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E-SymOnelabeledThe Rational, Idealistic Type:
Principled, Purposeful, Self-Controlled, and Perfectionistic

For more about the meaning of the arrows, see below.

Type One in Brief

One is conscientious and ethical, with a strong sense of right and wrong. They are teachers, crusaders, and advocates for change: always striving to improve but afraid of making mistakes. Well-organized, orderly, and fastidious, they try to maintain high standards but can slip into being critical and perfectionistic. They typically have problems with resentment and impatience. At their Best: wise, discerning, realistic, and noble. It can be morally heroic.

  • Basic Fear: Of being corrupt/evil, defective
  • Basic Desire: To be good, to have integrity, to be balanced
  • Enneagram One with a Nine-Wing: “The Idealist”
  • Enneagram One with a Two-Wing: “The Advocate”

Key Motivations: To be correct, to strive higher and improve everything, to be consistent with their ideals, to justify themselves, and to be beyond criticism so as not to be condemned by anyone.

The Meaning of the Arrows (in brief)

Methodical Ones suddenly become moody and irrational at Four when moving in the Direction of Disintegration (stress). However, when moving in their Direction of Integration (growth), angry, critical Ones become more spontaneous and joyful, like healthy Sevens.

Examples: Mahatma Gandhi, Hilary Clinton, Al Gore, John Paul II, Elliot Spitzer, Sandra Day O’Connor, John Bradshaw, Bill Moyers, Martha Stewart, Ralph Nader, Katherine Hepburn, Harrison Ford, Vanessa Redgrave, Jane Fonda, Meryl Streep, George Harrison, Celene Dion, Joan Baez, George Bernard Shaw, Noam Chomsky, Michael Dukakis, Margaret Thatcher, Rudolph Guliani, Jerry Brown, Jane Curtin, Gene Siskel, William F. Buckley, Kenneth Starr, The “Church Lady” (Saturday Night Live), and “Mr. Spock” (Star Trek).

Type One Overview

We have named personality type One The Reformer because Ones have a “sense of mission” that leads them to want to improve the world in various ways, using whatever degree of influence they have. They strive to overcome adversity—particularly moral adversity—so the human spirit can shine through and make a difference. They strive after “higher values,” even at the cost of great personal sacrifice.

History is full of Ones who have left comfortable lives to do something extraordinary because they felt something higher was calling them. During the Second World War, Raoul Wallenburg left a comfortable middle-class life to work for the protection of thousands of European Jews from invading Nazis. In India, Gandhi left behind his wife and family and life as a successful lawyer to become an itinerant advocate of Indian independence and non-violent social changes. Joan of Arc left her village in France to restore the Dauphin’s throne and expel the English from the country. The idealism of each of these has inspired millions.

Ones are people of practical action—they wish to be helpful in the best sense of the word. On some level of consciousness, they feel that they “have a mission” to fulfill in life, if only to try their best to reduce the disorder they see in their environment.

Although Ones have a strong sense of purpose, they also typically feel that they have to justify their actions to themselves and often to others as well. This orientation causes Ones to spend a lot of time thinking about the consequences of their actions and how to keep from acting contrary to their convictions. Because of this, Ones often persuade themselves that they are “head” types, rationalists who proceed only on logic and objective truth. But, the accurate picture is somewhat different: Ones are activists searching for an acceptable rationale for their actions. They are people of instinct and passion who use convictions and judgments to control and direct themselves and their actions.

To stay true to their principles, Ones resist being affected by their instinctual drives, consciously not giving in to them or expressing them too freely. The result is a personality type that has problems with repression, resistance, and aggression. Others see them as highly self-controlled, even rigid, although this is not how Ones experience themselves. They seem to be sitting on a cauldron of passions and desires, and they had better “keep the lid on” lest they and everyone else around them regret it.

Cassandra is a therapist in private practice who recalls the difficulty this caused her in her youth.

“I remember in high school getting feedback that I had no feelings. Inside, I felt my feelings intensely and yet I just couldn’t let them out as intensely as I felt them. Even now, if I have a conflict with a friend and need to address an issue, I rehearse ahead of time how to express clearly what I want, need, and observe, and yet, not be harsh or blaming in my anger which is often scathing.”

One believes that being strict with themselves (and eventually becoming “perfect”) will justify them in their own eyes and the eyes of others. But by attempting to create their brand of perfection, they often create their hell. Instead of agreeing with the statement in Genesis that God saw what He had created, “and it was good,” Ones intensely feel that “It wasn’t—there have been some mistakes here!” This orientation makes it difficult for them to trust their inner guidance—indeed, to trust life—so Ones come to rely heavily on their superego, a learned voice from their childhood, to guide them toward “the greater good” which they so passionately seek. When Ones have gotten completely entranced in their personality, there is little distinction between them and this severe, unforgiving voice. Growth for Ones is about separating from it and seeing its genuine strengths and limitations.

(from The Wisdom of the Enneagram, p. 99-100)

Next Actions

  • Do you have a loud inner voice continually criticizing you?
  • Do you often wonder how you could have done something better or faster?
  • Do you have difficulty accepting compliments about your work?
  • Do you wish you were easier going?
  • Do you redo the work of others as it doesn’t live up to your standards?
  • Have other people called you a perfectionist?

If you have identified yourself as a perfectionist, then try these simple tips to help restore the positive aspects of your personality type:

  • Learn how to accept a compliment and believe in its sincerity
  • Learn how to relax more
  • You need to take some personal time out to enjoy yourself
  • Find ways of silencing your inner critic
  • Retrain your thoughts to become more positive

Work on the most negative qualities of your personality type: a tendency to get angry with others, an inclination to be judgmental, and a belief that it is your role to set the world straight regardless of the consequences.

Following study and evaluation of yourself, you can learn to manage these negatives so that your personality will attach itself to the positive characteristics of your type. Being hard-working, direct when appropriate, and attempting to change the world for the benefit of others are your positive qualities. These will be naturally highlighted when you learn to control the negatives.