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Trigger Series: Type Eight

Updated: Apr 14, 2023





We've all done it. Started a casual conversation with someone that suddenly turned into an all out fight. What happened? If you TRULY don't know (and it wasn't one of the usual suspects of sex, politics, and money), then you might have stepped on a Trigger for this Type. Read on for tips on how to translate the conversation in a Type Eight's language and better understand how to navigate a path forward.


Scenario 1:


What you said: "I was just telling so and so about you" (i.e. gossip)


What they heard: "This person is untruthful, untrustworthy, and I have been betrayed."


Why do they hear this?

At their Core, Eights fear being under the control of what they perceive to be an unjust system where only the strong survive. As a result, Eights will do everything in their power to keep themselves (and those they love) out of the grip of injustice and maintain their autonomy. In this light, we see that Eights don't necessarily need to be in control, but they certainly do not want to be controlled.


One way they keep themselves autonomous and safe is by demanding direct and honest communication from themselves and everyone around them. The idea is that they cannot predict how to avoid their fears if they do not know everything they need to know and they do not know who to trust. Their absolute demand for authentic, brutally honest conversations feels like the safeguard they need to prevent the worst from happening.

With this in mind, any kinds of interactions that even hint at gossip (especially about Eights) can be an enormous trigger. Because they are so sensitive to being blindsided, even what they feel to be indirectness from others can trigger alarm bells that someone is not being truthful with them and they could be caught unaware.


Repairing with an Eight:

If you have triggered an Eight, you will know it. Being the Aggressive Type (Instinctual Triad) in the Reactive Triad (Harmonic Triad), Eights will quickly point out (in potentially a big way) what is going against what they want. They may use their intensity to get what they want (sometimes escalating the charged energy in the room until they get a rise from the other) or may become completely cold and menacing.


Probably the best way to handle Eights in a triggered state is to be direct, listen to their anger, and hold your ground. Always tell the truth (the whole truth) in love, even if you fear their reaction to what you have to say (which could be big). Eights have some of the best B.S. Detectors on the planet and can smell a half-truth a mile away, so say the truth as directly as possible. Even if what you say is not what they want to hear, they will respect you for being honest. Do not be intimidated by their intensity, but let it ride out the way it needs to and hold your ground. This will allow the Eight to not only feel heard, but feel that they could eventually even put down the power they use as a shield and show their more vulnerable side to you in the future.


Scenario 2:


What you said: "It's not MY fault. It's everyone's fault." (Shirking responsibility)


What they heard: "This person lies, shirks responsibility, blames others and is too weak to own their part."


Why do they hear this?

As part of their relationship development to their Nurturing Figure and Protective Figure (see Object Relations for more info), Eights felt their nurturing needs were rejected (namely, being seen and nurtured) and so they rejected this vulnerable side of themselves and become over-identified with their strength and power. When this happened, the Eights felt that they only way that they would be accepted is if they could lend their power to others.


This is the origin for the Eights' desire (and need) to protect others (and themselves) from an unjust world, but also the origin for their paradoxical relationship with weakness. This conflicting relationship crops up because the Eight has little tolerance for weaknesses in others (and will dismiss those who they think are too weak) due to their wholesale rejection of their own weaknesses but, on the other hand, will likely be the first to stand up for the weak against all odds.


In the scenario above then, Eights will become triggered by the person's inability and unwillingness to own their responsibility and failures (a sign of weakness and untrustworthiness--double whammy for an Eight) and may deem this person as below their notice and can abruptly cut off all meaningful connection with them.

Repairing with an Eight

If you have triggered an Eight in this way, speaking directly with the Eights in an honest, clear way will be the best way to get back in good standing with them. Eights EASILY write whole relationships off based on untrustworthiness and weakness, so approaching them grounded in what you know and being committed to staying engaged regardless of the Eight's intensity will help you gain some footing with them in the long run. If you have done something wrong, admit it. If you have broken trust, admit it. If you don't agree, (lovingly) tell them. The more you show an Eight that you can be depended on to be strong and direct the more the Eight will be able to relax this part of their ego and be open to repairing the relationship.


Other Triggers to Avoid:

  • When others are manipulative, secretive, passive aggressive, or deceitful.

  • Feeling blindsided or betrayed

  • Injustice

  • Lack of directness or truthfulness in others

  • Others failing to take responsibility for their actions







For information on private coaching, email enneagramreflections@gmail.com.

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