Contents: Please use these links to jump to the relevant sections.
- The Enneagram 8
- Identifiable Traits
- Defense Mechanisms
- Enneagram 8 Wings
- Social Variants
- Self-Preservation 8
- Social 8
- Sexual 8
- Spiritual Growth
The Enneagram 8
“Lust” in the context of the 8 includes excess in certain things. It is a passion for excess and intensity, not only through sex but in all manner of stimulation. 8s do not feel alive except through over-stimulation, 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 without any 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. The 8 is seen by others as totally aggressive and provocative by those not in control over their own aggression. They are 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 with regard to lawful behavior; inability to maintain enduring attachment to a sexual partner, and promiscuity; irritability and aggressiveness; failure to honor financial obligations; failure to plan ahead; disregard for the truth as indicated 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, accelerated, 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 are able to 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. In that sense, the 8 could be seen as not having the usual ‘checks’ on their nature that many of the 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 deems as warranted frankness.
8s see around them many compliant people who pretend to be more loving, sympathetic, and generous than they actually are, and in this regard, 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 in general. 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 and 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 main 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 attempt 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 prefers a direct authoritarian manner in dealing with subordinates. They have a high tolerance for pain.
Lust: an unidentifiable passion for life that will not be denied; 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 simply 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 in an attempt to 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. The process of 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 manage to 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).
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 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’ as a result. 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 tending to perceive the expression of positive feelings a 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 greatly 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
Enneagram types often have influences from the number on one side of them, more than the other. While it’s possible to have balanced wings, or no wing at all, most people can relate to one wing in particular.
8w7: The Independent
Healthy: Having a quick mind combined with a vision for practical possibilities, 8w7s are charismatic and able to attract the support of others to join them in their vision. They are action-oriented, and want to have an impact on their world. They are good at challenging others to strength their abilities and to surpass their own expectations so that their lives can be better in some practical way. This is the most independent 8, often entrepreneurial and interested in creating projects that ensure their independence.
Average: They are adventurous risk-takers, have “big plans,” and to enlist the cooperation of others, make big promises and exaggerate the potential of their ventures. They are sociable, talkative, and outgoing, with great self-confidence. 8w7s are pragmatic, practical, and competitive, not only concerned with pleasing others or with putting up with what they perceive as weakness or inefficiency. They can become impatient, impulsive, and lied by their feelings more than the 8w9. They are more openly aggressive and confrontational and less likely to back down from a fight.
8w9: The Bear
Healthy: 8w9s combine strength, self-confidence, and determination with quiet groundedness and a certain laid-back quality. They are steady in the pursuit of their aims and are not as openly aggressive or as easily perturbed as the 8w7. They are warm and family-oriented, asserting power and leadership through protectiveness. There is less of a “wheeler-dealer” quality in them. While they want to be independent, they intend to do so at their own pace. The ability to reassure and calm others enhances their capacity for leadership.
Average: These 8w9s have a dual nature, manifesting themselves differently in different areas of th3eir lives. They can be warm and affectionate at home, but highly determined and aggressive at work. They like to live quietly and unobtrusively, preferring to control their affairs from behind the scenes. They tend to speak slowly and be attuned to the nonverbal cues and body language of others—friendly while secretly sizing up people. Strategic and watchful, they almost dare others to underestimate them. These 8s can be stubborn, impassive, and quietly menacing. When they lose their tempers, the explosion comes suddenly and violently, and then is gone.
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 as well as 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 tend to be more materialistic than the other two, wanting money for the power it gives but also looking to acquire 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 tend to worry about protecting their possessions and investments. Even within their homes, they can be extremely territorial about their personal 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 are not threatened in any way.
Unhealthy self-preservation 8s can become bullies and thieves, justifying their destructive behavior by the belief that they are “toughening up” others. After all, 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 do not hesitate to undermine or attack others to protect their interests and to make sure no one has the ability to threaten their material safety.
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. Feelings of social awkwardness or rejection are eased by surrounding themselves with friends who are predictable and who accept them as they are. (Not everyone will be let 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 tend to hold grudges longer than most. Once someone has been exiled 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 real support for others.
Unhealthy 8s, due to feelings of rejection and betrayal, can become extremely antisocial loners. They are often reckless and self-destructive and are particularly 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 are generally unable to comprehend the damage they are doing to themselves or to others.
The Sexual 8: Taking Charge
The sexual 8s are the most quietly intense and charismatic of the 8s. They are passionate about whomever 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, are 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 attempt to completely 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.
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?
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.
Main analysis from Claudio Naranjo: Character and Neurosis. Wings and Subtypes: Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram. Growth sections: Beatrice Chestnut, The Complete Enneagram: 27 Paths to Greater Self-Knowledge. Sections have been quoted but some are heavily edited. Please purchase the original books for more information.