Marveling at Enneagram Five to Write Better Characters

The Enneagram is a perfect tool for character creation because of the vast number of variations within each of the nine personality types. The thing I love most about the Enneagram is that it digs deep into people’s motivations; it’s not just about what people do, but why they do it. Planning out a character by using the Enneagram as a base can help you write realistic, three-dimensional characters.

In this blog series, I match each Enneagram number with a Marvel character. This post is all about Type Five, known as the Investigator or the Observer. The Avenger that fits the description of insightful, intellectual visionary is Bruce Banner, a.k.a. The Hulk.

“It’s good to meet you, Dr. Banner. Your work on anti-electron collisions is unparalleled. And I’m a huge fan of the way you lose control and turn into an enormous green rage monster.”

—Iron Man, The Avengers

Motivations and Fears

Fives are private people who get exhausted when they spend too much time doing social activities. “Fearful they don’t have sufficient inner resources to function in the world, they detach and withdraw into the mind, where they feel more at home and confident,” write Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile in The Road Back to You.

Fives love acquiring knowledge and understanding how things work. Fives are often experts in a niche area of study. They often struggle with avarice, but not about physical possessions, as they are minimalists in that regard. Rather, it’s their emotions and time they hoard, isolating themselves because of their desire for privacy and unwillingness to be vulnerable with others.

When we first meet Bruce Banner in The Avengers movie, he has indeed isolated himself as a doctor in a small village. His decision to hide here is partly because he’s afraid of hulking out and hurting people, but he still wants to help others.

A Five’s basic fear is being useless, helpless, or incapable. Bruce Banner cannot ignore the call to join the Avengers and help the world, even though he’s also afraid he’s a danger to people. Fives tend to listen to logic over their feelings, which explains why Banner separates himself from his anger by turning into the Hulk.

Cron and Stabile describe Fives as being particularly good at compartmentalization and privacy. “Compartmentalization is a signature defense mechanism against feeling overwhelmed in the life of a Five,” they write. “Believing their inner resources are limited and seeking to feel in control, Fives assign their job, marriage, hobbies, friendships and other commitments to separate mental cubby-holes. This way they can determine precisely how much energy each will require to maintain, apportion is correctly and deal with one compartment at a time. Soon they discover life will not cooperate with their desire to keep the different areas of their lives partitioned off.”

This tendency to compartmentalize is particularly interesting to note in Bruce Banner, who literally changes into another form when he’s angry. The way he partitions into two beings causes a lot of inner conflict in later movies; in Thor: Ragnarok, the Hulk part of himself takes over for three years, and in Avengers: Infinity War, Hulk refuses to come out at all.

If your main character is a Five, simply being part of a group setting provides opportunity for inner conflict. Making personal connections can be a challenge, so when they do reach out and make an effort to be in a relationship, it’s a risk for them. Fives will not respond well if other characters try to blame them for hurting them or “making” them feel a certain way.

Obstacles and Desires

These are descriptors commonly used to describe Fives:

  • Perceptive
  • Isolated
  • Observant
  • Awkward
  • Independent
  • Secretive

Use these traits to create inner conflict when the Five does not get what they want, which is to be capable and competent. Fives are always searching for answers to their questions, and they prefer to discover truths for themselves rather than relying on opinions or taking another’s word for it.

Fives may get stuck in “observing” mode, rather than going out and actually doing something, because they are afraid they aren’t as competent at others. They feel safer in the shelter of their own minds rather than engaging in activities so they can actually improve their abilities. 

As deep thinkers, Fives value knowledge, understanding, and observation, and appreciate when others value their insights. Thus, they may enjoy researching niche topics that others are unaware of and are drawn to the unique, the fantastic, or the bizarre.

The best obstacles for Fives are ones that force them to leave the safety of their minds and interact with real problems. Bruce Banner not only joins the Avengers and uses his scientific knowledge to help their cause, but joins in their physical fights as the Hulk. This is beyond his comfort zone, but he does it because he’s needed.

Stress and Security

When Fives are stressed, they behave like unhealthy Sevens. They can become impulsive and childlike, rude, escaping from reality. They speak before they think. This uninhibited behaviour sounds very much like the Hulk.

Hulk: “You’re Banner’s friend.”
Thor: “I’m not Banner’s friend. I prefer you.”
Hulk: “Banner’s friend.”
Thor: “I don’t even like Banner. ‘I’m into numbers and science and stuff.'”
Hulk: “Thor go. Hulk stay.”
Thor: “Fine. Stay here. Stupid place. It’s hideous, by the way. The red, the white. Just pick a color.”
Hulk: “Smash you.”
Thor: “You didn’t smash anything. I won that fight.”
Hulk: “I smashed you.”
Thor: “Yeah, sure, sure.”
Hulk: “Baby Arms.”
Thor: “What?”
Hulk: “Baby.”
Thor: “Moron! You big child.”
Hulk: “Thor go!”
Thor: “I am going.”
Hulk: “Ha! Ha! Thor go again! Ha! Ha! Thor home, Hulk stay.”

Thor: Ragnarok

When Fives are secure, they behave like Healthy Eights: spontaneous, confident, and outspoken. Fives that have experienced personal growth take initiative, champion people, and are more physically present. We get a glimpse of this side of Bruce Banner when he has come to terms with both parts of his personality in Avengers: Endgame. Here, Banner is more obviously at peace with himself, interacting with others (even strangers!) comfortably, and willing to help when the Avengers come calling.

Character Development

The Enneagram includes descriptions of what a type looks like at healthy, average, and unhealthy levels. There are nine levels of development (not to be confused with the nine different types of personalities)—one to three being the most healthy, four to six being average, and seven to nine being unhealthy. This progression is useful for writing fiction because it can help you plan character arcs.

Bruce Banner is at an unhealthy level when he appears in The Avengers movie. He’s isolated and afraid of making social connections. His arc (though a major part of it occurs off screen, unfortunately) gradually moves him up the scale as he faces the challenge of being part of a team in The Avengers, making mistakes in Age of Ultron, retreating from himself and relationships in Thor: Ragnarok, and coming to terms with his strengths and shortcomings in Infinity War and Endgame.

In your own story, allow other characters to soften the Five’s desire to avoid everyone and remind them that personal relationships are valuable. Fives can also learn that they don’t have to be the smartest in the room, and they are valuable just the way they are. 

Natasha Romanoff: No one blamed you, Bruce.

Bruce Banner: I did. For years, I’ve been treating the Hulk like he’s some kind of disease, something to get rid of. But then I started looking at him as the cure. Eighteen months in a gamma lab. I put the brains and the brawn together. And now look at me. Best of both worlds.

Avengers: Endgame

If you start with an Unhealthy Five and move towards positive development, you can achieve incredible character growth when the Five fails at something and lets go of their guilt. They become better, well-rounded people when they acknowledge they aren’t perfect and accept that others care about them the way they are.

If you decide your character is an Investigator, I hope my thoughts on Enneagram Fives and the Hulk help you in your character development. Use this tool to consider not just what they do, but why they do it. For further research, I recommend reading The Complete Enneagram: 27 Paths to Greater Self-Knowledge by Beatrice Chestnut.

< Read “Marveling at Enneagram Four to Write Better Characters”

Read “Marveling at Enneagram Six to Write Better Characters” >

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