Enneagram 8 in Stress: What Sets Eights Off and How They Face It

27 September 2023

enneagram 8 in stress

Enneagram Type Eight, or the Challenger, is a force of nature. It is not easy to throw them out of balance, as they are the ones who make the waves and not the other way around. So, does it take an apocalypse to put an Enneagram 8 in stress, or would falling in love and sharing tender feelings be enough?

Many people are fascinated by Eight’s strength and wonder what could possibly set them off. The answer to this and many other interesting questions about Enneagram 8 in stress is in this article, so get ready to explore!

Enneagram Type 8 in Regular Circumstances

Enneagram Eight in Regular Circumstances

Enneagram Type Eight in regular circumstances is known to have the most masculine, domineering energy of all Enneagram types. Highly charged, bold, and fiercely independent, Eights are determined to be the masters of their destinies and can’t stand taking orders from anyone.

Power is the value Eights center their lives around. They believe that having power that comes from wealth, status, and a position of authority can give them the control and autonomy they desire.

Moreover, their direct, energetic communication style easily intimidates other personality types who are not as energetic as they are. Still, despite their brash image, they are kind-hearted and fair, always standing up for the underdog without a second thought.

When it comes to relationships, Eights are passionate, loyal, and often a bit possessive. They can’t forgive betrayal and therefore don’t give their trust easily to other people.

Before we get into how Enneagram 8 reacts to stress, keep in mind that all Enneagram types can have some characteristics of their neighboring types. Therefore, Eights can show some traits of Nines or Sevens. While 8w7s are usually spirited adventurists, 8w9s are calmer versions of the Challenger, but their reactions to stress will be the same.

Enneagram Type 8 in Stress

Enneagram 8 in stress reacts with a lot of anger. However, while Eights freely express their anger in normal circumstances, unhealthy Enneagram 8s in stress take traits and coping mechanisms typical of Enneagram Type Five.

Here are some of the most reliable indicators of an Enneagram 8 in stress:

  • Detachment and isolation. To regain a sense of control, Eights withdraw physically and emotionally. They can’t stand exposing their vulnerability, so they cut off all contact until they feel strong enough to deal with issues head-on.
  • Intellectualization. This coping strategy is typical of Type Five, and Eights efficiently use it, too. Intellectualization is also an attempt to regain control over the situation by analyzing and thinking about what went wrong.
  • Focus on hoarding resources. Since they refuse to rely on other people, Eights focus on accumulating material possessions, gathering information, and generally stockpiling all their available resources. This is their way of ensuring a safety net.
  • Increased aggression. Generally, confrontational Eights become defensive and aggressive under stress, feeling constantly attacked and threatened, even when people close to them just express their worries.

Stress Triggers for Enneagram 8s

Stress Triggers for Enneagram 8s

The biggest triggers for Enneagram 8 in stress are generally all those situations that activate their core fear of being manipulated and taken advantage of.

So, here’s an overview of the things that set Type Eight off:

#1. Being Micromanaged

Eights have zero tolerance for people who try to control and micromanage them, regardless of whether these people are Eight’s bosses, parents, friends, or partners. Being micromanaged directly triggers their fear of being manipulated, so they react promptly and harshly in such situations.

Additionally, Challengers will always find a way to prove they can’t be controlled by anyone, either by leaving the situation or by fiercely confronting the person trying to control them.

#2. Lack of Freedom

Lack of freedom jeopardizes Eight's sense of autonomy, which is one of their most important values. In fact, any situation in which a Challenger feels their autonomy is compromised sets off all their stress alarms. They become intensely frustrated and irrationally angry when they perceive that their freedom is being curtailed.

#3. Feeling Exposed & Vulnerable

Feeling Exposed and Vulnerable

Feeling vulnerable is so stressful for Eights because they believe that other people will take advantage of them or harm them in some way if they show weakness. And for the Challenger, soft and tender feelings are a weakness.

Because of this, they perceive anything that exposes them as sensitive, gentle, kind, and caring as a threat, even in personal relationships. So, needless to say, it takes a lot of time for Eights to feel comfortable showing their tender side to someone.

#4. Loss of Control

The Enneagram Type Eight's top priority and ultimate objective is to take control of their fate and become the architect of their own destiny. Therefore, the loss of control is a trigger for them because it directly threatens to undermine the most important value and goal that they have in life.

On top of this, they perceive that any loss of control puts them in danger of other people taking advantage of them, which is their greatest fear.

#5. Betrayal and Disrespect

It is not surprising that Eights find betrayal and disrespect to be some of their biggest stress triggers, given their trust issues and difficulties in emotionally opening up to others. They are extremely faithful and trustworthy, so they do not waste time or energy on relationships that are not worth the investment.

Because of this, it can be especially devastating for them to experience betrayal or disrespect, and it can take them a long time to recover from such relationships and be ready to trust again.

#6. Submissive Role

Though it may seem like Eights are too proud to accept being in submissive roles, the real reason why this is unbearable to them is, once again, their fear of being taken advantage of or manipulated in some way.

When forced to take on such a role for too long, Eights will engage in more or less subtle power struggles, which rarely have a happy end.

How Can Enneagram Type 8 Deal With Stress: 5 Strategies

How Can Enneagram Type 8 Deal With Stress: 5 Strategies

An Enneagram 8 in stress can cope with their issues very effectively when they learn to accept their vulnerability and recognize toxic beliefs that prevent them from establishing closer relationships. This sounds way easier than it actually is for anyone, let alone for someone as independent and resilient as the Challenger, but it’s definitely possible.

So, here are the most effective Enneagram 8 stress relief strategies:

#1. Engage in Creative Work

Creativity is the most effective and natural way to counteract the excessive need for control. Being creative engages Enneagram 8 in stress both emotionally and intellectually without leaving room for worrying and stressing about what could go wrong.

In addition, creative work soothes the alarmed nervous system, bringing it back to a more balanced state. This allows a Challenger to see the situation from different perspectives and consciously choose their reaction instead of instinctively reacting to triggers.

#2. Focus on Positive Things

Eights use all their energy to control external circumstances and, therefore, fail to notice many positive things around them. They focus on threats, potential dangers, and areas in which they need to assert control. And though such focus is part of what makes Eights so resilient and ready to react promptly in every situation, it also robs them of the simple joys of life.

Focusing on positive things will, therefore, help change the typical Enneagram 8 stress path and relieve the psychological tension pent up in their bodies. As their attention shifts from perceived threats to the many good things in their lives, their aggression will also decrease because they will not feel so propelled to protect themselves.

#3. Identify the Real Source of Stress

The typical Enneagram 8 trauma revolves around some early experience of being too controlled, manipulated, or taken advantage of. Therefore, Eights built a defense mechanism with the goal of protecting themselves from repeating that early trauma. Their nervous system becomes hypersensitive to catching even the smallest signs of betrayal and manipulation.

However, when Eights become aware of the experience that had such a profound influence on the way they perceive reality, they will understand when their reaction comes from triggering their initial trauma and when it is a reaction to what is happening in the here and now.

#4. Practice Vulnerability in Safe Environments

Enneagram 8 in Stress

It is essential for Enneagram 8 in stress to learn that it is possible to be vulnerable without being harmed by opening up to people who have earned their trust. Recognizing that vulnerability and weakness are completely different things and understanding how practicing vulnerability in safe spaces actually makes them stronger can be a life-changing experience for Type Eight.

#5. Channel Their Anger

Though anger has a negative connotation in general, it is important for Eights to realize that no emotion is inherently negative; our reactions to it determine whether they are positive or negative. Therefore, anger can be a force that teaches us about our boundaries or a destructive force that ruins our relationships with other people.

Once the Challenger realizes this, their rage can be channeled toward any goal they set for themselves.

How to Help an Enneagram 8 in Stress

Helping an Enneagram 8 in stress requires patience and understanding, so your calm presence and level-headedness are more valuable to them than compassion. Considering how hard Eights struggle with showing vulnerability and asking for help, it is essential to avoid being too emotional when they are going through rough patches.

Moreover, they may feel insulted if you show that you empathize with them. Respect their independence and show your loyalty; your integrity will help them feel more secure.

Another thing to absolutely avoid when comforting an Enneagram 8 in stress is a power struggle. This can be very challenging since Challengers are particularly prone to power struggles under stress. Make sure you don’t bite the hook when a stressed Eight snaps at you for some tiny little thing they don’t really care about.

However, while you should be silently supportive at first when Eight is ready to talk about their experiences, it is crucial that you listen attentively, validate their emotions, and highlight their strengths. Finally, Eights value directness and honesty in communication, so do not be shy about voicing your opinion or offering advice.

Key Takeaways

And now, in the provocative spirit of the Challenger, let’s round this guide off with one last challenge, which is memorization of key insights about an Enneagram 8 in stress and growth:

  • The answer to the ‘where do Enneagram 8s go in stress’ question is—they resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms of Type Five, following the Enneagram 8 stress line.
  • The biggest stress triggers for Eights include being micromanaged, lacking freedom and autonomy, showing vulnerability, losing control, and being betrayed.
  • The most effective stress management strategies for Enneagram 8 in stress are engaging in creative activities, practicing vulnerability, channeling their anger, and focusing on positive things.
  • As they struggle to trust others, supporting an Enneagram 8 in stress takes tact and patience.