Overview of Type Six
Sixes are full of contradictions. They can be dependent on others, yet value their independence. They want to be trusted and to trust others,
yet constantly test others to allay their own suspicions. They want the protection of authority, yet fear it. They are obedient yet, disobedient
; fearful of aggression
yet sometimes highly aggressive themselves
They search for security
, yet feel insecure. They are likable and endearing
yet can be mean and hateful
They are reassured by traditional values,
yet may subvert those values. They want to escape punishment, yet may bring it on themselves.
Sixes are full of contradictions because anxiety makes them ricochet from one psychological state to another. And in response to anxiety, Sixes look to structures, beliefs, allies, and authorities to put their anxiety to rest.
Our system of education teaches us to put our faith in something else —a corporation, a marriage, a trade, a profession, a religion, politics, something, one might almost say anything, which offers us a set of rules we can obey and rewards us for obedience to them. It's safer to be a domestic animal than a wild one. (Michael Korda, Power, 254.)
For Sixes, security comes from a rock-of-ages allegiance and an investment of themselves in something outside themselves which they believe will give them stability and safety. Sixes want to feel protected and secure by having something bigger and more powerful than they guiding them. IBM will do, but so will the Communist party, or the Republican party or the church. The doctrines Sixes believe are important to them, but not as important as having someone to trust and believe in.
In the Thinking Center
Sixes are the primary personality type in the Thinking Center. They are the most out of touch with the ability to make decisions and act on their own without reference to a trusted person, an institution, or a belief system. In a sense, Sixes have difficulty trusting their own minds, their own ability to know what to do without reference to ideas that are not their own. Thus, once Sixes have found some system of thought that seems reliable to them, they must constantly evaluate any new ideas that either contradict ro alter what they have understood to be true. They are looking for something—a set of guidelines, an authority—to supply them with a direction in life, to tell them what they can and cannot do, to give them more clarity, to put limits on them—in a word, for security
. Of course, in one way or another, all nine personality types have some kind of relationship with authority figures and need some guidance and reassurance in life, but whether supporting authority, rebelling against it, or fearing it, Sixes seem to have the most issues in this area.
Sixes are among the most puzzling of the nine personality types because they are reactive, fluctuating from one state to another—usually the virtual opposite—very quickly. Sixes can be baffling and frustrating because their emotional states and attitudes can be so contradictory: they can be engaging and funny, then cranky and negative; they can be decisive and self-assertive, then, almost in the next moment, indecisive and self-doubting. While they seek the approval of those who are important to them, they resist being in a position of inferiority. They may be obedient, and then openly disobedient, intentionally deviating from what the authority has told them to do.
As a result, because Sixes are the most contradictory of the personality types, they are one of the most difficult to understand. They often remain so enigmatic, even to those closest to them, that the most others can say about them is that they are "easy to like but hard to get to know."
The key to understanding Sixes is that they are ambivalent: the two distinct sides of their personalities oscillate between
and dependent tendencies. They feel both strong and weak, dependent and independent, passive and aggressive. As with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, it is difficult to predict the state Sixes will be in from moment to moment. At each Level, they display a personality substantially different from what has gone before and what will follow.
To make matters more complicated, Sixes are not only ambivalent toward others, they are ambivalent toward themselves. They like themselves, and then disparage themselves, feeling inferior to others. They have confidence and then feel hopeless and defeated, as if they could not do anything without help from someone else. They feel weak-kneed and cowardly, then suddenly fill with rage and strike out at others. A double set of dependent and aggressive impulses operates in them, continuously interacting in various complex combinations because Sixes react ambivalently not only to the external authority, but to the internal authority, their superego.
As much as possible, Sixes want to avoid being in this anxious, ambivalent state, so they work hard to build structures into their lives to give them stability and continuity. As long as they know what the "rules of the game" are, and have some sense that they are supported by others in their lives, they can be a consistent, steady presence and accomplish a great deal. But herein lies the problem. Sixes make their internal stability dependent on the stability of their external environment: in other words, as long as everything in their lives is running reasonably well, they feel secure and able to cope with things. As soon as problems or areas of uncertainty arise, however, they are quickly thrown into a storm of confusion and emotional reactions
. (For this reason, many Sixes mistake themselves for Fours.) Their self-doubt and suspiciousness arise and Sixes are right back into their ambivalence and unsteadiness.
The result then, is that Sixes can oscillate rapidly from one emotional state to another. As they shift first one way, then another, there seems to them to be little emotional stability or interpersonal security they can call their own. This is why it is so apt to identify Sixes as the personality type which has "the most trouble with doing"—not only because they look outside of themselves for direction, but because the actions they then take for themselves can be indecisive and circuitous.
It is impossible to understand Sixes without understanding their oscillating nature. Maintaining their sense of self requires that both sides of their psyches interact with each other. Sixes cannot emphasize one side of themselves and ignore the other—for instance, they cannot become independent by suppressing their dependent side. For better or worse, they are an amalgam of both sides of themselves. When they are healthy, both sides work hand in hand with each other. However, if tension between their two sides increases, so does anxiety, and therein lies the source of many of their problems.