By Pat Wyman.
By anyone’s account, the U.S. election year of 2016 is interesting. Every day brings a new turn of events, surprise and/or absurdity. As someone who is fascinated by type, I have found it interesting to see which personality types are attracting them most interest. In 2008, Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton, both Enneagram Threes, battled it out for the Democratic nomination. Subsequently, in 2012, Obama squared off with another Three, Mitt Romney. The fact that this election is attracting another Enneagram type, the Eight, tells us something about the mood of the people in general. There is a reason for the popularity of the Eight who is not afraid to speak his mind and lay it all out on the table. The Eight enjoys a good fight!
The driving force of the Enneagram Eight is Power with the key emotion of anger. The Eight likes to be defiant, going against authority and challenging those in power while protecting the disadvantaged. Eights are outspoken nonconformists who have no problem being provocative, confrontational and controversial. They enjoy arguing and wouldn’t think of backing down from a good verbal fight. Conflict reveals truth and they respect a worthy opponent. For Eights, compromise equates with weakness. They are leaders and crusaders. An Eight would not do well in the role of vice president.
I find it fascinating to see the ways in which different candidates’ MBTI type and temperament affect the expression of the Enneagram Eight defense. Watching them in action is like having a living Type Lab in high performance mode right before my eyes.
Of course, the personality that dominates the scene is Donald Trump. Mr. Trump is an ESTJ-8. The Eight defense is guarding and promoting the values of the ESTJ and the SJ temperament. The core values of the SJ temperament are Rules/Regs and Belonging. Belonging means family, community, church and country and accounts for the prominence of patriotism in his slogan “Make America Great Again” and for his desire to build a wall to maintain the sense of Us/Them. SJs value status (I’m the greatest, the wealthiest, the best and I know everyone of any importance). They are traditionalists, wanting things to be the way they always have been (or used to be). They want to protect and provide. They are hierarchical in their thinking; that is, someone is on top, someone is on the way up and someone is at the bottom.
The Correlation Diagram shown here represents how the two parts of Mr. Trump’s personality interact. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI) system of personality typing provides a profile of his ESTJ Core Self. The Enneagram system provides a profile of his Eight Defense System. Both the ESTJ and the Eight have a distinct set of characteristics or traits. Sometimes these traits are compatible and reinforce each other. Sometimes they are oppositional, causing a sense of having a continual internal war. The two circles in the Venn diagram represent the two parts of personality: Core Self (ESTJ) and Defense System (Eight). The degree of overlap of the two circles indicates how compatible or oppositional the two parts of personality are.
Appearing on the top and bottom of the diagram are the lists of corresponding compatible traits. These traits are present in both the Core ESTJ Self and the Eight Defense System and reinforce each other. This makes the expression of these traits “exponential” and very marked in the individual. Having the same traits in both the Core Self and the Defense system also precludes much flexibility because the individual does not have much experience living any other way. For example, the first trait at the top and bottom of Trump’s personality diagram is “controlling” as both an ESTJ trait as well as an Enneagram Eight trait. We would expect that trait to be quite prevalent in his life and I think experience bears this out. An ESTJ-8 would have trouble giving up control and would have a hard time understanding someone who had no need for control. Therefore, he becomes critical and derisive towards those candidates who show no need to demonstrate control such as Jeb Bush. When a trait appears in both parts of personality, there is no internal frame of reference that would allow for understanding someone coming from a different perspective. We often call these traits the “non-negotiables” because they are so solidly in place. The list of non-negotiables for Trump, such as critical, direct, inflexible, abrupt, tough, take charge, etc., seem to jump out at us during each debate of the Republican candidates.
The lists of corresponding oppositional traits appear at the left and right of the diagram. These traits are in diametric opposition to each other. When control is located in the Core ESTJ Self, an ESTJ trait is evident. When control shifts to the Eight Defense, the opposite trait appears. This type of radical internal contradiction is often confusing for the individual causing, at the least, self-doubt and consternation, but it is also confusing to the recipient. Under calm circumstances, we see ESTJ qualities prevail but under stress and pressure the Eight characteristic is displayed. For instance, under normal circumstances, Trump may be appropriate and act suitably for the occasion. Under other circumstances where he might be challenged, he can be audacious and controversial. Although it causes some internal conflict and confuses other people, it also allows him to understand people coming from either end of the spectrum by providing an internal frame of reference for both.
A trait of the Eight that is illustrated particularly well with Mr. Trump is the ability to instinctively know where an opponent is vulnerable and to go for it. News commentators have noted how he systematically goes after a designated opponent’s most vulnerable area or issue such as Jeb Bush’s family or “low energy”. He demonstrates another Eight proclivity better than anyone I’ve ever encountered. Eights go to either end of a spectrum but anything in the middle is seen as wishy-washy. So it is either The Best, The Greatest, The Most Expensive, The Biggest, Fabulous or it is The Worst, Disgraceful, An Utter Failure, etc.
An interesting contrast and the MBTI opposite to Mr. Trump is Senator Bernie Sanders as an INFP-8. Senator Sanders falls in the NF temperament with the core values of Helping People and Spirituality (not religion). Those core values and the devotion of the INFP to justice are what compel him to be a Democratic Socialist. The Eight not only goes against authority but staunchly defends the powerless and the downtrodden. It is that aspect of the Eight that lines up so well with INFP. Look at the INFP-8 diagram.
In the list of non-negotiables at the top and bottom of the diagram, “called to serve humanity” appears under INFP and “crusader” under Eight. These reinforce each other making Sen. Sanders passionate about going to bat for people, especially the little guy. He is the mirror opposite of Trump whose ESTJ is more in line with the expression of the power and dominance aspects of the Eight rather than the Eight’s need to protect and fight for the underdog. On occasion, caring for the disempowered comes through for Trump. He declared he would not let people lie dying in the streets but would provide healthcare for the poor. He appears to champion some women’s causes. But the ESTJ is more compatible with the forceful, controlling aspects of the Eight.
Sen. Sanders has “persistence” and “determination” in both his INFP and his Eight defense. Even though he was not taken seriously in the beginning of the race, with Secretary Clinton all but declared the nominee, he pushed on despite early discouraging poll numbers. Even at his age, his energy and determination have ignited a significant response in the early primaries and caucuses.
With Sen. Sanders’ INFP-8 diagram, there are more oppositional traits than compatible traits. The relational, compassionate and empathetic aspects of the INFP are in conflict with the outspoken, critical and intrusive aspects of the Eight. He told Barbara Walters he would want to be “a compassionate president.” Sanders’ INFP wants harmony and dislikes conflict and therefore has made an effort not to run a negative campaign against Sec. Clinton. But his Eight will argue with her into next week!
There is another interesting Eight who is not running for President although many people wish he would: Jon Stewart, former host of The Daily Show. I bring him into this discussion because he is an ENTP-8 and therefore in the NT temperament. The immediate similarity to Trump is Stewart’s Extraversion which is in sharp contrast to Sanders’ Introversion. As an NT, Stewart’s core values are intelligence and mastery. NTs do not suffer fools gladly. They are competitive but mainly with themselves in always trying to learn, excel and do better. NTs have a wicked sense of dry humor with a liberal sprinkling of sarcasm thrown in for good measure. It is his NT humor and intelligence combined with his bodacious, confrontational, take-no-prisoners style that garnered him a staunch and devoted following.
Jon Stewart’s diagram looks different from the previous two:
The first thing you might notice is that there are not many oppositional traits. The Eight and the ENTP come together companionably in being outspoken, challenging, breaking the rules and pushing the limits. Stewart maximizes playing devil’s advocate and relishes the Eight’s playful verbal banter. He is a living breathing illustration of the Eight’s penchant to be uninhibited, impulsive and a risk-taker. Stewart demonstrates the Eight’s core characteristic of empowering the powerless by mentoring and championing many formerly unknown comedians and catapulting them into stardom without wanting anything in return but the satisfaction of helping the underdog. He used the platform of his show to challenge authority and question the structure of our culture by employing the NT’s respect for knowledge and competency.
Those as interested as I am in the nuances of type and the interaction of these two typing systems, have a rare opportunity to witness how the expression MBTI type is impacted by the Enneagram and vice versa during the course of this election year. It is great for learning and unparalleled entertainment!
©Pat Wyman 2016