Type Eight – The Protector

The Enneagram Type EIGHT personality lives in a world in which they believe external forces threaten to exert control and expose vulnerability. Their attention goes to power and building strong defenses. They protect the weak and seek justice for the aggrieved. EIGHTS don’t see themselves as forceful; they just do what needs to be done. As rugged individualists, they know their own minds, act on their own counsel, and resist unwelcome influence. (“This is my world, and I’ll make of it what I want.”) What you see is what you get.

EIGHTS take up space; they won’t settle for anything small. They have a zeal for life and want to immerse themselves in interesting work, fun activities, and good food and drink. They don’t have a rheostat; they’re either ON or OFF. They stand ready to move into action at a moment’s notice. EIGHTS have a big appetite for getting things done and will move mountains to achieve their goals. They’ll be confrontational when the need arises and can become irritable when bogged down by minutia. They refuse to experience feelings that might slow them down.

EIGHTS have an orientation toward truthfulness; they can see BS coming a mile away and have no trouble calling people out on it. They have little tolerance for manipulatively weak or whiney people. Contrived vulnerability poses a threat to survival. Saccharine sweetness and flattery also make them uncomfortable. They prefer direct, forthright, no frills communication. (“Just the facts, ma’am.”)

EIGHTS project an air of certainty and make decisions confidently. (“I am frequently mistaken, but I am never in doubt.”) They can be able leaders, but they’re not driven to take the reins. They just want to know that power is being used well and trust those who take charge. When they sense a leadership void, they’ll fill it without necessarily wanting to do so. It’s their way of taking care of themselves and others.

EIGHTS take their time relating to others emotionally. They project strength and have easy access to anger which often intimidates those with whom they might forge connection. At root, they want a measure of assurance that you can bear the weight of their friendship. Until proven, they’ll hide their sensitivity so that you won’t know when or if they’ve been hurt. They’re like an armadillo – a tough outer shell with a soft underbelly. That being said, EIGHTS care deeply about important others and will take great pains to protect and nurture them.

enneagram type eight protector

EIGHTS experience their NINE wing as a connections to the big picture where they stand ready to fill gaps where they find them. It also compels them to want to share (or merge) experiences with the people they love. The SEVEN wing longs for an amped up experience of being free, vibrantly alive, and never bored. In short, they’ll go along with an external agenda (NINE) until they are bored or restricted (SEVEN); then they’re out.

EIGHTS are also influenced by their dominant instinct:

  • Self-Preservation EIGHTS are no-nonsense types who don’t mind ruffling feathers to get (and protect) what they need to survive. They are unabashed workaholics who put their excess into material things and live big. They are well-armed, territorial, and the rulers of their roosts.
  • One-to-One EIGHTS are intense, magnetic individuals who are passionate about the people in their inner sphere. (“I’m yours, and you are mine.”) They love a good time and find heated arguments stimulating. They may push hard on their intimates to test their ability to stand up to, and with, them.
  • Social EIGHTS look to create powerful bonds within groups. As the most socially minded of an anti-social type, they are willing to bite their tongues and use diplomacy to wield influence and maintain membership. Their social causes generally focus on securing justice for the oppressed or protecting the vulnerable.

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.