Type Eight, The All or Nothing Type on the Enneagram

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You have big energy and passion for life, wanting to make a difference in this world. Truth and justice are extremely important and you are ready to take a stand and fight for what is right.  You know what you want and are always ready to take action towards it.  This is your life and you will take charge of it, there is no question of that!  If these statements resonate with you, then read on to learn of the motivation of Type Eight on the Enneagram.  Remember that we have a bit of all types within us, so look for the way Type Eight shows up in you.

Type Eight can be called The Challenger, The Boss, The Top Dog, and The Leader.  Out of all the types, it is our Eights who are ready to take on challenges in the world for themselves and will encourage others to stretch their boundaries. They have enormous willpower and vitality and they feel most alive when they are exercising these capacities in the world. They want to make a difference in their environment whether that be the community or the world because bigger is always better! They work hard, play hard and crash hard, hence the “All or Nothing”, persona that gets developed.  At a young age they decide that they will be in charge of their life and realize they have the fortitude to protect others if justice is to prevail. The basic fear of eights is of being harmed or controlled by others so they become masters of protection.  They have great capacity to withstand physical punishment without complaint; however they are more sensitive to emotional hurt and protect this vulnerability with a layer of emotional armor. This is a double edged sword because on the one hand it does give them a sense of safety and on the other, it creates distance from others and their efforts to show love through action can be misunderstood. As human beings, we want to experience intimacy which often requires seeing the softer more vulnerable side of another. It takes great courage and trust for Eights to show their vulnerable side.

What you see is what you get; they are honest, have abundant energy and are very hard working. They are independent and expect the same of others. We may experience them as hurtful or insensitive, but Eights have no idea how their enormous energy comes across to others. The passion they can bring to their work, relationships or causes can be incredibly rich and move mountains.  They do not give up in something they believe in, a noble trait to role model for others.  Generally they react rather than respond, which feels too risky.  These were children who kept on playing football with a broken foot, biffed the bully in the eye and in many cases, shouldered responsibility for their alcoholic/sick parents!

Eights like to elicit what I call the “shock factor” to stir things up a bit.  Whether it’s a practical joke with a friend, a comment that brings out a blush on another or a good raunchy joke – it’s all in good fun. I recall a previous Type Eight business owner who walked through his production plant one morning and announced that the company was sold and the new owners would be keeping only the best producing employees.  It was not true and he did tell them in good time, but in the meantime, he was able to observe how each reacted to the news.  Did they buck up to prove they were worth keeping, did they start whining about how unfair this was or did they start looking elsewhere to move on?  He wanted to see what they were made of!

Eights at their best in a relationship are loyal, caring, positive, playful, truthful, straightforward, committed, generous and supportive.  Eights at their worst in a relationship are demanding, arrogant, combative, possessive, uncompromising and quick to find fault.

Practical suggestions for Type Eight:

  • Develop a habit of listening to other people’s point of view.
  • Get feedback from friends and family on how forcefully your comments come across.
  • Look for what you appreciate in others and tell them regularly.
  • Find something that you can do when you need to release pent-up anger safely.
  • Start a pattern of relinquishing control in a small way, in certain areas of your life, and become accustomed to going with the flow.
  • Remember that the world is not against you. Many people in your life care about you and look up to you, but when you are in your fixation, you do not make this easy for them. Let in the affection that is available. Doing this will not make you weak, but will confirm the strength and support in yourself and your life. Also remember that by believing that others are against you and reacting against them, you tend to alienate them and confirm your own fears. Take stock of the people who truly are on your side, and let them know-how important they are to you.
  • It goes against the grain, but act with self-restraint. You show true power when you forbear from asserting your will with others, even when you could. Your real power lies in your ability to inspire and uplift people. You are at your best when you take charge and help everyone through a crisis. Few will take advantage of you when you are caring, and you will do more to secure the loyalty and devotion of others by showing the greatness of your heart than you ever could by displays of raw power.
  • Notice when lust or the need for vengeance arises, how it feels in your body, and what it makes you do, so that you can choose not to go with it in order to invite transformation to it’s opposite, the virtue of innocence.

Famous Eights:

Sigourney Weaver, Martin Luther King Jr., Glenn Close, Sean Connery, Donald Trump, Barbara Walters, Babe Ruth, John Belushi, Humphrey Bogart,  John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, Susan Sarandon, Bette Davis

How about you? Do you resonate with an 8? I love getting feedback! Here on my blog, you’ll get commentluv. This is a plug-in that allows you the opportunity to leave a link back to your own site when you leave a comment.

Until next time,




6 replies
  1. Alan says:

    Ian a eight recently came across the enneagram interesting tool, although it wouldn’t have help a younger me I don’t think. It would only have been seen as a hindrance . Iam 34 now I see the world completely different. Anyway good work. Thanks

  2. Josh says:

    Im 19 and im a type 8. My names Josh. And this has opened up some great big doors in my life. I have known who i was for my whole life and i have been an “outsider” for most of it.

    I truly believe if students at high school/ college were given this tool then they would live more successful and simply better lives. It would also allow them to see the areas that may hold them back in life and in very important areas allow them to see what their doing wrong.

    Thank you very much for your article. It was a great read.



  3. Janet Vella says:

    I am an 8 found out recently and really digging in to soften certain aspects which destroyed so much life and soul. Being forceful raw and resilient was actually working against me. When i dropped the need to show up in this enormity I found love….So knowing how to work through this is paramount and your article is brilliant thank you

    • Karen Armstrong says:

      Hi Janet – what an open and honest response. Thank you for that. I wish you much opening as you discover the subtle ways our personality shows up. In my experience, 8’s who open and bring in the people sensitivity skills to their beingness are incredible passionate leader/teachers. Power has many expressions, good luck,

  4. Angelica says:

    I am a type 6 in a romantic relationship with a type 8. I am attracted to him for his forwardness, direct communication, and the kind gentle caring loving creative person I have witnessed in many occasions. However, there are moments he terrifies me, because he is emotionally reactive. I often feel emotionally unsafe, not physically. I use the word terrifies me, but I relate to a type 6 so my fears/anxiety surface frequently when he raises his voice, when he yells out the window of his car, when is in a angry state. He gets sarcastic, edgy, and I frankly do not like to be around him when he is in that state. I feel it is negative and very arrogant and aggressive. I am hopeful that he will soften his edges. Everyone deserves love, and he has so much love in his heart. But he gets angry when others do not behave in the way he expects them too. We have similar values, but we go about it very differently. I just am trying to understand and step into curiosity as to not allow my initial sense of fear and terror keep me from growing and learning into a positive relationship with a future. I do not feel I am in danger. It just often feels emotionally unsafe at times for me. The reactivity feels unsafe to me, because it is unstable and unpredictable. As a type 6 I do not like that. So perhaps some of the type 8 in this discussion can help me understand to connect with my boyfriend, a type 8. Thank you.

  5. Jonny says:

    I’ve just recently discovered the Enneagram and initially typed myself as a 9 “with a strong 8 wing,” but the more I study and soul search I am wondering if I am indeed an 8. I come across to most people as “chill” but the people closest to me (husband and daughter) say I don’t fit the 9 persona. I don’t avoid conflict at all costs (in fact, I LIKE to get things out in the open and clear the air – pussy-footing and avoiding the elephant in the room drive me crazy!) and I’m not a “status-quo” girl. I’m 55 years old and have been in conservative Christian circles my whole life, so feel like I could be a little repressed – haha. This really seems like an unlikely mistype to make, so I’d love to hear what your experience has been, especially with female 8s. There is really not another type I resonate with other than those two. Thanks so much, Karen!


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