(This was originally submitted to an IEA project on “Enneagram types from the inside out” and published in the “9 Points Magazine” October/December 2010 issue.)
There are two main ways people misunderstand us Fives (Observer types). The first way often involves projections, which may be anything from “oh you poor dear, you’re so socially inept you need help…” to “you’re so quiet because you think you’re superior to us…” to “you-re so smart I’m scared of you!”
1. I don’t think I fit into the socially inept category. I’m far from a social genius, but I’ve heard a couple of people say I’m “poised,” maybe because I’ve developed the art of the poker face, which some people may take for poise.
2. In the past I was quieter than I am now. If I want to be heard I’ll usually speak up. I’ve learned it’s a good idea to let people know who I am before they start inventing things about me. I also feel pretty non-judgmental as I think most of us Fives are. We are different from most other people—not better—which isn’t easy, so that helps us be compassionate.
3. A lot of Fives seem smart because they love to collect information. I’ve never had a good memory for some kinds of information but I do have a good memory for music.
Another way people misunderstand us is from Enneagram stereotyping. For example, I’m a “Feeling type” in the MBTITM system, an INFP; I have a strong Four wing. (Most Fives are “Thinking types.”) My feelings happen to me immediately; they don’t delay until I’m home or alone. The knowledge I crave is often emotional. I prefer movies, for example, that are personal, with artistic photography and music—not grand smashing epics. Some Fives avoid drama because it’s too much for them. I like it if it’s good art that holds together well. People and art need integrity; I don’t like glitzy stuff or phoniness. I don’t think I’m cold, a machine, or a bundle of fear as some of the stereotyping goes.
Something related to being misunderstood is that I sometimes have a hard time translating the thoughts and feelings in my mind into words. They will be in the form of a kind of structure or picture. This isn’t a problem if I’m writing and have plenty of time, but in conversation you have to quickly make what’s in your mind verbal in order to keep up.
Some Fives may feel they don’t exist. I’ve been asked what “not existing” means. For me it’s a combination of not being noticed, not feeling involved in what’s going on, and feeling as though I live in a different world. Most Fives are introverts. We often aren’t stimulating to extroverts (until they get to know us) so they don’t see us.
One advantage of being a Five or an introvert is my ability to entertain myself. I gave my book, “The Happy Introvert,” its title because I was often running into people who thought introverts were morose or unfortunate. I wanted to dispel those attitudes right on the cover. Anyway, if I’m in a doctor’s office, for example, with nothing to do, I can look at the bare wall and find something interesting in its imperfections. Our curiosity is a big advantage. Many of us are especially happy alone. We’re good friends to ourselves. I never have enough time to engage in all my interests.
I wouldn’t be surprised if most of us Fives say that our social skills could be improved. For example, I can’t imagine being an enthusiastic catalyst to a group of people. How can I call myself an Observer when observing hasn’t taught me how to negotiate social scenes with ease? I must have a gene missing that would have helped me pick those skills up. I’m just not going to break into a conversation people are having at a cocktail party, for example. But I don’t even like cocktail parties. They’re too noisy and—have you ever noticed—people seem to laugh at nothing just because it’s time to laugh?
When I was in grade school, I’d often feel like a disappointment to the adults at recesses and lunch because I didn’t know how to join a group at play and I’d never just barge in. This must come from my own dislike of being barged in upon. So I’d go off to a part of the school ground that was overgrown and enjoy the meadow, trees, and birds. Other than that, I’d watch the other children. I’d feel bored in school a lot.
It’s easiest to be with people who chatter enough for me to feel I’m off the hook as far as starting conversations goes. Maybe it’s a form of social anxiety that my mind goes blank, for there’s plenty in there I could talk about. I don’t understand how some people can talk on and on about what seems like nothing.
When I was in my early forties, I made a project out of making as many friends as I could in order to get over feeling Awkward around people. I have learned how to feel comfortable being me and no longer feel as much like an alien thanks to that decision. My friends help me feel I belong.
Music was my big interest from my earliest memory. I taught myself how to play the piano at first, and then I talked my parents into getting me a teacher. I liked making up stories with dolls, including making villages for them out of twigs at the base of large trees.
My father was also a Five. He was a scientist and I admired his knowledge, his dignity, his sense of humor, and his character. One of his sisters, a Seven, was another hero of mine. We’d sit in a restaurant and she’d make up stories about the other customers. It was as though she was giving them Enneagram numbers but it was way before our current Enneagram of personality days. Her stories were full of intrigue, adventure, and humor. I found out decades later that the bridge parties she claimed to be attending were really trips to gambling casinos.
More on Me (no, I didn’t say Moron Me)
I was asked what my best and worst qualities are. I’m punctual, competent, I try to be objective, I like to be kind to people, and my friends seem to appreciate my warped sense of humor, which is also an asset when it comes to making cartoons. I’m not always as diplomatic as I’d like to be. My worst quality from deep inside of myself is my self-criticism. It never stops. I try to love myself more and quit beating myself up but I haven’t yet reached my goal.
My family is mostly my husband, my four children and my eight grand children. I completely devoted myself to raising my children and I loved it. I got to stay home with them, teaching piano lessons after my husband returned from teaching high school. I quit teaching when I became involved in writing books.
These days I write a blog every week, one on WordPress
I used to think of myself as a self-preservation subtype. I don’t follow the stereotype—for example, I don’t horde things—in fact, I try to keep my possessions to a minimum. I do have the introverted personality that seems consistent with self-preservation, however (not that all s.p.’s are introverts). I spend little time in groups and I don’t have the attention-getting mannerisms you see in many one-to-one subtypes. I can see why Mario Sikora thinks I am a social subtype, however, because of my motivation for writing my books: I wanted to spread the Enneagram starting with “The Enneagram Made Easy.” I wanted the Enneagram community to read them, but the bottom line was always “can someone who doesn’t know the Enneagram understand this?” I wanted to keep our wonderful system alive and growing so I reached outside the system to people in relationships, parents, children, music lovers, and people wanting help with their careers. I’m always hoping to draw in people who’ve never heard of the Enneagram. That’s why in “The Career Within You” Ingrid Stabb and I took the big step of hardly mentioning the word that scares some people off: “Enneagram.”
If I could leave a legacy I would set an example for everyone to think clearly and rationally, to be kind and inclusive, and to take the unconscious part of their psyche seriously. Building upon C. G. Jung’s legacy, another hero of mine, I record and draw my dreams and attend dream classes to help me work with them. Our inner worlds are not only fascinating and informative, in ways they are more real than the outer world. I would like my legacy to include a message against perpetuating hatred, racism, and imperialism and for the principles of humanity, compassion, and reason. The Enneagram can help bring people together. I would like to leave a trail of acceptance, thoughtfulness, empathy, non-violence, respect for nature, and appreciation for the arts in my wake.
– Elizabeth Wagele (to see original article Click Here)