Searchers and skeptics, Fives have a restless need to understand the world around them. These types have a hunger for mastery – an itch to develop a skill in an area that others haven’t already explored. By differentiating themselves and testing out their knowledge in the real world they hope to develop confidence and a sense of peace. However, many Fives get seduced by endless analysis and isolation. This obsession with info-gathering can pull them into a black hole of insecurity and fear. Suddenly, the conceptual world is everything to them, and the real world drifts away. They become detached, fearful, and nihilistic. In this article, we’ll explore seven common struggles of average Fives, and we’ll also give you some tips for overcoming these difficulties!
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7 Struggles of the Enneagram 5 Personality Type
#1 – Feeling Misunderstood
Fives are often plagued by uncertainty and discomfort in social situations. People feel inundating and unpredictable, and Fives often feel misunderstood by them. Most Fives grew up in homes where they weren’t mirrored or understood fully by anyone. As a result, they cope by gathering knowledge and trying to gain mastery in a subject. Deep down they crave a sense of competency in something – something that will set them apart and make them feel able to survive life. But at average to unhealthy levels, Fives feel like that sense of competency is always out of reach. In social settings, they may get chastised for not adhering to “social norms” or for being too quiet, serious, or esoteric. Fives need relationships as much as everyone else, but they often find other people intrusive, nonsensical, and confusing.
#2 – Feeling “Stuck in Their Heads”
Fives often feel like they are swimming in a sea of concepts, ideas, and thoughts and that the real world is miles away. They crave a sense of immersion in real experience, but their mind keeps detaching from what’s real. People become interesting models or constructs to decipher, and everything in nature just sparks ideas in their mind that pull them further away from the here-and-now. Over time, Fives can find themselves lonely and tripping over the literal objects around them as they struggle to get through life as they live primarily in the world of their mind rather than the real world surrounding them.
#3 – Not Having Their Alone Time Respected
Often introverted by nature, Fives need more alone time than the typical person. People often overwhelm them, and they can struggle with over-stimulation and irritation when their time is filled with chatter and socializing. While detaching too much from the world of people can be a bad thing, Fives still need a solid chunk of unstructured time to themselves each day. When loved ones don’t understand this need, or barge in on them a lot, this can make them withdraw even more and become more distant in their relationships.
#4 – Feeling “Not Enough”
Fives often feel stuck in a world of their own; a place of wonder, discovery, and often eccentricity. Often alone, they wonder if they’ll ever be ready to take on the challenges outside of their inner world. Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson describe this in their book, Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery, “They usually try to avoid getting deeply involved with others because people are unpredictable and potentially demanding. Average Fives believe there must be a catch. They cannot imagine why anyone would be interested in them personally and fear that others may expect something from them which they will not be able to deliver.” This same insecurity can show up in careers or any activity that forces them to interact with the outside world. While on the outside they may seem stoic, sullen, and “devil-may-care” inside they often worry that they aren’t competent enough to handle the challenges that an unpredictable world might hurl at them.
#5 – Facing the Darkness and Being Haunted By It
Fives have an attraction to understanding the darker aspects of life. They believe that by learning everything they can about the monsters that haunt them they can overcome them. The occult, the bizarre, the disturbing – nothing is off-limits. Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson say, “Fives think a lot about the things that they find most frightening. They may even make a career out of studying or creating works of art out of things that scare them…Fives try to control fear by focusing their thoughts on the frightening thing itself, not their feelings about it. But they cannot wholly avoid the emotional impact of the ideas-with the result that they both consciously and unconsciously fill their minds with disturbing images.” At average maturity, Fives believe that only their thoughts can be trusted. As a result, when their thoughts become riddled with terrifying figures and stories, they can feel an increasing sense of inner panic. This can show up in certain eccentricities and compulsive behaviors, like sleeping with children’s cartoons playing or refusing to talk to go to certain locations where they’ve imagined terrible things happening.
#6 – Grappling with Meaninglessness
Average Fives are fully cognizant of the randomness and absurdity of the events of life. They have difficulty believing in a benevolent creator or a grand plan behind the universe. They are often cynical and pessimistic, skeptical about everything and everyone. This is especially true if they can’t find a niche for themselves or an area where they feel they have true mastery. If they are unhappy with their level of competence, they become increasingly reclusive, stressed, and agitated. Life feels without purpose and they are frustrated by people who have, in their minds, unfounded reasons for happiness and meaning.
#7 – Distractions
We’ve explored a lot of the struggles of average to unhealthy Fives in this article. One of the struggles that all Fives will relate to is that of distractions. Fives hate being interrupted, barged in on, or forced to deal with a lot of commotion and noise from the outside world. Fives need their quiet time to pursue ideas and theories in depth. When there’s a lot of noise, obligations, or interruptions, they feel like their focus is being trampled on carelessly by others. They need time to tinker with ideas, inventions, art, or other explorations and can be quite protective of their personal space.
5 Ways for Fives to Get Help with Their Struggles:
- You can sometimes feel like a totally active brain with a body that’s somehow detached or foreign to you. It’s easy for you to forget about how you feel physically, what you need, and what your health requires. Take some time each day to get in touch with yourself. Massage your feet, practice yoga, go for a jog and listen to your body. Are you hungry? Tired? Thirsty? In need of affection? Human touch, nutrition, hydration, and exercise are all essential. It doesn’t make you “weak” to need a hug. It doesn’t make you “tough” to forget to eat. Exercising will help you to “wake up” your brain and be happier and more focused. Take some time each day to compassionately care for your physical self.
- Let the world in. It’s easy for you to turn every experience into a conceptual theory to dwell on rather than something to interact with. Practice actively listening to the people you care about. Go for walks in nature and really be present in the experience. Play a back-and-forth game with other people that requires interaction and attention. Experience your life. You are not a theory, and life isn’t entirely abstract. Taste. Feel. Play. Experience.
- Find someone you trust and let them into your grief and your pain. This might seem totally repulsive to you right now, I know. But it’s vital. When you split yourself mentally and emotionally away from your pain and bury it under other abstractions you become detached, anxious, and lonely in the long run. Find someone you trust, ask them not to try to “cheer you up”, and simply let them witness the struggles and grief you’ve been through in life as you talk about it. This can be a very hard thing to do, but it’s worth it.
- How can you directly apply the concepts and material you’ve been learning? It’s natural for you to learn, learn, learn, and put off executing for long periods of time. If you’re learning about wilderness survival, take that risk and go out on a camping trip. If you’re studying art for long periods, risk being vulnerable, and show your art online or to a friend. Or simply put paintbrush to canvas and create something. Don’t get so lost in theorizing and learning that you forget to put yourself out there. Chances are, you’ll never feel “ready” so just take the leap.
- Reach out to people you can trust. Make your needs known. Share your feelings. Remind yourself that this doesn’t make you weak, incompetent, or needy. Let people know that you appreciate them. Thank people who have stood by you or done especially kind things for you. You might think it’s unnecessary, but it does a lot of emotional good for the people you love.
What Are Your Thoughts?
Did you enjoy this article? Do you have any thoughts or insights to share? Let us know in the comments! Find out more about your personality type in our eBooks, Discovering You: Unlocking the Power of Personality Type, The INFJ – Understanding the Mystic, and The INFP – Understanding the Dreamer. You can also connect with me via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!
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