Finally finished this so I thought I'd share. I am not saying this is the best or anything, though I try to address and tease together some connections some authors do go into but fail to mention in greater detail while trying to paint a bit of a different picture from some of the other descriptions out there, in addition to adding my own experiential understanding of the type. Enjoy.
ENNEAGRAM TYPE EIGHT
Please hear me now, just before I fall from grace
Carry me far away, I can't stay here anymore
Fearful night, the dream is real
I hurt those I adore
- Novembers Doom, “I Hurt Those I Adore”
As what is perhaps a little ironically so, true to its nature, it is difficult to remain neutral to type Eight. While there is of course a lot to say about all the types, people often tend to end up being magnetically drawn to the raw intensity and energy of the Eight. The literature doesn’t shy away from describing its high and lows, ranging from calling them the bullies of the Enneagram to teddy bears in disguise. Many authors and descriptions therefore often end up focusing on the characteristics of the type that are, by and large, especially in the Western world, idealized as traits to have. While all the types pay a price in order to acquire their particular strength, the traits of the Eight are usually not seen as nearly as bad compared to the good which is painted as overwhelmingly good. I am not going to single out one particular culprit here, more than merely noting on that Eights do not only tend to polarize their environments in which they reside, but this polarization has crept into the Enneagram literature at large, as well. However, the truth is that while some Eights may be like what the literature behaviorally describes them to be and some Eights may not, most will likely fall somewhere in-between. What makes an Eight an Eight, then, lies in the spiritual psychodynamics with its passion of lust, its virtue of innocence and the holy idea of Holy Truth. Riso and Hudson also cite that Eights fear being harmed or controlled, but I think this is more a result of type Eight’s holy idea of Holy Truth rather than being the true source from which the type springs forth, which would be the disconnection from Being.
If looking at the type from the very basics of the Enneagram, one will note that type Eight is situated in the gut center or the body triad which deals with being in itself, our very sense of existence. It deals with our sense of physical space and the sense of our very being and how we are allowed to be ourselves as who we really are. This is different from the heart center that deals with value, that is, we are valuable as we are, or the head center; how do I know who I am? In contrast, Eights feel that their sense of being is not acknowledged by that of others, especially in terms of their personal needs, wants and desires. Because the Eight feels that such things are being denied to them Eights deal with this by denying that they have any needs, especially in the realms of feelings and emotion. The Eight therefore learned that they will not be provided for, so the Eight, then, takes on the mentality that they need to provide the good for themselves because if they won't no one else will. It thus turns into an endless struggle of always trying to get what one wants and thinking the world is purposefully withholding or refusing to let go. The Eight could in such a sense be seen as the dog who keeps trying to grab onto their precious bone while someone else is prying it away from them.
As a result, deep down Eights feel a lot of anger, hence the body triad’s occupation with the feeling of anger as its primary emotion. This is because anger, above all other types of feelings, is outwardly pushing. It creates a sense of standing in opposition to something else, that one is trying to maintain one’s own sense of boundaries and space; not just reinforcing them but also attacking that of others’. It goes back to the idea that Eights think they are in a spiritual war with the world itself because the Eight inherently believes that the world is an unfair place to be in and it is in particular unfair to the Eight. Maitri refers to type Eights as being involved in something akin to their own personal jihad, which is certainly an apt way of putting it. This is because Eights feel that whatever good they have had or could have had is always snuffed away from them; again consider the metaphor with the dog and its favorite bone. They weren't good enough as children and thus they lost access to all good. The reason why they are bad, they reason, is because they aren’t strong enough to withstand being separated from Being and the pain it causes, hence type Eight’s preoccupation with the notion of being strong by rejecting anything the Eight perceives to be vulnerable within themselves. Almaas calls this false strength as an emulation of what he refers to as The Red Latifa.
The jadedness that occurs when one feels the world is constantly stacked against one’s favor results in the shutting down of what is usually referred to in the literature as tender feelings which include all forms of feelings but usually feelings such as love, joy, sadness, pain and whatever other feelings are deemed as weak to express, with the main exception being anger. All feelings become replaced with anger because anger is a feeling that provides a sense of strength and power because it's an aggressive emotion of outwards pushing of one's will. When one is emotionally shut down in this way, it becomes increasingly difficult to feel anything at all because if one is shut down to one particular feeling, then one is shut down to all feelings. This results in an inner sense of deadness from losing touch with one's emotional reality; it therefore becomes increasingly difficult to feel alive because feelings play an integral part in our sense of aliveness. Feelings make us vibrant and in touch with reality. Since Eights remove themselves from this, in order to feel at all, one must therefore incessantly immerse oneself more and more in whatever one is doing, just like the crack addict gets acclimatized to the high lest they increase their dose.
This is why type Eight’s passion is that of lust where lust is defined as the need for realness, immediacy and intensity which differs from its otherwise Christian connotation of seeking sexual pleasure and gratification. When one is motivated by the passion of lust, it means taking on the world in an exaggerated quality, to be fully and totally immersed in what one is doing to the point where the water spills over the bucket; hence lust is also usually described as the need for excess and occasionally that of a gusto, zest or zeal for life, bravado or vibrancy. Naranjo describes lust as:
We must consider that lust is more than hedonism. There is in lust not only pleasure, but pleasure in asserting the satisfaction of impulses, pleasure in the forbidden and, particularly, pleasure in fighting for pleasure. In addition to pleasure proper there is here an admixture of some pain that has been transformed into pleasure: either the pain of others who are “preyed upon” for one’s satisfaction or the pain entailed by the effort to conquer the obstacles in the way to satisfaction. It is this that makes lust a passion for intensity and not for pleasure alone. The extra intensity, the extra excitement, the “spice,” comes not from instinctual satisfaction, but from a struggle and an implicit triumph.
However, behind the exaggerated immersion of the pleasurable in life belies a hidden desperation to have one’s needs be seen, met and recognized. Eights are usually described as putting up a false bravado or shows of strength and the flashier the show, the greater the need and the sense of desperation, especially in terms of embracing the badness. From this vantage point it becomes easier to understand why Holy Truth is the holy idea for type Eight, because Eights attempt to have their needs recognized through the distortion of Holy Truth. This occurs by having the Eight constantly affirming their experience to be the one true experience, even at the expense of others, whereas being in touch with the actual nature of Holy Truth means to understand that we are all a part of the same oneness, that no one’s experience is greater or better than that of others and that all of our experiences together create the essence of the universe.
Because type Eight is the most sensitive to Holy Truth, separation of Being means that the Eight fundamentally believes that their truth and their story is not going to be heard or seen over that of other truths and stories. Their cognitive error lies in always thinking in terms of black and white, that things either are or they aren’t. Maitri notes that:
This reality is a oneness, an indivisible unity such that all of its dimensions make up and are inseparable from its wholeness. This is a nondual perspective in which reality is experienced as one thing. … From the perspective of Point Eight, enlightenment is a matter of seeing beyond the delusion of duality, the sense that there is this and that, self and other, matter and Spirit, ego and Essence, and awakening to the reality of the oneness of all things.
The dualistic thinking of type Eight permeates not only their approach to the world in the sense of feeling separate and distinct from it, a self and the other, but it also creeps into the reactive nature of the type, which means being prone to test other people and where they stand by removing any perceived ambiguity from the situation. Knowing where people fall, are they a friend or a foe?, helps the Eight to maintain their combative stance versus the world. Black and white thinking does not just show up in how the Eight test the strength of others by constantly pushing against people and testing their boundaries in order to elicit reactions as to what they, according to the Eight, really think, but it also one of the underlying cognitive errors behind lust, of wanting it all or nothing of it.
Another important aspect of the type Eight’s psyche as a reaction to emulate Holy Truth is denial and how Eights deny the experiences of others in favor of their own. Denial can come in many shapes and forms, but the most common is arguably how the Eight deny the pain of others because they do not themselves experience any pain. It's not an issue to the Eight, so why should it be an issue to that of others? Helen Palmer for example recites the story of a high school football player whose aggressive play hurt other players so badly that they ended up in the hospital, though he himself was entirely oblivious to the damage he caused. Similarly, Tom Condon mentions an example of an Eight who was at a restaurant with a friend where the Eight made the waitress who served them cry but utterly denied their involvement in her emotional reaction, despite the friend pointing out that it was in fact the Eight's fault. There is therefore a lack of empathy and emotional acknowledgement in their interaction with the world, which is why Naranjo associates type Eight with the sadistic personality type in how the Eight will so ignorantly brush off not only the hurts they cause to others but may also revel in the damage that they cause. Eights do not just deny the emotions of others, then, but they also deny their own feelings by not connecting to the feelings of others as a way to avoid connecting to their own inner emotional landscape and experience the actual pain and suffering they truly feel.
This becomes easier to understand if we go back to the metaphor of the dog holding onto the bone with all its might, because when one is so deeply enmeshed into the idea of being into a constant battle it is unavoidable that one is also going to hurt someone else in the process; accidentally biting those nearby while lunging for the bone becomes a matter of collateral fire. Perhaps not intended, but sacrifices must be made whether that sacrifice means hurting others or even oneself. In such a sense, type Eight is also arguably the most egocentric type in the Enneagram in that the Eight is only out to please themselves no matter the cost, even if it as at the expense of others' well-being. Riso and Hudson for example note that Eights can get so preoccupied focusing on themselves and their own feelings, especially in intimate relationships, that they completely ignore the feelings of their partner.
This egocentric attitude towards oneself and others belies the innate cynical nature of type Eight in that Eights fundamentally believe that they are at the top of the evolution chain. Since they are on the top, the Eight will do anything they can to retain that sense of power and will as a result avoid any displays of weakness that means they may lose that spot. This results in donning a “can do” attitude in that they can do whatever they want whenever they want and thoroughly dislike the feeling that they are put under any form of constraint or limitation that they at least did not willingly agree with on their own. Karen Horney notes that the type that she calls “moving towards others” or the aggressive or vindictive type, which Maitri associates with type Eight, has a specific sense of self-entitlement where they on one the hand expect to have the right hold people to certain demands and expectations while on the other hand not living up to said demands and expectations in return:
The most important expression of his vindictiveness toward others is in the kind of claims he makes and the way he asserts them. He may not be openly demanding and not at all aware of having or making any claims, but in fact he feels entitled both to having his neurotic needs implicitly respected and to being permitted his utter disregard of others’ needs or wishes. He feels entitled for instance to the unabridged expression of his unfavorable observations and criticisms but feels equally entitled never to be criticized himself. He is entitled to decide how often or how seldom to see a friend and what to do with the time spent together. Conversely he also is entitled not to have others express any expectations or objections on this score.
This logic of embracing the badness and feelings self-entitlement can be better understood through the term of what in sociology and cultural studies is called reappropriation, which is a process where a vulnerable group reclaims or in other words, reappropriates, cultural artifacts such as derogatory words as a form of empowerment. By taking control of the usage of the word, it becomes possible to transform one’s sense of self and identity and thus also change the inherent meaning of the word in itself from being something negative and belittling into something positive and empowering. From this perspective, it becomes possible to see the act of embracing badness as an attempt to avoid an inner sense of victimhood, something the Eight deeply fears, and that there is an ironic tinge to that no matter what the Eight says or does, it is fundamentally driven by an unconscious desire to be needed, wanted, be seen as helpful or useful to others. The problem, then, is that Eights believe they are bad because they were not strong enough to withstand the separation from Being and as such open displays of tenderness must be suppressed. Being bad and seen as bad and feeling bad therefore becomes a form of (self-imposed) spiritual punishment similar to how God cast out Adam and Eve in the fall from grace. As the opening lyrics of this chapter shows, Eights can indeed feel as if they are fallen from grace, and at the root of this feeling lies the idea that they are the ones to blame. They blame themselves for not being strong enough, that they as children should have been able to retain their connection to Being despite all the pain the world caused them. Not only do they feel it is their fault, but they fear the world doesn’t love them for not being strong enough, that they “hurt those they adore” for failing to live up to their own ego-ideal of strength.
That Eights deny the damage they cause is therefore an important method in order to ward off themselves for the criticism and underlying blame they actually direct at themselves. However, because experiencing that kind of guilt is painful and Eights reject any form of feelings that are seen as weak or vulnerable including pain and guilt, the Eight will shut off themselves by projecting their blame outwards: it becomes the fault of others. It is the fault of everyone else, those that were strong or able enough but did not take action despite it being in their power to do so. It’s deemed as weak; it’s weak to not take action and make a change, to have an impact and to affect the world and to protect those who lack the power to defend themselves. This is why Oscar Ichazo has given type Eight the name Ego-Revenge, because Eights are out to settle the score and make the world a fair place to live in again. They did not experience it themselves but it does not mean they cannot help others to do so. By doing so they can reclaim their sense of goodness they feel that they lost. In such a sense, Eights are very keen on noticing anything that is seen as a form of injustice where the power balance has shifted against someone else’s favor and they are often found not just rooting but also fighting for the underdog.
This fighting to defend those who did not deserve the treatment they received is a part of the Eight’s inner sense of innocence. Goodness, Eights reason, is when you are absolutely innocent. It means to return to a state of being where one is not jaded by experience but can take in and marvel at the world exactly as it is. Ichazo defines innocence as: “The innocent being responds freshly to each moment, without memory, judgment, or expectation. In innocence one experiences reality and one’s connection to its flow.” Innocence then, means to become open and permeable, to instead of constantly pushing against reality be accepting of it. When reality is accepted as it is and experienced without any pre-conceived taint, there is an internal sense of peace, to be at peace and one with the world. There is no need to constantly wrestle over the bone in order to attain the good because the good was there all along. The particular line from “Pippa Passes” comes to mind: “God’s in His heaven/All’s right with the world.” Instead of feeling cast out of heaven, to have fallen from grace, one comes to realize one never left it. From having a mentality set out for revenge, it becomes possible to forgive. Not just forgiving all that which is deemed as unjust and unfair, but to most of all forgive oneself for an error one actually never committed in the first place. That one is indeed truly innocent.
 Sandra Maitri, Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram p. 110
 Don Riso & Russ Hudson, Personality Types p. 547
 Maitri, Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram, p. 113
 Almaas, Spacecrusher Inquiry p. 271
 Naranjo, Character and Neurosis p. 96
 Sandra Maitri, Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram, p. 111-112
 Helen Palmer, The Enneagram of Personality p. 691
 Thomas Condon, The Dynamic Enneagram.
 Riso & Hudson, Discovering Your Personality Type, p. 317
Karen Horney, Neurosis and Human Growth, p. 200.