The Enneagram of Personality is a personality classification system comprised of nine types. Each one of these nine types represents a distinct set of motivations, fears, desires and virtues. This article (and the other articles in this series) are designed to present each of the nine types in an understandable and comprehensive way. Many of you are no doubt familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, as it is the most popular personality instrument discussed on PersonalityCafe. The Enneagram is a fantastic compliment to the MBTI test because the Enneagram deals with core motivations, while MBTI deals with information processing. When taken together, MBTI and Enneagram can provide an accurate description of an individual’s personality. These articles are intended to describe each Enneagram type from the ground up, starting with the most fundamental motivations of that type and moving up to how those motivations are expressed in the real world.
Holy Idea: Innocence/Truth Vice: Lust Virtue: Magnamity Enneagram Triad: Body (Associated Emotion: Anger) Hornevian Triad: Aggressive Harmonic Triad: Reactive Basic Drive: Survival Basic Fear: Being harmed or controlled Basic Desire: To be independent and in control Freudian Association: Id (Subconscious gratification drive)
Animalistic “laws of nature” are coded into the human psyche, particularly in the subconscious Id, which is the seat of many primal impulses. These laws of nature hold that the strong survive and the weak perish, and to survive, one must always be at the top of the food chain.
The foundation of a Type Eight personality is a strong connection to these “laws of nature.” From a Freudian perspective, this is because the Type Eight spends a large part of their mental energy on satisfying certain survival impulses of the Id. From the perspective of cognitive behavioral psychology, a Type Eight believes (for whatever reason, perhaps early development) that the primal survival need is their most treasured asset.
In Enneagram theory, each type has a Holy Idea from which all other traits flow. Type Eight’s “Holy Ideas” are Truth and Innocence. The Holy Idea determines which type a person ultimately grows into; if they are particularly in-tune with the notion of innocence, over time they develop a delusion that no one is innocent, thus justifying cutthroat behavior. It’s every man for themselves in the Eight’s world.
This foundation ensures that the Eight is within the body triad. The body triad is focused on all the minutiae regarding where “I” end and “You” begin. Conflict is a necessary part of that. For the Eight, it’s themselves against the world. There is a clear border between the Eight and the rest of the world, and that border must be protected. 8w9 and 8w7 protect that border in different ways, but that’s discussed later in this article.
The Type Eight basic drive is to survive and the basic fear is to be harmed or controlled. After all, to be controlled is to essentially be an animal caught in a trap, waiting for someone to come along and finish the job. For that reason, Eights will resist almost any attempt to control them. (Weak attempts may fall off the radar as something not worth dealing with.)
But as a society, we do not live in the world of the Id. Society doesn’t allow us to set out bear traps for other people (well, most societies) and so the behaviors of the Eight are channeled into other activities. This is why Eights tend to gravitate toward positions of power, particularly in business or social settings. Even if the position has no apparent survival value, the subconscious drive to control (lest the Eight be controlled themselves) drives them to become the authority in a situation.
Harkening back to the animalistic nature of the Id, the Type Eight relies on intuitive action (gut reactions, not MBTI intuitiveness) to operate. There’s no time to think it out when you’re in the middle of a crossfire on the battlefield, so an Eight will naturally go with their first reaction. This is another reason why Type Eight is in the Body Triad, not the Head Triad. For example, while Type Five will plan things out while Type Eight will just do it.
The vice of Type Eight is lust. But not necessarily sexual lust; this can encompass the desire for any number of things, such as food or money. You can think of a “vice”, at least in the context of the Enneagram, as representing an illusory means of pursuing the basic drive. For Type Eights, the basic drive is survival. Acting in a lusty way gives the illusion of survival; consuming mass amounts of food or possessing great wealth gives, at least temporarily, the appearance that they are winning the battle for survival. This is a major motivation for Type Eight; they want to consume and expand their control. This gives Type Eights an ego that is generally unmatched in the Enneagram. They like to see themselves as powerful, influential and self-sufficient.
Morality wise, a Type Eight would say they have integrity instead of a strong moral code. They would likely view strong moral codes as weak if they are too out of touch with reality. Morality is a core superego function and as an id type, a Type Eight would have a hard time internalizing that.
The virtue of Eight is magnanimity, which represents judicious use of their power. As they gain a deeper understanding of themselves, they realize that there is a right time and a wrong time for their aggression. This helps free them from their fundamental delusion that they must always be expanding their realm of power; as Daniel Webster once said, “Liberty consists in wholesome restraint.” With that restraint, Eights realize their liberty.
Early in life, the Type Eight is sensitive to Innocence and Truth.
The material world (life) corrupts this ideal into the delusion that no one is innocent and thus conflict is naturally acceptable because everyone must understand conflict on some level.
The Eight relies on lust to give the illusion of survival.
The Eight’s virtue, magnanimity (nobility, willingness to face danger, beyond petty anger) leads them to their growth point of Two. Ironically, it would appear that magnanimity would hurt an Eight… but in the end, it is required for an Eight to develop as a person.
Enneagram theorists quickly discovered that each Enneagram type can have traits of the types around it. This is called “wing theory”, and while some theorists dispute the finer points of it, it’s generally agreed that each type has a connection to the types around it and one of these connections will be dominant. For example, Type Two is surrounded by Types One and Three. Someone could therefore be a Two with a One Wing (Two as their main type with some Type One traits), or a Two with a Three Wing (Two as their main type with some Type Three traits.) The notation for this is 2w1 and 2w3, respectively. It is generally held that one wing is more dominant than the other; while you may have traits of both wings, one is more pronounced. Some believe that you can have balanced (equal) wings, but this Enneagram type description operates under the “dominant wing” theory, which is the most prevalent in the Enneagram community.
Type Eight shares wings with Type Seven and Type Nine.
Remember the discussion of borders from the earlier section? Both 8w7 and 8w9 seek to protect their border with the outside world, but they do it in different ways.
Type Eight with a Seven Wing:
8w7s are more likely to favor offense over defense, using preemptive strikes to keep people away from striking the metaphorical (and physical) barrier between themselves and the outside world. 8w7s like to expand aggressively, and they want to make sure others know it. They tend to flaunt their toughness, even subconsciously, to signal a warning to possible challengers.
Type Eight with a Nine Wing:
8w9s are more likely to set up a border, make it clear, and respond with overwhelming force if someone dares to cross. They tend to be practical, down-to-earth, and generally they don’t look for fights. However, if one starts, they will gladly finish it. Eight with a Nine wing is sometimes called “The Bear”, because they tend to go their own way, and fight when disturbed or when they want something. They aren’t as likely to push on other people like an 8w7 would. One simplistic rule of thumb is that 8w7 is offensive, 8w9 is defensive, but both are Eights and share all of the same core desires. 8w9 is not soft because it contains elements of Type Nine. Both are still equally lusty and aggressive.
One theme in the study of the Enneagram is interconnectivity. Each type is distinct, but it does not stand alone. We discussed Wings earlier, which shows how a type can have traits of the types next to it. Another example of interconnectivity are stress and growth arrows. When an individual is in a state of stress or growth, they can take on traits of other types. There is some disagreement within the Enneagram community as to what precipitates a stress or growth condition, but I believe that the most logical interpretation of this is that a type becomes stressed when they succumb to their vice, while a type grows when they are following their virtue. Following a vice is a natural response, as it is the easy way out. Virtues are risky because they cause a person to confront their “dark sides” or fears and may result in a radical reassessment of one’s thoughts and actions. Nevertheless, the Enneagram is a system of personal growth and the stress/growth arrow dynamic reflects that, as it embodies the concept that transcendence is hard work, and it’s always darkest before the dawn.
This is also in line with the overarching theme that the Nine types are basically just different means of perceiving reality, and no type is more correct than any other.
Growth Arrow to Type Two: The Growth arrow represents a state of mind that is ultimately necessary for a type to reach, but which embodies qualities that could be a threat to that type. For example, Type Eight grows in the direction of Type Two, even though the sentimental and helpful qualities of Type Two could compromise Type Eight’s survival. One of the challenges of the Enneagram consists of identifying the best way to integrate these growth characteristics in a sustainable manner.
As a Type Eight grows, they begin to push against the limits imposed upon them by the Body Triad. The bright line that used to separate them from others begins to blur and the Type Eight starts to internalize the needs of others. In effect, they begin to see others as an extension of the self. This is a common element of Type Two, which explains the Eight -> Two growth arrow.
But this growth arrow has limitations. An Eight does not become a Two, but rather, can gain (somewhat superficial) aspects of a Two. Survival remains the inherent focus of an Eight, and so protection of others is often focused primarily on the survival and physical well-being of others. An Eight, even in a strong growth state, may still see some matters (such as simply being “upset”) as essentially trivial because it does not affect survival value. On the other hand, matters such as the invasion of physical space and deception are likely to be hot button issues for an Eight.
Eights in a growth arrow to Two generally do not become champions for the underdog that is a quality that is more accurately attributed to Type One.
Stress Arrow to Type Five:On the other hand, stress arrows tend to indicate a retreat position. An Eight normally relies on intuitive action; but not in the MBTI sense. In this case, intuitive action refers to acting on “gut reactions” and planning is less common. It is normally important for a Type Eight to maintain their momentum.
However, if for some reason they are unable to maintain this momentum, they may become secretive and isolated like a Type Five. In that case, intuitive action is replaced by plotting and suspicion. A severely stressed Eight can therefore appear like a Type Five.
Self-Preservation Eights tend to be rugged survivalists whose top priority is physical security. The stereotypical mega-capitalist CEO is usually a Self-Preservation Eight. They like to own a great deal of property.
Social Eights desire social interaction and dominance. Their lust in channeled into society and groups, which usually drives them to become the leader. Of course, their motivations for becoming the leader are generally self-protection as they resent being controlled.
Sexual Eights are usually very individualistic but are more willing to sacrifice physical comfort than a Self-Preservation Eight. Sexual Eights are usually more lusty a sexual way, as they desire their partner completely and fully. There is almost a desire to absorb the partner into their sexuality.
Head: These types are primarily concerned with their own thoughts. Image: These types take action when it comes to their image, which they equate with reality. Body: These types focus on the border between themselves and the world around them.
Within the body triad… (Compared to One) Eights may have a strong sense of integrity but lack the moral structure of a One. (Compared to Nine) Eights see their survival as paramount and thus will resist others far more than a Nine would.
Within the image triad… (Compared to Two) Eights will not open themselves up like a Two would. (Compared to Three) Unlike Type Three, an Eight would be comfortable presenting a rough (unplanned) image. (Compared to Four) Eights do not see themselves as fundamentally detached from reality like a Four. In fact, Eights would see reality as something to be mastered and not something to withdraw from.
Within the head triad… (Compared to Five) Eights would not plan extensively like a Five. (Compared to Six) Eights may experience anxiety but not as a core feature of their personality, like a Six. (Compared to Seven) Sevens tend to cope with an “I just don’t care” mentality, while Eights would confront a problem head on.
Within the Hornevian triads: The Hornevian triads describe how each type copes with a situation. They were originally developed by psychologist Karen Horney.
Aggressive: In this context, “aggressive” means “action-oriented.” It doesn’t mean belligerence. Type Three – Takes action to gain success. Type Seven – Takes action to keep engaged in interesting activities. Type Eight – Takes action to secure more resources and to continue to consume.
Withdrawn: Type Four – Withdraws to protect themselves from being absorbed into the crowd; to maintain their uniqueness. Type Five – Withdraws to defend themselves and to get a better/clearer view of the situation. Type Nine – Withdraws to maintain peace.
Compliant: In this context, these types are compliant to their superegos. It doesn’t mean that they are pushovers. Type One – Complies with the superego because they will feel corrupt if they don’t. Type Two – Complies with the superego because they will feel useless if they don’t. Type Six – Complies with the superego because they will feel insecure if they don’t.
Within the Harmonic triads: The Harmonic triads describe the primary problem-solving skill employed by each type.Positive Outlook: Type Two – Twos focus on their own goodness and virtue. Type Seven – Sevens adopt an “it doesn’t affect me” mentality. Type Nine – Nines focus on the “silver lining” in a situation instead of negative aspects. Competency: Type One – Ones must be competent to maintain their set of ethics. Type Three – Threes must be competent to avoid challenges to their success. Type Five – Fives must be competent to survive in the “outer world.” Reactive: Type Four – Fours may take things very personally, which makes them very emotionally intense. Type Six – Sixes are observant of their world and react accordingly. Type Eight – Eights are quick to react to challenges and to assert their boundaries.
The Enneagram describes motivations, while the MBTI describes modes of information processing. It would stand to reason that MBTI is subordinate to Enneagram, as the Enneagram deals with more basic motivations. Imagine that two people want to tell the same story, but one is a writer and one is a musician. One will write a book while the other will write a song but both have the same origin point. So let’s look at each type and how that form of information processing would appear when directed by the primary survival motivation of Type Eight:
Extroverted Sensation Types (ESTP and ESFP) Extroverted Sensation is associated with a strong connection to the “present moment” and places an emphasis on practicality in life. The first factor makes a Type Eight ESxP probably one of the more physically imposing type combinations. The second means that ESxP Eights are usually very decisive, and in some cases they can be confused with ESxJs.
Extroverted Intuition Types (ENTP and ENFP) Extroverted Intuition is essentially the opposite of Extroverted Sensing: instead of focusing on present information, Extroverted Intuition brainstorms a myriad number of possibilities that may or may not be true. Extroverted Intuition types tend to be quick on their feet – mentally speaking – and Type Eight ENxPs rely on that ability for survival. Much of an ENxP Eight’s mental energy, therefore, is devoted to maintaining that competitive edge. Compare and contrast: ESxP – Boxing – American fighting sport that is generally won through overwhelming force and agility. ENxP – Akidio – Japanese martial art in which practitioners manipulate the force of their opponent’s attack and turn it against the opponent.
Extroverted Thinking Types (ENTJ, ESTJ) Extroverted Thinking breaks a process down into its logical components. ExTJ Eights use that ability to break down a situation to assert control over others. They are the most likely to employ a “divide and conquer” type attack. Contrast ExTJ and ENxP. The first group wants to break down the enemy and consume it piece by piece; the latter wants to overtake the enemy by outperforming it.
Extroverted Feeling Types (ENFJ, ESFJ) Extroverted Feeling refers to an awareness of the emotions or hidden beliefs of another, but does not necessarily imply that an Fe-dominant person must bend to those emotions. This means that Extroverted Feeling types often have a unique insight into the intentions of others. ExFJ Eights are particularly adept at finding “weak spots” in other people’s emotional armor. I
ntroverted Sensation Types (ISTJ, ISFJ) Introverted Sensation types tend to use their experience to guide them; Si dominant Type Eights may be overly focused on setting out rules and holding people to them.
Introverted Intuition Types (INTJ, INFJ) Ni-Dominant types tend to have brilliant insights into “what’s going on”, although they do so in different ways.
INTJ Eights rely on their innate ability to determine what’s “out of order” and respond accordingly. INTJ Eights tend to be planners. Contrast this with their opposite, ESTP: an ESTP is likely to jump right into the fight, while an INTJ will observe and plan ahead. INFJ Eights, as they couple their Ni with Fe, have a startling intuition into other people and will use it to their advantage in a conflict. This is the type that probably finds it the easiest to navigate difficult social groups.
Introverted Thinking Types (INTP, ISTP) Ti dominant types enhance their survival value by spotting inconsistencies in the behaviors of others and acting on them Contrast this with INTP/ISTP Type Five – instead of planning, they are more likely to just act.
Introverted Feeling Types (INFP, ISFP)Fi dominant Eights tend to act instinctively and can develop an arrogant attitude in the pursuit of their goals. They may see themselves as so fundamentally correct that understanding the position of others isn’t useful. Contrary to popular belief, Fi plus Enneagram Eight does not make a touchy-feely Enneagram Eight.
Type One – “I will be secure if I’m perfect.”
Type Two – “I will be secure if I’m loved, appreciated or respected.”
Type Three – “I will be secure if I am successful.”
Type Four – “I will be secure if I am unique.”
Type Five – “I will be secure if I withdraw from harm.”
Type Six – “I will be secure if I am always aware of danger.”
Type Seven – “I will be secure if I can plan for the future.”
Type Eight – “I will be secure if I can control the world around me.”
Type Nine – “I will be secure if I have peace.”
Type 8: Id Power Focused.
Basic Fear: To be harmed or controlled by others.
Basic Desire: To be in control of their own life.
A Type 8 individual has a well-developed id, which motivates them to be independent and resourceful. A Type 8 knows what they want – and they know that the most direct path is the quickest way to get it. For that reason, Type 8s are straightforward, assertive, and direct. The id tends to push to get to what it wants, so it won’t back down when confronted with resistance. In fact, resistance only makes the Type 8 amp up the aggression; they are going to get what they want.
The vice of Type 8 is often called “lust”, and that makes sense. They want what they want, and they want lots of it.
This is why conflict energizes an 8: it satisfies their id desires. In fact, some 8s may pursue conflict simply because it’s so satisfying to the id. Contrast this with counterphobic 6: a cp6 is aggressive to deal with fear, an 8 may be aggressive because the aggression itself is satisfying. However, the id has a side to it that’s more playful, and this comes out with the 8 in private. The 8 ideal is magnamity; the ability to use their power in an equitable and just way. This tends to develop as an 8 grows older. To Encourage Integration: Understand that there’s a higher power in not using your power at all. The ultimate test of power is whether you can control yourself or not. To Avoid Disintegration: Use your energy in a just way. Not everything is deserving of aggressive confrontation. Understand that not everyone sees conflict the way that you do. Type 8 Wings: Type 8 with a 7 Wing (Id-Id): The id qualities of 8 and 7 stack in the 8w7. Because of the enthusiast 7 wing, they 8w7 is often very adventurous and intense. 8w7 is also the most likely type to seek conflict for the sake of conflict alone. 8w7s are often unaware of their own strength and may push much more than is necessary to get what they want. Type 8 with a 9 Wing (Id-Ego): The ego element of Type 9 makes the 8w9 more aware of their impulses. An 8w9 is less likely to underestimate their power, like an 8w7. This awareness gives the 8w9 better impulse control than 8w7, so the 8w9 is less likely to strike out at others without being provoked first. They are much more likely to draw a line in the sand and dare you to cross it. However, 8w9s run the risk of bottling up their aggression and having it explode at inopportune moments.