Funky MBTI

Teaching MBTI & Enneagram Through Fictional Characters

8: The Need to Be Against

“Never let anyone know what you’re thinking.”

Michael Corleone, The Godfather

Michael Corleone is one of the most iconic characters of all time. A powerhouse of calm pressure against his enemies and cool confidence in the face of adversity, he keeps his family safe in The Godfather by ruthlessly cutting down those who would “weaken” the family. He’s not the only 8 in the show, either… it’s an 8 movie, full of 8s. His father Vito is another self-controlled, powerful 8w9 who sees it as his job to “take care of” people (actually, pressuring them to get what he wants and confidently knowing they will give it to him). His brother Sonny is an explosive 8w7, over-indulgent, temperamental, and full of anger and reactivity toward those who “disrespect” his sister. Connie might even be an 8w7, in how she reacts against her husband, stands up to her father and brothers, and demands respect in the family. And of course, Clemenza, their attack dog, is another 8w9 whose answer to things is “go to the mattresses” (be ready to fight and hide and win this war). The Godfather is a classic movie about 8s in conflict, and if you want to see them in action, look there first.

Dean is a terrific example of a maturing Enneagram 8.

The Need to Be Against

Our lingering impression of an 8 is strength and might. Their sense of justice and truth lets them instinctively know if something stinks or if injustice and dishonesty as work in a situation or individual. They address such problems openly and directly. At their best, they can provide others with a sense of reliability and trust in their methods, because they live by a mantra of responsibility and solicitude. They devote their tremendous energy to the cause of “right.”

Just as 1s want to be good, 8s want to be bad. Rather than embrace their soft underbelly, they develop an exterior hardness that conceals the tenderness of their emotions. They trust no one but themselves and don’t believe they can afford to show weakness or cry. They believe the strong rule the weak. To avoid being preyed upon, they decide not to be good, play by the rules, or conform, but to rebel, resist authority, break the rules, and seek power through ordering others around. They test others to see how far they can push them.

8s do not apologize, take anything back, or admit to their mistakes. They don’t find it easy to ask for forgiveness, either. But they can and will deal with themselves as harshly as they do others, and castigate themselves. 8s direct their aggression toward hypocrisy and injustice. They believe life is threatening and hostile, and you cannot afford to trust others until they prove their honesty and reliability. They seek and create conflict, do not hold back in a fight, and enjoy “being against.” Resistance and negotiation are their first reaction to new perspectives, ideas, and possibilities.

They take the side of the week, the marginalized, the oppressed, and the defenseless, and are intolerant of the abuse of the authorities or those they see as over-reaching themselves. Behind their facade of hardness lies an innocent inner child. To protect themselves from this coming to light, they bury all feelings of tenderness and vulnerability. They are insecure about this side of themselves and may show it only to one or two people in their lifetime. Their self-image is that they have power and are stronger than others. If in a position of authority over others, those under them can feel oppressed or pushed around. The 8 doesn’t realize that their directness, aggression, high energy level, and forcefulness can intimidate others who are not used to their explosions of anger and frustration. Any victim of their temper may struggle to regain focus, while the 8 has blown a gasket, gotten over it once it hit the air, and moved on with their day.

8s fight to make contact through direct confrontation; it creates an intimacy in their mind in their search for a partner or a friend who can stand their ground and fight back. It comes so easily to them they don’t understand how this kind of initiation can intimidate others. They assume others share their love for conflict and confrontation. 8s may not notice how hard their “blows” land; they may see their “playful” attacks as less severe than the victim does (who may call it aggressive behavior). 8s attack others to startle them into revealing their true self, devoid of artifice. To find out who their allies and adversaries are, who to fight and who is safe. Though they may slaughter an opponent verbally, if their enemy is their equal, they will also respect them as a “worthy foe.”

They sense others’ weaknesses and exploit them without remorse. Their ability to unmask dishonest behaviors makes them good at bringing the truth about others to light. This talent means that the mature 8 has greater potential than any other type to lead others to their true potential, because they alone can see it. They make natural leaders who inspire great followings. Their fans know they will accomplish what they promise to do, because they always finish what they start. Rather than reform something from the inside out (like a 1 would), the 8 attacks and dismantles the system from the outside in. This can also strike other types as hostile and frightening behavior, because it is tearing down what other hold “most dear” to replace it with whatever the 8 has in mind. They seem to thrive on causing trouble, and see zero reasons to be diplomatic about their intentions, opinions, or goals.

They avoid helplessness, weakness, and submissions. They see their opinions as absolute and reject alternate arguments. 8s can be overbearing and arrogant. They may treat others as doormats, see themselves as superior, and assign themselves as everyone else’s boss. If they sense too much unwarranted self-confidence in others, they will challenge them and tear them down. If you have power, the 8 will prove to you that their power is superior. They will bring a cannon to a knife fight. But if they sense another’s weakness in a way that cannot be helped (such as the helplessness of a child, a frightened soul, or an injured animal), the 8 will become their defender and champion.

Despite what others may think, their enormous energy is not born of anger, but passion and total commitment to living life to the absolute fullest, to drink it down to its last dregs and demand more. They are daring, rarely show fear, and enjoy risk-taking and facing challenges. They go overboard in everything, including in their zeal for justice. If not careful, the 8 can believe “bad” people deserve severe punishment and take it on themselves to melt it out. They think justice is retaliation or revenge and are not the type to just forgive or walk away. They may fall into denial and refuse to accept anything that does not fit their rigid worldview. Above all, they deny and repress their own needs, emotions, limits, and weaknesses. Inner voices that say “don’t feel what you feel” rule the 8.

8s are often shameless. Their lust is not just for flesh, but based in their tendency to shamelessly use, possess, control, and suppress others for their own pleasure (baiting them for arguments, using them for sex, exploiting them at card games or in boardrooms, destroying them in a public debate, etc). When this happens, they are showing a direct lack of concern, care, or morality towards others’ dignity and worth as fellow human beings. Immature 8s make harsh demands on others while failing to live up to those standards themselves. They will over-indulge in food, sex, alcohol, drugs, and what money can buy without guilt. Not to escape their life, like a 7 would, but out of pure enjoyment of it. 8s live life to the fullest and embrace all of it, even the pain. They are more able than every other type to face, endure, and not let pain break them.

They need to control everything and have others take responsibility for their mistakes, even if their reaction is explosive. Woe to those who conceal something from them or “hoodwink” them, because the 8 does not forgive or forget. They can fuss and demand perfection out of a belief that one mistake can cause them to lose control over the entire project. They desperately need to feel in control over their possessions and family members. Because of this, 8s face problems when they are falling in love. They need a partner who does not submit to them, but will stand their ground and offer fierce arguments in return, because that is the only person they can and will respect. Anyone needy, clingy, or too fearful irritates them. Once in a relationship, they struggle to compromise, adapt, or sacrifice themselves for the other person, rather than constantly trying to keep the upper hand—and this is where their relationship founders, because all of those things make a mature relationship work. Romance tests their emotional vulnerability against their desire to remain untouchable and hard. They may want to sleep with their lover, but not be around them “all the time,” because they value their autonomy.

Immature 8s are merciless toward themselves and others. Only when they fully see and accept their own weakness, can they tolerate it in others. Their fear of their inner softness makes them reluctant to Integrate. 8s must learn to watch themselves and halt their tendency to humiliate, intimidate, or exploit others. They must learn to respect others’ viewpoints even if they disagree with them, and not numb themselves to avoid inner work through over-indulgence. They should learn to look for compromises rather than ram through their desired end, regardless of how others feel about it, and obey their own rules.

Growth can be difficult for many 8s, because they scorn inner work, psychology, reflection, or admission of wrongdoing—but some 8s, once they see these things about themselves, are ruthless in dealing with them and growing as individuals. The 8 must learn to see their own tender, innocent child within and show it kindness, through allowing themselves to feel and express their emotions in ways other than through angry outbursts or violent attacks against those whom they dislike. They must learn not to fear their own weakness and recognize that sometimes to give others ground is a sign of superior strength. They must learn to see tenderness as a sign of strong character—a fearless admission of “self” equal to their other excellent traits. They need to demand the same naked truth from themselves as they do others. 8s need to learn to concede when they are wrong, and to embrace forgiveness. Forgiving someone puts you in a position of power over them to change their life for the better.

Sadistic Character and Lust

 “Lust” in the 8 includes excess in certain things. It is a passion for excess and intensity, not only through sex but in over-stimulation. 8s do not feel alive except through it, and so avoid inwardness. Their greed for ever more aliveness is an attempt to compensate for a hidden lack of aliveness. 8s are the insensitive, impulsive, and hedonistic. They act as a strong, tough-minded character. They are extra-punitive and bold. 8s are explosive, defiant, and disobedient. They may, with the least amount of provocation, become enraged or even violent with no consideration (having a predictably “short fuse”). They may know the moral laws of a situation perfectly well, but don’t feel them and do not subordinate their behavior to them. They find it difficult to restrain their own gratification and thus pursue hotly whatever they desire.

The 8 may be excitable, unstable, impulsive, eccentric, anti-social, and quarrelsome. They may possess traits of sociopathic behaviors, such as guiltlessness, impulsivity, emotional shallowness, superficial social charm, and the inability to profit from experience (they “never learn” from their mistakes). 8 are be tough, hard-headed, and realistic, coldly reserved or contemptuously aggressive. The 8 will anticipate any impending attack with an attack of their own. They display the aggression of their character less in what they do and say than in the dominant manner in which they act. Others see the 8 as totally aggressive and provocative by those not in control over their own aggression. They feel driven to achieve leading positions in life and ill-suited to subordinate positions. The 8 may be blatantly self-confident, with a flagrant display of superiority and dignity. The 8 does not expect to receive things from others as gifts, but assumes they must take them away by force or cunning, coloring their attitude by a mixture of hostility and manipulation, cynicism, suspicion, envy and jealousy.

Traits the ‘extreme 8’ shares with anti-social disorder: inability to sustain consistent work behavior; lack of ability to function as a responsible parent; failure to accept social norms regarding lawful behavior; inability to maintain enduring attachment to a sexual partner, and promiscuity; irritability and aggressiveness; failure to honor financial obligations; failure to plan; disregard for the truth as showed by “conning” for personal profit; recklessness; hostile affectivity (argumentative, quick-tempered, flies readily into arguments and attack-mode); assertive self-image (proud of their self-reliance, energy, and hard-headedness; values a tough, competitive, and power-oriented lifestyle); interpersonal vindictiveness (enjoys humiliating others, contemptuous of sentiment, etc); total fearlessness (impulsive, sped up, and forceful responses; undaunted by and attracted to danger and punishment); malevolent projection (believes most people are devious, controlling and punitive; justifies own mistrustful hostile and vengeful attitudes by ascribing them to others).

The 8 identifies more with their glorified self than with their despised self. They want to ‘master life’ and have a determination, conscious or otherwise, to overcome every obstacle inside oneself or out, the belief they can do it, and can do it. The 8 should be able to master the adversities of life, the difficulties of a situation, the intricacies of intellectual problems, the resistances of others, and any conflicts in themselves. The 8 experiences needs with overwhelming intensity. The 8 lacks the usual ‘checks’ on their nature that many other types experience. The 8 may believe it is wise to regard everyone with distrust until they have proven themselves honest. The 8 can come across as arrogant, rude, or offensive, though the 8 will cover this with a thin veil of politeness.

At their worst, 8s will use others to their own ends, and create relationships to use as stepping stones, arguing that when others dislike or complain against his methods, they are neurotically sensitive. These 8s will insist on dismissing others’ needs or wishes while having their own honored and respected. They will feel entitled to share unfavorable observations but refuse any ‘undue criticism.’ These 8s can be vindictive, irritable, sulky, guilt-trip others, or fly into open rages; they can enjoy intimidating others into subdued appeasement, or scold themselves for ‘going soft.’

The 8 feels a desperate need to harden their feelings to survive; they believe they must be strong to master life. The 8 does not wish to need others and is proud of their self-sufficiency. They are also proud of their honesty, fairness, and sense of justice, but may be oblivious to their own determination to bluff their way through life. The 8 believes ‘strike first and hardest’ is the only way to fight a crooked and hostile world and protect their self-interests. The 8 does not question the validity of their claims, anger, or its expression, which the 8 sees as warranted frankness. 8s see around them many compliant people who pretend to be more loving, sympathetic, and generous than they are, and is more honest than the rest of the types. If the 8 does not feel friendly, the 8 does not feign friendliness; they disdain doing so.

What drives the 8’s lack of sympathy for others’ weaknesses is a bitter envy stemming from feeling excluded from life. It feels to the 8, in defending against the world constantly, that they are separate from everything that makes life worth living—joy, love, happiness, creativity, and growth. The 8 cannot admit this, but may suffer from a sense that others are better off than they are. 8s love physical adventure, are energetic, often need and love to exercise, enjoy dominating, possess a lust for power, risk, and chance, have a bold and direct manner, enjoy physical combat and show tremendous courage under fire, are competitive, aggressive, are not squeamish, can be noisy and bold, assertive and aggressive when drinking, and need to take direct action when feeling troubled.

The 8 comes into life with a constitutionally determined orientation toward action and a disposition to fight. 8s are lovers of tangible reality with little interest in reflection, and good company in that they are lively and powerful. Their chief priority is the intensification of sensations, and they like to live life to the fullest and demand more. 8s are prone to addictions and often ‘mean drunks.’ If restless, the 8 will grow bored with allowing events to progress at their own natural pace; if things are going too smoothly at work or home, the 8 may stir them up by raising contentious issues or contradictory opinions. They may refuse to curb their hot tempers. This can sabotage the 8 in professional environments, where such outbursts defy all civilized rules of behavior. The 8 grows easily bored with intellectual work and prefer a direct authoritarian manner in dealing with subordinates. They have a high tolerance for pain.

Identifiable Traits:

Lust: an unidentifiable passion for life that they will not deny; intensity, gusto, love of eating, etc. The 8 seems determined to prove to the world that what everybody calls ‘bad’ is not such. Hedonism, a tendency toward easy boredom when not being stimulated, a craving for excitement, impatient, and impulsive. The pleasure of their lust comes from asserting the satisfaction of impulses, pleasure in the forbidden, and particularly in fighting for pleasure. The 8 will often transform pain into pleasure, either the pain they entail in fighting to conquer obstacles or in the resistance of others. It is a lust for intensity, not just for pleasure. This comes not from intellectual satisfaction but from a struggle and triumph.

Corrective: blunt, sarcastic, irony and other direct forms of castigation. 8s are the angriest of the types and the least intimidated by anger. The 8 reacts angrily in the moment, then quickly gets over their irritation. If an 8 seeks revenge, it is a long-term game in which they take justice into their own hands in response to the pain, humiliation, and impotence felt in their childhood. It is as if they want to turn the tables on the world and having suffered frustration or humiliation for the pleasure of others, has determined it is now their turn to have pleasure, even if it includes the pain of others (or especially then). The excitement of anxiety, strong tastes, and tough experiences represents for the 8 a transformation of pain into a hardening of self against life. They can be dominating, insensitive, and cynical.

Rebelliousness: 8s are revolutionary activists with a strong opposition to authority and a scorn for the values enjoined by traditional education. “Badness” in their mind becomes the way to be, and they have always been rebellious.

Dominance: hostility and dominance go hand in hand, but dominance protects the 8 from being vulnerable or dependent. Related traits include arrogance, power seeking, a need for triumph, putting others down, competitiveness, acting superior, disdain, and scorn for others. 8s feel they must fight for their wishes. The 8 has figured out it does not pay to be weak, accommodating, or seductive, and orients itself toward power so they can take justice into their hands.

Intensity: toughness, being confrontational, intimidating, ruthlessness, and being callous are typical for 8s. They reject weakness, sentimentality, pity, and especially fear. The 8 denies their fears and embraces the feeling of power generated by assertiveness. They transform anxiety into excitement. Hardening self against anxiety is an addiction, something without which life seems boring and tasteless.

Cynicism: come from the 8’s skepticism toward virtue as being hypocritical, and distrust in others’ motives. The 8 is more blatantly deceptive than the 7 and knows how to bargain assertively.

Exhibitionism: 8s are charming, witty, and entertaining yet not concerned with how others see them; they use seductiveness, bragging, and arrogance in tandem with these things to gain power and influence in the dominance hierarchy. 8s are exploitative and insensitive, yet make themselves acceptable despite their lesser traits.

Autonomy: 8s reject dependency in any form.

Sensory-Motor Dominance: 8s prefer action over intellect and feeling. They are all about the ‘here and now’—the sphere of the senses and the body-sense in particular. They cling to the present and have an impatience toward abstractions, memory, and a desensitization toward the subtly of aesthetic or spiritual experiences. The 8 may deem anything intangible and untouchable to the senses as not real (including the Enneagram).

Defense Mechanisms:

8s fiercely repress an intellectual (mental, inward-pointing) lifestyle, to defend themselves against passivity or dependency. They strive through excessive assertiveness and aggression to avoid a position of powerlessness that would constrain and resign them into giving up their impulses. To compensate for their feelings of guilt, shame, and worthlessness, the 8 engages in a process of guilt denial and a repression of the super-ego. They disavow internal authority and its values in a rebellious turning against of inhibition. The 8 is intolerant of anything that disagrees with their wishes. They are skilled at keeping pain out of their awareness and transform their apprehension into a source of excitement. This desensitization stems from a deliberate turning away from the expectation of love from others and the turning against social standards.

What formed them: the noisy, rambunctious, rebellious and excessively vehement 8 child soon discovered themselves able to easily elicit rejection or punishment. Instead of allowing this to cow them, the 8 progressed into further self-assertion and rebellion. They may have experienced cruelties, abuse, or violence in the home, and ‘toughened up’. The 8 child may have perceived punishment differently from their siblings, or been in the presence of an 8 adult whom they admired.

Much like the 5, the 8 has pessimistically given up on the search for love to the point of cynically doubting good motives and perceiving the expression of positive feelings as sentimentality. The 8’s search for love becomes a search for respect—something they consider the “proof of love.” The 8 may believe that “proof of love” is in another’s willingness to be ‘possessed’ and dominated / lead by the 8. The over-development of action in the service of struggling prevents the 8 from embracing ‘full humanness.’ The 8 needs to learn that in constantly grasping at power means a loss of the tender qualities and subtlety that could enrich their emotional life, romantic attachments, and embody their sense of ‘being’ and wholeness. The 8’s striving for concrete goals (pleasure, wealth, triumph, etc), if substituted for wholeness, will leave them forever dissatisfied, and a slave to their need for intensity.

The 8 needs to be open to the possibility of being loved for themselves; in not needing to demand or ‘take’ from others but allowing them to ‘give.’ To put oneself above all others does not make one the victor. To become whole, the 8 must embrace relationships, tenderness, and a willingness to experience and allow themselves to feel love. The 8 needs to learn that sometimes the greatest act of strength is the willingness not to dominate another.

Enneagram 8 Wings

8s 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.

8w7: A Self-Indulgent Rebel

8w7 is the most assertive type on the Enneagram, since they have two numbers from the same triad. Assertive types are direct in pursuing their desires, unapologetic about how they meet their needs, and go through people rather than compromise with them. The mindset is “come with me or get out of my way.” 8w7s are pleasure-seeking and want to drain every last drop of the richness of life out of their experiences; they love any kind of combative environment, whether it’s a boardroom or the bedroom, and will amplify the tension to get a reaction or alleviate boredom. They may even start arguments just to have something to do.

Because they are so aggressive, they tend to dominate their relationships through over-emphasizing their boundaries and asserting their strength. They are aware of who has the power in any given situation and intends it to be them—because having the power means getting what they want—their way in life. They test others’ boundaries and push them to find out how much they can get away with, or they push them to “make them stronger.” 8w7s think the world is a dangerous place and you have to be tough to make your way in it—you can’t be taken advantage of, or pushed away from what you want. They are good at identifying what they want out of life and going for it and expect immediate gratification. All their thoughts are about the future—what they are going to do and achieve.

8w7s have big, loud energy, but fear drives them to be protective of themselves and their loved ones. They won’t admit their fears to anyone but themselves, and it never holds them back. Fear is vulnerability. They reframe it into being “proactive,” “aggressive,” or “spotting trouble.” The way they deal with problems is to assert themselves forcefully against it, and expect others to either go along with them or get out of their way. The solution to roadblocks is to tackle them head-on, be direct, combative, strong, and proud of it.

8w7s are a mix of pure instinct and strategy. They feel what’s happening in their bodies and act on it, but want to avoid being pinned down, backed into a corner, or trapped in a situation that seems boring to them. They over-assert themselves and push back hard against any threat, but also participate in “magical thinking” to make promises to others or avoid taking responsibility. They may sell others on an impossible dream that they believe could happen, simply because they want it to. They rewrite their own stories. If an 8w7 gets fired, that person was a “fool” not to recognize their potential and their business is going to fail without them on board. Being fired is no big deal, since it leaves them free to pursue better things. An 8w7 may be in deep denial about the seriousness of their situation, and convince themselves of all the good things headed their way when the opposite may be true—instead of being called in to work to get fired, the boss is going to give them a raise. This comes from their self-confident positivity; assertive types all believe themselves to be terrific, so 8w7s are confident to a fault and don’t shy away from broadcasting it.

Their tendency to shoot prematurely from the hip means catching other people in the crossfire, and being angry when they have to deal with other types’ sensitive emotions or fears; the 8w7 simply deals with the situation and moves on quickly; they do not rethink it, hesitate, or worry about the fallout. They feel frustration toward others who attempt to stand in their way, who question their motivations, or who disobey their orders. They also do not fear the anger of others or back down in front of it. This external “fearlessness” tends to make others give them what they want (even though the 8 does not lack fear; they turn it into strength).

8w7s are the more aggressive 8s, but also have a bawdy sense of humor and are always up for a life of adventure and fun. They don’t see the point in waiting for what they want, so they make it happen as soon as possible.

8w7s struggle to know how to deal with sensitive feelings. It’s hard for them to admit they have done anything wrong, since it doesn’t fit their self-image of strength and adaptability. It’s also hard for them to submit to anyone they find incompetent or weak without challenging them. They are a blend of aggressive action and hedonism, a belief that life should be lived to the fullest and enjoyed.

8w7s are emotionally reactive under stress, have a hard time containing their feelings, and need you to acknowledge what they see as a problem, but they also long for the world to be different and fit their ideal. There’s a strong blend of anger and frustration in them; anger is their immediate emotion, but they also feel constantly frustrated. The term “I can’t get no satisfaction” applies to them. No matter how much they achieve, how many battles they win, how much authority they gain along their life path, there is always a sense of lack, a belief that the “next thing” might be just around the corner, and a deep fear of missing out on something better than what’s in their hands.

Everything about them, from their reactions to their dreams, is big. 8w7s underestimate the force behind their anger and are shocked when it upsets more sensitive types; to them, it seems like an “acceptable” level of emotion but to a 9 it feels like a nuclear detonation. Their anger swells up and blasts outward, but they get over it and move on quickly, since there is only so much time and there’s a lot they intend to do.

In relationships, 8w7s bring a blend of power, protection, and wanting to be in charge (it’s hard for them to give up authority to a spouse) and fun, enjoyment of life, an outrageous sense of humor, and happiness. Loss is seen through a lens of pragmatism (“this is real life; everything dies; and relationships end”), but they may rush to distract themselves from it, rather than dwell too long in their miserable feelings. They self-soothe with the belief it will all be okay, since they trust themselves to confidently handle whatever life intends to throw at them (and it will be amazing). 8w7s feel entitled to the things they want and devote a lot of time, energy, and focus to ensuring total freedom in the life they intend to live. They avoid commitment until they are sure it’s going to be an asset in their journey rather than a hindrance. They seek partners who need them to be the stronger half, or who can handle their rejection strategies. 8w7s deny they need anything from people by amplifying their toughness and invulnerability, while also fearing their needs won’t be met in life unless they demand things. If they’re not careful, they will distract themselves with a life of temporary but unsatisfying shallow experiences.

Character Example: Who robbed the rich to feed the poor? Saw the marginalized and oppressed and became an outlaw to settle the score? Why, Robin Hood, of course! This aggressive, direct, and outgoing personality gathered a group of Merry Men in the woods to right the wrongs he saw in society beneath the leadership of Prince John and his nefarious Sheriff of Nottingham. In all the movies and the television series, Robin is confident (cocky?), combative (one might say direct), and reckless. He isn’t above a bit of fun, but won’t stand for insubordination, either. In the television series, Robin almost alienates his entire group in his refusal to release a prisoner, Sir Guy of Gisborne, whom Robin has discovered attempted to assassinate King Richard in the Holy Land. This is not something he can forgive or forget… and it takes incredible strength of character and a damn good reason for him to let Sir Guy live, showcasing the stubbornness and revenge-drive of the 8.

8w9: The Godfather

8w9s are double-gut types, rooted squarely in an inner sense of knowing and resistance to outside influences. Their forcefulness is quieter than the other 8, but radiates with a sense of calm confidence that they are going to get what they want and you are going to give it to them. Not giving it to them would be a mistake. While they intend to get what they want, they don’t see the point in causing unnecessary upsets in the process. When they resist others, it’s out of a sense of “nah, you’re not worth it.” The forceful pressure against other people to back off is there, but they aren’t particularly bothered about it. 9s don’t think other people are worth inconveniencing themselves for, so 8w9s don’t see the point, ether.

Their attachment wing tells them going along with others will make life easier for themselves. If the 8w9 gets tired of being yelled at, nagged, or shamed for their desires, they may not do that thing in the future or do it quietly, so as to live a pleasant life with limited chaos. It doesn’t change what they want or how they feel, but it will change their approach to certain people that don’t seem worth the fuss of constant entanglement. 8s are the most energetic number on the Enneagram, and 9s are the least, so 8w9s direct their power in specific directions and don’t have much left over, especially not for pointless debates. They are less likely to start a fight for sheer entertainment than a 8w7, but more likely to “end it” by telling someone off and then sitting back at the dinner table, “so done” with the conversation. They have no trouble establishing and maintaining boundaries with people and are resistant to anyone who tries to change their mind.  

Their anger is slow to build and may leak out in growls more than fits, but if they snap, it’s brief explosion that isn’t like their usual sense of calm and forceful detachment. 8w9s hold grudges longer than 8w7s, because there’s no desire to re-frame the experience or engage in magical thinking. Their brand of positivity is to deal with the problem decisively and then assume any hurt feelings will get smoothed over in time (if I ignore them, they will go away). While still a reactive type who wants to draw attention to the problem, the 8w9 will shut down conversations they don’t want to have and refuse to talk about it. They feel their assertion is enough and do not want to repeat themselves. They are a mix of inner contradictions at war with each other—wanting to fulfill their desires, but also not rub the people whose opinions they care about the wrong way.

Being in the assertive triad means the 8w9 doesn’t suffer from the repressed “doing” of the 9w8; they take direct action and then put up their feet and relax. There is a desire in them to “go along with the flow,” as long as the flow isn’t going anywhere they don’t want it to go (provided it isn’t going against what they want from a situation, why not go along with people?). They are able to reflect what others want from them to appeal to them, which makes them the more “approachable” 8 to less-assertive types.

They handle whatever life throws at them without becoming emotional about it. They may “strongly suggest” rather than “give orders,” because they want to be liked, so they can avoid unnecessary drama. They are firm in their views, but willing to compromise and move toward others to find common ground, because they see it as the rational solution. They largely just want to be left alone to get what they want to do done.

8w9s have less interest in pleasure for its own sake than 8w7s and are more realistic about life and its problems. They numb their emotions if a situation requires it and do what needs done. Their quiet strength stresses the point they want to make without leaving room for disagreement. Because a 9 can be affected by other people and their needs, 8w9s want to contribute in some way to their loved ones, especially if they are social subtypes. This manifests in showing others how to be strong and decisive or in taking a protective role toward them, since the 8w9 is willing to do what others are not. They handle problems with the same pressure as an 8w7, but without the overt anger. They calmly make it known that anyone who messes with their kids, spouse, or friends will regret it. An 8w9 who sees a kid doing something stupid or dangerous will call them over and tell them why it’s stupid and not to do it again, in a forceful enough tone the kid never forgets it, but without showing actual anger. Most of their power comes from their ‘big but silent’ presence.

8w9s feel torn between over-asserting boundaries (this is what I will and will not allow) and accommodating others, because the boundary between them can become blurred when the 8w9 lets down their defenses. While super energetic and driven, they can lapse into apathy or a sense of deep longing toward the past. 9s suffer from looking back instead of ahead, while 8s are all about the future and what they will achieve. When the 8w9 slows down, they may focus on their regrets and what they have lost—if something had gone differently, they would be in a better position now. They are torn between seeing what is wrong and drawing attention to it, out of a desire to be realistic about life being hard and not for sissies, and a desire to assume it’s all going to work out fine.

They resist being told what to do through refusing to listen or doing the opposite to remind others they cannot be controlled. They are actively resistant but less openly defiant than the 8w7, and no less determined to do things when they are damn good and ready, not a minute before. If upset at others, they put up a wall or retreat into a lack of concern. They may not want to deal with unpleasant feelings and so avoid that person in the future, because being around them makes them angry and they would rather be calm and use their anger in specific ways.

The desire to avoid problems in relationships make them more willing to compromise to keep others happy, but the 8w9 is still concerned with their own agenda. They don’t frame it in terms of “this is what I ought to do for their sake,” but “if I want to live in peace, this is the way I do it.” 8s have black and white mindsets, but 9s are able to see the merit in every argument, so the 8w9 can have tolerant views on anything that doesn’t contradict their own opinions, and be permissible of others’ decisions provided they don’t prevent the 8w9 from getting what they want. They will apologize, but only if they think they are in the wrong, and often their apologies refer to their awareness (because others have mentioned it as a “problem”) that their loud, aggressive energy can be overwhelming or seen as quarrelsome to other people.

Character Example: Princess Leia was a gift to Enneagram 8 little girls everywhere when Star Wars came on the scene. Instead of a damsel in distress, she grabbed the nearest gun, shot her way into the bowls of a ship, and threw herself into the hole—but not until after she insulted Han Solo for being an idiot. I mean, does a girl have to do everything around here? A feisty, opinionated, aggressive woman who would rather hit her future partner with zingers (fortunately, as a 7w8, Han is more than capable of standing up to her) than make out in a closet, Leia also felt disgust for his “gutlessness” in thinking only about himself, and not the Cause. A natural leader and diplomat, who could also use charm when necessary (especially as she grew older), Leia’s passion and zeal, her willingness to endure torture, and her fierce determination to survive even Jabba’s presence, eventually inspired Han to join the Resistance and come to all their aid. Not bad for a woman who would “rather kiss a wookie”!

Social Variants:

Social variants determine how we respond to the world around us 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 8

Self-Preservation Eights tend to be excessive and forceful in the pursuit of what they believe supports physical well-being. This amounts to an excessive preoccupation with autonomy. They do not want to have to answer to others, and they aim to be self-reliant above all.

Self-Preservation Eights spend a great deal of energy trying to make money or to find a “sure thing” in terms of a desired lifestyle, even if they were already born into privilege. There can be an attitude of “getting mine,” with a propensity to see others’ success and well-being as a threat or affront to their own. They can become controlling about their resources and fight off any perceived attempt to wield any influence over them, even to the point of seeing any form of compromise with others as a personal infringement. Fixated Self-Preservation Eights push hard for their desired vision of autonomy and prosperity, but often at great cost to their relationships and physical and emotional health. They’re likely to regularly provoke power struggles and conflict related to carving out their own way of life. This may mean pushing up against others in business dealings, competition, athletics, or acquisitions, treating life as a battle or game.

For all the intensity typically displayed in Eights, they’re actually pushing up against an inner sense of deadening, a lack of being touched by their experience, so the more entranced a Self-Preservation Eight, the less they’re able to directly register impressions of well-being. This results in being so caught up in self-assertion and struggle that they become physically neglectful or even reckless about their own well-being.

Character Example: It’s impossible to forget Cary Grant’s crusty, self-serving 8 in the romantic wartime comedy Father Goose. A man looking out only for his own interests, who shamelessly steals gas from the military outpost, Walter winds up marooned on an island when a military vessel rams his boat, to force him to stay there. He drowns his sorrows in booze—and the only way the military can get him to report Japanese plains is by promising him one bottle per plane. To get himself off the island and out of its responsibilities, Walter makes a middle of the night run to a neighboring island where instead of the relief promised to him, he finds a French schoolteacher and a bunch of (in his word) “brats.” The gaggle of girls take over his hut, hide all his booze, and make his life a living hell, until Walter, out of a begrudging sense of sympathy for them, falls in love with their teacher and saves them all from the Japanese invaders, at the cost of his very own boat. But even then, he still refuses to admit he capsized the lifeboat.

The Social Eight

Social Eights are looking for the experience of Essential Power through relationships and having a strong influence on other people. Social Eights tend to have immense energy for other people and tend to be the most personable, approachable Eights. They are classic protectors and find fulfillment in mentoring, advocating for others, and helping others find their own power.

Social Eights want to make a big splash within their community, to impact friends and family alike. This desire can be harnessed positively or negatively, for being of service to others or for megalomaniacal fantasies, control, manipulation underpinned by a sense of entitlement to others’ respect and attention.

Social Eights stave off fears of abandonment and ostracization by being the instigating centerpiece or ringleader that provides their group, organization, family, or friends a sense of meaning or mission. They often set agendas for others for the purpose of keeping people together, which results in them becoming de facto leaders. However, they will unconsciously assume others are rejecting them with the same ferocity they are rejecting their own vulnerability, and in place of being able to maintain relationships on the basis of personal connection, they will use provocation, stirring up drama, and forcing their way into others lives as a way to remain on others’ social radar.

Character Example: Back when It’s a Wonderful Life came out, the critics called it sentimental hogwash. Well, director Frank Capra got the last laugh, because it has become a Christmas classic. It revolves around the life of young George Bailey, a confident young man who goes up against the corrupt banker, Mr. Potter, after his father’s death. George has grand plans for his life, which include traveling the world and satisfying his wanderlust, but he discovers after his father’s funeral that unless he stays, the board will sell the Building and Loan to Mr. Potter. George cannot stand Potter, whom he sees as a bully who “wants to own everything.” So he stays in Bedford Falls, bolsters his father’s business, marries a wonderful woman, and then has a crisis of faith when he believes it’s all about to collapse after they lose their bank deposit on Christmas Eve. It takes an angel named Clarence and a surreal trip into an alternate reality where George never existed for him to see the tremendous impact for the good he has had on the lives of everyone he ever met—even if he never went on that trip to Europe.

The Sexual 8

Sexual Eights can be excessively forceful in capturing the interest of the object of their desire. They put a great deal of effort toward amplifying their impact on the object of desire from the assumption that fully capturing their beloved’s attention is the way to ensure that attraction is on their terms. While Self-Preservation Eights have very solid boundaries and Social Eights tend to hold a strong social “field,” Sexual Eights have a more permeable boundary because of the Sexual Drive’s responsiveness to chemistry and disposition of relenting to attraction. It gives the usual charisma of Eights a hint of self-consciousness and adds receptivity to chemistry, which is shared with only a select few.

As much as Sexual Eights want to “hook” someone, a fear of rejection or of being controlled by their own desire can motivate this Instinctual Type to provocatively invite rejection or disinterest, or to preemptively end relationships in order to make sure rejection is under their control. Sexual Eights avoid feeling rejection or a lack of reciprocated attraction on the basis of traits and qualities close to their hearts, so they often make a big display of being too much to handle, an “excuse” with which they can easily write off their failure to gain the interest they’re looking for. When in a relationship, Sexual Eights have a propensity to ongoingly provoke reactions from a partner in order to feel connected in place of authentic relating. Control, domination, possessiveness, entitlement, and testing their romantic interest’s time and emotional and physical “tolerance” are common in entranced Sexual Eights.

Character Example: The struggle at the heart of Anne of the Thousand Days lies between two passionate 8s—Anne Boleyn, a social 8 who intends to fight Henry VIII’s predatory behaviors, and the lustful, sexually dominant desire of Henry’s need to “possess her.” He is a man of tremendous appetites and passions, easily driven to resentments, outbursts, and anger. Its depiction captures the intense sexual fixation of the 8 in his wanton lust for Anne Boleyn, his easily bruised feelings, and his willingness to tear apart his kingdom to possess her. The contrast between them is stark. Anne is steadier and less emotional; Henry has the fire, zeal, and need to be dominant, often referencing her in sexual terms and boasting about his exploits with women. Because neither of them can yield, it blooms spectacularly and then, as history shows us, all goes down in flames.

Spiritual Growth Suggestions

As 8s work on themselves and become more self-aware, they learn to escape the trap of limiting themselves through opposing limits on themselves by developing a clearer awareness of their softer side, tempering action with more thinking and feeling, and learning to moderate their impulses and impact.

Notice when you are…

Rebelling against outside authority and denying internal and external limitations. Observe your tendency to view yourself as above all forms of authority. Recognize what motivates this. Note how you don’t accept conventional limits and how you invalidate the voice of conventional authority. Notice what forms this opposition takes, what beliefs you hold that support this view, and what you do when you act from a superior sense of yourself as the ultimate authority. Notice any grandiose thoughts you have about yourself that indicate self-superiority and how you never question these things. Is denying your vulnerability fueling this? Are you repressing your “smallness” out of a desire to be “big”? Notice when you are rebellious and what happens. Watch out for times when refusal to accept limits will hurt yourself or others. Try to tune into the consequences of refusing to moderate yourself or accept constraints.

Focusing on and acting from power and strength as overcompensation for denied powerlessness and weakness. Observe how you take refuge in power and strength and how doing so might be a way to avoid or overcompensate for not wanting to experience deeper feelings of powerlessness, weakness, or impotence. Notice your anger and how you feel an impulse to act on it. What makes you angry and why? Notice what you do to assert yourself. Notice when you are thinking in ways that support powerful action without considering other possibilities or options. Observe how you confront things and press forward as a way to avoid feeling vulnerable and to obtain satisfaction at any price. If it’s hard to moderate your aggression, consider why. Notice how much impulsiveness plays in your life and any tendencies you have to avoid thinking through your actions before you take them.

Avoiding and denying vulnerable feelings and dependence on others. Observe how difficult it is for you to recognize and own your more valuable emotions. Do you judge yourself as weak for allowing yourself to experience a wide variety of emotions? Pay attention to any thoughts you have about your softer feelings and any rationalizations you make to avoid them. Observe how you manage to maintain a powerful position in your relationships. Notice when your thinking supports the correctness of your views rather than considering you might be wrong. Notice any ways you hide your softer thoughts from yourself. Be aware of how you can be excessively harsh on yourself or others when vulnerability arises. What do you do to avoid your softer feelings?

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 these patterns 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?


To counter-act rebelling against outside authority and denying internal and external limitations.

  • See how rebellion against limits may lead to self-limitation. Consider taking the risk to be less defended and more deeply available in the world. You probably don’t want to accept this advice, but by placing yourself “above” external sources of learning, care, and holding, you can end up alone or lonely even if you refuse to realize the pain of it. You need to find ways to accept and benefit finding guidance, protection, and care from others and so relax the need to be “against.” Outside help is not an attempt to control you, though it may feel like it.
  • Broaden your voice of who has authority over the truth. (How do you know you’re not wrong?) You fall into “it’s true because I say it’s true” thinking. But you aren’t the authority on everything. Your sense of self is grounded in the physical, your sense of reality is more skewed than you realize. Refusal to consider any other possibility or legitimate perspective limits you. Make sure to question your own authority once in awhile, rather than rebelling out of habit. Learn to accept or allow for others’ disagreement without believing you have a monopoly on the truth. If you will check to see if you might be wrong sometimes, you can deepen your self-confidence and practice opening up to the experience of admitting a mistake.
  • Learn about limits. If you push yourself to work harder and harder without observing your normal human limitations, you can hurt yourself. If you eat too much, drink too much, or play too much, you can cause yourself and others real damage. You risk endangering your health, freedom, relationships, and well-being by resisting moderation and reasonable constraints. If you can become more aware of why you have to feel powerful and satisfy all your needs to excess, you can begin to accept not always having to feel so strong.

To counter-act focusing on and acting from power and strength as overcompensation for denied powerlessness and weakness.

  • Consult your head and heart more often before taking action. Learning wisdom requires considering different forms of data. You habitually move into action without thinking or feeling things through. Learn to see yourself moving impulsively into action. Force yourself to slow down, analyze the situation more, and consult how you feel about it, before you move forward.
  • Use your aggression as a clue to your underlining feelings. Your advantage is having easier access to your anger and aggression than other types. This generates power, but also hides the feelings that motivated your anger. You get angry when you feel hurt. Look for what’s underneath your anger. Get in touch with your feelings of anger and helplessness. If you can learn what’s behind your anger, you can become an even more powerful, constructive leader. Make it a practice to explore and feel what you are avoiding. It will give you a deeper self-understanding and more information they can use to deal with the hurt that fuels the anger.
  • Reframe vulnerability and weakness as expressions of great strength. Feelings are just valid, not right or wrong or good or bad. If you don’t access all of who you are, you stop yourself from growing into all you might become. It takes a great deal of strength to allow yourself to be truly vulnerable.

To counter-act avoiding and denying vulnerable feelings and dependence on others.

  • Catch yourself in the act of avoiding vulnerability and dependence. You automatically and habitually deny these things. You may think they don’t exist. But as you become aware of your denial, you have a chance to show real inner toughness by integrating your vulnerability rather than avoiding it through displays of strength. If you can see how you deny these things, you can work to incorporate a deeper experience of your more tender emotions into your interactions. This will make you more whole, present, and desirable in relationships.
  • Regularly inquire into your emotional depths and allow yourself to experience more of your feelings. Do you wake up angry? Do you find yourself dwelling mostly on anger? Impatience? Irritation? Rage? Frustration? How often do you feel sadness, confusion, disappointment, fear, pain, or loss? Are you arming yourself with the former to avoid the latter? Choose to explore those things, along with love, attachment, and softness. Regularly ask yourself what you might be feeling that you aren’t aware of. Learn to relax your defenses against feeling all of your feelings, and practice opening up to let in more love and compassion.
  • Make needs for love more conscious. How you defend against giving and receiving real love is by giving up on it. But all people are motivated by love. Become more aware of how you push love away even though you need and want it. Examine the ways you might have given up on love. If you can reawaken your desire for it, you will open yourself up to the trust and vulnerability it requires.

Using your integration and disintegration numbers for self-growth:

Move to 5 to gain a balance between withdrawal and forward momentum, between thinking and acting. Protect yourself through withdrawal to a safe place where you can regroup. Develop a capacity for careful analysis constructed from a distance in place of overreliance on force, aggression, and premature action. Learn to moderate your energy and resources in support of self-protection ad self-expression. The 5’s observation, objective thinking, and cautious focus on boundaries can counteract your impulsiveness, tendency to excess, and methods of intimidation. Focus more intentionally on self-regulation and moderation in what you do. Think more thoroughly about what you want to do, before you do it. Develop a desire for alone time, self-regulation, and personal space.

Move to 2 will help you reclaim empathy for others and see their need to feel appreciated. Start acting out “giving to get” and seducing through charm and helpfulness. Compulsively and expansively do things for others, give advice, or express physical affection. Reestablish a healthy balance between attuning to others’ feelings and needs and asserting your own. Re-engage your need for comfort, love, and care, and your desire to please others. Your “I don’t care what anyone thinks of me” is a defense against other people’s possible rejection. Consciously remind yourself it’s okay to care what others think and feel about you, and it’s important to value your need for love, understanding, affection, and acceptance. Open up a channel to loving and supportive relationships. Meet others’ needs and express your care and affection to others more often.

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; The Instinctual Drives and the Enneagram by John Luckovich. Sections quoted or paraphrased. Please purchase the original books for more information.

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