I’ve taken my share of Cosmo quizzes over the years (Are you a tiger or a house cat in the bedroom? Are you ready to settle down? What’s your relationship IQ?), yet I give them about as much credence as kids give to Mad Libs. Which is to say, none. These quizzes are great for killing time in my dentist’s waiting room or at the nail salon, but the results have never altered my behavior or my opinions.
When it comes to personality tests, I approach the results with the same circumspection as I do when reading my horoscope. The occasional similarities are fun but nothing I plan my day around. So imagine my surprise when I recently took the Enneagram Institute’s personality test and discovered that not only am I Type Four: The Individualist, I really AM Type Four. Reading the corresponding description was like reading a diary I didn’t know I’d written.
I sent the link to a dear friend and artist. As I’d suspected, she was also a Four. “How can they see into my mind like that?!” she demanded.
Type Fours are characterized as self-aware, sensitive, emotionally honest, and creative, yet can be moody and self-conscious. Their basic fear is that they have no identity or personal significance, and their corresponding basic desire is to find themselves, to create an identity. Healthy Fours are “inspired and highly creative…able to renew themselves and transform their experiences.
Sound like any artists you know?
I am in good company. My fellow Fours include Edgar Allen Poe, Virginia Wolfe, J.D. Salinger, Tennessee Williams, Billie Holiday, Frida Kahlo, Anais Nin, and Amy Winehouse. Talented and tortured artists, the lot of them, although some were better able to “transform their experiences” than others.
At their worst, Fours are “despairing, feel hopeless and become self-destructive, possibly abusing alcohol or drugs to escape. In the extreme: emotional breakdown or suicide is likely.” (um, remind you of rocks-in-her-pockets Virginia Wolfe? Or Billie Holiday, who died at age 44 of heart failure due to drug use? Or Amy Winehouse, only 27 when the booze finally killed her?)
At their best, Fours are “profoundly creative, expressing the personal and the universal, possibly in a work of art. Inspired, self-renewing and regenerating: able to transform all their experiences into something valuable: self-creative.” Another of my fellow Fours, Alanis Morissette, for instance, transformed a really really bad breakup into one of the top selling albums by a female artist. Anne Rice channeled her pain over the death of her young daughter to create the doomed child vampire Claudia in Interview with a Vampire.
So. We can overcome.
I have written stories almost as long as I’ve been able to write my name. This seems more nature than nurture. Based on our personality types, are some of us destined to be artists? Which comes first, the artistic temperament or the need to express (and perhaps define) oneself through a creative outlet?
Or am I simply reading too much into this?
Curious about your type? Take the short form test for free at http://www.enneagraminstitute.com/. No, I am not a paid (or even unpaid) sponsor. Just a complex, sensitive writer-type.