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E-SymEightlabeled1The Powerful, Dominating Type:
Self-Confident, Decisive, Willful, and Confrontational

Type Eight in Brief

Eights are self-confident, strong, and assertive. Protective, resourceful, straight-talking, and decisive, but can also be ego-centric and domineering. Eights feel they must control their environment, especially people, sometimes becoming confrontational and intimidating. Eights typically have problems with their tempers and allow themselves to be vulnerable. At their Best: self-mastering, they use their strength to improve others’ lives, becoming heroic, generous, and inspiring.

  • Basic Fear: Of being harmed or controlled by others
  • Basic Desire: To protect themselves (to be in control of their own life
    and destiny)
  • Enneagram Eight with a Seven-Wing: “The Maverick”
  • Enneagram Eight with a Nine-Wing: “The Bear”

Key Motivations: They want to be self-reliant, prove their strength and resist weakness, be important in their world, dominate the environment, and stay in control of their situation.

The Meaning of the Arrows (in brief)

When moving in their Direction of Disintegration (stress), self-confident Eights suddenly become secretive and fearful at Five. However, when moving in their Direction of Integration (growth), lustful, controlling Eights become more open-hearted and caring, like healthy Twos.

Examples: Martin Luther King, Jr., Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Mikhail Gorbachev, G.I. Gurdjieff, Pablo Picasso, Richard Wagner, Sean Connery, Susan Sarandon, Glenn Close, John Wayne, Charlton Heston, Norman Mailer, Mike Wallace, Barbara Walters, Ann Richards, Toni Morrison, Lee Iacocca, Donald Trump, Frank Sinatra, Bette Davis, Roseanne Barr, James Brown, Chrissie Hynde, Courtney Love, Leona Helmsley, Sigourney Weaver, Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein, and John McCain.

Type Eight Overview

We have named personality type Eight The Challenger because, of all the types; Eights enjoy taking on challenges and giving others opportunities to challenge themselves to exceed themselves in some way. Eights are charismatic and have the physical and psychological capacities to persuade others to follow them into all kinds of endeavors—from starting a company rebuilding a city, running a household, waging war, and making peace.

Eights have enormous willpower and vitality and feel most alive when exercising these capacities in the world. They use their abundant energy to effect changes in their environment—to “leave their mark” on it—but also to keep the environment, especially other people, from hurting them and those they care about. At an early age, Eights understand that this requires strength, will, persistence, and endurance—qualities they develop in themselves and look for in others.

Thayer is a stockbroker who has worked intensively on understanding her type Eight personality. She recounts a childhood incident in which she could see the development of this pattern.

“Much of my tenacity and toughness comes from my Dad. He always told me not to ‘let anybody push you around.’ It was not okay to cry. I learned to master my weaker side early on. At the tender age of eight, a huge horse ran away with me. When an adult caught the horse, I resolutely dismounted without a tear. I could tell my father was proud.”

Eights do not want to be controlled or to allow others to have power over them (their Basic Fear), whether the power is psychological, sexual, social, or financial. Much of their behavior is involved with making sure that they retain and increase whatever power they have for as long as possible. An Eight may be a general or a gardener, a small business person or a mogul, the mother of a family, or the superior of a religious community. No matter: being “in charge” and leaving their imprint on their sphere is uniquely characteristic of them.

Eights are the true “rugged individualists” of the Enneagram. More than any other type, they stand alone. They want to be independent and resist being indebted to anyone. They often refuse to “give in” to social conventions, and they can defy fear, shame, and concern about the consequences of their actions. Although they are usually aware of what people think of them, they do not let the opinions of others sway them. They do their business with a steely determination that can be awe-inspiring, even intimidating to others.

Although, to some extent, Eights fear physical harm, their fear of being disempowered or controlled somehow is far more critical. Eights are extraordinarily tough and can absorb a great deal of physical punishment without complaint—a double-edged blessing since they often take their health and stamina for granted and overlook the health and well-being of others. Yet they desperately fear being hurt emotionally and will use their physical strength to protect their feelings and keep others at a safe emotional distance. Beneath the tough façade is vulnerability, although a layer of emotional armor has covered it.

Thus, Eights are often highly dynamic, but at the price of losing emotional contact with many people. Those close to them may become increasingly dissatisfied with this state of affairs, which confounds Eights. (“I don’t understand what my family is complaining about. I bust my hump to provide for them. Why are they disappointed with me?”)

When this happens, Eights feel misunderstood and may distance themselves further. In fact, Eights often feel hurt and rejected beneath their imposing exterior. However, they seldom talk about this because they have trouble admitting their vulnerability to themselves, let alone to anyone else. Because Eights fear being rejected (divorced, humiliated, criticized, fired, or harmed somehow), Eights attempts to defend themselves by first deserting others. The result is that average Eights become blocked in their ability to connect with people or to love since love gives the other power over them, reawakening their Basic Fear.

The more Eights build up their egos to protect themselves, the more sensitive they become to any actual or imaginary slight to their self-respect, authority, or preeminence. The more they attempt to make themselves impervious to hurt or pain (physical or emotional), the more they “shut down” emotionally to become hardened and rock-like.

When Eights are emotionally healthy, however, they have a resourceful, “can-do” attitude and a steady inner drive. They take the initiative and make things happen with a great passion for life. They are honorable and authoritative—natural leaders with a solid, commanding presence. Their groundedness gives them abundant “common sense” and the ability to be decisive. Eights are willing to “take the heat,” knowing that any decision cannot please everyone. But as much as possible, they want to look after the interests of the people in their charge without playing favorites. They use their talents and fortitude to construct a better world for everyone.

(from The Wisdom of the Enneagram, p. 289-291)

Next Actions

  • Do you often find yourself fighting for other people’s rights with no fear of any repercussions?
  • Do people who take ages to make a point irritate you the most?
  • Are you a natural leader?
  • Do you think you are practical, i.e., the one to get the job done?

Some tips to help make the positive side of your personality type shine through:

  • Learn to control your “confrontational” side.
  • Life is not black and white. Human beings create complex problems, and it may not always be apparent which side is the “right” one.
  • Learn to allow others to take the lead sometimes.
  • Learn to manage your anger appropriately. Suppressing your anger isn’t enough, as that can cause problems too.

Work on your tendency to bully and be controlling. Concentrate on remembering that everyone is not created equal – some are not as strong as others, and these need your protection, not you’re bullying.