Type Four: The Balrog of Envy and Other Inner Friends

In a recent conversation with a Type Four who is just beginning the journey of understanding his type, I asked him whether he ever noticed Envy. His reply, instantly: Crippling Envy! We’d been talking about the various demons that can intrude in the psychic space of the Type 4, in particular, what can happen when the Type 4 attempts to complete creative projects. I said, “I’ve noticed that when I make a decision to start a creative project that if I don’t create a structure and find a way to show up in it, that a number of things arise in me to deter my efforts. It’s a curious process, but oddly, so dramatic that even the angels weep at times. When I begin with my commitment to write, sit down and start, I’m immediately met with an arising feeling/thought that whispers something like ‘I don’t feel like doing this right now. I’m not in the right mood. When I’m in the right mood, a mood that I like, I’ll write, but for now, I want something else. I just don’t know what it is.’ At this moment of decision, the thought of writing seems to be accompanied by a strong feeling of chilling emptiness and life-ending boredom (yes, 4s can be dramatic), that is, anything but inspiration to write. Well, I guess I better wait until my spirit is in line with my project, I think to myself.”

For many years I’d step away from my creative projects before barely starting them. Or, if I had the resourcefulness and good luck to work through this pattern, right before the finale of something I’d worked on this emotional/thought current would arise like a Balrog, eliminating all memory of what I loved and why I was trying to finish my project, and eviscerating any sense of self-confidence or heart-felt passion in what I was attempting.

I told my teacher about this pattern and he said in rather clear terms, “If you are waiting for inspiration to pursue your creative projects you’ll only show up once a month. Inspiration is a cheap fuel. Unless you learn to show up and be with whatever is arising in you as you begin your work, you will never succeed or complete your projects. Unless you commit to committing yourself to a certain period of time every day but only show up when you feel like it, your Muse won’t show up to assist you. You must be willing to sit with boredom or the sudden loss of feeling or energized inspiration and patiently work in the midst of these atmospheric challenges, or you won’t discover a deeper and more reliable source of creative flow that may have nothing to do with your feeling of the moment. You must commit, keep the commitment regardless of how you feel, and work until you finish, no matter how long it takes. You don’t know how long it will take but you don’t care. Your job is to show up. The results are not in your hands, but the effort is. As Mr. Gurdieff would say, ‘When you go on a spree, go the whole hog, including the postage (From Beelzebub’s Tales).’ That is, jump in fully and go for it, no hesitating or meandering.”

That said, my commitment in place, and I, prepared to be unmoved by my moods–whether a sudden desire to do the laundry or the feeling sense that if I continue my creative efforts I will dissolve into the dark cosmos, I sit in my chair to write. Suddenly I notice a stream of envy currents churning through a portal in my awareness, a flood-stream of impressions entering my atmospheric climate via a video of impressions of all the great writers on planet earth that I admire and how I am not like them, will never be like them. The end. My Inner Critic whispers: You are hopeless, your writing will simply be a waste of time and utter failure. Accept this. Its the truth.” There I sit entranced by this comparison-envy-machine, a captive audience, riveted by what I am not. It’s enough to deter any thoughts I might have of ever writing anything of value, or globalizing to dramatic proportions, of ever doing a single valuable thing before I succumb to life on earth. The Amnesia of Success surely the poison I’ve unwittingly drunk.

This is one of a variety of ways I will find my attention taken by an envy-fantasy. Here’s another: someone drives past me in a new car that I frankly don’t care about and don’t want and suddenly I am struck by a death blow to my self-esteem, and inner mood piercing me accompanied by this screaming message: ”They have a successful life (because of the awesome car I guess) and you don’t!” It lands inside me as a virulent, unarguable ‘fact.’ I feel it in my body, my heart, and my thinking centers. Never mind I love my Subaru Forrester and have no wish for anything else. The envy-fantasy obliterates my reality unless I catch the initial wave of it and avoid jumping into the dark waters of envy hook, line, and sinker. This is where mindfulness, meditation, and all sorts of wonderful self-observation skills and body practices like yoga, weight-lifting, walking, etc., become the lifeline that pulls me onto the shore of reality before I’m eaten by the shark of envy. Over the years, slowly but surely I’ve gotten better and better at not taking the bait, noticing to myself, “Ahah! There’s the envy movie. One of my favorites of all times is beginning to play., Scene 1: Somebody has something that I think I need–so the movie says–and didn’t get. I think, when gratefully present, Geez, I’ve watched this movie at least 10,000 times so I guess I’ve paid my dues. It always ends the same way! And yes it’s so interesting I can barely pull my eyes away from it. But today, I don’t think I’ll watch this replay at this moment but will turn my attention to something more productive, joyful, inspiring or loving.” 

Following is a wonderful film clip on gratitude, one of the great deterrents of envy.

8 thoughts on “Type Four: The Balrog of Envy and Other Inner Friends”

  1. Thank you for sharing, Michael. This not being able to start a project is not that different from a Nine. For me it is not envy that keeps me from starting but sloth. There is so much to do, so many steps to complete the project. I don’t even know what step to take first. It will take a life time to accomplish it ( which is true because every project merged into an other until one big mud poodle). It is exhausting to even think about it. And before I even begin I give up on what I really would like to do. Comparing myself does play a role too, especially when it comes to the things I would really like to do. What I have to bring isn’t really important. Nobody will ever recognise me. My painting will end up on flee markets just like all the others I see browsing the Sunday morning brocante. Besides, there is already enough stuff in this world why should I add my junk to it. Just better to burry my head into my iPhone and not even bother.

  2. Ellen-Birgitte Zorn

    Thank you for showing up and teling this <3 How brave of you! I am not a type 4, I am a type 8, and I don't really know envy, but man, do I recognize your relationship to inspiration. I have also learned (from Stephen King and Neil Gaiman, actually) that if you want to do something creative, you have to do it every day, preferably at the same time every day. Even if you have to sit and stare at the blank page/computer screen untill Lady Inspiration shows up. Good luck to you

  3. 4 (Self Preservation)
    Interesting post on the 4. I am a self pres 4 who is no longer young thank God. Life is so much easier these days. My envy does not deter my life in the way it did in the past. Of growth still occurs. However life comes much more easily now. The trick is to trust and to believe that there is a part which you cannot control but will give you everything. That is the difficult bit now!

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