Bob Dylan: Enneagram 4 (Part 1)

“We have named this type The Individualist because Fours maintain their identity by seeing themselves as fundamentally different from others. Fours feel that they are unlike other human beings.” (

In the next few posts, I will look at Bob Dylan as an Enneagram 4. If you don’t know the Enneagram, I suggest reading the above link or checking out a book on it from the library. One of the best ones I’ve found is Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery by Don Richard Riso ( That book goes over the levels of each type, from healthy to average to unhealthy, the relationships that can occur between different types, and the wings of each type, as well as other Enneagram functions. The book is ideal for explaining the incredible complexity of the Enneagram with words and concepts someone who has never heard of the system can understand.

I cannot pretend to explain the Enneagram in full, but I will try to explain some of it as I go along. I did some research on Dylan as an enneagram 4 for a presentation I gave in a psychology class on personality, but I will go more in depth with it here. Because of an unfortunate circumstance, I now have a lot of time on my hands. I thought I would use the time productively and write, part of why I’ve written more in the past week than I probably did in the month and half prior. This will be a sort of psycho-biography on Dylan through an Enneagram lens. I am not sure how many parts it will have.

Bob Dylan was born in Hibbing, Minnesota, a middle-class town in middle America known for its coal mining. Dylan’s 4-ness was evident from the start. In most of the Enneagram books, the author explains how childhood events lead to the forming of a certain Enneagram type. I’m of the opinion, though I have no evidence to back it up other than personal experience, that people are born with an Enneagram type and childhood experiences are only used in order to explain the way we already were before the experiences occurred. For the Enneagram 4, the childhood story is usually some sort of abandonment, whether physical or emotional, some sense of not being understood, of being disconnected. “Fours are disconnected from both parents. As children, they did not identify with either their mother or their father” (Riso 1988). This is a massive generalization and cannot possibly be true for all 4’s. However, the generalization does seem to ring true for Dylan. He was not physically abandoned—In fact, he left his family and hometown at 18—but he did have the felt sense of not being understood. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Dylan says, “Sometimes your parents don’t even know who you are. No one knows but you. Lord, if your own parents don’t know who you are, who else in the world is there who would know except you?” And in his autobiography Chronicles Dylan writes, “My father was the best man in the world and probably worth a hundred of me, but he didn’t understand me.” There could be few clearer expressions of the Enneagram 4 stance. ‘Worth a hundred of me’ hints at the distinctive 4 self-renunciation and ‘he didn’t understand me’ directly states Dylan’s feeling of being different from others and misunderstood.

Because 4’s feel some sort of disconnect with their parents—or unrelated to their parents—some sort of disconnect in general, the main goal of 4’s becomes to understand themselves, to turn “to themselves to discover who they are” (Riso 1988). Or, as Sandra Maitri puts it in her insightful book The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram, “Like a boat loosed from its moorings, the inner experience of a Four is of being a separate someone who is cut off from Being and set adrift…at root is loss of contact with Being. What is left is a sense of lack and of lostness…There is a great longing to reconnect, to become anchored again in the connection that has been lost” (Maitri 2001, p. 139). In understanding themselves, in reconnecting, the Four hopes to “not feel so different from others in the deep, essential way that they do” (Riso 1988). Introspection is necessary for self-understanding but it can also result in excessive self-consciousness, which further separates the 4 from other people. In time, the 4 begins to “develop a sense of ego identity based on their difference from others”; They begin to focus on how they are unique and ignore or simply do not notice the ways they are similar to other people. “Being ‘unique,’” Riso writes, “feels like one of the only stable building blocks of their identity.”

Dylan’s obsession with uniqueness is evident in interviews and songs. Unlike some 4’s, Dylan succeeded in an impressive way with this primary 4 goal. No one who listens to his songs can say he is ordinary. In his autobiography, Chronicles, which is apparently not an altogether truthful account of his life (not exactly a rarity for a 4), Dylan writes, “Billy [From Columbia] asked me who I saw myself like in today’s music scene. I told him, nobody. That part of things was true, I really didn’t see myself like anybody” (Dylan 2004, p.8). Whether or not this conversation actually occurred (Dylan wrote the book more than 40 years after the fact), it is a striking example of the 4 stance: ‘I didn’t see myself like anybody.’ And it was probably true that Dylan didn’t see himself like anybody in popular music. He ended writing songs like no one else was writing or could write and playing music in a way no one else was playing.

Even the way Dylan (born Robert Zimmerman) decided on a name fit with the viewpoint of the 4. “There already was a Bobby Darin, a Bobby Vee, a Bobby Rydell, a Bobby Neely and a lot of other Bobbys. Bob Dylan looked and sounded better than Bob Allyn.” There were already a lot of Bobby’s, so Dylan chose Bob. To make a probably harsh and fictional comparison, this is the same thinking a certain Tom Riddell had when he changed his name. There were already so many Toms. The name was so…common, so ordinary. Most likely Voldemort had a 4-wing; but his drive for power, notorious fame, and recognition are closer to the viewpoint of the pathologically unhealthy 3. I will save that for another post, however. It would be interesting to look at Harry Potter through an Enneagram lens.

In the next post, I’ll continue discussing Dylan through an Enneagram lens, getting into his early career and his struggles with identity, a 4 preoccupation.

And here is a song by Dylan that beautifully expresses aspects of the 4 I haven’t touched on yet: pain and melancholy. The lyrics also speak of disconnection:

“Well, my sense of humanity has gone down the drain
Behind every beautiful thing there’s been some kind of pain
She wrote me a letter and she wrote it so kind
She put down in writing what was in her mind
I just don’t see why I should even care
It’s not dark yet but it’s getting there”

3 thoughts on “Bob Dylan: Enneagram 4 (Part 1)

  1. glad you are using this found time to write such great stuff….sometimes an unexpected pause in our plans can become a welcome gift of time.

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