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  • Writer's pictureClaire Bentley

ENNEAGRAM TYPE 8

Updated: Oct 25, 2023

FOR CREATIVITY AND CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT


INTRODUCTION

The Enneagram is a personality classification system which divides the human population into nine broad personality types based on their desires, fears, beliefs and behaviours. In this series of blog posts I will take you through each of the nine Enneagram personality types in detail, looking at how you can use them to improve your creative work patterns and to inform character development in your artwork.


Nine Enneagram personality types arranged in a circle
The Enneagram circle




There is dispute about the validity of the system as applied to ‘real-world’ humans. I’m not going to enter that debate in this series. However, I believe the system is potentially useful for creatives as a way of framing and understanding both our characters and ourselves. It is important to remember that personality systems are broad tools to aid understanding: there is lots of nuance and individual variation, and people rarely fit perfectly into one category or another.


WHY ENNEAGRAM AND NOT MYERS-BRIGG?


The Myers-Brigg personality classification system is also useful for understanding our characters and ourselves. However, I find it more complex and less intuitive than the Enneagram system. For example, when studying well-written fictional characters I can usually identify their Enneagram type quickly and easily, but I would struggle to identify which of the sixteen Myers-Brigg categories they fall under without reference material and a little free time to work it out. In addition, unlike the Enneagram, the Myers-Brigg types are not evenly distributed through the population: I am an ‘Advocate’ (INFJ), the rarest category at 1% of the population. In the Enneagram system I am a Type Nine, so many more ‘like-minded’ people to learn from.


However, the main reason I prefer using the Enneagram to the Myers-Brigg for character development is because story structure and story theory revolve around identifying the desires, fears, motivations, and misbeliefs of your characters. The Enneagram has these baked in and, even more crucially, the descriptions of healthy and unhealthy versions of each type make it far easier to see how a character might grow or disintegrate during a story (depending on what type of character arc you are writing).


WHY THIS BLOG SERIES?


The Enneagram is useful for understanding your pattern of work and behaviour when it comes to your creative life, so you can work out your strengths and weaknesses, find out what works for you, and identify areas where you could improve.


I have been using the Enneagram to inform character development in my current work in progress and it has been invaluable for helping me shape and develop their personalities, beliefs, and change arcs. There is a lot of information about the Enneagram but very little in terms of how to practically apply the system to character development in creative work. Therefore, I created this series of blog posts to explore each of the nine types in detail, and to provide guidance and examples when it comes to using the Enneagram for character development and plotting their change arcs.


There is a huge amount of information out there regarding the Enneagram and these posts barely scratch the surface! Therefore, I have linked many references at the end of the posts (including the ones which informed this series) if you would like to explore the topic further.



WORKING OUT YOUR ENNEAGRAM TYPE

There are tests out there (both paid and free) which can help you identify your Enneagram type. However, (again unlike Myers-Brigg) you can probably work out your type from the descriptions.


A word of caution: study each of the types before deciding which one best describes yourself. It may not be the one you initially think! When reading through the descriptions I initially couldn’t find one that quite worked for me, then ‘decided’ I was a Type Three, even though there were parts of it that fit and parts that didn’t. However, when I reached the Type Nine description I had a moment of ‘oh s***, here I am’. If the description feels uncanny and makes you feel uncomfortable, you have likely found the right one for you!


It is worth saying again that people do not necessarily fit perfectly into categories. I had strong scores for multiple Types when I took a test (it turns out Type Nines are good at adopting the behaviours of other types!) I also later found out that healthy Type Nines behave like healthy Type Threes, which could explain why I felt an affinity for the Type Three description.


My point is, study the types first before deciding which one best describes you!


TYPE 8 OVERVIEW: THE CHALLENGER


Zoomed-in drawing of Type 8 on the Enneagram

PERSONALITY TRAITS

· Powerful

· Self-confident

· Decisive

· Assertive

· Resourceful

· Protective

· Confrontational

· Domineering


SUMMARY

“Eights are self-confident, strong, and assertive. Protective, resourceful, straight-talking, and decisive, but can also be ego-centric and domineering. Eights feel they must control their environment, especially people, sometimes becoming confrontational and intimidating. Eights typically have problems with their tempers and with allowing themselves to be vulnerable. At their Best: self-mastering, they use their strength to improve others’ lives, becoming heroic, magnanimous, and inspiring”.


DESIRES

To protect themselves, and be in control of their life and destiny.


FEARS

Of being harmed or controlled by others.


MOTIVATIONS

· Self-reliance

· Prove their strength and resist weakness

· Importance

· Dominate and control their environment


WINGS

Eight with a Seven-Wing: the Maverick

Outgoing, energetic, sociable, and fun. You are ambitious and determined but are prone to making impulsive and reckless decisions. You like ot make the most of your life and live it to its fullest.


Eight with a Nine-Wing: the Bear

You are organised and prepared. You are approachable and cooperative, and you make an excellent mediator.


DIRECTION OF GROWTH

Adopt behaviours of a healthy Type Two: open-hearted and caring


DIRECTION OF STRESS

Adopt negative behaviours of a Type Five: secretive and fearful


ARE YOU A TYPE 8 CREATIVE?

Do you recognise yourself in the description above?


If you are a Type Eight creative then you may find you enjoy both taking on challenges yourself and helping others with their challenges. You are bold, confident and charismatic. You have the physical and psychological capabilities to persuade others to follow you into adventure, and you look after the people in your charge. You possess, and value, willpower, persistence, endurance, energy and vitality. You are decisive and you take the initiative, making your mark on your environment.


You fear being controlled and others having control over you (whether that control is physical, psychological, social, financial etc). Your behaviour is geared towards making sure you gain, retain, and increase your power. No matter the specific group or community, being in charge is characteristic of a Type Eight personality.


You are independent and fairly impervious to social convention and judgement. You may be aware of others’ opinions of you but you don’t let those opinions sway, shame or concern you, knowing that you cannot please everyone. However, you may be sensitive to real or imagined slights to your self-respect or authority. You do not fear confrontation, although you may be prone to anger in these situations.


As a Type Eight you may be more fearful of disempowerment than of physical harm. You are tough and can tolerate a great deal of physical punishment, to the extent where you are extremely industrious and in danger of taking your health and stamina for granted. You may also overlook the health and wellbeing of others, including their desire for emotional contact and attachment with you. Your tough armour is likely to hide an emotional vulnerability and a need to keep others at a safe emotional distance so that you don’t get hurt or rejected. You may even defend yourself by rejecting others first so they don’t gain emotional power over you.



Felt dinosaur as the centrepiece of an Easter bonnet
Type Eight personalities are often natural leaders


YOUR WORK PATTERN

You likely have a strong desire to prove yourself, so you are naturally motivated and self-reliant.


You have a strong desire to influence and control your environment, meaning you thrive in leadership and competitive positions. You also thrive when others around you recognise and value your skills and opinions.


YOUR STRENGTHS

· Motivated: work hard to get what you want or need

· Not afraid to stand up for yourself or your opinions

· Protective of yourself, loved ones, and your values

· Strong-willed: ability to make difficult decisions, and decisive / resistant to criticism in implementing those decisions

· Self-reliant: not dependent on, or easily swayed by, others

· Good at handling stress and finding solutions

· Charismatic: extroverted, outgoing, enjoy being revered

· Persuasive


YOUR WEAKNESSES

· Temper: vulnerable to being bad-tempered and irritable

· Guarded: hide and guard your emotions, prone to becoming hardened and secretive

· Dominating

· Egocentric

· May struggle to see others’ perspectives


RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GROWTH

· Prioritise caring for and uplifting others rather than asserting your dominance

· Remember that the world is not against you: connections with others make you stronger, not weaker. Alienating others only confirms your worst fears

· You rely on more people than you think: complete self-sufficiency is an illusion

· Do not overvalue power


TYPE 8 CHARACTERS IN YOUR ART

I will speak to writing because I am most familiar with this, but the lessons can be applied to other creative art forms.


WHERE MIGHT YOUR CHARACTER START?

The ‘average’ Type Eight individual may start as an enterprising, pragmatic, hard-working risk-taker who aims to increase their financial independence and self-sufficiency but who denies their own emotional needs.


They dominate their environment and those within it, seeing others as supporting their efforts from beneath them rather than as equals who should be treated with respect. They are boastful, egocentric and forceful, imposing their will and vision onto everything around them. They may be confrontational and intimidating, using threats to gain obedience from others and keep them off balance, and possibly causing others to collaborate against the Type Eight character.


HOW MIGHT YOUR CHARACTER GROW?

A healthy Type Eight may be self-restrained and magnanimous. They are courageous and self-sacrificing to achieve their vision and have a lasting impact. They are strong, assertive and self-confident: standing up for what they need and want, and doing this with passion, resourcefulness, and drive. They are upbeat, humble, and not afraid of appearing vulnerable or of allowing others to help them.


The healthy Type Eight individual is a natural leader: decisive, authoritative and commanding, and a champion of those in their charge. They use their influence and leadership skills to serve and support others as well as themselves, even if this means relinquishing control to allow someone else to shine.


They may achieve true heroism and historical greatness.


HOW MIGHT YOUR CHARACTER DISINTEGRATE?

A Type Eight individual may build walls to protect themselves from being harmed or controlled by others, or from becoming emotionally close to others. They may become egocentric and domineering over others, and may be particularly aggravated when they encounter people or circumstances which they are unable to control.


A Type Eight is in danger of becoming ruthless, dictatorial, immoral, and violent. They may develop delusional ideas about their power and invulnerability, and may recklessly over-extend themselves. They may ignore their physical needs and push themselves too hard, becoming vulnerable to stress, anger and burnout.


A Type Eight character who has disintegrated to this extent may be prone to psychopathic tendencies. They may become vengeful, cruel and murderous, and may brutally destroy everything and everyone who does not conform to their will rather than surrendering to anyone else.


DEVELOPING YOUR TYPE 8 CHARACTER: WORKED EXAMPLE


Let’s say the one-line theme of your story is ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ (to borrow the theme from Spiderman!) You could make your main character a Type Eight because they strive for control, influence, and autonomy. They begin the story with the misbelief ‘I must have ultimate power and control over my environment’ (the ‘lie’, or the opposite of the story’s theme).


A few of our examples have focused on workplace-type scenarios, so I’m going to switch the context. Imagine a Type Eight character who is a stay-at-home parent to a large family. Maybe they didn’t want to be in their current position, but financial or logistical circumstances meant it was not possible for them to pursue a ‘professional’ career. It is possible that they resent this on a deep emotional level. To counteract their loss of freedom they instead take control of the household and the children, ruling with an iron fist, expecting all members of the household to be well-behaved and obedient (or else). The character becomes stressed and angry in any moment when they don’t feel in control (if you have young kids then I’m sure you know this would happen regularly!) They become more and more angry and domineering and no longer enjoy being a parent. They shut out their partner whenever the partner questions them, refusing to talk about how they really feel. They are stressed, burned out, and exhausted, but they won’t admit this to anyone.


Perhaps one day they take their anger and frustration out on one of the children, screaming at the child and saying hurtful things to them, and damaging their relationship. This may be the shock the character needs to take a step back, to analyse their behaviour and the reasons behind it, and finally ask their partner (and others) for help. Now that the Type Eight’s partner finally knows what the problem is, the family may be able to make practical and emotional adjustments to help the Type Eight parent become the strong and supportive champion the children need (rather than the over-bearing dictator).


This is just one example. Your theme may not suggest an obvious Enneagram type that ‘fits’, but it could be interesting to ‘try out’ your theme with protagonists and antagonists of different Enneagram types to see how these dynamics could impact your story and plot. Remember: a protagonist or antagonist (or any side character) could be any of the Enneagram types, and could grow or disintegrate within their type (or stay the same) during the course of the story.


Security camera
The Type 8 character becomes more and more controlling due to deep-seated resentment


TYPE 8 CHARACTERS IN WELL-KNOWN STORIES


EXAMPLES: HARRY POTTER

I do not agree with or condone any form of transphobia, and have not given a single penny to She-who-must-not-be-named since she outed herself. However, the story of Harry Potter helped me a lot as a child, and its characters remain some of the best known in the literary world. That is why I have chosen Harry Potter characters as examples in my discussion of the Enneagram, so that hopefully you can appreciate how the Enneagram might be used to help create strong, unique and conflicted characters. These categorisations are based on my own judgment and knowledge of the characters: please feel free to disagree (and let me know in the comments if you do!)


LORD VOLDEMORT

Tom Riddle (a.k.a. Lord Voldemort) is obsessed with power and control, to the extent that he will brutally murder anyone who stands in his way. He does not even flinch while committing unspeakable atrocities, including the murder of children. He is the embodiment of a power-hungry, evil individual who will stop at nothing to gain ultimate power and even defeat mortal death.


Riddle began life as an orphan and didn’t have an ideal start, though the orphanage he grew up in is described as crowded, clean and functional (rather than cruel). In the books it is implied that Riddle was effectively ‘born evil’, which is highly contentious. He is most likely a psychopath, but even people who struggle to empathise with others are not necessarily ‘evil’. As skilled as the author is at creating characters, I personally think Riddle is one of her ‘weaker’ characters. That being said… by the time we are introduced to Lord Voldemort he is as morally disintegrated as it is possible to be.


The thing I find most interesting about Lord Voldemort is his absolute reliance on his own independence and judgement. He is close to no one, he confides in no one (at least not fully), and he is fiercely self-reliant. Yet he also ‘employs’ an army of Death Eaters to do his bidding. The Death Eaters serve Voldemort through fear, and Voldemort treats them with cruelty and contempt, while enjoying their subservience and (perceived) admiration of him. The irony, of course, is that Voldemort is far more reliant on this (mostly) unwilling, resentful army of slaves than he would like. A cowardly Death Eater returning to him through fear is the reason he was able to regain a body in the middle of the series. And the mistakes of multiple Death Eaters regarding the safe-keeping of his precious Horcruxes helped bring about Lord Voldemort’s downfall.


RESOURCES

I couldn’t find much that was geared specifically to fictional characters in writing (or other art forms). However, there is much more to explore within the Enneagram system, and I have listed some helpful resources below:

The Enneagram Institute: https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/

Don Riso and Russ Hudson have published multiple books on the Enneagram system

These resources provided a foundation for the blog posts in this series, which I then applied to understanding your creative work pattern and crafting fictional characters.


BEFORE YOU GO…

Are you an Enneagram Type 8? Are any of your characters Type 8? Please join in the discussion (contact details below).


Please feel free to comment on the article and/or contact me if you have any questions!


Socials: @cbentleywriter on most of them!




Buy me a coffee: https://ko-fi.com/clairebentley

I welcome respectful and friendly discussion on the topics I write about, including if your opinion differs from my own.


Disclaimer: generative AI

I do not use generative AI to produce or inform my blog, my images, or my fiction. All of my content is generated by the chaotic firing of my own (human) brain! (I have access to some images through my Wix subscription). I do not consent to the use of my content, images, or fiction to train generative AI models. Please contact me to discuss permission and compensation if you wish to use my content in this way.




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