Some people see the world as dangerous, and some see it as safe. Some see it as just or unjust. Nevertheless, we all live in the same world. Elements of our personality color our views, and human perception is little more than an inkblot test. One purpose of the Enneagram of Personality is to describe the various lenses that distort our perception of the world. If you believe that the world is ultimately dangerous, that you must be aware and prepared, and that the objective of life is to survive, then you might be:
TYPE SIX: THE LOYAL SKEPTIC
(Also known as “The Problem Solver”)
I. Introduction to the Enneagram of Personality
The Enneagram of Personality is a personality classification system comprised of nine types. Each one of these nine types represents a distinct set of motivations, fears, desires and virtues. This article (and the other articles in this series) are designed to present each of the nine types in an understandable and comprehensive way. Many of you are no doubt familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, as it is the most popular personality instrument discussed on PersonalityCafe. The Enneagram is a fantastic compliment to the MBTI test because the Enneagram deals with core motivations, while MBTI deals with information processing. When taken together, MBTI and Enneagram can provide an accurate description of an individual's personality.
These articles are intended to describe each Enneagram type from the ground up, starting with the most fundamental motivations of that type and moving up to how those motivations are expressed in the real world.
II. Quick Facts about Type Six
These facts will be described throughout the article.
Holy Idea: Faith
Enneagram Triad: Head (Fear Fixation)
Hornevian Triad: Compliant
Harmonic Triad: Reactive
Basic Drive: Survival
Basic Fear: To lose security
Basic Desire: To be secure
Freudian Association: Superego
III. Type Six Description
Every type is insecure in its own way. All our insecurities ultimately come from one point: the realization that our time on Earth is short, and one day, we won't be here anymore. Type Six is in touch with that fundamental premise and embodies the survival instinct.
Each type in the Enneagram has a “Holy Idea” attached to it. The Holy Idea is concept to which a type is particularly sensitive. The Six “Holy Idea” is faith. Faith is defined as the complete trust or confidence in something. In a perfect world, having faith would be easy. But in a dangerous world, faith is hard to come by. There is little survival value in trust, and doubt has always been a trustworthy way to avoid harm. Because Sixes are keyed into this notion of faith, they are naturally oriented to perceive the world in terms of trust and distrust. The material world forces the Six into a pattern of distrust, as very little can be truly be trusted. This echoes one theme in the Enneagram, which is that the material world can make someone very jaded when it comes to their core motivations.
Six is a head type, which means the primary “action area” for Type Six is their own thoughts. Their desire for security manifests in the form of security-oriented thinking; that is, identifying problems, thinking about solutions, and seeing the “worst case scenario.” This has great survival value but can cause problems with anxiety. It's not that Type Sixes live in fear every moment of their lives, but that constantly being aware of the worst case scenario can cause psychological stress.
At this point, we've discussed the foundations for the Type Six personality. It's comprised of two major elements: (1) The Holy Idea of faith and how the world corrupts that into doubt, and (2) the “head type” nature of Six that makes them focus primarily on their own thoughts. Now that the foundation is established, we can talk about the outer characteristics that are readily observable by others.
Sixes can vary greatly along a spectrum of behavior, although there is one constant thread: the desire to be secure in something. For some Sixes, that security is in themselves; these Sixes are very self-reliant and are great examples of a survivalist. In other Sixes, the security point can be other people, a belief system, a political structure, or anything else really.
The common theme is that Sixes want to resolve their condition of doubt so that they can return to the Holy Idea of faith. They can do this in one of two ways: by acting phobic or counter-phobic. The other Head types (Seven and Five) can also be phobic and counter-phobic, but these traits manifest most clearly in Six as Six is the center of the Head triad.
You can think of counter-phobic and phobic as the “fight or flight” reaction. This echoes the survival theme of Type Six. In some cases, Type Sixes may withdraw from the situation if they feel like they might be overwhelmed. On the other hand, they may viciously attack, especially if they feel like they've been given an unfair deal. This is to prove that they have dominance over their fear. There is another side to counter-phobia though: indifference. A Six may be recklessly indifferent as a means of countering something that concerns them. The “I don't care” mentality can give a Six great strength over a situation, especially if it's not a tangible problem. The ultimate way of showing dominance over a situation is not letting it effect you, and some counter-phobic sixes can act that way.
A Six is not phobic nor are they counter-phobic all the time; they can vacillate between the two as the situation requires. Interestingly, counter-phobia sometimes makes Sixes think that they are Eights, because aggression is normally associated with Eight. However, any type can be aggressive; the question is, what are the motivations? All Enneagram types are power-seekers in some regard, which explains how Sixes can indeed be quite aggressive. But Sixes have an interesting relationship with power. They understand the ability for raw power to cause harm to people – or to protect people – so they fixate on the appropriate use of that power. Raw power is naturally refined into the authority granted through social and political systems, meaning that Sixes keep a close eye on those systems. They know that, if improperly used, an authority can be as big a threat as it can be a benefit. Thus, some Sixes can become very anti-authoritarian, opposing power because of the risk it can present. On the other hand, some Sixes can be very authoritarian, as they value power and the security it can bring.
It should be noted at this point that Sixes tend to doubt everything, including their own thoughts and the allegiances of others. Sixes sometimes feel a push and pull in their own thoughts, often desiring clarity because their awareness of the worst case scenario tends to muddy the possibilities. This search for clarity is better defined as the search for the “right answer”, the answer that will elevate the Six above risk and beyond any harm. The Six mind sees life as a room full of doors; some have danger behind them, some have safety, but there's no way to tell which door to go through unless you carefully examine the world for a hint as to where the danger is.
As you can see, there is probably no type in the Enneagram as diverse as Type Six. They can go from extreme to extreme, but the motivation remains the same – pure and simple, survival in the face of doubt. Outwardly, this can manifest in a number of characteristics. Sixes can be shy, brave, bold, friendly, unfriendly, hostile or cooperative. Most of all, they're adaptable; depending on the situation, they can be your best friend or your worst enemy. They can be a powerful leader, or they can be an influential rebel. Type Sixes can be hard to predict, and in many ways, their fluidity and adaptability is a great asset.
IV. Developmental Progression of Type Six
Early in life, the Type Six is sensitive to the concept of faith (complete trust or confidence in something.)
The material world (life) corrupts this ideal into the delusion that faith is too risky and instead, should be replaced by doubt.
The Six can succumb to their vice, fear, as a way of maintaining a perpetual state of doubt. This gives the appearance that they are winning the survival war.
The Six's virtue, courage, leads them to their growth point of Nine. This comes when they realize that fear is conquerable.
Enneagram theorists quickly discovered that each Enneagram type can have traits of the types around it. This is called “wing theory”, and while some theorists dispute the finer points of it, it's generally agreed that each type has a connection to the types around it and one of these connections will be dominant. For example, Type Two is surrounded by Types One and Three. Someone could therefore be a Two with a One Wing (Two as their main type with some Type One traits), or a Two with a Three Wing (Two as their main type with some Type Three traits.) The notation for this is 2w1 and 2w3, respectively. It is generally held that one wing is more dominant than the other; while you may have traits of both wings, one is more pronounced. Some believe that you can have balanced (equal) wings, but this Enneagram type description operates under the “dominant wing” theory, which is the most prevalent in the Enneagram community.
Type Six shares wings with Type Five and Type Seven.
Type Six with a Five Wing:
Type Five is associated with detached observation, and Six with a Five Wing possesses those traits as well. 6w5s tend to be reserved and cautious, always making sure to look before they leap. They are also very independent, as they are fully aware that people are two-faced and have developed a keen eye for deceit as a result.
6w5s tend to be natural troubleshooters, identifying the problem in a process and applying remedial measures. They are usually very logical and perceptive of breaks in logic. They may take pride in being able to identify what's “fishy” about a situation.
6w5 is also sometimes called “The Defender” because they are quick to jump to the aid of others, especially when they see real or perceived unfairness. 6w5s can be vacillate between authoritarianism and anti-authoritarianism, depending on who they are empathizing with or what their needs are.
Type Six with a Seven Wing:
Type Seven is associated with a desire to escape one's self through engaging activities. 6w7s share this trait as well, making them a more active and outgoing type than 6w5. 6w7s are sometimes called “The Buddy” because they can be incredibly loyal and warm. They take a genuine interest in the lives of others.
However, the Seven wing makes them more involved with the world, which exposes them to more danger than the 6w5. While the 6w5 can always retreat to a place of solidarity, the 6w7 may find themselves uncomfortably reliant on others. This creates the temptation to sometimes “get along to go along” and go with the flow instead of resisting.
VI. Growth and Stress Arrows
One theme in the study of the Enneagram is interconnectivity. Each type is distinct, but it does not stand alone. We discussed Wings earlier, which shows how a type can have traits of the types next to it. Another example of interconnectivity are stress and growth arrows. When an individual is in a state of stress or growth, they can take on traits of other types. There is some disagreement within the Enneagram community as to what precipitates a stress or growth condition, but I believe that the most logical interpretation of this is that a type becomes stressed when they succumb to their vice, while a type grows when they are following their virtue. Following a vice is a natural response, as it is the easy way out. Virtues are risky because they cause a person to confront their “dark sides” or fears and may result in a radical reassessment of one's thoughts and actions. Nevertheless, the Enneagram is a system of personal growth and the stress/growth arrow dynamic reflects that, as it embodies the concept that transcendence is hard work, and it's always darkest before the dawn.
This is also in line with the overarching theme that the Nine types are basically just different means of perceiving reality, and no type is more correct than any other.
Growth Arrow to Type Nine:
Mark Twain once wrote, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence of fear.” Type Six's virtue is courage, which manifests when a Six recognizes the danger of a situation but acts boldly anyway. Courage is the kind of thing that improves over time, and teaches the Six a valuable lesson – that perhaps the world is not as dangerous as once thought.
As the Six starts to realize this, they begin to absorb some of the laidback qualities of a Type Nine. Oftentimes, the world is not as risky as a Six believes it to be. Once they start to realize this, they can finally relax and observe the world with awe and tranquility like a Nine would.
Stress Arrow to Type Three:
The vice of Type Six is fear, and when a Type Six succumbs to fear, everything and everyone can look like a competitor in the game of survival. This stress arrow causes the Six to adopt the negative traits of a Three; that is, they become competitive, arrogant and cut-throat.
VII. Type Six Variants
Self-Preservation Sixes feel insecure primarily about their physical well-being, focusing on basic survival issues such as health, income, housing, and so forth. To bring it back to their Holy Idea – Self-pres Sixes primarily want to have faith in their physical security.
Social Sixes can be insecure about their social structure, and very concerned with the allegiance of friends or the hidden motivations of others. Social Sixes primarily want to have faith in their friends and community.
Sexual Sixes are focused more on their intimate partners. Sexual Sixes primarily want to have faith in their partner.
VIII. Comparison within TriadsWithin the Head/Body/Image Triads:
Head: These types are primarily concerned with their own thoughts.
Image: These types take action when it comes to their image, which they equate with reality.
Body: These types focus on the border between themselves and the world around them.
Within the body triad…
(Compared to Eight) Sixes are hyper-aware of possible danger and react to it; Eights operate on the implicit assumption that they can handle whatever comes their way, so Eights do not possess that same awareness. Both Sixes and Eights can be aggressive, which often causes confusion between these two types, but Eight aggression is “lusty” (associated with an ever-expanding need for resources) while Six's aggression is defensive.
(Compared to Nine) Nines are laidback and easygoing, without the danger sense of a Six.
(Compared to One) Ones are more headstrong than Sixes and tend not to doubt themselves as much.
Within the image triad…
(Compared to Two) Type Sixes are more cautious than Type Twos. They also support others for different reasons; Sixes are more likely to give others support in order to build a support network in return, while Twos do it because they take pride in helping.
(Compared to Three) Threes are okay with taking risks to advance themselves, while Sixes generally are not. Sixes tend to want the “sure bet” over the high-risk, high-reward option.
(Compared to Four) Type Fours have a deep-seated belief that they are fundamentally different than everyone else. This kind of isolation is not experienced by a Type Six, who has a hard time “pulling back” from a situation like a Type Four. Even if a Type Six is phobic, they still feel more wrapped up in life than a Type Four.
Within the head triad…
(Compared to Five) Type Fives see themselves as observers, while Type Sixes see themselves in the middle of the action. Type Fives can easily withdraw while Sixes will always feel the strings of doubt pulling on them.
(Compared to Seven) Sevens are easily irresponsible while Sixes are not. From the Six perspective, Sevens are reckless and put themselves into danger all too often.
Within the Hornevian triads:
The Hornevian triads describe how each type copes with a situation. They were originally developed by psychologist Karen Horney.
In this context, “aggressive” means “action-oriented.” It doesn't mean belligerence.
Type Three – Takes action to gain success.
Type Seven – Takes action to keep engaged in interesting activities.
Type Eight - Takes action to secure more resources and to continue to consume.
Type Four – Withdraws to protect themselves from being absorbed into the crowd; to maintain their uniqueness.
Type Five – Withdraws to defend themselves and to get a better/clearer view of the situation.
Type Nine – Withdraws to maintain peace.
In this context, these types are compliant to their superegos. It doesn't mean that they are pushovers.
Type One – Complies with the superego because they will feel corrupt if they don't.
Type Two – Complies with the superego because they will feel useless if they don't.
Type Six – Complies with the superego because they will feel insecure if they don't.
Within the Harmonic triads:
The Harmonic triads describe the primary problem-solving skill employed by each type.
Type Two – Twos focus on their own goodness and virtue.
Type Seven – Sevens adopt an “it doesn't affect me” mentality.
Type Nine – Nines focus on the “silver lining” in a situation instead of negative aspects.
Type One – Ones must be competent to maintain their set of ethics.
Type Three – Threes must be competent to avoid challenges to their success.
Type Five – Fives must be competent to survive in the “outer world.”
Type Four – Fours may take things very personally, which makes them very emotionally intense.
Type Six – Sixes are observant of their world and react accordingly.
Type Eight – Eights are quick to react to challenges and to assert their boundaries.
IX. Enneagram and MBTI Interaction
The Enneagram describes motivations, while the MBTI describes modes of information processing. It would stand to reason that MBTI is subordinate to Enneagram, as the Enneagram deals with more basic motivations. Imagine that two people want to tell the same story, but one is a writer and one is a musician. One will write a book while the other will write a song but both have the same origin point.
So let’s look at each type and how that form of information processing would appear when directed by the primary motivation of Type Six.
Extroverted Sensation Types (ESTP and ESFP)
Extroverted Sensation is associated with a strong connection to the “present moment” and places an emphasis on practicality in life. ESxP Sixes are action-oriented and prefer a clear solution. Their solution to doubt is to take in sensory information about what's going on right now, and then make a decision.
Extroverted Intuition Types (ENTP and ENFP)
Extroverted Intuition is essentially the opposite of Extroverted Sensing: instead of focusing on present information, Extroverted Intuition brainstorms a myriad number of possibilities that may or may not be true.
ENxP Sixes can have problems with anxiety because their Extroverted Intuition makes them painfully aware of every bad consequence that could result from their action or the actions of others. On the other hand, they make take reassurance in this ability, as they are rarely caught off-guard. It's difficult to take an ENxP Six by surprise.
Extroverted Thinking Types (ENTJ, ESTJ)
Extroverted Thinking breaks a process down into its logical components and checks it for logical consistency.
Extroverted Thinking Sixes find security in structuring the world around them in a way that fits their own notions of safety. They generally like to be in charge, which can lead some ExTJ Sixes to believe that they are really ExTJ Eights.
Extroverted Feeling Types (ENFJ, ESFJ)
Extroverted Feeling refers to an awareness of the emotions or hidden beliefs of another, but does not necessarily imply that an Fe-dominant person must bend to those emotions.
ExFJ Sixes tend to be people-oriented and generally concerned with the affairs of others, even if they're not a Social subtype. They have a special ability to understand what people are saying with body language or by reading between the lines, which makes them excellent at ferreting out deception and revealing charlatans. They might see themselves as protectors of others, as they are naturally empathetic to the plight of the underdog.
Introverted Sensation Types (ISTJ, ISFJ)
Introverted Sensation types tend to use their experience to guide them; Si dominant Type Sixes are cautious and are always checking new experiences against the past. Out of all the Type Six/MBTI Combinations, they are the most likely to avoid risk and prefer the safe but steady path to success.
Introverted Intuition Types (INTJ, INFJ)
Ni dominant types understand abstract systems better than anyone else. This is a great asset to a Type Six, as Type Sixes are often involved with authority, either as part of the authority or as a person critical of it. They can identify the strengths and weaknesses in a system and either strengthen the system or weaken it, depending on their inclination. INTJ Sixes are more likely to be detached and look at it from a coldly logical position, while INFJ Sixes are warmly logical and are focused more on the people involved than the system itself. INTJ Sixes are more likely to focus on justice, while INFJ Sixes are more likely to strive for fairness.
Introverted Thinking Types (INTP, ISTP)
Introverted Thinking types (IxTP) emphasize the particular meanings of words and how each individual piece fits together within a concept. Introverted Thinking Type Sixes have the ability to focus intensely on a problem and pick it apart in order to effectively troubleshoot it. This is especially true of 6w5 IxTPs. IxTP Sixes make some of the best contingency planners.
Introverted Feeling Types (INFP, ISFP)
Introverted Feeling types are concerned more about the essence of a particular subject than the gritty particulars. (This is the opposite for Introverted Thinking types.) IxFP Sixes are quick to determine the value of a situation and either discard it or accept it. They are often crusaders for a cause, or for themselves or others.
X. Paths to Security
Type One - “I will be secure if I'm perfect.”
Type Two - “I will be secure if I'm loved, appreciated or respected.”
Type Three - “I will be secure if I am successful.”
Type Four - “I will be secure if I am unique.”
Type Five - “I will be secure if I withdraw from harm.”
Type Six - “I will be secure if I am always aware of danger.”
Type Seven - “I will be secure if I can plan for the future.”
Type Eight - “I will be secure if I can control the world around me.”
Type Nine - “I will be secure if I have peace.”
XI. Freudian Association
From my article, “The Freudian Theory of Enneagram”
Type 6: Superego "Conscience" Focused.
Basic Fear: To lack security.
Basic Desire: To have security.
Type 6 is the most misunderstood type in the enneagram. Type 6 qualities are often perceived as contradictory: they like structure, but on the other hand, they can also rebel against it. This is actually perfectly consistent: as a superego type, a Type 6 individual wants to create a set of concrete rules for the world.
Contrast this with Type 1 (another superego type): the Type 1 loves principles, but the Type 6 is about rules. The 6 is always striving to perfect their rule-set; whether that means going their own way in the world or adopting someone else's set of rules. This explains why Type 6 can be both rebellious and cooperative.
Type 4 and Type 6 are analogous: the Type 4 wants to perfect their identity, and the Type 6 wants to perfect their superego. This is why 6s are seen as troubleshooters: they're good at sorting through problems to find the answer that their superego seeks.
They are highly aware of what doesn't fit within their established rule-set, and often focus on the "conscience" aspect of the superego. This is why Type 6 individuals have a very attuned sense for the negative consequences of an action, which reinforces their troubleshooting ability.
As you can see, this constant back-and-forth within the superego creates anxiety. A Type 6 individual puts their libidinal energy into their superego, but there's always uncertainty for them. There are two ways for a Type 6 to deal with it: by being phobic or counterphobic. A 6 can be phobic at some times and counterphobic at others: they represent two ways of dealing with a fear.
To Encourage Integration: You're a superego type, so you may end up neglecting your id desires. Try to balance yourself like a 9 would. Type 6 integrates into a healthy Type 9, and upon reaching that, you'll feel much more calm.
To Avoid Disintegration: Watch out for pessimism. Self-doubt is your downfall: feel free to doubt the rest of the world, but have faith in yourself.
Type 6 Wings:
Type 6 with a 5 Wing (Superego-Ego): A 6w5 combines the troubleshooting nature of a 6 with the cerebral and investigative nature of the 5. A 6w5's ability to detach from a situation like a 5 can help alleviate some of their anxiety. They have a sense for very precise details in a situation and can be a very concrete thinker. I'd imagine that many highly technical professions are filled with 6w5. 6w5s are usually emotionally stable and can appear to be aloof because of the 5 tendency to withdraw.
Type 6 with a 7 Wing (Superego-Id): The 6w7 is more energetic than the 6w5, since they have a stronger connection with their id. A 6w7 is often more impulsive than 6w5 and is much more likely to go out into the world to fulfill their desires. They're also more oriented toward others, and would likely base their internal rule-set on their interactions with other people. This is a very expressive type; there's an element of chaos to 6w7 that's not present in 6w5.
“The only journey is the journey within.”
- Rainer Maria Rilke