The Enneagram Center for Transformation and Change
So let's talk about the beloved Eight, The Challenger, the powerful, dynamic Type. At their best they are
known for embodying the wonderful qualities of strength, power, decisiveness, self-confidence, courage,
empowerment, leadership. Let me begin with my personal experience. A dear friend of mine is a mighty
Type Eight. And when I use the word mighty, I am not using this word sparingly. When he enters the
courtroom you have the sense that a meteor has arrived. His whole body exudes the sense that “I am
here. You must deal with me.” Surely a powerhouse of determination, relentlessness, decisiveness, force,
presence and courage. The Instinctive Center open and all cylinders firing. Not willing to back down under
any circumstances. Clearly self-certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that his cause is the correct one, and
determined to drive that message home. He is a a loud gong in the dead of night and waters part when he is at
his best. Calling a spade a spade, mincing no words, fierce in the battle, best when things are most difficult,
hard-hearted when necessary, and directed towards one thing: proving his point. Winning—because he is
fighting for a purpose he truly believes in, and which protects a group treated with such high indignation
and oppression that he feels instinctively called into the fray to protect them, to demand justice, and
ultimately, justice for all. A true warrior and fighter for the weak. Burning to demonstrate the truth of a
situation. Intense. Inside him glows a burning red hot center of instinctive drivenness. This is the best of
the Type Eight. And what is so lovable about them is they have guts. Honest guts. You just have to sit
back and say, Wow! What amazing courage. And being around courage like that wakes up courage in the
whole room. Caught in the wave of their presence, you feel your whole body energizing.
But, being an instinct driven type, on bad days my friend could be like a bull in a china shop, reacting with
instinctive fierce anger, bluntness, when delicacy of heart was required. When tenderness might have
carried the hammer blow is sought. When gentleness might have turned the tide, the magic that opened
the steel door. Hey, no one's perfect, and each Type has a blind spot, or a point of integration, which as
they grow and mature, awakens the very best within them. So this Type Eight, you want him in your corner
when you are in a pinch, because as a strategist, he is unrivaled. And as a blood and guts all out fighter,
he's your man. Add to that his fierce commitment, determination, and strategic intelligence, and who could
ask for more. So, we bow with reverence and thanks to all of the wonderful, courageous Eights in the world
who have fought for the weak, the oppressed, the disenfranchised. Who have given their lives in the
service of protecting others. Who weren't afraid of public opinion, but lived and died by their sword of
truth. Wonderful folks come to mind: Martin Luther King. Here's a man willing to risk and give his life so
that oppressed blacks might gain their dignity and freedom. Listen to his speech “I have a dream” and you
capture the soul of the Eight.
So, the short story is that there are Nine Levels of Development in each Type. Levels 1 thru 3 represent
the healthy aspects of the Type. 4 thru 6 represent the unhealthy aspects. And 7 thru 9 represent the
unhealthy aspects. There are deep unconscious forces operating in all the types, and the Eight is no
exception. The core fear of the Eight is that of being violated and harmed, and controlled by others. He
counters this with a fierce self-determination to be independent, to run his own show, to acquire the
resources he needs to be in charge, in control, and completely protected. To be the boss. It's his way or
the highway. Many Eights experienced childhood's in which they had to develop adult-like strength and
courage to protect themselves, and the difficulty for the Eight lies in the fact that in this process of
becoming strong and powerful, they often abandoned their heart, their emotional vulnerability, took pride
in not needing help, renounced being weak, and shut off their deep need for nurturance and support. In a
sense, they became all of these things to strengthen themselves while subtracting their heart (this is not
suggested for developing joy and appreciation of life). Not to worry, each of us has done a similar psychic
calculation due to the extraordinary circumstance of being a human being walking on this topsy-turvy earth.
Nonetheless, the Eight developed an identity as the “strong one” meaning his standard of self-esteem
rests on always being strong, mighty, impervious to being hurt, invulnerable. He is strong, he wants you to
be strong, and he chaffs at weakness or whimpyness. Get strong or get out of here. Which brings us to
the highs and lows of the Eight. At the average levels, the Eight starts to fall under the trance of their Basic Fear
of being violated and harmed, and begins to manipulate people, places and things to assure absolute
control of finances, possessions, resources. They fall prey to their mental fixation of “objectification” and
“vengeance” in which caught in the web of their fear, they begin to use people as objects to get what they need
for protection. At the same time, their ego inflates and they begin to swagger with self-importance (another
form of self-protection), that is, the King has arrived and your best bet is to bow or they are going to be
furious with your slight. Anyone who has experienced this down side of the Eight knows what it means to
be treated as an object, and someone who is discardable, who's only purpose to the Eight is to fit a cog in
their plan. Truly, this is not what the heart and soul of the Eight wants, but when caught in the unconscious
fear of being vulnerable, of possibly being violated and harmed, of losing control, then instinctive
protection mechanisms kick in, and the Eight, like any other Type, goes into the robot, overdrive
machinery of their personality. As they sink into the average levels of the Eight, they are compelled to be
strong at all cost, to not admit vulnerability or flaws, to demand others to follow their dictates, to threaten
and bully when others do not tow the line, and to amp up “intensity” in all their affairs. They are caught in a
storm of instinctive drivenness, challenging and combating and struggling with the environment to
establish their dominance. This is the Type that burns themselves out, can't rest, and has the sudden
heart-attack. As they further descend, paranoia that others are out to get them, are plotting against them,
begins to arise. At their worst, completely captured in paranoia and mistrust of others, they act out with
violence. A case in point is Saddam Hussein. Here's an Eight that slid all the way down the levels, and
when paranoid, simply offs whoever he fears.
The door to freedom for the Eight, is paradoxically moving in the direction of the Two. That is, beginning to
develop a deep and sensitive heart that cares for others. Letting go of their fear of being injured, and
allowing others to touch them deeply. Thus, they learn to express power through the vehicle of loving-
kindness. While being wonderful leaders, magnanimous and inspiring, they also are connected on a deep
and heartfelt level to those they serve.
1 See The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Riso and Russ Hudson, p. 287-313 for a discussion of all aspects
of the Type Eight, i.e. Basic Fear, Basic Desire, Superego Message, Levels of Development, etc.
2 See The Wisdom of the Enneagram, pgs 311-312, on the path of Integration for the Type Eight.
3 See Personality Types by Don Riso and Russ Hudson, pgs. 488-489, for discussion of the Levels of
Development in Type Eight.
4 See The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Riso and Russ Hudson, p. 287-313 for a discussion of all aspects
of the Type Eight.
5 Wisdom of the Enneagram, p. 287-313.
6 See Understanding the Enneagram by Don Riso and Russ Hudson for discussion of the Fixation and Passion
in all the Types.
|Enneagram Center for Transformation and Change
South Portland, Maine 04106
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The Enneagram Center for Transformation and Change. All rights reserved.
*Information on each of the nine Riso-Hudson type names and related Enneagram concepts are from the
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