Enneagram Type 5w4 Childhood (A complete guide)

In this article, we will discuss Enneagram Type 5w4 i.e. type five-wing four ‘The Iconoclast’ and the role of their childhood in their personality development. We will do that by initially giving an introduction to enneagrams, their structure, and wings. This will follow up by describing the dominant type Five personality and its triad. We will move on to giving an overview of its subtype i.e. type 5w4. Finally, we will discuss the detailed role of childhood in their development.  

Enneagram Type 5w4: Childhood

Enneagram type 5w4 has the primary characteristics of type 5 and secondary characteristics of type 4 personality. These people are creative, reserved, reflective, and curious. They strive to spend time alone to regain energy and to introspect. Compared to other types, they are more emotional and expressive. Their core childhood conflict that makes them the way they are is ‘Intimacy-Rejection’. This means that they try not to get too close to people for fear of being perceived incompetent. So, they make effort to develop mastery in a particular area in order to live fully and survive.

Introduction to Enneagrams

Enneagrams are a map or typology of human personalities. It has its roots in spirituality, philosophy, and psychology. Multiple people contributed to its development among which George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, Oscar Ichazo, and Claudio Naranjo are the most prominent. 

It is divided into nine personality types that are spread across 3 triads i.e. Feeling triad, Thinking Triad, or Instinctive Triad. It describes a person’s fundamental psychological orientation in the form of good or bad traits and sees which triad quality i.e. emotion, intellect or instincts is most characteristic of his or her personality. 

An enneagram gives a personality type that is fluid and explains its change across time i.e. personality integration (during health, self-actualization) or disintegration (during ill health, neurosis). In other words,  a personality can become more healthy or unhealthy as it moves in different directions from its basic type. Enneagram also links one personality type with other personality types.

The structure of Enneagram

Enneagram symbol is a circle that has 9 points (each point is a personality type) present on the circumference. Each type is related to another as represented by the connected lines. Points 3,6, 9 forms a triangle. They are primary personality types that are blocked in some way from feelings, thoughts, or instincts. Whereas 4,2,8,5,7,1 form an irregular hexagram and are secondary personality types since they are mixed and not blocked from feelings, thoughts, or instincts. Each type is the result of a dialectic. In every triad, one type over-expresses its characteristic quality, another under-expresses it, and the third is mostly out of touch with it. 

Wings in Enneagrams 

The Basic Personality Type is the most characteristic of a person. Whereas wings add elements to the overall personality i.e. it is the second side of it. 

Example: If you are a personality type 5, you can have wing 4 or wing 6. So, such a personality can be understood by knowing the traits of the basic or main type and the secondary types. Usually, each personality has two wings, and both influence a person. However, at times people have one dominant wing along with their basic personality type.

The Thinking Triad: Personality Types Five, Six, Seven

• The positive and negative traits of these personalities are dominated by thinking.

• When these types are healthy, their thoughts make them distinct and admirable for their introspective qualities, insights, and ideas that have scientific, creative, and practical applications.

• When they are unhealthy, they are out of balance with respect to their thoughts and are difficult to interact with.

• All three personality types have common problems linked with insecurity and anxiety.

Enneagram Type 5: The Investigator’

Key traits:  original, detached, eccentric, and perspective. They over-express their thoughts i.e. They think more than they take action. It has two subtypes:

• The five with wing 4 (Type 5w4)

• The five with wing 6 (Type 5w6)

Type 5w4: ‘The Iconoclast’

Type 5w4 has basic traits of type 5 and secondary traits of type 4 personality. Both types reinforce each other and influence subtype 5w4 to withdraw and turn to their inner world of imagination. They feel like there is something missing that they need to find in order to live more fully. They struggle with self-confidence to take action due to self-doubt and confused identity. As a result, they have trouble being grounded and forming relationships. 

Type 5w4 are introverts and emotional but can be social when required. They take a special interest in the intrapsychic domain. They also have a special ability to be artistic and intellectual at the same time. 

Healthy versions of this subtype are knowledgeable, aesthetic, sensitive, and insightful. They make good writers, artists, musicians, directors, and choreographers. They do well in academia, have a unique way of looking at things, are analytical, imaginative, and systematic. In science, they are drawn to areas of intuition and comprehension rather than pure hard scientific aspects. They are alert and find beauty in truth, objectivity, and knowledge. They also like to uncover new areas of knowledge and are fans of innovation. 

Average versions of this subtype are emotionally independent, dislike deadlines and restrictions. They are internally-oriented and can detach from their environment to focus on their thoughts and emotions. They can use their analytic powers to not get emotionally invested in people rather they try to understand them from an objective point of view. At times, they can be moody and sensitive to criticism especially on their work because that is directly related to their self-esteem.

Creativity and imagination propel them to withdraw and spend time in an alternate universe of their imagination. The idea of these fantasies is more scientific than romantic. Activities like reading, intellectual games, and courses to improve their skills attract them greatly. Their self-expression can take dark and horrific forms. Some types may turn to drugs, alcohol to escape their complex and pessimistic thoughts.

Unhealthy versions of this subtype are vulnerable to depression and aggressive impulses. They are envious of others yet desire to be separate from the world. Their intellectual conflicts impact them emotionally and emotional conflicts impact them intellectually. So, they can become neurotic, nihilistic, full of self-hatred, and hopeless. They are prone to cutting off their needs, socially isolating, having chronic depression, getting addicted, or turning to suicide.  

Examples of Type 5w4: Vincent Van Gogh, John Lenon, Emily Dickinson, Kurt Cobain, Tim Burton

Strengths of Type 5w4

  • Creative thinking and self-expression
  • Observant and detail-oriented
  • High focus and attention level
  • Can work independently

Weaknesses of Type 5w4

  • Overly sensitive
  • Over-focus on themself
  • Distance from others
  • Struggle with realistic or practical application

If you’re facing this, it may be a good idea to seek the help of a therapist or other mental health professional. You can find a therapist at BetterHelp who can help you learn how to cope and address it.

Workplace and job 

Type 5w4 are deep thinkers with good imagination and creativity. They like abstract thoughts over real-world issues and are deeply engaged in the philosophical side of things They prefer to work in jobs that allow them independence, personal space, and a chance to grow e.g.author, scholar, novelist, inventor, etc.

Source of Stress for type 5w4

  • Spending time with others
  • Feelings of incompetence
  • Difficulty expressing themselves
  • Criticism

Basic fear 

Type 5w4 fear being helpless and incompetent. They prevent that from happening through overcompensating and excessively acquire knowledge and skills to feel worthy and useful.

Basic desire 

Type 5w4 desire to be helpful and useful. For that, they pursue knowledge and try to understand the world. They protect themself by withdrawing from others which can create feelings of loneliness. 

Type 5w4 Childhood/development

We become any personality depending on how we have learned to respond to the world growing up. Our early childhood particularly our relationship with our parents governs how we unconsciously adapt to our family and the world. Genetics and temperament have their role as well. A person remains one personality type throughout life but may change and grow to develop healthy or unhealthy traits.  

In their childhood, fives feel ambivalent towards their parents. They found it difficult to identify with them and felt they had nothing to contribute, nothing they wanted or needed. So, in order to get nurturance and protection, they turned to find something new. This was so they could give/contribute back and feel like an equal. Their fear of being helpless and incompetent, drive them to master skills and new subjects that can give them confidence. 

Consequently, most of their time is spent in acquiring new information and skills to feel competent. Such children find it difficult to get emotionally close to other people. Possibly because of their experiences with their parents who could not provide them the nurturance, love, and reassurance they needed; due to a loveless marriage, emotionally disturbed parents, or erratic parenting style. 

To resolve this, fives turned to their thoughts which gave them safety, unlike the outside world which made them feel insecure and scrutinized. Often, they also feel detached from their physical bodies and materialistic things. So, they shift their entire focus on areas they can master. 

Such personalities find the world, their parents, and people quite interesting and they spend their time trying to understand them. They keep other people at a safe distance to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Finally, they have a sharp split between their inner and outer world which affects their life throughout. 

FAQs: Type 5w4-Childhood

What is a Type 5 personality?

Type 5 personality is creative, reserved, and introspective. They fear incompetence. So, they try really hard to acquire new knowledge and skills to prevent that from happening. It is one of the types from the nine enneagrams.

What is Type 5w4?

Type 5w4 or Type 5 wing 4 is an enneagram personality subtype. It has core characteristics of type five personality and complementary characteristics of type four personality. 

Who are type 5 compatible with?

Type fives are compatible with type ones and twos.

Can your Enneagram number change?

No. Enneagram type or number remains the same as we have the same personality patterns ingrained in us. However, a person’s traits may change over time.


In this article, we discussed enneagram type 5w4 in detail and the role of childhood in their development. We found that enneagram type 5w4 has the primary characteristics of type 5 and secondary characteristics of type 4 personality. These people are creative, reserved, reflective, and curious. They strive to spend time alone to regain energy and introspect. Compared to other types, they are more emotional and expressive. Their core childhood conflict that makes them the way they are is ‘Intimacy-Rejection’. This means that they try not to get too close to people for fear of being perceived incompetent. So, they make effort to develop mastery in a particular area in order to live fully and survive.

 I hope you found this article interesting. If you have any queries or comments, please state them in the comment section 😊




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