Writer Anais Nin as an Enneagram 4

“Enneatype IV individuals, as a result of these dynamic factors and also of a basic emotional disposition are not only sensitive, intense, passionate, and romantic, but tend to suffer from loneliness and may harbor a tragic sense of their life or life in general.” (p. 113, Character and Neurosis: An Integrative View, Claudio Naranjo)

Previously on this blog, I wrote two essays on Bob Dylan as an Enneagram 4 with a 5 wing. Recently I came across the writings of another clear 4, Anais Nin, famous primarily for the many published volumes of her diaries, the reading of which would take years. Even more than Dylan perhaps, her writing exhibits all of the qualities of the Enneagram 4, which I will explore in depth here. The diary I am reading now is The Early Diary of Anais Nin: Volume Three. I will stick to this diary in this post for the sake of simplicity, as well as because there is more than enough evidence in the first ten pages of this diary to make the point that Nin was an Enneagram 4. The fact that Nin preferred to express herself in the form of a journal already begins to suggest her 4-ness. Although other types can choose this form of expression, the intensely personal focus of a diary suits well the 4 qualities of self-preoccupation and self-awareness. The self-aware 4 only becomes more self-aware through the keeping of a journal. A journal allows for the 4 to express herself authentically, writing for only herself and not for an audience. Looking back through the journal, the 4 can see the changes she has undergone, and in the writing of a journal the 4 can attempt to find some solid identity, to literally create herself through her words.

Now let’s go into the Diary of Anais Nin. She writes: “Turn these pages and see whether one spirit pervades them all or whether a different mood each time has left the trace of its passage on a soul which sings and weeps by turn and never truly knows itself in this confusion.” Sandra Maitri, in Finding The Way Home: The Enneagram of Passion and Virtues, writes that the 4’s “inner atmosphere is one of turmoil and turbulence,” an atmosphere that leads the 4 to live with a “soul which sings and weeps by turn.” Look again at the last phrase: “never truly knows itself in this confusion.” The 4 desires to know herself. Richard Rohr, in his book Discovering the Enneagram, writes, “FOURs have to catch your eye. It’s as if they thought, ‘I don’t know who I am if I’m like all the others. I have to stand out and in any case be different.’” A diary is a way to be different, a way to express one’s differentness and individuality. That Anais Nin feels she is different from others is unquestionable. About her disappointment in social life, Nin writes, “I am too capricious, too different, I don’t know what, but I tire quickly of insipid talk, or of a lot of talk.”

Nin expresses her disappointment in herself and in others often, and in the depth of that disappointment one perceives the 4 quality of never being satisfied. Sandra Maitri writes in The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram: “Unsatisfied, ungratified, and displeased, nothing is ever quite right to a Four. What she has or procures always loses its shine, and the longing shifts to what is just out of reach. Things could always be a little different, a little better, more of this or that, and then perhaps, just perhaps, she could be happy at last.” Nin could have written these lines, though she would have written them in the first person, without knowledge of the Enneagram. Before she writes the lines I just quoted, while on her way from American to France, Nin writes, “Everything disappoints me. I had dreamed of this trip and have many things that are beautiful about it, but today, the social side of it palled on me. I have shut myself up in the cabin, feeling utterly wretched…I had resolved to take part in the social life, but at the first taste of it I felt alone again, and unhappy. I should say rather that I disappoint myself in everything—that is more exact.”

This disappointment the 4 experiences in herself comes from her “vicious superego that is constantly measuring [her] up against an idealized picture of how and what [she] ought to be, and tearing [her] apart for not making the grade.” But the 4 also experiences disappointment in others. In close relationship, the 4 has a tendency to idealize the other, and then to devalue the other when she finds some imperfection in him. Nin goes through this pattern. She writes of her then-husband Hugh, “Once my sight of him is blurred (and I will not look too long), that, to me, the wavering of a perfect thing, is the beginning of the end. No one can show himself in the guise I dislike, even for a moment, without leaving a painful impression, and no one can say to me: ‘Forgive and forget,’ for though I forgive, the disappointment is eternal, it has passed through my spirit, like a false note, and the echo of it never leaves me.” The hyper-sensitivity of the 4 is present here, as well as her difficulty in dealing with imperfection, and her tendency to despair. Nin, at another point and in another mood, writes that she despairs when Hugh, her husband, is not with her: “When I lose myself in despair, as I do sometimes in these pages, it is because he is not here. When he comes home and puts his arms around me, instantly I am soothed and strong again.” (63)

Here 4’s expectation that love will save her is evident. Claudio Naranjo, the originator or the founder of the Enneagram, writes of type 4: “Erotic love lures this type as the supreme fulfillment. Love must and does appear as the ticket to paradise, where all woe ends: no more loneliness, no more feeling lost, guilty or unworthy; no more responsibility for self; no more struggle with a harsh world for which he feels hopelessly unequipped. Instead love seems to promise protection, support, affection, encouragement, sympathy, understanding. It will give him a feeling of worth, it will give meaning to his life, it will be salvation and redemption.” Look again at Nin’s lines: “When he comes home and puts his arms around me, instantly I am soothed and strong again.” Love for Nin promised protection and support, the end of woe, the end of loneliness and despair. She is no longer weak. She is strengthened in embrace. She is no longer isolated; she is connected to another, once and forever. And yet before she had said that seeing some imperfection in her husband was the beginning of the end, and so the extreme moods of the 4 come through here, the idealization and the devaluation.

As I mentioned, the 4 is self-preoccupied, and so the form of the diary suits the 4’s natural state. In My Best Self: Using the Enneagram to Free The Soul, the authors write of how the 4’s “inward idealization causes them to be sensitive to their own feelings and needs first and only then to other people’s.” Nin writes in a similar vein: “There is no one on earth truthfully interested in others’ work if he is himself a creator—no one. I am more interested in my own writing than in other people’s.” She writes that “no one on earth” is interested in another’s work, but in Enneagram terms it would be more accurate to say that it is a rare 4 who is more interested in another creator’s work than in her own, and that the 4 is interested in the other’s work only insofar as it reflects on her own, in order to compare it to her own, or in order to improve her own through careful reading of the other’s. So a 4 attempting to write her own journal might peruse another diarist with a unique writing style in order to create a unique writing style for herself, similar to the other’s only in that it is similarly individual.

And that is enough for the time being. Much more to come. An entire book could be written on Anais Nin as a 4 just as it could be written on Dylan as a 4. Maybe one day down the road, the book will be written. For now, I am content, or not quite content, as befits my nature, with these posts.

Now, a couple songs by Dylan that express the 4’s idealization and subsequent devaluation of a romantic partner: “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” and “Idiot Wind” two songs most likely written about the same woman, Dylan’s one-time wife, Sara Lownds.

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