My frail, virgin mind
Watched the Crimson Sunrise
Imagined what it might find
Life was filled with wonder
I felt the warm wind blow
I must explore the boundaries
Transcend the depth of winter's snow
Innocence caressing me
I never felt so young before
There was so much life in me
Still I longed to search for more
But those days are gone now
Changed like a leaf on a tree
Blown away forever
Into the cool autumn breeze
The snow has now fallen
And my sun's not so bright
I struggle to hold on
With the last of my might
In my den of inequity
Viciousness and subtlety
Struggle to ease the pain
Struggle to find the sane
Ignorance surrounding me
I've never been so filled with fear
All my life's been drained from me
The end is drawing near...
Level 5: The Self-Absorbed Romantic
As average Fours become more involved in cultivating their moods and romantic fantasies about themselves and others, they begin to believe that too much interaction with the world, and especially with other people, will cause the fragile self-image they are creating to fall apart. They control access to themselves because they fear that other people will shame them or point out all of the ways that they are not like the image of themselves they are forming in their imaginations. For example, they may imagine themselves to be great artists, but do not spend much time actually creating art or may have doubts about the quality of what they are producing. In their imaginations, however, anything is possible, and average Fours want to surround themselves only with those people and situations that will support their self-image.
At this stage, average Fours are reserved, shy, and extremely private - melancholy outsiders, painfully self-conscious. They want to let others know about who they believe they really are, but fear that they will be humiliated or laughed at. This is not an entirely unreasonable fear, because Fours probably have developed a persona which has little connection with their own background or experience (like a person from a small, Midwestern town who affects a British accent to feel more refined and sophisticated). Fours have now begun to reject themselves, but rather than trying to impress others with an idealized self-image, like Threes, Fours' self-doubt causes them to withhold their idealized self - including most of their authentic thoughts and feelings - from all but a few close confidants. Fours rationalize their withholding from others by viewing others as incapable of appreciating the subtlety of their feelings. ("There's no point throwing pearls before swine.")
They begin to avoid many people rather than risk the emotional problems involved with communicating anything about themselves. Instead, they seek the company of individuals who they see as kindred souls and exclude those who do not share their sensibilities. When Fours do find someone who they feel understands them, they pour out their hearts in long conversations that can stretch late into the night. At last, they are not alone - someone has come to share their world.
The ardor and excitement average Fours feel in encounters of these kinds is an indication of how deeply they long to be understood, even rescued. They want to have someone in their lives who will alleviate their loneliness, and, above all, be the good parent they are secretly seeking. However, if they are to continue eliciting the attention of a rescuer, average Fours must also continue to have problems and not allow themselves to become too functional. Although they typically see themselves as loners, they actually require "high maintenance" from other people. In fact, average Fours begin to evaluate how much they mean to others by how much others are willing to tolerate their emotional ups and downs and their neediness. They can be difficult and sometimes play "hard to get", but not to the extent of driving the other away, or so they hope.
In any case, average Fours will only allow people who support their ephemeral self-image to be around them. They insist that others respect the delicacy of their feelings, and by being temperamental and emotionally volatile, may cause others to "walk on eggshells" so as not to upset their fragile equilibrium. While it is certainly true that average Fours are experiencing emotional confusion and doubts about their identity, they also use their vulnerability to get attention and to control others. They demand that others tolerate their peccadilloes and mannerisms while generally being highly impatient with the habits of others.
Few people are willing to spend much time with average Fours because their relationships are often little more than long discussions about the Four's feelings and problems. While healthy Fours are stimulating company because they are attentive to others and are curious about the world, average Fours are uninterested in anything that does not immediately impact on their feelings and their quest for identity. They do not really want to know about the other persons' experiences unless they relate directly to something they have been brooding about. Of course, the reasons for this are not difficult to understand. Fours are becoming worn out by their self-doubt and their frustrating search for a self-image that feels true to them. They feel that they simply do not have sufficient emotional resources to deal with other people's problems.
Nonetheless, Fours are still self-aware enough to recognize the discrepancies between their fantasized ideal self and the realities of their life. This only adds further confusion and causes them to be more unsure of themselves. It is difficult for them to meet people, to make small talk, or to work with anyone else. Average Fours feel socially inept and uncomfortable around most people, not so much because they do not like people - quite the contrary, they long to have intimate, intense relationships, as we have seen - but because they are so self-conscious that they cannot function well.
Naturally, social requirements and the needs of others become a burden to them. Thus, Fours do not go out of their way to meet others; rather, they secretly want people to seek them out. They project an aura of silence and aloofness, hoping that someone will notice them and take the trouble to approach them. While others may think that they are mysterious, or perhaps profound, Fours at this Level are simply attempting to disguise their growing emotional vulnerabilities behind the protective haze of exotic mystery. If someone has hurt their feelings and Fours have withdrawn to lick their wounds, their withdrawal is as aggressive an act as average Fours allow themselves, a denial of their presence to the other, although it annoys Fours greatly if the offender does not realize that they have done so.
Many of their problems stem from the fact that average Fours take everything personally. They must interiorize their experiences - feel their feelings - for their experiences to have meaning to them. But by interiorizing everything, average Fours become vulnerable and uncomfortably self-conscious - "hypersensitive". For example, a curt reply by a cab driver can ruin their day, and a perceptively critical comment from a friend can become a thorn in their side for months. If anyone should tease them or prick at their defenses, average Fours feel "cut to the quick" and do not know how to respond. ("What does so-and-so mean by that?") In many cases, Fours begin to hear negative reviews even in compliments. If a friend congratulates them on losing weight, they may spend hours feeling insulted that the person was actually commenting on how fat they had been. They simply cannot be easygoing or spontaneous, since their increasing self-absorption does not allow it.
Because they internalize all their experiences, everything seems to be connected with everything else. Every new experience affects them, gathering associated meanings until everything becomes overloaded, full of private associations. If they are healthy, this richness of emotional connections feeds the creativity, because their internalized and augmented experiences become available as inspirations. But the ironic result of self-absorption is that average Fours begin to lose touch with their emotions. They feel confused, amorphous, unanchored to anything permanent in themselves.
Rather than help sort out their feelings, constant self-absorption makes average Fours feel more inadequate. They begin to doubt their ability to sustain contact with the environment, or to defend themselves adequately, since they feel so vulnerable and storm tossed. They become extremely conscious of not fitting into the environment as easily as others seem to, and they begin to envy others and secretly resent them. It is a short step from "Why do I feel this way?" to "What is wrong with me?". Self-doubts assail them, as do problems with self-esteem and hostile feelings about others.
While healthy Fours can be quite comfortable when they are alone, average Fours often feel lonely. They feel that, at best, they are only tolerated by others (seldom really liked), and any problems in their relationship will invariably result in rejection, something which will only confirm their worst fears about themselves. Their assessment of their social situation may or may not be accurate, but average Fours give themselves few opportunities to find out.
This is not a satisfying way to live, even for Fours. To solve their problems, they begin to withdraw, feeling that they are being called away from the environment by something within themselves, although they are not sure by what. It is as if they have been physically wounded and are bleeding to death. Before they can resume their lives, Fours feel they must obtain the first aid they need. Some inner disorder must be attended to before they can give their attention to anything else.
They brood about themselves. And because they are emotionally vulnerable to real or imagined slights, they become extremely moody. This becomes the precondition for every action as average Fours constantly introspect on their feelings to see how they feel before they do anything. They put off writing letters, going to the grocery, or looking for a job until they are in the right mood. But since Fours never know when they are going to be in the right mood, things either do not get done, or they are done against internal resistance, producing no pleasure.
This would not be as much of a problem for Fours if not for the fact that most of their moods are unpleasant. They dwell on their own shortcomings or simmer with resentment at the slights of their self-image from the "crude and insensitive" people in their lives. They may spend hours or even days rehashing old conversations and reliving their wounded feelings or endlessly imagining all the forms of revenge they will visit upon those who have frustrated them. More and more, Fours are frittering away their days in fantasy instead of taking constructive actions for themselves.