When someone suggested I write a timely blog on Donald Trump, my first thought was that his Enneagram type was so obvious that there was no reason to write one. But, then again, I reflected on two things: (1) some people, for some reason that I don’t understand except for the idea that he has been successful, think Donald Trump is an Enneagram 3, not an Enneagram 8, for which he is almost the poster child, and (2) perhaps the Enneagram can shed some light on what makes Donald run and as an 8, what he is likely to do next.
First, let me describe Enneagram 8s, particularly as it relates to Donald Trump.
Eights pursue the truth and justice, like to keep situations under control, want to make important things happen, and try to hide their vulnerability.
Strengths | direct | strategic | protective | big action oriented
Development | controlling | demanding | disdain weakness | intimidating
The above describes Donald Trump in a general way. But not all 8s are exactly like Donald Trump, partly due to what is called “Levels of Development” (Riso and Hudson) or what I refer to as “Levels of Self-Mastery” (Lapid-Bogda). In other words, think of a line with individuals of the same type being at different places on the line from very low functioning to moderate (average) functioning to high functioning. Trump, in my view, is a low functioning 8, and here are two descriptions of that kind of 8, the place at which Trump appears to be functioning or deteriorating into if he is not there already.
Description of low self-mastery 8s (Lapid-Bogda) | the bully
Direct to the point of cruelty, with floods of anger and destructive punitive behavior | power oriented in most circumstances and at whatever cost | deteriorates into anti-social or violent behavior because they cannot contain or control their explosive anger
Unhealthy Level 8 (Riso and Hudson) | megalomaniacal terrorizing
Desperate to protect themselves and so fearful of retaliation, they begin to attack potential rivals before they can threaten them, respecting no boundaries and overreaching themselves, with delusions of invulnerability
What Trump has done recently
Trump has done many unbelievable things in the recent past. He has called immigrants from Mexico rapists, challenged John McCain’s heroism as a POW precisely because McCain was captured, made numerous derogatory comments about women, has relentlessly questioned president Obama’s citizenship (and has a history of anti-Black rhetoric and behavior), and dismisses his opponents as “losers” or “weak” which, of course, casts Trump himself as a winner and as strong. And Trump gets away with it. Low functioning 8s can be blustery (and do not feel remorse for what they say; hence, no apology) and relentlessly aggressive, although they prefer to decimate their opponents with one quick and big action.
From his perspective, I believe, Trump is simply telling the truth (as he sees it), often pushing back on criticism that he receives by labeling those who critique him as “political correctness” police. And every time he makes what would be career-limiting and/or career-deadening comments if made by his Republican rivals, Trump defends himself, like most 8s, by going on the offense, often using “political correctness” as his sword. And he gets away with it.
What makes Donald run?
Donald aside, what are the common key motivators for most people who are highly, perhaps exceedingly, ambitious: power, money, and/or fame? Trump appears to have all three of these already, though a case could be made that as an Enneagram 8, Trump likely believes that “you can never have enough of a good thing.” However, I believe there is a 4th motivator, one I have observed in many Enneagram 8s who have not engaged in enough self-development. They want respect, legitimization, recognition for being someone who is worthy of gravitas which they like to presume that they have, though their kind of gravitas is really more like “bigness” and is often a cover for their intrinsic sense of smallness.
His presidential run may have started initially as a blustery bid for media attention (or maybe it was real all the time), but it seems to have morphed into full-on warfare for recognition for him as a person to be respected and taken seriously. Eights, more than any other Enneagram type, like and seek challenges – the bigger the better – and when challenged, they come back full throttle as long as they have the internal and external resources to do so. As a result, I predict that The Donald will keep on running for president until he can no longer do so, and the more attempts that arise to stop him, the more grandiose and aggressive he will become. He will rise, in some way, emboldened by the challenge.
Why The Donald has traction
Why does he have any traction at all? My guess is that he is playing “establishment outsider,” even though he is literally part of the establishment by almost any standard. And Trump’s taking on of those in power resonates with what is remaining of a small sliver of the American electorate, Trump voters. To be realistic, few Blacks will vote for him, about the same percentage of Hispanics will support him, Democrats never will, the under-30 age group doesn’t see that he has much to offer them (and they are fairly progressive in their social values), most women are deeply offended by his remarks, those of Asian descent are unlikely to see him as someone admirable, and it is doubtful those who are part of the LGBT community will align with anything The Donald stands for.
This leaves a narrow band of the electorate I will call “alienated white heterosexual male” voters who are angry and have been since the women’s movement in the 1970s and then became even more so when the economy tanked and they could no longer find the kinds of jobs they were used to having. In a sense, they feel like victims of the system who are looking for someone to blame. Trump can be a bully, but he is the perfect protector for this group of voters (“alienated white males”) because he can bully everyone Trump voters feel bullied by. I want to be really clear that there are many white males who are deeply offended by Trump; they don’t feel alienated, don’t perceive themselves as victims, and certainly would never hang on the coattails of someone like The Donald to protect and defend them.
One commentator stated that he thinks Trump represents the “Id” (the unconscious) of America, and perhaps this is true. If accurate, it would be the “Id” of a certain sliver of white males. But Trump loves and feeds off them and their alienation, his grandiosity growing with each step he takes onto the larger world stage.
We are too wise to elect Trump our next president. But if he wins the Republican nomination, and he could, especially since he has said (and perhaps this is bravado) he will fund his own campaign to the tune of $1 billion, the American 2-party system could be in jeopardy. The Republican party could splinter so badly, there would be nothing left at its core. With that scenario, Trump could march triumphantly back to his media megalomania, leaving many bodies and a whole political party dead on the side of the road. Low-functioning 8s can do this with no remorse for the bodies on the side of the road or any institution they blow up; high functioning 8s would not. The Donald would still be the “winner” and he would call the rest of us one of his favorite words: “LOSER!”
Ginger Lapid-Bogda PhD, the author of four best-selling Enneagram-business books, is a speaker, consultant, trainer, and coach. She provides certification programs for professionals around the world who want to bring the Enneagram into organizations with high-impact business applications, and is past-president of the International Enneagram Association. Visit her website: The Enneagram in Business.com. firstname.lastname@example.org