The Type One – The Merciful Teacher

The Type One is the principled, idealistic type. Healthy Ones are conscientious and ethical, with a strong sense of right and wrong. They are teachers, crusaders, and advocates for change: always striving to improve things, but afraid of making a mistake. 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. Can be morally heroic.

Now let’s talk about the beloved Type One. The Reformer, known for being principled, purposeful, self-controlled and perfectionistic.  At their best, the One is objective, selfless, and determined to improve the world they live in, to serve a higher purpose or mission. Al Gore comes to mind and his work of Inconvenient Truth. He has taken on global service to the planet with the intention of improving and perfecting how we treat planet earth and ourselves. Rational, logical, idealistic, objective, he reminds us of what the high ground is for human beings: taking actions that serve everyone.

Two of my very best friends are Type Ones, and this is for certain, I couldn’t have two finer advocates for supporting me in my self-improvement and clarity of purpose. Honest, fair, kind, discerning, paragons of truthful and right action, they are dedicated friends who are willing to help in the highest sense of the word. If you are willing to work, they will work to support you. Now, for those of you who know dear Ones, we’ve each had the experience of falling under their radar of perfection. That is, if you want someone to point out the details of what is wrong and how to improve a particular situation, be it your home, your car, your approach to life, One’s are hard-wired for economy of action, for improving a thing so it works at its best. And being wired this way, they can become compelled by it, on bad days transfixed, seeing the details of what’s wrong more dominantly than seeing what’s right and perfect. That is, their attention goes to what’s wrong, what needs to be improved, what isn’t efficient. Like all of the Types they have an instinctive way of attending to life, of looking through one window of perception. That’s the amazing thing about understanding the Types. You get the rare opportunity of realizing that your take on life is, in fact, only one-ninth of reality, and that’s on a good day. Humbling, but the stuff of good humor. The difficulty in living with a One is that this “error-finder” is operational a good deal of the time, and you can begin to feel under surveillance (because you are!) even when they say nothing. You see it in their tightened body, their scowl, their clenched jaw, their furrowed glances. You know they want to tell you that you’ve done it wrong again, but they’re holding back, chewing on impatience and anger, trying to live up to an inner ideal of being a kind and fair individual. It’s a tough road to travel. And within them, well, there’s a storm of thoughts going on, a list flying through their heads of what needs to be done next, what isn’t finished, what hasn’t been finally perfected, because they are perfectionists. In fact, they are the queens and kings of perfection, and what this allows them to do, drives them to do, is to produce quality, flawless work that is beyond criticism (And it is—excellence in action!). See, if they are perfect at what they do, then you can’t criticize them. And thus, can’t tap the sensitive hot wire inside them, their core fear of being evil, or defective, which runs like a deep river within their psyche.  They have a relentless task master that has no mercy upon them, a superego, inner critic who says “Here’s the deal, friend. You are good or okay if you do what is right and don’t make mistakes. Errors are not tolerable. Do it perfect. That’s the standard. So get to work. And perfect means perfect. Now good luck, and have a nice day.”  And then scoffs, as if to say, “You’ll never be able to succeed. Consider yourself failed and evil.” Which puts the One into frenetic motion to do, to do, to be perfect, to please this superego, who by the way, can’t and won’t be pleased. Ever. Learn that now and you can start the party. The problem is, the mechanism that drives this inner critic can be quite hidden and unconscious. That is, the core fear that drives the One is that they are defective, evil, and bad. This root fear drives the behavior to prove this fear wrong.

So, here’s part of the psychic structure for the One. The emotional habit of the One is resentment and anger, while the One’s mental habit is being captured by the judging mind.  If you’ve identified yourself as a One you know that your attention is often attracted to discovering what is wrong, what isn’t being done properly, what needs to be organized, and an unmistakable tendency to want to improve everyone and everything around you. The mental compulsion of determining and judging what is “wrong” with self, others, or whatever one is attending to sets the One up for a nonstop thought process that allows them little rest, nor the ability to be able to savor what is wonderful, sweet, good, precious. Driven by this mental reflex of judging, and the accompanying arising of resentment and anger (towards themselves and others who can’t keep up with their perfectionism, or who haven’t done the work the One feels they should have done) suffering ensues for the One, and those in their life. Criticism suffering. Perfectionism suffering. Nothing being good enough, suffering. For the Type One who decides that he or she has suffered enough, has criticized himself and others enough and is ready to change, the Enneagram becomes a powerful tool for self-exploration, observation, and genuine change. But change does not occur as you might think it would. Here is the gift of the Enneagram, in that it offers a clear, counter-intuitive solution for each of the Types.

But the truth is, each Type runs on a treadmill trying to please their particular Inner Critic and it is with time that each individual begins to understand that this action is fruitless, and that try as they may, succeed as they may, they still can’t stop dancing to the tune of their superego. That’s often when each of the Types enter spiritual or transformation work. They know they are missing what is sweet and precious within them, but can’t stop jumping to the superego’s demands. One’s really and truly do not want to push you away with their habit of judging you and everything else. They’d stop on a dime if they knew how.

So, to summarize, the One at their best delivers a kind of flawless excellence in their work. Their Achilles heal, often spoken to me by my dear One friends is that they are so driven by perfectionism, that in the realm of relationship they are also driven to perfect their partner. Unwittingly they are compelled to analyze the relationship such that spontaneity and the free flow of heart-opening love and emotion dries up, or is scolded into submission. And you know what it’s like to be the target of someone else’s perfectionism plan—not fun. Dreary. Strict. Restricting. Serious. Punitive. And not relaxing. The One, under stress, does what all the Types do. They share their personality habit with you, so that you experience what they are experiencing. For the One, under the heavy cloak of it’s strict inner critic, pulls you under their cloak to share their inner critic voice of condemnation, hyper-vigilance to error, and judgmental perfectionism. But, as the One begins to do the delicate inner work of Enneagram exploration, the driven knot of resentment and judgment that drives the unhealthy expression of perfectionism begins to loosen, making room the sincere and deeply kind heart of the One to awaken. And then the party starts, meaning the One begins to move in the direction of the Seven…and here comes the comedian, the adventurer, the prankster, the one filled with joyous curiosity.

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