Enneagram Series: Type Eight
~converting vice to virtue on the path of personal transformation
The Challenger or The Need to be Against
“I will therefore use the word ‘lust’ to denote a passion for excess, a passion that seeks intensity, not only through sex, but in all manner of stimulation: activity, anxiety, spices, high speed, the pleasure of loud music, and so on.” (Naranjo, 1990, p. 128)
Claudio Naranjo named type Eight, “Coming On Strong,” and Oscar Ichazo called this disposition, “Ego-Venge[ance].” Eights are self-confident, domineering, strong, powerful, and assertive. For Eights, allowing oneself to be vulnerable doesn’t make sense. They don’t trust people’s motives, and when they feel threatened, they lash out. Their sense of entitlement can seem like arrogance. Insensitivity and allowing themselves to open their hearts to others can be particular challenges for Eights. A type eight may say, “I will make my may no matter what or who may try to stop me. Vulnerability means weakness, and I will have justice.”
When aligned with Essence, Eights are generous servants of the greater good and proponents for justice, mastering themselves to utilize their power for the welfare of others. The invitation for Eights is to be their own advocates and to stand up for the causes that are dear to them. The holy idea or inherent truth of type Eight is Holy Truth, which states that all is one so there is inherent justice.
Eights are part of the instinctual triad who try to manage sensations and most readily feel anger or rage. Being on the edge of the head triad, Eights can easily drop into fear or anxiety. According to Don Riso and Russ Hudson, in childhood, Eights, “. . . most wanted autonomy: they sought independence, the ability to assert their own will and direct their own life” (1999, p. 63). Ego boundaries are important in the instinctual triad, and Eights are constantly asserting their boundaries, reinforcing their stance, and establishing a position of power.
Eight’s core temptation is lust (a constant need for intensity and control), and their mental fixation is vengeance/justice or the desire to right a wrong. Helen Palmer described the Eight’s focus of attention as an intentional minimization of the presence of threats to personal power. Eights typically act out their anger, which can be explosive and manifest as aggression. Their anger is perceived less as a problem for Eights than it is for their loved ones. According to Riso and Hudson, the internalized message is, “It’s not okay to be vulnerable or trust anyone” (1999, p. 31). In pathological terms, Naranjo correlated unhealthy Eights with anti-social personality disorder, sadism, and the defense mechanism of desensitization.
Eight’s basic fear is of being wronged or dominated by others, and their basic desire is to defend their position, which leads to perpetual battles and quarrels. Eights identify with a self-image of being tough, challenging, and impenetrable and most need to hear that they will not be betrayed. They resist recognizing their need for nurturing attention and their own tender and vulnerable places; desiring, instead, to be viewed as strong, indomitable, vigorous, action-oriented, direct, dauntless, and assertive.
Eights attempt to solve inner conflict by being assertive. They expand their egos in the face of challenges and stand strong and resolute. They are uncomfortable opening to the vulnerability that intimacy requires. Eights prioritize bolstering their independence and minimizing the truth of needing others.
Eights defend against loss and disappointment by being reactive. They are quick to anger, immovable, and often equate intensity with intimacy. The thought is, “I’m angry about this and you’re going to hear about it” (Riso & Hudson, 1999, p. 68).
When Eights handle stress unskillfully, they become secretive, detached, preoccupied with their own concerns, and avoid social interaction, like the unhealthy Five. When Eights respond maturely, they allow themselves to open their hearts to others, become empathetic, and generous, like healthy Twos. They cease attacking and let down their guard. At their most mature, Eights embrace the virtue of mercy and embody vital innocence.
The path of growth for Eights is toward opening their hearts, developing empathy, and having mercy on themselves and others. Eights must understand that vulnerability is not weakness and is necessary for true intimacy. Ultimately, Eights must learn to see the innocence in themselves and others.
Coming soon: Enneagram Type Nine
Almaas, A. H. (2000). Facets of unity: The enneagram of holy ideas. Shambhala Publications.
Chestnut, B. (2013). The complete Enneagram: 27 paths to greater self-knowledge. She Writes Press.
Hudson, R. (2021). The enneagram: Nine gateways to presence [Audiobook]. Sounds True. https://www.amazon.com/Enneagram-Nine-Gateways-Presence/dp/1683645790#:~:text=With%20The%20Enneagram%3A%20Nine%20Gateways,self%2Dknowledge%20and%20spiritual%20attunement.
Lilly, J. C., & Hart, J. E. (1975). The Arica Training. In C. Tart (Ed.), Transpersonal psychologies, (pp. 329–351). Harper & Row.
Naranjo, C. (1994). Character and neurosis: An integrative view. Gateways/IDHHB.
Naranjo, C. (1990). Ennea-type structures: Self-analysis for the seeker. Gateways/IDHHB Incorporated.
Palmer, H. (1988). The enneagram: Understanding yourself and the others in your life. Harper & Row.
Riso, D. R., & Hudson, R. (1999). The wisdom of the Enneagram: The complete guide to psychological and spiritual growth for the nine personality types. Bantam.
May your mind be peaceful and calm, may your body be relaxed and comfortable, and may your heart be filled with love.
Thank you for reading.
Blessings and gratitude, Ani