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  • Writer's pictureJae Ritchie

Enneagram Eight

In the bio section of this website, I indicated that I am a lover of Books, Bourbon, and the Enneagram. I believe I can assume that most of you know what books and bourbon are. If by some strange chance that assumption is incorrect, allow me to paraphrase the wise words of Linus in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown – “don’t tell me, I don’t want to know.” The Enneagram on the other hand might very well be new and mysterious to you.


A simple explanation of the Enneagram - a system that shows us nine different traits that humans default to when dealing with life. It explains the whys of human behavior and informs us of our core motivation. It also points to the type of trauma you were subjected to as a child. In this regard it has been instrumental in helping me determine where trauma sits in my body and why. For me it has been a gift, a tool that has led to many a-ha moments and allowed me to understand why I respond the way I do.


A very high-level overview of the nine types –

· Enneagram 1 – The Idealist – Rational, principled, and judicial in their behavior.

· Enneagram 2 – The Helper – Kind, generous, warm-hearted, and loving.

· Enneagram 3 – The Achiever – Motivated by the need to be productive, achieve success, and avoid failure at all costs.

· Enneagram 4 – The Individualist – Tend to be creative, sensitive, and expressive in their behavior.

· Enneagram 5 – The Investigator – Find comfort in knowledge, as well as rational, unemotional feedback.

· Enneagram 6 – The Loyalist – Requires safety and security, especially in their relationships.

· Enneagram 7 – The Enthusiast – Can’t we all just be happy, happy, happy.

· Enneagram 8 – The Protector – Passionate, intense, and protective – especially self-protective.

· Enneagram 9 – The Peacemaker – Must keep peace, remain closely connected to their people, and avoid conflict at all costs.


If you have never looked at your life through the lens of the Enneagram, I highly recommend NOT taking a test. I find them convoluted at best. I would suggest seeking out the descriptions of each type at PersonalityPath.com or Truity.com. These sites will help you determine your type based on your core motivation. For me reading the description of an 8 felt as if someone was looking deep into my soul. Upon determining your type or at least having a strong inclination you will find there is no lack of available resources to tap into along your journey. Ultimately the goal is to reach the healthy side of your Enneagram and you will need to lean on the experience and advice of those that have already been in the trenches. Much like any other avenue presented to humanity, the Enneagram and leaning on it to help you heal, will take work. I know, therapy sucks, healing sucks, doing the work sucks. Stick with it because I promise, it will get better.


Based on the title of this entry I am guessing you have ascertained that I am an Enneagram 8 – The Protector. My deepest motivation in life is to feel strong and in control, never failing to protect those that I love, but even more importantly to protect myself. Weakness and vulnerability are the longest four-letter curse words ever created. Even now, after years of therapy and diving deep into the Enneagram think tank, I still throw up in my mouth a little when asked to be vulnerable.


The internalized message of my childhood can be neatly wrapped up in the statement - I am the only person I can ever count on. Showing weakness would get me harmed, possibly more than just harmed. It’s an “every man for themselves” kind of world and there was no time for my scared inner child to seek safety or solace in any other human. It simply wasn’t safe. I would only survive if I became hard, tough as nails, and quick to use the burning hot rage inside of me, ensuring there would never be a need to be vulnerable with anyone, or to anything.


In the pursuit of emotional intelligence and healing I realized I could no longer walk around with a ball of rage sitting in the pit of my stomach. When left unattended, at any moment with or without reason, this fiery ball of rage could threaten the strongest of fortresses. A respecter of none, those that I swore to protect were often left as collateral damage. My protective nature, becoming a weapon if those around me dared show any level of disrespect, was no longer working for anyone. Taking on the causes of my people and the driving need to protect them, caused them more harm than good. Watching my friend, now wife, come out after a lifetime of compulsory heterosexuality and take hit after hit from “well meaning” people, was infuriating. Truthfully, they wanted her to get over this phase and become the dutiful wife she once was, and failed to recognize the personal devastation she was already experiencing. The anger that boiled to the surface when I felt her pain created a monster that was not allowed to express its indignation to those that clearly deserved it. I quickly recognized overstepping the boundaries she created for me could literally burn their lives to the ground. I had an opinion, I had thoughts, and I also was guilty of causing her pain because regardless of the path she was walking with them in that moment, at one point she loved them deeply.


Sitting in an airport, in March of 2022, I was hit with the sudden realization that my anger had driven someone I loved to the breaking point. Grasping the truth that no amount of demanding I was right could possibly fix the situation created a less than warm and fuzzy feeling in my heart - after all it hadn't quite yet grown three sizes. Coming face to face with the reality that I had deeply damaged the bond I have with one of my children just months earlier because I chose violence – in the form of words – only serving to add to the heaviness pushing at me from all sides. All of this drove me to find something to fix me. I found myself typing into our friend Google – why do I feel the need to protect people to the point of harming them or others on their behalf? Not sure if you have ever experienced this, but Google never seems to fail in giving me a quick look into all the things about myself that I really don’t want to look at. The very first statement that popped up in my search was Enneagram 8s and confrontation with people they don’t like….


Elizabeth Harris answered this statement quite simply – “Think of it like the big carnivore battle at the end of Jurassic Park between the T-Rex and whoever else dares to challenge it. A stand-off between Enneagram 8s and people they don’t like can be brutal, fierce, and even a bit scary for onlookers.” Cool, I am a man-eating beast. I stomp around destroying everything that comes into my path. Tell me something I didn’t know. Having been labeled intimidating, unapproachable, scary, bossy, demanding, angry, insensitive, and one of my favorites – The Ice Queen/Bitch, for most of my life – finding myself compared to a T-rex was not all that shocking.


From there I took a deep dive into the Enneagram. This became a tool that I would incorporate into my therapy. Line upon line of familiarity opening a door into all the reasons I felt misunderstood and unseen for my entire life. Understanding the motivations behind why I burned bridges, as well as the tools and supplies to rebuild them, allowed me to heal in different ways. The Enneagram helped me understand that my motivations weren’t inherently wrong, but my unhealed trauma was driving me to respond in ways that no longer served the life I was seeking to build for myself. I saw a far more complete picture of yours truly and instantly realized I was not alone.


Becoming conscious that my go to responses when being forced to deal with people I don’t like are, confrontation, rejection, undermining attitudes, or begrudging acceptance was enlightening. Check, check, check, and check. Confrontation looks like the T-Rex previously mentioned. Rejection – that comes in the form of the Ice Queen I have succinctly been identified as. Friends, family, and my wife will all tell you they fear quiet me far more than confrontational me. The cold is deep and cutting to the quick. A simple look stopping you in your tracks. Perhaps one day I will write an entry about it being ‘just my face.’ Undermining attitudes – I promise, you have never been so ‘bless your heart’ dismissed by anyone as you have been by an 8 that wishes to make sure that your life is no longer recognizable, and your friends all look at you just a bit differently. Brutal and swift. Begrudging acceptance – sometimes you just have to ‘grin and bear it.’ This almost never happens unless it involves a Canadian and making her happy. Happy wife, happy life. Kidding – well mostly. This doesn’t mean that at times I don’t drop a nasty comment here and there that gets the look – you know the look, but I do try for the sake of those that are most important to me, to find a way to tolerate those people they either choose to love or feel a need to love.


Giving you a glimpse into the real me may make you wonder what on Earth could possibly ever be good about being an Enneagram 8. All the negatives, when positioned in a place of emotional and mental health, become strengths. That strong, give no Fs personality allows me to become an advocate for those that lack the ability to share their voice. I simply don’t care if you disagree. If you want to change my mind on a subject, you better come bearing receipts. We also have a knack for helping others stand strong and become their own advocate. We are driven to stand against oppression, we are quick to promote justice, and equality. We will throw ourselves on the pyre to protect those around us that need protection. Self-confident, competent, goal-oriented, driven, and willing to take charge.


However – and this is a big one – if you win us over, if we let you in our inner circle, if you can stand against our larger than life, take up space personas – we will let you into what my wife refers to as my gooey marshmallow inside. We are strong, in your face, OPINIONATED, bossy, direct, ready to fight always – because no one fought for us when we were children. We long to be vulnerable but fear it deep within our souls. If you fight for us, we are yours. If you betray us, we will bury you. Handle us with care. We are desperately looking for someone to hold our inner softness, while loving our crusty shell despite our hesitance in letting anyone in on our deepest secrets.


I have cried more tears in the past two years than I have in the previous 54. Why? Because I found safety in my incredibly strong, yet perfectly tender Enneagram 2 wife, Deanna. She challenges me when needed. She supports me always. She can read me like an open book and redirects my energy many times before I have even realized it’s shifted. Her strength, coupled with her own protective nature, has allowed me to lean on others in ways I had not previously believed possible. Two that instantly come to mind are the ladies that made the trip to beautiful Invermere, BC. Their participation made my wedding memorable beyond what I could have imagined. Gina, my fellow Enneagram 8 and Best Broomsmen, mirroring the changes I need to make while laughing with me about how she will ‘cut a bitch’ if necessary, leaving me with no doubts that she’d be there in an instant to do so if required. Kate, Enneagram 9, Broomsmen, peacemaker, able to see multiple perspectives, and always willing to lend an ear. The advice she offers rarely requires violence, but you are never left wondering if she is truly in your corner. The three of us often laugh at how such a combination of people could possibly be friends, but we are, and it works!


Grab a bourbon or drink of choice, open your laptop, and do yourself a favor...find yourself within the world of the Enneagram. Should it take the place of therapy, absolutely not. Can it enhance your therapy, your life, and possibly transform your relationship with yourself and others? Yes!


I will leave you with this advice. Find yourself an Enneagram 8 friend – they will lay down their life for you. Couple that with an Enneagram 2, they will teach you more about yourself than you thought possible using their uncanny ability to read the room and anticipate everyone’s needs. And then, when all else fails, make sure to keep an Enneagram 9 on retainer to keep you from doing things that will land you on the nightly news.


In the timeless words of Johnny Cade, “Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.” SE Hinton – The Outsiders

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