Enneagram Eights: Carly Bergey & Greta Sutherland

“One of the greatest regrets in life is being what others would want you to be, rather than being yourself.” ― Shannon L. Alder

Good morning Enneagram Paths people! I hope you are safe and well. I’m sending out love, presence, and light to you all during these heavy times.

Today, we finish the Type Eight series with two amazing people in the house! Carly Bergey and Greta Sutherland have graciously allowed me to interview them and ask what it’s like to be a Type Eight. Their answers put me in the mind, body, and emotions of an Eight and are so helpful! It’s great to hear from real people about how the Enneagram is impacting their lives. Thank you both for sharing your thoughts and experiences!

Carly Bergey

1. In what ways do you use your easy access to anger for good? What are some healthy outlets (when not saving the world or protecting others) for your anger? I tend to be a person that speaks up about things, like that parent who continues to break the rules at the school drop-off line, or when a person glued to their phone is obviously blocking foot traffic on Main Street. It could be something bigger, like calling out a racist joke at work or when someone “accidentally” gropes me on a bus. I will speak up about it. The slowly simmering anger inside me is ready to appropriately respond and take action. 

2. What do Eights look for in others? What do we have to live up to? Where do we fall short? As an Enneagram Eight, I need my people to match my intensity. In my safe inner circle, I want others to celebrate, grieve, and fight with me. In social situations, I secretly hope others will not wither when I bring my A-game. I can be intense and wish more people had the confidence to really engage, disagree, even make fun of me.

3. What are three things you wished people understood about Eights? I want people to understand that what you perceive as anger from me may not be. My deep desire is to authentically connect, but sometimes, intensity becomes a substitute for intimacy. Something made us grow up too fast. The origin of our behavior is being unsafe at some point. I have a deeply tender core part of my identity, and assuming the best in me goes a long way. 

4. Do you have any spiritual practices and does your Enneagram number influence what you’re drawn to spiritually? Meditation, quiet, grounding practices like yoga help me. 

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? I communicate with my partner when I need to go into what I call “whale mode” (toward Type Five). I enjoy isolation, but don’t want to be forgotten. My partner will check in on me over the course of time and ask how I’m feeling. However, our general rule is: I don’t want to talk and I want to be alone. When moving toward Type Two, I tend to think about others more than myself, put their needs above myself, and try to do tangible works to make them feel happy. 

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? For me, in stress, this means my body tends to communicate to me and that’s how I have honed my self awareness over the years. It starts in my body (and voice) and that literally helps me realize I need to reset in some way. The really interesting thing is to reverse stress, I also use body and voice work to access my nervous system so I can self-regulate. Sensory activities, humming, breath work helps a ton. 

7. What do you love about your number? What is frustrating about your number? I love going through life with confidence. I truly empathize with those who are lacking in it and much of my work involves giving away as much confidence as I can. I do feel frustrated by how much anger I feel at times. 

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? The memoir I wrote is deeply emotional and vulnerable. I discuss my voice loss and recovery and those of my patients in it. I do hope if it ever releases, that I will be known for being loving and tender in addition to strong. That would make me very proud and speak to so much self care I’ve done over the years to be safe enough to do so.

9. What is your advice for parents of Type Eight children? As an Eight, I longed for the modeling of emotional regulation from my parents. Big feelings need big patience. On the flip side, Eights need trust. Trust that they can do the big thing they want to do. Give them tools to blow everyone away. Type Eight kids can start businesses, advocacy campaigns, clubs. We are natural leaders. Let us lead. Especially Eight girls. Show them they have a sit at the table.  

10. What do the words yield, affection, and empowerment mean to you these days?

Yield: My first thought is corrupt powers need to do this. 

Affection: It makes me slightly sad. I always need more than I seem to let on.

Empowerment: If leadership in US doesn’t give it, we will take it. 

Carly Bergey, M.A., CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and writer with expertise in voice care. A rich, musical inheritance passed to her from hard-working gigging parents. This lead to the study of music at Belmont University and eventually a love of the science of voice as well. Now Carly uses her voice for work and play, helping other voices speak themselves into their stories more fully with authenticity and health. Her memoir details the transformative work of finding one’s voice and is currently seeking publication. She provides individual coaching sessions in person and via zoom. Contact her through www.carlybergey.com 

Greta Sutherland

1. In what ways do you use your easy access to anger for good? What are some healthy outlets (when not saving the world or protecting others) for your anger? This question is difficult since most all my answers come back to helping an ‘underdog’ in some form or another. For example: I got involved in the political process in 2008 and managed a field office to elect Obama. I poured a lot of energy into that process but…it was my anger over the lack of equal treatment for lower income peoples that instigated my involvement. I saw the vast discrepancy in education and work availability where I lived and decided to take action. But that was using my anger for standing up for people I felt needed my action by helping elect a candidate I felt was qualified to make serious change. Your disclaimer in the question made it very difficult to answer! 😊

I’ll answer the question this way: when anger fills me up, I release it by tackling a project I’ve been putting off. Undirected anger often helps re-direct my procrastination. Whether it’s cleaning or researching or taking a walk – anger almost always subsides when I USE MY HANDS and my body in a physical way. I’d love to say I take a 25-mile run when I get angry, but nah! I have many hobbies that are a way of engaging my hands which in turn frees my thoughts to sort themselves out. One of my favorite activities since I was a kid has been mowing the grass. It’s physical. It’s solitary. And it releases pent up angst as well as gives plenty of time to process through confusing feelings.

2. What do Eights look for in others? What do we have to live up to? Where do we fall short? It certainly doesn’t feel like an admirable thing to admit, but when I sniff out weakness of any kind in another person, I get frustrated and dismissive and have to consciously pay attention to anything they say because my tendency is to immediately write them off. I’m working hard on this. When a friend asks if I want to get together for coffee and we have the time and place decided in three texts or less – I’m ecstatic and have a high respect for that person. But when someone is ‘overly considerate’ and gives me a lot of ‘I don’t care, whatever you want’, it makes my insides twist. 

Honesty is of paramount importance to an Eight. ‘Little white lies’ equate to trickery which means you’re questioning my intelligence. To find out someone has been dishonest with me sticks with me and it’s hard to ever trust them again. Likewise, when someone is straight up honest with me, my respect for them (even if I disagree with what they’re saying) increases exponentially. Along these lines, passive-aggressive behavior is another form of dishonesty to an Eight. We value direct communication, so passive aggressiveness is not valued or respected.

3. What are three things you wished people understood about Eights? We are not all ‘bulls in a china closet’. I am very comfortable not being in charge…as long as I feel like someone competent IS in charge. I don’t have to be the loudest or the leader. Many times, in fact, I prefer not to be. (Although committee work is from the very depths of hell. Ugh!) If I perceive a lack of leadership, I will step in – but I don’t have to be in that position from the start.

I do not have to be right. I am willing to compromise if a well-thought-out alternative is presented. I’m willing to change, but only if it makes sense to do so. I can even go along with a change that I don’t agree with if it appears that the person in charge believes strongly in the new direction. Again, an Eights direct communication is offered as a helpful tool to get straight to the problem or issue but it is NOT intended to be offensive.

4. Do you have any spiritual practices and does your Enneagram number influence what you’re drawn to spiritually? This has taken many decades to figure out. Denominations that feel to me too ‘touchy feely’ in their worship make me markedly uncomfortable. I like a more cerebral approach to corporate worship and expression. It feels the most natural to me and more representative of my relationship with God. In the past few years I have learned the enormous value of meditation in my life. Prayer is an active process which generally involves a focus on the past and/or future. Meditation, by contrast, is a non-active process of staying grounded in the present moment. The right now. That’s how I differentiate these two imperative spiritual practices in my faith.

5. 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? Unfortunately anger and frustration works it way through my body in the form of high blood pressure, digestive issues, a red face and rapid heartbeat. This is another side effect I’ve had to learn to recognize. Catching the early warning signs and heading them off before they get out of control is something I have had to work at over and over again. Meditation breathing is a big help. The simple act of getting in the car and rolling the windows down helps realign the physical actions happening in my body. I’ve always wished I’d taken up boxing as an exercise because I think it would do a lot to relieve the stress that accumulates inside my body. Short answer: breathing and moving my body are key to a healthier way to process adversity.

6. What do you love about your number? What is frustrating about your number? I am a good leader when called on. I am intuitive and a good strategic planner. I am able to listen to other views and discern whether or not that would work better. I like the pre-thought I put into events because I usually have already foreseen the worst-case scenario and am able to avoid it with good organizational methods. I like that people will turn to me for honest insight and to get something accomplished in the most efficient way.

I become very frustrated with the differences in communication styles between an Eight and other numbers. It has caused a lot of relational harm over the years that was unintentional and often caught me completely off guard.

7. 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? Awkwardness comes to mind first. People perceive me to be one thing and it always feels immensely uncomfortable to show a more vulnerable side. Very very very few people have seen that side of me. I am the 90% underwater of the iceberg analogy. I share my thoughts often, but rarely do I share the feelings surrounding them. A common phrase in my life is, “I think that…” because that’s what is easiest to articulate my thoughts about a given topic. A big part of the reason I don’t communicate my feelings about a subject is that I have such a difficult time understanding what they are myself. I had a best friend in my young adult life that would listen to me wax eloquent about an event or issue and after I was finished she would say, “And how did that make you feel?” She understood that was the part I was having the most trouble sifting through. Even now, I hear Charlene in my head asking me that question. Writing is my outlet for emotions. As I am writing, I am simultaneously learning how I feel about the topic.

8. What is your advice for parents of Type Eight children? Give your Eight child time!!! For instance, if they come home from a big event all excited and hyped up, a good response would be, “Let’s set some time tomorrow afternoon to talk about it. I’d love to hear what it was like.” 

Because Eights are intimate partners with anger, they don’t understand that there are other underlying feelings. I was embarrassed or felt ashamed or disappointed or sad. Those feelings don’t bubble up to the surface easily, it just all feels like anger. Help your child by modeling what those feelings are like in your own life. Identify them for yourself when they happen and what the context was in which they happened. An Eight will hear you talking about it and more readily identify it in their own life. (But don’t say, “I felt embarrassed and maybe that’s how you feel sometimes.” Telling an Eight how they feel has a very negative affect.)

The worst phrase in the English language is “Just chill.” AAAAAACCKK! I want to grab someone’s neck when they say that to me. Again, telling an Eight how they think or feel creates a very opposite and detrimental result. When at all possible, move your upset Eight child into action. I think if a parent would say to me, “We’ll talk about this later. For right now, we’re going to go on a walk around the block but we cannot talk to each other until we get to Kellie’s house. Or until we get home.” Giving them the excuse to not ‘talk about it’ immediately will allow them time to process. Another helpful tool for me as a child would have been to suggest (but not in a punitive way), ‘Why don’t you sit down this evening and write me a letter describing how this situation made you feel and why you reacted the way you did. Then we’ll talk about it; maybe I missed something that you understood.’

Saying ‘this is what you need to do today’ is very constricting to an Eight child. Or adult! Where at all possible, saying ‘this needs to get done by this date’ allows the child constitution to decide when the chore needs to be completed. It puts them in control of the outcome and that’s where they like to be.

An adult side-note: The adage ‘Never go to bed angry’ is advice that does not necessarily apply to an Eight. Making a plan to talk about something at a later time allows the Eight to work through that Big Ball of Anger (that greatly resembles a ball of rubber bands) and to begin sorting through all the junk they’re feeling in their bodies, lay them out neatly on the table in front of them and then sort through everything again for the things that would be useful to discuss. Whether it’s working with an Eight child or working with an Eight spouse, when it’s time to talk about things, ask questions! ask questions! ask questions! (Big big BIG advice!) Don’t just say ‘Tell me about what you’re feeling.’ It’s virtually impossible for an Eight to do that. But when you start asking me specific questions, I can articulate my feelings best because it gives me small chunks of information to work through at a time.

Greta Williams Sutherland: I am retired from the non-profit world of environmental advocacy. I’m currently a book reviewer for book publishers and an obsessive houseplant hoarder, living in Northern California (transplanted from Kansas City, Missouri – GO CHIEFS!) with my Seven husband who works for Union Pacific Railroad. We are adventurers at heart and enjoy traveling at any available moment, exploring and experiencing new cultures and environments. 
Blog: botanyandbookends.com

Instagram: instagram.com/botanyandbookends

Twitter: twitter.com/gretarains

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