You can count on 6s. They are the folks you want to have in the trenches: dutiful, sensible, prepared, steadfast, loyal, reliable, conscientious, thorough, stalwart, and enduring. They will keep putting one foot in front of the other to see the job through. They appreciate structure, know how to follow the rules, and cooperate with others.
6s want things to work out for the best. They’re not convinced that’s actually going to happen, of course, but they will do whatever they can to keep themselves and others on the straight and narrow path to a positive—or at least not disastrous—outcome. If you want caution thrown to the wind, don’t ask a 6 to do the tossing.
As with all types, however, there’s a flip side to this picture. It takes a lot of effort—sometimes positively Herculean effort, in fact—and some mental gymnastics in order to keep on keeping on.
You Devil, You
In The Enneagram Spectrum of Personality Styles, Jerome Wagner describes projection as the primary defense mechanism of 6s:
You project onto others your own sense of disobedience and rebellion. Other people are trying to get away with things, and you need to monitor their activities and bring them in line with your authority’s principles, or others are trying to trip you up and trap you.
Deviance is antithetical to all the positive characteristics possessed by 6s. Yet 6s do rebel—at least internally—at maintaining the steadfast, responsible, and reliable persona they work overtime to project. It’s understandable. Not only are they constantly straining to determine what others expect from them—and then to deliver it—they also have to listen to the jibber jabber of their inner committee’s running commentary about…everything!
Who wouldn’t want to turn off the phone and burrow under the covers or take the money and run and let someone else deal with the consequences this one time?
I Can Do That!
You can’t be all things to all people.
You can’t do all things at once.
You can’t do all things equally well.
You can’t do all things better than everyone else.
Your humanity is showing just like everyone else’s.
Objectively speaking, no one would disagree that trying to be all things to all people and do everything at once is impossible. But objectivity is hard to come by for the person who’s in the middle of the massive spider web this particular compulsion tends to weave. And the middle of the web is the vantage point from which others are viewed and judged to be either allies or antagonists. The antagonists bear the brunt of 6s projections. I’m being responsible; they’re being irresponsible. I’m being reliable; they’re being inconsistent. I’m thorough; they’re sloppy.
Enlist some Listeners
In The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Don Riso and Russ Hudson have several good suggestions for 6s, including this one:
While you want to be there in a responsible way for everyone else in your life, you tend to shortchange yourself by not believing that your own self-development is worth the trouble. This can be exacerbated by fears of change—of moving into the unknown. Take risks, especially when it comes to moving out of familiar, safe patterns. Having a therapist that you trust or a spiritual group that you work with can be invaluable for creating the kind of support you need to explore difficult issues. But remember, it is your own courage and strength that ultimately are required (and available) for such explorations.
Any type can benefit from having a person or a group to listen non-judgmentally and provide feedback, but I think this may be especially helpful for 6s who often have trouble quieting their minds enough to be able to listen to themselves.
6s might also benefit from finding an outlet for their rebellious streak, as soon as they admit they have one. Deviating from the path once in a while might be a start.