If you study the Enneagram, you know how complex the system is. Beyond the nine primary habits of attention, there are wings, subtypes, countertypes, arrows, levels of integration, and more. To find your type, you need to consider many factors, and one personality that is noted for its complexity is the Enneagram Type 6.

The Type 6 Skeptic

The Type 6 Skeptic is often described as the African gazelle of the Enneagram: someone who is on high alert at all times, scanning for the lion. With a habit of attention that is drawn to what could go wrong or what could be a threat to their security, Type 6s feel anxiety often and can be prone to worst-case scenario thinking. Duty and loyalty are key values but due to their catastrophic thinking, Type 6s have to be careful they don’t self-sabotage

With all this anxiety and fear-based thinking, it can seem like it would be easy to identify Type 6s and that this personality is nothing like the Type 8, Challenger. But in the Type 6 personality, the “subtype” matters a lot and one of the three subtypes is often confused for a Type 8. The Sexual Type 6 (also called the Counterphobic Type 6) doesn’t seem like an African gazelle, they seem more like the lion, and this Type 6 is often confused with Type 8.

The Subtypes

As a quick refresher, the subtypes are a layer of the Enneagram that outlines three distinct instincts, each representing a general worldview. Your subtype isn’t a choice you made, it is an instinct you have about how the world works. 

The three subtypes apply to all nine of the Enneagram habits of attention, giving us 27 personality variations.  The subtypes “favor” the personality differently and help explain how three people of the same primary habit of attention can seem so different. 

In general terms, the subtypes are:

  • Self-Preservation with a worldview “I’m responsible for myself and you are responsible for yourself.”
  • Social with a worldview “The world works better when we all get along.”
  • Sexual/Intimate/One-to-One with a worldview “I am fueled by close connections and bonding.”

Having a particular subtype doesn’t mean a person is more successful in this area, but it does mean this is a weighty, important issue to them.

The Sexual Type 6

While the Self-Preservation and Social Type 6s shy away from danger and avoid the things they fear, the Sexual Type 6 does the opposite by rushing into danger and facing their fear head on. On the surface, this person appears brash, brave, and dauntless. From their behavior, they can look like a Type 8. But if they share their innermost thoughts, you will learn they are anxious and have a complex relationship with fear. They may face their fear, but they definitely feel it deeply.

The Type 8, Challenger is less fear-based, mainly because they have a lot of confidence in their resilience, resourcefulness, and their natural ability to rebound in the face of setbacks. The soldiers of the Enneagram, these no-nonsense, blunt, sometimes abrasive people believe that the best defense is a strong offense. Confrontation comes easily to them, and they don’t generally spend a lot of time worrying about an uncertain future. The sensitive issue for Type 8s is anger. Anger management is more of a theme for them than anxiety management.

Not sure if you are a Type 8 or a Sexual Type 6? Ask yourself these questions.

1. Are you decisive or do you second guess yourself frequently?

This is one of the key differences between these types. Sexual Type 6s feel a lot of internal confusion. They may make a decision, but then second guess it. They can even second guess their second guessing. Type 8s rarely feel this level of confusion. A Type 8 might make a huge mistake, but they tend to make it with confidence and decisiveness. They trust their ability to rebound and believe a wrong decision is better than no decision.

2. How easy is it for you to imagine the best-case scenario or what could go right in a situation?

The Type 6 habit of attention focuses on the worst-case scenario and pivots away from the best-case scenario. This is someone whose mind is filled with what could go wrong and who spends time making preemptive plans to address the upcoming danger. It is difficult for them to imagine a best-case scenario and if they do, their mind tends to navigate away from those thoughts quickly.  

Type 8s have a much easier time imagining a best-case scenario. They think expansively and can usually envision a bright future with their position of power firmly in place, and their influence clearly being felt. These are often big personality people who imagine a brighter future for themselves and those they care about.

3. How easy is it for you to share your vulnerable emotions?

Type 8s have difficulty sharing their vulnerable emotions, even with people they are close to. This is because sharing vulnerability makes them feel weak and exposed. 

Type 6s don’t have this intense aversion to sharing their rawer, more sensitive emotions. They may have trust issues that lead them to share with very few people, but for the people within their inner circle, they typically can access and share vulnerability. Many Type 6s will say sharing their fears and doubts with a trusted friend makes them feel better, and they often rely heavily on their confidantes.

4. How frequently do you feel anxiety?

The sensitive issue for Type 6s is anxiety. They feel it frequently and intensely.  Type 6s imagine an uncertain future and are pretty sure things aren’t going to go well. This leaves them anxious. They have a hard time staying in the present moment.

The sensitive issue for Type 8s is anger. They move to anger when vulnerability is triggered and managing an anger response can be an ongoing theme for them.  Anxiety is something they may experience from time to time, especially if they feel they can’t control their environment, but anger and anger management are more likely themes for them. They have a hard time moderating their responses and not overreacting.

As you can see, the core differences radiate from the sensitive issues of fear for Type 6s and anger for Type 8s. Learn more about Type 6 here and Type 8 here.

Lynn Roulo
Lynn Roulo is an Enneagram instructor and Kundalini Yoga teacher who teaches a unique combination of the two systems, combining the physical benefits of Kundalini Yoga with the psychological growth tools of the Enneagram. She has written two books combining the two systems. Headstart for Happiness, her first book is an introduction to the systems. The Nine Keys, her second book, focuses on the two systems in intimate relationships. Learn more about Lynn and her work here at LynnRoulo.com.