the withdrawn types

The personality types corresponding to Karen Horney’s Withdrawn strategy are the Four, Five and Nine. These types are generally receptive and internally-focused. Each responds to problems, threats and obstacles through avoidance. In other words, there’s a distinct sense of the self being small, weak or vulnerable and easily overwhelmed by the world. They feel a need to shut out external influences before their needs can be met. These needs are defined by the Triad they fall into: Four is in the Heart Triad meaning that they will withdraw both to find and protect their sense of personal value; Five is in the Head Triad meaning they will withdraw both to find and protect their objectivity, mental clarity and ability to control their anxiety; and Nine is in the Belly Triad meaning they will withdraw to find and protect their autonomy. All three types feel their sense of self most keenly when they’re moving away from others and/or the flow of life. For the Withdrawn types, the affect is “I can only get my needs met when I can tune in to my inner world.”

The Withdrawn types are also the types most disconnected from the Belly Center. This does not mean they are weaker or less concerned about their autonomy than other types, but rather that they have the most difficulty connecting with their sense of wholeness and vitality. There can be a sense of the self being “invaded” by external influences because the self is experienced as permeable and somewhat vague and lacking in distinct boundaries. Therefore the need for avoiding external influences that seem bigger, stronger or overwhelming comes into play. When we don’t fully inhabit the Belly Center, we also miss out on the immediacy and aliveness of fully engaging with our experience. These types are prone to substituting dissociation, resistance and avoidance for the sense of realness, strength and groundedness that comes from being in touch with the Belly Center.

The journey of growth for the Withdrawn types is of course to learn to fully inhabit the Belly Center. This entails becoming present to feelings of insubstantiality, overwhelm, and intimidation—and being able to tolerate these feelings without dissociating, shutting down or removing themselves from the situation. This goes against the grain for these three types who would generally prefer to distance themselves physically and/or mentally and emotionally. However, learning to stand in their own space and to tolerate the feelings of weakness, disempowerment, and fear of being subsumed by the other that come up as a result allows them to discover the awakened Belly Center qualities of strength, immediacy, passion, realness, aliveness and empowerment that have been present all along but have gone unnoticed or undervalued.

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