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Three Ways To Be Eight: The Enneagram Eight Subtypes (Self-Preservation, Sexual, Social)

Eight most exemplifies the wilfulness and vitality of the Body Center. Eights are bold, assertive, and have a strong physical presence. They have an innate resourcefulness and drive that produces a great deal of confidence and impact. Awake Eights are surprisingly sensitive, in contrast to how they are often perceived due to their assertive, confident attitude. They have profuse energy and can use it to enact change or simply ”leave a mark” on others and their environment. When their hearts are open, they combine their strong presence with a loving heart, often working in the interest of others.

Most Eights tend to be very direct, even confrontational, and enjoy challenges. They are often in the center of the action and have a playfully rebellious streak. Eights have an intuition for how to assert themselves in order to “make things happen”, mobilising a great deal of energy in the service of something they care about. Despite their apparent confidence, most Eights rarely feel safe enough to be able to share their vulnerabilities, much less acknowledge them within themselves, so Eights become fiercely protective of those whom they can let their guard down around.

Eights are extremely action-oriented, which can appear to others like decisiveness and certainty, but under stress, Eights feel “taken for a ride” by their own powerful energy. When Eights are insecure, this way of being can amount to acting out and compulsively plowing through life without knowing how to de-escalate.

In wanting to maintain their autonomy, Eights resist anything they perceive as potentially having power over them, and they gradually begin to fear being controlled. In response, they “toughen up” by shutting down contact with their heart and become chronically defiant. As they become more preoccupied with self-protection, they attempt to force the environment and others to meet their demands by becoming more domineering, commanding, and obsessed with self-sufficiency and independence. Their natural energy exaggerates into pushing everything to excess. They become fearful of being taken advantage of, and in doing so can make everything into a confrontation, interpreting their experience as a test of wills. As they become increasingly fixated, they become manipulative, megalomaniacal, and ruthless as they try to sell others on their self-image of being strong and invulnerable.


Self-Preservation Eights are seeking the experience of Essential Power through their lifestyle and resources. Therefore, they tend to be excessive and forceful in the pursuit of what they believe supports physical well-being. This amounts to an excessive preoccupation with autonomy and with a sense of “living large” that appears different depending on wealth, culture, and personal preference.

All Self-Preservation Eights put a great deal of energy into ensuring that they’re the one calling the shots in their life. Whatever their chosen lifestyle, autonomy and self-determination are central values. They do not want to not have to answer to others, and they aim to be self-reliant above all.

Self-Preservation Eights are energised by the effort to maintain their autonomy. They typically don’t seek security and peace.

Instead, they’re likely to regularly provoke power struggles and conflict related to carving out their own way of life. This may mean pushing up against others in business dealings, competition, athletics, or acquisitions, treating life as a battle or game.

Self-Preservation Eights spend a great deal of energy trying to make money or to find a “sure thing” in terms of a desired lifestyle, even if they were already born into privilege. There can be an attitude of “getting mine,” with a propensity to see others’ success and well-being as a threat or affront to their own. They can become controlling about their resources and fight off any perceived attempt to wield any influence over them, even to the point of seeing any form of compromise with others as a personal infringement.

Some Self-Preservation Eights are highly materialistic, and their characteristic excessiveness can show up in the “bigness” of their lifestyle. It can mean scraping and hustling for resources, being concerned with acquiring wealth and possessions, “living large,” abusing substances or sex, or having questionable dealings. They may seek to create a financial “empire,” and in the absence of sensing their well-being, they’ll attempt to realize their mental picture of what it means to have well-being, resources, and security. The “empire” they’ve amassed is like an external proof of well-being to hold up to themselves, a compensation for fear of scarcity with a kind of over-the-top abundance.

Conversely, other Self-Preservation Eights can be minimalists, creative types, or outdoor adventure types who prefer to live ruggedly, yet pursue their simplicity with a characteristic Eight-like intensity, building their own home or using their deep reservoir of energy to accomplish projects. Many Self-Preservation Eights can present as very physically tough, but they’ll often have a closeted persnickety side.

Self-Preservation Eights are the type most prone to shrugging off the validity of anything they can’t physically hold in their hands or literally touch or see, so in the case of an entranced Self-Preservation Eight, trying to talk them out of whatever corner they’ve painted themselves into is probably going to be a losing battle. They can be ruthless in pursuit of their aims and leave others to pick up the pieces of whatever they have destroyed to reach their goals.

For all the intensity typically displayed in Eights, they’re actually pushing up against an inner sense of deadening, a lack of being touched by their experience, so the more entranced a Self-Preservation Eight, the less they’re able to directly register impressions of well-being. This makes them push even harder for a lifestyle that accords with their inner picture of what staves off harm and scarcity, but because the results of their efforts often don’t feel like well-being, they keep feeling the need to push and expand. This cycle happens often at great cost to their physical and emotional health. Self-Preservation Eights begin to grow when they allow themselves to soften enough to take in impressions of moments of authentic well-being.


Sexual Eights are looking for the experience of Essential Power through intense sexual attraction and chemistry, and they are excessively forceful in capturing the interest of the object of their desire. This is expressed most clearly as a need to fully occupy the attention of their romantic interest, not only to be the central presence for the object of desire, but also ongoingly to arouse their potential partner. They put a great deal of effort toward amplifying their impact on the object of desire from the assumption that fully capturing their beloved’s attention is the way to ensure that attraction is on their terms.

Compared to Social and Self-Preservation Eights, Sexual Eights are more likely to have an exotic self-expression, with males and females alike inclined to play with a degree of charged androgyny in their self-presentation. Their self-expression tends to be uninhibited and endearingly revealing. Whatever their interest or talent, they like to be provocative. Sexual Eights are more prone to being artistic and creative than other Eights, and they tend to incorporate physicality into that which constitutes their attraction displays, such as dance, theater, or even martial arts.

While Self-Preservation Eights have very solid boundaries and Social Eights tend to hold a strong social “field,” Sexual Eights have a more permeable boundary because of the Sexual Drive’s responsiveness to chemistry and disposition of relenting to attraction. This can mean that their vulnerability appears closer to the surface, sometimes subverting typical expectations of what Eights “look like.” It gives the usual charisma of Eights a hint of self-consciousness and adds receptivity to the chemistry shared with a select few.

As much as Sexual Eights want to “hook” someone, a fear of rejection or of being controlled by their own desire can motivate this Instinctual Type to provocatively invite rejection or disinterest, or to preemptively end relationships in order to make sure rejection is under their control. When they really like someone, Sexual Eights may exaggerate their energy and try to magnify their provocation, as if to test whether a potential partner could handle their big energy.

For example, they may approach a romantic situation they feel strongly about with a quality of focus, directness, and bluntness to intentionally intimidate the object of desire, to ward them off preemptively instead of having to deal with vulnerable feelings of desire, need, and intimacy. They can be fearful of their own propensity to be devoted to a partner, which threatens their autonomy, thus unconsciously sabotaging attachment.

Sexual Eights avoid feeling rejection or a lack of reciprocated attraction on the basis of traits and qualities close to their hearts, so they often make a big display of being too much to handle, an “excuse” with which they can easily write off their failure to gain the interest they’re looking for. Yet not allowing for space is a sign of not trusting attraction, it often suffocates the object of attention, leading to further insecurity for the Sexual Eight. This can inspire a long series of “serial monogamy” or hookups, often as a counter to their propensity to be single-mindedly devoted to one person.

A Sexual Eight who has self-protectively held out against giving themselves over to a genuine attraction may, out of exasperation, suddenly compromise themselves sexually with someone who doesn’t really value them, a form of acting out that stems from an inability to let themselves be vulnerable. This is once again a defense against possibly exposing themselves to the rejection of someone they’re genuinely interested in. When in a relationship, Sexual Eights have a propensity to ongoingly provoke reactions from a partner in order to feel connected in place of authentic relating.

  Control, domination, possessiveness, entitlement, and testing their romantic interest’s time and emotional and physical “tolerance” are common in entranced Sexual Eights. Allowing for spaciousness helps Sexual Eights relax the need to steer attraction, making room for more of their own vulnerability and authenticity, which invites more interest from partners.


Social Eights are looking for the experience of Essential Power through relationships and having a strong influence on other people.

Social Eights tend to have immense energy for other people and tend to be the most personable, approachable Eights. They are classic protectors and find fulfilment in mentoring, advocating for others, and helping others find their own power. By temperament, they often find themselves in positions of power, influence, or leadership. The Social Eight is able to sustain a wide net of influence over a longer period of time than other types while having only a handful of deeply meaningful friendships and relationships. They tend to gravitate toward lively people, and their social intelligence along with the impactful energy of Type Eight makes them skilful at galvanising groups, families, and societies toward common aims.

Social Eights want to leave an impact on others and are concerned with their legacy. When Social Eights are healthy and relaxed, they tend to be a magnanimously sensitive and compassionate kind of Eight. They tend to be generous, good listeners and confidants, and tend to be deeply reassuring to their loved ones. Social Eights want to make a big splash within their community, to impact friends and family alike. This desire can be harnessed positively or negatively, for being of service to others or for megalomaniacal fantasies, control, manipulation underpinned by a sense of entitlement to others’ respect and attention.

Social Eights stave off fears of abandonment and ostracisation by being the instigating centrepiece or ringleader that provides their group, organisation, family, or friends a sense of meaning or mission.

They often set agendas for groups or people for the purpose of keeping people together, which results in them becoming de facto leaders. However, they will unconsciously assume others are rejecting them with the same ferocity they are rejecting their own vulnerability, and in place of being able to maintain relationships on the basis of personal connection, they will use provocation, stirring up drama, and forcing their way into others lives as a way to remain on others social radar.

Often, insecure Social Eights can try to sell others on the idea that affiliation with them will lead to special benefits or social payoffs.

Without their ongoing influence, the rationale goes, the group or family fragments and people would lose connection to what they’re striving for. Fearing that their dependents may not be up to the task to fend without the Social Eight’s guidance and protection, Social Eights can justify deeply destructive and authoritarian actions for the sake of group cohesion and the benefit of their loved ones.

When deeply entranced in their pattern, Social Eights terrified of rejection seek to control others and require complete submission and loyalty. They can become tyrannical, keeping others on edge. They oscillate between punitive and severe, then rewarding and approving as a tactic of manipulation. Underlying this form of acting out, and unconscious to even Eights themselves, is the fear that they don’t belong, for which they radically overcompensate by using domination and coercion as the central force of their milieu.

The Social Eight who is able to abide in inner stillness, rather than pushing and forcing, is usually able to have the most significant, lasting, unexpected, and positive impact on others.

[Source: Luckovich, 2021)