Enneagram type Eight: The Challenger

Driving force: Anger being overexpressed

Spotting Enneagram Type 8s

Blunt and strong-willed, 8s’ dial “goes up to 11” and doesn’t go down quickly. They may dominate a space with anger, leadership, or just “big” presence, or may have a particularly full-throated zest for life. While 8s can and do get along, especially with their own circle, they are most noticeable for the forceful way they push things on others. They may be anywhere from uncompromising to fighting for the sake of it, and can seem unaware of whether the situation is appropriate or how they’re affecting others. 8s expect respect and give and withhold theirs deliberately, perhaps reserved for people who are competent, who stand their ground, or who agree with the 8. Look for a certain gut stability even in the midst of excesses, especially with the 9 wing, which is a steady “rock” figure with less issue with temper and more with unaware callousness. 8s with a 7 wing go toward others more, whether for fun or argument.

Type 8s may make things worse for themselves by:
Numbing themselves and then needing more intensity to feel “alive”
Disallowing their vulnerability and connection
Making needless enemies

Type 8s may make things worse for others by:
Power struggles
Venting anger on others
Inability to see or acknowledge the consequences of their behavior

Why Do They Do That?

8s turn it up because, for them, things are turned down. They experience life through defenses, a kind of extra-“thick skin.” This is why they often don’t realize how intense other people perceive them as and why they seek out things that are exciting enough to register through this layer. Arguing and conflict can serve the purposes of asserting their position, discharging anger, seeking control, making life interesting, and getting others’ true positions, motives, or feelings out in the open. Someone who can’t handle that may be seen as disingenuous or just eye-rollingly weak on the 8’s muted scale. Be direct and set your boundaries firmly with 8s without intruding on theirs. Relatively healthy ones like and prefer this. Unhealthier ones may perceive your firmness as a power struggle and want others to submit to them. Power playing back triggers their control issues and further reactivity and reinforces their all-or-nothing worldview of winners and losers, but deferring enables worse excesses and abuses from unhealthy 8s, who don’t like to limit themselves or do things partway. Hold your line in between, at a point it belongs, and don’t get into it more than necessary or let them drag you all over the place.

What It’s Like To Be A Type 8

8s are used to the mismatch between their intensity and others’ intensity. Restraining their behavior to others’ standards can feel like being the proverbial bull in a china shop. They might choose to ignore rules and niceties, or seek out contexts in which people speak more freely. Although 8s are rarely in a state of anxiety, some part of them is on alert for challenges and threats to their sense of control. A hint of someone pushing them into something they don’t want, considering them weak, or infringing on their territory prompts them to reestablish their position, which for unhealthy 8s can include rage and other escalations. However, these strong reactions don’t mean they don’t want to repeat the experience. 8s can enjoy and even crave fighting and expressing their anger. Even healthier ones generally desire for issues they see simmering under the surface to be hashed out in the open. 8s have an awareness of power and opposition. Abuses of power especially, and other happenings, may affect them more than they let on. Inside 8s have a tender part of them, although it may be well-buried. They fear that if they show it to the outside world it will get hurt. 8s were typically discouraged from complaining early in life and see it as anywhere from pointless to contemptible. They don’t expect to be able to rely on anyone and don’t think others should either if they can help it. They believe people need to toughen up regardless because “life is tough.” However, people they consider truly in need may be offered the 8’s protection.

You can make type 8s feel heard by:

Accept that it’s important to them to continue to be unassailable and honest about the world.
Accept that it makes sense for them to feel like challenges to their power are an attack.
Accept that having outlets for their big, blunt energy and not constantly worrying about little ways it might affect people makes sense for them to prioritize.
(You can still gently push on these things, but get into their position first and push from there.)

Understand that when they’re tough on others, it’s because they’ve had to be tough on themselves. Acknowledge that showing vulnerability is both important and hard. Provide a trustworthy space for them to let down their guard, and be patient. Don’t be vague, insincere, or beat around the bush. It’s understandable for people to be intimidated by 8s’ intensity, but if you can weather it, the 8 may appreciate it more than you think. They want friends they can be themselves around. Chances are it’s not meant to hurt you, especially if they seem friendly after an outburst or sharp comment. 8s also appreciate when they’re not the only one to stand up against something.