And so if there was some sort of—let’s say, like they had an argument or something with a spouse or family member, and somehow that’s getting stored into the bodies—they would show up in different ways and it would be released in different ways that they may not necessarily have been connecting to. So it was then that I knew that Okay, there’s something much more deeper here. So working with the hands on element was one piece, but there was also something that was filtering through. How it was coming up for me to be able to sense more deeply into if there’s some sort of pattern as a rising in your lives then this may be, become embedded in their bodies, so to speak and help to be able to make that connection.
Jen: So that is so fascinating, the mind body connection there, and how the Enneagram can serve. You, as you mentioned, are Enneagram Nine, but you have built this incredible body of knowledge around the whole Enneagram system.
So, for the purposes of this episode, would you talk for a minute about the classic characteristics of an Enneagram Five, if you can kind of high level, “This is what a Five looks like, this is what they are afraid of, this is what they’re motivated by. This is what the outside behaviors look like, health, disintegration,” just all of it. Could you give us an Enneagram Five snapshot?
Dr. Avon: Yes, certainly. And by the way, my husband, he’s dominant type Five.
Jen: Oh, is that right?
Dr. Avon: Yes. So I have a lot of experience.
Jen: Oh, interesting. Okay. Put a pin in that, because we’re going to come back to that. Yes. Okay, so then you really do know, you know firsthand. Talk to us about these Fives.
Dr. Avon: Yes. Well, so for Fives, these are those who may come across as quite cerebral-minded. This inward focus or this withdrawn type of energy or element for people who emanate the type Five.
And so there’s quite a bit about the thoughts and the thinking, this is a head-centered triad. And so there’s the sense of wanting to know more about how things work in the world. Like, What’s that . . . There seems to be a certain sense that there’s this intelligence that is arising from certain things in the world, what is that all about? So, there can be quite a bit of exploration that comes up at type Five around, well, how do things work, how the Fives may find themselves wanting to take things apart. Like, they are interested in how things are put together. And so this can be this exploration that comes up around that.
And sometimes the thoughts can become problematic. That is when the thoughts become the fixation at type Five, and where one may lose a sense of themselves based on their own experience. So their experience comes through the thoughts and it comes through this observation of how others may be going through their lives. But quite honestly, they feel quite a bit. And so because there’s so much that’s coming into their field, they have to kind of filter that out again based on, I only have so much reserves for being able to get through all the tasks that are required to do in one’s daily life.
Jen: So interesting. So helpful for everyone who loves a Five or is married to a Five. So let me ask you this, Fives often seem—and of course this is all reduced. There’s not just one Five in the world. There’s so much nuance of course, but Fives often seem to be people who don’t necessarily thrive on social connections or seek them out a whole lot on their own. But of course, we all need social fabric in our lives. So when Fives do decide to become friends, to become connected or committed, what kind of friend are they, what kind of spouse and parent are they?
Dr. Avon: Well, when I met my husband, he certainly did seem to have this withdrawn element, if you will, and that sometimes can land negatively with other people where there may be this standoffishness if you will, or this aloofness, and sometimes that can make people feel uneasy about Oh, gosh, this person doesn’t seem to want to interact with me.
Yet, in an interesting way, Fives, they’re quite in tune with their surroundings. It may seem like they aren’t, but they really are turning inward. Yet it’s more of that withdrawn energy that may come across as, Okay, they just want to be off to themselves, they just want to be isolated, and they don’t really want to interact and all these other seemingly what seems to be apparent [things], but really isn’t necessarily the case.
And being with someone is dominant in this type such as my husband, when they tune in to you, you know it. There is this feeling of, Wow you are really with me. They could really be with you in a way where you feel like, I’m not showing my best right now. There’s something that’s going on and I’m really in my ugly element, if you will, or at least feeling that way, yet that doesn’t necessarily frighten off someone dominant in this. When they are with you, they are with you.
Jen: That’s so true.
Dr. Avon: It doesn’t matter what it is that you are putting out. And they can give that beautiful consultation and be able to have that observation, be able to make suggestions that can help to kind of get you through that period, whatever it is that you’re going through.
Now the one thing that comes up—and maybe this is because of there being a marriage between myself and my husband—is during those times when I’m going through a difficult period, he’s learned that Okay, this is not time to fix something. Because that’s kind of like another [characteristic of] a type Five is wanting to fix things. There isn’t anything to fix. And when they can understand that, You know what, I’m going to let you have your space, I’m going to let you have this opportunity to just get through whatever it is that you’re getting through. But I’m going to be right here. I’m sitting right here. I’m not going anywhere.
And that’s one thing I just so appreciate about my husband, what he brings through—and even before we were married, that again, when they’re with you, they’re in it for the long haul. They’re not going anywhere. They’re not going to run away. They don’t frighten off easily.
Jen: That’s right. I find the Fives in my life—of whom I don’t have a lot, it’s not a number that shows up as frequently as some of the others in my community. I find it, I don’t know if we have any concept of how many of each number live in the world, but I have probably the least amount of Fours and Fives. But the Fives that I do have in my life are so special to me.
My very favorite Five is my friend Jamie—Jamie Wright. And she’s taught me so much about what that means. And so she doesn’t have a lot of time for most people, but if she likes you, if you’re her friend, if you made it through, she would walk to Canada and back for you.
And that’s that loyalty, that presence. And that real clarity of thought, like you mentioned, comes into conversation with her before just spinning and wild eyed and all over the place and trying to find the center. And she has this way—I envy it—of just cutting straight through the crap, like whatever I am bringing, what sort of Tasmanian devil energy I have brought into the space. She’s like, “Part of it’s true. This part isn’t. You’re lying to yourself here. This is the next step.” And I’m like, “Well, there it is. You just laid a path right in front of me where I couldn’t really see it.” And the nice thing about Fives is you can count on them. And it’s wonderful. I sure love the Fives.
Let me ask you this, and you’re probably the perfect person to answer this. For those of us who have a Five in our lives in a close relationship or a working relationship or whatever, if we find ourselves in conflict, what have you learned is the best strategy toward resolution to move forward in that relationship with a Five? What is it that reaches them?
Dr. Avon: Yes. So what I’ve come to observe is that there is a sense of anticipation. So let’s say there’s a conflict that’s occurring between someone who’s type Five. And from their end, there may be an anticipation of what you’re going to say next. So they may not necessarily be in the present at the time of the conflict, they may be in anticipation of what is going to happen next, what you’re going to say, what you’re going to do. And so this may take away from them being able to really be with what is coming up for the other person, which could add to more frustration.
So I think having that peace of I’m speaking with this person, and they may be anticipating what I’m going to say next and I really want for them to be with what’s coming up for me now. So I might just give some cues about maybe just taking a little bit. So rather just doing the whole thing that I’m saying, maybe take a little bit and then hopefully find some space in there to kind of check in with them and say, “Okay, what is it that you’ve heard so far? What is it that you think that I’m saying or how am I coming across?”
Jen: That is a great strategy for a lot of numbers. I’m a Three, and that’s a resource for me as well. And so thank you for bringing that to the show today, because I’m thinking of several numbers, maybe Ones, that could benefit from that as well who sometimes want to hustle through a conflict just to get to some sort of fix of it all.
I wonder if we can talk about this for a second. For me, one of the really interesting, useful parts of the Enneagram is this mirror, it holds it up to our faces and kind of shows us, This is what you look like when you’re growing and becoming your best self, of course, and This is what it looks like when you are in fear or when you are disintegrating to some degree. And so I’m a Three, so I go to Six in health and Nine in disintegration.
And so for Fives, when they are in a growth space, they look something like a healthy Eight, of course, somebody who is self confident and decisive, and when they are fragmenting a bit, when they’re disintegrating, they look something more like an unhealthy Seven. I wonder, could you unpack that just for a moment for us, for the people trying to understand the Fives and the Fives trying to understand themselves? What it looks like in growth and disintegration for them?
Dr. Avon: Yes. So a Five moves to Eight, so they’re moving to this body element. And at this point, so based on the growth at Five, they were able to expand more fully into their body regions, but also at Eight, there’s this element of this big heartedness, where Fives are able to open up to their hearts, are able to open up to that emotional piece that they have, as well as being able to move towards truth. There may be quite a bit of illusion that comes up with the thoughts, but with that clarity, through that transformational growth and with that clarity, they’re able to move with the truth.
And for Five, that truth allows them to move into this non attachment space also as well, where they realize that everything is changing, nothing is fixed, everything is changing. And that’s the truth of a world. There’s one season that changes into another, that the sun rises and it sets, we’re in a world that’s filled with constant change. And so having that peace where things are temporary, everything is temporary. And being truthful about that, and the thoughts are temporary and even the bodies are temporary as being able to move forward in that, now is the time, now. Now is the time.
Being able to open up into that in this full, embodied way gives that bigger piece where someone has that leadership quality where you could follow them, and you can trust and have that trust based on where they may be leading or maybe inspiring others to go and to come with them. It’s beautiful.
Jen: So let me ask you this last question before we wrap it up. We’ve definitely got some Fives listening right now. If they aren’t interested, if they’re hearing you talk and feeling really resonant with so many of the things that you’re describing, and they are looking to grow, they are interested in this exploration and this path toward wholeness in their Five, mind and body and soul, how would you advise them on one path of growth, one thing for them to consider? One idea for the Fives to maybe begin to put their arms around that might serve them in their growth journey, if you will?
Dr. Avon: Yes. One, for Fives, they themselves may have a sense that the thoughts, the way that they think, may not necessarily be in line with how other people think, there may be the sense that Okay, the thoughts, the way that I think, isn’t how other people think. And If they knew some of the thoughts that go through my mind right now, it probably would really scare people off. And so there may be this tendency to really not want to show that. Or they may have gotten messages that it’s not okay to have these thoughts, so they may be very careful, or saying that they have to take some sort of caution in being with other people.
Yet there are those times when there may be an epiphany that comes up, and where Fives have bought into the sense of, There seems to be a more universal element other than the thoughts that are going on in my mind there this intelligence that’s going on in the world. There’s this intelligence going on in the universe itself, how things are in relationship to one another. And being able to hone in on that and to be with that sense that there is a deeper intelligence that goes beyond my thoughts—and it’s not in separation from, but there’s a unity to that. Because having this imagination is also an opportunity for a lot of gifts and a lot of creativity to come into the world, like people like Einstein, who have been able to have this, take their imaginations, and to use it where they’re able to harness this intelligence, this universal intelligence, and to be able to facilitate that into the world.
And for Fives to know that they are as much a part of that, that they are a part of that, they have that capability to be able to facilitate this beautiful quality of intelligence, and it isn’t necessarily coming from the mind, it’s their whole, all of their being. And the world’s waiting for that, the world is waiting for their gifts.
Jen: What a wonderful answer. What a wonderful thing to say. I love that, that gives me so much love for the Fives. So much joy to have them in our lives.
Okay, Dr. Avon, we’re going to wrap this up. These are three questions that we are asking everybody in the Enneagram series and we’ve had some pretty incredible experts, including yourself and Suzanne Stabile and Ian Cron and Richard Rohr, it just goes on and on and on. So many incredible teachers and masters of the Enneagram. So here’s the first one. You are Enneagram Nine. If you could just choose, maybe just for a day, to be any other Enneagram number, which number would you choose?
Dr. Avon: I would say type Two. This is my mom. My mom’s type Two, and so just that beautiful quality, they’re just so loving and so nurturing, and gosh they just take such good care of people around them, so that loving quality. That really speaks to me right now. So I would say type Two.
Jen: I’m married to a Two. How about this? Let’s flip that around. Which part of your Nine personality do you enjoy most about yourself?
Dr. Avon: I would say it would be the sense that in all of creation, all of life, all of the sentient beings here in this world, that there’s this life force that emanates in everything here on Earth. And to be able to drop into that and the loving presence, God’s love, I just see it everywhere. And when I can really drop into that, yeah, that would certainly be one quality.
Jen: The Nines in my life are so good at that. I find them my spiritual directors, I would put them in that category in so many ways. Our Nine episode is anchored by Enneagram Nine Sarah Bessey, and she is just like that, just so tender and so spiritual and such a good leader. I love that you said that, that was such a lovely answer.
Last question. We ask every guest in every single series this final question. It’s from Barbara Brown Taylor, and please feel free to answer it literally however you want. You could answer it very, very earnestly or you could answer it with the silliest thing you have ever thought of. What is saving your life right now?
Dr. Avon: Well, I’m a foodie.
Dr. Avon: I’m going to say I have been snacking. My favorite snack lately has been getting some almonds, walnuts, drizzling some honey on top of it, sprinkling coconut flakes, adding a little bit of cinnamon, turmeric, and cardamom.
Jen: Wait a minute.
Dr. Avon: I mean, it could be three, maybe four times a day, I just seem to be drawn to this snack. There’s something I’m getting out of it. But that’s the first thing that comes to mind with that.
Jen: That, like, ministered to me. I feel like I just went to church. Yes, that’s amazing! Before we sign off, Dr. Avon, can you please tell my listeners where they can find you so they can discover more of your work, where you’re at, and follow you in all the things?
Dr. Avon: Yes, well certainly. My work mostly is online nowadays. And so if they would like to reach out, my website is osteopathydoc.com. Lately I’ve been doing more of the Enneagram consultations, which I would be more than happy to offer to your listeners, a free consultation. They can go to my website and there’s a link there, an Enneagram consultation link. And they can click on that link and it will open up a page where there’s a link that will direct them to a form that they can feel free to fill out. And then I will certainly get back to them.
Jen: That is such a fantastic resource. Thank you for mentioning that. Everybody listening, if you go to jenhatmaker.com on the Podcast page, I’ll have all of this for you. I’ll have all of Dr. Avon’s links/handles, everything we’ve talked about, the entire transcript of this interview if you’d like to read it again or pull out some excerpts. So you can find it all over there.
Thank you so much, Dr. Avon for coming on today. I appreciate your expertise and just the warm nature. And thank you for the way that you’re teaching us and leading so well and we’re just grateful for your time. Grateful, grateful, grateful. Thank you for being on today.
Dr. Avon: Thank you so much, Jen. It’s been such a pleasure being with you today.
Jen: Same, thanks.
Jen: And now to unveil the mysteries of an Enneagram Five’s mind, here’s my conversation with podcaster and writer and friend Knox McCoy. Well, it’s my lucky day to welcome one of our favorite For the Love guests back to the show. Hello to my friend Knox McCoy.
Knox: Thank you so much for having me. It’s so great to be here.
Jen: Oh my gosh, you know, you already podcast all the time, you have all the podcasts. And then you come on somebody else’s podcast. And I just want to recognize the energy and I recognize the effort that it takes to say yes to somebody else’s show. So thank you.
Knox: Listen, last time I left you, it was in person, and we were riffing on like slightly inappropriate Hallmark movie names. So I didn’t know if I’d get a call back. So this is a joy for me.
Jen: That was one of my favorite experiences of my whole life. And so for everybody who doesn’t know what we’re talking about, Knox and Jamie, who host The Popcast, were guests of mine on a live event podcast tour that we did. And I mean, we have it. It’s in the archives, go listen to it.
You are, as I mentioned, a podcaster. You are a writer. We’re going to talk about that in a minute. But we haven’t really talked in depth about you being an Enneagram Five. And I love knowing this about you, because you’re like a poster boy for the Fives in all the best possible ways. So you are now tasked with representing your people here on this Enneagram series. So if you could, could you kind of come up high and just in broad strokes, talk to my listeners about Enneagram Fives? In general, what does a Five look like? How does a Five show up in the world? What is a Five worried about? What is a Five thinking about? What is a Five motivated by? Can you give us a sketch of type Five?
Knox: So I think when you’re trying to visualize a Five, you’ve got to think we’re people who love knowledge. We love observing the world. We love keeping the world at a distance. We were talking about it before all this COVID-19 started, we’ve been socially distancing for many, many years. My whole life. Like, I will stand at kids’ youth sports events, and I will be like forty yards from anybody else. Not because of any reason, that’s just what the heart wants. You know? So we like to exist on the periphery so we can observe. Someone can say this better than me, but the quintessence of who we are is we want to accumulate knowledge so we feel prepared to tackle things that we may not normally be prepared for. So a lot of it is about really banking that observation, banking that knowledge so if something comes up, we’ll have the reservoir to tap into.
Jen: So the shadow side of that means, what? What do you worry about? What does a Five worry about? Or what’s your fear? Or kind of what’s at sort of the bottom of some of your motivation?
Knox: Looking like a big ol’ dummy. Just looking and being incompetent. We are so terrified that we will—I remember one of my traumatic formative memories is in first grade, some teacher gave me a solo, which there was no reason for me to get a solo. I’m not musically capable in the least.
Knox: I think it was some kind of a dark humor that Ms. Sharp had, but she gave me a solo, and I froze on stage and I forgot my line and it was just like, Bam, music’s going. And I’ve got the blank look on my face. And that always stuck with me probably more so than it should have. And I realize now it was because I’m on stage looking like an idiot, you know? And that’s the heart and the fear of who I am.
Jen: When did you encounter the Enneagram? Like, what did that look like for you? And did it become pretty clear pretty quickly that the Five was right? Did it feel right? How did you feel when you first started kind of studying it?
Knox: I remember Ashley and I—my wife, Ashley, she’s a Four—we were on vacation and we were by the pool, the kids are swimming, and she was reading Road Back to You. And she was like, “I really think you should read this. It’s fascinating. I know my number. I know your number. It’s very obvious. But I’m not going to tell you that. You can figure this out.”
And probably three sentences in, I was like, “Oh yeah, that’s definitely me.” You know? And I remember being overwhelmed because for so long, I was just like, “I’m just this weird person. I can’t blame it on a personality type. It’s just me.” So there’s that like, “Oh man, I wish I wasn’t like this.” But then once I read and started listening to Suzanne Stabile, I got a vocabulary. And it was like, “Oh, I understand the motivations.” And it’s less like I’m a weirdo, but it’s more like, “Oh, here’s why I am the way I am.”
Jen: That’s exactly how I felt. It was great to be understood so on the nose. And that even helped me understand me. There were parts of me hidden to me, which is classic Three. Like, I can’t see my own self. But [it’s] also horrifying to read what it looks like when I am unhealthy, when I’m in stress. I’m like, Everybody’s onto me. They know what’s under it all now. And I cannot even pretend, which I love to do, as you know.
Knox: Yeah, yeah. You know, there was something there. Before I knew about the Enneagram, I would have these moments of what I now realize it’s called, for a Five, “catastrophic depletion.” And it’s when your energy is gone. Like, the lights are on, no one’s home. And I had a number of these when I would just be overextended. And I would look at it and just be so ashamed and be like, “What is your deal? Like, can you just not buck up and deal with it?” And I realize now, that’s what that was. And so it gives me that middle ground of like, Yes, this is true. You don’t have to be a prisoner to it. So you can also try to be better, but it also is a reality of who you are.
Jen: That’s really great. Can you talk about that part of a Five a little bit? Because that really afforded me so much compassion for the Fives in my life when I understood the sort of energy limits that Fives walk around with. Talk a little bit more about that.
Knox: Yeah. So, I don’t know if every Five is like this, but I am in particular. It’s probably the most shameful part of our personality types, which is just, you have a limited reservoir of energy and this is why most Fives are allergic to small talk. In the book, in All Things Reconsidered, I liken it to one of those horror movie scenes where someone walks into a jungle river to wash off and there’s a school of piranhas and they consume the whole person until there’s just like a pocket watch and a hat left. Like, that’s what every interaction is like.
Jen: That small talk.
Knox: Yeah. It’s just like taking little pieces of you. And once that energy is gone, it’s gone forever. For that day, until you reset. So a lot of our motivation behavior is about conserving that. And when you look at our sin or whatever, which is like greed and avarice, it’s about hoarding that energy. It’s also hoarding knowledge and other things like that. But primarily it’s about hoarding that energy so that if something happens, we’ll have it to give to something else more important.
Jen: So that just means most Fives are going to be incredibly careful about schedules, about boundaries, about what you say yes to, about the kind of social environments you choose to be in or not be in. Right? Do you like watch your calendar like a hawk?
Knox: Yes. It’s always a no first, and then I’ll think about a yes maybe later. But primarily it’s about once you get overloaded, you can’t be the person you need to be for other people, which is another form of incompetence. So I try to really limit. And again, it’s that balance of sometimes I use that as a crutch, and Ashley will push me, “Hey, you don’t have to say no to every single double date. We can work a couple in, my man.” You know?
Jen: Okay. Let me ask you this, because I really admire the Fives in their hunger for learning and knowledge and mastery. I am a learner, too. And so I really identify with that part of how you are wired. And so this is my question. When a Five struggles to grasp a thing, it eludes you, or you can’t seem to get your head around it, or you can’t knock it off bit by bit, what does that feel like to you? I’m curious if a Five just puts that off. Or does a Five just say, “I don’t care about it,” but they’re lying? Or, “I will keep at this until I’ve just worked my fingers to a nub and I’ve sorted it out?” Like, what do you do when mastery eludes you when that’s such a high value?
Knox: You know, a lot of it is, I think you can think about Fives like we have our fortresses, right? And we have the things we know we can gain mastery on and we can be competent about. But when faced with something—I think it’s difficult because I remember growing up, I played sports all my life. And I picked them up pretty easily except for basketball. And I could’ve been okay at basketball, but I wouldn’t be as good as I was at the other sports. So I just rejected it totally. And I was like, “You’re never going to see me play basketball,” because I didn’t want to be less than at that sport. After college, I played softball with my father-in-law, but I had to stop because I was taking it too seriously. Because I wanted to get inside cage work in and do some soft toss for a couple hours a day. And I’m like, I’m in my twenties. I’m trying to build a career. Like, I don’t have time for this.
Jen: It’s just like church softball league, man, I mean, you just got to….
Knox: Yeah. Settle down. What are you doing? You’re crazy. But I do think those are the tangible things, but I think the more existential things, those are really difficult. I think trust is really difficult for Fives because you can’t vet trust and you can’t be like, well, I’ve run the algorithms and this person’s very trustworthy. You just have to go out on a limb and that’s a scary place to be vulnerable.
Jen: Oh, man. What’s your wing?
Jen: Oh, interesting. Okay. So you mentioned obviously that Ashley, your wife, is also a Four. So I would love to hear how this works in your marriage. What’s her wing?
Knox: She is a Four wing Three.
Jen: Okay. All right. So what does that look like? What does it look like with a Five, Four wing, married to a Four, Three wing? What works really well? What’s super complementary? I can already see some of it. And where are the pressure points? What do you have to kind of work through? What if you had to really—well, in our case, we use the Enneagram to understand each other. It’s an incredible tool just because we see the world different. And so that helps me get that part. Like, what does that look like for you and Ashley?
Knox: Yeah, so Ashley and I were high school sweethearts. So early on, having my Four wing, which is more about accessing feelings and the emotional side, early on we had this electric connection because she was already there with those feelings and the emotions and I’d kind of cut that off. And in high school, I went to an all-boys school. I played sports. And Jen, I don’t know if you know this, but those situations are not incubators for feelings and tenderness.
Jen: Is that right? How surprising.
Knox: It is. It’s very shocking for a lot of people, but it’s true.
But being with Ashley, she helped unlock that, “You know, it’s okay to feel some things and think through some things like that.”
But in terms of pressure points, I think our biggest conflicts happen when each of us put too much stock in our own lens of how we see the world. It took me a long time to realize that she has to try on feelings to see how she feels. And the way she thinks is through feeling, right? And for the longest time, my whole platform on feelings were like, “Can’t trust them. They’re pretty much useless.” But I had to realize that just because I quantify feelings like that, and just because I tend to put them to the side, that doesn’t mean that’s true for everybody. And it certainly wasn’t true for her. So we have to battle through what point are we considering each other’s point of view when we run into an issue?
Jen: Yeah, totally. Suzanne Stabile has been one of the greatest teachers for that exact idea for me, when she just constantly says over and over and over, “This is how you see the world and you cannot change how you see the world,” which I appreciate her saying that because I was a little bit like you in thinking, “I’ve got some real fatal flaws. Something is wrong with me. I’ve got some badness in me and it doesn’t show up in my life the way my life expects it to,” and I couldn’t figure it out.
And so for her to say, “That’s not a bad thing and it doesn’t need to be changed. Like, that doesn’t need to be fixed. You’re not going to work that part out of your life because that’s kind of who you are and there’s a beauty to it,” was very liberating. And so kind of sitting in that pocket and going, “This is how I see the world, but what I can handle, what I can manage, is what I do with that. How do I respond to what I see? How do I respond to what Brandon sees, even though that’s not the way I see it at all?” And so that again is where the Enneagram can really serve us if we decide to use it as a growth tool.
Knox: Yeah. You can honor people and their experience as well and not just discard it because it doesn’t align with yours. Right?
Jen: Exactly. Because I think the way that I see a thing is the right way. And so that’s just fundamentally bad thinking inside relationships. And so I have to constantly tell myself, because I experience something immediately through my feelings, same as Ashley, but Ashley will sit in it and even like take a bath in it. The Fours, they are not afraid, man. They will stay in it. They’ll just swim it around in it. But I want to relocate the feelings almost immediately to my brain so I can do something with it. And so it’s my work to sit in it a little bit longer. I try to access that Four energy. I do have access to it as a Three. But it is a real challenge for me.
What’s the hardest thing for you when you are working on growth as a Five?
Knox: I think the superficial answer is like giving myself over to, It’s okay to have feelings about a thing. And it’s, it’s helpful because that’s the wing, right? But I’ve got to quiet the Five down because it’s almost like two sock puppets talking together, and they’re just fundamentally at odds, but they’re inside you. So it’s like, I got to give one little more stage to be able to see the productive thing there and quiet down the Five one. The other one, that’s just shooting holes in everything. Because I remember growing up, classic Southern Baptist evangelical upbringing, looking around, worship, everyone’s got their hands raised and I was like, I don’t feel that. But people would go down to the altar and they would cry. And I would be like, Is something wrong with me? And I remember considering taking—have you ever seen the psychopath test that you can take to verify? And I thought, Maybe I should take the psychopath test, because I don’t have any feelings. And I didn’t.
Jen: Ah, that’s so interesting.
Knox: And again, it’s that Five thing, I didn’t want to know the answer because I couldn’t control it if I was a psychopath. I just want to confirm, I did take it later on and I’m not a psychopath, but there was that, What’s wrong with me? You know? Like, I don’t have the feelings. Or it was very difficult to give myself over to those feelings.
Jen: That is just fascinating. I’ve never applied our Southern Baptist evangelical upbringing to our Enneagram numbers, like, how we experienced youth group culture and camp culture, and all the stuff that we did. I was positioned well for it because I was a demonstrative Three. And so, I was down the aisle. You know I was.
Knox: Sure. That’s why whenever they said, “Get rid of your secular CDs,” I wouldn’t, because Fives are very good about being like, “Got it. Not going to do it though, but I hear what you’re saying.” So I would just be like, “Cool, cool, definitely going to do that,” and then just not do it because I didn’t feel like I had to do it in that way.
Jen: Sure. Oh my gosh. Well, I did, because I needed the approval of the authorities. And so, I mean, I was going to burn them and I was going to take a picture, and then I would send around the horn. I needed the authorities to approve me so much.
Okay. Let me ask you this. So a lot of people listening, they’re married to a Five. They love a Five. They work with a Five. Maybe they’re parenting a Five. So if we find ourselves in conflict with a Five, what would you suggest is the best way for that person to sort of break through? What’s the approach in conflict with the Five that will move the thing quicker toward resolution and reconnection?
Knox: Okay. This is a great question. And I think it’s a wonderful thing. Somebody was asking me the other day, they were parenting a Five, and they’re like, “What do I need to know?” And I was like, “It’s tough because you want to give space, but you don’t want to be so absent that when they need you, you’re like, ‘I don’t know how to do this.’”
Jen: Yeah, tricky.
Knox: So I remember something I would do was I would hover around my parents if I needed to talk, but I didn’t know how to start the conversation. Because I think Fives aren’t good at initiating conversations. Right? So if you notice your Five hovering, they probably want to talk, but they just don’t know how to do it.
But I think within conflict or arguments or any kind of disagreement, we try to control the situation by withdrawal. And that can either be literally, like physically we will leave, or it can be the vacant eyes. I don’t know if you’ve seen Jaws, but there’s a character Quint who has all these stories about getting bit by sharks. And he always talks about how right before the shark bites, the eyes roll black, like “black as dolls eyes,” you know? And that’s a Five. When those guys go black, they’re about to be gone. So don’t let that happen. Yeah.
Jen: Okay. Which means you just hit your energy limit? Or the conflict limit? What is that? What’s going on inside of you when your eyes go black?
Knox: It can be that limit or it can be like, Oh, I’m not valuing this interaction. Or, This is about feelings and I’m trying to have a fact fight, or anything like that. And it can be like, I’m here, I’m present, but I’m just not going to give you anything. And I’m going to control the situation by that. I’m going to tell myself that you look ridiculous and you’re being irrational, when really I’m the one, because I’m refusing to engage and like work this thing.
Jen: So what’s the better approach? What sort of behavior from your person would mitigate that end game? That would keep you engaged, that would keep you in the moment?
Knox: You know, it sucks to say this out loud, but you have to…
Jen: It’s okay.
Knox: If you’ve seen Tiger King, you know how they have to approach the tigers really carefully? You know?
Jen: Yeah. Yeah.
Knox: And like very specifically? That’s kind of like a Five. I think if you’re quiet, if you’re collected, if you have your data, and if you’re speaking in a thoughtful way where I can immediately—because I’m always looking for a way to just discredit what you’re saying. If you’re coming to me and you’re very careful and calm and you have your reasons and your information, then that speaks to me. And I think the good thing is if you can get through all that BS, the heart of a Five sees the world for what it is. And if you are bringing—it might be difficult at first—some valid points, they will hear that because that’s the heart of who they are.
Jen: Right. Because you’re reasonable.
Jen: Yeah. That’s a great approach. That’s incredibly helpful. And so for some of the more emotional people married to a Five, you just tamp it down and it is possible to do that. I actually like to be approached the same way as a Three because I don’t like conflict. So mine is less I want to discredit you and more like, “Uh-oh, conflict is catastrophic. What can we do to not have it?” Which is also not a super useful adult skill because conflict happens, as it turns out.
Jen: Okay. We’re going to wrap it up here in a minute with some quick, rapid fire Enneagram questions. But before we do that, I have told my audience and shown them All Things Reconsidered because it was just so good, Knox. And I told you, I read it cover to cover. Of course, I endorsed it and was so happy to do it. And so it’s right in the wheelhouse for my community, for sure. Everything. The things you talk about and the way that you say it, your funny writing style. Can you talk a little bit about All Things Reconsidered? Tell us about it. Tell us why you wrote it. And then I would love to hear, just thread out real quick, what was it like writing a book as a Five?
Knox: Yeah. Okay. And first, thank you so much for reading and endorsing it. To get your approval meant a lot. So I really appreciate you taking the time to do that.
So, All Things Considered, it’s a book, the slug line is it’s a book about how rethinking what you know and how that helps you know what you believe. And I wrote it right after the first book where I could feel that I was kind of trending towards a faith deconstruction, but like the fear I had with deconstruction was I think we talk a lot about deconstruction, but I wanted to make sure the companion I had with deconstruction was the reconstruction. Right? I didn’t just want to blow it all up. I wanted to build something back.
So that was kind of the idea. Like, I want to go after these things that have loomed very large in my life and I’ve just kind of inherited as beliefs, but I’ve never had the moment where I’m like, “Yeah, I want to renew this contract with this idea.” So it’s thirty chapters where I reconsider all kinds of stuff, intimate things like fatherhood and masculinity and marriage and home, weirdly specific things like Michael Jordan versus LeBron, Uncle Joey from Full House, Big Bird from Sesame Street. And then the real heart for me of why I wanted to get to this book was writing about what I believe about heaven, hell, prayer, creation, stuff like that.
Jen: It was. And what I want everybody listening to also hear is it’s hilarious. Like, you’ve touched down on sort of the sober-minded through line, which every word of that is in there, but also it’s absurd. And you told some real absurd stories, like about naked people in Taco Bell drive-thrus. There’s some stuff in there that’ll just, it’ll catch you off guard. I’m just telling you. So I think you, with a very deft hand, thread the needle between enormous spiritual concepts and ideas and spiritual curiosity and this approachable humor, which is special. That’s not easy to do. Humor’s hard.
Knox: It’s very difficult.
Jen: You and I both, we like to be funny. But funny is a challenge. It’s a skill. It’s not just throwing stuff against the wall and seeing what sticks. It really takes a lot of heavy lifting to be able to do that. And you did a beautiful job on it.
Knox: Well, thank you. That’s very high praise. I appreciate that.
Jen: Well, and everybody can get it everywhere. It’s everywhere books are. All Things Reconsidered. Okay. We’re going to wrap it up. These are questions we’re asking everybody in the Enneagram series. And so just whatever top of your head. Here’s the first one. We don’t want to change ourselves, so that’s not it. But just if you could choose to be any other Enneagram number, even just for a day, which one would you choose?
Knox: I think I would choose a Three, because I’ve talked about this in a couple other places, but my dad’s a Three, so I’ve kind of always idolized him. But I’ve always wondered what could I be capable of if I didn’t have the energy limitations or the need to withdraw? Like, what could I do?
Jen: So interesting. And nobody ever picks that.
Knox: Really? It just feels like the obvious pick to me. It’s always in my head of like, “Man, if I didn’t have the stupid energy thing, I could do stuff. But I can’t.”
Jen: So true. The well of energy for Three is other worldly. Okay. How about this one? Opposite. Which part of your Enneagram Five personality are you most proud of? What do you like the most?
Knox: It’s not very sexy, but I think it is the objectivity. I like seeing the world as it is instead of what I want it to be. And I like that that’s a thing we get to help other people, not in like an arrogant way, but we can help them process and parse through the subjectivity to find what is actually true.
Jen: That’s so important. That piece that you bring to the world matters so very much. Maybe Fives are the only number like that. Okay, here’s the last one. You’ve answered it now three times and I’m sorry. I can’t rotate it out at this point. So you can just change your answer to whatever it is right now. It’s Barbara Brown, of course. What is saving your life right now?
Knox: Okay. So luckily, I go through so many things that are saving my life, so this is easy. Can I do two really small ones?
Jen: Please. Absolutely.
Knox: Okay. I just started reading Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, the Hunger Games prequel.
Jen: Oh, yeah!
Knox: I really liked it. It’s really good. I remember I like being in that world, so it’s just like fun to go back in a prequel kind of way. And then the other thing is a TV show that Ashley and I are just crushing right now, and it’s Outlander. Have you ever watched Outlander?
Jen: Yes. Wow. And that one’s high on feelings.
Knox: It’s so on high feelings and sexy scenes and crazy stuff.
Jen: It’s super sexy.
Knox: There’s some fast forwarding, of course, but it’s wild. It’s violent. I didn’t realize how Game of Thrones-y it was going to be, but it is.
Jen: Did Ashley read the books first?
Knox: She did not, but she is going to read the books because we’re blowing through episodes and she’s going to need something for that fix. It’s really good. And I kind of dismiss British TV, because I’m like, “You guys, you’re too slow and you’re too vanilla and I need more.” But two episodes in, I was like, “What is happening here? There is a lot of blood and other stuff,” and I wasn’t ready for that.
Jen: It’s blood and murder and sex and intrigue.
Knox: And a lot of Scottish. The Scottish brogue or whatever is really good.
Jen: It is. It is. Okay, well, I think that you just want some real converts just now when you said that from my community. All right. So thank you for being on today. Thanks for talking about what a Five is in the world and who they are. That’s just incredibly useful, incredibly helpful. Okay, my friend. Great to talk to you. Thank you.
Knox: Thank you so much for having me.
Jen: And now to tell us more about the music you’ve been listening to in this episode, we hear from composer Ryan O’Neal, AKA Sleeping at Last, about the inspiration behind this piece.
Ryan: I had so much fun getting lost in the writing of this type Five song. I kind of gave myself permission to just explore. So the first idea I had was to divide the song into two separate sections. So the first half of the song is a lengthy instrumental, and the purpose for that was to give type fives time to process and acclimate to the song. And I like the idea of it being sort of a music to observe by kind of observation music. And the second half has lyrics.
So Five is the longest of my Enneagram songs, which I figured means technically it has the most data. So the final length is exactly five minutes and fifty five seconds. And because Fives are generally pretty level people, the song never really strays from its constant tempo, which is the binary code of 111 bpm.
So the first half is made up of entirely computer machine driven instruments, and then eventually more organic instrumentation gets added into the song as the type Five gets further in touch with their heart.
At its core, it’s a song about the type Five connecting the dots between their head and their heart, and my hope here is that Fives might feel at least a little bit understood through these words. As a type that deeply desires to understand, I wanted to give some of that gift back to them and celebrate the beautiful and truly brilliant people that they are.
Jen: Okay, guys, there it is. Two incredible people talking about those wonderful Fives in the world.
My great, great thanks to the both of them. Thank you so much to Dr. Avon. Thank you so much to Knox for really just helping us love and understand the Fives in our lives and just giving us a glimpse behind the curtain. Fantastic. You’re both fantastic.
Also fantastic is next week’s episode, when we steer the ship into the incredible Enneagram Sixes. Oh, my goodness. Sixes are so wonderful in the world. Oh, I think I have now said this at least every episode. I love the Sixes in my life. I’ve also said I love the Twos in my life and I love the Fives in my life. And I mean it every time. It’s so wonderful how we show up in the world and how we flourish and how we serve one another and stretch one another and challenge one another. Anyway, wait ‘til next week. You are going to love the Six episode.
So come back, bring your Six friends, share this episode with your Five friends. Thank you again for your incredible feedback on this series. We have heard every single word. You have been amazing. Thank you for sharing all these episodes. And thank you for subscribing to the podcast. We love having you as subscribers.
All right, everybody, loving it. Loving it. ‘Til next week, see you soon.