Enneagram Type Six
The Loyalist, Skeptic, Defender, Doubter
People of this personality type essentially feel insecure, as though there is nothing quite steady enough to hold onto. At the core of the type Six personality is a kind of fear or anxiety. They are loyal not only to the persons but also to organizations. Sixes work hard to continue and further any organization they believe in. Sixes are full of contradictions because anxiety makes them ricochet from one psychological state to another. And in response to anxiety, Sixes look to structures, beliefs and authorities outside themselves to put their anxiety to rest.
Living with a Six
Be direct and clear.
Listen to me carefully.
Don’t judge me for my anxiety.
Work things through with me.
Reassure me that everything is OK between us.
Laugh and make jokes with me.
Gently push me toward new experiences.
Try not to overreact to my overreacting.
“I’m a Six. So now what?”
Knowing your type is only the beginning. You can use this knowledge about your personality to grow and improve yourself in many ways. And keep checking back with us, as we will be featuring articles on ways for each type to grow. Here are a few ideas to think on:
Remember that there is nothing unusual about being anxious since everyone is anxious and much more often than you might think. Learn to be more present to your anxiety, to explore it, and to come to terms with it. Work creatively with your tensions without turning to excessive amounts of alcohol (or other drugs) to allay them.
You tend to get edgy and testy when you are upset or angry, and can even turn on others and blame them for things you have done or brought on yourself. Be aware of your pessimism: it causes you dark moods and negative thought patterns that you tend to project on reality. When you succumb to this self-doubt, you can become your own worst enemy and may harm yourself more than anyone else does.
Sixes tend to overreact when they are under stress and feeling anxious. Learn to identify what makes you overreact. Also realize that almost none of the things you have feared so much have actually come true. Even if things are as bad as you think, your fearful thoughts weaken you and your ability to change things for the better. You cannot always mange external events, but you can manage your own thoughts.
Work on becoming more trusting. There are doubtless several people in your life you can turn to who care about you and who are trustworthy. If not, go out of your way to find someone trustworthy, and allow yourself to get close to that person. This will mean risking rejection and stirring up some of your deepest fears, but the risk is worth taking. You have a gift for getting people to like you, but you are unsure of yourself and may be afraid of making a commitment to them. Therefore, come down clearly on one side or the other of the fence in your relationships. Let people know how you feel about them.
Others probably think better of you than you realize, and few people are really out to get you. In fact, your fears tell you more about your attitudes toward others than they indicate about others’ attitudes toward you.
A Closer Look
Sixes are full of contradictions. They can be dependent on others, yet value their independence. They want to be trusted and to trust others, yet constantly test others to confirm or deny their own suspicions. They want the protection of authority, yet fear it. They are obedient yet, disobedient; fearful of aggression, yet sometimes highly aggressive themselves. They search for security, yet feel insecure. They are likable and endearing, yet can be mean and hateful.
The anxiety of the Six can manifest in a variety of different styles, making Sixes somewhat difficult to describe and to type. What all Sixes have in common however, is the fear rooted at the center of their personality, which manifests in worrying, and restless imaginings of everything that might go wrong. This tendency makes Sixes gifted at trouble shooting, but also robs the Six of much needed peace of mind.
Sixes don’t trust easily; they are often ambivalent about others, until the person has absolutely proven herself, at which point they are likely to respond with steadfast loyalty. The loyalty of the Six is something of a two edged sword however, as Sixes are sometimes prone to stand by a friend, partner, job or cause even long after it is time to move on.
Sixes are generally looking for something or someone to believe in. This, combined with their general suspiciousness, gives rise to a complicated relationship to authority. 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 outside source, whether it’s in the form of an individual or a belief system. But the Six’s tendency towards distrust and suspicion works against any sort of faith in authority. Thus, two opposite pulls exist side by side in the Six, and assume different proportions in different individuals, sometimes alternating within the same individual.
The truly confounding element when it comes to typing Sixes is that there are two fundamentally different strategies that Sixes adopt for dealing with fear. Some Sixes are basically phobic. Phobic Sixes are generally compliant and cooperative. Other Sixes adopt the opposite strategy of dealing with fear, and become counter-phobic, essentially taking a defiant stand against whatever they find threatening. This is the Six who takes on authority or who adopts a dare devil attitude towards physical danger. For example, the Six who fears heights, who decides to bungee jump to overcome their fear. Counter-phobic Sixes can be aggressive and can adopt a rebellious or anti-authoritarian demeanor. Counter-phobic Sixes are often unaware of the fear that motivates their actions. In fact, Sixes in general, tend to be blind to the extent of their own anxiety. Because it is the constant back drop to all of their emotions, Sixes are frequently unaware of its existence, as they have nothing with which to contrast it.
Because Sixes so frequently fail to appreciate the extent of their own fear, they often mistype themselves. It is common for instance, for female Sixes to mistype as Twos, especially if they are identified with a Helper role, but Sixes have a much more ambivalent attitude towards relationships than do Twos, who generally know exactly what they want. Sixes, failing to recognize their anxiety, can mistype as Nines, but Nines have the ability to relax and to trust in others, neither of which comes easily to Sixes. They can mistype as Fours, especially if they have artistic inclinations, but they lack the Four’s self-absorption. They can mistype as Fives, especially if they are intellectual, as many Sixes are, but unlike Fives, Sixes tend to be practical. Finally, counter-phobic Sixes can easily mistype as Eights, but they lack the Eight’s self-certainty.
Sixes as Children Often:
- are friendly, likable, and dependable, and/or sarcastic, bossy, and stubborn
- are anxious and hyper-vigilant; anticipate danger
- form a team of “us against them” with a best friend or parent
- look to groups or authorities to protect them and/or question authority and rebel
- are neglected or abused, come from unpredictable or alcoholic families, and/or take on the fearfulness of an overly anxious parent
The Six with a Five-wing:
The traits of the Six and the Five conflict with each other to some degree. Sixes are drawn to others, while fives are more detached from people. Sixes and Fives are both looking for safety, but Sixes look to alliances with others and commitment to systems of thought for security, while Fives tend to retreat from others and to tinker with, or even dismantle, established systems of thought. Both tendencies exist in the Six with a Five-wing, producing a subtype which sees itself as fighting for the “little person,” while at the same time being drawn to authority. Sixes with a Five-wing can seem like Ones because they are serious, self-controlled, and committed to specific moral, ethical, and political beliefs. Like Eights, they can also be rather outspoken and passionate in the expression of their beliefs, with less concern about being liked than the Six with a Seven-wing.
Healthy people of this subtype combine the Sixes capacity for organization and personal engagement with the Five’s perceptiveness and curiosity. They may have a strong intellectual streak, depending on how much the Five-wing is in their overall personality. Healthy Sixes with a Five-wing often develop technical expertise and are valued as practical problem solvers; they are good communicators and educators. They are also attracted to professions such as medicine, law, and engineering; they desire to master a system of knowledge but within a field where the rules and parameters are established and known. They often get involved with political causes and community service. There is a strong identification with the underdog, and Sixes with a Five-wing may become the spokespeople or champions for groups or individuals they see as disadvantaged. Sixes with a Five-wing possess greater powers of concentration and focus than the other subtype, although they can sometimes be perceived as too narrow-minded. They are usually shrewd observers of the environment, particularly people, and put a premium on foresight and predicting how others will react. Their perceptions are more original than those of Sixes with a Seven-wing, but because Six is the basic type, they do come across not as intellectuals but as extremely competent, and knowledgeable.
The anxiety we see in average Sixes also causes people of this subtype to be more intense than Sixes with a Seven-wing. Sixes with a Five-wing are more independent, and are less likely to go to others for reassurance, advice, or to solve their problems. They may have one or two mentors or confidants, but in most cases they will “gut out” their problems and anxieties alone. They can be very hardworking and loyal to the systems or people with whom they have identified. Persons of this subtype tend to be restrained in the expression of their emotions, and are usually more detached, cerebral, and pessimistic. The Five-wing also adds a tendency toward secretiveness which fuels the suspiciousness of the average Six. As their insecurities escalate, they tend to see the world as dangerous. They become more reactive and aggressive, and will denounce or scapegoat any perceived threat to their security. They see others as potential enemies and fear that people may be conspiring to ruin them. Ironically, they may respond by plotting against others.
Unhealthy persons of this subtype become increasingly paranoid and obsessed with maintaining their security, and may go to great lengths to protect their positions. They are extremely needy, and may abuse alcohol or drugs as a way of dealing with anxiety. The Five-wing adds elements of cynicism to the fearful mentality of the unhealthy Six, resulting in growing isolation, desperation, and capacity for sociopath actions. Intense stress may likely lead to outbreaks of rage and extremely destructive behavior accompanied by breaks with reality. There may be strong propensity for violence as well as sadomasochistic tendencies in sexual expression. Murder and suicide are both real possibilities
The Six with a Seven-wing:
The traits of the Six and the traits of the Seven reinforce each other. This subtype is more clearly extroverted, more interested in having a good time, more sociable, and, for better or worse, is less intensely focused upon either the environment or itself than Sixes with a Five-wing. In this subtype, there is also a dynamic tension between the main type and wing. The Six focuses on commitment, responsibility, and sacrifice of personal pursuits for the sake of security, while the Seven focuses on experience, satisfaction of personal need, and keeping options open. (People of this subtype can sometimes seem like Twos.) They can be affable, supportive, and strongly identify with others. Sixes with a Seven-wing are more eager to be liked and accepted by others than the Six with a Five-wing and are also more hesitant to speak out. The Seven-wing adds sociability, playfulness, and enthusiasm, but the Six component can be uneasy with this, so Sixes with a Seven-wing frequently monitor the reactions of others to see if they are behaving acceptably.
Healthy person of this subtype desire to feel not only accepted by others, but also happy, particularly with regard to material well-being. They have broad areas of interests and often have more than one hobby or past-time. They are friendly and sociable, not taking themselves or life too seriously. Many are attrcted to performing arts or other professions where they get to combine their interpersonal skills with discipline and craft such as advertising, marketing, and law. They tend to be self-deprecating, sometimes turning their fears into humour to bond with others. Healthy Sixes with a Seven-wing are playful and funny, and their sense of humor is ued to cope with life. They are generally more extroverted than the other subtype.
Average Sixes with a Seven-wing are also hard-working and loyal, but begin to have problems with procrastination. They tend to depend on others more, and will seek advice from a number of sources before coming to an important decision. They tend to be more indecisive than the Six with a Five-wing. They do not handle pressure well, and often react by becoming grumpy and sulky. They use their passive aggressiveness to get them out of unpleasant situations. They complain, fret and imagine everything that could possibly go wrong. The Seven-wing causes them to reward themselves with distactions and compensations. Overeating, drinking, and substance abuse may enter the picture, along with nonproductive “hanging out”. They may not take string political stands, but they become highly oppinionated and vocal about their likes and dislikes. Because they are afraid of confronting the real sources of their problems, they blame their discontent on others.
Unhealthy persons of this subtype are more disposed to becoming dependant on others, and don’t attempt to disguise the depth of their emotional neediness. They may become stuck in unhealthy, or abusinve conditions, while dependant on other people, addictive substances, or both. They have few means of dealing with anxiety, and as it gets worse, they become increasingly erratic. They flee from their anxiety, tending to become manic rather than paranoid, flying into hysterical overreactions making them unpredictable and reckless. At this point, Sixes with a Seven-wing are prone to panic attacks and suicide attempts.
Much of this information was gathered from various Enneagram experts here are a list of resources.
EnneagramInstitute.com – the premier Enneagram authorities.