Enneagram Type Eight: Large and in Charge

Conan

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We’ve just left the Head Center and entered the Gut Center to arrive at Type Eight – The Challenger, The Defender, The Boss. The phrase “large and in charge” must have been coined by or about an Eight! This Type has a large personality, though they are often physically large as well. Eights make great entrepreneurs and CEOs. One of the assertive types, they are not afraid to lead or to give their opinion (think Donald Trump, an Eight).

Eights have a tremendous amount of energy coursing through them, and it is directed outward. A healthy application of all that energy is new businesses, products and ideas. A not-so-healthy application of that energy is stirring up drama so things stay intense. Eights tend to be highly susceptible to addictive behaviors, and they are most typically addicted to intensity. All that energy gets restless if it’s not put to some use.

If it can’t be a constructive use, Eights will discharge it destructively (depending on their level of health). They are described as annihilators. I refer to them as the pitbulls of the Enneagram for this reason. I know first-hand how an Eight can latch onto you and verbally attack you and just…not let go. They won’t stop. To an Eight, backing down equals defeat, even if they realize that they’ve gone too far or are in the wrong. They are compelled by their Superego to fight to the death. Which, conversely, is awesome if they’re on your side. More on that in a minute.

Eights, being in the Gut Center, are Anger types. What are they angry about? They are angry that the world is full of people who want to control or harm them. That’s their basic fear, which spawns the basic desire of Eights to protect themselves and those around them from anyone who would try to exert control over them. Eights are wired for rebellion and have difficulty with authority. I am told that prisons are full of Eights. They only feel good or okay if they are strong and in control of the situation. Alec Baldwin, Pink and John Wayne are examples of Type Eight.

In the average to healthy range, Eights makes things happen and get things done. They can be the magnanimous family patriarchs/matriarchs, presiding generously over the kingdom they have built. They like to be the provider, and whatever they identify as their family (children, gang members, employees) is very important to them. My father-in-law typified this Eight attribute. He organized trips and get-togethers for his family and paid for everything. I loved to watch him relishing those times, so happy and so proud of his seven children and many grandchildren.

The fact that he had seven children reminds me of the Eight’s tendency toward excess (not that it’s wrong to have seven children, or that all Eights have a lot of kids). This tendency can land them in debt as they pursue passionate living, or in relationship hot water as they pursue more than one partner, or in real trouble if that lust for life turns to addiction.

Because Eights project an image of strength, they are a rock and a shelter to many around them. And sometimes a rescuer. One of my sisters is an Eight, and when I experienced bullying in junior high, she would come down from the high school and find my persecutors. She didn’t have to touch them; she just looked so mean that they got the message and didn’t bother me again. However, Eights will rarely show their true, big hearts because being vulnerable is dangerous to them. If an Eight reveals deep emotion or uncertainty to you, you know you have won their trust.

I’m fairly certain King David was an Eight. Just think of his encounter with Goliath! Where everyone else was afraid, he didn’t flinch. In fact, he was rather irritated that everyone was so afraid! He stepped up to the plate in what seemed like an impossible situation and delivered. In addition, we see the Eight zest for life in David’s encounter with Bathsheba. He already had plenty of wives, but he wanted her too, and the guy in charge gets what he wants. Yet we also see his passion for God in the many songs he wrote and performed about Him. David has his issues, like we all do, but God rejoiced in David’s passion and called him “a man after my own heart.” I always add the word “running” before “after” because that seems to fit David’s character and style.

I have been blessed, and occasionally terrified or heartbroken, by the Eights in my life. How about you? Do you have a friend, loved one or enemy who’s an Eight? Please share your stories in the comments section!

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