The EIGHT in me…

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Stay inside the lines.

The Enneagram gets it’s name from the shape: “Enna” is Greek for 9 and “Gram” for drawing. It’s a nine pointed star shape.

The Enneagram Shape

The lines that comprise the shape are significant in several ways. Among them is the concept that types which share a line tend to travel between those types under certain circumstances. Notice how a Loyalist 6 can “go to a 3” or “go to a 9“. This means (generally speaking) when the pressure is really on a 6, they can become very achievement oriented like a 3. And when a 6 is feeling safe and centered, they often look like the more peaceful 9.

The gate swings both ways

But the lines flow both directions. Sometimes 9’s can look like 6’s and so can 3’s. This dynamic is super interesting when you notice the line that connects 2 and 8. Being dominant in Type 2, I can speak to his phenomena from personal experience. In other words, there really is an 8 in me! We can learn more about 8’s because of their secret 2-ness.

As a 2, I have most often found myself in 8 territory (The Challenger) when someone I love is threatened. It’s the deep desire to care for the other in the 2 that carries over into the sometimes over-the-top aggression of an 8. Sure, I get mad when a tire goes flat or my taxes seem too high. But it’s when someone I love is threatened, or an injustice is being perpetrated; someone is being mistreated, when the 8 shows up. Before we knew about the Enneagram, we called it “My Bully Button” – and I am unpleasant when it gets pushed.

The Two as an Eight

The aggression is usually corrupted by pride, fear and judgment rather than a purely righteous aggression. It’s the worst of the 8 displayed in a 2 Type. It’s uncaring, hurtful and mostly un-thinking. It’s not a very discriminating thing…more like handfuls of broken glass thrown at someone as opposed to a scalpel skillfully deployed.

The Guardians of the Enneagram

The Eight as a Guardian

That’s what happens when a 2 gets “pushed” into 8. But a healthy 8 on their own is a Guardian; a protector and defender. Aggressive, yes, but aggressive in defense of the truth and for the sake of love, not just to get their own way. Yes, they can be impatient with those who don’t move as quickly or as decisively as they do, and they can come off as arrogant, but there’s a little secret about 8’s that only 2’s really understand…

The soft, chewy center

The “spirit animal” of the 8

The secret about 8’s is their soft center. Their hard exterior is there (in part) to protect their tender interior that looks more like a 2! That’s right. Think of the toughest, most obnoxious and mean cuss you’ve met. I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts that beneath that hard shell is a deeply caring, often highly emotional self that drives the whole person. For 8’s in crisis, it can be like a wild swing back and forth between a need to express very deep feelings, and an equally deep need protect themselves from those feelings.

Alongside their 7 counterparts, 8’s are great leaders; willing to take risks, keep the ship of state on course despite criticism and hardship as well as seeing to the care of everyone on board. They are rarely motivated by what others think of them, but instead by a deep sense of duty and calling. This is ironically what often makes healthy 8’s such great care-givers…you know they always have your back.


57 year old husband of 31 years, father of two, drumming Gardner.