This blog series describes how the primary defense mechanism for each Enneagram type functions as a guardian of the type-based ego structure, and this particular blog focuses on Enneagram type 8. You’ll learn the following: how the type-based fixation and passion form a continuous loop that helps generate and sustain the type-based ego structure; what happens inside us when this loop contradicts the type-based ego ideal or idealized sense of self; how the ego does not like or know how to integrate this contradiction; and how the type-based primary defense mechanism then colludes with the type-based passion to lessen the dissonance created.
Below is a review of the major concepts: ego ideal; fixations and passions, and defense mechanisms:
Ego ideal is how a person wants to be perceived by self and others, an idealized self that seeks to be continuously reinforced. In a sense, the ego ideal is the aspirational self, whereas the ego-structure includes far more than only ego ideal, with additional elements such as the type-based fixations, passions, false reality, worldview, deepest longings and more.
Fixations and passions are the ongoing states of functioning (mental and emotional respectively) that continuously play and replay in our Mental Center and our Emotional Center, thus fueling our emotional response patterns. The specific fixations and passions that go with each type create a self-reinforcing loop that become a core element of each type’s ego structure.
Defense mechanisms are unconscious psychological strategies we use to deal with uncomfortable, difficult and anxiety producing situations. These mechanisms to reduce a person’s fear, sadness, and/or anger and to also maintain his or her self-concept and ego structure, appearing primarily when a person is either avoiding something or experiencing a threat of some sort. Although individuals of all Enneagram types use a variety of defense mechanisms at different times, there is one specific defense mechanisms that is most strongly associated with each type.
EIGHTS’ Ego Ideal | The Powerful Person | Always invincible and forceful; never weak or cowardly
EIGHTS’ Fixation | Vengeance | Thinking about rebalancing wrongs through thoughts about anger, blame and intimidation
EIGHTS’ Passion | Lust | Excessiveness in a variety of forms as a way to avoid and deny feelings of vulnerability and weakness
The EIGHTS’ Primary Defense Mechanism | Denial
Denial is a defense mechanism by which Eights unconsciously negate something that makes them feel anxious by disavowing its very existence. These can include thoughts, feelings, wishes, sensations, needs, and other external factors that are unacceptable to the Eight for some reason. Denial comes in a variety of forms. A person may deny the reality of the unpleasant information altogether, admit that something is true but deny or minimize its seriousness, or admit that both the information and its severity are true but deny any personal responsibility for it. Eights exhibit denial on a regular basis, but they do so most blatantly when they feel anxious, vulnerable, sad, or intensely angry for long periods of time.
Eights may work 70 hours a week for four months in a row, eating highly unhealthy food and getting no physical exercise while driving themselves to complete exhaustion, yet being unaware of their physical state until they are ready to collapse. Needing to believe in their own invincibility, Eights do not acknowledge – even to themselves – their personal, physical, and emotional limitations. Other examples of denial include agreeing to do projects that they have no intention of doing well, violating or ignoring rules or directives regardless of the consequences, and engaging in such behavior as overindulging in food or drink while acting as though no harm will come to them. More blatant examples include an Eight’s being quite sick but not telling anyone and going to work anyway, at great detriment to his or her own well-being; Eights’ spending far more money than they have on the assumption that more money will be available; and their feeling highly vulnerable but not admitting this to themselves or anyone else and becoming furious about something else instead.
How Denial Serves as a Guardian of the Type Eight Ego Structure
The type Eight ego structure needs to maintain its idealized self of being the powerful person, daunted by nothing and ready to take on the world at a moment’s notice. Nothing is too big for them to tackle, although some things are too small to be bothered about. This courageous and potent person, according to their idealized view needs to never feel weak or vulnerable in any way, much less show it.
Of course, Eights can’t always handle everything, especially all by themselves, as they are often prone to do. In addition, Eights can be quite self-reflective and emotionally sensitive, even if they don’t show it to others. Self-reflection can lead to feelings of vulnerability, as well as emotions such as sadness and anxiety. Anger does not usually create vulnerability in Eights; instead, they charge forward into full powerful person mode. However, when Eights do feel vulnerable and their passion of lust and mental fixation of vengeance are not enough to dispel their anxieties and vulnerabilities, Eights need something more to help them feel strong and not weak. Denial is the perfect solution. Essentially, whatever “it” is, ”it” didn’t happen! And when denial is combined with increased vengeance and more lust ¬– be a it lust for work, exercise, food, spending money in general or purchasing certain kinds of items, as examples – Eights can usually maintain their ego ideal, powerful person self.
Please note that fixations, passions, ego ideals and defense mechanisms are some, but not all, of the elements that comprise the 9 different ego structures. You can read and view more information about the components of ego structures for each type in my book, The Art of Typing, which you can purchase on Amazon HERE.
Special note: the ego-ideal names and basic descriptions are from the work of Jerry Wagner PhD.
Ginger Lapid-Bogda PhD, the author of seven Enneagram-business books, is a speaker, consultant, trainer, and coach. She provides certification programs and training tools for business 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: TheEnneagramInBusiness.com | firstname.lastname@example.org