In the Shadow of Type 8: Weakness

Crying..

Crying.. (Photo credit: Anders Ljungberg)

People often look to 8s to take the lead because 8s are perceived of as self-confident, decisive, strong, powerful, direct, courageous, resourceful, just, and of course take-charge. They talk the talk and walk the walk. Since taking charge comes naturally to them, others pick up on it and often fall in line behind them. Hopefully the 8 taking the lead is heading somewhere everyone else wants to go and not for the nearest cliff. That’s a danger since 8s can be very convincing. This is often because they don’t rely on outside authorities but prefer to figure things out for themselves, so they are quite firm in their resulting convictions. That makes them appear extremely confident, which is something we value in leaders.

I think whether you’re having setbacks or not, the role of a leader is to always display a winning attitude.
–Colin Powell

Right. No one wants a weak, wishy-washy, fearful, timid, muddled leader. And no 8 wants to be seen as such. So while 8s really do possess many of those admirable qualities, they also know those are the qualities others want them to project, especially when they are in leadership roles. However, it’s hard for 8s to take off the leader hat when they go home at the end of the day, hard to let down their guard in one setting and keep it up in another.

About that River in Egypt

Jerome Wagner, in The Enneagram Spectrum of Personality Styles, says the defense mechanism of 8s is denial.

To prevent weakness from showing up in your awareness or persona, you deny any presence of it. “I don’t hurt, I’m not nice, I’m not sentimental, I don’t need you,” etc.

Each 8 probably defines weakness in his or her own way, but however 8s define it, it is definitely anathema to them. They don’t want to experience it, and they certainly don’t want others to see any sign of weakness in them. So they power through situations that might leave others gasping at the side of the road. There’s a time and place for that, but not every time and every place.

I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.
–Washington Irving

8s are good at denying, stuffing, covering up, or ignoring what they perceive as weakness. Pretending it’s not there doesn’t make it go away, though, so the better 8s get at denial, the more pressure builds below the surface. Some days you can look at an 8 the wrong way and receive The Wrath of Khan in return. You don’t know what just hit you, and the 8 is as surprised as you are.

Take a Hike!

In The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Don Riso and Russ Hudson have a number of suggestions for 8s that center on getting in touch with their feelings (which they admit is a cliché) and aren’t very specific. I don’t think telling 8s to get in touch with their feelings is particularly helpful, since not all 8s are out of touch with their feelings, or at least not all the time. They just don’t consider them a high priority. The following suggestion seems much more practical and therefore likely to appeal to 8s:

Take some quiet time to restore your soul. This doesn’t mean watching television, eating, or drinking—really take time to be with yourself and enjoy simple things. Take a tip from your next-door neighbors, the Nines, and let your senses be revitalized by nature. Although your type would not be among the first in line for a class in meditation, quiet, centering practices are tremendously helpful to reduce your stress levels.

8s are Doing types, so going for a walk or hike or just getting out in nature on a regular basis can be a non-threatening way for them to center themselves, if they do it alone, or to connect with other people. Physical activity is also an excellent way to de-stress. And the 8s also get to feel that they’ve accomplished something at the same time!

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6 responses to “In the Shadow of Type 8: Weakness

  1. Trying to comfort my 8 child, or telling him, “oh, that was so close!” is a great way to invite fury. Sometimes, even a sympathetic facial expression is enough to do it. Sigh.

    • Parenting an 8 child is no walk in the park. Sometimes I almost feel sorry for my mother. 🙂
      On the plus side, 8 kids tend to be pretty resilient.

  2. Great insights. I’m a Type 8, today is my birthday, so I feel you article is a present. I agree with what you said, vulnerability, compassion, tuning into the body and not pushing so hard against the environment are all important lifetime practices.

    • Happy Birthday, Pat! I hope you get some significantly better birthday presents than this post–but thank you for your comments. 🙂

  3. Pingback: In the Shadow of Type 9: Conflict | Nine Paths

  4. I reread this and I particularly like the suggestions about nature and exercise. I also find loving-kindness and gratitude practices helpful.

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