Enneagram Fours are among the most individualistic types of the Enneagram. They’re quirky, artsy, nonconformist and have a deep drive to reveal their authentic selves through their creative pursuits.
But the most basic definition of you, Enneagram Four, is your core fear that you’re somehow inherently flawed. And that means you can’t attain the happiness others have. This fear drives you to find what makes you unique and express your individuality.
Unfortunately, Fours can also be prone to self-deception. Without realizing it, they may often gaslight themselves into doubting their own thoughts and get stuck in a negative self-image.
How can people gaslight themselves?
Various definitions of gaslighting exist, but they all boil down to one basic concept — the subjective doubting of reality, often caused by someone repeatedly questioning you. Psychology Today defines it as “an insidious form of manipulation and psychological control… [in which] [v]ictims of gaslighting are deliberately and systematically fed false information that leads them to question what they know to be true, often about themselves.”
The behavior is associated with narcissistic personalities and other manipulative types. But what about when you gaslight yourself and no other party is involved?
If you find yourself doubting your goals, capabilities, memories or other parts of your life, and it begins to affect how you think, behave and respond to the world around you, you are gaslighting yourself. The first part of overcoming this is to identify your gaslighting habits.
An Enneagram 4 may gaslight themselves thanks to insecurities and “moodiness.”
One of the key traits of Enneatype Fours is “moodiness." However, mood swings shouldn’t always have a negative connotation. Let’s call the Enneagram Type Four’s habit of delving into melancholy places a superpower — an ability to explore their inner worlds and use them as a creative advantage.
But when an Enneagram Four is too negative and melancholic, they may be working against themselves. Imagine a merry-go-round that stops and starts but never gets a smooth rotation, thanks to its irregular movement. When an Enneagram Four feeds their insecurities about their worthiness as an artist or person, they may fall into a deep depression and gaslight themselves into thinking they are to blame for their unhappiness. This depression hinders their creative side — the very thing that makes them happy — and leaves the Enneagram Four in a cycle of accepting the lies they create about themselves.
Common lies Enneagram Fours should rebuke are internal loops like:
- “I am not good enough.”
- “I don’t have any talent.”
- “I have no worth (or substance) outside of my art.”
- “I can’t relate to anyone.”
- “No one understands me.”
- “I will never find happiness.”
- “What is the point of my life?”
- “I’m getting nowhere in life.”
Replace those thoughts with something positive instead. Better yet, practice positive affirmations when you’re feeling blue. These Enneagram Four survival strategies can also help you learn better coping mechanisms to avoid self-deprecation.
Gaslighting may happen in response to criticism (good or bad)
Type Fours don't particularly like receiving criticism, whether of their work or their character. When they’re in a healthy place, they’ll learn this is a part of growing as a person. But the average or unhealthy Enneagram Four will find themselves so unsettled by criticism, they listen to the words of years past on repeat, not as a mantra to become better, but as an additional track on their album of self-doubt.
For example, I’m a Type Four who’s had some criticism affect me more than others. If something dinged my pride, I adopted the words people had said to me, gaslighting myself into believing them. Whether the criticism was constructive or not was beside the point — I twisted it into a negative self-doubt tape I played whenever I felt low. So, if I told myself I couldn’t draw enough times, I stopped drawing altogether because I believed it was true.
Type Four can overcome this cycle by combating these “recorded” thoughts and reminding themselves that one person’s opinion shouldn't overshadow their worth. If Type Fours can learn to take constructive criticism and throw out the hyper-critical comments that don’t serve them, they’ll become better stewards of their personal growth.
An Enneagram 4 may gaslight themselves in social situations
Enneagram Fours want to have deep connections with others, but they also have constant thoughts about how different they are from everyone else. This can make them feel too expressive in group conversations or just plain uncomfortable in social situations. When anxious, they gaslight themselves by focusing on why they’re different, boxing themselves in. In doing so, they tell themselves they have nothing in common with anyone in the room, which further alienates them and may make them avoid socializing altogether.
This tendency can be hard for Type Fours to overcome, but it helps to focus on some common ground they might use to connect with people. Type Fours distort their reality by assuming they’re too different to develop a relationship with someone new. They should, instead, try to find a person or two they gravitate toward in a setting like this, embrace getting to know them and keep an open mind as they engage in conversations.
An unhealthy Type 4 may play the victim script.
During stress, Type Four disintegrates into an unhealthy Type Two. In this state, unhealthy Type Fours becomes critical of others and play the victim. This means a Type Four has an internal script about why others are to blame for whatever is wrong in their life, and they aren’t afraid to act like a victim to gain the sympathy of others.
Type Fours need to get out of their heads and realize repeating a victim script to themselves is a form of gaslighting. They’re altering their reality by intensifying the negatives in their life and ignoring any positives, making them question (and ignore) what’s really happening. If they need to change something about their life, they should look for constructive ways to remove stress and make an actionable plan to alter their path. This is much healthier than blaming others and will help the Type Four get their emotions and stress levels back on track.
As a note, in the Enneagram, disintegration isn’t always negative — it’s a stress response — but how you deal with said stress matters. If you’re giving to others out of obligation (not desire) and seeking reassurance in exchange for a false friendship, it’s time to reassess.
Embrace the truth: how to realize you’re gaslighting yourself and move on
The above is a list of common scenarios in which an Enneagram Four might be gaslighting themselves, but it isn’t exhaustive. There are many other ways in which Type Fours might be distorting their reality. The first step to catching yourself is being aware that it’s happening.
If you’re an Enneagram Four who identifies with any of these behaviors, you’ve already made the first step to changing the habit.
Remember, changing habits won’t happen overnight — it may be a day-to-day struggle. But in making changes, you can become a healthier Enneagram Four and learn ways to cope with (and hopefully eliminate) these negative inner scripts. Most of all, remember everyone’s personal growth is unique. It doesn’t have to be a linear journey. You can take the time you need to become the best version of yourself.