The Enneagram Type 6 is called the Loyalist and the Skeptic and if you have this habit of attention, your mind is gifted at spotting danger and identifying problems before they materialize. You see the fissures before they become cracks, and with your eye for potential pitfalls, you can help make the world a safer place. When you function in a balanced way, you are loyal, committed, hard-working, generous, cooperative, and idealistic in your pursuit of creating a safer and more secure world.
But too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing, and your danger-scanning mind can sometimes go too far, leading you to self-sabotaging behavior that boomerangs back, eroding trust, destroying loyalty, and turning your strongest allies into bitter enemies. Like all habits of attention, your interpretation of reality feels very true so it can be hard to recognize you’ve lost your balance, and your vision has become clouded.
Let’s explore three ways your mind betrays you and creates the very scenarios you are trying to avoid.
1. You project.
When you have a thought that concerns you, you have a hard time distinguishing your anxious assumptions from reality. You see a missed call from an unknown number on your boyfriend’s cell phone and imagine he is cheating on you. You see your boss in a closed door meeting and assume a layoff is coming. Your gift at scanning for danger can take you into some dark corners, many of which are not based in reality. This projection creates problems on many levels. It leaves you living in an imaginary world that is far more grim than reality. And it leaves those close to you confused about some of your intense reactions to benign situations.
How to stop projecting: Understand that as a Type 6, your mind gravitates towards a worst-case scenario. When you have a thought that concerns you, ask yourself a series of questions:
- Do you know your concern is true?
- How do you know your concern is true?
- Does past experience support this concern?
- What else could be true?
To distinguish between projection and insight, notice if there is an emotional charge to your reaction. Projection is emotionally charged. True insight is emotionally neutral. Work hard to identify these differences. And if you find you are projecting, instead of reacting, give yourself space to pause, take a deep breath, and let the emotion pass.
2. You live in the future.
You live in the future, and the future you envision is a dangerous place. Your mind works endlessly to identify, plan for, and avoid danger. Even small hints of a potential problem can balloon up to become very large in your mind. It may be a thought about a future event, but it feels like it is happening now, like a high definition movie scene unfolding before your eyes. This triggers your body’s stress-response system much more than your body is designed to handle.
Your brain’s stress-response system doesn’t know the difference between an actual, real-time direct threat and an imagined future threat. In response to your anxious thinking, your body kicks into high gear, increasing cortisol to your body, raising your heart rate, firing up your adrenaline, and suppressing your immune system. This would be useful if you were being attacked by a lion. But when you are worrying about the size of your retirement account ten years from now (and imagining it has crashed), it takes a toll on your body. Your health suffers. Type 6s often experience health issues that are indirectly related to their anxious thinking.
How to stop living in the future: Mindfulness practices, yoga, meditation, physical exercise or anything that brings you deeply into the present moment can be extremely beneficial to move your thinking from the future to the present moment. Consistent practice is key so find something you can build a regular habit around. Regulating your body’s stress-response system by bringing your thoughts into the now is extremely beneficial for Type 6s.
3. You overreact.
While projecting and living in the future have a negative impact on you, your overreactions are probably your biggest point of self-sabotage because they directly affect other people in your life. Because it is hard for you to distinguish reality from your projection, it is easy for you to assume the worst in others. And when you act this out, it often is what drives the people closest to you away.
You distrust an honest person, you question an upright person’s integrity, you demand an explanation of a harmless situation. This doesn’t help you win popularity contests and if left unchecked, this can destroy your life. The problem, of course, is that your responses don’t feel like overreactions to you. To you, these reactions feel appropriate.
How to stop overreacting: The first step is awareness. As a Type 6 it is important to develop a deep understanding that assuming the worst in a situation is a reality distortion based on your habit of attention. This knowledge alone can help to shift the dynamic. Since this is a blind spot, asking for the perspective of a more neutral person can help you temper your reactions. A long-term friend, a trusted family member, a coach or a therapist can help you have a better understanding of the spectrum of responses and a clearer understanding of what might be appropriate. Understanding your own mental makeup is a critical part of ending this self-sabotaging behavior, and this is one place in which knowledge of the Enneagram can be extremely useful.
Balanced Type 6s are some of the most loyal, committed, fair-minded people in the world. But unbalanced Type 6s can be their own worst enemy, and it can be hard for those close to them to watch their Type 6s destroy relationships and create unnecessary drama.
The key to self-mastery and a more harmonious world starts with self-awareness and the Enneagram provides an excellent roadmap to become the highest and best version of yourself. To learn more about your growth path, check out the Growth Tips for Enneagram 6s.