People of enneatype Six are essentially insecure, as though life has never quite provided them with a proper footing, as though there existed nothing, either internally or externally, which could serve as a solid foundation. The type Six fixation is therefore deeply and fundamentally existential, and there exists at the core of enneatype Six a tight knot of anxiety, an essential disquietude, and a deep seated desire to find something or someone stable enough in which to place some trust. Given this essential dynamic, it is not surprising therefore to find that Sixes have core issues centering around the contrast between faith and skepticism, trust and distrust, and the legitimate exercise of authority versus the abuse and misuse of power. All Sixes share these core issues, but they respond to them in quite a wide variety of ways, making type Six the most complicated and variegated of all the enneatypes and the most difficult by far to describe with specificity.
Sixes are essentially thinking types and tend to utilize their minds in their attempt to find a solid foundation. Sixes are looking for something in which to believe or someone in whom they can place their trust. At a level which barely reaches consciousness, Sixes feel that if they can find "one sure thing," they can quiet their restlessness, and achieve some semblance of much needed "peace of mind." This desire for some solidity, combined with their general suspiciousness, gives rise to a complicated relationship to those they view as authorities. The side of the Six which is looking for something to believe in, is often very susceptible to the temptation to turn authority over to an external source, whether it be in the form of an individual or a creed. But the Six's tendency towards distrust and suspicion works against any sort of faith in authority and often even presents as anti-authoritarianism. Thus, two opposite pulls exist side by side in the personality of enneatype Six, and will assume different proportions in different individuals, frequently alternating in the same individual.
Some Sixes never find a system or an authority which satisfies their questioning nature. These tend to root themselves in more personal loyalties - loyalties to family, especially children, or to their friends or causes. Sixes, in general, tend to form strong personal bonds. One of the more appealing aspects of the type Six personality is the trueness they can show to those they love. Feeling essentially unsure themselves, they find some comfort in being true to others, in being steadfast. Sixes can show real perseverance when it comes to their personal relationships and they can give of themselves selflessly - without expectation of reward and with little need of special recognition. Issues surrounding loyalty are, however, like everything else with enneatype Six, fraught with contradictions, and an unbalanced Six can lash out at those who trigger their insecurities with stunning and seemingly irrational acts of disloyalty. It is therefore not accurate to describe Sixes as loyalists; rather they have a complex of energy concentrated around and centered on loyalty dynamics.
These various strategies of coping with the core issues of type Six are obviously quite different in their presentation, but they are all manifestations of the same underlying uncertainty. It is the intensity of the energy with which the Six confronts these issues which differentiates type Six from other types who, after all, also want to find something or someone in which to place their trust, something in which to believe. The issues which confront type Six, are then, in some fundamental respect, elemental concerns which confront all human beings. It is the fate of enneatype Six to be forced to address these issues most centrally. The integrity with which this is done, is determined by the extent to which the Six overcomes fear or succumbs to it.
Many Sixes are naturally prone to doubt and self-questioning. In some Sixes, this internal dynamic is projected outwards, and Sixes are notorious for adopting the position of the "devil's advocate." Many Sixes are, thus, prone to questioning and challenging the motives and beliefs of those around them. Sometimes this strategy succeeds in forcing the Six's interlocutor to clarify his or her position or to seek common ground with the Six. Other times however, it only serves to turn the Six's interlocutor into an opponent who feels justified in responding aggressively to what they understandably perceive as an attack. Thus a pattern which is essentially defensive from the point of view of the Six, is often perceived as an assault by those on the receiving end. Sixes who adopt this approach are frequently perplexed by the amount of animosity they arouse. They are far harder on themselves, they reason, so they fail to understand why others are "over reacting." In general, Sixes tend to be very aware of the reactivity of others and considerably less so of their own. As they are being driven by their own inner uncertainty, they tend to be unaware that they are behaving in an aggressive fashion and alienating those whom they might well like to befriend.
The doubting nature of type Six can be turned to good stead when the Six uses it to discover what is wrong or missing. Sixes rightly suspect that there is more going on in any given situation than what is presented on the surface, and they want to know what lies beneath. Sixes frequently have the capacity to detect what is hidden. They ferret out the potential danger in a situation; they intuitively seek the weakness in an argument or the flaws covered by the pleasing exterior. They often have an almost "sixth" sense in this regard. This means that Sixes are typically good trouble shooters, gifted debaters, or the stalwart players who form the defensive line. Sixes tend to feel that if they are aware of all the inherent dangers in a situation, they can arm themselves against them. Once again, this vigilance is essentially a defensive maneuver. On the down side, the tendency to look for problems can lead to unnecessary worrying, catastrophising or, in extreme cases, paranoid ideation. If this tendency to focus on what might go wrong is left unchecked, the Six will experience many needless hours of misery. In addition, others in the Six's life might well experience the Six as being unnecessarily negative.
Sixes are attuned to power relations and to underlying power dynamics. They sense who has power, who wants it, who will use it, who will misuse it, and they are often the ones who sense an imbalance or injustice where others simply see the status quo. As they easily tend to feel like victims themselves, they often identify with the underdog and can even devote themselves to the cause of redressing what they see as injuries done to those without power. These Sixes are, perhaps, union organizers, or feminists, or perhaps even those who defend the rights of the unborn, as, like all the types, Sixes can be found on all ends of the political spectrum. It is not so much that all Sixes are politically motivated, but, as Sixes do tend to be oriented to power dynamics, they often take decisive positions when it comes to social issues or causes.
Sixes are quite sensitive as children and can be seriously wounded by abuses of power visited against them by their parents or teachers. As power abuse against children is almost universal, it is the rare Six who isn't forced to confront core issues head on at a very vulnerable age. Something of the unfairly punishing authority tends to stay with Sixes long after they have moved into adulthood and serves to color all of their subsequent intimate relationships, especially those in which there is a perceived imbalance of power which disfavors the Six.
It is typically at a quite young age then, in response to the illegitimate or insensitive exercise of authority, that Sixes adopt their fundamental strategy for dealing with their underlying anxieties and for handling imbalanced power relationships. Some Sixes adopt a basically phobic approach. Phobic Sixes are generally compliant, affiliative and cooperative. They strive to avoid undue attention and to defuse tension by appearing to be "harmless." They thereby strive to avoid triggering aggression in others. Other Sixes adopt the opposite strategy of dealing with anxieties and become counterphobic, essentially taking a defiant stand against whomever or whatever they find threatening. This is the Six who takes on authority or who adopts a dare devil attitude towards physical danger. Counterphobic Sixes can be aggressive, and frequently adopt a rebellious or anti-authoritarian demeanor. Such Sixes are often unaware of the fear which motivates their actions. For counterphobic Sixes, the inner tension of living with their anxiety is greater than the fear of any external threat they might be facing, so they adopt an oppositional attitude and throw themselves into action. This approach sometimes succeeds in obscuring from the counterphobic Six's line of vision the fear which is actually at the root of their behavior. Consequently, counterphobic Sixes frequently deny being anxious. Interestingly, some phobic Sixes are also unaware of their underlying anxiety, an anxiety which is often readily apparent to others. Because anxiety serves as the backdrop to all their emotional states, some Sixes are unaware of its existence, as they have nothing with which to contrast it.
There are many Sixes who adopt neither an exclusively phobic nor counterphobic approach. Such Sixes switch modes, so to speak, depending on the amount of stress they are experiencing. Most Sixes, however, have a preferred or dominant approach which colors all of their dealings with the world and which is generally readily recognizable to others. It is important to note, however, that while the phobic and counterphobic approach seem diametrically opposed, both are driven by fear or anxiety; the rule to remember in this regard is that the inner core of all Sixes is phobic, until such point as the Six achieves liberation. Counterphobia is thus a permutation on phobia. It refers to a difference in overt behavior, sometimes a very striking difference indeed, but it's root cause is nevertheless one of fear.
In the traditional enneagram, the passion of the Six is fear, the vice is that of cowardice and the corresponding virtue that of courage. As with all of the vices and virtues associated with the enneatypes, the vice and virtue of the Six must be understood as being distinct from what is commonly understood by those terms. Many Sixes are no more cowardly than individuals of other types when we consider the term according to its common usage, and, according to common usage, but not the theory behind the enneagram, many of the behaviors of counterphobic Sixes would be considered courageous.
In order to get a better grip on this, it's necessary to have a more precise grasp of key terms. Up to this point, we have been using the terms "anxiety" and "fear" more or less interchangeably, but at this juncture, it's important to refine our understanding. Fear is always of something definite, of some danger which requires our attention. Fear is the natural and often useful response which we experience in the face of some external threat. It is that which triggers our primal "fight or flight" response.
Anxiety, however, is a truly existential emotion and in order to better understand it, it is perhaps helpful to turn to the existential philosophers who made a point of studying anxiety in all its forms and all its manifestations. Kierkegaard defines anxiety as the "dizziness of freedom" and describes it as the underlying, all pervasive, universal condition of human existence. Anxiety is then, not fear of any one thing, but of the very condition of being conscious and of having to make choices in a world which does not make its meaning or goals transparent to us and which frequently enough seems inimicable to human aspirations and to human existence. It is this more fundamental emotion which most directly characterizes the core emotional state of type Six, not any of the more immediate fears, which often enough are simply place holders in the consciousness of the type Six personality. It is as though the Six feels their anxiety bubbling up to the center of consciousness and then scans the environment for something external to fear; this feared, but potentially manageable thing, can then occupy the Six's attention and avert it from that nameless horror that they sense might exist at the very heart of human existence.
According to A. H. Almaas, the type Six personality most directly experiences and suffers from a loss of "basic trust" in the goodness of the universe. This loss of basic trust is the very condition of fallen existence, and thus attaches to all of the fixations, but Sixes experience it at the very core of their consciousness. And it is this most basic and fundamental emotion which must be dealt with directly and defeated if the Six is to achieve true liberation. It is, like the journeys of all the enneatypes, a true "hero's journey."
Many Sixes succumb to their anxieties and fears. Some of these settle for a simulacra of true courage and attempt to find peace of mind by convincing themselves of the truth of some contrived system of belief. To this end they might surround themselves by a chorus of voices from like-minded others, while projecting their own unacknowledged shadow onto those with whom they disagree. Then there are those Sixes who choose to over identify with the role of "rebel" and adopt a defiant and oppositional stand against whatever exists, which often enough succeeds in sowing little more than negativity.
Other Sixes however, live a life of integrity. They may harbor fears and anxieties but nevertheless manifest courage by refusing to succumb to them. From an external perspective they well may seem unexceptional, but, insofar as they refuse the easy answer and do not give way to the reactive response, they demonstrate a quiet victory over their inner demons. Such Sixes develop a kind of strength to which others instinctively turn in times of difficulty. They can be counted on to follow through and to demonstrate leadership when a real danger threatens as they have successfully conquered so many imaginary ones. Having developed some degree of self-mastery, they can master externals as well. They can be counted on. They rise to the occasion. There are also some few Sixes who achieve a true liberation. These Sixes almost invariably manifest a feeling of solidarity with their kinfolk - and they consider virtually everyone to be kin. A liberated Six has a kind of human heartedness which is truly inspirational, a subtle greatness which is thinly disguised by their modesty.
Sixes with the Five wing generally tend more towards introversion than do those with a Seven wing. They characteristically withdraw under stress and typically have a few trusted friends to whom they can turn in times of trouble. They are often drawn to systems of thought, whether religious, political or philosophical which help them explain their experiences and which provide them with a framework which confers on them some semblance of control and prediction. Sixes with a Seven wing tend to be somewhat more amiable and adventurous, generally more optimistic overall. They tend to look outside themselves for the means of assuaging their anxiety and thus often have a more extroverted nature than do those with a Five wing. They tend to have multiple hobbies and interests, but they are somewhat less capable of focus than are Sixes with a Five wing, but only as a very general rule.