The Enneagram test is a personality test of sorts that is much more exhaustive I have found than the Myers Briggs. The descriptions are based on spectrum that also help understand health and unhealthy rhythms that folks get caught in based on their personality. Richard Rohr recently tackled the nine personality types but from a perspective of spirituality and enlightenment. They were quite fascinating to read, especially when you know your type or the types of people you are close too.
I am primarily a type 8. Rohr calls it The Need To Be Strong. The Enneagram calls it The Challenger. I’m gonna work my way through Rohr’s text as a way to externally process my connection to this summary. He starts talking about each type about how, when young, understand and perceive the world in our modes of innocence and childishness. But then things change and we become aware and mature. He says this.
the EIGHT’s ego decides to hate, reject, deny, and project that neediness everywhere else—so they don’t have to cry over it inside themselves. “I will never cry,” they say, and “I will protect the little ones from crying.” They decide to do God’s work themselves. “I will partner everybody and everything and take away this horrible aloneness, this unnecessary sadness, this unjust world. Because I know it to be softer and kinder than it appears.”
I like to call this I’m Fine Syndrome when it comes to emotions, or I Got This Syndrome when it comes to challenges. No task is too large for me to tackle. No problem can’t be solved. What can you really do for me if I’m sad, or hurting or scared? I’m fine. Leave me be. I will partner everyone for sure, for those who feel the same draw and desire as me (ie. people just like me), but I won’t ask for help. I won’t admit I need someone who doesn’t fit my mold. I want people close to me, but I don’t want people helping me. This is what drives me to living in community, to starting projects that bring people together, to helping others (cause God forbid I ever need that help myself).
EIGHTs do a good job of hiding their vulnerability. They impress us as strong and mighty; they are capable of imparting a feeling of strength to others as well. They have a strong sense of justice and truth. They instinctively know when dishonesty or injustice is at work. EIGHTs address such situations openly and directly. They can be a rock of reliability for others and develop a tremendous sense of responsibility. When they commit themselves to a cause, they can bring enormous energies to bear on it.
I hide my vulnerability so well I don’t even know where it is myself. I started a Men’s Vulnerability Group to try and figure it out, but it’s taking me a long time. I certainly didn’t start the group in order to get help for me right? I started it to help others. I’m grateful that my strong personality helps bring strength to others and I can confront injustice and lies like nobodies business. But almost all my projects I start are under the guise of helping others, when really it’s likely there to help myself because I don’t want to admit that I just need help.
Early on, EIGHTs got the impression that the world punishes soft tendencies. They may have experienced being repressed or pushed around as children. Perhaps they could trust no one but themselves. Some EIGHTs also report that their parents rewarded strength. EIGHTs have developed the feeling that the strong rule the world and the weak have drawn the short straw. For this reason they have decided not to be good, not to conform, but to develop strength, to resist, to break the rules, and to order others around rather than to let themselves be ordered. EIGHTs avoid appearing helpless, weak, or subordinate.
I don’t know if I ever got pushed around, but I do know that weakness has always been seen by me as a chosen path. Why be weak? Just change. Being weak sucks because you are at the mercy of everyone else, so just don’t let it happen. I hate authority. I hate it over me and I hate being someone’s authority even more. I hate seeing other people under someone’s authority. I’ve been asked if I despise the weak because of this, and I don’t think I do, but I do have this default response to them that wonders why they let it happen to themselves (which only makes it worse) but then I instantly move into gear in trying to make it different. My desire to ‘help the weak’ is because I see myself as strong and in a position to help. My desire to break the rules, say screw you to authority and to pave my own path is to show the world that categories of weak and strong are useless and that no one anywhere should be subject to power. However, I’m sure an EIGHT never sees themselves as weak – only strong – which is why we always see ourselves in the place of helper, never needing help. While I don’t like and I don’t need to be seen as above anyone at all – I absolutely despise being seen as subservient to someone else. This is likely why I’ve always been drawn to the discipline of submission yet never am able to find the right person to submit to.
Fortunately, EIGHTs like to take the side of the weak. Their passion for justice and truth often leads them to side with the oppressed and defenseless. This is because they unconsciously know that within their own innermost self—behind a façade of hardness, invulnerability, curses, or even brutality—there’s a vulnerable little boy or a little girl (which they reveal to very few people). When you’re really poor, helpless, and weak, the EIGHT’s protective instinct is aroused, and they will do anything to assist you. But as soon as you express in any way that you have your own power, then the EIGHT will prove that they have more power.
I tend to default to side with the underdog in everything. From people experiencing homelessness to the horse losing the race. So hey, I guess this is good. I do notice though – that I have an awful aversion towards those that have power – I like to confront (prove) and set straight those that use power of any sort (primarily when used poorly). If you know me at all, I dive head first into assaults on those that I see misusing their authority or influence.
The passion or root sin of the EIGHT is called lust. Russ Hudson interprets this as an addiction to intensity that arises from the loss of their original connection with God. Losing the divine Presence that felt like their life, strength, energy, and protection makes EIGHTs feel vulnerable, deflated, and dead. The ego tries to force life into feeling real and alive again. But first EIGHTs must take off the armor of toughness they’ve worn to protect their vulnerability, because real aliveness means letting our heart be affected again.
This one took a while to sink in. I had no idea what he was talking about. Then I realized that I shouldn’t focus on lust here, but rather the word intensity, then everything changed. I have so many things wrong with me that can be tied back to this root sin. I’m a raging FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). I have no stronger emotion then when I feel left out of something. I love doing all things. I’m the first to sign up for anything. The worst thing to happen to me is when two fun things are happening at the same time and I’m forced to choose. I once tried to go on a silent retreat for eight hours and I needed a lunch break with a friend and bailed early. If I lose interest in a conversation, I instantly zone out and stay engaged in my own thoughts. If I come home and no one is home, I grab my phone and instantly find someone to be with or something to do. Being alone makes me feel vulnerable. Being disconnected makes me feel weak. Being left out makes me feel forgotten.
I have been working on this a lot lately. I have tried to intentionally be alone more often. I have been taking note of how dismissive and hurtful I can be when I tune out with people around me and try to stay focused. I have been trying to make myself vulnerable in ways that I have never even thought were possible.
The EIGHT’s primal knowing was that God/Reality was warmth, food, protection, empathy, relationship, and total understanding of how weak, needy, and hungry we all are. Feeling separate from such a nurturing God leaves the EIGHT vulnerable and needy.
There is another piece to this intensity which for me I think related but also ties into my “primal knowing”. At some point, I stopped reading fiction. The wonder and excitement got lost on me. Eventually I started to consider it ‘useless’ and hell, if I’m honest I probably judged everyone who got consumed in it (maybe I considered them weak?). Fiction for me became the epitome of unreal, an escape from real people, real needs and our real life. I looked at the world in such binary ways. The only thing fiction was good for was quick metaphors to understand real truth. Movie Clips to teach a lesson of the real. Non-fiction for me connected us to reality and was the only valid way of understanding and operating in the world. I have only recently begun my entrance back into fiction to discover a very different experience than what I left. Fiction is as real as anything else. Fiction exposes me, makes me vulnerable and teaches me a different way of being in the world. It brings me back to my primal ways of knowing.
Hudson says, “Virtue is what’s cultivated in a person who has continually oriented his or her heart toward the Truth. The more an EIGHT opens to that grace, being willing to be affected, the more the virtue starts to manifest. . . . The virtue of the EIGHT is [traditionally called] innocence. We call it mercy. To be powerful, strong, and merciful, like a true king, is the journey an EIGHT is here to take. . . . It will always be about remembering where the real strength comes from, restoring the heart, the tenderness . . . and letting this mercy be cultivated in you.”  There is also a good passion, a robust lust for life, that often shows itself in healthy EIGHTS.
This is my dream. I am trying to let myself be affected by anything and everything and let down my guard and learn to be vulnerable.
Mother Teresa was an eight, but so redeemed that she appeared to the world to be a TWO, exactly as the Enneagram predicts.
For years I’ve been captured by a certain demeanor in people like Mother Teresa. Calm, merciful, gentle, whole and content. Like the guy in the photo of this post. There is peace that I see in some that I long for. Bazan has this song lyric that talks about this guy who when asked a question of existentialism gives off this impression.
You smiled at us, floating high above the question
Like you knew something we didn’t know
It’s the parts that I love when I look at Jesus – when questioned or accused – or when he is hanging on a cross and just says you guys are forgiven, you don’t know what you are doing. It’s that sort of peace that transcends all situations and suffering and intensity that I long for. Where you find complete fulfillment in mundane and ordinary is a way of seeing and being in the world that I want. I’m jealous of that kind of peace.