As an Enneagram Eight, most would agree that one of the good things is that you get things done. There’s the feeling that you are the doer, for better or worse, and whatever you decide will affect everything else.
This light (or sometimes, not so light) hubris does come with perks, of course. I seldom get bogged down for long about How Stuff Is, but rather, something within me finds a way to make it feel like I chose this, grabbing the initiative back from fate, as it were; refusing to be on the receiving end of what happens and rather positioning myself as The Cause. Again, for better or worse.
However, it sometimes sets you up for the most sheepish feeling of surprise. Like when I got diagnosed with a chronic, neurological illness more that 20 years ago. I grabbed that by the scruff of its neck, just like most other things in life. It was like something in me went, “Oh, cool, a new hobby. Let me see where I can take this. Just hold on, and I’ll fix it …” And off I went, finding out about therapies and inner growth and diets and whatever other stones I could turn over to address the issue. This went on for a number of years, and well, I suppose I did sort of “fix it”.
Life in parenthesis
But then I realised — oh, shocker — that life hadn’t “held on” while I was on my massive walkabout to “fix it”. It had, quite unapologetically, continued. When this dawned on me, ten years had passed, and while I noted with delight that I was indeed “better” (and this in so many more ways than I could have ever fathomed beforehand), I also noted that life had, indeed, moved on. The circumstances had changed. My preferences had changed. The world had changed.
It’s not like I hadn’t done worthwhile things in the meantime. I’d grown. I’d helped lots of other people grow, as well. I’d evolved tons. I’d written books. I’d built a house. I’d moved to another town. I had, indeed, lived. But I had also not really noticed that this was living; I was still, in a way, in detour mode; doing so that I could get back to [what I thought counted as] actual living: following the path that I had, however unconsciously, envisioned. It was like I, without actively realising it, part of me had viewed all this time as a kind of parenthetic life; a side event to the main affair. (Another part had had a ball and lived to the full; it wasn’t like I was passively waiting. But there was some kind of waiting involved. Except a kind, apparently, that the other part of me didn’t expect to take up any actual time.)
That’s what you get for living under the illusion that what happens is your call. Welcome to my world.
A victim of the non-victim stance
Looking closer, though, this seemed like a pretty wide-spread misunderstanding. Numerous quotes to attest to this, along the lines of, “Careful how you live your days, because they end up constituting your life” — and other such ominous statements. So I wasn’t alone. But what interested me more than the naïve assumption that the world should not be changing unless I wanted it to, was my supposed role in it.
What stuck out was the stubborn defiance that refused to be subject to anything (even when I clearly was). But at least from the ego’s limited point of view, the opposite of victimhood is of course believing that everything happens in relation to me — and thus, in relation to my choices, my shortcomings, my victories and my failures. And most of my life, I’ve lived by that. “How does this affect me? What do I prefer as the final outcome here, and how best to achieve that?” Even when there wasn’t really a choice to make, the inner strategist still wants to establish what the most favourable outcome would be — like it matters, and makes a difference, that I know what my preference is. Like it’s my choice.
Of course I didn’t actually think like that. It’s more of a visceral “reasoning”; an ever-present inner strategist that rarely takes a break. It’s convinced that the world will conform (and yes, again, say it with me: for better or for worse) to my gut and my willpower.
Neither is this usually very palpable, of course — mostly, it’s extremely subtle. But it’s also relentless. You can’t be omnipotent some of the time; you have to accept the responsibility totally or not at all. (That sounds grand, of course, but don’t get me wrong: I was happy escaping responsibility, too, and/or shifting it over to others, should anyone else accuse me of being irresponsible. The all-or-nothing approach was between me and reality rather between than me and other people.)
Obviously, this is all just bollocks and there is no omnipotence to be had, whichever way you slice it. But apparently, the Eight ego prefers to imagine there is — with all that this entails — to being a potential victim. As a bonus, this offers the handy possibility of always being en route somewhere, physically and/or energetically, and not thus having to stop unnecessarily and do stuff like feel things that risk making you “weak”.. Well, what can I say. It seemed like a splendid option at the time.
Allowing everything its own, equally valid experience
In later years, I’ve increasingly experimented with what I might call “letting stuff have its own life”; allowing everything an equal vote, as it were, in contribution to reality. (This includes me, by the way, and my feelings and reactions and opinions. The inner strategist is just as happy to discount them as anyone else’s, especially if they threaten to have me suffer at the hands of others.) This meant not counting on things being static unless I meddle. It meant not counting on them changing, either — or at least not in a specific direction. It meant letting the world and everything in it be such as it is, and relaxing about it.
Anyone say “fixation”?
As I’m writing this, it’s very clear that this is, indeed, the antidote to the Eight fixation. Traditionally, this is called vengeance, but Russ Hudson, looking at what Eights really tend to do on a daily basis as far as mental patterns are concerned, came up with the alternative term objectification. To retain power and control (or so the ego thinks), the world is reduced to an object, with other objects inside it: you, my house, the lawn, my cats, everyone else and, oh yes, myself, too. We’re all, from the ego’s point of view, reduced to things. And things don’t have their own opinions, feelings or experiences, but are there to be strategically used by the ego in whichever ways it sees fit, to accomplish what it wants. That’s objectification, in a nutshell.
Acknowledging that every person, animal, object or chain of events has its own experience, and giving those experiences weight and relevance — that’s what it means to “let them have their own life”. It means not reducing any of them, including myself, to a pawn for strategic uses. On the level of fine, everyday detail, for an Eight, this is a scary proposition.
And you know what? As it turns out, it’s also strangely liberating ❤️️😊