8: The Need to Be Against

“You hold him down while we knife him, and then we’ll all go out for ice cream and strippers.”

Dean Winchester, Supernatural

Dean Winchester is one of the most memorable characters in recent television history. A boy with a heart of gold, he covers it up with macho masculinity and bravado. He pretends to be harder and more calloused than he truly is, yet runs to defend the poor, the helpless, the damsels in distress, and above all, children who need him, against the creatures that go bump in the night on the long-lived series, Supernatural. Engaged in a constant struggle between his own desire to be tender and to give and receive love, his fears of vulnerability at the potential loss of his brother, and his hedonism, avoidance of pain through distractions, and casual relationships, Dean often sacrifices himself for others, denies his own vulnerabilities, tells it like it is, tries to dominate everything right down to which tapes play in his Impala (“driver picks the music, shotgun shuts his cake hole”), and tries to deny the inner child who just wants to be loved.

Dean is a terrific example of a maturing Enneagram 8.

Read on to learn more about Enneagram 8s.

The Need to Be Against

Our lingering impression of an 8 is strength and might. Their sense of justice and truth lets them instinctively know if something stinks or if injustice and dishonesty as work in a situation or individual. They address such problems openly and directly. At their best, they can provide others with a sense of reliability and trust in their methods, because they live by a mantra of responsibility and solicitude. They devote their tremendous energy to the cause of “right.”

Just as 1s want to be good, 8s want to be bad. Rather than embrace their soft underbelly, they develop an exterior hardness that conceals the tenderness of their emotions. They trust no one but themselves and don’t believe they can afford to show weakness or cry. They believe the strong rule the weak. To avoid being preyed upon, they decide not to be good, play by the rules, or conform, but to rebel, resist authority, break the rules, and seek power through ordering others around. They test others to see how far they can push them.

8s do not apologize, take anything back, or admit to their mistakes. They don’t find it easy to ask for forgiveness, either. But they can and will deal with themselves as harshly as they do others, and castigate themselves. 8s direct their aggression toward hypocrisy and injustice. They believe life is threatening and hostile, and you cannot afford to trust others until they prove their honesty and reliability. They seek and create conflict, do not hold back in a fight, and enjoy “being against.” Resistance and negotiation are their first reaction to new perspectives, ideas, and possibilities.

They take the side of the week, the marginalized, the oppressed, and the defenseless, and are intolerant of the abuse of the authorities or those they see as over-reaching themselves. Behind their facade of hardness lies an innocent inner child. To protect themselves from this coming to light, they bury all feelings of tenderness and vulnerability. They are insecure about this side of themselves and may show it only to one or two people in their lifetime. Their self-image is that they have power and are stronger than others. If in a position of authority over others, those under them can feel oppressed or pushed around. The 8 doesn’t realize that their directness, aggression, high energy level, and forcefulness can intimidate others who are not used to their explosions of anger and frustration. Any victim of their temper may struggle to regain focus, while the 8 has blown a gasket, gotten over it once it hit the air, and moved on with their day.

8s fight to make contact through direct confrontation; it creates an intimacy in their mind in their search for a partner or a friend who can stand their ground and fight back. It comes so easily to them they don’t understand how this kind of initiation can intimidate others. They assume others share their love for conflict and confrontation. 8s may not notice how hard their “blows” land; they may see their “playful” attacks as less severe than the victim does (who may call it aggressive behavior). 8s attack others to startle them into revealing their true self, devoid of artifice. To find out who their allies and adversaries are, who to fight and who is safe. Though they may slaughter an opponent verbally, if their enemy is their equal, they will also respect them as a “worthy foe.”

They sense others’ weaknesses and exploit them without remorse. Their ability to unmask dishonest behaviors makes them good at bringing the truth about others to light. This talent means that the mature 8 has greater potential than any other type to lead others to their true potential, because they alone can see it. They make natural leaders who inspire great followings. Their fans know they will accomplish what they promise to do, because they always finish what they start. Rather than reform something from the inside out (like a 1 would), the 8 attacks and dismantles the system from the outside in. This can also strike other types as hostile and frightening behavior, because it is tearing down what other hold “most dear” to replace it with whatever the 8 has in mind. They seem to thrive on causing trouble, and see zero reasons to be diplomatic about their intentions, opinions, or goals.

They avoid helplessness, weakness, and submissions. They see their opinions as absolute and reject alternate arguments. 8s can be overbearing and arrogant. They may treat others as doormats, see themselves as superior, and assign themselves as everyone else’s boss. If they sense too much unwarranted self-confidence in others, they will challenge them and tear them down. If you have power, the 8 will prove to you that their power is superior. They will bring a cannon to a knife fight. But if they sense another’s weakness in a way that cannot be helped (such as the helplessness of a child, a frightened soul, or an injured animal), the 8 will become their defender and champion.

Despite what others may think, their enormous energy is not born of anger, but passion and total commitment to living life to the absolute fullest, to drink it down to its last dregs and demand more. They are daring, rarely show fear, and enjoy risk-taking and facing challenges. They go overboard in everything, including in their zeal for justice. If not careful, the 8 can believe “bad” people deserve severe punishment and take it on themselves to melt it out. They think justice is retaliation or revenge and are not the type to just forgive or walk away. They may fall into denial and refuse to accept anything that does not fit their rigid worldview. Above all, they deny and repress their own needs, emotions, limits, and weaknesses. Inner voices that say “don’t feel what you feel” rule the 8.

8s are often shameless. Their lust is not just for flesh, but based in their tendency to shamelessly use, possess, control, and suppress others for their own pleasure (baiting them for arguments, using them for sex, exploiting them at card games or in boardrooms, destroying them in a public debate, etc). When this happens, they are showing a direct lack of concern, care, or morality towards others’ dignity and worth as fellow human beings. Immature 8s make harsh demands on others while failing to live up to those standards themselves. They will over-indulge in food, sex, alcohol, drugs, and what money can buy without guilt. Not to escape their life, like a 7 would, but out of pure enjoyment of it. 8s live life to the fullest and embrace all of it, even the pain. They are more able than every other type to face, endure, and not let pain break them.

They need to control everything and have others take responsibility for their mistakes, even if their reaction is explosive. Woe to those who conceal something from them or “hoodwink” them, because the 8 does not forgive or forget. They can fuss and demand perfection out of a belief that one mistake can cause them to lose control over the entire project. They desperately need to feel in control over their possessions and family members. Because of this, 8s face problems when they are falling in love. They need a partner who does not submit to them, but will stand their ground and offer fierce arguments in return, because that is the only person they can and will respect. Anyone needy, clingy, or too fearful irritates them. Once in a relationship, they struggle to compromise, adapt, or sacrifice themselves for the other person, rather than constantly trying to keep the upper hand—and this is where their relationship founders, because all of those things make a mature relationship work. Romance tests their emotional vulnerability against their desire to remain untouchable and hard. They may want to sleep with their lover, but not be around them “all the time,” because they value their autonomy.

Immature 8s are merciless toward themselves and others. Only when they fully see and accept their own weakness, can they tolerate it in others. Their fear of their inner softness makes them reluctant to Integrate. 8s must learn to watch themselves and halt their tendency to humiliate, intimidate, or exploit others. They must learn to respect others’ viewpoints even if they disagree with them, and not numb themselves to avoid inner work through over-indulgence. They should learn to look for compromises rather than ram through their desired end, regardless of how others feel about it, and obey their own rules.

Growth can be difficult for many 8s, because they scorn inner work, psychology, reflection, or admission of wrongdoing—but some 8s, once they see these things about themselves, are ruthless in dealing with them and growing as individuals. The 8 must learn to see their own tender, innocent child within and show it kindness, through allowing themselves to feel and express their emotions in ways other than through angry outbursts or violent attacks against those whom they dislike. They must learn not to fear their own weakness and recognize that sometimes to give others ground is a sign of superior strength. They must learn to see tenderness as a sign of strong character—a fearless admission of “self” equal to their other excellent traits. They need to demand the same naked truth from themselves as they do others. 8s need to learn to concede when they are wrong, and to embrace forgiveness. Forgiving someone puts you in a position of power over them to change their life for the better.

Sadistic Character and Lust

 “Lust” in the 8 includes excess in certain things. It is a passion for excess and intensity, not only through sex but in over-stimulation. 8s do not feel alive except through it, and so avoid inwardness. Their greed for ever more aliveness is an attempt to compensate for a hidden lack of aliveness. 8s are the insensitive, impulsive, and hedonistic. They act as a strong, tough-minded character. They are extra-punitive and bold. 8s are explosive, defiant, and disobedient. They may, with the least amount of provocation, become enraged or even violent with no consideration (having a predictably “short fuse”). They may know the moral laws of a situation perfectly well, but don’t feel them and do not subordinate their behavior to them. They find it difficult to restrain their own gratification and thus pursue hotly whatever they desire.

The 8 may be excitable, unstable, impulsive, eccentric, anti-social, and quarrelsome. They may possess traits of sociopathic behaviors, such as guiltlessness, impulsivity, emotional shallowness, superficial social charm, and the inability to profit from experience (they “never learn” from their mistakes). 8 are be tough, hard-headed, and realistic, coldly reserved or contemptuously aggressive. The 8 will anticipate any impending attack with an attack of their own. They display the aggression of their character less in what they do and say than in the dominant manner in which they act. Others see the 8 as totally aggressive and provocative by those not in control over their own aggression. They feel driven to achieve leading positions in life and ill-suited to subordinate positions. The 8 may be blatantly self-confident, with a flagrant display of superiority and dignity. The 8 does not expect to receive things from others as gifts, but assumes they must take them away by force or cunning, coloring their attitude by a mixture of hostility and manipulation, cynicism, suspicion, envy and jealousy.

Traits the ‘extreme 8’ shares with anti-social disorder: inability to sustain consistent work behavior; lack of ability to function as a responsible parent; failure to accept social norms regarding lawful behavior; inability to maintain enduring attachment to a sexual partner, and promiscuity; irritability and aggressiveness; failure to honor financial obligations; failure to plan; disregard for the truth as showed by “conning” for personal profit; recklessness; hostile affectivity (argumentative, quick-tempered, flies readily into arguments and attack-mode); assertive self-image (proud of their self-reliance, energy, and hard-headedness; values a tough, competitive, and power-oriented lifestyle); interpersonal vindictiveness (enjoys humiliating others, contemptuous of sentiment, etc); total fearlessness (impulsive, sped up, and forceful responses; undaunted by and attracted to danger and punishment); malevolent projection (believes most people are devious, controlling and punitive; justifies own mistrustful hostile and vengeful attitudes by ascribing them to others).

The 8 identifies more with their glorified self than with their despised self. They want to ‘master life’ and have a determination, conscious or otherwise, to overcome every obstacle inside oneself or out, the belief they can do it, and can do it. The 8 should be able to master the adversities of life, the difficulties of a situation, the intricacies of intellectual problems, the resistances of others, and any conflicts in themselves. The 8 experiences needs with overwhelming intensity. The 8 lacks the usual ‘checks’ on their nature that many other types experience. The 8 may believe it is wise to regard everyone with distrust until they have proven themselves honest. The 8 can come across as arrogant, rude, or offensive, though the 8 will cover this with a thin veil of politeness.

At their worst, 8s will use others to their own ends, and create relationships to use as stepping stones, arguing that when others dislike or complain against his methods, they are neurotically sensitive. These 8s will insist on dismissing others’ needs or wishes while having their own honored and respected. They will feel entitled to share unfavorable observations but refuse any ‘undue criticism.’ These 8s can be vindictive, irritable, sulky, guilt-trip others, or fly into open rages; they can enjoy intimidating others into subdued appeasement, or scold themselves for ‘going soft.’

The 8 feels a desperate need to harden their feelings to survive; they believe they must be strong to master life. The 8 does not wish to need others and is proud of their self-sufficiency. They are also proud of their honesty, fairness, and sense of justice, but may be oblivious to their own determination to bluff their way through life. The 8 believes ‘strike first and hardest’ is the only way to fight a crooked and hostile world and protect their self-interests. The 8 does not question the validity of their claims, anger, or its expression, which the 8 sees as warranted frankness. 8s see around them many compliant people who pretend to be more loving, sympathetic, and generous than they are, and is more honest than the rest of the types. If the 8 does not feel friendly, the 8 does not feign friendliness; they disdain doing so.

What drives the 8’s lack of sympathy for others’ weaknesses is a bitter envy stemming from feeling excluded from life. It feels to the 8, in defending against the world constantly, that they are separate from everything that makes life worth living—joy, love, happiness, creativity, and growth. The 8 cannot admit this, but may suffer from a sense that others are better off than they are. 8s love physical adventure, are energetic, often need and love to exercise, enjoy dominating, possess a lust for power, risk, and chance, have a bold and direct manner, enjoy physical combat and show tremendous courage under fire, are competitive, aggressive, are not squeamish, can be noisy and bold, assertive and aggressive when drinking, and need to take direct action when feeling troubled.

The 8 comes into life with a constitutionally determined orientation toward action and a disposition to fight. 8s are lovers of tangible reality with little interest in reflection, and good company in that they are lively and powerful. Their chief priority is the intensification of sensations, and they like to live life to the fullest and demand more. 8s are prone to addictions and often ‘mean drunks.’ If restless, the 8 will grow bored with allowing events to progress at their own natural pace; if things are going too smoothly at work or home, the 8 may stir them up by raising contentious issues or contradictory opinions. They may refuse to curb their hot tempers. This can sabotage the 8 in professional environments, where such outbursts defy all civilized rules of behavior. The 8 grows easily bored with intellectual work and prefer a direct authoritarian manner in dealing with subordinates. They have a high tolerance for pain.

Identifiable Traits:

Lust: an unidentifiable passion for life that they will not deny; intensity, gusto, love of eating, etc. The 8 seems determined to prove to the world that what everybody calls ‘bad’ is not such. Hedonism, a tendency toward easy boredom when not being stimulated, a craving for excitement, impatient, and impulsive. The pleasure of their lust comes from asserting the satisfaction of impulses, pleasure in the forbidden, and particularly in fighting for pleasure. The 8 will often transform pain into pleasure, either the pain they entail in fighting to conquer obstacles or in the resistance of others. It is a lust for intensity, not just for pleasure. This comes not from intellectual satisfaction but from a struggle and triumph.

Corrective: blunt, sarcastic, irony and other direct forms of castigation. 8s are the angriest of the types and the least intimidated by anger. The 8 reacts angrily in the moment, then quickly gets over their irritation. If an 8 seeks revenge, it is a long-term game in which they take justice into their own hands in response to the pain, humiliation, and impotence felt in their childhood. It is as if they want to turn the tables on the world and having suffered frustration or humiliation for the pleasure of others, has determined it is now their turn to have pleasure, even if it includes the pain of others (or especially then). The excitement of anxiety, strong tastes, and tough experiences represents for the 8 a transformation of pain into a hardening of self against life. They can be dominating, insensitive, and cynical.

Rebelliousness: 8s are revolutionary activists with a strong opposition to authority and a scorn for the values enjoined by traditional education. “Badness” in their mind becomes the way to be, and they have always been rebellious.

Dominance: hostility and dominance go hand in hand, but dominance protects the 8 from being vulnerable or dependent. Related traits include arrogance, power seeking, a need for triumph, putting others down, competitiveness, acting superior, disdain, and scorn for others. 8s feel they must fight for their wishes. The 8 has figured out it does not pay to be weak, accommodating, or seductive, and orients itself toward power so they can take justice into their hands.

Intensity: toughness, being confrontational, intimidating, ruthlessness, and being callous are typical for 8s. They reject weakness, sentimentality, pity, and especially fear. The 8 denies their fears and embraces the feeling of power generated by assertiveness. They transform anxiety into excitement. Hardening self against anxiety is an addiction, something without which life seems boring and tasteless.

Cynicism: come from the 8’s skepticism toward virtue as being hypocritical, and distrust in others’ motives. The 8 is more blatantly deceptive than the 7 and knows how to bargain assertively.

Exhibitionism: 8s are charming, witty, and entertaining yet not concerned with how others see them; they use seductiveness, bragging, and arrogance in tandem with these things to gain power and influence in the dominance hierarchy. 8s are exploitative and insensitive, yet make themselves acceptable despite their lesser traits.

Autonomy: 8s reject dependency in any form.

Sensory-Motor Dominance: 8s prefer action over intellect and feeling. They are all about the ‘here and now’—the sphere of the senses and the body-sense in particular. They cling to the present and have an impatience toward abstractions, memory, and a desensitization toward the subtly of aesthetic or spiritual experiences. The 8 may deem anything intangible and untouchable to the senses as not real (including the Enneagram).

Defense Mechanisms:

8s fiercely repress an intellectual (mental, inward-pointing) lifestyle, to defend themselves against passivity or dependency. They strive through excessive assertiveness and aggression to avoid a position of powerlessness that would constrain and resign them into giving up their impulses. To compensate for their feelings of guilt, shame, and worthlessness, the 8 engages in a process of guilt denial and a repression of the super-ego. They disavow internal authority and its values in a rebellious turning against of inhibition. The 8 is intolerant of anything that disagrees with their wishes. They are skilled at keeping pain out of their awareness and transform their apprehension into a source of excitement. This desensitization stems from a deliberate turning away from the expectation of love from others and the turning against social standards.

What formed them: the noisy, rambunctious, rebellious and excessively vehement 8 child soon discovered themselves able to easily elicit rejection or punishment. Instead of allowing this to cow them, the 8 progressed into further self-assertion and rebellion. They may have experienced cruelties, abuse, or violence in the home, and ‘toughened up’. The 8 child may have perceived punishment differently from their siblings, or been in the presence of an 8 adult whom they admired.

Much like the 5, the 8 has pessimistically given up on the search for love to the point of cynically doubting good motives and perceiving the expression of positive feelings as sentimentality. The 8’s search for love becomes a search for respect—something they consider the “proof of love.” The 8 may believe that “proof of love” is in another’s willingness to be ‘possessed’ and dominated / lead by the 8. The over-development of action in the service of struggling prevents the 8 from embracing ‘full humanness.’ The 8 needs to learn that in constantly grasping at power means a loss of the tender qualities and subtlety that could enrich their emotional life, romantic attachments, and embody their sense of ‘being’ and wholeness. The 8’s striving for concrete goals (pleasure, wealth, triumph, etc), if substituted for wholeness, will leave them forever dissatisfied, and a slave to their need for intensity.

The 8 needs to be open to the possibility of being loved for themselves; in not needing to demand or ‘take’ from others but allowing them to ‘give.’ To put oneself above all others does not make one the victor. To become whole, the 8 must embrace relationships, tenderness, and a willingness to experience and allow themselves to feel love. The 8 needs to learn that sometimes the greatest act of strength is the willingness not to dominate another.

Enneagram 8 Wings

8s present in two different ways based on the influence of their preferred wing. While it’s possible to have balanced wings, or no wing at all, most people can relate to the traits, fears and defense mechanisms of one wing in particular.

8w7: The Independent

8w7s are outgoing, energetic, and fun. They bring in the aggression and the directness of the 8 and mix it with the hilarity and sunny personality of the 7. Charismatic, outgoing, and sometimes hedonistic, this 9 is ambitious, impulsive, and sometimes reckless. They live life to the fullest, and can avoid the things they do not want to face (such as their sadness after a loss) through hedonism. They are the most energetic of all the numbers and the most entrepreneurial. 8w7s are the extroverted, social, and gregarious 8.

Character Example: Who robbed the rich to feed the poor? Saw the marginalized and oppressed and became an outlaw to settle the score? Why, Robin Hood, of course! This aggressive, direct, and outgoing personality gathered a group of Merry Men in the woods to right the wrongs he saw in society beneath the leadership of Prince John and his nefarious Sheriff of Nottingham. In all the movies and the television series, Robin is confident (cocky?), combative (one might say direct), and reckless. He isn’t above a bit of fun, but won’t stand for insubordination, either. In the television series, Robin almost alienates his entire group in his refusal to release a prisoner, Sir Guy of Gisborne, whom Robin has discovered attempted to assassinate King Richard in the Holy Land. This is not something he can forgive or forget… and it takes incredible strength of character and a damn good reason for him to let Sir Guy live, showcasing the stubbornness and revenge-drive of the 8.

8w9: The Bear

8w9s take a more measured and slower approach to life. They are more approachable and open to cooperation over competition or conflict, and often become leaders whose strong but peaceful methods of force enable them to enact great change in society (Martin Luther King Jr). The peacemaking 9 softens the 8 and makes them more agreeable, more withdrawn, quieter in their displays of power, and calm even in intense situations that would make others crumble. Because they can be supportive, modest, and less aggressive, it’s easy for them to gain devoted followers. If they truly lean into their 9 wing and develop the ability to see both sides of a situation, they can become successful negotiators in all ways of life.

Character Example: Princess Leia was a gift to Enneagram 8 little girls everywhere when Star Wars came on the scene. Instead of a damsel in distress, she grabbed the nearest gun, shot her way into the bowls of a ship, and threw herself into the hole—but not until after she insulted Han Solo for being an idiot. I mean, does a girl have to do everything around here? A feisty, opinionated, aggressive woman who would rather hit her future partner with zingers (fortunately, as a 7w8, Han is more than capable of standing up to her) than make out in a closet, Leia also felt disgust for his “gutlessness” in thinking only about himself, and not the Cause. A natural leader and diplomat, who could also use charm when necessary (especially as she grew older), Leia’s passion and zeal, her willingness to endure torture, and her fierce determination to survive even Jabba’s presence, eventually inspired Han to join the Resistance and come to all their aid. Not bad for a woman who would “rather kiss a wookie”!

Social Variants:

Social variants determine how we respond to the world around us and where our major priorities in life lie. Attentiveness to bonding, social responsibilities, and how we ‘appear’ to others is in the realm of social (soc). Survival, fulfilling all of one’s needs, and a focus on ensuring one always has enough resources for a comfortable life is self-preservation (sp). Sexual displays, competing for attention, being like a moth to a flame in your pursuit of another person, or competing for a mate falls under the realm of sexual (sx). Read through each to determine which resonates the most with you.

The Self Preservation 8: The Survivor

Average self-preservation 8s are the most no-nonsense 8s. They focus intently on practical matters and on “bringing home the bacon” so they will have enough money and power to ensure their well-being and that of their loved ones. They are the most domestic 8s, enjoying the privacy of their homes, where they insist on ruling the roots. These 8s are more materialistic than the other two, wanting money for the power it gives but also looking to gain prized possessions (such as cars or homes) as symbols of their impact and importance. They are the most prone to workaholic behaviors and may work several jobs or unusually long hours to earn enough income to feel satisfied or protected.

These 8s worry about protecting their possessions and investments. Even within their homes, they can be extremely territorial about their belongings (“No one goes into my room / the garage without my permission!”). It makes them feel secure if they have a clear idea of where their possessions are and that they are safe. Thus they are constantly checking to ensure that their finances, personal and professional position, and belongings go un-threatened.

Unhealthy self-preservation 8s can become bullies and thieves, justifying their destructive behavior by the belief that they are “toughening up” others. They think it’s a jungle out there. At the least, they feel justified acting selfishly, going after their needs (often financial and sexual) without regard for the consequences or for others’ feelings. They undermine or attack others to protect their interests and to make sure no one can threaten their material safety.

Character Example: It’s impossible to forget Cary Grant’s crusty, self-serving 8 in the romantic wartime comedy Father Goose. A man looking out only for his own interests, who shamelessly steals gas from the military outpost, Walter winds up marooned on an island when a military vessel rams his boat, to force him to stay there. He drowns his sorrows in booze—and the only way the military can get him to report Japanese plains is by promising him one bottle per plane. To get himself off the island and out of its responsibilities, Walter makes a middle of the night run to a neighboring island where instead of the relief promised to him, he finds a French schoolteacher and a bunch of (in his word) “brats.” The gaggle of girls take over his hut, hide all his booze, and make his life a living hell, until Walter, out of a begrudging sense of sympathy for them, falls in love with their teacher and saves them all from the Japanese invaders, at the cost of his very own boat. But even then, he still refuses to admit he capsized the lifeboat.

The Social Eight: Gusto and Camaraderie

Average social 8s express their intensity through the powerful bonds they make with others. Honor and trust are big issues for them, and they enjoy making pacts with those who have proven themselves trustworthy. They will test the people they care about so that friendships feel solid and safe. They ease their feelings of social awkwardness or rejection by surrounding themselves with friends who are predictable and who accept them as they are. (They will not let everyone into their inner circle, but for those who pass the test by demonstrating loyalty and solidity, the sky is the limit.) Having a night out, going on a big weekend jaunt, or holding court with the inner circle are their ways of relaxing, and they will do anything for the few people they are about. They enjoy hosting social events, wining and dining their friends, and sharing adventures with “real” people. They also enjoy debates—the more heated, the better.

Lower level 8s may take friends for granted or reject them over a disagreement. They can easily feel betrayed and hold grudges longer than most. Once they have exiled someone from their inner circle, these 8s are extremely reluctant to let the person near them again. Their penchant for storytelling can denigrate into gross exaggeration and “snowing” people. They become charming rogues and con artists, full of promises but offering little genuine support for others.

Unhealthy 8s, because of feelings of rejection and betrayal, can become extremely antisocial loners. They are often reckless and self-destructive and are prone to substance abuse. The combination of intoxication and rage can rapidly destroy much of the good in their lives. In this state, social 8s generally cannot comprehend the damage they are doing to themselves or to others.

Character Example: Back when It’s a Wonderful Life came out, the critics called it sentimental hogwash. Well, director Frank Capra got the last laugh, because it has become a Christmas classic. It revolves around the life of young George Bailey, a confident young man who goes up against the corrupt banker, Mr. Potter, after his father’s death. George has grand plans for his life, which include traveling the world and satisfying his wanderlust, but he discovers after his father’s funeral that unless he stays, the board will sell the Building and Loan to Mr. Potter. George cannot stand Potter, whom he sees as a bully who “wants to own everything.” So he stays in Bedford Falls, bolsters his father’s business, marries a wonderful woman, and then has a crisis of faith when he believes it’s all about to collapse after they lose their bank deposit on Christmas Eve. It takes an angel named Clarence and a surreal trip into an alternate reality where George never existed for him to see the tremendous impact for the good he has had on the lives of everyone he ever met—even if he never went on that trip to Europe.

The Sexual 8: Taking Charge

The sexual 8s are the most quietly intense and charismatic of the 8s. They are passionate about whoever they care about and want to feel that they have had a major impact on the lives for those in their sphere of influence (this can be positive or negative, depending on their health levels). They enjoy rabble-rousing good times, but are more rebellious than the social 8. They have a sly sense of humor and enjoy being “bad.” They can be deeply loving and devoted, but they can also see intimacy as a struggle for control or an opportunity to build their self-esteem. They can play rough with intimates, feel stimulated by a good argument, and can be impatient with niceness. They can be competitive for the thrill of competition, rather than for security reasons. They lose interest if they win too easily. This extends into their intimate relationships as well.

Lower health level sexual 8s demand loyalty, consistency, and attention, and have little tolerance for wandering interests in their significant other. They see themselves in a parental, mentoring role and want to remold people into shapes that better fit their needs and plans. They have an opinion about every aspect of their significant other’s life. This makes it difficult for them to maintain a relationship of equality.

Unhealthy sexual 8s can try to control and dominate their partner. They are extremely jealous, seeing the other as a possession, and may seek to isolate their significant other from friends or other contacts. In worst-case scenarios, spousal abuse, impulsive acts of revenge, and crimes of passion are possible.

Character Example: The struggle at the heart of Anne of the Thousand Days lies between two passionate 8s—Anne Boleyn, a social 8 who intends to fight Henry VIII’s predatory behaviors, and the lustful, sexually dominant desire of Henry’s need to “possess her.” He is a man of tremendous appetites and passions, easily driven to resentments, outbursts, and anger. Its depiction captures the intense sexual fixation of the 8 in his wanton lust for Anne Boleyn, his easily bruised feelings, and his willingness to tear apart his kingdom to possess her. The contrast between them is stark. Anne is steadier and less emotional; Henry has the fire, zeal, and need to be dominant, often referencing her in sexual terms and boasting about his exploits with women. Because neither of them can yield, it blooms spectacularly and then, as history shows us, all goes down in flames.

Spiritual Growth Suggestions

As 8s work on themselves and become more self-aware, they learn to escape the trap of limiting themselves through opposing limits on themselves by developing a clearer awareness of their softer side, tempering action with more thinking and feeling, and learning to moderate their impulses and impact.

Notice when you are…

Rebelling against outside authority and denying internal and external limitations. Observe your tendency to view yourself as above all forms of authority. Recognize what motivates this. Note how you don’t accept conventional limits and how you invalidate the voice of conventional authority. Notice what forms this opposition takes, what beliefs you hold that support this view, and what you do when you act from a superior sense of yourself as the ultimate authority. Notice any grandiose thoughts you have about yourself that indicate self-superiority and how you never question these things. Is denying your vulnerability fueling this? Are you repressing your “smallness” out of a desire to be “big”? Notice when you are rebellious and what happens. Watch out for times when refusal to accept limits will hurt yourself or others. Try to tune into the consequences of refusing to moderate yourself or accept constraints.

Focusing on and acting from power and strength as overcompensation for denied powerlessness and weakness. Observe how you take refuge in power and strength and how doing so might be a way to avoid or overcompensate for not wanting to experience deeper feelings of powerlessness, weakness, or impotence. Notice your anger and how you feel an impulse to act on it. What makes you angry and why? Notice what you do to assert yourself. Notice when you are thinking in ways that support powerful action without considering other possibilities or options. Observe how you confront things and press forward as a way to avoid feeling vulnerable and to obtain satisfaction at any price. If it’s hard to moderate your aggression, consider why. Notice how much impulsiveness plays in your life and any tendencies you have to avoid thinking through your actions before you take them.

Avoiding and denying vulnerable feelings and dependence on others. Observe how difficult it is for you to recognize and own your more valuable emotions. Do you judge yourself as weak for allowing yourself to experience a wide variety of emotions? Pay attention to any thoughts you have about your softer feelings and any rationalizations you make to avoid them. Observe how you manage to maintain a powerful position in your relationships. Notice when your thinking supports the correctness of your views rather than considering you might be wrong. Notice any ways you hide your softer thoughts from yourself. Be aware of how you can be excessively harsh on yourself or others when vulnerability arises. What do you do to avoid your softer feelings?

Questions to ask yourself:

  • How and why did these patterns develop?
  • What emotions are these patterns designed to protect me from?
  • Why am I doing this?
  • How are these patterns operating in me?
  • What are my blind spots, because of these patterns?
  • What do they keep me from seeing?
  • What are the consequences of continuing to be this way?
  • How do my coping mechanisms trap me?

Self-Development:

To counter-act rebelling against outside authority and denying internal and external limitations.

  • See how rebellion against limits may lead to self-limitation. Consider taking the risk to be less defended and more deeply available in the world. You probably don’t want to accept this advice, but by placing yourself “above” external sources of learning, care, and holding, you can end up alone or lonely even if you refuse to realize the pain of it. You need to find ways to accept and benefit finding guidance, protection, and care from others and so relax the need to be “against.” Outside help is not an attempt to control you, though it may feel like it.
  • Broaden your voice of who has authority over the truth. (How do you know you’re not wrong?) You fall into “it’s true because I say it’s true” thinking. But you aren’t the authority on everything. Your sense of self is grounded in the physical, your sense of reality is more skewed than you realize. Refusal to consider any other possibility or legitimate perspective limits you. Make sure to question your own authority once in awhile, rather than rebelling out of habit. Learn to accept or allow for others’ disagreement without believing you have a monopoly on the truth. If you will check to see if you might be wrong sometimes, you can deepen your self-confidence and practice opening up to the experience of admitting a mistake.
  • Learn about limits. If you push yourself to work harder and harder without observing your normal human limitations, you can hurt yourself. If you eat too much, drink too much, or play too much, you can cause yourself and others real damage. You risk endangering your health, freedom, relationships, and well-being by resisting moderation and reasonable constraints. If you can become more aware of why you have to feel powerful and satisfy all your needs to excess, you can begin to accept not always having to feel so strong.

To counter-act focusing on and acting from power and strength as overcompensation for denied powerlessness and weakness.

  • Consult your head and heart more often before taking action. Learning wisdom requires considering different forms of data. You habitually move into action without thinking or feeling things through. Learn to see yourself moving impulsively into action. Force yourself to slow down, analyze the situation more, and consult how you feel about it, before you move forward.
  • Use your aggression as a clue to your underlining feelings. Your advantage is having easier access to your anger and aggression than other types. This generates power, but also hides the feelings that motivated your anger. You get angry when you feel hurt. Look for what’s underneath your anger. Get in touch with your feelings of anger and helplessness. If you can learn what’s behind your anger, you can become an even more powerful, constructive leader. Make it a practice to explore and feel what you are avoiding. It will give you a deeper self-understanding and more information they can use to deal with the hurt that fuels the anger.
  • Reframe vulnerability and weakness as expressions of great strength. Feelings are just valid, not right or wrong or good or bad. If you don’t access all of who you are, you stop yourself from growing into all you might become. It takes a great deal of strength to allow yourself to be truly vulnerable.

To counter-act avoiding and denying vulnerable feelings and dependence on others.

  • Catch yourself in the act of avoiding vulnerability and dependence. You automatically and habitually deny these things. You may think they don’t exist. But as you become aware of your denial, you have a chance to show real inner toughness by integrating your vulnerability rather than avoiding it through displays of strength. If you can see how you deny these things, you can work to incorporate a deeper experience of your more tender emotions into your interactions. This will make you more whole, present, and desirable in relationships.
  • Regularly inquire into your emotional depths and allow yourself to experience more of your feelings. Do you wake up angry? Do you find yourself dwelling mostly on anger? Impatience? Irritation? Rage? Frustration? How often do you feel sadness, confusion, disappointment, fear, pain, or loss? Are you arming yourself with the former to avoid the latter? Choose to explore those things, along with love, attachment, and softness. Regularly ask yourself what you might be feeling that you aren’t aware of. Learn to relax your defenses against feeling all of your feelings, and practice opening up to let in more love and compassion.
  • Make needs for love more conscious. How you defend against giving and receiving real love is by giving up on it. But all people are motivated by love. Become more aware of how you push love away even though you need and want it. Examine the ways you might have given up on love. If you can reawaken your desire for it, you will open yourself up to the trust and vulnerability it requires.

Using your integration and disintegration numbers for self-growth:

Move to 5 to gain a balance between withdrawal and forward momentum, between thinking and acting. Protect yourself through withdrawal to a safe place where you can regroup. Develop a capacity for careful analysis constructed from a distance in place of overreliance on force, aggression, and premature action. Learn to moderate your energy and resources in support of self-protection ad self-expression. The 5’s observation, objective thinking, and cautious focus on boundaries can counteract your impulsiveness, tendency to excess, and methods of intimidation. Focus more intentionally on self-regulation and moderation in what you do. Think more thoroughly about what you want to do, before you do it. Develop a desire for alone time, self-regulation, and personal space.

Move to 2 will help you reclaim empathy for others and see their need to feel appreciated. Start acting out “giving to get” and seducing through charm and helpfulness. Compulsively and expansively do things for others, give advice, or express physical affection. Reestablish a healthy balance between attuning to others’ feelings and needs and asserting your own. Re-engage your need for comfort, love, and care, and your desire to please others. Your “I don’t care what anyone thinks of me” is a defense against other people’s possible rejection. Consciously remind yourself it’s okay to care what others think and feel about you, and it’s important to value your need for love, understanding, affection, and acceptance. Open up a channel to loving and supportive relationships. Meet others’ needs and express your care and affection to others more often.


Sources: Richard Rohr, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, Claudio Naranjo: Character and Neurosis, Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Beatrice Chestnut, The Complete Enneagram: 27 Paths to Greater Self-Knowledge. Sections quoted or paraphrased. Please purchase the original books for more information.