The Enneagram Type Eight personality – the Commander – wants to effect change in the world through the aegis of talent, vitality, and perseverance. Eights like to be in charge; they do not want to be controlled. Fortunately, they have the physical and psychological wherewithal to assume command and the personal magnetism to gain others’ support.
Healthy Eights see the big picture and are driven to create order out of chaos. They are natural leaders and hard workers. They have a zeal for life and want to immerse themselves in interesting work, fun activities, and good food and drink.
Eights are rugged individualists. They know their own minds and act on their own counsel; they are not cowed by unflattering public opinion. They have a big appetite for getting things done and can become irritable when bogged down by minutia. They don’t mind moving mountains to achieve their goals; they’ll be confrontational when the need arises. They refuse to experience feelings that might slow them down.
When subject to the influence of the neighboring Seven, Healthy Eights become the Independents. They take full advantage of their quick and decisive minds to pursue their objectives while using their charisma to get others on board. They’re the risk-taking entrepreneurs who can put everything on the line in confidence while still retaining a pragmatic approach to their ventures. While not openly aggressive, they remain fiercely competitive and won’t put up with weakness or inefficiency.
When subject to the influence of the neighboring Nine, Healthy Eights become Not-Quite-Teddy Bears who combine strength, self-confidence, and determination with a quiet goodness and serenity. They tend to live unobtrusively and pursue their goals with steady, albeit less aggressive effort. They are more reserved in their speech and evidence greater warmth when dealing with others.
Eights are also influenced by their dominant instinct:
- Self-Preservation Eights are no-nonsense types who focus on getting what they need to survive. They are unabashed workaholics who don’t mind ruffling feathers to get (and protect) what they need. They are well-armed, territorial, and the rulers of their roosts.
- One-to-One Eights are intense, magnetic individuals who seek control and influence. They have great powers of seduction and are passionate about the people in their inner sphere. They love a good time and find heated arguments stimulating. In fact, they may needle others just to get a rise out of them and draw their attention.
- Social Eights look to create powerful bonds with others. Honor and trust loom large; they test family, friends, and colleagues to ensure that they’re on solid ground. They are apt to wield their power to protect the oppressed and promote social causes.
Eights may have a difficult time relating to others emotionally. They want to be seen as strong, not weak. As such, they often intimidate others and thwart attempts to forge intimate connection. At root, they are loathe to expose vulnerability. That being said, Eights care deeply about important others and will take great pains to protect them.
Under stress, Eights may adopt characteristics of an Unhealthy Five. They retreat from conflicts to reflect on what’s happening, gird their loins, and prepare for a confident re-entry into the scene. They may be seen as brooding while they gather and reflect on information. Left to their own devices, they can get stuck in contemplation that turns cynical and contemptuous.
The antidote to stress lies in getting in touch with one’s vulnerabilities while letting others in to provide support and reassurance. Trustworthy associates can break through the wall of defenses to allow for consideration of fresh interpretations of current events and productive courses of action. They can also take note of impulses that could prove self-destructive.
Eights find strength in movement toward a Healthy Two. From this position, they reconnect with their hearts to acknowledge how much they genuinely care about others. They recognize boundaries and limits – their own and that of others. They still work hard and get a lot done, but they know when it’s time to pull back on the throttle. Their zeal for life is experienced as joy in being alive.
As one who spent decades working in corporate America, I’ve had close and personal contact with a lot of Eights. It is exhilarating to be in the presence of a great leader with a clear vision and indomitable spirit. It’s also exhausting! I had to learn to set boundaries – something that has been a challenge for my Nine-ness. If you are a fan of historical fiction, I recommend Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander as classic study of a culture steeped in Eight energy.