Enneagram 8 The Maverick

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Posted with permission from Ocean Moonshine

Enneatype Eight Type Description

People of enneatype Eight are essentially unwilling to be controlled, either by others or by their circumstances; they fully intend to be masters of their fate, to “take charge,” to do whatever needs to be done. Eights are competitive, strong willed, decisive, expansive, practical, and tough minded. Eights typically have an enormous amount of energy and frequently have powerful physical appetites. There is an unapologetically expansive quality to the physical presence of the type Eight personality. Eights generally don’t have to announce their presence for others to know they are there. The central problem for individuals of enneatype Eight is that the need to avoid being controlled can manifest in the need to control, the need to be “in charge,” the compulsion to dominate. This can lead to all sorts of practical difficulties, as the world is not always liable to conform to the dictates of the Eight’s will, but the deeper problem for the Eight is that the need to avoid any semblance of being controlled can rob the Eight of the fluidity, receptivity and acceptance that is generally necessary to live a full, balanced and truly happy life.

Eights often experience life as a struggle for existence in which only the fittest survive. Life thus dictates competition from the point of view of the Eight, and Eights naturally intend to be the ones who survive. They typically adopt a survival strategy that involves either a rise to the top of the existing hierarchy, or an “opting out” altogether of the current system and its structures of power. Eights of the former sort are typically found in positions of leadership, whether it be of their own family, company or political party. Eights of the latter sort tend to be independent contractors, free-lancers of all sorts, and even outlaws – those who, in other words, exist outside of the accepted framework of civil society and its often artificial system of rules and obligations. Eights of both basic tendencies need to feel financially independent, and while most Eights do manage to find some means of making peace with their society, they always retain an uneasy association with any hierarchical relationship which does not position the Eight at the top.

While some Eights adopt something of the “lone wolf” persona, most Eights have quite a number of social connections, whether to family members, friends or business connections. Eights are very much present in the world and are frequently extroverts. True intimacy however does not come easily or naturally to Eights. Soft and tender emotions tend to make Eights feel “weak,” and, more to the point, intimacy requires Eights to lower their defenses and thereby become vulnerable. Vulnerability, in turn, triggers the Eight’s fear of being controlled. Thus, intimate relations are often the arena in which the Eight’s control issues are most obviously played out. Questions of trust assume a pivotal position. Eights tend to test their intimates to see if they are worthy, to see if they can be trusted not to betray the Eight’s confidence. Betrayal is absolutely intolerable to Eights and any hint of it can provoke a powerful retaliatory response. Eights are looking, ideally, both for someone they can respect and someone they can protect, a paradoxical combination to be sure, but, while the Eight’s loneliness can only be assuaged by finding an equal, the Eight’s feelings of vulnerability can best be assuaged if they know that their intimates depend on them. While Eights do not trust easily, if they do admit someone into the inner sanctum, they generally prove to be stalwart friends and steadfast allies. Not all Eights do form truly intimate relationships however, as some Eights are simply unwilling or unable to compromise their sense of self-sufficiency.

Eights are often prone to anger, one of the few feelings they allow themselves to feel in its pure form. As mentioned, the experience of tender emotions such as compassion, love, sorrow, melancholy and pity can cause the Eight to feel vulnerable, as such emotions are caused by, and in turn cause, a feeling of ego permeability and “openness.” Anger, on the other hand, embodies a feeling of being in opposition to the world and, at least as the Eight experiences it, a sense of the importance of overcoming that opposition. In the Eight’s experience of anger, ego boundaries are consolidated, the world kept in opposition, and the Eight focused on domination. The ability to accept the more tender emotions into consciousness, far from being a weakness is actually a sign of true strength. In this light it is worth remembering that one of Gurdjieff’s students, J.G.Bennett, noted that at the end of his life, Gurdjieff’s face wore the saddest expression he had ever seen. (Perhaps it looked something like the face of Johnny Cash as he sang Trent Reznor’s “Hurt.”)

Eights frequently consider “morality” to be just one more means by which society attempts to exert illegitimate control over them. It is, they reason, the weapon that the constitutionally weak use to keep the naturally strong “in line.” Eights, like counterphobic Sixes, are suspicious of rules, and often take an oppositional stance to authority. But, as Eights are generally strategic, they seldom take on a battle they know they cannot win. Their rebellion and lack of respect for “the rules” therefore, is often camouflaged. While Eights tend not to respect external systems of rules, they often have their own internal sense of right and wrong, which consists of personal loyalties and freely chosen commitments. These the Eight will fight to protect. Eights are often said to have an internal sense of “justice,” and it is true that Eights are acutely aware of the ways in which power is used and abused. When unhealthy, they are perfectly willing to misuse power however. Only the strong survive, and whoever gets in the Eight’s way might have to be sacrificed to the Eight’s ambition. Healthy Eights however develop a generosity of character which is almost the direct opposite of the unhealthy Eight’s selfish self-assertion. Healthy Eights, those Eights who have developed the capacity to love, are among the most generous character types in the Enneagram. Martin Luther King should be considered in this regard. He found power in restraint and strength in humility. Unhealthy Eights, on the other hand, are the most brutal of the enneatypes. Unhealthy Eights are bullies who enjoy intimidating those whom they see as weak and who feel little compunction about walking over anyone who crosses their path. They are crude, brutal, dangerous and grotesquely insensitive to the feelings of others. An element of sadism frequently enters the picture, sadism being a clear and obvious manifestation of the attempt to attain power by means of domination and humiliation; a weakness posing as strength.

In the traditional Enneagram, the passion of type Eight is said to be “lust.” This should not be confused with the insistent desire to enjoy the pleasures of the senses, sexual or otherwise, which is more characteristic of the gluttony of type Seven. The lust of type Eight has an expansive quality to it – rather than the need to “take in,” the lust of type Eight manifests in the need to push outwards- to assert the self in order to attain the objects of desire. As with the passions of all the enneatypes, the term should not be read in its narrow or conventional sense, and the lust of type Eight need not manifest sexually. When it does, the Eight often finds it difficult to marry the often enormous desire for purely physical gratification with the more tender emotions of love and compassion, and herein lies one of the keys to understanding why the passion of type Eight might be considered a vice or sin. Whether the passion of lust manifests sexually or not, it involves a quality of self-assertion, a tightening of the ego boundaries, a stance that is often oppositional between the Eight and the other. What the Eight primarily desires is power…power sufficient to insulate the Eight from ever being vulnerable or weak. Such power is always a delusion however, and it is the search for it which prevents the Eight from attaining true health and integrity of character. Naranjo comments thus: “Hidden as it may be behind the enthusiastic expansiveness, jollity and seductive charm of the lusty, it is the loss of relationship, the suppression of tenderness, and the denial of the love need in the loss of wholeness and sense of being. Enneatype VIII pursues being, then, in pleasure and in the power to find his pleasure, yet through an insistence on overpowering becomes incapable of receiving – when being can only be known in a receptive attitude. By doggedly claiming satisfaction where asemblance of satisfaction can be imagined…he perpetuates the ontic deficiency that only feeds his lusty pursuit of triumph and other being substitutes.”

Eights with a Seven wing tend to be more expansive extroverted and openly aggressive than those with the Nine wing. They are more likely to be sensation seekers and are generally more overtly ambitious than those with a Nine wing. Eights with a Seven wing especially tend to relish intensity of experience. Conversely, Eights with a Nine wing hold more of their energy in reserve and exhibit more of a grounded, even stubborn quality. They are generally less obviously volatile than Eights with a Seven wing but can slip just as radically into open aggression when pushed.

Type Exemplars

Socrates and George Gurdjieff were both Eights. Each impressed his followers as much by his personal presence as by his intellectual contributions. Each were men of large appetites and expansive energies. Those who mistype Socrates as an enneatype Five seem to be laboring under the false impression that only Fives can be “thinkers,” although both men do demonstrate the Eight’s often strong connection to Five. Gurdjieff’s legacy is more recent, so mistypes of him are not so common.

The ancient world seems to have provided a fitting stage for type Eight energy and many of the key military figures of antiquity have been Eights – Alexander, Julius Caesar, Hannibal, Attila and Emperor Qin to name just a few notable examples. They murdered millions.

Naturally, given the nature of the type Eight fixation, many of the world’s most influential modern leaders have also been Eights: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Josef Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Fidel Castro, Martin Luther King Jr., Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi and Lyndon Johnson.

A good quotation from Lyndon Johnson’s biography illustrates enneatype Eight’s means of sizing up an individual:

“While Lyndon Johnson was not, as his two assistants knew, a reader of books, he was, they knew, a reader of men–a great reader of men. He had a genius for studying a man and learning his strengths and weaknesses and hopes and fears, his deepest strengths and weaknesses: what it was that the man wanted–not what he said he wanted but what he really wanted–and what it was that the man feared, really feared.

“He tried to teach his young assistants to read men–“Watch their hands, watch their eyes” he told them. “Read eyes. No matter what a man is saying to you, it’s not as important as what you can read in his eyes”–and to read between the lines: more interested in men’s weaknesses than in their strengths because it was weakness that could be exploited, he tried to teach his assistants how to learn a man’s weakness. “The most important thing a man has to tell you is what he isn’t telling you,” he said. “The most important thing a man has to say is what he’s trying not to say.” For that reason, he told them, it was important to keep the man talking; the longer he talked, the more likely he was to let slip a hint of that vulnerability he was so anxious to conceal. “That’s why he wouldn’t let a conversation end.” Busby explains. “If he saw the other fellow was trying not to say something, he wouldn’t let it (the conversation) end until he got it out of him.” And Lyndon Johnson himself read with a genius that couldn’t be taught, with a gift that was so instinctive that a close observer of his reading habits, Robert G. (Bobby) Baker, calls it a “sense”; “He seemed to sense each man’s individual price and the commodity he preferred as coin.” He read with a novelist’s sensitivity, with an insight that was unerring, with an ability, shocking in the depth of its penetration and perception, to look into a man’s heart and know his innermost worries and desires. (From Robert Caro’s Lyndon Johnson.)

General George Patton and George C. Scott, the actor who famously played him, were also Eights. Other actors include Shelley Winters, Bette Davis, Charlton Heston, Frank Sinatra, Sidney Poitier and John Wayne.

On the American scene more recently, Eights include Donald Rumsfeld and the aptly named Vice President Dick Cheney. Senator John McCain is also an Eight. Also the former senator, Ann Richards.

Singers include Courtney Love, Queen Latifah, Pink and the “Man in Black” – Johhny Cash.

Famous Eight artists include Pablo Picasso, Diego Rivera, and Lucien Freud.

The authors Ernest Hemingway, Edward Abbey and Norman Mailer were also Eights. Also, feminist and philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft.

Also: television “personalities” Dr.Phil, Nancy Grace and Paula Dean. And, of course, “The Donald.”

Fictional Examples include: Plato’s Thrasymachus, Star War’s Darth Vader and Lucy from the comic strip Peanuts.

Possible Mistypes

Eights and Ones can both be dominating and self-assertive. Both are drawn to leadership roles. Typically it is the more passionate and visceral type One who is mistaken for the Eight – Rudi Giuliani being a case in point, or Osama bin Laden. But Ones dominate in service to an ideal and are more rule bound than is the Eight, who is typically a law unto himself. Eights tend to despise external laws, limitations and convention unless they are the ones making them, as they hate being controlled and want influence over the environment to prevent it. On the other hand, Ones are often among the most inclined to follow external laws, limitations and convention. While both the Eight and the One are realistic, the One contradicts themselves by also being idealistic. This idealism is what drives the One's perfectionism, strong moral code and work ethic. While individual Eights can be perfectionists, it is not a general trend amongst the type as a whole. Ones are often anal-retentive about the slightest detail; Eights can also have high standards but generally care if the job gets done efficiently, not perfectly. Ones often take issue with the ways of the Eight and can find Eights to be unruly, defiant and animalistic. Eights often clash with Ones as well, and can find Ones to be overbearing, snobbish and holier-than-thou.

Twos are more likely to be mistyped as Eights than the converse, and even that mistype is likely to occur under a narrow set of circumstances; both types are very different. Mistypes most likely happen when both types are in their respective integration-disintegration cycles. Eights are aligned with masculinity; Twos are aligned femininity. Both types can be extremely protective. Twos are readily protective out of a place of love and nurturance; Eights are more reticently protective over the innocent and few friends and family in their inner circle. While it is true that Twos can be quite bossy, Twos are primarily emotionally centered whereas Eights repress the more tender emotions. Twos are needy; Eights are self-sufficient to a fault. Twos are manipulative and sly; Eights are straightforward and direct. Twos are loving and see the best in others; Eights rarely see the best in others and call a spade a spade. Twos often merge with partners and loved ones; merging is something an Eight (unless Sexual) would avoid, as merging would forfeit control and make the Eight feel more vulnerable and weak. Twos struggle with having a sense of self, sacrificing their needs and ultimate sense of self for others; Eights have an unshakable sense of self and find the very idea of ingratiating themselves with others to be weak and lacking honesty. Twos are soft on the outside but hard on the inside whereas Eights are hard on the outside but soft on the inside.

Eights and Threes are both competitive, and can both be egocentric, dominating and drawn to leadership roles, but Threes are fundamentally concerned with receiving external validation, something which is almost entirely foreign to enneatype Eight’s mindset. Threes want to be admired; Eights want respect, even if it is grudging. Threes are much smoother and conciliatory than Eights, something which seems compromising from the standpoint of type Eight. Eights may mistype as Threes if they have a strong work ethic and exhibit unrelated traits of Extraverted Thinking. Threes may mistype as Eights if they are both assertive and aggressive, but for the Three this is usually in pursuit of goals and achievements. Eights by nature are simply more assertive and aggressive in pursuit of exerting themselves on the environment and taking control.

A mistype between Eight and Four is generally unlikely, but a Four with a Three wing, especially one with a sexual/social instinctual stacking could conceivably be mistaken for an Eight. Such Fours can be passionate, competitive and dominating. While Eights are seldom ever likely to mistype as a Four, the reason could be that the Sexual Eight can resemble the Four, given the emotionality, flamboyance and sensitivity of the sexual variant. But Fours are generally far more comfortable expressing their emotions than are Eights, and are especially more comfortable with expressing vulnerability, even if they do sometimes do it an a paradoxically aggressive fashion. Fours like Twos are soft on the outside and pride themselves on their unique feelings and emotions, wearing them on their sleeves and in some cases defining themselves based on said feelings. An Eight would never dream of such a thing and are more often than not the polar opposite in this regard. Eights are hard on the outside, but underneath their bravado they are soft on the inside and go to great lengths to protect it, by denying it and never bringing it up in the first place. The only emotion that the Eight is comfortable enough to show is their anger. Eights are realistic; Fours are idealistic and can get carried away with fantasy. Eights are much more grounded and willing to face the facts and be one with reality.

Eights can be mistyped as Fives when they are especially intellectual or even introverted. They can be mistaken for another when the Eight disintegrates to Five and the when the Five integrates to Eight. Fives can also be mistaken for Eights when they are especially self-confident, as they sometimes are in their own areas of expertise. Both types are independent and place a premium on the avoidance of displays of vulnerability. But an examination of the fundamental themes of their lives should reveal the stark underlying differences. Fives are sensitive and are susceptible to overwhelm and energy depletion; Eights have an expansive physical presence, are frequently insensitive, and are more likely to overwhelm others than to be overwhelmed themselves. Both types pride themselves on their independence and self-sufficiency, but in a crisis the Five is more likely to minimize and resign themselves to keep a sense of privacy. Eights on the other hand will take the more pragmatic approach of seeking assistance and help, especially if its the most efficient option and there is no other choice. Eights are in the assertive triad, making them much more extroverted; Fives are in the withdrawn triad, making them much more introverted in comparison.

Eights and counter-phobic Sixes can quite easily be mistyped, and it is not uncommon for counter-phobic Sixes to mistype themselves as Eights. While Eights can also mistype as Sixes, the chances of this are much slimmer and this mistype can only conceivably happen if the Eight has a non-type-related issue such as anxiety or a type-related issue of disintegration. The Eight disintegrates to Five under stress, who like Six is in the head center and can share traits of fearfulness and anxiety, leading to confusion, and thus a mistype. Its important to note that Eights deal with an inherent trend of anger; Sixes deal with an inherent trend of fear. Both types can be ambitious, competitive and even dominating. In addition, both types tend to have issues with authority. But there is a much more reactive, volatile, unpredictable quality to the aggression of counterphobic Sixes than there is to the generally more strategic aggression of type Eight. Moreover, there is generally a more personal quality to the aggression of type Six than there is to the more goal oriented aggression of type Eight. While Eights mostly aim at external control over the environment, they often also want control over themselves and their destinies leading them to sometimes pick their battles in advance; especially if they have a stronger connection to Five. Sixes, while being head types do not usually have this tendency to strategize extensively, and react in a more situational and conditional way. Eights demand loyalty; Sixes can demand loyalty too, but usually give in far quicker than the Eight. Eights seek to be the leader and have a hard time relinquishing control; Sixes more often than not seek to follow a trusted leader, given that many are uncomfortable with their ability to lead and would prefer somebody else do it. This is especially true if the Six is phobic. If the Six is counter-phobic then they too can lead, although leadership is something that the counter-phobic Six doesn't usually focus on, aspire to have or yearn for.

Eights and Sevens can be mistyped, especially if the wing is especially strong. Both types can be sensation seekers who love adventure. Both types can be competitive and overwhelming. But as a general rule, Sevens find focusing to be quite challenging whereas focus comes naturally to Eights. Sevens have a lighter approach to life and generally have a quick nervous, mental energy which contrasts with the more grounded instinctual energy of type Eight. Eights are realistic and pragmatic; Sevens are idealistic, overtly exuberant and optimistic. Both types are in the Assertive triad, making them noticeably more extroverted than some of the other types. Their extroversion is very different however. Eights can be friendly and kind, but are more inclined to keep a close-knit circle of trusted friends and family and are usually guarded in who they let in. Sevens are far more open-minded and tolerant in this regard, preferring to see the best in others for the sake of positivity and are not nearly as guarded.

Eights and Nines might possibly be mistyped, especially, once again, if the wing is particularly strong. Outside of that the Eight and the Nine are diametrically opposed in almost every conceivable way. Eights are dominant; Nines are more submissive and willing to go with the flow. Eights often stick out like a sore thumb; Nines blend in. Eights are the most impatient type; Nines are the most patient type. Nines are generally conflict-avoidant, especially in close personal relationships, whereas Eights often enjoy a good fight. Conflict in the Eight's eyes is seen as a quick and useful way to resolve a problem, and can also even be a source of entertainment and energy for the Eight. Nines, especially with the One wing do not get energized by conflict and if anything are overwhelmed and distressed by it. Nines struggle with self-assertion whereas self-assertion comes naturally to Eights. Nines also struggle with having a sense of self; Eights have a solid sense of self. Nines have to avoid being overwhelmed by others to pursue inner harmony; Eights have to avoid being overwhelming and aggressive. Eights tend to think that the Nine needs to "man up" and take control of their lives. Nines tend to think that Eights need to chill out and be kinder.

The Instinctual Stackings of Enneatype Eight

Each of the instincts of enneatype Eight are amplified and manifest without conflict with the main enneatype. The Eight is an instinctual type and the variants are instinctual energies. You see what you get. A self-pres Eight takes care of their self-pres needs. A social Eight is social and issues of control extend to their circle of influence. The sexual instinct gets amplified also. The lust of the Eight is best exemplified in the sexual Eight.


Self-pres/soc Eights are very self reliant. They are frequently entrepreneurial; the self-preservational instinct combines with the social to make a subtype that is very focused on the external environment. Self-pres/social Eights are the least dramatic of type Eight. They are “no nonsense” types. They can be introverted, especially when the Nine wing is dominant. But, even though they are often quiet, they are very much in control of themselves and their direction in life. On the high side, they make great business owners. They show a sense of fairness and have an instinctual drive to do what needs to be done. They know how to make decisions and aren’t afraid to implement them. Because the sexual instinct is last, they can sometimes be seen as difficult to warm up to. They can be seen as “all business.”

This type has a tendency to see relationships as somehow “getting in the way.” While they may desire a close romantic relationship, they don’t want it if it is at the expense of their self-pres needs. They can appear Five-like in this way, as they are concerned about the demands a relationship might make on their time.


This subtype is more fiery and impulsive. They still have the “no nonsense” approach to life, along with the “can do” attitude, but they exhibit more outward energy. Because the self-preservational instinct and the sexual instinct are in conflict, the one pulling in and the other pushing forward, they often have more of an on-off quality to them. But you will know where you stand with a self-pres/sexual Eight. Although their outward energy is in contrast to their inward self-pres energy, they have a very focused attitude in the areas of life in which the two energies coincide, such as the realm of family and close friendship, those things they are really passionate about. Their control over their intimate life will be noticeable. With the social instinct last in the instinctual stacking, this subtype can be blunt and confrontational with people who aren’t in their inner circle.

The self-pres/sexual Eight feels very independent. They feel as though they need no one outside of the few people they are close to. On the down side, they have a tendendcy to distrust people and tend to challenge them to see where they stand. When healthier, they realize there is sometimes a greater strength in adopting a softer approach.


This subtype generally has a larger sphere of influence, although they might still be very entrepreneurial. They are likely to be more socially minded then the other subtypes of Eight. They are more aware of group dynamics. The social instinct, when combined with the type Eight fixation, causes an exagerrated awareness of whoever is in control. This often leads these Eights to get involved in politics, or to rise to levels of leadership within their place of business, or within their social organizations. They are also just as likely to oppose the group or the person in charge of it. The self-pres instinct combines with the social to give this subtype a “can do” approach to life, similar to that of the self-pres/soc. The difference is that their scope of interests extends further into the social arena. The soc/self-pres Eight, when unhealthy, can use their awareness of power realtions to abuse whatever power they might have.


This subtype is a very charismatic. They have a very assertive energy and they demand attention. The lust of the Eight combines with the sexual instinct to make one of the most fiery of the combinations of all of the enneatypes, especially if Seven is the dominant wing. Sexual/self-pres Eights aren’t afraid to tell you what they think. The “can do” attitude that the other subtypes have is now intertwined with an outward passionate storm of energy. The sexual/self-pres Eight will be similar to the self-pres/sex Eight with respect to interests and attachment to close friends and family, but the intensity level is augmented. Since the sexual instinct is first, these Eights usually don’t let an opportunity pass by to connect with those they find interesting. They can sense the power in any situation and they like to challenge people. They can enjoy making others react to them, keeping others on their toes, to find out what makes them tick. They are likely to use humor to accomplish this. When sex/self-pres Eights are unbalanced, they are very quick to anger and have a difficult time controlling their impulses.


This subtype of Eight comes across a little softer then the sexual first subtypes. The social instinct combines with the sexual to make a subtype that is very aware of interpersonal dynamics. Like the social/self-pres Eight, they are less concerned with group dynamics. The social/sexual is more talkative, and if the Seven wing is dominant, may even be mistaken for a Seven. This subtype usually has a wide circle of friends. They can be very charismatic also, using humor to charm people. On the down side, they can use their interpersonal awareness to con people.

This subtype, largely because the self-preservational instinct is last, may be the least entrepreneurial of the instinctual subtypes of type Eight. The lust for life manifests through connection to others. On the high side, their awareness of the social dynamic makes them very charismatic. On the down side, it can make them overly aware of issues involving control. They are especially sensitive to any hint that others may be trying to control them, but they may misuse power themselves.


This subtype of Eight manifests as the alpha male and alpha female. They demand everyone’s attention, and usually get it. They can be very charismatic. The assertive energy of the Eight combines with the assertive energy of the sexual instinct. With the self-preservational instinct least developed, this subtype has a lot of extroverted energy. This type isn’t afraid to go after what they want in life. The fixation on lust and the emphasis on control combine with great intensisty. At times, it’s almost as if their energy gets ahead of them, which can cause problems. They often have a vision of the future, but they have their blind spots too. They can harness a tremendous amount of energy for change, but at the same time be unaware of the fallout they might encounter because of their sometimes excessive self-assertion.

This subtype of Eight is the one that is most often described in various descriptions.

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