Core motivation: fear
Coping strategies: avoidance, counterphobic defense, building support networks, projection
Fundamental needs: security, other people’s support
Other names: The Loyalist, The Investigator, The Trustee
Enneagram type 6 is a very proactive type that constantly scans the environment for potential dangers.
Many of the Enneagram personality types are anxious about something. Type 8 is anxious about being vulnerable. Type 7 is anxious about missing out on life experiences. Type 3 is anxious about other people’s perception of them. Type 6, however, is anxious about the world in general.
To Enneagram type 6, the world is a dangerous place, and they better take measures to protect themselves from the world’s disasters before they ever strike. By working on prevention, Sixes relieve their anxiety and fear. They do it in several ways:
- Turning to others for help: building their own support networks of family and friends and taking other people’s advice.
- Taking refuge in their own strength: It may sound like it contradicts the point above, but type Six is a walking contradiction, so it’s not very surprising!
- They avoid dangerous situations or work on minimizing their impact.
- They intentionally put themselves in dangerous situations. Once again, Sixes are full of contradictions. By actively seeking out what they fear Sixes hope to become desensitized. This approach is also known as a counterphobic approach.
Beatrice Chestnut, an Enneagram expert and psychotherapist, believes that Sixes use psychological projection as their defense mechanism. Projection is a technique to help reduce one’s anxiety by attributing one’s own unacceptable behavior to somebody or something else.
In this example, Sixes may attribute fears and insecurities that originate inside themselves to the outside world. By doing so Sixes distance themselves from these fears — after all, if the source of your fears is something or someone outside yourself, you can distance yourself from it. That way, you feel better inside and the problem seems to be much more manageable.
Because Sixes’ thoughts constantly revolve around what might go wrong and preparing for potentially dangerous situations, they become great problem-solvers. Not only are they able to identify the problem, but they also can put a strategy in place.
This quality makes Sixes very valuable to others. Sixes know how to stay alive, and they can help others too. Although it may seem like they stress about “problems” much more than others, in reality, Sixes face much less conflict, drama, and stressful situations precisely because they are very prevention-focused.
Their habit of constantly looking for potential problems can make some Sixes appear negative, even paranoid. In many cases, it may affect their personal relationships as well — many Sixes have a tendency to doubt other people’s intentions constantly. Sixes do not trust others by default; you need to earn their trust first.
Generally speaking, Sixes have a tendency to second-guess and worry about almost everything. Not only do they doubt other people, but they also doubt themselves. What do they know? What do they feel? What are they going to do? More often than not, Sixes can’t answer these questions with certainty.
Needless to say, making decisions isn’t easy for the Six, and the more they stay stuck in this indecisive state, the more anxious they become. Some Sixes will allow others to guide them while others will make a decision and deal with its consequences later (counterphobic attitude).
While they may seem like two very different approaches — and they are, the common theme here is fear, uncertainty and anxiety. Sixes with a counterphobic attitude may seem bold and decisive, but in reality they are just as worried and doubtful as the indecisive subtype.
Enneagram 6 is probably the hardest type to identify. Because the Six is a walking contradiction, people who have this personality type can appear very different. Their behavioral styles can range from timid and reserved to bold, outspoken, even confrontational. No matter how they choose to cope, if they are mainly motivated by the desire for security and fear, they are Sixes. If their natural reaction to anything is to consider the worst case scenario, they are Sixes.
As with other Enneagram types, Sixes’ negative characteristics are more obvious when they are unhealthy. Healthy Sixes, however, have a lot going on for them.
- Reliable. If Sixes give you a promise, they will not let you down.
- Hardworking. No matter how tired they are, if there is unfinished work, they will not stop working until everything is done.
- Helpful. Sixes care sincerely about other people and are willing to help when needed.
- Humble. Sixes don’t like too much attention and do not seek recognition for their achievements or whatever they do for others.
- Loyal. Once they make up their minds, Sixes are very loyal to people and organizations they choose to trust. Friends, family and co-workers can count on Sixes to be there for them.
- Organizational skills. Great organizational skills must include careful planning, punctuality, attention to detail while being able to see the big picture at the same time, wise prioritization, prevention, trouble-shooting, and Sixes are great at all of these things.
Healthy vs. Unhealthy
When Sixes are healthy, they are able to trust themselves and others. Healthy Sixes make great leaders and community builders who are able to lead others while also attending to their needs.
As they become unhealthy, they gradually begin to anticipate more and more problems. They become overly cautious and develop a tendency to procrastinate.
At their worst, they become very dependent and fearful. They may blame others for their problems and imagine that completely innocent people are out to get them.
In the Enneagram model, there are no pure personality types, and each Six is affected by two personality types that are located near it on the Enneagram wheel.
MBTI for the Enneagram Type 6
- Bruce Springsteen
- Patrick Swayze
- Princess Diana
- Marilyn Monroe
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