Enneagram 1 The Perfectionist

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Posted with permission from Ocean Moonshine

Enneatype One Type Description

People of Enneatype One are idealists. They are idealists in the sense that they bring to all of their experience an implicit sense of “how things should be.” This sense of an unmet ideal permeates the One’s experience of the world. It is as though they were simultaneously aware of how things are and of how they should be. Since reality as the One perceives it, and the ideal as the One conceives it, very infrequently coincide, Ones experience reality as being essentially flawed and approach it from a standpoint of frustration.

Ones are people of action and therefore tend to deal with their belief in the world’s inherent imperfection with the deep seated conviction that something ought to be done. The flaws should be fixed; the system reformed; the sin expurgated. Some Ones, like Martin Luther or Mahatma Gandhi, are leaders and reformers in the classic sense, but virtually all Ones have a pronounced streak of perfectionism, a perfectionism which is active; it seeks not just to judge but to fix. To be sure, other types can have perfectionistic streaks, but the One’s perfectionism is more than a quirk; it is a central compulsion, and while it may not extend to all areas of the One’s life, it will be very much front and center in those areas upon which the One has chosen to focus. And Ones are people who have a highly developed capacity to focus; they are disciplined people who can attend to their jobs while steadfastly refusing to be drawn into distractions. Ones generally have a fine eye for detail and are typically quite skilled in at least a few key areas. They are people who can commit, who will “follow through;” they are people who will do what they see as their duty. Ones are dedicated, competent and conscientious and they know how to persevere. They are people of principle who can be counted on to do what they say they will do.

Ones are not only aware of the flaws they see embedded in the very structure of reality, but also, by extension, of the flaws they see in others, and more importantly of those they find in themselves. This is naturally not an easy dynamic for the type One individual, or for the intimates in a One’s life, especially as Ones tend to focus their reform efforts on those they love. Ones tend to worry about those they love, and they feel it is their duty to help others achieve the excellence that the One believes them capable of achieving. These reform efforts are a sign of the One’s love, but can, paradoxically, cause others to feel unloved, as though they were simply never quite good enough for the One. For obvious reasons, this can be a particularly difficult dynamic for the children of type One individuals. On the positive side though, Ones are loyal and dedicated. They will sacrifice for those that they love. They will not abandon those who have been placed in their charge.

Of course, as mentioned, Ones are quite hard on themselves also. They tend to feel guilty for not quite measuring up to their own impossible standards, and are frequently somewhat impatient with the many little flaws that are inherent in being human. On the high side, Ones can approach this with a kind of self-deprecatory humor, which gives them perspective and which breaks the tension. Ones know they are sticklers and can sometimes see the humor in it all. On the low side, the One’s frustration at a world which is imperfect, and with themselves for not measuring up, can lead to a stance of anger and resentment against a world so poorly made. For this reason, in the traditional enneagram, anger is considered to be the distinctive passion or “vice” of type One. Oscar Ichazo succinctly defined this anger as a “standing against reality.” When the type One personality is sufficiently unbalanced, it approaches each situation and each individual as being “not good enough.” When the unhealthy One brings a reforming energy to this sentiment, the punitiveness of their superego is turned outward. They can become frankly aggressive, even in extreme cases violent, and they can then readily justify their excess as being necessary, as being “for a good cause.”

The One’s anger usually exists in a quiescent state, but serves as the backdrop to all other emotional states and makes for a generally tense character. Ones tend to feel guilty about their anger. Anger is a “bad emotion” and Ones strive sincerely and wholeheartedly to be “good.” As the One’s superego is already over burdened, awareness of anger is usually vigorously repressed from consciousness. Others may be very much aware of the One’s anger, even as the One vehemently denies its existence through clenched teeth. (Introspection, especially in this regard, does not tend to be the One’s strongest suit.) In order to appease their punitive superegos, Ones generally maintain tight control of their tempers, and usually only allow anger to manifest in one of its less obvious permutations – impatience, frustration, annoyance and judgmental criticality. When anger does break through into an overt expression, others can be impressed by the depth of the One’s self-righteous fury.

Ones are generally serious people who find it difficult to relax and who often needlessly deny themselves many of the harmless pleasures of life. They are generally somewhat emotionally repressed, and, especially if male in our society, tend to see the active expression of emotion as a sign of weakness and a lack of self-control. They are sometimes uncomfortable with their sensuous side. As they generally have strong instincts, Ones don’t always find sexuality to be an area of life that flows smoothly. This is undoubtedly exacerbated by a society that has sent conflicted messages to the One’s superego about sexuality, messages which imply that sex is “dirty.” Ones are susceptible to these sorts of messages and to all messages sent to them about how things “ought to be.” Ones tend to have been good boys and girls: “young adults,” eagle scouts and straight A students.

Ones are “doers.” They are sometimes workaholics, but whether they are career oriented or not, are generally getting things done, whether this involves one of their hobbies or one of their causes. They are usually talented and have multiple interests, but often simply feel that relaxation is a manifestation of idleness and hence an indulgence which shouldn’t be allowed.

Ones are sincere. They seldom consciously adopt a social role and are uncomfortable with posturing or self-promotion. Although they are generally practical people involved in the world, they often have an endearing naivete when it comes to those who are less principled and more duplicitous than themselves. They tend to be authentic. What you see is what you get, which does not imply at all that the One is superficial, but rather that the One is honest and not skilled in the arts of deception. Ones often command respect from others, even if it is only grudging. Ones may be exacting, but they don’t ask from others what they would be unwilling to do themselves, and others generally recognize this and respond favorably.

Integrity is a rare quality, but Ones more than all other Enneatypes strive to embody it, and often enough manage to achieve it, even if it is in their own flawed way. “Integrity” in its root meaning refers to a type of internal unity. (The word “integer” – the word which denotes a “unit” reflects this ancient meaning.)Ones, unless they are quite unhealthy, are not hypocrites; they do not wish to be at war with their own sense of what is right and wrong. They will act on what they see to be correct; when they integrate the emotional energy that they so often repress, their intellectual vision is tempered with compassion and they cease to judge. Appropriate compassion clarifies their vision; when they feel with sensitivity, they see with precision.

When healthy, Ones are the most noble of all Enneatypes. Their perfectionism becomes coupled with kindness and a gentleness of spirit. Their judgment is tempered by mercy. There is even a regal quality to the healthy One.

Ones with a Two wing tend to be warmer and more emotionally expressive than those with a Nine wing. They are more extroverted and somewhat less self-restrained. They can frequently be found in the helping professions. A dominant Nine wing often manifests in the need to withdraw under stress and as an ability to merge with chosen activities. Ones with the Nine wing frequently love nature, as they find there the perfection they so deeply admire. It is not without reason that Henry David Thoreau is frequently typed as a One with Nine.

Type Exemplars

It is not uncommon for Ones to be intellectual. Biographies of the great German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, indicate that he was very likely an Enneatype One. Plato, and the Stoic philosopher Epictetus, likewise seem to have been Ones; certainly their philosophies manifest type One concerns.

Not all type One philosophers were careful thinkers however: consider Ayn Rand.

As indicated earlier, many reformers are Ones. In addition to those already cited, Joan of Arc comes to mind, and on the scene more recently, Ralph Nader who organized a team of young idealists who were appropriately termed “Crusaders.” While some reformers buck the system, many, such as John Paul II, are conservative. Some are even reactionary; Osama bin Laden is a chilling such example. Or consider, for that matter, St. Paul, whom Nietzsche accused of harboring ressentiment.

Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and author of Civil Disobedience which would later influence Gandhi, was a One, as was Gandhi himself.

Authors include Flannery O’Connor, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Johnson and Noam Chomsky.

It is not uncommon for Ones to be drawn to politics – Al Gore, John Kerry, Michael Dukakis and Hillary Clinton are obvious examples, but not all Ones are so wooden. Rudi Giuliani is a good example of a more passionate type One politician.

Some actors are Ones: Henry Fonda, Emma Thompson, Diane Lane are Ones, as was Gregory Peck and Peck’s fictional Atticus Finch fromTo Kill a Mockingbird. And musicians as diverse as J.S. Bach and George Harrison.

The famous journalist, Edward R. Murrow was a One. There is still a small plaque in the lobby of CBS headquarters in New York City which contains the image of Murrow and the inscription: “He set standards of excellence that remain unsurpassed.” Also consider the recently deceased William F. Buckley Jr.

On the broadcasting scene more recently, the very opinionated Keith Olbermann. Also, the thoughtful Fareed Zakaria.

Also, the attorney for the prosecution: Patrick Fitzgerald, a clear type One.

Other fictional examples of type One include Mr. Spock, who is sometimes mistaken for a Five, Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor, Aragorn, from the Tolkien trilogy, and King Peter from the Narnia chronicles, whose creator, C.S. Lewis was also a One. And, Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Darcy describes his character in these terms:”I have faults enough, but they are not, I hope, of understanding. My temper I dare not vouch for. It is, I believe, too little yielding, certainly too little for the convenience of the world. I cannot forget the follies and vices of other so soon as I ought, nor their offenses against myself. My feelings are not puffed about with every attempt to move them. My temper would perhaps be called resentful. My good opinion once lost, is lost forever…There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil, a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome.”

And as we are on the discussion of fictional examples, a good case could also be made for typing “God the Father” as a One.

Some Ones make good caricatures of themselves. Martha Stewart comes to mind, as does “Miss Manners” and the “Church Lady.”

Possible Mistypes

Ones can mistake themselves for Twos, especially when female, and when the wing is strong, but Ones are much more concerned with abstract principles than Twos, who are more feeling oriented, emotionally expressive and concerned with people than are Ones.

It is not likely for a One to mistype as a Three although the converse does occur. Both types attempt to embody an ideal and Threes can sometimes seem “perfect,” according to the prevailing value system. But, unlike Threes, Ones are frequently unaware of their image; it is often one of their blind spots.

The relentless pursuit of perfection can take its toll and lead to depression. At such times a One can mistype as a Four. But Fours have a tendency towards self-indulgence when unhappy, whereas Ones are self-denying. Fours are comfortable feeling deep emotions; Ones are decidedly not. Too messy.

Ones are often intelligent, independent and emotionally detached and can easily mistype themselves, or be mistyped by others, as examples of Enneatype Five, but however intelligent they are, Ones are primarily people of action, not thought, and they are far more comfortable adopting a leadership role than is the more withdrawn and reclusive Five. Even the most intellectual of type Ones – consider Plato in this regard – want to leave a tangible mark. Plato created the academy which survived for the better part of a millennium.

Ones tend to worry and can sometimes mistype as Sixes, although the converse is probably more common. But Ones are far less self-doubting than Sixes; unlike Sixes, they are quite sure that they are right. This certainty makes Ones decisive, whereas Sixes are generally ambivalent. In addition, Ones are less affiliative than most Sixes and their decisions are not likely to be reached by seeking group consensus.

Ones do not mistake themselves for Sevens, although Sevens might well find that they themselves have a perfectionistic streak. Sevens tend to have problems with immaturity however, and Ones are very much the adult. Ones are frugal, sometimes to a fault; Sevens tend to be spendthrifts. Ones have a hard time having fun; Sevens usually find a way to enjoy themselves, even in the midst of hardship.

Ones can be quite dominating, like enneatype Eight, but Ones dominate in service to an ideal and lack the Eight’s expansiveness. Eights are more visceral than Ones; Ones generally have a more cerebral orientation than do Eights. Ones tend to consider themselves to be morally superior to their opponents; Eights to consider themselves to be more powerful. Ones are more prissy that Eights; Eights more tactless and crude than Ones.

Finally, if the wing is especially strong, Ones and Nines might crosstype, but Ones are far more judgmental and have a much harder time relaxing than Enneatype Nines, who are generally far more “laid back.” Ones seldom have a hard time expressing their opinions or making their requirements known, whereas Nines frequently struggle with self-assertion.

The Instinctual Stackings of Enneatype One

Enneatype One belongs to the instinctual/gut triad; its instinctual energy and anger are directed inward. This inward build-up of energies gives to the sexual variant an energy similar to a cork under pressure. The fixation of the One is focused on containnment and improvement, but the sexual instinct is passionate and impulsive and its needs don’t take kindly to “going underground.” It is essentially opposed to Oneness.

Comparatively, the social One is less conflicted. The social instinct lends itself more to a plan, an order; the instinctual energy has a natural outlet. Not everyone sees things the same way as the One however, and that’s where problems arise for the One who wants to be “right” and wants the social realm also to be “right.”

The self-pres energy of type One is in sync with its dominant fixation, which can work well when the person is balanced. When out of balance, the self-pres One can become obsessive-compulsive, anal, and/or perfectionistic. The sexual instinct is, in many ways, in opposition to self-pres One energy, so inner conflict is seen more as the sexual variant is expressed through the Oneness.


Enneatype One’s basic fear is of not being perfect, therefore, not being good enough. This manifests in the self-pres variant as the need to “fix” the environment.

This type is the most steady, organized, and practical. They prioritize time well, pride themselves on, for instance, finding the bargain, buying quality, putting forth their best effort. Perfection comes from dotting all the i’s. They tend to watch their health and to not overindulge. When healthy, their example of efficiency is inspiring. The pride they take in their work is commendable.

On the down side, they can become obsessive-compulsive. They can lose the forest for the trees in attempting to make their homes and environments perfect. They can also be very hard on themselves. The energy of this type is the most consistent. When their ideal falls short, frustration usually turns inward. Anger is repressed, especially with the Nine wing.


This type is more fiery than the self-pres/social. They still have many of the same concerns of the first type, but there is this secondary energy that wants to throw all their repression out the window. This energy is mainly contained, but it’s there just under the surface. The focus of their perfectionism is on their loved ones. On the down side, they can be very critical of the people close to them. Although normally controlled, this type is likely to erupt from time to time with those close to them. It’s an explosion of built up repression that has to be released.

On the high side, this type can relax a little more than the self-pres/social, but on the down side, they are more volatile. They do share the inner conflict between their sexual and self-pres instincts with the sexual/self-pres, but the self-pres energy usually wins out. The instinctual energy of the sexual instinct is more apparent than with the self-pres/social. Despite being critical of their mates, they are usually very committed to their relationships. In the mind of the self-pres/sexual One, the judgmental criticality is a sign of commitment and love.


When the social instinct is dominant in enneatype One, the fear of not being perfect manifests with regards to their connection to others. The social instinct is satisfied when others follow their rules or hold up their standards of justice.

This type is very community minded. They are likely to be the person on the block who offers a hand, tells you, for instance, how to maintain your lawn just right. When healthy, they do this in a truly helpful way. These individuals can be counted on to do the right thing. They convey to others that they can be trusted and have everyone’s best interest in mind. This type is likely to have an interest in politics and social concerns.

They are similar to the self-pres/social in the respect that both types will be community minded, but the self-pres/social will focus more on self and this type will extend its focus to the group. On the down side, they can be judgmental and intrusive when their input is not called for. Frustration for the social/self-pres One comes when others aren’t maintaining the same ideals and standards the One holds. This frustration in the social arena combines with the self-pres concerns, and can generate the impetus for action we so often see with this type.


The social/sexual One will have the same concerns as the social/self-pres types, however those concerns center more on individuals. Rules aren’t quite as important. They will zero in on what they want to make better and the intensity of their conviction is more obvious. Along with this, they are more personable, somewhat “lighter” and don’t generally take themselves as seriously. They can have a great sense of humor.

On the down side, their sensitivity can cause them to hold grudges. Because the self-pres instinct is last, this subtype could easily be mistaken for other enneatypes. Along with the sexual/social subtype, they can even be somewhat sloppy. Usually, there is still a sense of organization and a desire to do the job right, but there is much less emphasis on perfectionism in the material, physical environment. Most of their focus is on people and society. With this as their focus, they can be quite persuasive when it comes to their chosen causes. On the down side, when this extra outward energy is taken too far, they can approach the world with the attitude that they need to be right at all costs.


When the sexual instinct is dominant, the One’s fear of not being perfect manifests directly in the realm of close personal relationships. Close bonds are the focus of their perfectionism. They focus on having a perfect mate or perfect friends and family. Competition and intensity can enter the picture.

This subtype is a mass of contradictions. They want to let themselves go, but judge themselves for doing so. The difference between this type and the self-pres/sexual is that the sexual first intensity wins out. They can be highly critical of their spouses, expecting perfection from them. They can be very jealous and protective of their relationships. Their sense of humor can be sarcastic and biting. On the down side, they can be brutal to others while being very sensitive themselves to the slightest criticism. When their standards or ideals aren’t met, you’ll likely know about it. The anger and frustration is more visible in this subtype, and they also tend to be more emotionally demonstrative than the other non-sexual subtypes.

On the high side, the contradictions and struggle usually make for a very interesting person, combining high ideals with passion. Their blind spot can be their inability to see the impact of their intensity in the social realm.


The instinctual energy of this subtype is the most at odds with their dominant Oneness. This subtype is the most intense. They are looking for perfection in everyone they are close to, not just their spouses. They can be very charismatic and engaging. They can also be very persuasive, like the social/sexual. If they have an opinion you are going to hear about it. It’s very important for them to be understood. They are outwardly competitive. Like the social/sexual, they too may be mistyped as other enneatypes. The anger that is under the surface with the other instinctual variants of type One is much more likely to be apparent with this subtype. You always know where you stand with them. They can mimic type Eight’s energy in this regard. On the high side, this type is warm and engaging, but on the down side this same energy can bring with it the full brunt of the One’s anger and the need to be right.

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