Series 27: For the Love of the Enneagram | Episode 05
Enneagram Fours – Ian Cron on The Individualists
Our Enneagram series continues with another type who rounds out the heart triad: the beautifully complex Type Fours (also known as The Romantics). To lead us on all things Type Four, we have an incredible returning guest: a Four himself, Ian Morgan Cron. Ian wears many hats—Enneagram expert, author of The Road Back to You, host of Typology Podcast, priest and psychotherapist, to name a few—and his Fourness is revealed in his beautiful, open posture toward humanity. He walks us through how Fours believe that they have an “unredeemable deficiency,” how they feel a little different and off-center, and have a vague dissatisfaction with themselves. Typically seen as the most complex of all the Enneagram numbers, Fours seek to be special in some way to fill this inner void, and the road to being a healthy Four is when they realize that “specialness” isn’t their sole path to being loved. Ian shares personally his experience that the superpower of a Four is emotional intuitiveness and empathy; Fours are equipped to come alongside people in their dark moments and walk through the suffering with them, and they tend to gravitate towards spaces in which they can uniquely contribute to conversation. Conversely, Fours in conflict tend to withdraw, and Ian shares how they can be lovingly drawn out. And don’t forget to stick around until the end to hear from composer Ryan O’Neal (AKA Sleeping At Last), who shares his process for crafting a music piece as uniquely complex as Type Fours.
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Contest ends June 16, 2020 at 11:59pm CST
Ian: I want to live wide awake in the world, and in order for me to do that, I’m going to face my shadow and I’m going to face my beauty.
Jen: Welcome to the For the Love Podcast with me, Jen Hatmaker. Today, we’ll deep dive into Enneagram Fours with Enneagram pioneer Ian Morgan Cron. Everybody, welcome to the For the Love Podcast.
Gosh, we are having the greatest time in the Enneagram series. I’m just so endlessly fascinated with this work and all the ways that it can serve us in our relationships, in our marriages. I mean, it’s just like I’m gobbling it up with a spoon. Today, today, today, today we are going to turn our attention to the wonderful unicorns of the Enneagram. And, of course, I’m talking about type Fours.
Oh, I love the Fours in my life. I know that I say this about every number, but I mean it. I find Fours to be one of the more wonderfully mysterious numbers of the Enneagram. Who are they? What’s going on in their brains? What are they thinking, and really more, what are they feeling? So get excited, folks, because I called in a reinforcement of the highest degree today. Along with being an absolute master teacher of the Enneagram, even a pioneer, he is a Four himself, so he speaks saliently about the Enneagram Fours in our lives. I am so tickled to have Ian Morgan Cron back on the podcast today. He was on the show almost exactly two years ago, and he was so kind to accept our second invitation to come back on and really do a deep dive on the Fours.
If you’re new to Ian, if you didn’t hear our first episode—which you might want to go back and listen to because it’s fascinating—Ian is an absolute champion of the Enneagram. He is an awakener of people, bestselling author of the super uber duper popular Enneagram book called The Road Back to You, which by the way was the first one I ever read. And you might also know him as the host of the Typology Podcast, which is where he explores how people can use the Enneagram as a tool for personal transformation.
And, fun fact, Ian is an Episcopal priest, a trained psychotherapist. So he comes at the Enneagram with this incredible, insightful, warm, and empathetic approach. You’ll see what I mean, the way he deals so gently with, first of all, his own type, as we unpack everything about a Four today, and then with the other types. It’s this posture toward humanity that I love, and I’m learning from. And I find myself gravitating to teachers like Ian more and more and more.
One thing he says in the show today is he’s always held the both/and together. He’s all possibility. This is what Fours do well, but that is instructive to me.
I learned some really, really important things today and I hope that you will, too. And you’ll just see why he is beloved, and revered, and why he has truly earned his spot as one of the greatest Enneagram teachers in our generation. So I’m very thrilled to share my conversation with the super special Enneagram Four, Ian Morgan Cron.
Jen: I am absolutely delighted to see you again. Hi, welcome back to the podcast.
Ian: I am so glad to be here.
Jen: So a lot of my listeners, not only, of course, already know you, but they’ve heard you on this show before. But for those who are new to the podcast or new to you, I filled them in a little bit about who you are. Let’s start here, because you are one of the go-to guides for the Enneagram. I mean, when I have this conversation with my people, my friends, and my colleagues, you’re either the first or the second name that’s ever listed. You’re the guy.
And so, can you tell our listeners just a little bit about when you first learned about the Enneagram, and then what was it that drew you to not only finding out more about yourself, which is what the Enneagram offers, but then ultimately turning it all around and offering everything you learn and all your wisdom to the rest of us?
Ian: Yeah. I first learned about the Enneagram in about 1994. I was staying in a Catholic retreat center in the mountains of Colorado, and I came upon Richard Rohr‘s book The Enneagram. And at the time, I was in a graduate school to get a master’s in psychology. I remember opening the book and thinking to myself, Where the heck has this been? I had just spent a year studying the DSM-IV at that time—or III—and learning about personality development, etc., and abnormal psych and all these different things. And I thought, Wow, what an amazing, accessible, uncannily accurate useful tool out of the box to help people grow in their self-knowledge and in their personal health.
Then years later—because at the time I was just studying, I didn’t have time to go jump into the Enneagram—I went to a bunch of conferences, Riso Hudson conferences, other stuff. So I kept my toes in the water. And then about eight years ago, I just said, “I’m going to try to master this thing.” And it’s been an incredible adventure of self-discovery, and self-knowledge. And I had no idea that the book would have the kind of success it’s enjoyed. I feel so grateful for it.
Jen: So is it still interesting to you? Are you still like, “Yeah, I’m not sick of this yet.”
Ian: I’m really not. And I’m not saying that just because your audience would be disappointed if they heard me say, “Stop already.”
Jen: “That’s enough.”
Ian: I find human beings endlessly exciting and interesting. And it’s a great partway into other conversations about what does it mean to live in the mystery of ourselves and in the mystery of who God made us? What’s not to like about that conversation?
Jen: I’m with you. I mean, I’m all the way with you. I called myself an Enneagr-amateur because it’s just so fascinating to me. I’m 100% on the amateur side of that.
I’m excited to have you on today for a million reasons, but this particular episode is centered on the Enneagram Fours. And so, before we do the deep dive, can you please walk my listeners through basically the key traits of a Four, and then maybe very broadly—because we’re going to talk about this more in depth—how you see those traits show up in yourself, and in your work, and in your relationships, as probably the most well-known Four I know.
Ian: Okay. “The most well-known Four you know.” Yeah, no problem.
All right. First of all, the Fours are called the Romantics. Sometimes they’re called the Individualists. The Fours believe that there is something missing, some essential quality at the core of their being that everybody else seems to have except them.
I remember the phrase that I heard that absolutely nailed me as a Four, the phrase “unredeemable deficiency.” And I remember having a moment, I was a very little kid. I had this sense in the middle of my chest that, Why is it I’m different? Why is it that I feel this deficiency? Like, there’s something about me that’s just a little off center.
And Fours are always comparing themselves to other people. And, of course, this is what actually fuels their passion, which is envy. We look at everybody else and we think to ourselves, Why is it that you seem so normal, so well-adjusted, so happy at ease in the world, when I don’t? And why do you seem to have the missing piece, this unnameable deficiency? Why does it seem like you have all the hardware, and I have a fatal flaw? And by the way, Fours can’t tell you what it is. It’s an unnameable, vague self-dissatisfaction.
This isn’t just me. Most teachers say Enneagram Nines are the—What’s the right word I would use here?—most down to earth, what you see is what you get people. So you might say the simplest, least complex number on the Enneagram. It doesn’t mean they’re simple. They’re just what you see is what you get people.
Fours are the most complex number on the Enneagram. They’re a mystery to themselves and a mystery to everybody else. And just when you think you’ve gotten to the bottom of a Four, you realize, Oh my gosh, this well is endless.
Jen: Well, let me ask you this, because I appreciate—I haven’t heard some of those, the way you just said that. I’m thinking about the Fours in my life, and that just gave me an instant well of compassion for them. But there’s like a real positive—there always is on every number—side, too. One thing that I have read—and on any of this you can just correct me, because, again, Enneagr-amateur—[said] that Fours have this pretty sturdy desire to be special. And not just to be special, but that’s how they see themselves, too.
So you kind of described it in the negative space maybe, like, “Why has everybody else got what I can’t figure out that I need?” But what about the part of a Four that says, “There’s no one else like me in the world. I am special.” What’s that part? Why is it that a Four feels that way, or do they? You can confirm or deny. And how does that sort of manifest in their real lives?
Ian: Yeah. Well, here’s the deal. Every number has a strategy for getting its needs met. And so, when we say that the Four has a compulsive need to be special and unique, that’s not necessarily, as you can tell, a positive. In other words, the Four feels like they need to be special and unique in order to compensate, and reclaim, or recapture the missing piece. Okay? So it’s a strategy. They’re always on the hunt, for example, for someone who will complete them, right?
One of the ways that you can know that a Four is growing into a self-actualized, healthy human being is when they no longer feel like, I need to be special and unique in order to be seen and loved. So when we talk about that specialness and uniqueness, Fours might idealize their behavior by saying, “Oh, it’s just because I’m special and unique.” But in reality, their need to be special and unique is a strategy to get emotional, psychological needs met—as is true with every number on the Enneagram. We all have those strategies.
Jen: Yeah. This makes my brain just think, and think, and think, and think.
Let’s talk about this, because Enneagram Fours, the ones in my life, kind of have a superpower that I definitely don’t have as a Three. And I’m not sure if another type has it, but it’s this capacity—now whether it’s realized or not, that depends—to look at themselves, like all of themselves. Even the parts that would consider bad, the parts that they don’t love, and accept it. Accept the good, accept the bad, that, This is all a part of me, without a ton of self-recrimination and judgment, like I for sure do.
And so, tons of us aren’t even willing to look, let alone stare at, let alone accept the darker sides of who we are. And so, how would you say that this particular superpower, if you will, if I’m even getting that term right, works in a Four’s favor? And then, the opposite, how can that backfire?
Ian: Yeah. Okay. So let me refine a few things you said, if that’s okay. So one is I think the superpower of the Four, actually, is empathy and emotional intuitiveness.
Jen: So true.
Ian: Because Fours are very in touch with their own suffering, almost addicted at times to their own suffering, when they’re not very healthy. There are artists, there’s lots of artists, a disproportionate number of artists are Fours. And part of the reason for that is Fours have this way of being able to help people navigate the darker straits of life, and they’re able to walk with people through what I would call liminal moments.
Like, we’re really great at—when someone dies, you want a Four in the room when they take their last breath. I’m very comfortable in that space. When a baby is being born, the sort of transcendent moments, Fours are good at helping people navigate the darker spaces, because we’re just kind of familiar with them. Like I always tell people, if you want someone to be there for you when you’re really suffering, you’re probably going to say, “Oh, I need a Two.” You know what I’m saying?
Ian: But the Two is going to show up with a casserole.
Jen: That’s right.
Ian: Okay? A Four is going to sit shiva. You know what I mean?
Jen: Yeah. I see the difference.
Ian: They’re going to be able just to sit with you in your suffering and not feel any compulsion to fix you, but to just be present and help you navigate those darker parts of life that you might be unfamiliar with, or until that time have denied existed in you or in the world. So I think that’s a tremendous superpower that Fours have.
Now, that said, Fours often can implode, and become very self-destructive because of their contact with that suffering, dark side of life. And so, that’s one of the dangers for the Four.
Jen: You’re describing my very favorite Fours in my life really well, that level of empathy without fixing, without hustling, without repackaging the narrative. And that’s so special in the world, that’s so important.
You mentioned just a second ago that we see a lot of artists who are Fours, which makes perfect sense. They’re good and truthful storytellers. They’re very connected to the human experience, the full range of the human experience, and are able to offer that to us. Where would you say, like where else do Fours tend to show up in the world? Where else do we sometimes see them in action that may be outside of strictly artistic spaces?
Ian: You know, Fours tend to gravitate to whatever space they can express their originality, who can express different angles of seeing things, and where they feel really valued for their unique contribution to the conversation around the table.
People have competencies well beyond their numbers. So not every Four is an artist. Some of them are business people. I mean, heck, go to Herman Miller, or Tiffany’s, or the Ritz-Carlton, and find out who the Fours are, who care about the aesthetics, who care about the space. We can appear anywhere.
I mean, there are certain occupations or spaces that people gravitate toward, but the stereotype is that all Fours—this is a line I use all the time—but they’re all wandering around smoking clove cigarettes and reading twentieth century French poetry. That’s a stereotype, not a type.
Jen: It’s interesting. Of course, you mention your work as a priest. I don’t typically think of priests and pastors and clergy as Four. What I should say is, I don’t think a Four is gravitating to that sort of space. Is that true? Am I wrong on that? Are you a bit of an outlier in that field, or do you find that a lot of clergy members take their beautiful, empathetic superpower into ministry?
Ian: I’m an Episcopalian, so why am I drawn there and why instead of a Presbyterian? Because it’s high church. It’s liturgical. I get to wear the coolest clothes on Sunday. We have stained glass windows, we have incense, we have these gorgeous cathedrals. We have lots of mystery. We are a both/and denomination.
Jen: So true.
Ian: We are very inclusive, which would be very attractive to a Four. For a Four, that’s home, man. Catholic churches, Episcopal churches, anything with a mysterious cathedral, and I’m happy as a pig in you know what. I mean, I totally get up on Eucharist and the whole thing. All plays to a Four’s desire. Fours love symbol-rich environments. Actually, I just did another podcast interview about an hour and a half ago, and I was showing the person on the interview that I collect kintsugi. I don’t know if you can see that, so broken bowls.
I won’t go into the whole history of this Japanese golden joinery, where you have a broken pot and you mend it with golden lacquer. This is where a Four just swoons. They’re like, “Oh, the symbolism!” I use this in Eucharist services. So, as clergy, I think it just depends on context. I mean, where I’m at, like the church that I’m in, ding dang. It’s perfect. We love it.
Jen: Oh my goodness. This is so interesting to me, Ian. Now, the one piece that you said that the Three in me was like, Ooh, that’d be me too, would be getting to wear the fancy clothes, because the Three is always like, Dazzle, dazzle, razzle dazzle. The fancy clothes were Three. But interestingly, you’re making me think, I’ve been in one form or another of ministry and pastoral work for two decades. And what was I drawn to? Originally—and I’ve had a big evolution—more of the evangelical space that rewards charisma. And so, I was not only set up to succeed there, but I was drawn to that, drawn to that sort of dynamic. There’s just a billion layers under all these things that it serves me really well in hindsight, when I can go back and pick up some threads and be like, “Well, look at what you did there. That wasn’t such a mystery after all.”
Ian: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And what Fours are attracted to, in that space, let’s say with the clothes. You were talking about charisma, and the external kind of stuff. What Fours are interested in, well, we like the clothes because it’s special and unique, among other things. And because the vestments that we wear are like all symbols of a season, or of a liturgical season, we love that sort of stuff. But we would value authenticity. Like back in the day, a Three might have been interested in church growth.
Ian: How can we just grow this place into a mega church?
Ian: If you just look at the numbers, obviously, Episcopalians are not concerned about growth.
Jen: That’s not their chief aim.
Ian: No, no, no. We are doing a great job of not doing that. But for me, the value would be on authenticity, which could be a form of charisma. Fours are very hung up on authenticity and actually are kind of allergic to people who are inauthentic. Fours don’t have much time for people who are not the real deal.
Jen: Yep. Yep. And I love that. What a great service to the world, to have this whole community of people who refuse to tow these inauthentic party lines and just go along with it. I think that serves your community really, really well, almost a requirement of the people in your life to show up truthfully, in a genuine way. I do find that the Fours draw almost the best in me—or not the best, the truest. The truest, whatever that happens to be.
Let’s talk about this, because some people believe that feelings—our feelings and our emotions—can be a healthy compass to direct us toward really true and beautiful paths. And so, where Fours have a pretty large section of their identity centered on their feelings and their emotions, how does this play out? And you can speak personally, and you can also speak broadly when it comes to decision making. What are the pitfalls of making decisions that are primarily located in a feeling or an emotion, and what’s the upside? Because I think there’s an upside as well. How do you navigate that when you are staring down really important choices, really consequential decisions? How do you pull those levers on how much your feelings and emotions drive that?
Ian: Right. Let’s just talk about the triad that Fours are under, they’re in the Heart triad, the Twos, Threes and Fours. Twos are exquisitely the helpers, are exquisitely attuned to the feelings of others, and they’re out of touch with their own. In fact, they oftentimes won’t even acknowledge their own personal needs, but they’re exquisitely attuned to the feelings and needs of others. Fours are exquisitely attuned to their own feelings, to the point. And this is True, Twos, threes, and Fours all have issues around identity.
For Fours, they don’t have feelings. They are their feelings, okay? Which is why sometimes they get in trouble. That’s why they have these big feelings all the time, it’s because they don’t like normal, regular, run of the mill feelings. They want big, intense feelings.
Jen: Got it. Yep. Oh gosh.
Ian: And so, their whole identity is sort of wrapped up in, “I am my feelings,” which of course, when you’re not self-aware, is a crazy person. You know what I mean? And led me down some very dark roads earlier in life, now as a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. So, in terms of decision making, Fours are highly intuitive. So a lot of times my decision making is based in intuition, which drives people in their head space crazy because they think it’s irrational. But I always have to remind people in their head space, particularly Fives, that feeling is a way of thinking.
Jen: That’s good.
Ian: And so, the older I’ve gotten, I’ve done a couple of things with decisions. Number one, I have multiple five friends, very drawn to Fives, which is maybe weird. But being that they’re the most emotionally detached number, and I’m the most emotional number, when I’m facing a huge life decision and there’s a lot of emotion involved on my side, I actually pick up the phone or go have lunch with Five friend, lay out what I know of the facts and say, “What do you think?”
Jen: What do you think? Yeah.
Ian: And that’s the beauty of the Enneagram. I can tap into the superpowers of other people when I know I don’t have them.
Jen: You’re making me think of a question that I don’t know what the answer is. But you just talked about the really opposite natures of a Four and a Five. I can’t think of one in my life, or is it rare that we see either a Five with a Four wing or a Four with a Five wing, because those energies are so completely different? Do people actually hold both those yin and yang? What does that look like?
Ian: Well, I’m telling you, it’s so fascinating. Actually, when you look at the traditional Enneagram diagram, you’ll notice that all of the numbers are equally spaced apart from each other around the diagram, except for Four and Five. The distance between Four and Five on the bottom of the Enneagram, it’s a much larger space.
Jen: Oh, I never noticed that.
Ian: Yes. And that is because the Five is in the head space, the Four is in the heart space. So when you get a Four with a Five or a Five with a Four, you’ve got people who’ve got one foot in two canoes. This is when Fives and Fours make incredible artists who have got this incredible power of observation. So you get Georgia O’Keeffe, or Ansel Adams, or people that have powers of observation but are able to translate it to the heart because they have that other space, that access. However, here’s the bad side. That big huge gap on the bottom of the Enneagram is sometimes called the abyss.
Jen: Oh, man.
Ian: Because it’s a big gap, and the Fours and the Fives are on either side of this big chasm. And oftentimes, Fours and Fives will attempt to sort of look over the leap of where they’re standing down into the abyss, the darkness.
I’ve got a friend of mine who’s a Five, and he went through a season in college where he was reading Nietzsche and Albert Camus, and he was into existentialism. It’s all up here in the head, but, of course, where did it lead him? To darkness and depression. He was always looking over the edge into these sort of dark philosophies. Four artists, whether it’s Janice Joplin or others, they kind of look over the edge into the darkness as like a resource, but it’s almost a little magnetic. And the danger, of course, is either one of those numbers can self-destruct by falling through into the bottom of the Enneagram.
Jen: What’s your wing?
Ian: Well, in the first half of life, very strong Three. But as I’ve moved into the second half of life, stronger Five.
Jen: Oh, that’s so interesting.
Ian: That’s very normal, that you can migrate a little part of life to between. But remember, both wings are resources for people. So they’re less descriptive. Well, they’re descriptive in part because they are different expressions of a type. But really both on either side, like right now, I’m being more of a Four with a Three with you. I mean, my being extroverted, I’ve got my game on. Yeah. I’m trying.
Ian: But I can spend the rest of the day sitting around here reading quietly by myself. Like for me right now, I’ve got to tell you, quarantine has not been a problem. You know what I mean? It’s good. It’s like I’ve got time to read, and to think, and do all my stuff that I like. I can’t imagine what it’s like for other types that, for whom they just feel so trapped. But I can sometimes consciously, because I know the Enneagram, go, “Okay, man, I’ve got to dig into my Three wing right now.” I’m on stage at Catalyst in front of 10,000 people. They don’t need Five right now.
Jen: That’s right. They need a charismatic Three.
Ian: They need me to tap into it. I’m always going to be a Four, but I got to bring my Three game in that moment.
Jen: That’s so true. And those are resources and we do have those capacities. I always have to really hold that with tender hands, that I will over identify with my shadow side, and then sometimes pigeonhole myself and go, “Well, this is just what you’re stuck with. These are going to be your demons.” But the truth is we do have access to other really wonderful parts of us. And I’m also learning how to deeply battle the trigger points that I have as a Three. I know them now. They’re very clear to me. I know the sorts of things that set me down a really yucky path of being incredibly competitive, really paranoid, just like a dancing monkey for everybody who’s watching. I’m more aware of that now, so I can reach for parts of my Two, which are a pretty strong wing for me.
But I’ve never really heard anybody say that I can also really access the Four, because some of the things that you’re saying right now, I’m like, “I can feel that way sometimes.”
Ian: Yeah, you can dig in. You dig in.
Jen: Let me ask you this, because one of the greatest elements, one of the greatest tools that the Enneagram has been, is in how we relate to each other, once we start doing the work of, Who am I married to, what do my kids look like, if they’re old enough? What about my coworkers, or my boss, or my employees?
So you, as a Four, do you notice that you are drawn to a certain type? Are you drawn to a Two or Three number where you’re like, Golly, I just keep loading up my life with this kind of person? And how do you see your Fourness sort of show up in the relationships that you really cherish?
Ian: Yeah. I have a lot of Three friends. I have a lot of Five friends. I have actually a lot of Nine friends.
Jen: Yeah. Me too.
Ian: Because, for example, the best songwriters I know are all Nine, I think. And, of course, I know tons of Four songwriters, but Nines make great co-writers. So I have lots of Threes, lots of Fives, lots of Nines. I’m married to a Nine. I can think of one or two Eights I have in my life, but those numbers tend to Three, Five, and Nine. I’ve got a ton of those and sprinkling of Sevens. But any number that’s in the self-aware, skillful, self-knowledgeable, doing their work, I can be a friend of any of those people, anytime.
Jen: Oh, that’s great. So, in keeping with sort of the way that you are wired, you’re going to struggle the most relationally with people who—particularly if they’re disintegrating—have a hard time being authentic in their life. Is that going to be the personality that you kind of resist the most?
Ian: Okay, so I’ll just be honest to tell you that the type of personality I resist the most are personalities that are rigid. There are certain numbers on the Enneagram that are either/or thinkers. I’m a both/and thinker, always have been. Paradox is not a problem to me.
Jen: That’s nice.
Ian: It’s kind of delightful. And so, there are certain numbers that paradox is a problem, and I’m like, “Ooh, boy.” And if they really struggle with that, and if there’s a rigidity to where it’s like they’re stuck, I can get a little impatient with that. And certain numbers, when they’re not in a great space, are very black and white. Eights can be that way. Ones for sure can be that way. Fives, there’s one subtype of Fives that could be that way. When those types end up becoming overly certain, or if they have a lust for certitude in their life…
Jen: Yeah. Yeah. Gosh.
Ian: …That kind of really makes me bristle a little bit, but that’s just me.
Jen: I appreciate what you said a minute ago about some shifting in the second half of your life. I’m not sure that’s something I’ve entirely embraced as a possibility. I’m fory-five and notice some shifting at this point. Like as you were just talking, certainty used to be a real high value for me. Some of this is cultural. That was sort of the religious subculture I grew up in. That was rewarded, and then it was definitely punished in its absence. So I’m not quite sure where to lay the blame or the credit. But I used to really value certainty. It was a comfort to me.
And then, the older I got, it felt like a prison, like an absolute prison that stopped me from asking important questions that should be asked and scared me out of an examination of something that I felt like should be examined. And so, I appreciate the leadership you give us in, to some degree, holding it a little loosely, or allowing for some evolution in who we are. Do you find that to be true for most people?
Ian: Well, I mean, I think you’re describing me pretty well. I like to say sometimes that, in terms of everything—theology, politics, whatever it is in life—I like to go and say that this is where I am provisionally. So it’s like, “As of today, this is what I think or I feel.”
Jen: That’s great.
Ian: But it is open. I’m open to the idea that I’m fallible and I want to open up the possibility that this will change. For example, I would say there are very few things in life that I think are absolutes. I think the absolute that I hold on to all time is that God is love. That just seems to be an absolute to me, you know?
Jen: Yeah, it does to me, too.
Ian: After that, it’s editorial.
Jen: Totally. That’s right.
Ian: I mean, part of my job, I feel like, is asking questions to kind of raise up for them the possibility of new ways of seeing themselves in the world, and just realizing how beautiful they are, and how beautiful the world is, and exploring with them. How can you realize that at the level of your bone and the marrow and the blood that runs through your body, not just as an idea, just inviting people on that journey? God, that’s just fantastic.
Jen: It sure is. Let me ask you this, as we get close here to the end, a wonderful way that the Enneagram can serve us is, as I mentioned, in our relationships. So as a Four, if anybody listening finds themselves—let’s do this two ways, in conflict with a Four, how would you coach us? What’s the best strategy to resolve that conflict and move forward in that relationship? And kind of the flip side of that too, how do we love a Four well? What is the thing that the people in your life can do for you as a Four that makes you feel seen, and cherished, and loved?
Ian: Let me say this about the Enneagram. We can’t really go into this in detail, but Ones, Twos, and Sixes are called compliant types. Threes, Sevens, and Eights are called aggressive type. Don’t take that in a negative sense. Sometimes we say assertive, but I think aggressive is better, meaning that when you want something, you just go and get it or ask for it. Right?
Ian: Sevens and Eights, the same way. You’ll do it in different ways, but you just go and get it. Fours, Fives, and Nines are withdrawing types. First thing in conflict is to realize that when conflict arises, Fours will withdraw. Okay?
Ian: Like, I don’t like conflict at all. I don’t mind conflict if it’s constructive and we’re having a rational heart to heart conversation. But I got somebody yelling at me or going nutty? I just do a freeze frame, and I withdraw. I’m married to a withdrawing type, a Nine. And it took us years to realize that when there was a problem in the relationship, we were both withdrawing and not dealing with it.
Jen: Wow. Yeah.
Ian: You know what I’m saying? When we learned the Enneagram, we both realized, “Ooh, we can’t do that anymore. We’ve got to start to deal with the fires that are burning in different aspects of our relationship that we just want to not look at and pretend aren’t there.” Or we get into an argument, we go to two different rooms on opposite ends of the house to sulk in our own different ways.
So I think in conflict with Fours, just remember that Fours really want to be understood. If you’ve ever been in a conversation with a Four, they just can’t shut up about trying to explain what’s happening in their inner world to you.
It’s like they just keep going. And for a Three, after a while, you’ll become impatient with too many feelings. I mean, you’ll just absolutely be like, “Okay, enough already. Let’s get a little bit more critical thinking here, may we?”
And so, with Fours, Fours need to be listened to and know that what they’re saying, you may not agree with it, but you’re valuing it. Again, it all depends on how integrated and evolved the Four is. I’m in my fifties, a lot different than I was in my twenties.
Ian: Life has beaten me up a couple of times that I couldn’t go on with feelings being my identity. I’d be dead by now from all kinds of things if I did.
So I always tell people in conflict with Fours, detach and don’t withdraw. So like in the thing, don’t get sucked up into the vortex of all the feelings of the Four, and invite them into critical thinking. Tell them to add critical thinking to the feeling mix, Fours need to be reminded when they’re making decisions, “A little critical thinking would go a long way in this conversation, not just your feelings.”
I think for Fours, we withdraw. We need to know that you hear us and see us, otherwise we will over-explain ourselves, a word salad of metaphors, and symbols, and analogies about what’s going on inside. And I think the way that you love a Four well is to let them know that they’re seen, because so many Fours I think grew up with—now I’ll put my therapist hat on. We had this thing called mirroring, when babies are little, and you think of it with the way that a mother looks into a child, an infant’s eyes, and the infant looks back. You know that beautiful moment?
And actually, if you think about it, that gaze, that loving gaze, you never see a face soften in quite the same way on a human face than when you look at a mother’s face soften as it gazes into the eye of the infant. You know what I mean?
Ian: And there’s this transaction going on there where the baby is seeing in the mother’s eyes, as the mother’s eyes look back at it, that number one, they exist. They’re being told, “You exist.” I mean, it’s just part of the transaction.
Ian: Now what’s interesting is, if I can just use something from the Bible, the language in the Bible really has two different words for seeing. There’s physical act of seeing, and then there’s another kind of seeing. And the word they use for that in the Bible is behold. So what I always tell people is that that gaze between a mother and an infant, that they’re not just seeing each other, the mother is beholding the child, and the child is beholding the mother. And what that beholding is is a kind of love that transcends any other kind of love that you can really explain. So I’m always telling people, by the way, that is precisely how God sees them. That God doesn’t see them. God beholds them with the same loving gaze of the mother.
Jen: That’s nice.
Ian: So God looks at us with that beholding gaze. He’s not just seeing us.
Now, nobody can behold a Four in any way close to how God can see us. And if you’re around an unhealthy Four, they want everyone to behold them. But I think that for them to be known, that they’re seen in the field of a loving gaze, and that they’re not going to be abandoned, that there’s nothing really fundamentally missing at the core of their person, and that they’re beautiful—I got to tell you, like with every other type, this is lather, rinse, repeat a million times before you learn these lessons in life, you know?
Jen: Yep, I do. I sure do. I’ve circled the drain around the same small handful of things for so long. It does.
Ian: Hopefully, you spend less and less time in those places because you recognize sooner, Do I want to maintain this course or do I want to drop this storyline right now?
Jen: That’s good. That’s so good. And we can do that. That is within our reach to do that. We have the capacity.
Let me ask you this, and then we’ll wrap it up.
Jen: There are plenty of Fours who are listening to this right now. And if they are looking, in some way, either big or small, to become more healthy, more whole, if they want to grow, what is the best advice that you would give them today?
Ian: Well, first of all, I’ve never met a Four who shouldn’t be in therapy.
Jen: Oh, sheesh. Oh no.
Ian: As a therapist, I will say, I could give that advice to any type, right?
Ian: Because the word therapy derives from the word terape, which just means “growth,” right?
Ian: Fours come into the world with an acute sense of loss and a fear of abandonment. I tend to think that their suffering is special. Sometimes they can be addicted to their suffering. It becomes their identity, they can get wrapped around the suffering and the missing piece. And I’m looking for an ideal soulmate to complete me, because I have this hole inside, blah, blah, blah. You need somebody to walk through that, a spiritual director or a therapist.
And Fours can tend to wrestle with depression at times. I’ve just never met a Four who didn’t go through a season or is not currently in the season where a low self-image is not a problem. I’m just being completely honest here.
Jen: Yeah, no, thank you.
Ian: And so, one of the ways is, Can I find a therapist or a spiritual director to help me navigate me better? And hopefully they have some knowledge of the Enneagram.
Another thing I’d say to Fours is they tend to over-rely on feelings and underperform on the doing of life. They’re often way up in their imagination all the time. They’re writing sheets and screenplays and stuff, but they never actually get around to the execution phase. That’s what a Three does. The Threes, you guys are doing all the time. Fours are feeling and imagining great things—which oftentimes, if they’re in partnership with a Three, can be really dynamic because the Fours got all these ideas and the Three executes on them.
But in fact, I think I have it behind me on my chair. I have a hat that says “Doing Things” on it. And it’s sort of my way of reminding myself, it’s not enough to feel, Ian. You actually have to do. You have to sit down and write the book. You actually have to sit down with your team and work on social media, which a Four hates because it feels so inauthentic.
Jen: Really? That’s interesting. But it could make you feel special. It could be a way to showcase your specialness.
Ian: Yeah. But if it was, people wouldn’t understand it. I don’t like it because it just feels so inauthentic. But I get on Instagram and I see these photos of people’s lives and it looks like they glossed over the lens, a little Vaseline. I’m like, “Nobody looks like that at seven o’clock in the morning with their child on the bed.”
Ian: That’s like you’ve got a professional photographer.
Jen: Yeah, I hear you.
Ian: Yeah. So that kind of stuff. I have a person on my team that does all my social media stuff.
Jen: Can’t do it.
Ian: I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to say. Anyhow, there’s so many ways for all of us to grow. And part of it just begins with the intention. I intend to grow. I refuse to go through life asleep. I want to live wide awake in the world, and in order for me to do that, I’m going to face my shadow and I’m going to face my beauty.
By the way, I would say that I think lots of people are more afraid of their beauty than their shadow. The reason being that, man, once you realize that you’re beautiful, now what?
Jen: That’s good.
Ian: Now you’re going to have to do something with it. Now you’re on the hook.
Jen: That’s right. Yeah, you are.
Ian: You’re on the hook. It was so easy when you were just a shadow. That was easy. All you had to do is either hide it or act out. Now when you recognize your beauty, it’s like, Oh, now I’m on the hook to change the world in some way that I wasn’t prepared for.
Jen: I love that. That’s a really sweet way to finish this up.
Okay, these are the rapid fire questions that we are ending every episode in the Enneagram series with. So this is just like off the top of your head.
Jen: And you may have just answered this, unless you have a different answer. So here’s the first one. If you could add any one of the personality traits to your repertoire, which one would you pick?
Ian: Oh, of all the numbers?
Jen: Yeah, sure. Yep.
Ian: Oh. That’s a really good question I have never really thought about. I guess, I wish I had the powers of observation that Fives do. As an artist, I think I’d like Georgia O’Keeffe, this ability to observe things so powerfully and then translate them to canvas, or film, or to writing. Like, you don’t just see the surface of things. You see the inner splendor of things. That power of observation. I’d like that. I’d like to have that more.
Jen: Oh, that’s a great answer. Okay. Here’s the next one. Which part of your Fourness do you enjoy most about yourself? What are you the most grateful for?
Ian: All of it.
Jen: Nice. Nice. It’s because you’re healthy.
Ian: I hope every type feels that way. I mean, there’s so many good things about being a Four. But like with every type, you’ve got to work for it. You’ve got to work at it to get there.
And I’ve been blessed along the way with a couple of seasons of desperation. I’ve experienced the gift of desperation. I did with addictions, where you really reach a point where it’s like, “I’m desperate.” And the gift of desperation is a powerful thing, a powerful motivator. And so, for me as a Four, I’ve been really blessed to have been forced into situations where it was like, “Grow up or blow up, pal.”
I wouldn’t want to go through those seasons again because there’s nothing attractive. People tend to think of addictions and things like that. Sometimes I’m an artist as being kind of a cool thing…
Jen: Kind of sexy.
Ian: Yeah, kind of a cool thing to have on your resume, that you went to rehab. Let me just tell you that there’s nothing romantic about waking up in your own you know what, you know what I mean?
Jen: No, there’s not.
Ian: It’s not very romantic. I just pretty much dig the whole thing. I dig the whole thing now. It took me a long time to dig it all. But I do now.
Jen: Yeah, that’s so great. Last one. We ask every guest this on every series, and you’ve answered it before. It’s a question I learned from your fellow Episcopalian priest, Barbara Brown Taylor. And her question is—and again, you can answer however you want—what is saving your life right now?
Ian: I read—do you know Huston Smith is?
Ian: So Houston Smith was and still is the most renowned academic research guy into world religions. I mean, he’s been dead now for about five years, but he taught world religions for seventy years. And his books, his Bill Moyers special, all these different things that he did, this guy went deep into world religions. Now, he self-identified as probably what I would call “a liberal Christian.” But, at the end of his life, he was ninety-three years old. Someone asked him this question and said, “What conclusions, after seventy years of studying Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, indigenous peoples’ religions, Aboriginal religion, what conclusions have you come to about God and the nature of the universe?” Can you imagine?
Jen: Wow, I’m dying to hear what he said.
Ian: And he said in one sentence, he goes, “We’re in good hands.”
Jen: Oh, that put a lump on my throat. That is amazing. That makes me want to cry my eyes out. That is wonderful.
Jen: That’s what’s saving my life these days.
Jen: That is so wonderful. Oh, that got me emotional. That’s lovely.
Okay. Thank you so much for just being who you are, and you have served so many of us in ways that you will never know, and it has just really mattered to me. I’ll tell you that right now. Can you please tell my listeners what you’re up to, where they can find you, some of the other amazing resources you have for them because you’ve been able to activate what used to be your Three wing, because you are producing, and you are creating, and you are executing? I’m telling you, you’re out there looking like a Three.
Ian: Well, you are right, and I’ve got management that are Threes, thank goodness.
Jen: Yeah. That’s what it is. Yeah.
Ian: So a couple of things. One is obviously my book The Road Back to You on Amazon. It’s a great primer for people who just want a deep enough understanding of the Enneagram that they can move a needle in a positive direction and never read another book, or it’s a gateway drug into some other books. Right?
Jen: That’s exactly right.
Ian: Don Miller and I did the Enneagram Made Simple series that you can find on my website there as well. Subscribe to my YouTube channel. We’ve had this Enneagram and Stress series, nine-part series that we did maybe two weeks ago right now. Today we started the Enneagram and Parenting, which I’m super stoked about. I love that. And we’re getting ready to do one on the Enneagram and Finances.
Jen: Oh, fantastic.
Ian: How each type relates to money and finances, particularly now when people are struggling. My socials, @ianmorgancron across Twitter and Instagram and different stuff like that.
Ian: I’ll be doing an online live training coming up, and what I’ll be doing is spending ninety minutes on each number. You know how you normally go to a workshop and you’ve got to hear all nine numbers, and it’s fantastic. But you’re almost like, “Gee, I wish someone would really zero in just on my type and give it an hour and a half or two hours and really dive deep down into it. Take me to the places your book hasn’t, other books don’t.” And so, I’ll be doing that, nine different installments, nine online trainings on each of the types. And so, they go to my website, sign up on my email, they’ll get word when that drops and when their number is going to be up for a live online training. Can’t wait for that.
Jen: I want to consume all of that. I need all of that. And so, everybody listening, if you couldn’t keep up with that, if you’re driving or whatever it is you’re doing, we’ll have every single thing that Ian just mentioned linked over on the transcript. So it’s at jenhatmaker.com under Podcast. So we’ll put all things Ian in one-stop shop, including this whole episode, and its transcript, and all of its resources.
Delighted to talk to you today. Absolutely delighted. I took several notes. Some things that you said I really needed to hear today. And I’ll tell you someday what that was and why I needed it, but I appreciate you and just your very generous nature and posture toward who we are, and who we’re created to be, and what is lovely about literally every single person. It’s like a balm right now. So you’re the greatest. Thank you.
Ian: Well, thank you very much. And peace and grace to you and to all the people who are listening.
Jen: Thank you. Till next time.
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 was really nervous to write the Type Four song. Though every type can be extremely creative, Type Fours are known for their tastes, and I just really wanted to write something interesting and beautiful and deep enough for the Type Four.
I realized as I was learning about the Type Four, there’s a lot going on. And honestly, I could easily write an entire album of music for the Fours. So it was challenging to write just one song. But with that in mind, I challenge myself to write the first-ever key change in one of my songs. I’m not typically a fan of key changes in songs, but I figure that there’s just no way that I could point to the depth of the Type Four in just one scale. So I needed more notes at my disposal.
I knew the instrumentation for this song needed to be a little bit different as well, so I asked my listeners that I identified as Fours on Twitter to tell me what their favorite instruments were. And though ukulele was definitely the top pick, the clarinet was up there, too.
So I decided that clarinet needed to play a big role in the song. And it’s played by a wonderful artist named Dodie, who is a Type Four herself. And I’m not sure if I mentioned it, but every guest musician in the Enneagram songs identifies as the type that they played on. So the exception is me, of course, since I am a Type Nine. But also throughout this song, you’ll hear French horns all over the place, which were played by another amazing Type Four, her name’s Sarah Wilkinson. And of course, I did end up recording a little bit of ukulele as well, which is actually one of my favorite instruments.
My hope for the song is to celebrate the complexities and nuance that Type Fours are capable of. They truly make our world a more meaningful and beautiful place.
Jen: Okay, everybody. I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did from the wonderful Ian Cron. Love that guy, man. That really helped me understand the Fours in my life better, the ones that I love so much and that are so tender and wonderful.
So, next week we’ll be coming in hot and we talk about those Fives. What about the Enneagram Fives? They’re very famously known for being the very ones who don’t want to be typed. So the big joke is, when somebody says, “I don’t have a type.” Well, like, you’re a Five. So I’m excited to talk about that.
You are going to want to listen and learn about this, too. So thanks for loving this series with us. We’re loving it too, by the way. Absolutely couldn’t wait to get into this. So, so much more to come. So many incredible experts and leaders in the Enneagram and really important thinkers and leaders. And so, we try to bring the best to you. So more to come, you guys. All right. Have a great week and I’ll see you next time.