Enneagram Type 5: The Investigator

Written by Tim Branch

Original Design: Using their gift of wisdom and their thirst for knowledge, Fives devour knowledge in a way others don’t. They’re able to share that powerful wisdom with the rest of the Body of Christ.

Need: To feel safe and secure.

Motivation: To attain safety and security through knowledge and wisdom.

Fears: Being incompetent or useless, being overwhelmed by the world

Sin: Avarice. Fives hoard time, money, emotional bandwidth, and other resources — because they’re worried they won’t have enough. This leads them to withhold things from others.

What they long to believe: “Your needs are not a problem.”

Enneagram 5 at a Glance:

Fives are analytical, rational, and ruthlessly objective.

They’re seen as the “biggest thinkers” on the Enneagram, and they can get caught up in their thoughts that they don’t pay attention to their emotions or their body.

Fives are typically introverts who don’t feel at home in social situations.

They love their alone time, where they can gather knowledge — which helps them feel like they can function better in the world.

When the world gets overwhelming, they prefer to withdraw. Fives are often seen as “sages” in their communities, and they share their deep wisdom with others to enrich the lives of others.

You Might Be an Enneagram 5 if:

  1. Social situations (especially unexpected) cause stress and anxiety.
  2. You believe knowledge is power, and that creates security.
  3. You are incredibly observant and enjoy learning new things.
  4. Privacy is a top priority.
  5. Emotions and obligations weigh heavily on your mind.
  6. Your hobbies are incredibly important to you.
  7. You focus on “mastering” one set of information at a time.
  8. You enjoy debates and can often understand all sides of an argument.
  9. You care more about facts than feelings.
  10. You often need time to emotionally prepare yourself for upcoming events.
  11. You may be accused of being selfish with your time and resources.

How They Work

If you’ve ever met someone who somehow knows something about everything…

Or someone who likes to argue just for fun — even if they have the same opinion as you…

Or someone who would rather sit home alone on a Friday night reading How to Make Small Talk (and would enjoy every second)…

That person might just be an Enneagram Five.

Fives are the most intellectually curious types on the Enneagram. Their minds are constantly watching, collecting data, and connecting dots in order to develop a well-thought-out theory of the way the world works.

They’re high-powered thinkers — wise, insightful, and objective.

This type is often called the Observer because of their natural desire to learn everything about the world around them.

They feel a deep desire to understand things, and they dive deeper into their subjects of interest than anyone else.

Because of this, a Five often becomes a vast library of knowledge. They can tell you all sorts of things about history, biology, technology, or whatever it is they’re interested in. Heading to trivia night? Bring a Five.

But they also dive into deep, powerful topics that tie the universe together:

  • What causes a person to grow?
  • What causes someone to change their mind?
  • What causes someone to fall in love?

The result? They can unlock amazing new discoveries that transform their lives and the lives of everyone around them.

But Fives have one specific goal in mind with all this information-gathering: To be able to function better in the world.

They might seem to be disconnected from their feelings. But in reality, they’re said to be the most sensitive type on the Enneagram.

They struggle to create boundaries — so the world can overwhelm them incredibly easily. Which is why they develop a tendency to withdraw from the world.

When a Five retreats, it can look like physical isolation or emotional detachment.

It’s said that Enneagram Fives feel most comfortable when the various parts of their lives are categorized, isolated from one another.

This feels true even of their thoughts and emotions — they belong in different categories.

Fives feel like they’re always short on resources: space for themselves, relational energy, time. This leads them to struggle with feeling that they’re inadequate and unprepared to handle what the world throws at them.

But instead of confronting it head on, their typical reaction is to step back, isolate themselves from others, and gain knowledge — believing that the knowledge will give them more control over their environment.

“If I can just figure out how all this works, I can handle it.”

Information makes them feel powerful — but it also makes them feel useful. A Five has a DEEP desire to feel useful and competent.

As a Five, I decided my skill was going to be marketing. So I worked day and night to excel at marketing. When I got home from work, I studied. I did this for years.


Looking back, I realize I was trying to use that skill to guarantee that I’d be kept around, that I could always find a good job with a good salary, that I could feel meaning and purpose.

But the unintended negative side effect was that my usefulness became my identity.

When someone told me my work was bad, or when someone made me believe I wasn’t as good as I thought I was, my entire identity was thrown into question.

I’d think, “Who am I if I’m not good at this?”

Then I’d study that much harder. I’d revisit my notes and do writing exercises early in the morning before work. I did everything in my power to regain that feeling of expertise.

In their obsession with theory and expertise, Fives over-rely on their brain, losing touch with their emotions and bodies.

Because their emotions “don’t make sense so they can’t be trusted in decision-making,” and, “Who cares about getting in touch with my body? What good will that do?”

For a Five, what makes sense matters most.

How They Reflect God

God is omniscient, wise, and deeply understanding. He gets you like no one else ever will.

Not only does He know the exact number of stars in the universe, He also cares so deeply about you that he knows the exact number of hairs on your head.

God reminds me of Gandalf from Lord of the Rings. He always has a master plan. Even in the storms, he’s not rattled. He’s a constant, steady presence. And he can guide you through the storms to help you get where you need to go.

There’s something that feels so…safe about that. We can relax into God because there’s nothing he’s incapable of handling. He knows it all. And His plan is good.

You get a glimpse into the deep wisdom and knowledge of God when you spend time with a Five.

Fives embody God’s divine wisdom. They connect with God in their curiosity, and their passion for using information to transform the world around them.

They’re gifted with an ability to understand concepts and connect the dots in a way most others can’t, and then turn their insights into something simple for other people to use and benefit from.

This allows them to help others better understand God, people, and the world.

A Five can help you discover things inside yourself that you hadn’t seen before.

They’ll see gifts within you, they’ll see what’s holding you back, and patterns in what you say that can unlock who you are.

They make insightful, open-minded, gifted spiritual teachers.

A healthy, well-developed Five often becomes a wise sage in their community. Others approach them for insight, advice, or perspective. They reflect God in their ability to offer guidance and wisdom to people who seek it.

This is why when there is a crazy event happening in the world, people often look to their enneagram 5 friends, whether they know it or not, to get their opinions and thoughts.

What a wonderful gift, especially when our world has so many complex, intimidating problems — and when God Himself is so big and hard to understand!

Where it Goes Wrong

Of all the Enneagram types, Fives may be the MOST aware of the power knowledge has to change the world. But their desire and respect for knowledge can turn into something unhealthy.

As Fives navigate life, they often feel inadequate, like they aren’t good at operating effectively in the world — socially, academically, or emotionally. The world feels dangerous and intrusive.

When this happens, Fives begin to depend on knowledge as a way to prepare for the world, and control their environment.

Because they’re so sensitive to being overwhelmed, a Five buys into the lie that staying receptive to the world is going to leave them bankrupt. So they react in fear by disconnecting and hoarding.

They hoard:

  • time
  • money
  • energy
  • and personal information

Avarice is an Enneagram Five’s core struggle.

To other types, this can seem incredibly selfish…but it’s really just fear…a fear of not having enough.

Fives fear their needs aren’t going to be met, so they’ll just have to make do with what little resources they have.

When you’re not participating in the world, all you have to work with is what’s already on your desert island.

For me, it’s so easy to retreat into my room and hide with my books and articles and knowledge.

I find so much confidence in those things, because I believe they’ll better prepare me to handle the world by the time I’m ready to reemerge.

In an overwhelming situation, I’m able to flip a switch, go into robot mode, and completely detach from my emotions. I’m still present, I’m still observing, but I’m not participating.

Fives mistakenly believe by withdrawing into their logic and books and knowledge, they’ll be able to figure out how to remain safe and secure.

That they’ll be able to find some information that’ll help them feel more confident in themselves, and prove that they are useful and capable.

For Fives, knowledge becomes an identity that makes them feel safe and secure.

They’ve likely been praised all their life for their ability to understand complex ideas.

They feel a sense of purpose and meaning when they’re celebrated for being smart, useful, and competent. They feel like finally, finally they’ve found a way to be successful in the world.

But that’s also how the enemy tricks them into building an entire identity around their divine gift of wisdom.

They start to believe the deadly lie that their intelligence and usefulness are where their value comes from.

That’s what keeps them in their head instead of their heart, in their room instead of with people. When your value lies in your knowledge, you have to keep adding to it.

And when that value gets questioned — or worse, threatened — there’s a crisis.

Why They Embrace Their Burden

The enemy’s lies make us believe they’re actually helping us.

That’s why we’re so afraid to let go of it.

Enneagram Fives believe the lie that if they distance themselves in order to prioritize learning how to deal with the world, it’ll keep them safe.

Fear says, “Disconnect. It’ll make you safe. You don’t need to give anything emotionally. All you need is more knowledge — then, you’ll be able to take care of yourself. You’ll be more useful and competent and capable. And you’ll finally know enough to confidently handle the world.”

To a Five, who longs to use the feeling of “knowing” in order to feel confident and secure, this is a strong sales pitch.

But the problem is, to get there, the Five has to give up their emotional participation in the world.

And what the Five doesn’t realize is: This feeling of “not needing anything” doesn’t make them self-sufficient. EVERY human deeply needs connection. There’s no such thing as true self-sufficiency.

And by disconnecting from their emotions and body, a Five loses touch with the “check engine light” that tells them how draining it is to be without real human connection.

Instead, the very thing a Five believes will make them safe…actually destroys them.

Where It Ends Up

Where does it end up? A Five retreats into a hole, cutting themselves off from the only pathway that leads to the type of relational connection every person longs for.

They put all their stock in intelligence and competence, the qualities that have given them the most consistency and safety in their life. Then they guard those qualities as if their very lives depend on it.

Any time those things are threatened, they withdraw to work on them and make sure they’re prepared enough to weather the outside world’s storms.

And the horrible catch 22? When they’re isolated, they become physically and emotionally drained, less able to operate in the world and far less useful to others.

(They might not even feel it, either, because they’re disconnected from their body and emotions.)

Instead of learning how to become part of a community — which makes Fives come alive — they withdraw, losing the ability to use their divine gift of wisdom as God intended: helping others.

They begin to focus so ruthlessly on logic and what makes sense that they don’t pay attention to the other 2 parts of human existence: what their emotions are saying, and what their body is saying.

They walk around, fully content to be ⅓ of a person…because they don’t realize what they’ve lost.

All this because they’d rather rely on knowledge and learning to get the competence, security, and belonging they crave.

But the great irony is, in doing so, they lose themselves.

If you lose yourself, what’s left that’s worth protecting?

What Does It Look Like for an Enneagram 5 to Grow?

As a fellow Five, I understand how good it feels to disconnect, to invest your brainpower in gathering knowledge instead of participating in genuine human connection.

Knowledge-gathering allows you to remain in the theoretical world without having to set foot into the real world, where things happen that are out of your control.

Books never ask you for stuff. Articles never require your relational energy. Learning seems like a much more reliable way to solve your problems. (It already has.)

But it can’t solve this problem. No matter how much skill and expertise you gain, it’ll never fix your insecurities about feeling inadequate in the world.

And to make matters worse, dangerous side effects come with your habit of disconnecting:

When you disconnect, you may gain useful knowledge…but you suffer in other areas.

The best way to explain this is with a couple metaphors that have meant a great deal to me as a Five.

The first is the Flaming Arrows.

Back in the old days, when one army wanted to crush another army, soldiers would shoot flaming arrows into the enemy camp while they were resting.

Interestingly enough, they weren’t trying to kill people…they were just trying to create mass confusion. They wanted to separate people.

They realized that an army marching together was far more dangerous than a bunch of individual soldiers separated from their general.

When the tents caught fire, the attacking army had little trouble defeating their enemy, because they were disorganized and alone.

This is how the enemy attacks a Five. He separates us from our community. He makes us believe we need to run away from being vulnerable, receptive, and emotionally available.

His flaming isolation arrows keep us from experiencing community because we’re too afraid to step into it. And when a person becomes isolated, they become weak.

The other metaphor, from the movie Gladiator, is one that’s stuck with me for 20 years.

Maximus, the main character — a Roman general — gets captured and is forced to fight in a Coliseum.

He and ten strangers are handed spears and shields and told to run into the middle, in front of jeering fans, and forced to reenact an old battle where the barbarians (them) get slaughtered.

As they reach the middle, Maximus says: “Whatever comes out of those gates, we have a lot better chance of survival if we work together. Do you understand? If we stay together…we survive.”

4 golden chariots charge out of the opposite gate — soldiers with golden armor, javelins, and bows. 3 of his comrades are immediately killed because they were fighting alone.

But Maximus, having been a general, begins yelling orders: “Hold together! Move as one!

Their shields form a protective shell around and above them.

They move as one unit toward each chariot, picking them off. And using that strategy, they overpower their enemies, who had the odds stacked in their favor from the start.

When you shut down and retreat from vulnerability, you are like the 3 men who tried to fight alone.

I know you long for self-sufficiency. But the truth is, none of us were made to be truly self-sufficient. It’s the wrong solution to a valid problem.

The first leg of a Five’s journey is returning to a state of receptivity, so they can be strengthened by a connection with others and with God — even amidst their fear of being overwhelmed.

It’s going to require you to pay attention to your emotions and your body, which Fives routinely distance themselves from because fleeting feelings don’t seem to matter.

But once you reconnect with these things, you’ll become a more complete human being.

And as you begin paying attention to your feelings, the next step is being willing to share what’s inside you — despite your intense desire for privacy.

Sin works best in darkness. God’s plan for you is to bring your hard experiences into the light.

As a Five there’s so much vulnerability in allowing those moments of uncertainty to show.

Learning that it’s okay (and even good) to say “I don’t know” is a really humbling and valuable thing for fellow Fives. 2 Corinthians 12:9 is a great example!

As you open up, you’ll notice it isn’t as scary as you thought. The Lord wants to hold those things for you. That’s why in I Peter 5:7, Paul says, “Cast all your cares on Him, because He loves you.”

God never intended for you to use your brilliant mind and natural hunger for knowledge to hide away in the darkness. He meant for you to step out and use your talents and skills to make the world a better place.

And that involves participating in His story, not just standing on the sidelines.

What a wonderful feeling it is, to finally be known. To not have to live in privacy and anonymity anymore. And yet, to still feel safe.

It was out of necessity that you withheld yourself.

But God knows the depths of your heart and mind and longs to deeply connect with you in those hidden places. And since He promises you a life of internal abundance, you don’t have to live in scarcity.

You are deeply important to Him. He longs to share his secrets with you and to help you mature in your divine gift of wisdom.

As a Five it’s easy to wonder where you fit into the rest of the world. But you add so much value to the body of Christ through your brilliant mind.

As you come into yourself and become willing to give of yourself, God gives you meaning and purpose, and the tools to use your vast knowledge to help others.

As you step out in courage, your wisdom will bring light to others.

Practical Steps for Growing as an Enneagram Five

God designed you to reveal His wisdom to the rest of the Body of Christ. Once you begin giving of yourself to help guide and counsel others, He’ll develop in you a deep sense of purpose.

So what does this look like for you to transform from a person worried there’s not enough, to a person who is confident in the abundance that comes from God?

Here are some practical steps:

1. Notice when you begin to withdraw into your mind.

When Fives enter a situation that overwhelms or requires them to engage their emotions, they tend to disconnect from their feelings so they can observe what’s happening.

They believe this gives them the ability to make an objective decision on what to do.

The problem is, they stop experiencing what’s happening, and have something closer to an “out-of-body” experience instead.

This is a coping mechanism they’ve used throughout their life, but it keeps them from experiencing anything.

But if your longing is to be useful, competent, and capable — able to function properly in the world — the last thing you want is to disconnect from your human ability to fully experience the world.

Because that would mean you’re allowing yourself to be an incomplete human.

Take it from a fellow Five: Detaching from your emotions is like living without one of your limbs. You weren’t made to live this way.

Try to pinpoint moments when you do this, and record them in a journal. Is it really necessary? You may be avoiding feelings because it’s comfortable and habitual to do so, rather than out of necessity.

A Five has a great ability to self-reflect.

Use that strength to consider what’s happening inside you when you begin to feel threatened and detached — whether emotionally in conversation, or physically by leaving or hiding in your room.

2. Look for places where you’re using knowledge or skill as an identity.

I have struggled with this my entire life.

I’ve played hundreds of hours of video games, just to hear someone say, “Wow, you are so good at this!”

I’ve studied for years to get good at marketing so that I’ll be respected at work.

At 32 years old, I still replay moments in my head when people were in awe of my gaming skills or my work on a project…just because of how GOOD it feels to have someone appreciate my skills.

Only recently, with the help of a therapist, did I begin to realize how unhealthy this behavior is. And with God’s help, I’m working through the process of getting healthier.

During one of our sessions, my therapist asked why I had such a hard time letting this behavior go. I told him it’s because I felt like if I wasn’t good at the things I excel at, I wouldn’t know why I’m of any use to anyone.

I have such a deep longing to be useful in the world, that I will replay past experiences in my mind just to experience them again, because they help reinforce that identity — that I AM worth something in this world. That I AM useful and valuable to have around, after all.

But God has something different to say:

“No. You are not valuable because of anything you do, and you’ll never be valuable because of anything you know or anything you’ve ever done. You are valuable because you are my son. I made you to be a reflection of Myself. You have divine genes. I have given you my goodness and my value. You have immense value to me, simply because you are mine. You are valuable just as you are.

I encourage you to take inventory of your life to see where you might be cultivating this identity.

Because I can tell you from experience: If you mean to keep moving forward in your relationship with God, you’re going to have to tear that identity down at some point.

It won’t feel good.

But what gets built in its place will be more beautiful than words can describe.

3. Get in touch with your inner child.

During an Enneagram Intensive, I was invited to share my experience as a Five. Here’s one of the most interesting things I discovered:

While I’ve developed a fairly thick skin, I was an incredibly sensitive child. I’ve learned most Fives feel this way.

They encouraged me to think about what that sensitive little kid needed to hear, and what I’d say to him now.

My response caught me off guard:

“I’d tell him I love him. I’d tell him it’s okay he’s hiding. He’s doing everything he can to survive. I’d tell him how amazing and valuable he is, apart from anything he does. I’d tell him it’s not the end of the world when someone makes him feel stupid. Because there’s something amazing inside him and I can’t wait for him to see more of it.”

I teared up as I spoke.

I don’t think I realized how much I needed to hear those words for myself.

As you become more comfortable with your emotions, try this exercise. Go back to a point when you were at your most vulnerable. Have a conversation with your younger self. Write down what you experience.

4. Practice listening to your feelings.

I once worked with an Enneagram coach who would ask me, “How do you feel right now as we talk about this? It’s important that you connect with your emotions here.”

“I feel like…” I’d respond, then I’d follow that with a thought.

“But that’s not what you’re feeling,” she replied, calling me out. “You’re just starting a sentence with ‘I feel like,’ then saying something from your head.”

Touché. There’s part of me that loves getting called out. Because those are the moments I realize there’s untapped potential inside me.

As I continued to work with her, I realized I was TERRIBLE at listening to my emotions. I ignored them. But once that changed, I realized something powerful:

As Fives, our emotions are like “check engine” lights. They tell us when something is wrong, and where to look. SO many emotions go unprocessed by Fives. Things like, “When my friend said that to me, it made me feel hurt.”

Guess what happens when you realize that? You can do something about it. Just like that check engine light, you know the problem that needs to be addressed. If you ignore your emotions, you’ll lift the hood one day and find your engine on fire.

5. Be willing to share your feelings with others.

All right, ready to ratchet up the difficulty level?

Sure, it was hard enough to start diving into the unpredictability and volatility of your own emotions. But now, we’re going to do something even crazier: actually telling someone about it.

You probably have someone in your life who loves you, is trustworthy, and would gladly listen if you came to them with a struggle.

What you may not realize is, they’ve probably been wishing you would talk to them for some time now (especially if they’re a 2 or a 4). Because when you do, it brings you closer to that person.

Here’s the thing: We weren’t meant to handle our struggles alone.

That’s why Ecclesiastes 4:11-12 says: “If two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone? And though one may be overpowered, two can resist. Moreover, a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

We are meant to gain strength from others. But the enemy convinces Fives they’re better off alone. This is a dangerous lie.

So fight against it. Reveal ONE struggle you have, to ONE person. See what happens.

6. Connect with your body.

I’ve mentioned when I had to go up front at the Enneagram Intensive…but did I mention that was also the moment I realized everyone in the room except for me was connected to their body?

At one point, the teacher asked, “What’s going on in your body as you’re experiencing this?”

I felt embarrassed. I began sweating, because I felt stupid. I believed I was the dumbest guy in the room. My chest tightened.

And I suddenly realized how rare it is for me to hear what my body is saying.

There’s a powerful book called The Body Keeps the Score. The premise: when it comes to your body, ignoring it won’t make it go away.

Your body is yet another check engine light.

If you want to be a complete human, you have to work on your ability to sense both your emotions and your bodily sensations. Emotions are actual physiological energy and they have to have somewhere to physically go.

What happens with anger? You get hot, turn red, your heart races. Sadness? Tears form.

The more we deny the physiological need our body has for expressing emotion, the more physically exhausted we become, furthering the intensity of the isolation cycle.

Your emotions inform you about the vessel you are living in.

I used to think “somatic work” was new-agey woo-woo bull crap. But then I mentioned this Enneagram Intensive experience to my therapist, who I deeply trust.

“Well, that’s great that they finally started to convince you that this might be worth looking at, because I had actually noticed your disconnection and planned some body work for you today. Glad I don’t have to convince you to try it!”

Turns out, getting in touch with your body is one of the most important things a Five can do.

Try this:

Sit in a chair, both feet on the floor. Focus all your attention on your feet for 20 seconds. Then your ankles. Then your leg. Then your hip. Then your arm. Let your focus travel slowly up one side and down the other.

The first time I did this, I was so disconnected from my body I literally started shaking.

See how you respond. Exercises like this will help you notice when something is wrong and needs to be addressed.

7. Start taking action in your life.

Fives tend to overthink, which keeps them from acting — because they don’t want to be wrong in their actions.

One of my deepest fears in putting my thoughts and ideas out there is, “What if I’m wrong?”

But a Five moves toward Eight in health — and that journey is one of stepping out of the hiding places that Fives typically find themselves, and starting to take more risks.

Stop getting caught up in hyper-analysis. Just order the thing. Start writing. Buy the domain name.

As a Five, it’s likely you have some information that can change a lot of lives. Start bringing it out of your mind and into the real world.

When I started writing, I was terrified I’d be wrong. But then someone told me,

“Haven’t you done way more research on this than anyone else you’ve ever met?” I hadn’t realized that if anyone was qualified to speak on the topic I was writing about, it was me.

People don’t research as much as you do. Give them the gift of revealing what you’ve discovered. It’s okay if you’re wrong about something. Imperfection is human nature, and you can tweak it later.

What Does the Ultimate Enneagram 5 Look Like?

When Fives are finally able to operate in their original design, they have finally let go of the fear that they won’t have enough if they fully step into life.

They gain the power to maintain a healthy balance between observing moments, and actually engaging in them.

Their divine gift of wisdom grows and reaches its true potential, because it’s been cultivated by deep connection with other people.

The Five hears and believes God when He says, “I will provide for all your needs.” So, they bravely enter relationships.

With this feeling of abundance, the Five is able to participate fully, and give wisdom generously. They make their community a much richer place with seemingly endless knowledge and their keen perspective.

They no longer find their identity or safety in what they know, in how useful they are, in how capable they are. Instead they know that those things are the “false self.” And they know their value rests in the fact that they are a child of God.

With a value that is secure, and a heart that is connected, and feet that are ready to take action, a Five can truly change the world.

And they often do.