Being a six often involves movement between trust and suspicion, duty and rebellion, anxiety and courage, charm and accusation. If I am a six it is likely that I am a loyal and reliable friend for those who are close to me. It is fulfilling to belong to a group of close companions in whom I can place my faith, and who can rely on me as well. This is both a powerful talent and possibly the most dangerous trap I may face in my personal journey.
At my best, I can align myself with a worthy cause and courageously pull together with my compatriots, feeling (and helping to generate) within myself and my fellows a powerful sense of community and belonging. The feeling of working together with others who are dedicated to achieving a worthwhile goal is deeply fulfilling. When I am operating from my real Essence, my inner state is peaceful, serene, and quiet, and I can feel that I am part of something much larger than myself. Then I can find my place in the human race, a place where my own contribution is valued and highly effective.
At my worst, I might alternate between depending on others and feeling that others cannot be trusted, possibly causing me to fall into ambivalence when faced with important decisions. I may find that I cannot act without first asking others for their opinions, because I am anxious about doing what I am “supposed” to do. When my real Essence is clouded by attachment to rules and the expectations of others, I bounce between anxiety and rebellion, trying unsuccessfully to find a compromise between my fear of making the wrong decision and my fear that other people are not trustworthy. I might wonder then what happened to the faith and friendship that I used to feel.
anxiety and courage
If I am a six, the tension between anxiety and courage is a fundamental part of my personality. Even when I am in balance, my natural serenity comes from paying attention to sources of anxiety and dealing with them courageously, rather than shrinking into myself or running away.
Anxiety is a fear that has no definite source, because it seems to come from deep within. The flip side of anxiety is true courage, a monumentally powerful talent that carries with it firm resolve, forceful action, and calm acceptance.
If I can break through into the realm of courage, I will have found an inner wealth beyond measure. But before genuine courage arrives, I must conquer anxiety, and the uncertainty and despair that come in its wake. I must discover how to use anxiety as a force for personal growth.
Have I found the secret for turning anxiety into courage?
When I am anxious, what is my response?
Do I move away from whatever seems to be creating the anxiety?
Do I push my way through the situation, hoping to get it over with?
Am I able to turn the tension into a force for positive change within myself?
Courage comes from acceptance of the world the way it is, combined with ever-growing freedom from preconceived notions of “how things should be.” People who are courageous are not necessarily free of anxiety. But they have learned how to use the anxious feelings as a clue that they need to look deeper into themselves. They become more aware of themselves, of their goals and the obstacles that may stand in the way.
Where do truly bold people find their inner resolve? Turning anxiety into courage involves a kind of inner shift. If I can step outside of my immediate feelings, in order to look at the world from a less personal perspective, then I may notice ways that my anxiety colors my view.
When I am anxious, I tend to pay much more attention to parts of my experience that seem to make me uncomfortable. I might focus on people who seem threatening in some way, or maybe on environmental threats. When I feel anxious, it’s perfectly natural to start examining the world to figure out where the unease is coming from.
These external threats may be very real, but there might be a problem with the way I pay attention to them. Because whatever I look at naturally tends to seem larger, the selective attention to what seems threatening reinforces my anxiety, starting me in on a loop that might lead eventually to a real panic attack. If I can learn to look at the world more objectively, I might be able to help myself escape the loop of anxiety, so that my real inner courage can manifest.
Do people look different from a point of view that is detached from personal concerns?
When I am anxious, do I remind myself to stand outside of the immediate situation, so that I can look at it as if I were someone else?
Can I balance my perspective so that I deliberately look not only at what is threatening but also at what is reassuring and safe about my life?
ambivalence and overcompensation
If I cannot see honesty in others, then I cannot see it in myself. I may find myself unable to trust even myself. I might lose faith in even my own motivations. Faced with decisions, I may bounce back and forth from one option to another, unable to decide. I could mistrust my own judgment. I might begin to doubt my own worth.
If the self-doubt continues, I might try to deal with it by switching tactics. Where I was full of doubt before, I could become defiant and rebellious. But it is a strange sort of defiance, because it is founded on a deep fear that I am wrong. If I am awake enough to examine my feelings, the fear that is behind my boldness might jump out clearly.
Am I trying to cover my anxiety by putting on a brave face?
Do I feel better when I do this, or does it increase the anxiety?
How do other people respond to my defiant appearance?
Is there another way of being that might produce a more useful response?
being persecuted and being liked
One of the results of deep anxiety can be a feeling that other people are “after” me. I might not be consciously aware of these feelings of persecution, but if they are there they will come out in an inability to trust others. There are several ways to respond to persecution anxiety.
If I can be sure that the others like me and find me pleasing, then the persecution anxiety becomes less. The ability to be likable, appealing, and endearing is a natural talent of type six. But if I become addicted to the anxiety reduction that comes as a result of being liked, my friendly nature can become a trap.
Overcompensating in the direction of friendliness is not usually the most effective way of restoring a friendship. What would it feel like if someone were to behave that way with me? Wouldn’t I wonder what this other person wants from me?
If I feel that something has cooled in my friendship with someone, how do I react?
Do I choose the response of becoming increasingly friendly?
Do I become more ingratiating, trying to make it right?
Do I go out of my way to be cute, handsome, innocent, funny or otherwise harmlessly attractive?
Is there another way to allay persecution anxiety that empowers me rather than making me into a harmless, likable shell of a real person?
activism and authorities
As a six, I am probably very interested in helping to ensure that people are not oppressed or treated unjustly. It matters to me, probably a great deal, whether my brothers and sisters are receiving fair treatment from those who are in power.
People might think of me as someone who sticks up for the underdogs of society. I may be an activist of some kind, or if not, then it’s still likely that my opinions about such matters as human rights, discrimination, and justice are strong and carefully considered. I may be willing to engage in heated discussions about such matters with relatively little provocation.
This whole attitude reflects an innate talent for identifying myself with groups, especially groups who are subject to control by authority figures. In the process of identifying with the group, I become very sensitive to those who might act against the interest of the group. I watch carefully for signs that the authorities have some kind of hidden agenda.
If I think about my feelings and opinions and watch how I interact with others, I can understand why it is so important for society to contain people with my talents. By being especially sensitive to hypocrisy and hidden agendas in others, people like me offer a valuable balance for those who are focused on using their power in broad, visible ways. My talents can help to keep power-oriented people (who are not necessarily bad people) from falling prey to the great temptations of their positions. But there is a dangerous trap associated with this talent for spotting hidden messages.
Because I naturally tend to identify with my group, it might be easy for me to get carried away in an endless quest to uncover the hypocrisy in others. If I lose myself in the quest, I might become convinced that no one can ever be trusted. I start to see hidden motivations in even the most innocent activities. I fall into a pattern of doubt, unable to know how to spot real honesty in others. Then I might become cynical, negative, and possibly severely depressed. Nothing seems worthwhile because everyone seems to be acting out of pure self-interest.
Am I quick to assign unstated motives to others?
Do I start out suspicious of new acquaintances, only trusting them after they have proved themselves trustworthy?
Do I look for signs that even my closest friends might be hiding something?
Is there someone in my life whom I completely trust? Should there be?
self-defeating behavior and real self-interest
When things go wrong in my life, who is at fault? If I am a six, I might want to watch myself to be sure that I am not acting against my own best interest. It’s possible that I have a masochistic streak that can bite me when I am not completely awake.
I should think carefully before I accuse someone else of anything, because suspicion of others is one way of hiding self-defeating behavior patterns from myself.
If I can be honest enough to see, accept, and forgive self-damaging behavior, then I will gain access to deep, intuitive insight into what is really good for me. Real self-interest helps not only me but also everyone around me. I become a well-integrated, useful member of whatever group I choose to join (or form around myself).
Can I find examples of self-sabotage in my past?
Do I blame other people for problems that I caused myself?
outrage and acceptance of differing views
There is much suffering in the world, certainly. It is not easy being made out of flesh, and we are prey to a great many traps. My brothers and sisters vary widely in their virtues. Many of them have been treated unjustly, and many have been outright oppressed. Of course, it is valuable to feel compassion for those who are suffering because of someone else’s persecution. My sensitivity to the plight of the oppressed is a powerful tool I can use to help the world.
By speaking out on behalf of those who are in pain, I can help them and I can make the world aware of the injustice.
As a six my nature is such that delivering a “message of outrage” tends to temporarily reduce my own feelings of anxiety. I sometimes might amplify my outrage, thinking I can reduce the anxiety still further. I might become more of an activist for the cause than is really useful. Unfortunately, once I begin to overdo the message, my anxiety begins to increase again. I can become addicted to outrage, so that I need repeated “fixes” just to stave off panic.
If I become so rabid that I push my message on people who are not ready to listen, then I am defeating my purpose by wasting my message on deaf ears. I might be better off waiting until I have a really interested audience before I begin foaming at the mouth.
When I talk about my favorite injustices, do people look away?
Do they fidget or try to change the subject?
Is my message being heard?
Am I being too forceful?
enemies and allies
If I become even a little bit carried away while supporting some cause, I may begin to view people with an “us versus them” mentality. You are either on my side, or you are one of Those People. Of course, They can’t be trusted. Their agendas are alien to ours.
One of the biggest problems with this dualistic view is that I must automatically involve everyone in the dualism. If you are One Of Us, then you must be against Them just the same as I am. Otherwise, maybe you’re one of Them. My own lack of trust can make it difficult for me to be friends with people who are not on either side of my self-imposed duality.
Maybe there are some people in my life who can be more useful to me as good friends than as motivated allies in my quests for justice. Maybe some of them are on The Other Side.
Do I turn people away from me as friends when it becomes clear that they disagree with my views?
Is it possible to have a friendship with someone who has no interest in the causes that matter so much to me?
Could I be friends with someone who actively disagrees with my most cherished views?
Would there be any value in such a friendship?
As a baby, I was completely innocent and trusting. But it’s very likely that somewhere along the way something happened, and I began to feel anxiety and mistrust. The world that seemed so safe and nurturing took on a different appearance. Other people, the environment, perhaps even my own inner self began to seem threatening.
How can I escape from the cycle of mistrust and cynicism?
How can I begin to place more importance in trust than in doubt?
How can I restore the faith I used to have in basic human nature?
Before I can begin to trust others, I must learn to trust myself. If I continue to doubt myself, then I am acting in such a way that I hide myself from myself. By doubting myself, I create an inner tension that prevents me from knowing what I really want. Every time I look to someone else to tell me what to do, every time I act the way I am “supposed to” act, every time I defer a decision to someone else, I add another brick to the wall separating me from myself.
peace and security
When I have made full contact with the solidly reliable inner authority, then I will no longer be enslaved by anxiety and ambivalence. I will feel a deep inner peace that comes from certainty about my own decisions. No longer in doubt about other people’s motivations, I will also lose all doubt about my own. I will know my path surely and clearly, and walk among my trusted, beloved brothers and sisters with a quiet mind and a calm heart.
at their best
Healthy sixes are courageous and incorruptible. Because they do not compulsively search for unspoken messages, they are able to trust people fully and completely when it is appropriate to do so. Their deep faith in the process of reality enables them to live fluidly and gracefully, with a kind of inner tranquility that erases anxiety. They are impeccably honorable and loyal to their friends, utterly genuine in their brotherly love.
Balanced sixes are truly delightful. Their desire to be your friend comes from a deep faith in human nature. They are easy-going, soft-spoken, and genuine. Their eyes smile. Their good humor is innocent and utterly charming. Sexy in distinctly masculine or feminine ways, natural and unposed. Totally reliable, completely calm, and endlessly faithful, healthy sixes are the essence of brotherhood and courage.
When healthy sixes misuse or misunderstand their innate talent of sensing the honesty of others, they can begin to fear that their trust is misplaced. They may begin to use their talent compulsively, at times when it is inappropriate. They might manufacture reasons to mistrust others. Their failure to recognize their real talents makes it increasingly difficult to trust themselves, leading to anxiety and ambivalence when they need to make important decisions. They may look out into the world, hoping to find some authority who can offer security by answering their questions, only to find that they do not trust the answers when they get them.
They want to be part of the family, so they dress in ways that appeal without seeming threatening, unless they are in uniform, in which case the implied threat is to those who don’t follow the rules. Most sixes dress to fit in. Sixes like clothes and behavior that help them feel like they belong. They often like sports teams, and might wear their names. They like to work in jobs where they get to put on a uniform, especially if the uniform shows that they do dangerous, scary work. Most sixes like to dress up, especially the 6/7s. Some of them really know how to turn on the charm. What sweet, coy darlings. What affable, friendly buddies.
The more compulsively they look for hidden motivations, the harder it becomes for sixes to believe anything they hear. Even their own thoughts and feelings become suspect. Their fear that others are “out to get them” is reflected within and without, until the whole world becomes an endless hall of mirrors where everyone must constantly lie and cheat just to stay alive. Eventually, the horrifying anxiety and insecurity might become intolerable, with several possible results, ranging from masochistic attempts to secure protection in prison or a mental hospital, to violent acts, like those of an unhealthy three, designed to deal with imagined (or real) persecutors.
When trust becomes work, sixes get anxious. Neck muscles might tighten up. Maybe the stance becomes more tense, and little tics and movements accumulate. Obsessive hair-pulling, scab-picking, pencil-tapping. Eyes dart back and forth, or stare right at you with a direct, penetrating gaze. (Can you be trusted? Can you look me in the face? Do you like me?) Paranoia can lead to wide eyes and prematurely gray hair. Alternately tough and shy, never sure whether to withdraw or stand bravely, terminally ambivalent. Eventually frantic with indecision and overwhelming fear, ready to self-injure if necessary just to gain the protection of official custody, unbalanced sixes are the essence of terror and panic.
more questions for sixes
Do I value faithful companionship, the peaceful wisdom of inner authority, courageous action and the serenity of innocence?
Do I see the world as rules and enforcement, criminals and cops?
Do scofflaws distract me?
Do big decisions distract me?
How do I measure the value of loyalty?
Are there times when fear is courage?
Are there times when decision is effortless?
Am I a dutiful robot?
Do I trust other people?
Do other people trust me?
Do I make other people into victims and criminals?
Is it possible to love someone who wants to injure me?
Do my role models have role models?
Do I find serenity through decisive action?
Do I find courage through natural faith?
Does anxiety make me more aggressive?
Do competitive urges heighten my insecurity?
Do I deserve to be punished?
Am I ready to make my own rules?
Do I fold fear into a paper prison?
Do I insist on finding a guilty party even if it means losing a friend?
Do I pretend to be brave even when I am quaking in terror?
Am I here to obey someone else’s laws?
Am I here to be taken care of?
Am I here to teach faithful courage?
Can I tell whether or not someone can be trusted?
Can I trust myself?
Is it tempting to lie to my friends so that they will like me or be impressed?
Is it important to have a set of clear rules for living?
Do I talk about the ways that other people break the rules?
Do I secretly break the rules myself?
Do I do dangerous things as a way of convincing myself that I am brave?
Is God the ultimate authority?
Does God know all of my deepest secrets?
Next in Enneagram 101: type 6 with 5 wing
Previous in Enneagram 101: type 5 with 6 wing
…or return to contents.