Mel Gibson as a Counterphobic Six

He Assumes the Worst

Mel Gibson is a Counterphobic Six in real life and plays a fine Counterphobic Six in his role as Tom Mullen in Ransom. I'll tell you the plot because the previews have mostly given it away and it is the plot that really reveals the Counterphobic Six strategy.

Tom's son, Brian, is kidnapped and the kidnappers ask for a $2,000,000 ransom, a price Tom can easily afford to pay. He starts to go through all the instructions of the kidnappers, and at the same time is obediently following the authoritative advice of the police and the FBI. Like any Six, he plays by the rules of the game.

Then something snaps. When the kidnappers don't give him the address he is promised, his "worst possible world" view snaps into focus. He decides they're going to kill his son, so he goes sort of crazy, but his behavior is entirely logical within a Counterphobic Six framework. He assumes the worst and he attacks. He goes against the instruction of the kidnappers and the FBI and police and the wishes of his wife. He goes on TV, tells the kidnappers to go to hell, and takes the ransom money and offers it as a bounty to anyone who kills the kidnappers. He explains to his wife that this will throw the entire gang into panic and destroy them and their plans. Just why he thinks that is a bit vague but you can tell it is a strategy that he thinks will work.

I won't spoil the ending, but instead comment a bit on the Enneagram style at work. Sixes are polarized against themselves. All styles are polarized in different ways, but it is dramatic in the Phobic/Counterphobic Six division. Sixes constantly question themselves as well as questioning authority. (In the movie Gibson/Mullen does both. He doubts himself even as he takes dramatic action, and he certainly doubts both the integrity and competence of the FBI and police).

Sixes assume that when they take action, they will be punished. "It's the tallest blades of grass that get mowed." So they turn their doubt on themselves. They decide, then attack their own decision. They are polarized between taking action and not taking action. They are often paralyzed with indecision. Actually they decide both ways and the equal pressure to do and not to do keeps them from action. They will then often substitute worry for action. The Counterphobic solution to this inertia is to do what they fear. They often say that fear is no reason not to do something, actually they feel they must do what they fear.

Polarization is a technical term. It means to actively oppose certain parts of our experience. Certain parts of our experience are denied or at least discounted, and in the case of Sixes, then projected on to others. So, in Ransom, when this ruthless businessman runs up against the gangsters, he projects his own ruthlessness onto them and knows they will kill his son. The evil in themselves that Sixes don't acknowledge is not wasted - it is projected onto others. I was recently lied to and cheated by a Six. When she wrote and explained why she did what she did, she came across as totally believing she was the victim.

What rings so true in Ransom is the evil in the background that keeps being mentioned, yet not integrated into the plot. Was the payoff/bribery/machinists' strike really relevant? Yes, but not in a heavy handed way. It showed the evil in Mullen that he didn't acknowledge that enabled him to "know" how ruthless the gangster would be. Mel Gibson is so handsome he doesn't look like the villain in the show and he never does acknowledge his villainy. Instead he projects it on to Jimmy.

Jimmy for his part, not in touch with his evil, either, sees himself as an avenger, not as a villain. (He's a vengeful Eight, bringing justice for the little people -- the human garbage -- taking care of his woman -- his connection to Two). The whole kidnapping is a class action revenge. That's why revenge, not money, is the real motive. He never gives up. Eights, when compulsed, cannot let go.

    Discussion questions:

  1. Can you identify the polarities of your number? Start with a possible dark side to your best feature.
  2. What does identifying with one or the other polarity permit you to do? What's in it for you?


  1. Our Inner Conflicts, chapter two, The Basic Conflict by Karen Horney
  2. Read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, By R L Stevenson. The evil desires of the morally good type One are allowed free run (and he becomes a Seven!). Both the good and the evil are present in the Seven and the One in real life. The One sees only one way, having only one way feels like a trap to a Seven. Both are polarized.