Hello. Perhaps you’ve landed on this page because you’ve done an Online Enneagram Personality Test which has given you a Six as your main personality type, and now you’re scratching your head wondering what this means in terms of your self-development or therapy journey.
Are personality types no more than just a description of different traits – like a star sign? Or can a deeper understanding of our personality structure, or “self”, and the way it works at a psychological level, help us to play the game of life with a little bit more grace, and less suffering?
[Read more about Personality-Focused Psychotherapy]
One way to think about the Self is that it might work as a kind of Lens or “Operating System” through which our psyche (?) mind (?) “life force” (?) or “soul” (?) flows. Whenever we express a thought, or belief, or opinion about our lives and our struggles, it is usually the Self (an “I”) that is doing the talking for us:
I feel sad about…
I feel satisfied with life when…
I don’t understand why s/he said that…
I find this [thought/feeling/situation] painful to think about or deal with.
Of course we don’t normally think about these utterances as a “Self” talking through us, because it (we) are always just sort of here in the conscious experience of “I”, of Self, with its particular filter on the world always present. Like fish, we swim in the “waters” of Self, but are usually completely oblivious to what “water” actually is.
Therapy is perhaps an opportunity for us to look at, and work through the content of our experience, the different ways we might have filled the gaps above to describe what is going on in our lives, but also to pay a slightly different kind of attention to how our struggles are often being shaped or contained in a certain ways for us through this “Self”, or Ego, or “I”. Not in the negative sense of having a “big ego”, but simply in terms of this psychological “I”. Which is to say: our personality style, character, Ego, Self.
This is not our whole Being or Consciousness. We can also step back (as we often do, especially in therapy) and look at the Self from a more detached, less conflicted perspective. Maybe from the perspective of someone who cares for us, but also knows us really well. This perspective might also become one we develop in our relationship with that person (“me” or another therapist) who would like to accompany you and assist you with your journey into understanding, healing, and developing your Self.
Most of the time though, we experience our Selves either from either the perspective of an Inner Critic who tells us how we’re failing at Life (or how Life is failing us), or from the Driver’s Seat of our Core Self.
Whoever that Core Driving Self is (pick a number!) whoever is driving the bus –driving us to do the things we do, or make the choices we make– it clearly has a special way of operating. Others can often see, for better or worse, how we tend to operate, as we can also see their Selves at work in how they talk, think, and behave. In therapy, we can try to get to know this Core Self a bit better (as well as those of the people we’re in relationship with), and hopefully find out what we’re all about.
As you read about your Six “Self” below, a portrait that reveals both the light and shade of “you”, try not to judge your Self, or feel bad about how this Self comes across when laid out in this somewhat reductive, psychological way.
If reading through this portrait makes you feel a bit uncomfortable, ashamed, or exposed, that is a good sign, it really is.
This is certainly how I felt when I first read about my own personality style. “Am I really like that!?! Oh dear. Well, OK, for good or bad, that does seem to be how “I” roll… [sigh]”
This kind of response might perhaps indicate that we are gaining new insights, or at least a bit more humility about our Selves, especially when embarking on the kind of therapeutic search that you’re engaging with for your Self right now by reading and reflecting on this.
With insight, we can hopefully learn how to handle our Self/Selves a bit better in terms of how we deals with those generic but often unpleasant realities of life: physical and emotional pain, uncertainty, as well as the various forms of constant work, both inner and outer that we seek to fulfil. The Self is always the interface through which we learn how to do this, trying as best we can to put into practice the lessons we’ve learned.
If you find when reading about the Six “Self” described below, that it doesn’t feel like the kind of “I” you identify with, please have a quick look again at my Overview of The Nine Personality Types.
Your Core Self will make itself known to you there, as when you catch sight of yourself in the reflection of a shop-window or a mirror. Each of us holds aspects of every personality type within us (we all come from the same species,) but at a psychological level, our Core Self is usually present through our entire life journey, and shapes how we see the world, inwardly and out.
Human happiness and satisfaction seems to be strongly connected to getting the best out of our core Selves (i.e. our particular personality style, as well as following our unique threads), alongside learning how to manage with the not-so-great, and at times even “crappy” stuff that comes with each “I” or person-ality.
- SNAPSHOT OF A SIX: HOW MANY OF THESE TRAITS DO YOU IDENTIFY WITH?
- I am good at rationally analysing situations and am very insightful. I enjoy examining things with my mind and solving problems—I tend to think outside the box and usually read people well.
- My desire for certainty motivates me to look for good data to help me make rational decisions. I naturally apply logic and reason when thinking through a problem to find the best solution. Being one of the most intellectual and logical of all the personality types, I attempt to find safety through the thought process itself.
- While I often act from fear, I may not always be aware of my fear. I am motivated by a need for security and safety that can just seem like a good strategy for being prepared or being ready to solve problems as they occur. And so I may not relate to being “fearful”—even though I often am.
- I automatically try to poke holes in people’s plans to test how solid they are. I have a hard time just accepting things at face value—I feel motivated to think about “worst case scenarios” as a way of preventing them from actually happening.
- I have a hard time trusting people in the initial stages of a relationship. I need time to get to know someone before I decide they can be trusted. I need to observe others to determine if they are trustworthy. I have a good inner “bullshit detector.” Once I trust them, I really trust them—but if someone I trust betrays me, that’s really bad.
- While I hope to find good authorities and leaders to work with, I have a natural anti authority streak. I usually need to test them to see if they are trustworthy, and if they aren’t, I may withdraw or rebel against them.
- I see the work I do through the lens of what might go wrong. I am a consummate troubleshooter and contingency planner. I excel at noticing the problems that might occur at each stage of a work process.
- I ask a lot of questions as a way of making sure products and procedures are thoroughly checked out and all goes according to plan. I can’t help doubting what people say, but my real intention is to solve problems ahead of time so fixes can be planned and disasters can be avoided.
- Some people might view me as pessimistic, because I easily speak to what could go wrong or turn out badly, but I view myself as a realist. I can’t help noticing and voicing potential problems but I see this as essential: I realistically evaluate the pitfalls in any plan so they can be prevented.
- I often support whichever team is the underdog. I naturally sympathize with the oppressed and the powerless, and I can mobilize a lot of energy and passion in working on behalf of underdog causes.
- Although I may work hard, I may not feel comfortable with success. I don’t like standing out from the crowd, so success can feel dangerous or awkward. If things go well, I can’t help waiting for the other shoe to drop.
- I often have a hard time making decisions because I can always think of another question to ask. I may find it hard to take a stand at times, or decide on a course of action, since I can so easily find ways to doubt or question my own thinking.
- I often can’t help taking the contrarian view or playing the “devil’s advocate.” If someone offers an opinion, I automatically want to argue the opposite position (even if I don’t fully believe it). This helps me to test whether people really say what they mean and find certainty through challenging what’s really true.
2. WHY AM I LIKE THIS? THE PSYCHOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT OF A SIX
Here is a kind of “Origin Story” (or Trauma Story) that some Sixes relate to:
“Once upon a time, there was a person named Six. She came into this life with a singular capacity to be courageous, but also with a tendency to experience herself as smaller and more fearful than she actually was.
When she was a very young child, Six was happy and free. She did what she wanted without thinking about it too much. She didn’t plan ahead and she didn’t allow any fear of the dangers of the world to distract her from enjoying life and having fun. She had many friends and enjoyed learning and exploring. She even took tests calmly and with confidence.
As Six grew up, however, she had a few experiences that made her feel afraid. Her mother once forgot to pick her up at school. She was frightened by a movie that showed people being killed. She started noticing all the things that could go wrong and learned that sometimes bad things happened. The world started seeming more dangerous and more threatening to her.
One day, Six got very anxious about her performance on a test. She got so worried that she imagined she was getting every answer wrong. Because this picture of certain failure was so vivid in her head, she froze. And indeed, she did very badly on the test. Around the same time, she started being suspicious of people and wondering if they could be trusted. Then she had a few more bad experiences that made her feel very angry, but also very scared.
As Six grew older, she started doubting the intentions of some of her old friends. Did they really like her? Then she began to have paranoid thoughts about some of her new friends. Were they out to get her? Were they just waiting for her to trust them so they could do something bad to her? As her fears and doubts grew, she imagined all the bad things that could possibly happen to her. What if someone stole her money? What if her parents died in a car accident and she was left all alone? What if her cat got lost or her dog got hurt? What if she caught a strange disease? Six became paralyzed with fear and doubt. She wanted to feel safe and carefree as she had before, but that didn’t seem possible. The world seemed like a fundamentally dangerous place. The only thing that seemed to help was to imagine all the bad things that could happen, so that she could make sure they didn’t. But any feeling of safety that brought her was only temporary.
Six tried to address the threats she perceived by preparing for the worst, and this became a big part of her survival strategy. But even though she was very inventive and resourceful when imagining all the things that could go wrong and what she would do if they did, she was still consumed by her fearful thoughts. Soon, she was nearly always preoccupied with planning what she would do if her fears came true. And this only made things worse.
The need to feel safe in what seemed to her like an obviously dangerous world drove Six to try to manage all the many threats in her environment. It was exhausting, but she couldn’t stop going around in circles in her head. She had to be on top of security. Safety first! And always. She got a first aid kit. She studied harder so she would never do badly on a test again. Her survival strategy was out of control. She could imagine fearful things that were about to happen everywhere. And she couldn’t stop imagining different kinds of threats or suspecting the shifty-looking people all around her. She watched them to find clues about their ulterior motives, their hidden agendas, and their bad intentions. She knew they were up to something. But all of this made her suffer terribly. How to get on top of her Sixness, how to live with or beside Fear with a bit more equanimity? This became her Life path, her growth path.”
Sixes often report experiencing some sort of fear-inducing situation early on in life, often involving untrustworthy authorities. They may have had a parent who was unpredictable—perhaps because of alcoholism or mental illness, or just inconsistent, absent, or unreliable—and so to cope, they learned to try to anticipate what was going to happen next. Many Sixes report a problem with the father figure, the archetypal protector, giving them a sense that they did not have enough protection. Whether the father was ineffectual, overly strict or tyrannical, or undependable, the Type Six child had an early sense of having to find ways to feel safe without a strong protective figure to internalize to give them a sense of inner security.
Motivated to try to establish a sense of safety on their own, Sixes adapt to what often feels like a dangerous world by developing the ability to forecast the future—to pick up on subtle clues about what people will do and where problems might arise. This makes them good at detecting inconsistencies in people’s behavior and sniffing out trouble before it occurs. While all personality types are essentially defensive stances, Sixes become good defensive strategists in the classic sense—they get good at scanning the environment for potential problems so they can have some lead time in figuring out how to meet those problems and mount a defense.
At work, this makes Sixes good at getting ahead of the curve mentally and thinking through all the problematic issues that could arise so that they—or their team—can strategize about how to handle potential obstacles before they derail a project or a plan. They can be reliable employees and hard workers (though sometimes motivated by anxiety), but they can also get caught up in their tendency to overanalyze and have trouble taking action. People who lead with the Type Six style bring analytical and strategic skills to the job of managing people based on their talent for risk assessment, their loyalty, and their logical minds.
3. CORE MOTIVATIONS OF A TYPE SIX PARTICIPANT: WHAT “DRIVES” A SIX?
The strategy of watching for signs of danger and seeking certainty causes the Six to scan the environment and the people in it for signs of threats. They constantly ask questions like, “Who’s doing what?” “Who can be trusted?” “What does the data say about what’s true?” “Who will hurt me?” and “What might go wrong?”
People with a Type Six leadership style pay a great deal of attention to how people behave and whether their actions are aligned with their stated intentions. When surrounded by people they trust, they can relax and focus on the work, but they will likely have their guard up and maintain a certain reserve in new situations. They also watch what happens in their environment closely to determine what threats exist that they should anticipate. At work, Sixes automatically see potential problems in a project or process, solve what problems they find, remember what problems have occurred in the past and learn from those mistakes, and continually keep an eye out for new and recurring threats.
Sixes apply the same kind of attention to people—it can be hard to earn their trust, and they will need time to watch your behaviour to get to know who you are and how you operate, try to detect inconsistencies, look out for unstated intentions, and test you to see if you do what you say. Eventually, if they see that you are honest and forthcoming, they may become comfortable putting trust in you. But if not, they will keep their distance and struggle to communicate their needs or show their vulnerabilities.
4. SIXES AT WORK & IN RELATIONSHIPS
Generally, individuals with a Type Six style view the world as a dangerous place. They are acutely aware that threats to their safety and security exist at all times, and use their powers of perception and sharp analytical skills to constantly evaluate the risks they detect “out there.” However, because the threats they perceive outside stir up anxiety inside, Sixes may also project their fears onto their environment, making the outside world seem more dangerous than it is. The result can be a vicious cycle in which their habit of looking for threats amplifies the Six’s perception of the world as dangerous, whether they are aware of being fearful or not.
Sixes seek out safety, security, and certainty in response to their sense that trouble could occur at any moment. They want to find a good authority to trust in and solid sources of outside support, but past experience has taught them that it’s safer to have their guard up, remain hypervigilant, and test people to determine their trustworthiness. Their coping strategy of being wary and watchful can make them good problem-solvers, but also problem-seekers (as a way of feeling safe), and because they also tend to enjoy the process of problem solving, they can view the world through the lens of searching out problems to solve, and may sometimes find them where they don’t exist. Sixes are particularly prone to suffer the effects of self-fulfilling prophecy—they may make things true by fearfully imagining they are true (when they really weren’t until the Six focused so much fearful energy on them).
Sixes view reality as being context dependent—if you ask them a question about something, they will often answer, “It depends…” They have a keen awareness of the complexities and contingencies of life and see themselves as realists. Most of all, they value being prepared. They know that life can be unpredictable, and seek to foresee whatever problems may happen, and as a result of all of this forethought, they tend to remain calm in a crisis and handle threats well when they do occur.
5. UNDERSTANDING WHY SIXES THINK, FEEL, AND BEHAVE THE WAY THEY DO?
Sixes are “head-centred” mental types who think in terms of analysing ideas and situations and evaluating risks. They have active imaginations and tend to think in terms of “what ifs?” as a way of finding certainty in an uncertain world. Sixes engage in “contrarian thinking” and mentally “push back,” challenge others’ thinking, test positions to see if they are solid, and try to strengthen group thought processes by pushing on potential weak points to see if they hold up. Highly logical people who value reason and rational thinking and want to base decisions on facts and data, Sixes also tend to have “doubting minds” that may perpetually question things. They may doubt what is going on, they may doubt themselves and they may even doubt their doubt. However, when they can step back and look at the evidence, they are good at evaluating data, thinking things through and finding good solutions.
Type Sixes come more from their heads than from their emotions. However, the one emotion all Sixes seem to experience is fear—although they experience it in different ways. Some Sixes will be very aware of regularly feeling fear and can name many things they are afraid of. Other Sixes subconsciously find ways to manage their fear so it doesn’t register in their conscious experience. Some Sixes ease their fear by looking to a good authority or a set of rules or processes to guide their actions. And other Sixes seek to become strong so they can proactively move toward the sources of their fear and overcome them. But whether they are aware of it or not, most Sixes are motivated to a large degree by fear. Some Sixes also feel guilt and shame, though their guilt is usually all in their heads—part of their defensive strategy of uncovering and fixing badness—and not based in reality.
Sixes behave in very different ways depending on which of the three subtypes they are (described below) and the context and conditions they are in. They often ask a lot of questions, try to poke holes in plans and presentations, and doubt and test what is happening to see what they can trust. They can be hard workers who always do their due diligence, or they may get caught up in analysis-paralysis and have trouble taking action. They may manage their anxiety by taking on difficult situations, or they may avoid challenging situations and want to hide. They may be organised, precise, and efficient, or they may be indecisive, uncertain, and disorganised. They can be caring and friendly or reserved and defensive. As Sixes themselves will tell you: it all depends on what conditions they are facing, what they are thinking and feeling, and whether they tend to respond instinctually to their fear with a “fight” or “flight” or “seek protection” response.
6. WHAT YOU’RE REALLY GOOD AT AS A SIX
- Ability to accurately assess risks and threats. Motivated by the need to stay safe and find certainty, Sixes have a talent for intuiting the risks and threats in any project or plan.
- Good problem solvers. Sixes’ analytical minds easily focus on breaking things down into their component parts and finding the best ways to address problematic issues and situations.
- Insightful and analytical. Sixes are good at asking the right questions, gathering and analyzing the pertinent data, and generating useful and accurate insights about what is going on.
- Precision and attention to process. Germany is a Six country—and the phrase “German engineering” has become widely understood to mean German cars and other products demonstrate a high degree of precision and quality. Sixes find safety in precisely attending to the processes and principles that help achieve predictable, quality products and outcomes.
- Loyalty and reliability . Once Sixes establish trust, they tend to be extremely loyal, reliable, and trustworthy—modelling the same qualities they look for in people they trust.
7. HEALTHY VS. UNHEALTHY SIXS
Like all people of all types, when Sixes overuse their biggest strengths (and don’t consciously develop a wider range of specialties), those strengths can also turn out to be their Achilles’ heel.
- Ability to accurately assess risks and threats. Sixes can be so attuned to watching out for risks and threats, they may overestimate how risky a situation is and see threats where they don’t exist.
- Good problem solvers. The habit of looking for problems can lead Sixes to find them where they don’t exist. They may over-index negative data and underestimate the positive.
- Insightful and analytical. Sixes can get stuck in questioning, doubt, and endless analysis to the point where they don’t take action. In addition, they may overvalue their analytical ability and not develop their emotional intelligence.
- Precision and attention to process. Like some German citizens, many Sixes rigidly insist on precision and process and don’t leave room for flexibility or going with the flow. If you’ve ever tried to cross the street against the light at an intersection when there are no cars around in Germany, and you were then scolded by a helpful German, you know what I mean.
- Loyalty and reliability. Sixes have high standards for determining who is trustworthy and who deserves their loyalty. They may withhold their loyalty for a long time before they trust you, and if they aren’t sure of your trustworthiness, they may not be as reliable as you might like them to be—or as they are capable of.
When stressed to the point of going to the “low side” of their developmental spectrum, Type Sixes can become mistrustful and paranoid. They may get caught up in fear, question people endlessly, and their requirements for evidence of what or who can be trusted may be impossible to satisfy. They sometimes project fear-fueled scenarios they make up in their heads onto the people around them without realizing they are projecting. They may also push back and rebel against others (openly or covertly), refuse to accept the opinion of the majority or those in power, or mistrust anyone in authority.
Less self-aware Sixes under pressure may also withdraw and hide. While suspecting others of hidden agendas, they may avoid conflict. They may express ambivalence, get stuck in doubt, and have difficulty making decisions. Stressed-out Sixes may also get caught up in an inner conflict between pleasing others and rebelling against them. They may get lost in fear-based abstractions or theoretical possibilities (or conspiracy theories) to the point where they have a hard time trusting anything. Depending on their subtype (described below), they may fear expressing anger and doubt themselves, rigidly adhere to rules, or get aggressive and refuse to cooperate.
On the “high side,” when Type Six leaders become more self-aware and conscious of their programming, they can be observant, intelligent, and understanding. They tend to read situations and people well, intuit what the key issues are, and meet challenges with courage and confidence (after evaluating the most relevant data). They combine analytical skill with a deep interest in people, taking care to get to know the individuals they work with so they can develop strong relationships based on mutual trust. Good leaders with a Type Six personality style identify with the underdog, or the “everyman,” and so establish democratic, egalitarian policies and are mindful of the needs of people at all levels of an organization.
When living more from the “high side,” Sixes feel whatever fear and anxiety they have, but move forward anyway. They are able to act courageously, even under adverse circumstances, by assessing risks wisely and balancing an understanding of their fear and reactivity with a clear-headed analysis of the factual evidence and the input of trusted advisers and colleagues. Able to counter their naturally occurring fear through a careful consideration of reality, they are able to have faith in themselves and others to find the best ways to move things forward, despite the risks, threats, and problems inherent in the situations they face.
Fortunately, Sixes’ sincere interest in finding security means they will often do the work it takes to learn to trust people and engage with their team in productive ways, even if this means maintaining a certain level of vigilance for a while. When they can focus on proactively dealing with risks and solving interesting problems, they can usually develop good working relationships where they can put their analytical skills to good use and learn to have faith that things will turn out all right.
8. THE THREE KINDS OF SIXES: HOW THE THREE INSTINCTUAL BIASES SHAPE THE THREE TYPE SIX SUB-TYPE PERSONALITIES
According to the Enneagram model, we all have three main instinctual drives that help us survive, but in each of us, one tends to dominate our behavior. The Type Six style is expressed differently depending on whether a person has a bias toward self-preservation, establishing social relationships and positioning themselves in relation to groups, or one-to-one bonding.
The Self-Preservation (or Self-Focused) Six
Self-Preservation Sixes cope with fear through finding allies and friends to protect them. The most actively fearful or “phobic” Sixes, they try to be warm and friendly in order to attract people, and since they fear others’ anger, they become programmed to hide or suppress their own aggression. These Sixes feel a kind of insecurity or separation anxiety—they fear that they are not ready or able and have a hard time feeling powerful or accessing an inner sense of their own authority. Because of this, they tend to be the least certain of the three kinds of Sixes. They ask a lot of questions, but don’t answer any, and are “proof junkies” who can never find enough proof to feel confident enough to take a strong stand. Self-Preservation Sixes see the world in terms of grey instead of black and white, and can inject doubt and uncertainty into any topic. They doubt others and they doubt themselves.
The Self-Preservation Six must cope with a double dose of fear—the usual fear associated with the Type Six style combined with the fear and insecurity characteristic of someone who is concerned with survival. They present as very openhearted, warm, sincere and giving, but are very heady and intellectual on the inside. They can establish close bonds with others as part of their survival strategy, and may not look fearful to the people around them, but they have many fears, including a strong fear for their physical safety.
Leadership (both at work and in the home) can be challenging for Self-Preservation Sixes. They may periodically succumb to fear and anxiety, have a hard time making decisions or appearing decisive, and struggle to appear strong or act from a clear sense of power and authority. They may look to others to shore them up and provide them with support or cover, which can make them feel or look weak. However, if Self-Preservation Sixes can learn to deal with their fears, they can leverage their ability to connect with others and be leaders who are thoughtful and wise and sensitive to the needs and concerns of their people. Even the most fearful Sixes can be calm and steady in a crisis. Self-Preservation Sixes have the power to rise to the occasion and deal with difficult circumstances without appearing afraid. Especially when they can learn to understand their responses and develop more courage and self-confidence in the face of anxiety, these Sixes can be approachable, considerate leaders who help others move forward through obstacles.
The Social (or Group-Focused) Six
The Social Six is more certain and less ambiguous, seeing things more in terms of black and white than grey. Social Sixes feel anxious when things are uncertain, and cope with their anxiety by finding an outside authority to guide their life choices and ease their fears. This authority can be a person, but it can also be an ideology or a system of thought, anything that provides a set of rules and guidelines about how to live. However, this can lead Social Sixes to become too sure of things. In seeking to calm their anxieties by adhering to an impersonal authority (often a replacement for the father), Social Sixes can become “true believers” in a cause or system of thought.
Social Sixes are highly intellectual types who feel more comfortable (and less fearful) when they have rules and reference points that tell them what to do to be safe, who the good guys and bad guys are, where north, south, east, and west are, and so on. They can look like Type Ones in that they obey the rules and want to know what their duty is—they are precise, rational, cool characters who think in flowcharts and like efficient, orderly processes. They appear stronger than the Self-Preservation Six because they find security and certainty in whatever authoritative system they adhere to. We see the Social Six character in the German culture—Germans are known for their reserved temperament and willingness to follow the rules.
As leaders, but also with their loved ones, Social Sixes will want to create clear structures based on systematic, rational rules and guideposts. They tend to express their leadership through establishing and clarifying processes, norms, roles, and duties. They may have a system of thinking they adhere to, draw strength from and use to provide coworkers and direct reports with a set of instructions to guide their work and set expectations. They will take a highly rational approach to the work they do and may not be able to be spontaneous. Most Social Sixes will want to know and act from a clear sense of their duty as a leader and will work hard to fulfill their responsibilities in the most efficient and sensible way. Although at times they may be overly intellectual and abstract and have a hard time accessing their emotions, at their best, they will have an attitude of humble service and want to model a thoughtful, reasonable, and rules-based approach to doing work and managing others.
The Sexual/One-to-One (or Relationship-Focused) Six
One-to-One Sixes are the most assertive, strong, and rebellious Sixes. To cope with fear and anxiety, they adopt a stance designed to intimidate others to keep danger at bay. They believe “the best defense is a good offense” and take on a “fight” mentality in reaction to fear, moving toward risky or dangerous situations as a way of dealing with underlying anxiety. Sometimes called the “counterphobic” Six, they’re the most likely Six to (unconsciously) avoid registering fear, and usually do not relate to feeling “fearful.” However, at a deeper level, they are, like all Sixes, motivated by fear.
One-to-One Sixes have a very difficult time trusting others; they usually rely only on themselves, and actively take contrarian positions, pushing back on whatever the dominant opinion of the moment might be. They seek to be and appear strong (physically and otherwise), but they may only look courageous. Unconsciously overriding any awareness of their vulnerability and fear as a defensive strategy, they may act their fear out in an unconscious way to the extent that they deny it—the more aggressive and challenging they seem, the more fearful they may be. These Sixes can look like Type Eights in that they can be outspoken rebels who go against people in positions of power. They tend to be risk-takers and daredevils and “shit-disturbers” who react to their fear of being controlled by stirring things up or creating trouble within a team.
As leaders, but also in relationships, One-to-One Sixes can seem strong and authoritative, though they may be more vulnerable and insecure than they appear. They may feel uneasy in leadership positions, since they have such a strong antiauthority attitude, and tend to be action-oriented, though the actions they take will be more effective if they become aware of their fear and learn to manage it in conscious ways. When they can own their vulnerability and act from true courage, One-to-One Sixes can put their revolutionary spirit to work in the service of good leadership. At their best, they take the interests of everyone into account and can take bold action to move projects forward in thoughtful ways, making sure their strength comes from true courage instead of just a rebellious or counterphobic impulse. The more they become aware of and own their fear, the more they can ground themselves in a deeper sense of their own authority. And the more they see the good things good authorities can do (whether they are the authority or someone else is), they more they will be able to model faith and boldness in the service of a larger vision.
9. HOW SIXES MIGHT STRUGGLE IN WORK AND IN RELATIONSHIPS: STRESS-POINTS AND TRIGGERS
Type Sixes sometime feel like working or being in relationships with others is hard because:
- It’s hard for me to work well with someone if I don’t trust them, and it’s hard for me to trust people.
- It can be hard to collaborate with people if I suspect them of having hidden agendas.
- My coworkers don’t always place the same value on taking enough time to question and test every detail of a plan or project before it’s rolled out.
- I feel dismissed when others won’t take the time to understand all my questions and doubts, especially because I am just trying to make sure mistakes aren’t made and problems don’t surface that we aren’t ready to handle.
- People at work sometimes expect me to make decisions, but I don’t want to take the heat if it’s not the right decision—and it’s always the wrong decision for someone.
- I can be a bit like a computer—more data-oriented than people-oriented.
- I sometimes think the wisdom of my careful approach to work tasks is not respected.
- I don’t always trust that leaders, or people I’m in relationship with at work and at home will use their power fairly and wisely.
- Sometimes I’m viewed as a troublemaker or as slowing down work processes, when I am just trying to have all my questions answered and make sure we do our due diligence.
- It’s difficult always being the person who asks the hard questions.
Type Sixes can get quite triggered…
- When people don’t take my questions and doubts seriously.
- When people don’t value my ability to poke holes in plans as a way to strengthen them.
- When people perceive me as negative or pessimistic when I am trying to help them by bringing attention to potential problems and threats.
- When people dismiss me or try to talk me out of my fears.
- When others prioritize speed over careful analysis of plans.
- When my coworkers, friends, or family don’t respect processes designed to make sure we do our due diligence and take proper safety precautions.
- When people in positions of authority misuse their power.
- When people don’t allow me to fully express my thoughts and opinions and play the devil’s advocate as a way of testing their opinions and proposals.
- When people don’t respect my skills in assessing risk and making sure we are prepared for every contingency and scenario.
- When people pressure me to make a decision when I have not fully examined all the data.
- When people ask me to do things, because doing things involves decisions and I don’t like being the one who has to decide.
Type 6s are often loved and admired by those around them because:
- They understand and can clearly explain complex issues and problems.
- They tend to be very honest, straightforward, humble, and trustworthy.
- They give credit to others and feel uncomfortable in the spotlight.
- They aren’t afraid to push back and inject a note of caution when they think their colleagues are heading down the wrong track.
- They do all the worrying, so you don’t have to!
- They are calm in a crisis—when something actually does go wrong, they know how to deal with it.
- They will call out the higher-ups if they don’t agree with what they are doing—they question authorities and speak truth to power.
- They err on the side of safety and help the team avoid potential dangers.
- They are often funny and have a quick wit.
- They think of all the questions that need to be asked when vetting a proposal.
- They like to think out of the box. They are creative and enthusiastic problem-solvers.
- They are very good at imagining multiple scenarios and making contingency plans.
- They (usually) work really hard.
Type 6s can be challenging to others at times because:
- They slow down the work process when they ask so many questions.
- They often have a hard time making decisions.
- They tend to make things more complicated than they need to be—because they can look at a problem so many different ways and have so many questions about everything.
- They may flood people with too much information.
- They can get stuck in ambivalence and hesitation and have a difficult time pulling the trigger and moving into action.
- It takes them a long time to develop trust—and it can be irritating to continually feel like they are testing and doubting you.
- Their cynical attitude can feel like criticism and resistance.
- They can spend a lot of time working on problems that no one else sees as a problem.
- They may express so much skepticism and doubt that they undermine people’s or the team’s confidence.
- They tend to talk in mixed messages—they are often highly ambivalent and so it may be hard for them to be clear and direct.
- They can think of 1,000 ways to look at a problem—and they will tell you about all of them.
- They sometimes work harder than they need to because they make things harder than they need to be.
10. SELF-MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES THAT SIXES MIGHT WANT TO WORK ON IN THERAPY
All the types can learn to be less reactive and better at collaborating with others through first observing their habitual tendencies, thinking about the things they think, feel, and do to gain more self-insight, and making efforts to manage or moderate their automatic reactions to key triggers.
Sixes grow through first observing and then learning to moderate their habitual reactions to key triggers like getting alarmed at signs of danger, worrying that coworkers (or even family members) are untrustworthy, or perceiving danger and over-preparing for it.
When Sixes can watch what they do enough to “catch themselves in the act” of doing the things that get them in trouble, and then pause and reflect on what they are doing and why, they can gradually learn to moderate their programming and knee-jerk responses. Here are some ideas to help Sixes be more self-aware, emotionally intelligent, and satisfied at work (and at home).
- Welcome and respect, but manage fear. Work to be aware of how your fear arises and what it’s about. Respect and have compassion for yourself when you feel fear, but learn to manage it and counter it with courage so it doesn’t run you.
- Temper antiauthority and contrarian reactivity. Notice when you communicate in contrarian ways to prove your cleverness or resist others’ views out of fear you may not be fully aware of. Learn to observe your antiauthority reactions and temper them, knowing they can derail you if you allow your unacknowledged fear to surface as false strength or ego-based efforts at intimidation.
- Moderate the worry. You may not be able to stop worrying, but you can tone it down through conscious efforts to be courageous and focus on the positive.
- Learn to tell the difference between intuition/insight and projection. It’s important to recognize how intuitive and insightful you are, but it’s even more crucial to make sure you learn to distinguish between intuition and projection.
- Develop trust more consciously. While you may have difficulty trusting people for a good reason, you can learn to moderate your mistrust through understanding where it comes from, what it’s about, and what you need to feel safe.
- Notice if problem-solving leads to excessive problem-seeking. When you love to solve problems, you can see them everywhere—even when they aren’t there. Sometimes this can make things harder rather than easier. Reining in your tendency to solve all the problems can help you to focus on what’s most important and conserve your energy.
11. LIFE-TRAPS THAT SIXES MIGHT WANT TO WORK ON IN THERAPY
Here are some “blind spots” that Sixes often don’t see in themselves, but may be perceived by others who are in relationship with them:
- Your own power and authority. Type Sixes sometimes don’t see and consciously own their inner sense of power and the authority to protect themselves and direct their own life. You may project power and authority onto others instead of recognizing, developing, and acting from a deep sense of your own confidence—which is the best way to counter fear and anxiety.
- The positive data in a given situation. Sixes tend to focus their attention on what might go wrong, so they may not pay attention to all the things that are going right. It helps to balance the tendency to find problems with an active effort to search out signs of what’s working.
- Your tendency to project your inner fears onto the outside world. Sixes unconsciously use an important psychological defence mechanism to try to feel safe: projection. It tends to operate unconsciously, so it helps Sixes to work to be more aware of it. Ask yourself periodically if you are responding to a real external threat or making it up in your head and imagining it as coming from the outside. Examine the evidence. Do a “reality check.” This helps you recognise and own your fear so you can manage it in conscious ways.
- The effects of “splitting” the world into good and bad, scary and safe. “Splitting” is the other primary psychological defence mechanism Sixes (unconsciously) use to feel safe. It begins in early childhood, when the Six is too young to understand that good and bad can exist in the same person, so they separate what’s good and what’s bad—seeing one as originating inside and one on the outside (or vice versa). This is what we do when we demonise our enemies. However, the big issue here is that splitting often has the effect of making you “bad” and others “good,” or the other way around. You may feel guilty and bad and look to others to protect you, or you may feel like the good guy and suspect others. Either way, it’s important to learn to be aware of this defence mechanism, so you don’t label yourself or others as bad when you/they aren’t.
- Your feelings and “gut knowing” as sources of good information. As head types, Sixes rely on the data they generate through thinking and analysing. And while this is a key strength, people who lead with a Type Six style may undervalue their emotions and their gut as co-equal sources of data about the world inside and outside. Accessing your emotions and your body (something Sixes can pay scant attention to) can help you to exit from the mental loop all that thinking can sometimes lead to.
12. WHERE TO START WHEN FOCUSING ON YOUR OWN PERSONAL “SIX-STUFF”: STRENGTHS TO LEVERAGE & ENQUIRY QUESTIONS THAT I OFTEN ASK TYPE SIX CLIENTS
It helps Sixes to be aware of, actively pay attention to, fully own, and leverage:
- Ability to observe, analyse, and think through problems and find solutions. People with a Type Six style excel at noticing the flaws in a plan and generating solutions to problems. They like the process of solving problems and bring a lot of skill, competence, and energy to surfacing vital information and understanding how to act on it.
- Ability to forecast problems before they happen and preparing to meet them. A key part of business (but perhaps also relational) success is being able to understand the obstacles that may occur in the course of a project or a relationship and prevent them from derailing things. Sixes’ minds work in exactly this way—they are extremely good at mentally generating scenarios and making contingency plans. This makes them excellent project managers and problem-solvers.
- Sensitivity to power dynamics and egalitarian mind-set. Naturally wary of authorities and their power to exploit people, Sixes have a democratic, egalitarian outlook. As leaders, parents, friends, they don’t have a need to be significant or receive accolades. They want to be competent, but they can inspire loyalty in their people because they want to make decisions and enact policies that benefit everyone. And they want to work with others in an equal way to solve problems as a team.
- Ability to be calm and competent in a crisis. Sixes spend so much brain power preparing for danger to hit that when it does, they handle it well—with strength and confidence. It helps them to remember this when they second-guess themselves.
- Loyalty, support, dedication to people and causes. Sixes take time to develop trust, but once they are sure of something or someone, they commit fully. They want the things they do to benefit their people, and they work hard to create security for themselves and others.
Some questions I might ask a Six in our therapy sessions:
- Why is it sometimes difficult to stop looking for problems and focus on addressing specific threats or fixing problems?
- What is difficult about trusting others? What kinds of things do you imagine will happen if you open up more to having more faith in people?
- What is your relationship like with your fear? What are the main sources of your main fears? Under what conditions do you create fears in your head (as opposed to responding to an objective threat in the outside world)?
- What is your relationship like with your own anger? How conscious are you of avoiding expressing it (if you are a Self-Preservation Six) or expressing it too quickly (if you are a One-to-One Six)?
- What is your experience of your own confidence and power? What kinds of things make you feel insecure? How can you develop more faith in yourself and your own abilities?
- What is happening when you take the contrarian stance and argue the devil’s advocate position? Can you tell when your contrarian positions are a way of expressing fear you don’t want to feel?
- Notice when you are hard on yourself and condemn yourself and look into why this happens. What is difficult about accepting yourself as who you are?
- Are you afraid of both success and failure? What is behind these fears?
Sixes can also grow through consciously becoming aware of the self-limiting habits and patterns associated with their personality style and learning to embody the higher aspects or more expansive capacities of the Type Six personality:
- Learn how fear drives you and meet your fear with confidence, faith, and courage. Allow yourself to learn to own your power, your positive qualities, and to develop courage and faith in the face of fearful fantasy.
- Become conscious of how you decide whether to trust someone and notice if your standards are so high that you have a hard time connecting with and collaborating with others. Allow yourself to experiment with having the courage to open up a little more earlier on, even if you aren’t sure it’s completely safe.
- Learn to recognize when you are getting overfocused on what seems threatening and get stuck in avoidance or suspicion or ambivalence or doubt. Allow yourself to open up to a wider perspective and actively index the positive data in the situation in a way that allows you to feel good and draw strength from what is working.
- Become aware of what you get out of overusing your intellect and realize you can find even more meaning in the things you do by accessing your emotional intelligence and “gut knowing” more often. Balance out your head-centeredness with a more active connection with your heart and your body.
- Learn to notice when you seek to prove your competence through being an intellectual problem-solver and broaden your vision of how you can be powerful in the work you do. Realize that you have the ability to get out of your head and into the flow of life more than you think you do.
- Learn to see when you are projecting out your fears and learn to tell the difference between projection and intuition. Learn to discern and call upon your intuition more. Refine your ability to open up to having more faith in others and in a broader range of your own capabilities.
Overall, Type Sixes can fulfill their higher potential by observing and working against their habit of overfocusing on threats and other problems, but appreciating their broad capability to notice subtle nuances that might have meaning. When they can consciously draw on their powerful ability to analyze what is happening and find safety through creative insights and engineering, but also develop more connection to other people as well as their emotions and their courage, they can develop the faith and trust they need to face their fears and be able to use their higher talents to greater benefit.
If you’re not a Six, but would like to get on better with the Sixes in your life, here are a few tips:
• Be trustworthy. Your Six coworkers, friends, and lovers will be watching and listening to you closely to read whether you support them or not. It will help if you are honest, open, and clear about what you think and what you are going to do and why. And remember that it can take time to earn someone’s trust.
• Be patient with their questions. It’s important to let Sixes ask the questions they need to ask. Although they can go overboard, they often ask the tough questions that no one else will—and they can relax more when they have the information they need.
• Understand and respect their fears and worries (and don’t judge them for being fearful or anxious). You will get farther faster with the Sixes in your life if you don’t try to talk them out of whatever they are worried about. If you take their fearful stance as a given, and support them in doing what they need to do, they will have an easier time feeling less fear or forging ahead despite their fear.
• Value their ability to assess risk and trouble-shoot. Sixes play an important role on teams, and in relationships, that most other types would rather not play. So, it’s wise to actively appreciate them for the way they examine all scenarios, make contingency plans, and do all the checks and balances involved in a project. If they feel valued and safe, they will be easier to work with (than if they feel like no one is listening to them).
• Give them time to conduct thorough analyses, but help them take action. Everything Sixes see comes under the heading of a problem or a challenge that, if not taken care of, will end badly. You can support them by giving them the time they need to investigate and solve problems, but also help them to take action when warranted.