Enneagram Series: Type Six
Updated: Mar 2
~converting vice to virtue on the path of personal transformation
The enneagram personality typology system (EPS) is based on the idea that humans have a split mind, a True self/false self. Your unchanging True Self is your Essence and represents a higher state of consciousness. When you are fully and nonjudgmentally present in the moment, you manifest this higher state of consciousness and cannot help but make skillful choices. This is called the enneagram type in its maturity.
Your True Self is masked by your persona/type conditioning or false self, which feels insecure, defensive, and self-absorbed, and asks, “What about me?” When you are connected to your insecure persona/stuck in your type box, you manifest a lower state of consciousness and cannot help but make unskillful choices. This is called the enneagram type in its immaturity.
The Loyal Skeptic or The Need to Be Secure
“If we use fear or cowardice to designate the ruling passion of ennea-type VI, however, we need to point out . . . that this important state need not be directly manifested in behavior. It may be, alternatively, manifest in the over-compensation of a conscious attitude of heroic striving.” (Naranjo, 1990, p. 98)
Claudio Naranjo, early EPS developer, named type Six, “The Persecuted Persecutor,” and Oscar Ichazo, Naranjo’s EPS teacher, called this disposition, “Ego-Cow[ardice].” Sixes are hard workers who are dependable, responsible, loyal, and excellent trouble-shooters. They are prototypes of exemplary girl and boy scouts. For Sixes, the world is a dangerous place, and preparation is everything. Skepticism, cynicism, and self-doubt are often issues for Sixes. A type six may say, “People can’t be trusted, and there is reason to suspect danger. I can’t even trust myself, so I better be prepared.”
When aligned with Essence, Sixes are centered, grounded, courageous, inner-directed, and supportive of the vulnerable. The invitation for Sixes is to trust themselves and the goodness of life. The holy idea or inherent truth of type Six is Holy Faith/Holy Strength, which states that each of us is an aspect of Being, therefore we have inherent strength.
Sixes are part of the head triad who often over-think and most readily feel fear in the form of anxiety or insecurity. According to EPS teachers, Don Riso and Russ Hudson, in childhood, Sixes, “. . . most wanted security: to know that their environment was safe and stable” (1999, p. 63). Having a sense of support and inner guidance is important in the head triad, and Sixes respond to fear by taking action and preparing for the worst-case scenario until they become concerned about making mistakes and withdraw.
Six’s core temptation is fear (to doubt feels safe), and their mental fixation is cowardice or the desire to prepare for danger. Helen Palmer, EPS expert, described the Six’s focus of attention as paranoia or the search for corroborating evidence of the reality of what is feared. Sixes typically become preoccupied with preparing for the worst-case scenario. According to Riso and Hudson, the internalized message is, “It’s not okay to trust yourself” (1999, p. 31). In pathological terms, Naranjo correlated unhealthy Sixes with paranoid personality disorder or paranoid-compulsive mixed personality disorder, generalized anxiety, and the defense mechanism of projection.
Six’s basic fear is of being bereft of guidance and support, and their basic desire is to have security, which leads to dedication to a set of beliefs. Unlike other types, Sixes show up in two ways: phobic and counterphobic. When phobic, Sixes deal with fear through paralysis/freezing or laying low when feeling threatened. When counterphobic, Sixes deal with fear through the fight response, aggressively preempting danger. Whether phobic or counterphobic, Sixes identify with a self-image of being responsive to an internal anxiety about a feared absence of support and most need to hear that they are safe. They resist acknowledging their own inner wisdom and resourcefulness; wanting, instead, to be seen as forward-looking, reliable, pleasant, careful, and trustworthy.
Sixes attempt to solve inner conflict by being compliant/dutiful to their superegos. They want to be of service and can be committed public servants and crusaders, consulting their superegos for what the responsible thing to do would be and how they can best meet expectations. They prioritize being both strong and having a reliable support system, not wanting to be too dependent, nor abandoned. Sixes defend against loss and disappointment by being reactive. They readily express frustration and are cautious about trusting people. The thought is, “I feel really pressured, and I’ve got to let off some steam” (Riso & Hudson, 1999, p. 68).
When Sixes handle stress unskillfully, they move toward the unhealthy Three, becoming more image-conscious, driven, workaholic, competitive, and potentially dishonest. When Sixes respond maturely, they become more flexible, trusting, centered in their bodies, and able to see all sides (not just danger), like healthy Nines. At their most mature, they embrace the virtue of courage and embody faith.
The path of growth for Sixes is to practice moving out of the anxious mind and into grounded presence in the here and now. Sixes must learn to trust their inner guidance and to rely on their internal authority, thereby maturing in self-confidence. Ultimately, Sixes must learn to develop faith in the support of a Benevolent Universe.
Coming soon: Enneagram Type Seven
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,