Being an eight means having a no-nonsense, take-charge attitude to life. If I am an eight it is likely that I have always been willing and able to courageously get what I want from the world. Lead, follow, or get out of the way. If you don’t like it, go somewhere else, because I know what I want and I aim to get it. This is both a powerful talent and possibly the most dangerous trap I may face in my personal journey.
At my best, I can be a generous and magnanimous leader, powerfully acting for the benefit of my friends and myself. I am able to generate tremendous loyalty and devotion from others, helping them by sharing my own personal power. When I am operating from my real Essence, I can be a benevolent and much-loved benefactor of humanity, standing boldly at the helm of my life, leading others by setting an inspiring and charismatic example.
At my worst, I can become overly attached to power and control over others, possibly causing me to become increasingly dominant, aggressive, and contentious. I may deliberately create conflict as a way of eliminating possible challengers to my position of power. When my real Essence is clouded by attachment to being invulnerable and powerful, I might cause great harm to others in order to “get them out of the way,” eventually leading to more and more desperate attempts to protect myself as my enemies become more and more abundant and angry. Then I might retreat into an overprotected shell of defenses against a world that is perceived as increasingly hostile.
trying to be invulnerable
My strength is likely to be one of my greatest assets. But if I become too attached to being strong all the time, I can get myself in trouble. Like all humans, I have weak spots.
If I believe that I must not let others see the places where I am weak, then I must protect them from view. By doing so, I hide essential parts of my own personality. Other people do not get to interact with my essential being, because it is shielded behind layers of ego-toughness. I put on a hard shell that turns others away.
When I am hidden in this way, I can’t experience the best aspects of human relationship: kindness, warmth, and love. It is impossible to be genuinely loving if I can’t let others see the real me. If my essence is hidden behind a tough outer hide, then my own view is limited too: I can’t see through it into the hearts of others.
Being vulnerable does not mean being a loser. When I begin to let down my guard, perhaps other people will do the same. Instead of always facing opposition from others (who are, after all, simply responding to my own tough, insensitive shell), I might find that other people will treat me kindly and warmly.
Do I sometimes forget that I am just another human being, with human weaknesses?
Is my desire to show invulnerability getting in the way of real human relationships?
What does it mean to be weak?
Can I find ways that I am not as strong as some people, and acknowledge them?
Can I remember always that I have vulnerabilities and frailties?
What is my reaction to knowing that I am vulnerable?
Can I accept kindness and warmth from other people?
Can I learn to love gently?
burlap and sandpaper
If I am an eight, most people are likely to see me as somewhat “rough around the edges.” My simple, direct ways are a talent that is of great use in many situations. It is as if my personality were constructed of burlap and sandpaper. When people rub up against me, they could easily get scratched raw. If I choose to, I can use my sandpaper personality to help other people by showing them the ways that they are overly sensitive.
Of course, having a rough, unpolished nature can often be a trap as well. If I am truly interested in helping others, I must be extremely sensitive myself or I will probably turn away the very people who need my help the most. I must always remember that most other people are more easily injured than I am. I must learn tact and diplomacy. This is often a difficult challenge for eights because sensitivity seems to imply vulnerability, which is one of their greatest fears.
Am I sensitive to the feelings and desires of other people?
How do I respond when someone seems overly sensitive?
Can I see the ways that my own personality is sensitive and delicate?
Does sensitivity always imply vulnerability?
If I react to my own vulnerability by trying to “shore up the walls” that protect my power, then I am making a serious mistake. That’s the wrong answer because it leads to a mentality that is focused on anticipating the next dangerous assault from the world. I might begin to contemplate “offensive strikes” against the world as a way to prevent possible incursions. This battlefield model is not appropriate in today’s world.
Although there may be many times when confrontation is useful and even necessary, such head-butting exchanges must always be the last option; otherwise I risk falling into the worst traps of my personality type.
Am I sensitive enough to realize that the correct model for today’s world involves cooperation, rather than direct confrontation?
When someone else confronts me in an aggressive way, do I have the inner strength to respond with gentleness rather than escalating the conflict?
In a confrontation, have I ever tried the tactic of forthrightly admitting my own weaknesses right at the beginning?
When I see a weakness in someone else’s position, do I immediately pounce?
What happens if I withhold my attack, leaving the other party exposed but unharmed?
What happens if I (gently!) point out the weakness in the other side’s position and then (gently!) offer suggestions to improve their situation?
As strange as it may seem, by not using what seems to be my greatest talent, I uncover another talent that is even more powerful. Because I am confident of my own ability to deal with any form of opposition, I don’t need to confront unless it is absolutely necessary.
If I can find a way to solve difficulties without confrontation, then not only will my quiet strength be conserved for times of real difficulty, but others will begin to have greater and greater confidence in me. I may find that I begin to develop a following of people who respect my confident, patient, serene power.
What happens when I hold myself in check rather than quickly lashing out at foes?
Can I be strong enough to endure patiently what might cause other people to violently resist?
What would happen if, every time I felt like attacking someone else, I were to ask them for advice instead?
letting go of power
Part of strength is personal power. Being powerful means having influence over other people. It means being known as someone you “don’t mess around with.” Certainly, personal power can be a great talent, if it is used skillfully. But if my power is not properly wielded, then I might begin to use it selfishly, which can result in serious consequences.
The most powerful people are the ones who know when to give up their power to others. These are the people who not only delegate wisely, but also are able to step down from the seat of power if necessary. By stepping aside at the right moment, great leaders often end up creating far greater benefits for themselves and others. People respect them because they can see that their own interests are being put first.
If I am to be truly powerful, then I must be able to sense when it is in the best interests of those over whom I have power to let them make their own decisions for a while. I must be willing to turn over some (or all) of my power when they are ready to receive it.
What is the secret to the correct use of power?
How can I be powerful in such a way that I do not hurt myself or others?
Was there ever a time when I voluntarily relinquished my power in order to help someone else at my expense?
What is the most effective way to cause other people to want to voluntarily lend me the respect and authority that lead to real power?
Am I using my power correctly?
replacing bluntness with diplomacy
If I am an eight, then one of my talents is an ability to get right to the point. I don’t pussyfoot around. I say what needs to be said, and I do it simply and clearly. No hidden meanings, no wishy-washy sentimentality. I can get a lot of communicating done in a short time this way, but there is a risk involved with such direct bluntness.
Not everyone responds well to the direct approach. While some people appreciate the no-minced-words style, others are deeply intimidated when someone is so direct and blunt. Many people are sensitive, taking things personally that might just bounce off an eight.
If I can remember that other people do not necessarily have my own tough hide, I might begin to appreciate the need to sometimes soften my tone. Sometimes it is necessary to talk around an issue for a bit, just until the other person is ready to hear the real message.
Sometimes, the other person is just not ready at all. Maybe there are times when it might be better for me to wait, rather than needlessly antagonizing someone.
Do I take into account other people’s differing levels of sensitivity?
When I am faced with the need to deliver a message to someone else, what is my first tendency?
Do I come on strong, with a no-nonsense, right-to-the-point approach?
Do I stand firmly and bluntly state my case?
Am I able to sense when someone is being bulldozed by the force with which I state my position?
Can I hold back when necessary, perhaps talking around the issue for a little while until the other person can accept what I am trying to say?
Can I tell when someone else is not going to be able to receive my message no matter what I do? Do I dive in anyway, or do I wait until a better time?
love (and all that sensitive, mushy stuff)
There is a wonderful benefit of standing back from conflict: the less I do battle, the more I am able to love. Now my inner strength and resolve begin to be available to do good works in the world, because they are no longer being used to build walls between myself and the world.
When I open myself to the world, fearlessly showing my real self and letting others see that I am a vulnerable human being just like them, then perhaps they will protect me just as I protect them. I might develop a new appreciation for the wondrous interdependence and mutual trust among healthy humans. I might learn to love myself and others, instead of feeling like I need to defend myself against them.
Once real love begins to shine forth from me, my personal power will expand more and more. The less need I have to protect my own weaknesses, the more available my mysterious inner essence will be to myself and others. As my essence emerges from its protective shell, my genuine love for the world and its inhabitants can fill all of me, overflowing into the world.
at their best
Healthy eights are masterful and benevolent. Because they do not dominate compulsively, when they do take charge their command is firm but gentle. Their ability to intuitively use just the right amount of force to get the job done means that they never injure unnecessarily. They act from a position of loving kindness, out of a true desire to help others grow. They are willing to lead or follow, depending on what is appropriate. When they lead, they sometimes develop huge, passionately loyal groups of followers.
Balanced eights usually develop real poise and sophistication. They care more about what other people think of them, and the stance becomes more relaxed. Healthy eights can be quite sexy, maybe developing a little twoish seductiveness. Their tremendous personal power is evident, but not the least bit threatening. They radiate solidity, sheer physical presence, and stamina. Healthy eights are the essence of power and forbearance.
When healthy eights misuse or misunderstand their innate talent of personal power, they can begin to fear that some kind of retaliation might occur. They may begin to use their talent compulsively, at times when it is inappropriate. They may try to anticipate offense from others, at first bracing themselves for it and then increasingly making attacks of their own as a way of heading off potential trouble. Their belligerence and forcefulness cause others to become increasingly antagonistic, which is perceived as additional evidence for the need to aggressively anticipate further battles.
Average eights are usually rough, unrefined people, who might curse with ease and push their way through life. Clothing is seldom elegant, unless they are quite healthy (or there is a strong seven wing). They may have thick, uneven skin and short hair. The manner is direct and plain. Even female eights often like playing with things that are big and strong, like trucks, big dogs, or boats. Eights might like sports that involve sex and fighting, like mud-wresting or cat-fighting. They are earthy people who might take big bites and talk with their mouths full.
The more compulsively they confront, the harder it becomes for eights to avoid escalation in their battles. Their opponents begin to feel more and more anger, which makes them even more difficult to deal with, adding fuel to the fire. The more violent they become in their preemptive strikes, the more violent is the world’s response. Eventually, they must begin to withdraw into ever-deepening circles of defenses against a world that seems to be conspiring to attack from all directions. When at last every single interaction with another human involves a confrontation, there is nothing left but complete retreat into paranoid isolation, much like an unhealthy five.
As eight begins to retreat into the center of the fortress, clothing and grooming can become sloppy, ugly, and messy. Dirty, unkempt, violent eights are dangerous, unpredictable monsters. Some unbalanced eights still dress up, but it’s hard to look good when you’re fighting all the time. Unbalanced eights are the essence of ugliness and menace.
more questions for eights
Do I value magnanimous, empowering leadership, compassionate use of necessary force, fearless justice, and benevolent strength?
Do I see the world as winning and losing, advance and retreat?
Do challenges distract me?
Does anger distract me?
How do I measure the value of strength?
Are there times when victory is defeat?
Are there times when vulnerability is an advantage?
Am I a combat robot?
Do I control other people?
Do other people control me?
Do I make other people into worthy opponents and weaklings?
Is it possible to love someone who is a coward?
Do my role models hide their weaknesses?
Do I find love through benevolent leadership?
Do I find enduring power through compassionate concern?
Do overwhelming odds send me into tactical analysis?
Does strategic withdrawal give the enemy more power?
Do I deserve real power?
Am I ready to surrender?
Do I build stone walls of insensitivity?
Do I keep fighting even if it means killing my opponent?
Do I pretend to have the advantage even when I am about to be smeared into the dirt?
Am I here to be the boss?
Am I here to become an impenetrable fortress?
Am I here to teach magnanimous restraint?
Do other people confront me as often as I confront them?
Am I a lover of peace and harmony?
Have I launched any preemptive strikes lately?
Do I protect my friends against harm? Should I?
Who is in charge of my life?
Is God the ultimate fortress?
Am I at war with God?
Next in Enneagram 101: type 8 with 7 wing
Previous in Enneagram 101: type 7 with 8 wing
…or return to contents.