6: The Need for Security

“Fear makes companions of us all.”

Clara Oswald, Doctor Who

The time traveling alien Doctor in Doctor Who is used to people leaping at the chance to travel in his TARDIS with him, across all of time and space. Clara Oswald was the first one to ask, “Can I think about it first?” Quite a different girl from most of his friends, Clara wants to make an informed, cautious decision. Though she chooses to go on adventures with him, she is cautious, likes to organize the world to suit her, and is over-reliant on the Doctor for protection and decision-making. In one episode, the Twelfth Doctor leaves her alone on the moon to decide the fate of humanity. Rather than feel emboldened by this chance to prove herself, Clara is furious. How could he just leave her there, with no guidance or assurance the choice she was going to make for the world would be the right one? He was testing her, and she did not appreciate it.

Clara uses humor to try to connect to others, but becomes defensive when Danny Pink does not find her jokes funny. Though over-reliant on the Doctor for protection (assuming he will always save her, because he always does, causes her to take risks) and even reckless in her desire to help and protect others. As time goes by on the TARDIS, the Doctor admits they are a terrible combination, because between them, they take too many risks. Clara constantly challenges him, argues with him, pushes him to find his humanity, and finds her own way in life. She’s one of the clearest, most positive examples of an Enneagram 6 in television.

Read on to learn more about Enneagram 6s.

The Need for Security

6s are warm-hearted people who are cooperative team players, reliable, and committed to their relationships. Witty, original, and possessed of a droll sense of humor, they consider nothing too much to do for the ones they love. They know what is possible and what isn’t. It’s easy for them to pinpoint what might go wrong, but can also be bold or fearless. But 6s also easily fall prey to self-doubt, fears, and distrust of others’ motives. They are on a life quest to find something to trust, and may automatically assume those who speak with authority but disagree with their conclusion are more right than they are. If the 6 does not guard themselves against it, they can get buffeted around and confused by others’ opinions as they struggle to find ground to stand on, and wind up choosing to listen to someone they deem experienced, rather than their own correct instincts.

The 6 uses their mind to help manage the dangers of life. They engage in endless questioning, re-evaluation, and intellectual consideration. Many 6s may not realize fear is driving their emphasis on logical conclusions, but can see themselves in their inner contradictions—friendless and aggression, reactivity, searching for proof and authorities, being outspoken, wondering about others’ motives, using self-deprecating humor to soften their exchanges with others, and avoiding arrogance. They hold such contempt for those who consider themselves a ‘cut above’ other people that they do everything in their power to dismantle their pride and remind them of their humanity. They prefer sincere and honest people, and have no appreciation for “falseness.” They have severe reactions to things they consider unfair and want to do something about it.

Strangely for a type that has such doubt about their own conclusions, they love to cast doubt on things and ideas people believe are infallible, as a method of ‘testing out’ concepts and ideologies. They are quick to catch people in lies, sense their hypocrisies, and note the inconsistencies between their statements and their actions. They can be highly emotional, but will identify more with their rational nature and the need to push aside feelings for what is “logical.” They place much emphasis on making solid decisions that will keep them safe and on track. They are good at knowing what is a useful path to follow and what will distract them from the desired outcome. 6s see the world as unpredictable, so they will construct a solid logical framework (“let’s think about this and consider the consequences”) they use to navigate it. They guard against having their intellectual safety net torn apart, and fear being wrong. For them, following the rules means minimizing the threat of getting into trouble. Yet, the 6 can also be rebellious and push the rules, especially if they deem them unfair, illogical, or unreasonable. They face an internal struggle between being rebellious against others in authority and surrendering to their protection. Their sense of justice and fairness means they will join with other “underdogs” to make things happen. 6s are advocates for the neglected and oppressed.

6s hate feeling pinned down or judged by a narrow set of standards. They voraciously seek knowledge and higher truth while also embracing a cynical viewpoint that such certainty does not exist. They would rather have the brutal truth than a comfortable lie and fiercely guard their intellect against outer influences. They want nothing or anyone to take it over. In their search for truth, they accumulate as much information as they can from a variety of sources and then cross-check it to reach a consensus. They prefer people and situations to be clear and well-defined. Because of their history of distrust, 6s track people and their actions, comparing all interactions in order to get a sense of a person, and then assume that person has particular motivations for their behaviors based on what they know.

All 6s want to seem down to earth and likable, so even the super intelligent or gifted ones avoid artifice or arrogance. They want their art, creativity, and ideas to feel relatable to other people. Sadly, the 6 is also prone to not reaching their full potential. They may feel a paralyzing fear of failure within sight of the finish line. Some 6s will quit altogether (leaving the degree unfinished, for example), hand over the praise to someone else (in a group project), or delay finishing it. Their need to need to get something “absolutely correct” causes them to devote too much time to scrutinizing all contradictions and comparing endless sources. They may feel certain of their position only to question it when challenged, as their certainty fades. This stalling comes from their fear of success as much as failure. Being successful gains enemies and the 6 wants to live a life free of being a target. The 6 has a nasty habit of forgetting their own strength and competency; a new challenge or frightening situation can cause them to develop amnesia for their previous successes, and feel overwhelmed or afraid they cannot rise to the occasion (but all of them do, if they allow themselves to take a chance). Because of their own modesty, 6s find it hard to accept praise and may suspect the person who plies them with flattery has ulterior motives.

The 6 emphasizes caution as the right answer to a dangerous world. Because they lack faith in themselves, they seek security outside their minds in belief systems, authorities, or individuals. They can depend on others without revealing much about themselves. All of them desire closeness, but test other people first to determine if they are trustworthy. They may not settle in a relationship until they find someone reliable, honest, and who makes them feel safe. The anxiety of testing people, doubting their conclusion, wondering if they are wrong, and reconsidering the relationship can make it hard for them to find a partner, but once they do, they’re committed and loyal. 6s will take on any problems within the relationship and work to resolve it. Since they are completely aware of their partner’s character flaws, they never fall into the belief that “love is blind,” which can make some of them question whether they are capable of love at all.

They find it hard to relax or take time off unless they finish their duties first. They also find a certain satisfaction in seeing others reap what they sew. Although willing to help them pick up the pieces, they will also think “this is your fault; you brought this on yourself.” They may want to make sure the person understands what they did wrong before helping them clean up the mess. 6s long for certainty and to know the “rules” to avoid getting into trouble or being wrong. They may possess a black and white worldview or develop into authoritarians. Unhealthy 6s can become slaves to their ideology, and carry out inhumane orders simply out of obedience (burn the witch, arrest the Jew, shoot the abortionist, gas the populace).

6s come in two different flavors. Phobic 6s are mindful, hesitant, careful, and thoughtful. They struggle to trust their instincts and avoid risk or danger. Their malleable nature makes them excellent candidates for rehabilitation to get over their fears under the right tutelage. They need someone who can confidently guide them to self-reliance and self-trust. The aggression of counter-phobic 6s can endanger themselves and others. They feel drawn to dangerous situations, risk-taking (to prove they are not afraid), and radical political or religious movements. They put on a bold front to disguise their fear and may not even realize fear drives all their impulses. They can be violent, unpredictable, and over-reactive. They despise criticism and are intolerant of other points of view. Nothing that isn’t black and white, right or wrong, repels them.

6s are careful in how they develop their opinions and prone to endless over-thinking as they form, revisit, change, and reshape their views, which means they hate needless mental distractions (such as needing to over-think every life decision) and outsource them to an outside system—a set of religious or moral beliefs that take the guesswork out of things. Or they may rebel against the system and spend their life endlessly seeking safety in another form. Justice is important to them, but they also fear abuses of power.

They are natural devil’s advocates, able to see an argue the other side to anything. They easily spot suspicious activity. 6s turn the absurdity of life into humor and use it to make light of their own fears. But the same imagination that gives them a funny view of the world provides them with endless fodder for worst-case scenarios. They may expect and prepare for the worst or project negative intentions, thoughts, or feelings onto others without the evidence to support it. Some will believe these accusations wholesale, and others will question them, wondering if they are wrong or being paranoid. Some 6s may assign their own motives to other people, rather than looking for a separate set of drives. Projection can become a problem with them at lower levels of emotional development. (The belief that someone is out to get them or does not have their best interest in mind; or if the 6 struggles to forgive, accusing someone else of not forgiving enough.)

6s are loyal and obedient to their chosen beliefs. Because they are so much in their heads, they feel disconnected from their bodies and their emotions and distrustful of their instincts. They will rationalize away their feelings rather than deal with them, because they are “irrational.” Rather than operate off pure instinct based on how they feel, or what their bodily reaction is, they will take it into their mind and analyze it. Abstract it. Turn it into a mental discussion and internal debate. Their only hope lies in freeing themselves from fear. It’s important for the 6 to call their fear by their name, instead of defending it. Knowing it is fear can help them learn to master their fears.

Their familiarity with constant fear allows 6s to overcome it quicker than most in an emergency. They remain calm in the middle of a crisis and use their head. An extreme situation propels them into action, as there isn’t time to think about what to do. It’s in these moments when 6s realize their own authority, strength, and ability to cope with the world. They are in it, reacting to it, rather than thinking about it and coming up with reasons they “can’t do it.” In non-emergencies, if tempted to act on impulse, the 6 shifts into over-thinking. Rather than act on what they want, they hesitate to reconsider. This leads to doubt, procrastination, and avoidance. They may erroneously assume they know others’ motives and look for signs to confirm their suspicions.

The best growth for the 6 comes from learning to trust themselves even when their views “contradict the authorities.” They must break free of external direction and claim their feelings, hunches, insights, and own way of thinking. It’s helpful to call fear by its correct name, so they can catch themselves fearing the worst and choose to focus on a positive outcome instead. They need to stop trying to “think” their way out of everything and learn to trust their body and heart. They should tell themselves that everyone makes mistakes, and not to fear their own. Since wisdom is something all of them crave, they should remember that wisdom comes through engaging in enough risk-taking to discern their true limitations. They should remind themselves that they are far more capable than they think, and keep track of their successes and abilities, so they do not forget about them. (“I can do this.”) Talking about their fears can also make them see the absurdities or the ridiculous line of thinking; giving voice to fear often makes it seem less intimidating. They need trusted, mature others to help them test their concerns and see if they are valid. The 6 can learn to curb their negative expectations and catch themselves projecting negative reactions onto others.

They should practice deciding what to do without asking others for input. Taking up physical hobbies can help them learn to ground themselves in the material world, rather than the mental sphere. They should also focus on learning to use their sense of humor to diffuse their fears. Fear fades away when you can laugh at what scares you. 6s need a safe place where they need not defend themselves or their opinions, among others who can accept them unconditionally. They need to make mistakes and allow for their own weaknesses without feeling as if one mistake is going to damn their chances forever. Once they can tackle their fear, they will soon see how much they offer others.

Cowardice, Paranoid Character & Accusation

The dominant ruling passion in the phobic 6 is fear, or an attitude of “heroic striving” in the face of it (counter-phobic). They live with a persistent form of anxiety—fear without the perception of external or internal danger. The 6 has an attitude of self-invalidation, self-opposition, and self-blaming, becoming an enemy to oneself rather than meet an outer enemy. 6s worry unduly about events that may never transpire, depleting their inner energies by anticipating impossible negative outcomes.

The 6 is the only type to have three distinct ‘manifestations’: the phobic 6, the counter-phobic 6, and the rigid 6. Phobic 6s have an avoidant and dependent personality; counter-phobic (cp) 6s a paranoid and obsessive one. The cp6 indulges in paranoid hatefulness as a defense against love, or a complete surrender to another. The phobic 6 offers love and obedience to parental authority, the rigid 6 obeys absolute principles to an ideology, and the cp6 defends himself violently against surrender by avoiding doubt, ambiguity, and indecision with excessive certainty. Rigid 6s may appear cold, humorless, and overly serious. They pride themselves on being rational, unemotional, and objective, “true believers” who will lay low those who disagree with them.

6s may be cold and quarrelsome, warm and affable, or both. They can be over-aroused, over-motivated, hypersensitive to potential rejection, shame, and humiliation, and unwilling to enter relationships without guarantees of unconditional acceptance. They may socially withdraw despite a desire for attention and acceptance, and have low self-esteem.

Unlike the 5, who has trouble attaching to others, the 6 is cautious yet open to attachment. They possess greater emotionalism in their ability to feel pain, and more outward warmth. They feel their loneliness and isolated experience deeply, especially being “out of things” as painful, and have a strong desire for acceptance. They long to relate and be active participants in a social life, but fear giving their welfare into another’s hands. The phobic 6’s reactive behavior limits self to avoiding situations originally wished for (they may want love, marriage, children, friendship, or success, but be too fearful to start or pursue that course).

Rigid 6s are dutiful and authoritarian. Despite their refusal to conform, they are rigid and prone to perfectionism, grim, humorless, tense, controlled and inflexible, small-minded, legalistic, and self-righteous. They are independent through habits of over control and faultlessness. They seek rules, regulations, and to impose order and system in their life. They are their own ruthless slave drivers in search of power and order. These 6s are more inner-directed and introverted. This 6 also has ruthless logic, because it relates more to the subject than the object. They focus on disarming all opponents, lest they prove themselves a nuisance. This 6 is stubborn, headstrong, and non-amenable to influence or persuasion.

6s may be melancholy, morose, despairing, distant, suspicious, inclined to take things ill, irritable, misanthropic, or cowardly. The 6 carries a sense of deficiency, fault, or flaw. The phobic 6 shows clear symptoms of fearfulness, insecurity, dejection, and a sense of being forsaken. They become irritable under duress, combined with their own weakness and environmental sensitivities. If this 6 expresses their feelings and frustrations in an angry outburst, they fall into later remorse. Phobic 6s are modest, shy, and fainthearted. They act only after considering every consequence and weighing every step to know precisely where they stand and what they think. The 6 improves once made aware that inaction also brings consequences, so they may as well assert themselves and enjoy it!

CP6 Traits Shared with Paranoid Personality Disorder: a pervasive and unwarranted suspicion or mistrust of people, hypersensitivity and restricted affectivity, hyper-vigilance, take precautions against any perceived threat. Avoid blame even when warranted. Guarded, secretive, devious, and scheming. They question others, always expecting trickery. Hidden motives and secret meanings preoccupy them. They struggle to relax, appear tense, and lash out or counter-attack when feeling threatened.

Identifiable Traits:

Fear, Cowardice & Anxiety: fear of change, making mistakes, the unknown, letting go, hostility or trickery, not being able to cope, not surviving, betrayal, of loving, and aloneness in a threatening world. Paranoid jealousy, insecurity, hesitation, indecision, tentativeness, being paralyzed by doubt. Mobilized impulsivity. The 6 may be out of touch, decision-avoidant, compromising, over-careful, cautious, never sure, lack self-confidence and over-rehearse. They struggle to adapt in an unstructured environment without a guideline for behavior. The 6 fears spontaneity may lead to disaster. They fear the outer world and the future consequences of their present actions. They dread giving free rein to aggressive or sexual impulses. They distrust their ability to cope with situations, and face constant insecurity and a need to rely on others.

Over-Alert Hyper-Intentionality: a suspicious, over-cautious disposition. On the lookout for hidden meanings, clues, and the usual. Excessive deliberation. An exaggerated need to rely on rational choices.

Thorough Orientation: driven by uncertainty to want to know more. Wants and needs, but also distrusts, guidance. May appeal to logic or reason itself. The 6 is the most logical type in its intellectualism. Inclined to develop a fanatical allegiance to “reason.” 6 is a questioner and potential philosopher. The 6 problem-solves but also problem-creates by seeking problems. For the phobic 6, seeking refuse in mental activity is also a sign of fearful holding back, indirectness, vagueness, and beating around the bush.

Ingratiating Friendliness: the warmth of the 6 is actually a dismantling mechanism intended to make others like and not “harm” them. 6s are warm, generous, faithful, considerate, sensitive, and in need of support and validation. They are prone to sadness, forlornness, and a sense of abandonment like the 4, and seek a stronger partner that gives them security.

Rigidity: general dutifulness, such as obedience to the law, living up to their responsibilities, and role-following. Rigid 6s want clear-cut rules and guidelines and are intolerant of ambiguity. They prefer the rules of a past or present authority. They are controlled, correct, and well-informed, hardworking, punctual, precise, and responsible.

Argumentative: cp6s are aggressive, fight parental authority, and later use a position of authority to feel safe and pursue what they want. If the 6 uses competitive tactics to “take” from another, they will feel guilt, fear of retaliation, and paranoid insecurity. They are argumentative, critical, skeptical, and analytical, pressuring others to conform, blunt, strong, courageous, and grandiose.

Orientation to Authority & Ideals: all 6s feel drawn to, skeptical of and distrusting of authority, yet often submit to those above them in the authority hierarchy and shows aggression to those below them. They both hate and love authority, being the most explicitly ambivalent of all the types. They have traits of submissiveness, a demand for obedience and love, hate, and ambivalence; the 6 obsesses over authority figures, either in individualized hero-worship, in a generalized attraction to those “great and powerful,” or in an orientation toward impersonal greatness. In this way, the 6s are idealistic.

Defense Mechanisms

Accusation of Self and Others: the guilt-prone nature of the 6 accompanies a tendency toward projection and the creation of outer enemies. The 6 appeases guilt through appeasing their potential accusers, through submission to personal or intellectual authorities, or through an assertive bluffing to hide their weakness and imperfections. In becoming an authority, the 6 self-protects and avoids blame. Guilt can become defensiveness, self-justification, and insecurity. The 6 self-accuses and becomes their own enemy. This developed because of fear and becomes its root. To avoid guilt, the 6 will cast their blame on others, assuming them to have the same fears, tendencies, weaknesses, or motives the 6 has or fears. 6s are suspicious and critical, feeling entitled to pronounce judgment on others.

Doubt and Ambivalence: the 6 both invalidates and props itself up, feeling both grand and persecuted. The 6s doubts itself and doubts its doubt; suspects others but is fearful of being mistaken. This creates chronic uncertainty toward choosing a course of action, and the 6’s need of support and guidance. The 6 will take on an attitude of total belief to combat this, but is inwardly unsure. The 6 is more unsure about people, ideals, beliefs, and where to place their trust than any other type. Their intellectual doubt becomes split in a desire to please and move against, obey and rebel, admire and invalidate.

Paranoid Projection: Attributing one’s own unacknowledged thoughts, motives, or feelings to others. The 6 may disown their own self-accusation, blaming it as coming from an outside source. The 6 feels watched and judged. Self-condemnation becomes an accusation of others. It’s an avoidance of guilt. 6s choose to placate their ‘enemies’ by becoming an enemy of itself. They assume it prudent to adopt a self-accusing attitude, to avoid trouble with others. Self-accusation sees monstrosity where there is only nature, and the 6 magnifies it beyond its due. Their inhibition prevents them from knowing themselves and vulnerable to self-vilification.

What formed them: the 6 child sought protective alliances and to find intellectual life through reason and ideology. They feared punishment and emotional rebukes, and had issues with their authority-bearing parent. The phobic 6 became the most yielding, and the cp6 the most competitive and rebellious. In being cautioned to be careful and make good choices, the 6 child may have learned to distrust their own internal resources and the world around them. Circumstance or trauma may have made the 6 want to avoid hurting their parents through dutiful obedience.

In love, the cp6 demands obedience, but the phobic 6 equates love with protection, a source of security to compensate for their insecurity—a powerful person to lean on. The rigid 6 is too uncertain about individual people to give them power, so chooses an impersonal system of authority.

“Fear of doing” for the 6 means they are out of touch with themselves. They project negativity onto the future and carry a sense of fearful anticipation borne of the terror of looking within and finding nothing and nobody there. The 6 does not quite look, rather than ignore it altogether or dwell on it. Their concern with security is not rooted in physical or emotional fear so much as excessive clutching at outward security out of an insecurity that is “not of this world.” They avoid risk, and have an excessive concern with power and authority, choosing a life of fantasy rather than the ordinary.

The 6 must learn to look inward, believe there is ‘someone home’ in them, and force themselves out of ambivalence toward certainty—not of a rigid variety, but a willingness to make mistakes, take risks, and to accept that most of what they fear likely will never happen. The 6 must learn to look inward, believe there is ‘someone home’ in them, and force themselves out of ambivalence toward certainty—not of a rigid variety, but a willingness to make mistakes, take risks, and to accept that most of what they fear likely will never happen.

Enneagram 6 Wings

6s present in two different ways based on the influence of their preferred wing. While it’s possible to have balanced wings, or no wing at all, most people can relate to the traits, fears and defense mechanisms of one wing in particular.

6w5: The Defender

6w5s are introverted, intellectual, cautious, self-controlled, and prefer to seek security through allegiance to an authority figure. They approach others with warmth and humanity through a place of cerebral thinking. They focus on finding the truth, seeking answers to their questions, and on keeping track of other people’s inconsistencies. They want to be the expert with a special skill or knowledge, but also be approachable. They gravitate toward a defined belief system and a group that shares their values. They are more self-reliant than 6w7s and able to create knowledge systems without external guidance, but the fear of others implanting them with false information, or them accepting the wrong ideology, is often in their mind. They would rather avoid risk and minimize their outside actions, to avoid the worst-case scenario from becoming a reality. They constantly watch for others to have ulterior motives and are less trusting and susceptible than the 6w7’s sense of idealism. They may get stuck in contingency planning and never make things happen. They tend toward being a hermit and may ruminate too much, exacerbating their unproductive thinking. Because they over-analyze things for too long, they can suffer from analysis paralysis.

Character Example: Neville Longbottom first arrives at Hogwarts in the Harry Potter books as a timid boy. Often overlooked and ignored, except by those who want to torment and humiliate him, Neville suffers from almost constant self-doubt and anxiety. He’s always afraid of not doing well in his classes, of upsetting his grandmother, and just plan scared of Professor Snape. But he is also the only person to stand up to the trio, when they want to break the rules. Out of loyalty to his House, fear of the consequences, and his own moral courage, Neville tells them not to do it. Dumbledore awards him with the House Points that allow them to win the House Cup. Neville slowly grows in courage over the course of the novels, until in the last book, he and his friends are the “last stand” against the Death Eaters in control over his beloved school. Neville stands against them, organizes a rebellion, and endures almost constant punishment, for the greater good and the Cause. His most monumental achievement is to kill Nagini, Voldemort’s snake, which carries a piece of his soul. It’s his moment in the sun, but Neville is not arrogant about it. It just needed done, and the Gryffindor sword come to those of courage, conviction, and strength who need it. He proves why he got sorted into Gryffindor, despite his own self-doubt—because he has the courage of a Lion.

6w7: The Buddy

6w7 are playful, entertaining, witty, animated, adventurous, and extroverted. They have a reactive nature and comedian tendencies, and it’s easy for them to make others laugh. Their focus on their audience makes them look to others for guidance more than trusting their own private investigations. They find it harder to trust themselves than the 6w5, and either trust too much or to little, never “just right.” They don’t avoid the world like the 6w5 but feel safer connected to others. Though fearful, their 7 wing can also see the utter pointlessness of everything and transform it into humor. If triggered, they are reactive and dramatic. Their thinking is fast-paced, excitable, and capable of catastrophic concerns. If they make a decision, they may see the other side immediately and doubt it. These 6s can waffle in indecision, or be impulsive and then contradict themselves. They will take risks, but always have a backup plan.

Character Example: Cynical but always willing to help, Veronica Mars has an intuitive and questioning mind. Skeptical of everyone and everything but also willing to help (“you’re a marshmallow, Veronica Mars”), she puts her analytical brain to solving mysteries for cash, but also in over-thinking the details of her best friend’s murder. She uses wit and humor to cover up her own insecurities and doubts about the people she loves and even considers all of them a “suspect” at some point. Though drawn to Logan, her high school arch-nemesis and their “epic love,” Veronica has a Yo-Yo relationship with him, cycling between trust and distrust, suspicion and seeking comfort, sometimes wanting to be with him and at other times thinking they are “done.” Though Veronica has “trust issues” (she will freely admit to them), she still gets out into the world and tries to make a difference.

Social Variants:

Social variants determine how we respond to the world and where our major priorities in life lie. Attentiveness to bonding, social responsibilities, and how we ‘appear’ to others is in the realm of social (soc). Survival, fulfilling all of one’s needs, and a focus on ensuring one always has enough resources for a comfortable life is self-preservation (sp). Sexual displays, competing for attention, being like a moth to a flame in your pursuit of another person, or competing for a mate falls under the realm of sexual (sx). Read through each to determine which resonates the most with you.

The Self Preservation 6: Responsibility

Average self-preservation 6s attempt to ally their survival anxieties by working hard to build up security through mutual responsibility. They offer service and commitment with the expectation others will reciprocate it. Although they seek secure partnerships, these 6s make friends slowly; they observe others over time to see if they are trustworthy and truly on their side. They are more domestic than other 6s and feel concerned with maintaining the stability of their home life. They often take care of the security needs of the household: bills, taxes, life insurance, etc. Much of their anxiety may relate to their state of health and how they feel, toward neurotic worries about their physical health and safety.

They do not disguise their neediness or anxiety, and may use it to gain allies and supporter—because vulnerability can elicit help from others. They fret about small things, which can lead to catastrophic thinking and worst-case scenarios (“the rent is five days late! We’ll get evicted for sure!”). They are frugal and worry a great deal about financial matters. Conflicts with others over resources are common.

In the unhealthy range, these 6s are extremely clingy, dependent, and panicky. They stay in punishing situations (bad marriages or overly stressful jobs) because they’re terrified of being without support. They may grasp at relationships with such forceful anxiety, they end up alienating the very people with whom they want to bond. Paranoia may drive them to become more aggressive: they exaggerate dangers and strike out at “enemies” to ensure no one will threaten them. This often ends up destroying their own security systems.

Self-preservation 6s can thus look like 2s in that they are warm, friendly and put a lot of energy and attention into the development of relationships with others. Like 2s, these 6s lead with affection and accommodate others as a way of forging connections, but unlike 2s, their deepest motivation is to create safety, not to gain approval to support their pride.

Character Example: In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit… the famous opening line to J. R. R. Tolkien’s masterpiece, The Hobbit. Bilbo Baggins is a comfortable sort of fellow, cautious and quiet, introverted and reclusive, who does not want a bunch of dirty dwarves eating up all the food in his larder. And no, he does not want to go on a dangerous adventure across unknown lands to fight a dragon and reclaim their ancestral home, either. Especially since one of the likely outcomes is “incineration.” That makes him pass out from the Nope. He is, according to Gandalf, too set in his ways, too fond of his comforts, and in need of an adventure. Bilbo does set out with them after all, since he realizes he cannot stand to get left behind, but fights his anxieties about the “big world” every step of the way. It has its fair share of terrors, from elves to giant spiders, to a creature who wants to “eat him” in a darkened cave where he finds a magical Ring that can make him invisible. That’s a fine thing for a small fellow to have, something that helps him escape danger… but also save his friends. Though he clings to it as his safety net, Bilbo proves his loyalty to his new friends, his wits, and his sheer courage… and returns home a much bolder hobbit, because he could leave the comforts of Bag End in the first place.

The Social 6: Generating Support

Average social 6s handle anxiety by looking to friends and allies for reassurance and support. They project friendliness and attempt to create bonds with others, disarming them with warmth and humor. They often make fun of themselves while offering support and affection to others, and can often be mistaken for 2s. They are the most concerned about fitting in (“there’s safety in numbers”). They are fairly idealistic, enjoying the feeling of being part of something larger than themselves, such as a cause, movement, or group (even if it’s just their family or friendship circle)—and will make major sacrifices for those people.

They look for reassurance through commitments, obligations, and contracts—insurance that others will not take advantage of their hard work. When they are more insecure, these 6s look for places of safety where like-minded individuals help each other out. Although able to make major efforts for others, these 6s struggle with working for their own success or development. Anxiety can cause them to look for a consensus before they act or make decisions. It can also lead them to lead them to reference the potential responses of others in their imagination. Their own indecisiveness bothers them and leads to ambivalence about depending on allies or authorities. They fear losing the support of the group or authority, but chafe at the bit. If frustrated, they can develop passive-aggressive issues with authorities or friends. Under stress, they can easily feel pressured, overworked, and underappreciated, and turn negative and pessimistic.

Unhealthy social 6s become attracted to fanatical beliefs, causes, and groups. They may develop an “us against the world” mentality, feeling besieged by a hostile environment (somewhat like an unhealthy 8). They can be unquestioning of their beliefs (even if others find them questionable) and slavish to a particular authority, while being extremely paranoid about authorities not in alignment with their own belief systems.

These 6s have many characteristics in common with 1s. They follow rules and are controlled, critical, hardworking, punctual, precise, and responsible. But while a sense of their internal standards guides the 1s, the 6’s fear of making a mistake has more to do with getting in trouble with an external authority. The love of precision and the efficiency of this 6 also make them resemble 3s; however, their primary motivation is to avoid anxiety by finding a sense of authority in reference points, not to accomplish goals and look good through efficiency.

Character Example: One of the most beloved characters in Buffy the Vampire Slayer is its witty, nervous, and funny sidekick, Willow. Though she loves to study, she also takes good care of her friends, patiently responding to all their needs and championing them. It’s important to her for them to stay friends and for others to accept anyone she introduces to them. Willow spends much of her time hanging out with her “gang,” and in helping whoever asks her for help, without expectation of reward. She enjoys feeling like she is making a difference and contributing by using her mad computer skills and knowledge of magic to keep her friends safe. But she is also prone to anxiety, to double-thinking, and to assuming the worst might happen. And then there’s the deadpan humor that leaves her friends in stitches. Even at her darkest, Willow is so connected to her friends that Xander can endure the worst from her, and still convince her to find her way out of the dark magic and return to the light.

The Sexual 6: Power and Connection

This 6 seeks a partner who they can devote themselves to fully; a partner who will prove faithful and committed in return. There is an intensity within their intimate relationships, primarily with their significant other. This intensity stems from their passionate seeking for a solid, dependable bond. They wish to partner with someone whom they can trust completely and depend on when in need. They subconsciously believe if they were to manifest this ideal, they could finally put their fear of being alone in the world to rest. If this dream goes unrealized, their insecurity grows.

The sexual six eases their growing anxiety by striving harder to prove their desirability as a partner. The strategies they use to attract a partner and keep them devoted depends on which side of the dichotomy they fall on. The sexual six may fall anywhere between the dichotomy of strength and beauty. Sexual 6s can appear to be in stark contrast to one another, depending on which side of this dichotomy they are on.

This reveals itself differently in the male and female sexual 6.

Masculine Sexual 6

If he is on the strength side, he will appear tough and intimidating to others. This is the way the overcompensation shows itself. Their macho-ness and staunch bravado covers their fear and anxiety. This is so unconscious to them, they may be oblivious to it. For this reason, this 6 will probably see himself as an 8 because he appears to have the tough guy attitude who is ready to confront anyone. From the outside looking in, their anger seems to come from a more reactive place than an 8. Their intimidation tactics are to deter you from messing with them. It serves as an unconscious means of testing whether people are friendly or hostile towards them. This is counter-intuitive because being hostile towards others breeds hostility from others. However, in provoking people to respond to them, they gain certainty in who they can trust and who they need to be wary of, and also what the power dynamics are between everyone.

Hidden beneath the bravado exists the other side of the dichotomy which reveals a more feminine energy. They may switch from being strong and edgy, to kind, soft-spoken, and gentle. They may feel sympathy for those who are frightened or need support, such as children or animals. They may rescue a kitten stuck in a tree, come to someone’s aid who is being bullied, or adopt an abandoned child. All of this being symbolic of their own desire for support and their fear of abandonment. The strength 6 is working to improve their desirability by becoming a strong, dependable partner capable of protecting and providing for his nest. Once he has selected a partner and commits to them, he devotes his efforts to maintaining the relationship by continually proving himself to be capable and caring.

If he is on the beauty side, his focus may be more towards cultivating a sensitive, romantic demeanor to attract a partner. The male beauty-six is a more feminine six with masochistic tendencies hidden in the background. They typically have a caring, sentimental nature, and they long for an intense romantic connection. They are kind, affirming, and encouraging towards others. They reveal their vulnerabilities to make them seem sensitive to the needs of others. They seek the ideal lover; someone as equally romantic and faithful as they are. This is the male peacock. They place more weight on being physically attractive but are more insecure about how they look. More than this, they create the appearance of being a sensitive, kind, idealistic, romantic partner who sees his role as being the selfless and tender lover, always catering to his partner’s needs. When speaking to women, he seems to be especially kind, as if he were saying “look what a pleasant guy I am.” While looking for a partner, he may become competitive with other males who might steal away her attention. While he is probably not aggressive, jealousy may enter the picture. For the male beauty-six, competition becomes a performance where he must strut his brightest feathers to prove he is the more attractive mate.

Character Example: Archie Andrews in Riverdale exemplifies the sexual 6, not only in his reckless inability to resist his intense sexual desire for his teacher, but also his tendency to act fast, and think later. He often projects himself as “tough” to intimidate other people. He creates a group (headed by himself, though he treats most of its members as equals) to find a murderer and challenges him to “do his worst.” His relationships are of utmost importance to him, and he can become aggressive and competitive in defending and seducing those he loves. Jughead and Betty remark that all Archie and Veronica seem to do is make love. That’s their answer to everything: passionate sex. After an argument. After a makeup. After a date. Because they have an hour in the afternoon to kill. It makes him feel close to her, powerful, and protective over her. Archie doesn’t like her to protect herself; he wants to protect her and keep her from taking unnecessary risks that he takes. But he is also willing to admit that he likes to have her support.

Feminine Sexual 6

If she is on the beauty side, she also has the inclination towards beautifying herself to attract a mate, perhaps more so than the male. This may be a beauty queen who adorns herself with makeup and pretty accessories. She has the warm, lush aura of a sweet but diffident angel. Gorgeous, but modest. Perfect, yet normal. She’s glamorous but not beyond reach like the sx 3. This makes them appealing because they are attractive yet approachable and kind. There is a sense of them being a prize doll. They use beauty to cover over the fear of being undesirable or unattractive. They may seem to lack confidence, but this is only to give the appearance of being someone who needs protection. By combining beauty with modesty, they create an appealing charm which elicits the opposite sex to chase after them.

If she is on the strength side, she may have a tomboyish demeanor; being more masculine than the average female. She may get along with males easily as she identifies with them. Similar to the male strength-6, there is an impulsive risk-taking bravado. Both males and females may be accident prone because of this tendency, especially with a 7 wing. The female strength-6 can appear diffident and disarming to others, similar to the female beauty-6 but with a rougher exterior. Their charm is because you can you can be real with them, as if they are just one of your pals. They give off a playful, mischievous vibe which makes them interesting to be with.

Average sexual 6s develop physical strength, power, or their physical attractiveness to feel safe. The more aggressive ones rely on strength and displays of toughness that can resemble 8s (“don’t mess with me!”) while phobic sexual 6s use their coquettish behavior to disarm others and attract support in ways that resemble 4s. They mask their insecurity through open assertion and defiance of authority or through flirtation and seduction.

These 6s are highly aware of their physical attributes and use them to attract a powerful mate. They frequently test their significant other, to see if the person will stick around, and give them time to assess their character and fortitude. They are openly defiant of authority, especially when anxious. They are the most doubting of others and themselves version of the 6. They explode when others expose their insecurities or they feel threatened. When anxious, they may assert themselves against their own supporters or third parties rather than at the true source of their anxiety. Attempts at sabotaging others, undermining their reputation, or spreading rumors about them, are typical.

Unhealthy sexual 6s can be depressive and erratic, especially if they feel being impulsive and reactive has undermined or ruined their intimate connections. They alternate self-destructive and impulsive behavior with irrational lashing out at people. Paranoia toward particular, personal enemies may become part of the picture.

Character Example: My Week with Marilyn fictionally depicts a few months in the company of the hyper-feminine sexual 6 in Marilyn Monroe. Though beautiful and desired by men the world over, Marilyn displays an almost crippling form of self-doubt. She feels easily intimidated by the more domineering and rude Laurence Olivier, her director, which causes her to lapse into a lack of productivity, because she is trying to approach her role from her “head” instead of instinctually. “I need to understand her,” she says of her character. She needs to prepare, to think rather than just “do.” She becomes attracted to anyone who shows her the support she craves and makes herself as appealing as possible to them. She intends everything about her persona to arouse two things in men—desire, and protectiveness. She seems innocent, naïve, sweet, and in need of protection, someone stronger than herself to lean on, while being the “feminine ideal” in how she looks, acts, and dresses.

The Counter-Phobic 6

The counter-type of the 6 subtypes, the cp 6 turns against the passion of fear by assuming a stance of strength and intimidation. Instead of actively feeling fearful, these Sixes have an inner belief that when you are afraid, the best defense is a good offense. As Naranjo explains, anxiety in this Six is allayed by skill and readiness in the face of a potential attack. They often appear bold and even fierce. They go against danger assertively, and even aggressively, as a way of denying and coping with their (often unconscious) fear. Through denying their feelings of fear, counter-phobic 6s go against danger from a position of strength; therefore, they have a passion for searching for or securing a position of strength. It’s not just a strong character they seek, but the strength that makes somebody else afraid–they want to assume a powerful enough form to hold the enemy at a distance. These 6s display a forcefulness that comes from not wanting to be weak, and they don’t allow for weakness in themselves.

These 6s walk around with the idea that anyone can become dangerous, so they do everything they can to not feel cheated, manipulated, taken advantage of, or attacked. If you are someone who thinks and feels this way, you need to be prepared to be strong and mount a resistance. That’s why they not only develop strength but also intimidation–in the service of resistances, of being prepared to scare someone off, rebel, or be contrary. They give off the impression that they could get violent with anybody, but that doesn’t mean that they have no fear. It is precisely out of a sense of fear that their anticipation of an attack comes–there is a somewhat paranoid imagining of danger, a belief that anyone can turn into a threat. However, these 6s rarely look afraid; we could hardly call their visible character “fearful” from the outside.

In contrast to the phobic 6, who backs away from threats, the cp 6 moves toward risky situations, feeling a sense of safety in confronting danger rather than hiding from it or avoiding it. They convince themselves (and others) they are not victims of fear; they believe they should systematically eliminate fear. That these 6s regularly move against danger (or perceived danger) gives them the appearance of a rebel, a daredevil, a risk taker, an adrenaline junkie, or a troublemaker. Sometimes, they are prone to megalomania or having a “hero complex.” In their own way, they seek to be “good guys” to avoid being punished.

These 6s are contrarians: they always have an argument at hand to refute and contradict an opinion. Instead of thinking in terms of “best-case” or “worst-case” scenarios, they think in terms of contrarian scenarios–if the trend is for others to focus on the worst, they will focus on the best; but if everyone is focusing on the best, they will assert the worst. Although they may seem certain in their assertiveness, these 6s may hold doubt in their minds for a long time–doubting which road to take and so getting caught between choices. They often believe there is only one truth, and they prefer concrete and pragmatic ideologies because they feel safe and allow control of the world. They fear making an error, and the consequences of doing so.

The cp 6 can look like an 8 because both types can appear intimidating, strong, and powerful. However, in contrast to the 8, who is fearless, an underlying fear motivates the cp6, even when they don’t consciously feel it or show it. Also, while 8s like to create order, cp6s like to disrupt order by stirring up trouble. They can also look like 3s in that they are action-oriented, fast-moving, assertive, and hardworking. They differ from 3s, however, in that they have more paranoid fantasies and their assertiveness has its basis in fear rather than in the need to achieve and accomplish goals in the service of looking good.

Note: Most 6s are phobic or counter-phobic most of the time (phobic 6s are more fearful and avoidant), but can shift between them.

Character Example: Before he was the stoic, circumspect, and obedient 6w5 Darth Vader, Anakin was a counter-phobic 6. The entire story arc of the prequel trilogy chronicles his continual battle against fear through aggression. “Fear,” as Yoda says, “turns to anger… and anger into hate…” Anakin’s downward spiral starts with his attraction to and subsequent secret marriage to Padme, because the Jedi do not allow marriage. He becomes convinced he is going to lose her, that she is going to die, and gets sucked into Emperor Palpatine’s plot to control him, through the emperor offering him “security.” The emperor promises that the only way to save the woman he loves is through the Dark Side of the Force. Anakin becomes obedient to his chosen master and commits terrible acts (the slaughter of the innocents in the Jedi Temple) to get what he wants most, the security of his wife. But his own aggression and decision to take matters into his own hands, his unpredictability and violence, cause Padme to fear him. It creates friction between them, exacerbates his own paranoia, and causes him to turn on her as an “enemy.”

A less tragic example of a counter-phobic 6 turns up in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. At first, Gretel appears like an 8 in her fierceness, her no-nonsense attitude, and her dominant behavior, but it soon becomes apparent that “family” is everything. She collects people and brings them under her protection, but also appreciates their support. She feels at odds and less capable of defending herself when her brother disappears for a short time. She also reacts angrily with aggression and defiance, provoking her attackers into more extreme behavior. But her warmth and kindness comes out whenever she is not on her guard. Her story has a happy ending—a confident woman, surrounded by the people who love her.

Spiritual Growth Suggestions

As 6s work on themselves and become more self-aware, they learn to escape the trap of intensifying their fear (through their attempts to reduce it) by doing the following: seeking to embody faith and courage, becoming aware of how they create self-fulfilling prophecies, learning to trust themselves (and others) more, and owning their power and authority instead of projecting it onto others.

Notice when you are…

Using doubting, testing, questioning, and watching to gain a sense of control and security. Observe your doubting mind in action and notice the thinking patterns involve. Notice your habit of questioning yourself and others. What does it help you to do? How might it hinder you? Notice the ways in which you test other people. Does this clarify things for you or put up barriers that prevent you from forming connections? Examine your thinking for mental loops.

Projecting fear, anxiety, and power onto others. Try to catch yourself in the act of disowning your fears and your power. When do you look for people and situations in which to attach your anxiety so you can convince yourself they are to blame instead of owning your feelings and the reasons behind them? Are you dwelling on them as the cause of your feelings as a distraction from your own anxiety? What are you projecting onto them?

Acting out fear in different ways instead of owning it, being with it, and managing it. What is acting out in fear? Over-thinking situations, creating worst-case scenarios, building negative fantasies about others’ intentions, being indecisive, unable to take action, and procrastinating. Consciously notice how you see fear and anxiety motivating your behavior, and what form it takes. Notice also if you aren’t feeling much fear and anxiety.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • How and why did these patterns develop?
  • What emotions are these patterns designed to protect me from?
  • Why am I doing this?
  • How are patterns of projection and fear operating in me?
  • What are my blind spots, because of these patterns?
  • What do they keep me from seeing?
  • What are the consequences of continuing to be this way?
  • How do my coping mechanisms trap me?

Self-Development:

To counter-act using watching, doubting, testing, and questioning to find a sense of control and security.

  • Recognize that uncertainty is an inevitable form of life. Instead of allowing yourself to fall into a relentless cycle of questioning, take yourself out of your head and watch what you are doing from a distance. Remind yourself the search for certainty won’t get you anywhere.
  • Remember we tend to find what we seek. Instead of seeing problems to fix, look for the positive side of things. Challenge yourself to think optimistically and counter-act negative thoughts with positive ones.
  • Get out of your head and into your body. Physical exercise can help ground y7our awareness in the present moment, shifting you out of the mental default of mental activity. Breathe deep. Feel your body.

To counter-act projecting fear, anxiety, and power onto others.

  • Learn the difference between intuition and projection. You may think you know what someone else is doing or saying, but you don’t. Ask yourself often if this is something you know for a fact (supported by evidence) or something you are assuming? Learn to ask someone before assuming they are mad at you or judging you. Explain the situation to unbiased others and ask for their input.
  • Consciously claim whatever you are projecting. Notice the ideas you have about others and see how they might reflect your own disowned feelings, experiences, and qualities. Inspect the stories you are making up about others. Notice if you are making yourself powerless in the situation.
  • Work to become aware of your authority issues. Refrain from displaying an over-reliance on outside authority as compensation for your own insecurity and learn to see, accept, and own your own power, vulnerability, and the power that comes from being able to be vulnerable.

To counter-act acting out fear instead of owning it, being with it, and managing it.

  • Recognize fight, flight, and freeze as fear reactions. If you learn to see your reactions to threatening situations, you can start making conscious choices about how to respond to them. Create clarity, space, and compassion for yourself. Learn to see how fear is motivating your reactions.
  • Learn to feel, manage, and release fear. Observe what causes fear, and its consequences on your relationships. Check out the evidence, if you feel fearful. Honestly evaluate the threat level. Once you learn to recognize fear-responses, you can learn to calm yourself down, or more clearly explore or evaluate it.
  • If you transform your fear into anger, and do not feel fear, recognize that the anger is a fear response. Look underneath your over-working, aggression, or defiant feelings to figure out what unconscious fears are driving this behavior.
  • Use faith to combat fear. If you suspect everything will go wrong, learn to let it go and trust that it will all work out fine. Use getting out of your head into direct action or your body to self-soothe.

Using your integration and disintegration numbers for self-growth:

Move to 3 by using goals and relationships as supports to overcome fear, take action, and achieve results. Shift away from your fears and focus instead on the worthiness of your goals, the positive aspects connected to impressing others with your good work, and sincere pride in achievement. Instead of getting caught up in inaction or indecisiveness, set a goal and work toward it. Focus on self-confidence, the ability to manage your feelings, and devote yourself to results. Enjoy what you do, expect a positive reward for your hard work, and anticipate a good outcome.

Move to 9 by learning to relax in your connection with others and go with the flow of life without worrying about bad things happening. Instead of moving away and distrusting others, use your line to 9 to trust others, find a place of security and comfort, and establish a healthy balance between staying safe and relaxing within supportive relationships. Allow yourself to merge into your relationships and relax your defenses; don’t fear allowing others’ agendas to become your own. This will help you lower your defenses and be more approachable on an intimate level. Open up to and confide in others and cultivate an appreciation for others’ perspectives and lives.


Sources: Richard Rohr, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, Claudio Naranjo: Character and Neurosis, Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Beatrice Chestnut, The Complete Enneagram: 27 Paths to Greater Self-Knowledge. Sections quoted or paraphrased. Please purchase the original books for more information.