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.

Bob Dylan as an Enneagram Four: Part 2

Three and a half months ago I wrote a post on Bob Dylan as an Enneagram type Four (Here’s that link). I said I was going to write a number of posts on this theme, but I ended up only doing the one. Now I have a few days in between my block class and the start of the semester, which I’ll use to go a bit deeper into the topic. If you don’t know about the Enneagram, you can start on my old post. The subject is so vast that I don’t feel nearly competent enough to introduce it fully and all at once, so I’ll be explaining it as I go along. I’ll also include the full names of books whenever I quote or reference a book, and those would be good references to check out from the library.


It would be easy to write a book on Dylan as a Four—the same way someone wrote a book on Thomas Merton, the Catholic monk, as a Four (Merton Enneagram book)—so it’s difficult to know where to start.

Let’s start with identity, a preoccupation of Dylan and of Four’s in general. “All I can do is be me—whoever that is,” said Dylan in an interview. This sentence just about sums up the Four stance. About Four’s, Don Riso in his book Personality Types writes, “Their sense of identity is not solid, dependable, in their own hands. They feel undefined and uncertain of themselves, as if they were a gathering cloud which may produce something of great power or merely dissipate in the next breeze” (1996, p. 139). There is a hint here of what creativity means to a Four, how inspiration cannot be nailed down, or called upon at will. In his biography on Dylan, Time Out of Mind, journalist Ian Bell writes how, for Dylan, “Sometimes songs just come…that kind of claim makes his gift sound like a fragile thing” (2014, p. 341). ‘A fragile thing,’ ‘a gathering cloud’ which may ‘merely dissipate.’

Dylan expresses this lack of definite identity in the first stanza of the song ‘Shelter From The Storm’ from his 1975 album, Blood on the Tracks

‘Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue, the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm.”

He also gives voice to this concept in interviews: “Sometimes you are held back by your name. Sometimes there are advantages to having a certain name. Names are labels so we can refer to one another. But deep inside us we don’t have a name. We have no name” (Essential Interviews, p. 206). We identify each other by name; if deep inside us we have no name, then deep inside us we also have no way to be identified, no identity.

Because the Four’s identity is ‘undefined’ and ‘not solid,’ because he is ‘a creature void of form,’ the Four begins a search for self, or for some place, some home where he can feel himself, where his formlessness will be given shelter, given time to form or allowed space to remain formless. The formlessness feels like the wilderness; the self a mystery, unknown. Dylan gives clearest expression to this search for self in his autobiography Chronicles when he writes, “There was a missing person inside of myself and I needed to find him” (147). And Nora Guthrie, the daughter of folk singer Woody Guthrie, who Dylan first came to New York on a quest to visit, said of Dylan, “I think he’s very much an experimentalist, looking into himself all the time, saying what do I want to do now…he’s experimenting with his own soul” (Ballad of Bob Dylan, p. 74).

Dylan’s quest to visit Woody Guthrie is a uniquely Four-ish endeavor. Richard Rohr writes in Discovering the Enneagram, “The life program of FOURs could be described as an eternal quest for the Holy Grail” (1990, p. 85). Dylan felt something in Guthrie’s music and sought the man himself, went on a quest to meet him. Guthrie’s music was Dylan’s ‘Holy Grail’ at that time in his life. Guthrie was sick, in a hospital, not famous or even known outside the folk music circle. Dylan also was not famous or known at that time in any circle. Yet Dylan would go and sit by his hospital bed, sing Guthrie’s own songs to him.

Many 4’s, including Dylan, express this ‘eternal quest’ in art:

In the creative moment, healthy Fours harness their emotions without getting lost in them, not only producing something beautiful but discovering who they are. In the moment of inspiration they are, paradoxically, both most themselves and most liberated from themselves. This is why all forms of creativity are so valued by Fours, and why, in its inspired state, creativity is so hard to sustain. Fours can be inspired only if they have first transcended themselves, something which is extremely threatening to their self-image. In a sense, then, only by learning not to look for themselves will they find themselves and renew themselves in the process. (Personality Types).

This is Riso again, who writes mainly about the Four’s search for self. I quoted Rohr above who said the Four is searching for the Holy Grail. The Holy Grail is not the ‘self,’ but Fours have an intuition that the Holy Grail could be found within themselves, yet they also find something when they are ‘liberated from themselves.’ As Riso makes clear, Fours feel most themselves when liberated from themselves. But this experience is transient, it doesn’t last, it keeps the Four on a continual quest to experience this liberation again. Permanent liberation, even if feasible, often doesn’t seem like a worthy goal. In Ballad of Bob Dylan, author Mark Epstein expresses this predicament well, writing of what may have been Dylan’s happiest time in the late 60’s, spent with his wife and children:

The problem with paradise on earth, as one might expect, is the day-to-day sameness. There is little variety in perfection and one might find it boring—particularly an artist who thrives on the tension between the real and the ideal, the knowledge of suffering and longing, his own and other people’s (214).

If the Four were in a state of permanent liberation, a ‘paradise on earth,’ what would there be to search for? Since the Four feels his identity is based on this ‘eternal quest,’ what would his identity be if the quest were completed, if liberation were lasting and unending? Yet Dylan sings in “Ain’t Talking”, “The suffering is unending.” Better the unending suffering of the quest or the unending liberation that may lie at the quest’s completion? Will the quest ever be complete? And is liberation ever without end? The quest is full of questions.

Thus, as the identity of Fours is based on being on the ‘eternal quest,’ Riso writes that self-transcendence is ‘extremely threatening’ to the Fours’ self-image.

In most of the songs Dylan writes, this quest—whatever it is for, whether the self or the Holy Grail or heaven—this seeking quality, is present. Let’s look again and a bit closer at the song off his 2006 album Modern Times called “Ain’t Talkin’. The last stanza to that song goes,

Ain’t talkin’, just walkin’
Up the road around the bend
Heart burnin’, still yearnin’
In the last outback, at the world’s end.

When I hear the phrase, “quest for the Holy Grail,” I think of a pilgrim walking, a vagabond, perhaps in vagabondage, chained to the road, pursuing salvation. The lyrics above could be the words of a pilgrim, walking, questing, still yearning at age 67. Going to ‘world’s end,’ if necessary, or as Dylan sings in “Dignity”:

Searching high, searching low
Searching everywhere I know

Dylan is always ‘walking’ in his songs. Take “Love Sick,” the first song on Time Out of Mind, released in 1997. The first line in that song goes, “I’m walking through streets that are dead.” And the second track on that album, “Dirt Road Blues,” has a line: “Gon’ walk down that dirt road until my eyes begin to bleed.” I could pick out a line from each song on the album that is an apt expression of the walker on some sort of pilgrimage, but perhaps no song is as apt as “Trying to Get to Heaven.” Each stanza in that song ends with the refrain, “I’m trying to get to heaven before they close the door.” The first stanza ends with:

I’ve been walking through the middle of nowhere
Trying to get to heaven before they close the door

What could be a better expression of the pilgrim’s purpose? Heaven, salvation, redemption, self-transcendence, liberation—all words used to describe the Holy Grail the Enneagram Four is seeking on the pilgrimage through life. Walking through the middle of nowhere, looking for the everything that exists in the midst of that nowhere, perhaps in the middle of it, in the center, at its heart.


I’ll end this post here. In the next post, because I ended this one with ‘heart,’ I’ll go into how type Four fits in to the Heart Triad, which is also referred to as the Image Triad, and how Dylan gives form to some of the common conundrums that Triad is faced with.