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Enneagram Type Five Explained

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

A Complete Guide to Enneagram Type 5


If you or someone you know is filled with intellectual curiosity, can be alone in their head for days, and kind of enjoys throwing out controversial ideas from time to time, then they may be a Type Five Investigator.


Also if you’ve tested or been told by others that you’re a Type One, Three, or Nine, but you're not quite sure, then this may help confirm or change the Enneagram type you identify as. Those three types, especially Nines, are often mistyped as Fives. You can also reach out to schedule an Enneagram type consulting call.


Major Personality Traits


The Enneagram Type Five is called “The Investigator” because they spend their lives in a tireless pursuit of knowledge. They love to question why things are the way that they are, often because these questions usually justify their lack of initiative, or general avoidance of risk taking. For Fives, the world of ideas is safer than the physical world.


The wounded ego of the Five tells them that they are helpless or incapable of surviving in this world, so they should minimize their physical needs and maximize their mental abilities. This is also why the Five's core struggle in life is with avarice--or the hoarding of resources--be it material resources, like money, or immaterial resources, like ideas. Fives can be pretty secretive and isolated because they tend to think that everyone is out for themselves.

Fives believe that the only way they can protect themselves is to gain some specialized knowledge or skill that makes them invaluable to the world around them.

This creates a little bit of a love-hate relationship with the mainstream world, because Fives feel like any idea the mainstream world accepts must be too basic or too shallow, or is just flat out wrong, because at the end of the day, most people are stupid...but you need them to pay your bills.


It’s not that all Fives are judgmental jerks. It’s just that they are constantly making intellectual observations about everything and everyone around them. They notice and remember so much detail. And because they value intellectual integrity far more than social acceptance, their ideas often push against widely held beliefs. It’s this commitment to the infinite world of ideas that makes Fives so innovative and they often come up with solutions to major problems in the world.


While Fives can come up with grand solutions to complex problems, they often struggle with the most basic challenges in life, like having small talk at a party or picking out new clothes or going grocery shopping. The more common the task, the more often it gets ignored or dismissed as unimportant. Overall, Type Fives are quirky, curious folks that will keep you on your toes if they let you into their world.


Childhood


The Type Five’s childhood is defined by feeling like they had no defined role within the family system. You could say they felt “crowded out” of the family because there’s too many other siblings, or one sibling with special needs, or the parents themselves are too emotionally needy or unstable and can’t provide the Type Five child with the kind of love and support they needed.


The Type Five child makes a subconscious agreement with their parental figures:

“I won't ask too much from you, if you don’t ask too much from me.”

This unspoken expectation colors every relationship the Type Five will have for the rest of their life, and it’s the reason Fives struggle with being stingy; since childhood they’ve been protective of their personal space, their time, and most certainly their emotions.


As Fives grow up, they usually keep their distance from both parents, which fosters a sense of apathy about the parent relationship in general. There may be a logical sense of importance placed upon their parent’s role for certain occasions like weddings, but internally they fight to identify too closely with any one person, and instead learn to relate emotionally with ideas, theories, or belief systems. So while Type Five children are quick to engage with challenging or complex ideas, they will quickly disengage from any painful situation or relational conflict.


Overall, the childhood experiences for most Fives creates a pattern of detachment from and objectification of people so that no relationship can ever hurt too deeply.


Wings


Every Enneagram type has what’s known as a “wing”--it’s simply an overlap of traits with the personality type directly to the left or to the right of your primary type. So Type Fives can either have a Four wing or a Six wing. You always have a stronger leaning toward one wing over the other at any given time in your life.


The ICONOCLAST

Enneagram 1 wing 9

An iconoclast before is someone who works to tear down mainstream ideas. Back in the day, it was literally people who destroyed religious art because they believed it was misleading. So that’s the business of Five wing Fours (5w4).


They are incredibly intuitive because they mix the intellectual perceptions of the Five with the emotional awareness of the Type Four Individualist. This makes very introspective, withdrawn people, and yet they’re often still great in social situations because they can peer into the inner workings of your psyche. In fact, the artistic traits of the Four naturally aide the creative tendencies of the Five, so this subtype tends to be the most creative personality type within the Enneagram because they blend the arts and the sciences as they search for both beauty and purpose.


On the downside, the Four wing adds a lot of emotional turbulence to the Five, and they are far more moody, irritable, and hypersensitive than the Five wing Six. Iconoclasts can also be a bit more self-indulgent and impractical as they’ll spend hours reading books or playing video games when there is real work to be done. Overall, 5w4s need to allow space for lightheartedness and silliness because the melancholy of the Four mixed with the potential nihilism of the Five can lead to a pretty dark worldview.


The PROBLEM SOLVER

Enneagram 1 wing 2

The Five wing Six (5w6) subtype is far more practical, sociable, and hyper-anxious than the 5w4. The Six wing adds a desire to work within a structured system that benefits society in some way. The Six is also in the Thinking Triad along with the Five, so they are plagued even more by the chatter of their mind and the suppression of their emotions. This makes Problem Solvers unique in two ways:

  1. They’re the most purely intellectual of all Enneagram types.

  2. They are the hardest to be in a relationship with of all Enneagram types.


Problem Solvers couldn’t be more uncomfortable with relational intimacy. In many ways, they feel robotic and would much rather spend time with data than going on a date (see what I did there). 5w6s also lack self-awareness because they’re so focused on observing the outside world rather than spending time being introspective. They’re a bit like Sherlock Holmes--as their true gift is taking a mass of seemingly unrelated information and coming to a brilliant conclusion. They’re also socially awkward, witty, endearing, and often times argumentative… like Sherlock Holmes🕵🏻‍♂️.


Integration & Disintegration


The concept of a movement toward integration and disintegration is a central teaching of the Enneagram. It’s the idea that we embody the traits of other personality types depending on how healthy we are.


Disintegrated FIVES

Enneagram 1 disintegration to type 4

In disintegration, Fives take on the worst traits of the Type Seven Enthusiast. Sevens deal with a ton of subconscious anxiety that fuels their hyperactivity, so when Fives aren’t healthy, they try to numb their restless minds with tons of distractions. They get super scattered, can be reckless with their bodies, and often turn to some self-destructive indulgences like drugs and alcohol to numb their increasing sense of mental despair.

Integrated FIVES

Enneagram 1 movement of integration to type 7

When Type Fives are healthy, they integrate the best characteristics of the Type Eight Challenger and they become confident, take-charge individuals that finally act on all that they have learned. Average Fives always feel like they just need to learn a little bit more before they get out into the world. Healthy Fives have matured and become self-assured after they’ve risked their intellectual security by testing and refining their theoretical knowledge out in the real world with real people. They’ve also found the strength necessary to trust people and create powerful connections with supportive individuals.


Instincts


The Enneagram instincts describe the most basic ways we function in our daily lives. The pattern normally goes that we operate out of one primary instinct, then our secondary instinct really just serves the first, and the last instinct is usually repressed due to some formative experience we had growing up.


The three instincts are the self-preservation instinct, the social instinct, and the sexual instinct.


Self-Preservation

Fives that operate primarily out of the self-preservation instinct are natural minimalists. They feel safe and secure by simply eradicating as many needs as possible. This can be a great trait in that it allows them to be very intentional about what they consume, but it often leaves them with nothing left to share with others, specifically in regards to their energy.


The minute self-preservation Fives leave their home, their already-limited gas tank begins to drain. Social interactions, especially with strangers, are viewed with animosity because they drain the energy that the Five could be using to solve a problem or learn a skill. So they often resent having to interact with people unless it’s in the context of their work life. This makes self-preservation Fives the biggest loners of the enneagram. They're like rechargeable batteries that prefer to just stay plugged in to the wall at home rather than being put to use. If you pressure a Five or put expectations on them to get outside of themself, then get ready for their complete internal shutdown.


Self-preservation Fives can become so isolated that their mind begins to spiral and they often fall into conspiracy theories (especially if they have a Six wing) and their dark, virtual communities becomes their only contact with the real world. So it's imperative that self-pres Fives find healthy relationships where they can come alive, feel safe sharing their thoughts, and trust or respect others enough to have their "intellectual status" challenged in a healthy way that fosters humility and social interdependence.


Social

Social Fives are the epitome of a specialist. They’ve learned to subvert their tendency to isolate by finding a job or role in society that lets them be the keeper of some specialized or secret knowledge. The Enneagram Institute says social Fives like to think of themselves as "Masters of Wisdom"-- which could look like guides, consultants, and executive life coaches in which they hold the keys to success.


Because social Fives have more tangible interactions with their environment, they become more acutely aware of the ways in which they lack the knowledge or skills that other people have. Usually sports are a big source of shame for social Fives because it’s one major area of life they couldn’t get better at by thinking about it. This keeps Fives in their element, and they rarely seek out social interactions that would expose their inexperience or awkwardness.


Social Fives often slip into a general dissatisfaction with the basic human experience, and so they constantly critique society, which can make them look like Type One Reformers. If you've seen West World, Anthony Hopkins' character is a great example of the social Five mixing his dissatisfaction with humanity and his genius level of innovation. Social Fives really need to spend some time finding an intellectual equal--usually a mentor or counselor of some kind--that can help them foster a sense of empathy and patience for the human condition.


Sexual

Sexual Fives are a bit of a paradox, because the sexual instinct drives them to subvert their primary operating system. Fives, in general, are detached and aloof, but the sexual instinct craves intimacy, intensity, and deep relational connection. Sexual Fives often create confusing push-pull relationships with their loved ones because in one moment they’ll be sharing deep secrets and going on about their experiences or ideas, and then boom, they disappear for weeks at a time and wont pick up your calls. They are super skittish and easily feel misunderstood.


Sexual Fives look at sex as the one place they can be free from logic and the constant chatter of their brain. They love the idea of creating a private world with their perfect mate. However, when Fives aren’t healthy, the sexual world becomes just another place to explore dark fetishes and disturbing fantasies. All Fives, no matter what their primary instinct, are naturally drawn to dark or taboo subjects in society. This is why sexual 5s need to be very careful about what they watch--because their eyes open doors to their imagination, and then their imagination can lead them to some really dark habits.


Triads


There are three triads within the Enneagram. These triads all group personality types based on shared behaviors that can really help you to understand why you’re so similar in one area and so different in another. The triads have evolved over time and are a major way the Enneagram integrates widely held concepts from mainstream psychology. They’re a great reminder of the ways we share so many behaviors with each other no matter what personality type we are.The three Enneagram triads are the Triad Centers, the Harmonic Triad, and the Hornevian triad.


Enneagram 1s as part of the Gut or Body Triad Center

Triad Centers

Type Fives are firmly in the Head group alongside Type Six Loyalists and Type Seven Enthusiasts. All Head types suffer from anxiety rooted mostly in their fear of the future. Fives internalize their anxiety in an attempt to “figure out” the issues that are plaguing them. However, when they become anxious about big, unanswerable questions, this desire to retreat into the mind actually fuels the anxiety they’re trying to escape.


Harmonic Triad

The Harmonic Triad is all about the way we cope with pain, trauma, or failure. The three groups are the competency group, the positive outlook group, and the reactive group.

Fives are in the competency group alongside Type One Reformers and Type Three Achievers. When trauma strikes this group, they tend to avoid feeling any pain by making it a purely logical situation. So if someone dies, it’s: "okay…let's organize the funeral, let's settle the will, and let's move forward." Fives especially avoid feeling grief because it totally drains them of energy, and Fives are energy hoarders.


Hornevian Triad

The Hornevian Triad is describes the general ways each type behaves social situations. Each type's primary instinct has a ton of influence here. The three groups of the Hornevian Triad are the withdrawn group, the compliant group, and the assertive group.

Type Fives are in the withdrawn group alongside Type Nine Peacemakers and Type Four Individualists. Fives are natural introverts, so they see every social interaction as potentially sucking them dry of the energy they need to function; however, Fives on vacation are much less withdrawn because they know there’s a start time and an end time to the trip, making them much more free spirited than when they’re at some ambiguous social event filled with strangers.


Practical Exercises

The Enneagram is incredibly critical and it touches on the most sensitive areas of our lives. That’s because it’s foundational belief is that the ego, or what most people call your personality, is just the YOU you’ve become to survive in this world.


There’s a layer below your ego called your essence, or your “true self.” Think about it like becoming the best version of your personality. Either way, the only process to get that true self out of you is to become aware of that top layer of your ego so that you can make healthy choices to either identify with it or transcend it.


Here are a few ways Type Five Investigators can choose work on transcending their ego:

  1. Empathy over information: The biggest thing Fives can do to help tap into their healthiest self is to cultivate empathy and compassion for other people. Fives tend to objectify people with cold rationality, so it’s vital to use their insight to try and understand and relate to others even if they’re far from being your intellectual equal. Remember that empathy, not information, will heal your anxiety and keep you connected to reality.

  2. Get physically present: Practice being physically present by getting into activities like yoga or distance running or even dancing is actually a great way to get out of the mental spirals that Fives are prone to.

  3. Focus and release before perfection: Fives are like Nines in that they are professionals at wasting time. It’s not to say they’re lazy! It’s just that Fives have so much insecurity around their work that they often procrastinate hitting send and checking things off. Fives will grow in confidence if they practice releasing their ideas or creations into the world even when they feel incomplete. Fives will also be more confident if they spend focused time on their craft, rather than multitasking and splitting their intellectual gifts across a dozen different outlets.

  4. Fight for healthy relationships: In regards to relationships, Fives really need to practice letting people in and trusting them enough to have healthy conflict. Fives typically use their intellect to intimidate people, and so they don’t handle it well when people push back. This is a tall order for Type Fives, but they have to learn that cooperation is more valuable than domination, and that just because you have conflict doesn’t mean that relationships aren’t worth the energy you’re putting in. Fives are also such stone cold thinkers that during conflicts they use logic to avoid apologizing and feel superior because they’re not the ones getting emotional. So again, cultivating empathy and humility will be crucial for Fives to maintain healthy relationships, and healthy relationships keep Fives thinking clearly.


Bonus Fluff


🇺🇸Country: Great Britain is the country of the Fives. Think about their intellectual skepticism and somewhat gloomy, yet endearing demeanor.


🦉🦊 Spirit Animal: The Type Five spirit animals are the Owl and the Fox, both symbols of wisdom mixed with a bit of mischievousness.


✨ Famous Type Fives: Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Tim Burton, Edgar Allen Poe, Stephen King, and famous inventors like Einstein, Edison, and probably Elon as well


🦸 Marvel: In the Marvel Universe, without a doubt, it’s Dr. Strange.



SOURCES: Much of this information comes from an amalgamation of sources, but the primary source of this information comes from the works of Russ Hudson and Don Riso of the Enneagram Institute (The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Personality Types, Understanding the Enneagram), followed by Richard Rohr's The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, and Helen Palmer's The Enneagram in Love & Work.

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