Enneagram Type Fours are self-aware, sensitive and reserved, and they may be the hardest type to understand. They are deeply in touch with their own emotions, as well as empathetic and understanding of others’ feelings. To anyone who isn’t a Four, they can seem distant, unsociable and moody. 

But are they really melancholy and morose or is there something else going on with Fours?

Type Four is known as the Individualist, because they seek their own unique identity and often see themselves as fundamentally different from other people. At the same time, this difference can lead them to feeling isolated, vulnerable and disconnected from others, so they can suffer from depression, anxiety or self-pity, withdrawing from the world or overindulging in food, drugs or alcohol for consolation.

At their heart, Fours are sensitive, creative people with a stereotypical “artistic temperament.” But what does that mean? Are they just weird, artsy types who want to be left alone? For Type Fours, and the people who care about them, there is a lot more happening beneath the surface.

What moodiness means for a Four

Fours may seem withdrawn, especially in groups, but they want relationships just like everyone else. They also want to be understood for who they really are and to make a difference in the world. Unfortunately, Fours are often misunderstood, making them withdraw even more. Here are a few more reasons why Fours appear moody and what’s really going on behind the scenes.

Lacking connection. Type Fours enjoy spending time alone to process their thoughts, work on their creative ideas, and recharge. But while they may feel socially awkward or shy, they do not want to be alone all the time. What they really crave is not company, but connection. Fours want to build authentic relationships with people who understand and appreciate them. But if they can’t find the love they need, they can begin to develop their identity based on how different they are from others, while secretly wishing they could fit in. 

Holding onto the past. Fours tend to remember feelings and experiences from the past, and can spend a lot of time feeling resentful towards people who have hurt them. They can ruminate about painful events so much that they forget about the positive parts of their lives and remain focused on their negative feelings.

Struggling with self-esteem. Fours are different from other people, which can lead them to believe there is something wrong with them. They yearn for a unique identity, but struggle to feel good about themselves when they are rejected, criticised or shunned from social activities. As their self-esteem sinks, they find it increasingly difficult to reach out to others and retreat further into their private world.

Feeling overwhelmed. Fours are often highly sensitive people who are easily overstimulated by too much sensory information around them, such as noise, bright lights, crowds or a frantic pace of life. Consequently, they often retreat, seeking refuge from a stressful world through solitude. While other types may see Fours as moody, these sensitive souls may just be reacting to an irritating situation that others don’t notice.

Needing creativity. Most Fours are creative individuals who need to express their emotions and ideas through a work of art. They also need an outlet for all the sensory information they absorb, so they can turn unpleasant feelings into something meaningful. Without a creative release, they can become angry, frustrated, despairing and self-isolated.

Becoming Your Best Type Four

When they are happy and healthy, Fours are extremely creative, expressing their personal feelings and universal experiences in a work of art that connects them with others and gives them a sense of purpose. They are inspired and self-motivated, knowing they are bringing something valuable to the world. 

So how can Fours move from stress to success? Here are a few tips:

1. Surrender negative beliefs. In an effort to create an identity, Fours may be hanging on to ideas that are untrue, according to The Wisdom of the Enneagram. They may have convinced themselves they are not like other people or that there’s something wrong with them. But when they stop this negative self-talk and realise how much they have to offer, those dark feelings begin to fade.

2. Don’t define yourself by your feelings. Fours have very powerful emotions and it can be easy for them to identify themselves with their emotions. But feelings are temporary and it’s important for Fours to remember that their emotions are only an indication of what’s happening in the present moment, not who they are.

3. Find work you love. Fours are often happiest when they are engaged in meaningful work that allows them to use their creativity that benefits others. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike or until you are in the right mood. A regular commitment to your creative work will help to develop your self-esteem and confidence and create an identity you can be proud of.

4. Remember to breathe. When we are stressed, we often forget to breathe, which increases our heart rate and makes it harder to relax and think clearly. Fours often feel overwhelmed by their environment, especially when there are a lot of people around. So take a moment to breathe deeply. Follow this simple breathing exercise whenever you feel stressed.

5. Reach out to others. Fours pride themselves on their independence and individuality, but it’s okay to ask for help too. Sometimes other people can help you to work out your problems and talking to someone can give you the sense of connection you’re looking for.

How To Connect with Fours

If you have a friend or loved one who is a Type Four, there are a few things you can do to get closer and make a lasting connection with them.

  • Avoid small talk. Fours are interested in deep and meaningful conversation and find casual chit chat stressful, so skip the small talk and engage in authentic discussion about issues that matter.
  • Show your feelings. Fours value their emotions and don’t like them to be dismissed. When you talk to a Four, share your feelings, avoid being too logical and listen when they express their emotions. This will help to build the relationship they are yearning for.
  • Be encouraging. Many Type Fours struggle to find their identity, which is very important to them, so encourage them to be themselves and appreciate them for who they are. If Fours become withdrawn or upset, it’s often because they are stressed, so don’t tell them to ‘just calm down.’ Instead, offer your compassion and understanding.
  • Be sensitive. Fours are often highly sensitive people who can find it difficult to receive feedback. Start with something positive and express criticism as an opportunity for growth.

The Final Word

Fours may seem moody and withdrawn at times, but it’s usually because they’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed or misunderstood. At healthy levels, these types are creative, smart, compassionate individuals who care about others and are unafraid to show their feelings. So they need to find ways to use their sensitivity and creativity to express their unique identity. 

But they also need understanding. Instead of judging these quiet, solitary people, other types need to recognise that Fours often just feel different from others and hope that someone will reach out and get to know them for the interesting, complex, talented people they are. 

Deborah Ward
Deborah Ward is a writer and an INFJ. She has a passion for writing articles, blog posts and books that inspire, motivate and encourage people to build self-confidence and live up to their potential. She has written two books on mindfulness, Overcoming Low Self-Esteem with Mindfulness and Overcoming Fear with Mindfulness. Her latest book, Sense and Sensitivity, is based on her Psychology Today blog of the same name. It's about highly sensitive people and is out now. Deborah lives in Hampshire, England, where she enjoys watching documentaries, running and taking long walks in the country, especially ones that finish at a cosy pub.