Enneagram 4 The Alchemist Jung Shadow shame

“Any virtue, in excess, can become a vice”

In the podcast “Best Enneagram Type Names” (Talkin’ Truth Ep. 1), I suggested a new name for Enneagram Type 4—a name that I believe delves deeper into the essence of 4 than the other popular names such as “The Individualist” or “The Romantic”:

The Alchemist

My co-host Brett liked it, perhaps a bit too much, and he pressed me for the potential negative connotations of the name. (During our discussion, we had agreed that if you’re going to reduce the vastness of each Enneagram point to one archetypal name, it should ideally imply both the strengths and weaknesses of the type.)

At the time, and with the desire to keep the episode moving forward, I didn’t have much to say. However, with the gift of time for contemplation, I’d like to elaborate on Brett’s initial question: “Is there a negative connotation in the name The Alchemist?”

There is.

The gift of the 4 essence, embodied in the word “Alchemist,” lies in the ability not to avoid pain, but to embrace and explore it deeply enough to create something valuable or meaningful from it.

The complementary weakness, then, lies in becoming attached to pain and suffering.

For The Alchemist, pain becomes the grounds for creation, magic, and beauty. Suffering serves as the raw material to be transformed.

Alchemizing difficult emotional states is the gift that point 4 brings to a human being.

However, those fixated on point 4 (i.e. type 4s) can become overly attached to the specialness and uniqueness that the process of alchemy brings.

As a heart (shame) type, 4s can find it challenging to let go of pain and suffering because their personalities are heavily invested in it; it gives them a sense of purpose and value.

An interview I once came across with the singer-songwriter Hozier illustrates this point. After winning a Grammy, when asked how he had been dealing with the significant life change, he whimsically responded:

“Of course, the great fear is getting too happy and never being able to write another song. I suppose I’ll just avoid happiness at all costs and then I’ll still have material to work from.”

So, that’s the downside of the Alchemist—always striving to transform pain and suffering, to uncover some hidden gems within it; searching for a story, meaning, or redemption. Attempting to build art, relationships, or an identity around it.

Alchemy is a beautiful gift, and amid the suffering, setbacks, and tragedies of life, it is a gift that all humans will eventually have to embrace in some capacity.

But it isn’t the only gift; not everything needs to be alchemized—some things can just be LET GO of.