Personality type 5

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Personality Type FIVE: The Investigator

The Intense, Cerebral Type:
Perceptive, Innovative, Secretive, and Isolated

Generally, Fives are focused, observant, curious, insightful, expert, studious, complex, perceptive, whimsical, profound, unsentimental, exploratory, and independent.

Fives get into conflicts by being detached, preoccupied, high-strung, isolated, impractical, unconventional, uncompromising, extreme, and provocative.

At their best, Fives are visionary, pioneering, innovative, objective, understanding, playful, compassionate, and non-attached.

Excerpt from Type Five ITAR (5:06 minutes) 

Recognizing Fives
Type Five exemplifies the human desire to understand, to look beneath the surface of things, and to arrive at deeper insights about reality. Fives prefer the life of the mind, both as a way of understanding the world and—given the unlimited power of imagination—as a way of escaping from aspects of reality. It would not be farfetched to say that for many Fives, the inner world of the mind and the imagination is more real and vivid than the external world. Fives tend to have an experience and then spend many hours, days—even years—understanding it and its broader context. Fives are also highly innovative and inventive. They love "tinkering around," playing with concepts and overturning the accepted ways of doing things. This can produce extremely valuable, practical, and original works and discoveries or simply entertain them for many hours with no practical results.

Fives are truly the most independent and idiosyncratic of the personality types, the people who could most appropriately be called "loners" and "misfits." They are people who truly march to a different drummer, pursuing their interests and curiosity wherever their investigations may take them. Some Fives can seem downright odd to people while others keep their "weirdness" more below the surface. In either case, Fives are intensely determined to pursue the questions and ideas that fascinate them: so much so that relationships and financial considerations can become unimportant to them.

These qualities result from an extraordinary ability to focus their attention. Fives will stay with a problem or a question that fascinates them until it is solved, or until they discover that it is unsolvable. Boredom is unimaginable to them because there are so many fascinating things to explore, understand, and imagine. The downside is that their capacity for concentration enables them to get deeply engrossed in their complex inner worlds, sometimes to the extent that they forget their surroundings or even to take care of themselves.

Thus, Fives can get involved in work, reading, or in their own thoughts in such depth that they are often late for meetings and don't hear phone calls. They forget to eat or to take adequate care of themselves physically. They will live on soda and candy bars, or stay up all night writing a story or trying to solve an interesting problem. They will pour over the computer terminal for hours, or disappear into the stacks of the local library, only to emerge five minutes before closing with an armload of books as they head to the nearest coffee shop to continue reading.

But this doesn't mean that Fives always want to be alone or that they can't be excellent company when they are with others. When Fives find someone whose intelligence and interest they respect, they are invariably talkative and sociable. Fives love to share their insights and expertise with just about anyone who appreciates what they have to say. They also enjoy sharing their findings with others, and their observations of life's contradictions and absurdities are often served up with a whimsical sense of humor. Fives can be the most enriching of friends since they are a treasure trove of information, speculation, opinions, and intensely felt ideas. But they can also be the most impenetrable of enigmas, a mind bristling with energy and intelligence that signals "Stay away! Leave me alone to follow my thoughts wherever they may lead!" Fives are the kind of people others usually find strange, quirky, and intriguing—they always have more going on than meets the eye.

In brief, Fives want to understand reality, to possess knowledge, to find a niche for themselves that others have not explored, to be free to explore their own inner worlds, to have sufficient solitude and time for their projects, to feel confident and capable, and to unsettle the unquestioned certainties of others. Fives do not want to feel uninformed or incapable, to have their competency questioned, to accept easy answers, to be intruded on (or "managed"), to be forced to respond before they feel ready, to suffer the ignorance of others, or to ask for help.

Their Hidden Side
Day for day, socially adept Fives probably spend more time by themselves than any other type. Nonetheless, Fives need companionship and connection as so all human beings. The problem is that Fives fear needing the affection and warmth of others. It as if they feel that to ask for anything from others is to risk a greater imposition on their own freedom and independence. They also believe that their own needs are so intense that if they were ever expressed or even acknowledged, they would be too much for others. In some cases, they may even believe that their needs would actually harm others. Deep down, all Fives really want to find someone safe to connect with, but they fear that doing so will cost them whatever degree of competency and self-reliance they have attained. If troubled Fives feel that their area of mastery or their independence is at risk, they may retreat from a relationship—even if they truly love the person they are leaving.

Relationship Issues
Of all the types, Fives seem most able to live without significant relationships. But that doesn't mean that they do not want one, only that they are generally unwilling to compromise their focused approach to life too much for the sake of a relationship. When they find someone who understands their world, who appreciates their interests, and whom they respect, Fives are loyal and passionate friends, partners, and lovers. They can make fascinating companions who are constantly introducing new ideas to their friends and partners. They can be funny, affectionate, and highly sexual, but they do not come to relationships easily. They remain in an uneasy balance between the desire for solitude and the desire for meaningful connection. Fives' relationship issues include the following:

  • Frequently feeling intruded on, and therefore a great deal of privacy and time alone.
  • Often feeling rejected and retreating from people.
  • Being overwhelmed by others' emotional needs.
  • Not expressing their feelings or giving few verbal or nonverbal cues, thus seeming overly "secretive" to others.
  • Antagonizing or undermining the calm or beliefs of others.
  • Cutting off contact with people, withdrawing into deep isolation, feeling that they are "poisonous" or bad for people.

To learn more about the compatibility issues of Type Five and their interactions with other types, click below on the Enneagram type of the other person in the relationship. This will open in a new window.

Type 5 and type:
The Investigator 1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9

The Passion: Avarice (or Hoarding)
Beneath the surface image of intellectual competency that Fives present to the world, this type feels small and helpless. They feel as if there is not enough of themselves to go around and that other people's needs could easily deplete them. Thus, Fives seek to minimize their interactions with others and with the environment and to hold on to whatever basic resources they think they will need to "go it alone." Avarice is not the grasping of gluttonous Sevens; rather, it is the lack of ability to be open and generous with one's self because of fears of not being enough. Another way avarice is expressed in Fives is in the desire to memorize experiences and knowledge. Fives attempt to hold every potentially significant piece of information they have encountered in their heads, believing that eventually they will know enough to feel confident and able to handle any possible situation.

Healthy Fives observe everything with extraordinary perceptiveness and insight. Possessing a searching intelligence, they are highly mentally alert and curious: little escapes their notice. Healthy Fives are able to concentrate deeply and often notice things that other people would likely overlook or take for granted. They explore reality with a child's sense of wonder, and enjoy finding new ways of perceiving and doing things. They like to ask questions, and with healthy Fives, they are often the right questions. They enjoy learning and are excited by knowledge, which frequently leads them to becoming expert in some field. Because of their focus and attentiveness, healthy Fives attain mastery in whatever interests them.

At Their Best
Very high-functioning Fives become visionaries and discoverers, broadly comprehending the world while penetrating it profoundly. They are remarkably open-minded, understanding things precisely and as a whole. They begin to feel a deep connection with their fellow human beings and with the universe, and they often dedicate themselves to using their skill and knowledge to relieve human suffering and ignorance. They may contribute pioneering discoveries of something entirely new for the enrichment of humanity. At their best, Fives combine the wisdom and perceptiveness of their minds with heart and courage in ways that truly bring something new and valuable into the world.

Personality Dynamics & Variations

An explanation of the Directions of Integration (Security) and Disintegration (Stress) can be found here, which opens in a new window.

Under Stress (Five Goes to Average Seven)
Fives usually cope with difficulties by retreating into their minds where they feel more confident and in control. But Fives cannot retreat indefinitely, and eventually they need stimulation and interaction. Fives also tend to be nervous and high-strung, so when there is no outlet for their nervous energy, it builds up, eventually expressing itself in restlessness and hyperactivity. (Fives can become literally "restless"—and often develop insomnia.) Anxiety causes their minds to overheat, and to jump from one thought to the next. Much of their characteristic focus gets scattered. After being alone and concentrating for so long, they begin to overcompensate by overdoing their activities and lurching from one promising idea or experience to another. They become like a starving person at a banquet, and their scattered, hyperactive behavior can look like that of an average Seven. At such times, usually quiet Fives may become very talkative, impulsive, and flighty. Their underlying anxiety gets acted out in compulsive, even manic, behavior in ways that resemble lower-functioning Sevens.

Security (Five Goes to Average Eight)
Most often, if Fives feel that others are intruding on them or imposing their wills, they will simply leave quietly if they can or shut down into a detached, disdainful silence. With people or situations in which they have more confidence, however, Fives may suddenly risk behaving like average Eights, forcefully asserting their boundaries and confronting anyone or anything that displeases them. They become feisty, argumentative, and relentlessly provocative. In this mode, they take a tough stance, putting everyone on notice that they cannot be trifled with, but in ways that often cause people to react against them. They may become domineering, even aggressive, while questioning others' competency.

Integration (Five Goes to Healthy Eight)
As Fives begin to understand the emotional cost of their self-imposed isolation, they begin to risk deeper, more complete, contact with themselves and with the world. They become more grounded, more in touch with their bodies and their life energy, giving them more confidence and solidity. As this process deepens, integrating Fives naturally begin to express many qualities of the healthy Eight: they demonstrate leadership, courage, practical wisdom, and the willingness to take responsibility. They move from feeling small and powerless to feeling grounded and capable. Their knowledge and insight are then in service to objective needs in their world, and they are sought by others as sources of wisdom, compassion, and quiet strength.

The Instincts In Brief
An explanation of the three Instincts can be found here, which opens in a new window.

Self-Preservation Fives: Isolation (Ichazo's "Castle")
Self-Preservation Fives are the most introverted Fives—the Fives most likely to seek long periods of privacy and solitude. The hoarding of the Five is focused in the areas of practical resources, living quarters, and personal space. Self-Pres Fives attempt to find out how few self-preservation needs they can subsist on, likely agreeing with Thoreau's statement that "A man is rich in proportion to what he can do without." They are intensely private people who seem to require few comforts, even if they have substantial personal wealth. To some degree, they enjoy the company of trusted others and enjoy sharing their knowledge with people. They can also be counted on for their sense of whimsy and oddball humor. Nonetheless, Self-Pres Fives need lots of time by themselves to regenerate their energy. Many choose to live alone, or if they are in a partnership, they require personal space (such as a study or a nook in the basement) into which others, even loved ones, will not intrude. They also tend to hoard personal effects, stockpiling their homes like castles preparing for a siege. As much as they may like and admire others, they attempt to keep their relationships few and simple, so that they can focus on what holds interest for them.

Sexual Fives: This Is My World (Ichazo's "Confidence")
Sexual Fives focus their hoarding in the area of intimate relationships. The combination of instinct and type are at odds here: the Five defense is to withdraw, while the sexual instinct demands intimacy and connection. Most Sexual Fives live in an uneasy truce between these polar influences, but they seek to resolve this tension by slowly inviting prospective intimates into their own secret world. Sexual Fives are primarily focused in their imaginations, but they believe that most others would find their thoughts and preoccupations dark and even frightening. At the very least, they are certain that others will find them odd or eccentric. Nonetheless, they want to share their perceptions and hidden worlds and secretly hope to have a deep connection with a single soul, a mate for life, who can understand them and their sometimes bizarre views of reality. Intimacy for them entails finding someone else who will explore the surreal vistas of their inner world. They also look to their partner for some degree of help in dealing with people and the practical affairs of life. They hope that their partner will run interference for them and give them confidence to navigate the external world. If Sexual Fives are disappointed in love, they may retreat and remain unattached for long periods of time, even years.

Social Fives: The Specialist (Ichazo's "Totems")
Social Fives focus their avarice and hoarding in the social realm, meaning that they socialize through their particular areas of expertise. Fives endeavor to master some skill or body of knowledge, and they relate to others primarily through that area of their mastery. As social types, Social Fives are more comfortable interacting with people, but their comfort is largely dependent on having a context for being in a social situation. They need a particular task or function that gives them the confidence to interact with people (for example, being the DJ at a party, or having a specific topic of discussion at a social event).They enjoy talking intensely with other people who share their (sometimes esoteric) interests—either in person or through the Internet. Social Fives feel that their expertise is what they can "bring to the table" since they make it their business to learn things that others may need. While generally quiet, Social Fives can become quite talkative if their area of knowledge becomes the topic of conversation—anything from computer expertise to trivia about movies or comic books is fair game. Less healthy Social Fives can become elitist, feeling others are too unintelligent to understand their thoughts or conversation. They can also be fiercely argumentative, losing social connections by reactively proving others' ideas inadequate.

The Levels of Development
An explanation of the nine Levels of Development can be found here, which opens in a new window.

Below is the complete Levels of Development diagram for Type Five. The levels range from most healthy, Level 1, to least healthy, Level 9. To understand these charts, start with the Basic Fear, at the top right of the chart. This fear gives rise to the Basic Desire, which is the Desire at the second level of health, the Level of Psychological Capacity.

The Desire of each level gives rise to the internal Attitudes (the A-Terms) of each level, which create the external Behaviors (the B-Terms). Over time, due to internal conflicts, these behaviors and attitudes create another layer of Fear at that level.

Each new Fear generates yet another desire at the next lower level, which gives rise to a new set of attitudes and behaviors, creating a spiral structure in which a person becomes increasingly enmeshed in self-destructive reactions and increasingly terrifying fears. The process of growth is to become aware of each of the cluster of attitudes and behaviors as they occur, bringing conscious awareness into the moment. As we do this, the underlying fears and desires also begin to emerge into consciousness, and the person begins to shift up the levels.

For more about this process see Wisdom of the Enneagram, and Personality Types.


Parental Orientation: Rejection with Both Parents

    Self-Actualization:   Basic Fear:
1. Level of Liberation


Lets go of their identification with a particular self-image, that they are separate from the environment (an outside observer)  

Of being helpless, useless, incapable, overwhelmed

    Basic Desire:    Secondary Fears:

2. Level of Psychological Capacity

sensory acuity
To be capable and competent (to have something to contribute)   That they are not smart enough: their perceptions are insufficient to give them confidence
    Secondary Desires:    
3. Level of Social Value



To master something to gain confidence (to create a niche for themselves)   That they have nothing valuable to contribute (unprepared)
        Social Role: The Expert
4. Level of Imbalance
acquiring     technique
delaying closure
model building
"fine tuning"
To feel safer and more confident by retreating into their mind and imagination ("tinker toy")   That others will demand too much from them, their inner world will be threatened

5. Level of Interpersonal Control

creating worlds
high strung

ignoring needs
absent minded
feel distant

To shut out intrusions (by intensifying their mental activity)   That others are attacking their niche/ competency
6. Level of Overcompensation

jumping to
To scare off anyone who threatens their niche/ inner world   That they are never going to find a place in the world or with people
7. Level of Violation
burn bridges
dark fantasies
feel besieged
no expectations
To cut off all connections with the world and people ("to hell with everything")   That the world is closing in on them
8. Level of Delusion & Compulsion
chronic insomnia
highly schizoid
resisting all help
To endure their terrors (staring into the abyss)  

That they can no longer defend themselves (from outside or inside influences)

9. Level of Pathological Destructiveness
psychotic breaks
Seeking Oblivion
split off
inner chaos
feel damned
panic stricken
To leave "reality," to cease all sensory input, to break away from their own consciousness   Basic Fear comes true: they are helpless, useless, and incapable

Personal Growth Recommendations
for Enneagram Type Fives

Fives grow by recognizing that real confidence lies not simply in intellectual mastery but in putting themselves out into the world. Fives usually derive their confidence through the development of their minds, but they really need to bring balance to their psyches by developing a deeper relationship with their bodies and feelings. Growth for a Five requires allowing themselves to see how estranged they are from their actual living selves and acknowledging all of the deep needs that they have denied since early childhood. Fives actually feel things deeply, but they are extremely restrained in their ability to express their feelings. Developing trust of others, sharing what they are experiencing, and identifying with their feelings are all crucial for them to blossom fully as human beings. All of this becomes much easier when Fives are grounded in their bodies.

  • Learn to notice when your thinking and speculating takes you out of the immediacy of your experience. Your mental capacities can be an extraordinary gift, but only can also be a trap when you use them to retreat from contact with yourself and others. Stay connected with your physicality.

  • You tend to be extremely intense and so high-strung that you find it difficult to relax and unwind. Make an effort to learn to calm down in a healthy way, without drugs or alcohol. Exercising or using biofeedback techniques will help channel some of your tremendous nervous energy. Meditation, jogging, yoga, and dancing are especially helpful for your type.

  • You see many possibilities but often do not know how to choose among them or judge which is more or less important. When you are caught in your fixation, a sense of perspective can be missing, and with it the ability to make accurate assessments. At such time, it can be helpful to get the advice of someone whose judgment you trust while you are gaining perspective on your situation. Doing this can also help you trust someone else, a difficulty for your type.

  • Notice when you are getting intensely involved in projects that do not necessarily support your self-esteem, confidence, or life situation. It is possible to follow many different fascinating subjects, games, and pastimes, but they can become huge distractions from what you know really need to do. Decisive action will bring more confidence than learning more facts or acquiring more unrelated skills.

  • Fives tend to find it difficult to trust people, to open up to them emotionally, or to make themselves accessible in various ways. Their awareness of potential problems in relationships may tend to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is important to remember that having conflicts with others is not unusual and that the healthy thing is to work them out rather than reject attachments with people by withdrawing into isolation. Having one or two intimate friends whom you trust enough to have conflicts with will enrich your life greatly.

See also Personality Types, 173-215, Understanding the Enneagram, 49-52, 92-8; and 339-41, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram, 206-32.

Learn More
The accuracy and usefulness of the Enneagram, including the RHETI questionnaire (Version 2.5), is made possible by The Insight Approach® of Don Riso and Russ Hudson. The Insight Approach® emphasizes clear and precise understanding of each personality type and the Enneagram system as a whole. The Insight Approach® relies on the internal Levels of Development of each type as well as rigorous conceptualization and investigation, individual observation and interviewing, and in-depth understanding and intuition for information about the system.

For the only in-depth Training Program that covers all elements of the complete Enneagram system, consider coming to the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Professional Training Program. Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson offer a comprehensive, three-part Enneagram Professional Training Program each year. The Training is designed to equip serious students of the Enneagram to teach and make applications of the system in areas as diverse as personal growth, business, education, spirituality, relationships, therapy, and counseling. Contact us for more information about our Training Program.

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