“There is no Space or Time
And tame things
Have no immensity”
― Mina Loy,
I signed up for Rev. Stacey Midge’s awesome new e-mail blast about Enneagram Type Eight’s because my son is an Eight (Right now, obviously! I’m typing him in my thoughts…but he’s so an Eight!) and I wanted some insight into the inner workings of his mind, body, and heart. So far, I’m in love with getting weekly reminders about the challenges and amazing gifts Eights bring to the world. Welcome, Stacey!
1. In what ways do you use your easy access to anger for good? What are some healthy outlets for your anger?
Perhaps this is just life from an Eight’s perspective, but it seems there is a lot going on in the world for which the most appropriate response is anger. The pure expression of anger probably isn’t going to be the eventual solution to a problem, but anger can point to a problem that is being ignored, clarify the extent of the problem, and energize people toward change. We’re the people you want if you have a cause that needs a great deal of attention. For a healthy Type Eight, anger is just the beginning. We use it as fuel, and while others may get tired of fighting, fighting is the thing that energizes us. This can make us very irritating to others who prefer unity and compromise, but in movements for social change, you need both impulses. If you’re ever in a bad situation, especially an unjust one, you want an Eight and all their anger on your side, because we do not back down, and we are not afraid of whatever powers that be – even when it might be smarter to be a little afraid.
Easy access to anger can also benefit one-on-one relationships if it’s channeled well. Eights are not afraid of conflict. If there’s a problem, we want to have it out immediately, so conflict doesn’t stew and build up over time. The downfall is that not everyone is ready to deal with our intensity right on the spot. I’ve had to find gentler ways to approach people in a conflict so I don’t scare them away from communicating with me; to give them space to process and come back to me later. It’s extremely hard for me to wait on other people to sort out conflict, but I have to keep repeating the mantra: “Just because it’s not solved today, doesn’t mean it won’t be solved.”
Healthy anger outlets: I need to do something physical. My anger – and really all my emotions – are very connected to my body. I feel them physically, and when I avoid them, they build up and start manifesting physically. In an ideal world, I would maintain regular practices of martial arts/kickboxing and yoga. One, to get out the aggression and provide a challenge, and the other to listen to my body in a gentler, slower manner that accepts limitations. I’ve had some injuries in the last couple of years that have prevented this, and I can really feel the lack. Also, I love verbally sparring with other Eights (or other types who can hang in there and not think my intensity means I dislike them). I kind of need to have at least one really good argument a week. Sometimes this shows up on Twitter.
2. What do Eights look for in others? What do we have to live up to? Where do we fall short?
Eights tend to be drawn to two polar opposite sets of qualities in other people. We get very tender and protective of people who have obvious weaknesses or are underdogs, and often our own vulnerability comes out most readily with those folks. Our competitiveness can take a rest, and they already know we are strong because we’re the ones fighting on their side. We are also drawn to people who can match our intensity. For me that tends to be other Eights who get excited about going toe-to-toe, Sevens who crave adventure and experience (I’m a strong Seven Wing as well), and Fours who share my level of intensity but situate it in their emotional core, which draws me into the emotional territory that I sometimes avoid if left to my own devices. We are also looking for a high level of loyalty. If I see or sense that someone will not have my back, or that they will take their problems with me to someone else and create discord behind my back, we’re not friends. I can deal with a lot of miscommunications, misunderstandings, and differences, but if you betray me, we’re done.
“Fall short” sounds like such a judgmental way of putting it, but I do have a hard time with people who seem to lack the courage of their convictions or who put on such different personas that I don’t feel like I know who they really are. Studying the Enneagram has helped me understand that sometimes these behaviors are not a fundamental lack of integrity, as I once believed, but rather patterns that people develop to achieve desired ends – which are different than my desired ends. That said, if someone fails to stand with me against injustice, I would probably use the judgy “fall short” terminology.
3. What are three things you wished people understood about Eights?
– We’re not (usually) trying to scare or bully you; we really just think we’re stating an opinion. We often don’t know how forceful we sound or how much space we take up in a room.
– Yes, we’re angry, but it’s because we care. We care immensely about people and systems, and it comes out in anger. Type Eights are quite capable of not caring, and you can tell because we no longer have opinions or get angry about something if we don’t care. We’ve completely disconnected, and there’s no coming back from that.
– Most Eights will make you earn our vulnerability. It’s not that we can’t be vulnerable, or that we don’t want to be, but we want to know we can trust you first.
4. Do you have any spiritual practices and does your Enneagram number influence what you’re drawn to spiritually?
I’m naturally drawn to practicing my spirituality in entirely active and outward-focused ways. I can do advocacy and activism all day, every day. But eventually, even an Eight burns out from doing and doing – and never being. I’ve intentionally integrated contemplative practices into my life so that I can build a foundation for my social action and access other emotions than anger. I still don’t like contemplative prayer or meditation – and I’m always struggling against the voice that says I could be out doing something – but I do practice them regularly. I also take 2-3 day silent retreats at least once a year, which is the hardest and best thing ever for this highly extroverted 8w7. It takes me at least twenty-four hours just to stop thinking I should give up and go talk to some humans, and then I can start to dip a toe into the reality of my emotional and spiritual state.
Part of my spiritual practice is also an intentional community. I’ve been part of a small cohort of other women clergy for several years, and we check in with each other regularly, do some writing together, and meet occasionally for retreats. That group has been a really important part of keeping me grounded and also helping me grow into some of those vulnerability things that are hard for Eights. It’s pretty crucial for me to have people around who know me well enough that they won’t settle for my bullshit and who push me to be more emotionally honest and whole.
5. What happens to your closest relationship when you move in stress to your Arrow of Type Five? What happens to your closest relationships when you move in health/integration to your Arrow of Type Two?
My move toward Five is a big danger zone flag, and fortunately, the people closest to me have been well trained to recognize it. I withdraw and get secretive, which is not at all my normal way of being. I know that when I don’t want to tell anyone what I did last night, even if it was just watching a movie on my couch, I am disintegrating. Beware the Eight doing research; we’re often preparing to blow something up. A serious move toward Five means that I disconnect from all of my close relationships.
When I integrate toward Type Two, I become extremely generous with my time and emotional energy. I’m much more likely to be aware of how best to care for other people, and I’m naturally open-hearted and trusting. In groups, I intentionally provide a lot of space for other people to fully express themselves instead of dominating conversations.
6. Speak about what it’s like to be in the Body Triad. How does your body absorb and process the daily life of your existence?
I think the experience of what happens to our bodies in response to anger or challenge is central to being an Eight. I literally feel like I am physically growing and my presence in a room seems quantifiably larger to me. When I’m in a highly emotional state, it’s often hard for me to be touched, because I can feel energy rolling off my skin like heat. All of my emotion radiates out from my gut and core, and when I disintegrate, that’s also where things go wrong and I end up with digestive and lower back problems. I mentioned physical activity as an outlet earlier, and I really need to engage my body through breathing exercises, yoga, walking, or punching things if I want to calm down.
7. What do you love about your number? What do you hate about your number?
I love that conflict doesn’t scare me, and that I can stand up for myself and for others without second guessing myself or fearing the outcome. I love being decisive and clear, and knowing that I can assert myself when it’s necessary. I love the big heartedness and generosity that comes with health. I love the rush of knowing I’m going into a big battle. And I know this is why people of other types dislike us, but I confess that I kind of love it that if I need to, I can scare people a little.
I hate that our more tender emotions get so buried that we often don’t know they exist, and I don’t love it that our intensity of opinion makes us come off as blowhards. I hate that other types feel worse about their “negative” qualities than Eights usually do, not because I want to feel worse, but because there is a lot of pressure from other Enneagram folks to feel bad about your type. The Enneagram journey for a lot of people involves discovering their type because it is uncomfortably resonant and points out things they would rather people didn’t know and working toward acceptance. For Type Eights it tends to be opposite. We think it’s all a crock, then we hear Eights described and think, “Hell yes, that is what I am and it is awesome!” and then it’s a process of realizing not EVERYTHING about it is awesome.
8. What do you think would happen if you were to let the soft, loving, vulnerable side of your heart be known to the world at large?
I just rolled my eyes and sighed deeply; does that tell you anything? I’m still trying to figure out what it means to consistently let myself show the soft, loving, vulnerable side of my heart to good friends and to my congregation. At this point, I don’t really think anything negative would happen, but it’s challenging to access the part of me that openly expresses loving emotions. I’m working on articulating affection, which I feel, but am terrible at speaking. I think I’ve gotten beyond my fear that people will reject or betray me if I’m open with them, but I’m still often so busy accomplishing all the things that it doesn’t occur to me to stop and verbally appreciate people.
9. What is your advice for parents of Type Eight children? (Totally selfish question!)
The best thing my parents did for me was to respect my autonomy and reasoning skills. I’m not sure I ever considered any of their decisions or rules to be the final answer, which I’m sure was frustrating at times, but they listened to me, explained why the rules existed, and gave serious consideration to my alternative ideas. They never made me follow a rule that didn’t make sense, and they let me make a lot of my own decisions from a very young age as long as I could prove I was adequately responsible. In hindsight, I probably would have benefitted from a little more encouragement to be affectionate and to ask for help when it was necessary because I really drank in the message that it was best to be tough and self-sufficient. It served me well in many ways, but learning to open up to people at forty is a challenge!
10. What do the words yield, affection, and empowerment mean to you these days?
Yield – It’s hilarious how my body draws back as if it’s preparing to resist in response to just the word. I can think of this positively if I frame it as yielding the floor – making space for someone else to express their ideas or feelings. Or a yield sign on a freeway entrance, that means you need to wait and take your turn so the road is safe for everyone. But yield also carries the connotation of giving up or ceding a competition to someone else, and apparently, I’m still way too Eight for that.
Affection – I’m actively seeking to be more receptive to and expressive of affection. For me, it’s sort of like trying on clothes that are not at all your normal style. I tell myself that I’m going to try it out, and it’s probably going to look awkward and feel kind of uncomfortable, but I’m at least going to put it on and sashay around in front of the mirror for a few minutes before I decide to discard it. And sometimes I end up deciding it’s the perfect thing to keep on for a few hours. I haven’t overhauled my wardrobe yet, but I keep a few pieces around for regular use. Have I exhausted this metaphor yet? People regularly hug me now and I don’t freak out. Often, I even like it. Occasionally, I initiate it, and that is huge.
Empowerment – I love me some empowerment, but I’m embracing the empowerment of emotions other than anger. Moving through grief well is tremendously empowering. Allowing yourself to love is empowering. One of my favorite things about the congregation I serve is that we laugh together all the time. Collective laughter is its own form of resistance, and it is tremendously empowering.
Rev. Stacey Midge serves as the pastor of Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. She’s a musician, hockey fan, and traveler, but does all things at the beck and call of her elderly hound, Laila. Stacey has been working with the Enneagram personally for about ten years and recently started integrating it into congregational ministry. You can find her on her website staceymidge.com or on Twitter @revstacey. To sign up for her “For 8s by 8s” Email List”: CLICK HERE