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Mistyping Series: Type Six versus Type Eight

Updated: Apr 14, 2023










One of the hardest parts of the Enneagram is finding your Type--Nine Types with 54 combinations can create a lot of confusion and lead to mistyping. If you are unsure which Type you are between Type Six (especially SX subtype) and Type Eight, read on for ways to clarify your true Type.


Why Are These Types Mistyped? Because both Types can:


Have Issues with Authority

It is no secret that Type Sixes and Type Eights have issues around authority, but they have these issues for very different reasons. Sixes, being the center Type of the Head Triad, will see authority ambivalently. To them, authority is something they need for stability and safety, but could easily becomes a source of danger if its power is misapplied or leadership is carelessly thought through. Type Eights similarly share the Six's ambivalence, but only in how far the authority tries to control the Eight and imposes on their hard won autonomy. In this case, both Sixes and Eights will spend vast amounts of energy testing the authority, making sure that they are sound leaders with good intentions, and establishing (and reestablishing) boundaries around how the authority interacts with them. These Types will willingly and loyally serve authority that has proven themselves to be worthy of their loyalty and trust, but that loyalty will dry up the moment the authority starts to change for the worse. make people like them.


Be Action-Oriented:

Type Eights and Type Sixes share a very action-oriented bent in their lives. Being in the Gut Triad, Type Eights will frequently lead with action (act first, think later) and spend less time thinking, considering, analysing, and re-thinking than some other Types. For this reason, Eights get a lot done but sometimes miss the nuance of a situation that spending time on the thoughts and feelings of a situation could reveal.

Type Sixes, on the other hand, can be extremely cerebral and actually get in their way about actions. Their action-orientation arises from their willingness to act and make even big, risky moves once they have thought through a situation. This mental analysis is not necessarily productive thinking (though it can be), but a first stop of the external information they are receiving. Just know that if you see a Six taking action, you can bet that they have thought about the action quite a bit before they start making a move. In the SX Subtype (see Subtype Post for more information), the SX Six can actually act (and act quickly) to prove they are NOT afraid and can actually take on more risk than and average Eight, who though being very action-oriented, is not necessarily risk-oriented.


Be Highly Reactive:

If you are lucky enough to know a Type Six or Type Eight intimately you will not be surprised to know that these Types are part of the Reactive Triad on the Enneagram. This is the Harmonic Triad distinctions which indicate how Types deal with conflict, mild frustration, and unmet needs (other triads are Logical (One, Three, Five) and Optimistic (Two, Seven, Nine). Being Reactive Types means that Type Sixes and Type Eights will be the first to express their dissatisfaction with the situation, calling out into the room what was done, how it affects them, and what they want to change about the situation. They are so embroiled in this stance that they cannot understand why no one else would do the same. This does not mean they blow their top every time they are frustrated but that they are more likely to express themselves to others than some other Types. Type Sixes (especially Self-Preservation and Social Subtypes) will express their reactions to the situation around the safety, planning, preparation around the situation more than other topics, whereas Eights will express themselves more openly about most topics since honesty and openness is one of their core values (honesty being the only defense against one of their core fears of being blindsided).


How Are These Types Different?

Attachment Type vs. Rejection Type: How Their First Relationships Shaped Them:

Looking at Types from a stance of Object Relations can provide a lot of clarity to the meaning behind some of the characteristics we see as similar between Types.

Type Six: Attachment Type

Type Eight: Rejection Type

What Does "Attachment Type" Mean?

When the Type Six's ego was developing, they felt seen to a degree by the Nurturing function, but they felt under-supported by the Protective function, which is tasked with helping the child separate from the Nurturing function by providing guidance, support, and "how-to" knowledge. Unlike other Object Relations Types, Type Sixes took this "miss" as an indication of something wrong with themselves that required them to change in order to receive the support that they needed. Believing that they are unlikely to survive without outside support and guidance, the Type Six decided to pursue only the things that they felt supported in, which sometimes resulted in them pursuing things that they didn't necessarily have much interest.


How Does This Shape Their Current Relationships?

Because Type Sixes feel that they must only pursue the areas of life that they will be supported by external factors, they will frequently spin their internal wheels trying to figure out where this support lies. They will talk about "not knowing" what they want and being unsure of what they think, when in reality what they "don't know" is if they will be supported if they choose what they want (of course, most of the "not knowing" is a result of a deep distrust of their own ability to support themselves, know themselves, and make decisions). Part of their questioning and testing with others is a symptom of the Six ascertaining if the person they might externalize their sense of support to is really trustworthy and will really catch them if they fall. The real answer to any of these issues is developing a sense of trust in themselves and their own ability to support themselves.

What Does "Rejection Type" Mean?

When the Type Eight's ego was developing, they didn't feel adequately "seen" and "known" by the Nurturing function in their young lives. Presented with this situation, the Eight child first became frustrated by the lack of seeing that they received and, ultimately, rejected their own need of being nurtured and "seen". From this position, they grasped onto the role of the Protective function in their lives and became overidentified with it. The Nurturing function's failure to "see" the Eight child caused them to feel as though something was wrong with them and that they would not belong unless they provided something to others as a payment for their belonging. As a result, the Eight gives their power and protection to others--their one gift that earns them a seat at the table.

How Does This Shape Their Current Relationships?

Since Type Eights reject their own Nurturing side (and the needs associated with it) and over-identify with their Protective side, they will frequently struggle being required to show any vulnerable side of themselves (this was a side that was never fostered and caused feelings of being rejected). They may even struggle seeing the weaker, more vulnerable side in others since this reflects what is not allowed in themselves. Eights may also become overly-attached to their ability to provide protection, power, and support to others and will see it as a sign of not belonging to have this "gift" rejected or unappreciated by others.


Compliant Type vs. Aggressive Type: How They Get Their Needs Met and Relate to Others' Expectations:

Type Six: Compliant

Type Eight: Aggressive

What Does "Compliant Type" Mean?

Type Sixes work to meet (or work with) others' expectations of them in order to achieve their own needs of safety and security. Sixes will experience expectations as a means of earning the security they ultimately desire. Though they may test and question authority (almost compulsively), they will ultimately comply with the authority in order to remain in the fold and under the authority's protection.

What Does "Aggressive Type" Mean?

Type Eights easily and forcefully move against others and others' expectations to get what they want. This doesn't mean that Eights are unfeeling or uncaring, but that they do not feel the pull of the expectation as a mandate, but as something that is outside them and ultimately not their problem. Their pull for autonomy and "scene control" (control over themselves and their environment) supersedes anyone else's ideas for them.


Head Type vs. Gut Type: How We Initially Process Information


Type Six: Head Type

Type Eight: Gut Type

What Does "Head Type" Mean?

Type Sixes are the center Type of the Head Triad and will use their vast ability to mentally analyze situations to process information first. Though this allows them to look at situations from a myriad of different angles, this also causes them to think and over-think most situations as well. The Six (even the SX Six, which is most commonly mistyped as a Type Eight) will spend a lot of time in their heads dissecting, worrying, planning, preparing, and testing situations before action takes place. Once this mental processing is finished, Type Sixes can take huge and even risky actions (even more so than Eights).

What Does "Gut Type" Mean?

Type Eights being a member of the Gut Triad means that they will first process information on the instinctual level. Eights as Aggressive Types and Gut Types then are some of the biggest "doers" on the Enneagram Hexad. Eights trust their instinct or they "gut" so much that this signal could be the only form of information that they need before making a decision and acting. Only after they have acted do they sometimes decide that maybe checking in with their emotions and mental analysis was a good idea...but not usually.



Defense Mechanisms

Defense Mechanisms are self-protective strategies the egos uses to protect itself when it feels threatened by criticism, conflict, and external pressure.

Type Six: Projection

Type Eight: Denial

What is Projection:

Projection is the Type Six's defense mechanism of choice to protect their psyche from outside pressure, criticism, and conflict. Projection allows the Type Six to subconsciously take feelings, ideas, opinions, and motives that they find distasteful or dangerous in themselves and attribute their origins outside of themselves. Though difficult to explain, it's somewhat easy to spot (on the other side of it, it's super tricky to see if you are projecting): it's the out-of-left field-accusation or the interpretation of events that border on conspiracy theory. We all project, but being the busiest of the Head Types, Sixes take this to another level.

What is Denial:

Eights can dabble in some of their own conspiracy theory tactics in extreme stress but will more often than not employ denial to protect their psyche. Denial means that the Eight can ignore or refuse to accept reality. In this state, they do not need to acknowledge that their health is failing from their over-drinking/eating/exercising or that they hurt the feelings of others by acting impatient or unfeeling. We all deny reality to some extent, but Eights will do so to protect their fragile sense of strength, control, and autonomy.



Helpful Typing Questions:


Ask "Why", "What Does It Mean", "How Would You Feel", and "What Would Happen"

Asking these questions in regards to any characteristics that a person claims as the reason for choosing their Type will help them gain a layer of clarity on the motivation behind the behavior. For example:


Question: How do you feel about authority? What could authority do to foster a relationship with you?

Answer Hint: Listen for answers that center around making sure that the authority has a plan and thought of all the problems that could come up (Type Six) versus answers that hint at testing the strength, competence, and honesty of the leader (Type Eight).


Question: Do you ask others for support? How do you feel when you receive support?

Answer Hint: Listen for answers that show that receiving support feels like belonging and life-giving (Type Six) versus answers that question why you would need to seek support and potentially show signs of weakness (Type Eight).



Ask Questions That Clarify Their Triad:

Asking for reactions based on the Type's Triads can also give a lot of clarity based on how they act in certain situation:


Question (Attachment vs. Rejection):

Question: Do you frequently feel like you don't know what you want until you ask others? Do you ever change what you want according to the support you'll receive?

Answer Hint: Type Sixes know that they don't know. Even SX Sixes know that they spin a lot about the answers to questions (even though they would not call it fear). Type Eights spend much less time thinking about what they want since they have already likely moved on the instinctual impulse to get it.

Question: How does it feel when others reject your projection or support?

Answer Hint: No one likes to have their help rejected, but to Type Eights rejection of the one gift they offer feels like not belonging. They may not say something like this and will instead just have a reaction (anger likely that masks feeling hurt), but Type Sixes are less likely to see a rejection of their protection as a sign of not belonging.

Question (Compliant vs. Aggressive):

Question: How do you react when you are asked to comply by someone you respect?

Answer Hint: Neither Sixes nor Eights will enjoy being asked to do something by someone they don't respect, but Eights will likely not like being asked to do anything by anyone--even those they DO respect. Sixes are extremely hard workers and will do any task put to them by those they respect. Eights are also extremely hard workers, but they resist anything that puts them in another's pocket.


Question: How do you feel about and treat expectations that stand in the way of what you want?

Answer Hint: Listen for answers about trying to meet the expectations before doing what they want (Type Six) and having nothing sway them from getting what they want (Type Eight).

Question (Head vs. Gut)

Question: How much do you think about a situation before you make a decision? How much back and forth goes into the decision?

Answer Hint: Listen for answers that hint at a lot of head activity (planning, preparing, considering, worrying, analyzing) (Type Six) verses answers about making decisions on the instinct level (trusting their gut or their sense of the situation) (Type Eight).


Ask Questions about their Defense Mechanisms:

In the case of Sixes and Eights, asking about defense mechanisms could actually cause more confusion than clarity. Projection and Denial occur so below the consciousness level and are often a sore spot for their interactions with others and their experience of their lives that questioning them on this could cause some pretty good drama....so probably avoid this area.


For Typing help, questions, or to schedule a personal coaching session, email Kimberly at enneagramreflections@gmail.com

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