Exploring the Enneagram – The Number Five.


Basic Fear: Of being helpless, useless, incapable (overwhelmed)

Basic Desire: To be capable and competent

Superego Message: You are good or okay if you have mastered something.

Fives are discoverers, researchers and inventors, they want to find out why things are the way they are and to understand how the world works. They love the deep dive into discovery with a need to test the truth of most assumptions for themselves. In health they connect their knowledge to a search for wisdom and have a quiet inner power. They may naturally possess strong contemplative gifts and are tenderly emotional, loving, polite, hospitable and gentle.

Underneath the pursuit of knowledge are deep insecurities about their ability to function successfully in the world. They sense that they don’t have the ability to do things as well as others. From early on they have lived with a feeling of emptiness and seek to fill this void with thoughts, ideas, knowledge, silence, and space. They believe that within the safety of their minds they will eventually learn how to navigate the world and therefore one day rejoin it. Fives spend a lot of time observing and contemplating and then internalise their knowledge giving them a sense of self-confidence.

They aren’t interested in exploring what is already familiar, rather Fives want something unusual and insightful to say. They like knowing things that others don’t or creating an experience that no-one else has had. They like to have one area in which they have a degree of expertise that others don’t with the belief that if they can do one thing really well they will be equipped to meet the challenges of life.

Of their emotional life, Richard Rohr says:

Fives try not to be drawn into the whirlpool of feelings and events that are a fact of life. It’s important to them to maintain calm – at least externally – and to keep their emotions under control. In reality, most Fives have an intense emotional life. But at the moment something happens it’s as if their feelings are blocked. Fives register it with their eyes, ears, and brain; and they can stand alongside the event with seeming objectivity. Once they are alone, they can begin to evaluate it. Using their head, feelings are ordered and “brought into line.” That’s the method by which Fives gradually get in touch with their emotions.

As children, fives often didn’t feel safe within their families and lived with a sense of danger of being overwhelmed by their parents. This led them to retreat into a private space away from the family – mentally, physically and emotionally. Young fives usually spend a lot of time alone, they can shy away from others and instead occupy their minds and imaginations with books, musical instruments, collections and computer games. They don’t expect anything from others except to be left alone to pursue their own interests without being hindered by other’s demands or needs including their own emotional needs.

The way home for the Five is a contemplative practice of silence. They are most rooted in the mental realm and a detachment from this is helpful. In giving permission within silence to detach from the exhausting mental activity of finding answers they are able to connect with God and within the silence they realise that they’re accepted just as they are safe in the unknown even without all the answers.

Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson write about the emergence of Essence in the Five:

The Five’s drive for knowledge and mastery is the personality’s attempt to re-create an Essence quality that we might call clarity or inner knowing. With clarity comes the Essential quality of non-attachment, which is not emotional repression or detachment but the lack of identification with any particular point of view. Fives understand that any position or idea is useful only in a very limited set of circumstances, perhaps only in the unique set of circumstances in which it arose. Inner guidance allows them to flow from one way of seeing things to another without getting fixated on any of them.

Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations
Don Richard Risso and Russ Hudson,  The Wisdom of the Enneagram
Christopher L Heurtz, The Sacred Enneagram

The Enneagram can be extremely useful as you continue your journey of growth and transformation. As a Spiritual Director, I can join you in discovering more about yourself through exploring The Enneagram and your Type within it.