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Defense Mechanism--Type 5

We've been working our way around the Enneagram circle, discussing each Type's primary defense mechanism.

A common mistake we make when it comes to Personality Typing Systems like the Enneagram is to assume that each Type is completely unique from all the others. But that just isn't true.

We all share in the human experience regardless of Type. Common to all of us are at least a couple of things:

  • We all have anxiety. Anxiety is the discomfort we feel when our sense of comfort and order in our world is disrupted. Almost anything can unsettle us--others' attitude toward us, a sense that we are unacceptable, experience of failure, a significant loss, etc. It doesn't matter if this sense is based in real experience, or if it is just our perception. Both have the same effect on us.

  • We all employ defense mechanisms in reaction to our anxiety. We don't like how anxiety feels. We naturally react to a sense of threat. Defense mechanisms are designed to protect us from that threat.

Each Enneagram Type has its signature go-to defense mechanism that coincides with its personality structure. Both Type and defense mechanisms form around core needs, fears and motives.

The primary defense mechanism for Enneagram Fives is Isolation. Fives utilize Isolation in an attempt to overcome negative feelings of deficiency by withdrawing from what they perceive to be demanding and draining of energy.

Fives often isolate physically from others. They also isolate internally by pulling away from their feelings and retreat to their head-space. Fives are much more comfortable with their thoughts than with their feelings.

Fives fear being inadequate and incompetent. They strive to validate themselves by being knowledgeable and self-reliant. Acquiring knowledge becomes a means to create a sense of security and self-worth.

When events and relationship demands challenge the Five's sense of adequacy and comfort, they retreat. Feelings seem too demanding. Instead, they resort to their intellect and depend on it to carry the day for them.

While their keen intellect can be their superpower, an over-emphasis on thinking cuts Fives off from their life source and the interpersonal relationships they need.

Like other all Types, Fives' use of their defense mechanism can quickly turn counterproductive. Isolation keeps them from the very energy they are trying to conserve--the life juice that comes from tapping into their emotions and relationship with others.

When Fives relax into and claim their essence they come to know an inner abundance. They discover they possess inherent competency and viability that is renewable and can be shared with others.

Fives aren't the only Types to use isolation, of course. We all do it in some situations. But, Fives provide us useful insight on how isolation impacts each of us.

How does isolation operate in your life?

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