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  • Writer's pictureClaire Bentley

ENNEAGRAM TYPE 5

Updated: Oct 25, 2023

FOR CREATIVITY AND CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT


INTRODUCTION

The Enneagram is a personality classification system which divides the human population into nine broad personality types based on their desires, fears, beliefs and behaviours. In this series of blog posts I will take you through each of the nine Enneagram personality types in detail, looking at how you can use them to improve your creative work patterns and to inform character development in your artwork.


Nine Enneagram personality types arranged in a circle
The Enneagram circle


There is dispute about the validity of the system as applied to ‘real-world’ humans. I’m not going to enter that debate in this series. However, I believe the system is potentially useful for creatives as a way of framing and understanding both our characters and ourselves. It is important to remember that personality systems are broad tools to aid understanding: there is lots of nuance and individual variation, and people rarely fit perfectly into one category or another.


WHY ENNEAGRAM AND NOT MYERS-BRIGG?


The Myers-Brigg personality classification system is also useful for understanding our characters and ourselves. However, I find it more complex and less intuitive than the Enneagram system. For example, when studying well-written fictional characters I can usually identify their Enneagram type quickly and easily, but I would struggle to identify which of the sixteen Myers-Brigg categories they fall under without reference material and a little free time to work it out. In addition, unlike the Enneagram, the Myers-Brigg types are not evenly distributed through the population: I am an ‘Advocate’ (INFJ), the rarest category at 1% of the population. In the Enneagram system I am a Type Nine, so many more ‘like-minded’ people to learn from.


However, the main reason I prefer using the Enneagram to the Myers-Brigg for character development is because story structure and story theory revolve around identifying the desires, fears, motivations, and misbeliefs of your characters. The Enneagram has these baked in and, even more crucially, the descriptions of healthy and unhealthy versions of each type make it far easier to see how a character might grow or disintegrate during a story (depending on what type of character arc you are writing).


WHY THIS BLOG SERIES?


The Enneagram is useful for understanding your pattern of work and behaviour when it comes to your creative life, so you can work out your strengths and weaknesses, find out what works for you, and identify areas where you could improve.


I have been using the Enneagram to inform character development in my current work in progress and it has been invaluable for helping me shape and develop their personalities, beliefs, and change arcs. There is a lot of information about the Enneagram but very little in terms of how to practically apply the system to character development in creative work. Therefore, I created this series of blog posts to explore each of the nine types in detail, and to provide guidance and examples when it comes to using the Enneagram for character development and plotting their change arcs.


There is a huge amount of information out there regarding the Enneagram and these posts barely scratch the surface! Therefore, I have linked many references at the end of the posts (including the ones which informed this series) if you would like to explore the topic further.



WORKING OUT YOUR ENNEAGRAM TYPE

There are tests out there (both paid and free) which can help you identify your Enneagram type. However, (again unlike Myers-Brigg) you can probably work out your type from the descriptions.


A word of caution: study each of the types before deciding which one best describes yourself. It may not be the one you initially think! When reading through the descriptions I initially couldn’t find one that quite worked for me, then ‘decided’ I was a Type Three, even though there were parts of it that fit and parts that didn’t.


However, when I reached the Type Nine description I had a moment of ‘oh s***, here I am’. If the description feels uncanny and makes you feel uncomfortable, you have likely found the right one for you!


It is worth saying again that people do not necessarily fit perfectly into categories. I had strong scores for multiple Types when I took a test (it turns out Type Nines are good at adopting the behaviours of other types!) I also later found out that healthy Type Nines behave like healthy Type Threes, which could explain why I felt an affinity for the Type Three description.


My point is, study the types first before deciding which one best describes you!


TYPE 5 OVERVIEW: THE INVESTIGATOR OR OBSERVER


Zoomed-in drawing of Type 5 on the Enneagram

PERSONALITY TRAITS

· Intense

· Cerebral

· Knowledgeable

· Perceptive

· Curious

· Innovative

· Secretive

· Isolated


SUMMARY

“Fives are alert, insightful and curious. They are able to concentrate and focus on developing complex ideas and skills. Independent, innovative and inventive, they can also become preoccupied with their thoughts and imaginary constructs. They become detached, yet high-strung and intense. They typically have problems with eccentricity, nihilism, and isolation. At their Best: visionary pioneers, often ahead of their time, and able to see the world in an entirely new way”.


DESIRES

To be knowledgeable, capable and competent.


FEARS

Of being useless, helpless, incapable, or stagnant.


MOTIVATIONS

· Possess knowledge and understanding

· Have everything worked out so they can defend themselves from threats


WINGS

Five with a Four-Wing: the Iconoclast

Sensitive and can come across as self-absorbed. You are introverted and independent, with an interest in the unusual, the creative, and the eccentric.


Five with a Six-Wing: the Problem Solver

More anxious and cautious, but also more sociable and loyal to your loved ones. You surround yourself with people, though you can be perceived as socially awkward.


DIRECTION OF GROWTH

Adopt behaviours of a healthy Type Eight: self-confident and decisive.


DIRECTION OF STRESS

Adopt negative behaviours of a Type Seven: scattered and hyperactive.


ARE YOU A TYPE 5 CREATIVE?

Do you recognise yourself in the description above?


If you are a Type Five creative then you want to understand how the world works. You greatly value knowledge, insight and understanding. You are always searching, questioning, and delving into various topics in-depth, possibly including the inner world of your own imagination. You do not accept others’ opinions, preferring to test the truth of statements for yourself.


It is likely that you observe and contemplate the world from a position of distance rather than taking part in it yourself (and in fact may not feel confident in your ability to participate in the normal world). You may feel more confident working things out in your mind rather than engaging directly with activities. After immersing yourself in your observations and learning, you internalise that knowledge, and may then feel able to tell people what you know about a given topic. While you benefit from close relationships, you are highly introverted, and too many connections can feel stifling and overwhelming.


You may not be interested in exploring familiar and established ideas, and may instead be attracted to unusual, overlooked, secret, or bizarre topics. You want to build new niches for yourself so you can obtain independence and confidence. You may have at least one topic in which you have a high degree of expertise, which helps you feel capable and gives you confidence to connect with the world. You may focus intensely on mastering the topic that has captured your interest.


Your intense focus could lead to remarkable discoveries and innovations, but it can also cause problems: distraction from practical issues; eccentricity; social isolation; distraction from underlying anxieties and insecurities.



A child's drawing, which appears both chaotic and ordered
Type 5 creatives are motivated by knowledge and curiosity


YOUR WORK PATTERN

You enjoy an intellectual challenge and acquiring new knowledge. You value self-improvement and would stagnate if you weren’t able to grow.


You are a natural entrepreneur as you thrive when working alone. It is likely that you would prefer to act independently and not rely on others, although you should not discount the knowledge and expertise others may bring to your creative world.


YOUR STRENGTHS

· Perceptive: objective and insightful observations of information and situations, and can process complex data and ideas.

· Curious: may have expertise in various fields.

· Unsentimental: can put emotions to one side.

· Self-sufficient: you protect your autonomy, privacy, and independence. You minimise your own needs and rely as little as possible on others.

· Inventive: unconventional ideas and knowledge enable you to be innovative, pioneering and visionary.


YOUR WEAKNESSES

· Isolation: you may miss out on help, expertise, and emotional connection with others.

· Unsentimental: can appear to lack empathy and emotion.


RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GROWTH

· Pay attention to when your thinking and speculating takes you outside your immediate experience and connection with others.

· Make an effort to relax and unwind (in a healthy way), e.g. through exercise.

· Get advice from those you trust when gaining perspective on your situation.

· Notice when you are intensely involved in projects that do not support your self-esteem, confidence, or life situation.

· Over-communicate with others you collaborate with to avoid misunderstanding. Trust that they may have useful knowledge and skills to bring to the table.

· Open up emotionally and work out conflicts with others rather than socially withdrawing. It will help you to have intimate friends who you can trust.


TYPE 5 CHARACTERS IN YOUR ART

I will speak to writing because I am most familiar with this, but the lessons can be applied to other creative art forms.


WHERE MIGHT YOUR CHARACTER START?

The ‘average’ Type Five individual might start off absorbed in their inner world. They conceptualise, study and work things out in their mind before acting. They may be a specialist in a topic and / or be an intellectual, and may challenge the accepted ways of doing things. They may become interested in unusual topics, e.g. those with dark and disturbing elements.


They may become increasingly detached from the practical world: preoccupied with their complicated ideas, imagination, visions and interpretations rather than reality.

They may be intense, abrasive and highly-strung, taking a negative view towards anything which interferes with their inner world and their (potentially radical and extreme) point of view.


HOW MIGHT YOUR CHARACTER GROW?

A healthy Type Five character may become a visionary: broadly comprehending the world and profoundly influencing it. They are open-minded and take a holistic view of things around them. They have a small number of meaningful friendships.


The character may make pioneering discoveries and find new ways of doing things or thinking about things. They may remain an expert in their chosen field of interest, attaining skillful mastery within it. However, they are careful not to allow their hunger for knowledge to prevent them making connections and participating in the real world.


The character observes the world around them with high levels of perceptiveness, intelligence and insight. They are able to achieve high levels of concentration and nothing escapes their notice. They are able to balance complex issues and data and solve complex problems. Their foresight and predictions are highly accurate. They may be whimsical, independent and idiosyncratic.


HOW MIGHT YOUR CHARACTER DISINTEGRATE?

A Type Five character is in danger of becoming an eccentric, nihilistic recluse who is isolated from reality. They may become unstable, argumentative and self-destructive, with reduced empathy for others, and may both reject and repel all forms of social attachment. Their ideas may be both obsessive and frightening, and they may try and force their beliefs on others. The character may lose their sense of reality and become more and more isolated, seeking false safety in their own knowledge and thoughts.


The unhealthy Type Five individual may be prone to psychosis, delusions, phobias., and suicide. They are likely to neglect physical and psychological self-care.


DEVELOPING YOUR TYPE 5 CHARACTER: WORKED EXAMPLE


Let’s say the one-line theme of your story is ‘you can’t truly understand the world without emotional connection’. You could make your main character a Type Five because they crave knowledge and understanding, and are also highly introverted and independent. They begin the story with the misbelief ‘I must stay away from others to gain true understanding of the world (the ‘lie’, or the opposite of the story’s theme).



Single car driving on a lonely road
Type 5 character isolates themselves due to their misbelief


In the beginning the character may be isolated, eccentric, and thoroughly absorbed in their work. They do not take care of themselves, and they are rude and abrasive to others because they do not want connection and do not trust their knowledge and expertise. Maybe they are a scientist in a university and are forced to attend a scientific conference to present their research. At the conference they meet a like-minded scientist in a related field and they form a rare connection. They become friends and allies, trusting each other and learning from each other, and each providing a different perspective as they passionately debate ideas. One of these debates leads to a ground-breaking scientific discovery which neither could have achieved without the other.


If the protagonist is in a negative change arc then they may reject the friendship of the other scientist. They sink further and further into isolation and self-neglect, until they are no longer able to win funding to continue the research that excites and consumes them.


This is just one example. Your theme may not suggest an obvious Enneagram type that ‘fits’, but it could be interesting to ‘try out’ your theme with protagonists and antagonists of different Enneagram types to see how these dynamics could impact your story and plot. Remember: a protagonist or antagonist (or any side character) could be any of the Enneagram types, and could grow or disintegrate within their type (or stay the same) during the course of the story.


TYPE 5 CHARACTERS IN WELL-KNOWN STORIES


EXAMPLES FROM HARRY POTTER

I do not agree with or condone any form of transphobia, and have not given a single penny to She-who-must-not-be-named since she outed herself. However, the story of Harry Potter helped me a lot as a child, and its characters remain some of the best known in the literary world. That is why I have chosen Harry Potter characters as examples in my discussion of the Enneagram, so that hopefully you can appreciate how the Enneagram might be used to help create strong, unique and conflicted characters. These categorisations are based on my own judgment and knowledge of the characters: please feel free to disagree (and let me know in the comments if you do!)


ALBUS DUMBLEDORE

The Headmaster of Hogwarts is a good example of a (mostly) healthy Type Five character. He is world-renowned for his high levels of knowledge, intelligence, and brilliance, and is about as expert as it gets when it comes to the study and utilisation of magic.


Through Harry’s relationship with him, we see that Professor Dumbledore is highly perceptive: he is so skilled at judging the situations and people around him that his predictions about future actions and events almost always come true, even many years later.


Interestingly we also see evidence of some of the downsides of being a Type Five. Although Dumbledore is kind, personable, and has high levels of social skills, he has a flair for eccentricity. He is isolated and secretive, and tells no one about the deepest darkest parts of his life and past, including Harry, with whom he has a close bond. We also see evidence of his vulnerability to becoming intensely fascinated by topics which interest him but which would cause harm if he pursued them, e.g. the Deathly Hallows.


EXAMPLES FROM ENCANTO

Encanto is one of my favourite films from recent times. The characters are unique and fascinating, and the arcs they undergo are powerful and relatable. Therefore, I have also used Encanto to provide examples of the different Enneagram types in character-based art.


DOLORES MADRIGAL

At first I found Dolores difficult to categorise because she doesn’t present in a ‘typical’ way, but after much thought I classified her as a Type Five (possibly with a Six-wing). She is a great example of how you can use the Enneagram system in subtle rather than obvious ways.


Dolores is part of a large family and does not seem especially isolated. However, in observing her interactions with family members she doesn’t seem especially close to any of them, and acts in a slightly odd fashion around them, e.g. the nervous sound she makes when speaking with others.


However, for me the biggest clue to her likely being a Type Five is in her ability: phenomenal hearing. As with other Encanto characters, her power seems linked to her Enneagram type (in her case, as a way of gaining knowledge). As with the other characters, her gift is both a blessing and a curse. She is able to hear, collect and process the behavioural patterns and conversations of both her family members and those living in the community. She seems to thrive on holding this wealth of knowledge about the people around her, but this knowledge also makes her socially awkward and apparently incapable of keeping the information to herself.


However, she finds connection with a love interest by the end of the story: one she knew was a kind and trustworthy man because of overheard conversations between himself and his mother.


RESOURCES

I couldn’t find much that was geared specifically to fictional characters in writing (or other art forms). However, there is much more to explore within the Enneagram system, and I have listed some helpful resources below:

The Enneagram Institute: https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/

Don Riso and Russ Hudson have published multiple books on the Enneagram system

These resources provided a foundation for the blog posts in this series, which I then applied to understanding your creative work pattern and crafting fictional characters.


BEFORE YOU GO…

Are you an Enneagram Type 5? Are any of your characters Type 5? Please join in the discussion (contact details below).


Please feel free to comment on the article and/or contact me if you have any questions!


Socials: @cbentleywriter on most of them!




Buy me a coffee: https://ko-fi.com/clairebentley

I welcome respectful and friendly discussion on the topics I write about, including if your opinion differs from my own.


Disclaimer: generative AI

I do not use generative AI to produce or inform my blog, my images, or my fiction. All of my content is generated by the chaotic firing of my own (human) brain! (I have access to some images through my Wix subscription). I do not consent to the use of my content, images, or fiction to train generative AI models. Please contact me to discuss permission and compensation if you wish to use my content in this way.

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