Enneagram Type Six: Loyal – Well, Sort Of

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We remain in the Head Center this week with an exploration of Type Six. A joke in the Enneagram world is that if you can’t figure out which type you are, you’re probably a Six. That’s because the Six is such an ambivalent personality. So ambivalent, in fact, that they come in two opposing varieties! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Sixes are known as The Devil’s Advocate, The Loyal Skeptic—need I go on? These titles encapsulate the Six dilemma. They long to trust, yet find it very difficult. They want to find a person or, more typically, an institution or group, to believe in, but nagging doubt remains. They can’t fully trust anyone on the outside, and they don’t have confidence in themselves, either. They are stuck in a conundrum that Cardinal de Retz clearly understands: “A man who doesn’t trust himself can never really trust anyone else.”

Where does this lack of trust come from? Sixes, as Head types, have fear as their primary underlying emotion. They are afraid, at their core, that the world is unsafe and that there is no one and nothing to support or guide them. They are alone in a scary place, and they can’t even trust their own instincts. They have been cut off from their inner sense of guidance.

Because they want so much to find something outside themselves to believe in, Sixes will seek out an institution that they have some affinity with, that somehow helps them to feel safe and supported. It can be an actual safety-related group, like martial arts, or a group whose ideals they can get behind, like a religious group or political party. Once they have found this group, they become some of the most loyal and dedicated members of that group. They will show up first and leave last, doing all that is expected of them so that they can maintain their place within the group and continue to feel supported. People tend to love Sixes because they’re so dang loyal and dependable. Need to move on a holiday weekend? Ask a Six. Need someone to help set up a weekend event at 6:00 a.m.? Ask a Six. Want to make sure your spouse never cheats on you? Marry a Six (at an average or healthy emotional level).

At the same time, Sixes never fully give their loyalty over to anyone. Hence the Loyal Skeptic moniker. Doubts remain because, since they have no sense of inner guidance, how can they know that the decisions they make are right? They constantly question themselves and those to whom they’ve given allegiance. One Six I know complained about the leadership at his job repeatedly—about the decisions they’d made and the direction they were taking the company in—and stayed there 20 years. A Six could see that the church he’d attended for almost a quarter-century was falling apart, but he found it almost impossible to leave. One of my favorite Sixes, my late Grandpa Frank, used to say regularly, “People are no damned good.”

For the Six, that statement would include themselves. Sixes tend to have self-esteem struggles. They feel particularly ignored by the authorities in their lives, and generally ignored by everyone else. They have concluded, then, that this means there is something unremarkable about or wrong with them. Because Sixes don’t believe in themselves, they often don’t speak up as forcefully as they need to, and they indeed are ignored or forgotten. In this way, the Sixes reinforce their skewed view of themselves – their personality.

As Head Types, Sixes was to KNOW, and what you don’t know CAN hurt you. This makes change particularly difficult for Sixes, as it’s seen as a loss of support and a leap into the gaping unknown. I’m sure a Six coined the phrase, “The devil you know is better than the one you don’t.”

However, I’m equally sure that a Six coined this phrase: “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Now, how can Sixes fear the unknown and, on the other hand, force themselves into danger on a daily basis? Aah, we have reached the fascinating paradox of the Six. This is where the two opposing varieties of Six come into play. No other Type demonstrates such an overt split in coping strategies: phobic vs. counter-phobic. This topic could seriously take up a blog post or two of its own, but I’ll simplify here by saying that phobic Sixes (like Woody Allen) are very clearly afraid, while the counter-phobic Sixes (like Mel Gibson) oppose their fear and come off as tough guys. Sometimes, in fact, it’s hard to tell a counter-phobic Six from an Eight (which will make more sense when we get to the Eights!).

We see in the Apostle Peter an example of a Six, both the heroic and the not-so-much. He was the first to accept Jesus’ call; he was the first to recognize, or at least publically declare, the divinity of Jesus. Full of faith, he walked on the water; beginning to doubt, he sank in the water. He cut off a guy’s ear defending his Messiah, and when that authority figure was subdued and his support was gone, he fled. He swore he wouldn’t deny Jesus, and then he did it three times. And then, after his Lord returned in victory and commissioned him to feed his sheep, Peter did so and never looked back.

Loyalty, conviction, compassion, service: these are just some of the beautiful qualities of the Six. I am blessed to have Sixes in my life; they are some of my favorite people. Tell me about a Six you know in the comments below; I’d love to hear your stories!

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