Enneagram Type Four: The Abandoned Inner Child

Over the past few days, I’ve been reading more about the enneagram. Since I figured I’m probably a type Four, I read up on that type first in Helen Palmer’s book The Enneagram.

Let me say up front that Palmer doesn’t show pity for type Fours at all. We aren’t portrayed as the special snowflakes we often see ourselves as. That hurt, but in a good way.

First, Palmer describes the typical dilemma Fours face within themselves. Many remember abandonment or loss in childhood and are constantly focusing on regaining that which was lost. As a result, they constantly find themselves second-guessing themselves.

All Fours are prone to depression, though they may handle it in various ways. For example, some accept it fatalistically and succumb to despair. Others cope by constantly being on the move. That would be me, quite literally. Still others find a type of beauty in their sadness and convert it to melancholy.

When describing the typical Four’s family history, Palmer showed a bit more compassion towards us, but it was mostly through the quotes from type Four interviewees. One of them explained that she was an incubator baby and, while she was not literally abandoned, she did feel that way. Boom, that hit. I was an incubator baby too. Even though I was never literally abandoned – my parents aren’t divorced and I lived with them till age nineteen -, I often felt like I was only conditionally loved.

When I read up on core beliefs and schemas when I did schema-focused therapy back in 2013, I most clearly related to the abandonment/instability schema. I still do. I rarely felt safe with my parents and, after leaving the house at age nineteen, I moved from one temporary placement to another until I moved into long-term care in 2019.

Indeed, like the typical enneagram Four, I keep life at an arm’s length distance. I am always on the lookout for something that’s unavailable. Not really in relationships – I have been happily married since 2011 -, but in all other areas of life, certainly. I find myself constantly looking at another place to live, even though the staff and manager of my care facility have reassured me that I can stay here for as long as I want to. I think a core misconception I at least hold is that I can find happiness by chasing what’s unavailable. That’s not true, of course, but my abandoned inner child constantly looks to be rescued in all the wrong ways.

In the book The Enneagram Type 4, the author asks us how we’ve tried to rescue ourselves and how successful we’ve been. The underlying message is that we can’t and don’t need to rescue ourselves, since God is in control. God, will you please rescue me?

Joining in with the Hearth and Soul link party.

Six Is a Blank

Today, in The 365 Journal for Empaths and Healers, I came across a prompt that asked me what the six-year-old version of me would think about my life today. This is really hard. I have very few direct memories from before the age of around eight. Those I do have, are clouded by the stories my parents told me.

I mean, they said I was a very cheerful, laid-back child before the age of seven. I am pretty sure I wasn’t. Lisel (formerly Little), my 5-year-old insider, holds some very distressing memories. These concern both my time at the mainstream school Kindergarten and my time in hospital at the age of four.

Then six is a blank. I do have a six-year-old insider, but she most likely formed much later. Same for seven. Suzanne is seven, but she only feels she has to grow up too quickly.

To be honest, yes, six is a complete blank. While I do have some memories of age five and seven, I don’t have any of the year I was six. I know I transferred to the school for the visually impaired about six weeks before my sixth birthday. I know I laid the first stone for a new care home for visually impaired children just before my sixth birthday. Then I remember learning Braille with giant dots, but that wasn’t till age seven.

I am tempted to think six was uneventful. Then again, when I was asked to recall a memory from age four for an interview at age seven, I didn’t mention going to Kindergarten, being in hospital or any such to an adult significant events. Instead, I recalled my getting my favorite doll at age three. It isn’t that significant events just aren’t stored in a child’s memory, since a classmate was very clear about the year he developed a brain tumor and lost his sight. Could it be I dissociated at such an early age already? Or does this mean my going to mainstream school, being in hospital etc. just didn’t have the impact I think they had now? I’m not sure.

Sweet Child O’ Mine: My Inner Child Parts #Blogtober20

Welcome to another day! The next prompt in #Blogtober20 is “Sweet Child O’ Mine”. I don’t have children and never will. However, I do have inner child parts and am pretty childlike at times, for better or for worse.

As regular readers of my blog will know, I have some dissociative symptoms. Particularly, I experience identity confusion and identity alteration. The latter of those is more commonly known as having multiple personalities. They each have their own names and ages too.

For example, Milou is a cheerful eight-year-old. She loves to learn independence skills like cooking, where appropriate to her age, of course. She is also quite the adventurer.

Suzanne, on the other hand, is quite emotionally disturbed. She is seven-years-old and feels the burden of having to grow up too fast. She often regresses into an emotionally much younger state.

There are many young parts inside of my head. It goes too far to talk about them all here. I mean, it’d probably confuse all of you, as it does me sometimes (hence the identity confusion).

Also, of late, I’m not feeling them that much. Yes, I do feel childlike, but it’s more like I can own the feelings myself. That’s considered a sign of healing. It might be temporary though, as it often is.

Dissociative symptoms such as multiple personality are usually the result of trauma. I, indeed, endured quite a few adverse childhood experiences. I also experience a large gap between my intellectual ability and my emotional functioning. In fact, when being assessed on a scale for emotional development, I was said to function at a level similar to an eighteen-month-old child. On some subscales, I even function at a level similar to a baby. This distinction may be one reason I tend to disconnect from myself.

Of course, everyone has an inner child. Or maybe more than one. However, for me, I often cannot function like an adult would when I’m in inner child mode. For example, when a child part is prominently present in my body, I cannot usually talk like an adult would.

Right now, like I said, I am able to retain both my childlike wonder and my adult functioning for the most part. Like I said though, this may be a temporary experience. I’m not sure and only time will tell.

#Blogtober20

When I Was Five

This week it’s 29 years ago that I spent a week in the children’s hospital with a collapsed trachea. It closed up on the night of April 28, 1991, the night after we’d celebrated my mother’s birthday, two months before my own fifth birthday. I was unquiet all night or so I’m told, getting up to go to the bathroom a dozen times. Eventually, my parents discovered what was going on and I was rushed to the hospital.

Thankfully, my trachea opened again within a day or two. I don’t know whether I had to be on a ventilator. In fact, I remember very little of these first few days. Then, on May 3, I had surgery to take out my tonsils and adenoids. That surgery had been scheduled for May 21 at another hospital anyway, but the children’s hospital could fit me in earlier now that I was there anyway.

After surgery, I had to stay in the hospital for another few days because I had a breathing tube inserted. That is, I’m not 100% sure the breathing tube was before or after surgery. I remember trying to talk through my tube, which was pretty much impossible.

This was probably also the time in hospital that my parents brought me their supermarket’s brand of peanut butter to eat, as I wouldn’t eat the premium brand the hospital had. Can you tell I was spoiled or autistic or both?

Finally, I got home on May 7. I was already a calendar freak, so I actually remember this without having been told.

As I write this, my inner five-year-old is trying to speak up, but she can’t. I don’t know whether this hospital stay was particularly traumatic for me, even though the going to the bathroom compulsively became a habit of mine in my teens. I may have made Lisel (that’s my inner five-year-old) up, because after all I remember this particular hospital stay so well.

I do think falling ill in early 1992, was more of an adverse childhood experience for Lisel (or me, if you think Lisel is made up). I remember I had some form of the flu, but in my own memory, it wasn’t entirely medically explained. My parents will probably say I’m trying to find clues that aren’t there so am making them up. I mean, they never talked about this experience when, in my teens, I was trying to remember when my negative mood started. They claim, as did I at the time, that it started when I was seven and having to learn Braille. In other words, I was going blind and I knew it but refused to accept it, so was becoming defiant to show a middle finger to the world. It’s easy to say it doesn’t matter. In a way, it doesn’t, but too often, I feel my parents are hiding the truth from me as a way of denying that I had significant mental health issues before the all-important age of seven. I mean, if my problems started at seven, I cannot possibly be autistic or have a dissociative disorder or anything originating in early childhood, right? Besides, I could have been old enough to be manipulative.

Am I being manipulative indeed? Or am I an early childhood trauma survivor? I don’t know and I’m not sure Lisel knows the answer.

Joining in with V.J.’s Weekly Challenge.

A Very Validating Experience

As I write this, I deal with a nasty cold that I’ve been feeling come on for a few days but wasn’t willing to accept was coming on. Not that there’s anything I can do about it. Whenever one of us has a cold, my husband always searches the Internet to find out whether they’ve found a cure yet. So far, no luck. I’m not terribly sick as of yet anyway. I think my husband suffers almost more from the weird noises my body makes when I can barely breathe than I do.

A lot has been on my mind lately. I could of course write a gratitude list and devote a sentence or two to each thing. I may do that eventually, but right now, I want to share about a specific experience in more detail.

Last week, we told our staff at day activities about ourselves. We disclosed that we may have dissociative identity disorder (calling it multiple personality) and explained that it’s a trauma-based survival mechanism. The staff member we told was totally fine with it. She actually validated us, saying she’d seen a little come out to her.

Then on Monday this week, we had a flashback while at day activities. A fellow client needs to be given oxygen at times. This reminded one of our littles of the time we needed oxygen as a four-year-old because our trachea had closed up. An adult alter was able to explain this to a staff before the little came out, but then we could no longer keep ourselves from switching and the little popped out.

This little started talking to our staff, the one we’d come out to the week before. She asked to sit on the staff’s lap. We had agreed when we first came out as multiple that this is okay with both the staff and us. It was such a nurturing experience.

Afterwards, an adult did feel the need to check with this staff that it’d been alright with her, but it had been no problem. That’s a good thing about doing day activities at a center for intellectually disabled people. I’m pretty sure that in psychiatric care, we’d not be allowed to express such a “childish” need for affection.