Enneagram Type 8: The Challenger

The Enneagram of Personality, or just the Enneagram, is a representation of personalities using a geometric figure, also called an enneagram (little e), to express nine interconnected personality types. While each type is unique it is related to other types through the circle connecting the type to each of it’s wings and the lines or arrows in the center connecting the type to the ones it imitates in times of stress or growth. The Enneagram is used in business management training to better understand interpersonal dynamics in the workplace.

Types eight, nine, and one constitute the gut triad. This triad is primarily motivated by anger. Those in the gut triad tend to filter life at a “gut level” or by instinct. Because of that, they tend to be motivated by a desire to be independent, to dominate their environment and to stay in control of their own life. The world around them is something to be dominated, or at least controlled. Of the three, Eights externalize their anger by focusing it on others.

At their best, Eights are great friends, exceptional leaders, and champions of the downtrodden. They have the courage, intelligence and stamina to push through and do things that other people say are impossible. They use their power well, at the right time, and in moderation. They are also capable of collaborating well with others.

At their worst, Eights are preoccupied with the possibility of betrayal. They tend towards suspicion and distrust of others and tend to resort to revenge when they are wronged. They believe they can fix reality and try to force their own rules on others. They end up using people.

Eights are blunt, like to be direct, and can often be motivated by anger and a desire for independence. While they can come across as overly aggressive or even rude, eights aren’t necessarily rude – rather, they are making sure that they have control over their own lives and reducing their risk of betrayal. However, at their core, they are extremely loyal to the people they care about and can be vulnerable and honest with them. Like other personality types we’ve discussed in this series, the eight has many lessons for us – they can teach us to be assertive, independent, and to make sure that our needs get met. Eights can also be helped by the people around them, who may need to gently inform the eight when they are being too intense, aggressive, or blunt for social situations.

Episode Breakdown

Main Characteristics

The Enneagram Type Eight is “The Challenger”

Eights are called “The Challenger” because they’re aggressive, confrontational people who are in life for what they can get out of it. The Eight’s drive to control things stems from a desire for independence. They enjoy taking on challenges themselves as well as giving challenges to others.For The Challenger, control over their environment is everything. Aggressive confrontation provides them with a sense of control over their environment and defense against being dependent on others.

Eights have incredible vitality and willpower and they feel best when exercising that power in the world. Not only do they want to “leave their mark on the world”, but they also want to help keep the people they care about from being hurt. Challengers are fiercely independent. They tend to assume that others are untrustworthy and thus don’t really want to trust them too far until they have proven themselves.

Eights don’t really come equipped with a lot of range. Their emotions are more like an electrical switch than a dimmer switch; they are either on or off. For them, conflict is a connection to another person and a form of intimacy. If an Eight is comfortable with you – they will argue with you. This all-or-nothing approach means that they either win big, or everything goes very badly, very quickly. As a result, Eights can often be seen as being overindulgent or excessive in their pursuits.

As children, Eights often had events during their formative years that forced them to jettison their childlike innocence and deal with things like an adult.

Some Eights were raised in unstable homes, or in environments where toughness was rewarded or were bullied a lot in school. Ultimately, this taught them that they had to rely on themselves because they couldn’t rely on others. Challengers learn early that the world is a rough place and that the weak are victimized or betrayed. Eights tend to be very reluctant to show their soft side, because they believe that showing weakness invites attack.

As children, Eights tend to run a bit ahead of the pack and want to be independent faster than the adults around them want to allow them to be independent. They also trust themselves more than they trust most adults.

Eights will get in line when told to do so, but they don’t cower when they do it. Rather, they hope that good behavior will reward them with an increasing degree of freedom. Challengers often take over when no one else is at the helm and they often do a reasonably good job of it when they do.

Desires and Fears

The basic desire for an Eight is to be able to protect themselves by being in control of their own life and destiny. They tend to try to project strength so that others don’t attempt to control them as a result. This projection of strength can often come across as if the eight is trying to start a fight, when the truth is that they are unconsciously (mostly) trying not to look like a pushover.

The Challenger’s basic fear is of being harmed or controlled by others. This includes being pushed around, but it also includes a fear of being failed or betrayed. Eights value people who can push right back at them. They will loudly and strongly voice opinions and they don’t like it when the people who disagree with them surrender too easily.

Eights tend to have problems with their tempers and with allowing themselves to be vulnerable, as a result of both their desires and their fears. This bellicose behavior can drive people away.

Examples (Healthy, Average, Unhealthy)

Healthy Eights are self-restrained and magnanimous and submit their strength to a higher authority. Many achieve historical greatness. The Challenger also learns to stand up for their needs and wants in a healthy way. They are driven by an inner passion with a resourcefulness and attitude to get the job done.

Average Eights are self-sufficient, financially independent, and concerned about having the resources to meet their needs. They tend to be the sort of “rugged individualists” that you hear about. Mediocre Eights can be combative and intimidating in order to get their way. They often create adversarial relationships and they won’t back down, even when wrong. Seeking to keep others off balance to get their way, they will often resort to threats and reprisals, causing others to resent them.

Unhealthy Eights defy any attempt to control them and can become ruthless dictators. They can be hard-hearted, immoral, and potentially violent. At their worst Challengers become very dangerous when they feel threatened. They may destroy anything that hasn’t bent to their will. They also are subject to delusional ideas about their own power and invincibility and recklessly over-extend themselves.

Lust (non-sexual) is the deadly sin of the Enneagram Type Eight.

While the idea of “lust” has certain connotations in modern society, however that is not the case with the Eight. Rather, it’s a lust for excitement and being involved in the parts of situations that matter.

Challengers lust after intensity. They want to be wherever the action is. The trouble is, if they can’t find any, they’ll make some. Their desire to control their own lives also plays into this as well. Eights have more energy than any other number on the enneagram, which means that they not only more vigorously pursue their own interests, but that they can outlast everyone else.

Anger can really get Eights into trouble, especially if they aren’t particularly healthy. Not only does it cause isolation, but it can often wreck relationships that would have been nurturing and helpful, while it sometimes creates lifelong enemies.

Eights’ desire to be right in the middle of it all can lead to overeating, over-drinking, overspending, over-indulging, and over-working, all of which are destructive to health and personal relationships. Too much is never enough.

Wings and Things (Arrows)

An Eight with a seven wing is “The Maverick”

The Seven or Enthusiast brings out the outgoing, energetic, and fun side of the Eight. Mavericks can also be ambitious, impulsive, and even reckless, living their lives to the fullest. They are often entrepreneurial.

The Seven characteristics mask the wariness that is common to most Eights, making these people more gregarious than other Eights. The impulsiveness and ambition of a Maverick can either help them to do great things, or can bring them to ruin.

An Eight with a Nine wing is “The Bear” (or diplomat)

The Nine or Peacemaker brings a more measured approach to life to the Eight. They tend to be more open to cooperation instead of competition, in keeping with the nine’s peacekeeping role.

Bears tend to be more pleasant to work with, with other people being more willing to follow their lead. With the Nine’s gift of being able to see both sides in a situation, these Eights can make excellent negotiators.

Along with these benefits, Eights with a Nine wing still tend to have trouble controlling their temper, tend to be stubborn, and often have problems with authority.

Direction of Integration or Health is towards the Two

A healthy eight, as they improve will tend to become more caring and open-hearted, taking on the traits of a Two. Eights moving to Two spend more time trying to help better the lives of people around them than they do trying to defend themselves from possible betrayal and prefer to collaborate rather than to command.

Healthy Eights are more vulnerable and more comfortable with vulnerability and exhibit more moderation in behavior and self-indulgence. Healthy Eights are also more likely to yield to the wishes of others and treat people as less expendable than unhealthy eights.

Direction of Disintegration or Stress is towards the Five

When an Eight is less healthy, they trend towards becoming more secretive and fearful like a Five. Unhealthy Eights tend to play their cards closer to their chests in an effort to keep other people from controlling and betraying them. Additionally, they may become even more sensitive to insults as they try to keep their guard up. Their potential for creative leadership will take a backseat to fear of betrayal and rebellion against authority.

Interacting With Others

Interactions with the Eight

If an Eight is in the room, you will likely interact with them. They are kind of hard to avoid in social situations, unless you like very boring subjects. Eights can come across as overly aggressive and forceful, which can work well with Enneagram Type Nine, it can be off-putting at best to many other personality types.

The big thing to remember with an Eight is that you have to push back. They will not respect someone who doesn’t stand up for what they believe in – they see them as weak. Eights also tend to somewhat interpret willingness to argue with them as a form of intimacy. When you combine this with the fact that most other people don’t look at things that way and the tendency of Eights to be a bit impulse, trouble can arise.

Working with the Challenger

In a work environment, eights tend to either lead, or to frequently challenge whoever is leading. Due to their desire to be independent, they may have difficulty delegating tasks or depending on other team members. Additionally, if they don’t know you well, an Eight may be a bit suspicious of your motives for doing something, at least until they feel they can trust you. They tend to speak their mind and be blunt, which can result in people thinking they are angrier than they actually are.

Eights will also be among the first people to go to bat for you if they feel you are being wrong, often without being asked to do so. Many people will have a difficult time working with an eight, especially if the eight is not particularly healthy. They don’t sugar coat things, which can be difficult, especially for those who really want things to be sugar coated and socially acceptable.

Friendships with the Eight

While it takes a while for an Eight to trust you, once they do feel they can trust you, they can be incredible friends to have. However, that kind of vulnerability takes a while to achieve. Eights often don’t realize how intense they seem to other people, and are often blissfully unaware when they hurt others, especially when their independence is threatened. They probably won’t ever be aware unless someone tells them.

It’s important to be straightforward and honest with the Challenger and to avoid gossip. When someone is afraid of betrayal, it’s best to avoid ambiguity and anything that can be interpreted as backstabbing. Above all, don’t mistake their assertiveness for a personal attack. It can come off that way, but likely isn’t meant that way.

Relationships with Challengers

Relationships can be difficult for Eights. Not only is there a risk of betrayal, but bluntness is often not appreciated in romantic relationships. Challengers also have a hard time opening up and if you pursue a relationship with one, you’ll likely have to open up a lot yourself to get any traction at all.

Challengers tend to express love by supportive and helping their partner achieve their goals. They typically aren’t emotionally expressive and require a lot of patience from their partners. They will struggle with verbally expressing love. For an eight, independence isn’t just a preference, but is something that is core to their being. Any relationship with them will have to take that into account.

Tricks of the Trade

As you listen to these Enneagram episodes pay attention to not only your personality type, but especially to the others. Understanding yourself can help you to improve and know what triggers to avoid or how to reduce them. Paying attention to the others will help you to work with other people, especially as you understand what motivates them and how they try to motivate others. Some you will find fit well with the way you think and do things, other will not. These ones that don’t are the ones you should pay special attention to when listening. They are the ones you’ll have the most difficult time working or being friends with until you start to learn how they think and are motivated. Once you do that, even the most opposite of types can make a great team and even be close friends.

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