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Defense Mechanism--Type Six

Our next stop working our way around the Enneagram as we explore our defense mechanisms is Type Six--the loyalist, trooper, skeptic, worrier.

By way of reminder, we all share in the human experience of anxiety, regardless of our Enneagram Type. It's important to keep in mind a couple of things:

  • Anxiety is the universal human experience of the discomfort we feel when our sense of security and order in our world is disrupted. Almost anything can unsettle us--others' attitude toward us, a sense that we are unacceptable, experience of failure, a significant loss, etc. It doesn't matter if this sense is based in real experience, or if it is just our perception. Both have the same effect on us.

  • We all employ defense mechanisms in reaction to our anxiety. We don't like how anxiety feels. We naturally react to a sense of threat. Defense mechanisms are designed to protect us from that threat.

Each Enneagram Type has its signature go-to defense mechanism that coincides with its personality structure. Both Type and defense mechanisms form around core needs, fears and motives.

The primary defense mechanism for Enneagram Six is Projection. Enneagram teacher, Peter O'Hanrahan, states that Projection is a way to attribute to others what we cannot accept in ourselves.

Interestingly, projection cuts both ways. Sixes project positive attributes on others, such as a romantic partner or an authority figure, in order to alleviate their insecurity and fear.

Idealizing paves the way for the Six to identify with and belong to the other--be it a person, group or ideology. This creates a sense of safety and security and justifies the Sixes' loyalty to them.

This can lead Sixes to be blindly loyal to things like political affiliation and religious organizations. It can lend itself to strong, authoritarian leaders as well.

Sixes also project negative feelings onto others as a way to justify their fear and distrust. This gives the Six permission to resist authority, question and blame others rather than doing their internal work of resolving their fear and other negative emotions.

Negative projection can lead Sixes to come across as a problem, resistant and a devil's advocate to toward their leaders and group affiliations.

Part of the Sixes' use of projection is their tendency to amplify what they perceive as reality. They take a small piece of evidence, again positive or negative, and amplify it to justify the path they take to assure safety and certainty.

One give-away of the use of projection is when we find ourselves saying, "If you would _______, then I could ________."

Projection idealizes when directed toward the positive. It demonizes when focused on the negative.

Overcoming projection comes when the Six returns to their essence of safety, security and worth. Sixes can learn to trust their own core wisdom, capacity and efficacy. Strength comes from within, rather than outside of themselves.

Sixes aren't the only Types to use projection, of course. We all project in certain situations. But, Sixes provide us useful insight on how projection impacts each of us.

How does projection operate in your life?

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