Enneagram: Week 2
Type EIGHT: The Need to Be Strong
Thursday, May 5, 2016
With EIGHTs we return to the domain of the gut, which embraces EIGHTs, NINEs, and ONEs. The EIGHT’s primal knowing was that God/Reality was warmth, food, protection, empathy, relationship, and total understanding of how weak, needy, and hungry we all are. Feeling separate from such a nurturing God leaves the EIGHT vulnerable and needy. To seemingly “fix” this dilemma, the EIGHT’s ego decides to hate, reject, deny, and project that neediness everywhere else—so they don’t have to cry over it inside themselves. “I will never cry,” they say, and “I will protect the little ones from crying.” They decide to do God’s work themselves. “I will partner everybody and everything and take away this horrible aloneness, this unnecessary sadness, this unjust world. Because I know it to be softer and kinder than it appears.” And they do!
EIGHTs do a good job of hiding their vulnerability. They impress us as strong and mighty; they are capable of imparting a feeling of strength to others as well. They have a strong sense of justice and truth. They instinctively know when dishonesty or injustice is at work. EIGHTs address such situations openly and directly. They can be a rock of reliability for others and develop a tremendous sense of responsibility. When they commit themselves to a cause, they can bring enormous energies to bear on it. Mother Teresa was an eight, but so redeemed that she appeared to the world to be a TWO, exactly as the Enneagram predicts.
Early on, EIGHTs got the impression that the world punishes soft tendencies. They may have experienced being repressed or pushed around as children. Perhaps they could trust no one but themselves. Some EIGHTs also report that their parents rewarded strength. EIGHTs have developed the feeling that the strong rule the world and the weak have drawn the short straw. For this reason they have decided not to be good, not to conform, but to develop strength, to resist, to break the rules, and to order others around rather than to let themselves be ordered. EIGHTs avoid appearing helpless, weak, or subordinate.
Fortunately, EIGHTs like to take the side of the weak. Their passion for justice and truth often leads them to side with the oppressed and defenseless. This is because they unconsciously know that within their own innermost self—behind a façade of hardness, invulnerability, curses, or even brutality—there’s a vulnerable little boy or a little girl (which they reveal to very few people). When you’re really poor, helpless, and weak, the EIGHT’s protective instinct is aroused, and they will do anything to assist you. But as soon as you express in any way that you have your own power, then the EIGHT will prove that they have more power.
The passion or root sin of the EIGHT is called lust. Russ Hudson interprets this as an addiction to intensity that arises from the loss of their original connection with God. Losing the divine Presence that felt like their life, strength, energy, and protection makes EIGHTs feel vulnerable, deflated, and dead. The ego tries to force life into feeling real and alive again. But first EIGHTs must take off the armor of toughness they’ve worn to protect their vulnerability, because real aliveness means letting our heart be affected again. 
Hudson says, “Virtue is what’s cultivated in a person who has continually oriented his or her heart toward the Truth. The more an EIGHT opens to that grace, being willing to be affected, the more the virtue starts to manifest. . . . The virtue of the EIGHT is [traditionally called] innocence. We call it mercy. To be powerful, strong, and merciful, like a true king, is the journey an EIGHT is here to take. . . . It will always be about remembering where the real strength comes from, restoring the heart, the tenderness . . . and letting this mercy be cultivated in you.”  There is also a good passion, a robust lust for life, that often shows itself in healthy EIGHTS.
Who would not love that? Even if it wears you out.
Gateway to Silence:
Open me to love.
Adapted from Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2001), 47, 162-164, 166, 167.
Is the Enneagram new to you? Are you wondering, what is the Enneagram? How can the Enneagram help me? Which number on the Enneagram am I? Does the Enneagram work? This is just one post in a two-week series about the Enneagram. Click here for an introduction to the Enneagram and links to additional reflections and resources on the topic.