Chapter 3 | Enneagram Type 1

Type One In Depth

Rediscover the messages that created your personality and how it affects your daily life right now.

Okay, we got the basics covered. Now let’s take a look how your personality shapes different areas of your life: Your emotions, your childhood, your relationships and your behavior at work.

Unconscious Motivation

If you look behind your behavior, you will find a set of desires, beliefs and fears that shape your daily decisions. We usually aren’t aware of these things. We walk through our lives assuming that our reactions are simply “natural”. And in a way, they are. Yet there is also a deeper layer, one that was formed in our early years growing up. We will look at the childhoods of Ones in one of the next sections. For now, we want you to look at these sentences and pay attention to what happens inside you when you read them.
What Ones desire
“I want to be a good person of integrity and virtue.”
What Ones believe
“I am okay as long as I do what’s right.“
What Ones fear
“I’m afraid of being a bad, evil and corrupt person.”
What's secretly holding Ones back
The biggest challenge for Ones is resentment. Ones are often frustrated by the fact that others, the world in general and especially they themselves are not as perfect as they think they should be. But they can’t allow themselves to admit that, because they think that in itself to be „bad“, so they push their anger back, where it builds up right beneath the surface.

It's one thing to talk about your unconscious. It's a whole other thing to actually, you know, make it conscious.

We just told you the deep and often unconscious motivations that drive your type in some very short sentences.

But how do these things shape your life? Take some time to answer these questions honestly:

What does a good and virtuous person look like to you?
How do you define “doing the right thing”?
What do you do when you feel like a bad person?
What are the imperfect things in the world and in the lives of others that frustrate you? This can be something different for every person shaped by type One. What makes you angry?

Emotions

Your unconscious beliefs, fears and desires shape the way you experience and express your feelings. Each Type has different aspects of their emotional life that come easier to them, while others pose a challenge. Here’s a look into the emotional lives of Ones:

Ones have a rich emotional life. But because they value your principles so much, it is often hard for them to express your feelings adequately. It may sometimes feel like you have to keep the lid on a pot of boiling water. To others, that can seem emotionless and even cold, but that’s not how you experience yourself. There’s just this fear that if you take the lid off your passions and desires, you and others might regret it.

Ones are in the same group as Eights and Nines: The body group. All of these types have a special relationship to what we colloquially call the „gut“, and in particular, feelings of anger and rage. While Eights openly live out their aggression to protect themselves, Nines have fallen asleep to their anger and pretend it doesn’t exist. Ones, on the other hand, are very aware of their anger, but their principles don’t allow them to act on it.

The consequence is a lot of repression and resistance. To a One, just letting loose and giving in to your emotions feels like a lack of self-control – and you believe a „good“ person shouldn’t lose control over themselves. So you have to be strict with yourself. You believe it will justify you in your own eyes and in the eyes of others. It might be easier for you to show positive feelings like love and joy, but even then you can find yourself thinking „Okay, that’s enough, don’t overdo it.“

Much harder are negative feelings, especially anger. Openly letting out your frustrations, so you think, only hurts people, and hurting people is bad. But at the same time, you often don’t know what to do with the frustration of everyone else being sloppy, neglectful and inconsiderate and you having to put in overtime to make everything right. So you push it down.

But here’s the thing: Anger is not a bad thing. It is usually a short-lived emotion that comes in a wave, and when you let it roll through you, it quickly goes away again. If you try to block it though, it will stay, gnaw at you, settle in your body and your mind and make you obsessively think about it while you try to pretend that you’re not angry at all.

What was your first instinct when you heard that anger and rage were your main challenging emotions?

We all have our own strategy to deal with our emotions. People shaped by type One try to suppress their anger until they can no longer contain it.

Write out the statements that sound familiar to you:

I try to ignore my frustration as long as possible.
I get mad, but only on the inside. On the outside, I try to stay friendly.
I lash out at people pretty quickly, but I regret it immediately afterwards.
I tell people honestly, but politely what bothers me.
None of the above. Instead...

Childhood

Now we’re getting into some deep territory. So at the beginning of this introduction to the childhood patterns of Ones, we want to stress that what we are describing here is not the „cause“ of any personality type. Personality is a mixture between traits already present at birth and messages and circumstances we experience and internalize in our early childhood. These messages, however, are already filtered through the traits we were born with. Also, there is always a non-negligible amount of free choice involved as well. We’re all human beings who, to a degree, make our own decisions.

So if you want to, you could roughly describe our approach to how we believe personality is formed as divided by three: One third nature, one third nurture, and one third free will. Nevertheless, the messages we describe here have a big impact on the evolution of types and their views and relationships in adulthood. Which is why it’s so important to take a look at them.

At some point during their childhood, Ones heard the message that it wasn’t enough to just be a child, but that they needed to meet the expectation of someone else, usually a parental figure. There was a feeling of „not good enough“, so they started to put in a lot of effort into doing things „right“. By not making mistakes, being orderly and reasonable they might earn their right to be and be loved.

When they grow older, Ones take that external voice that tells them to be „better“, to „behave“, to „do the right thing“, and internalize it. It becomes an ever-present slave-driver who demands perfection at any time – perfect behaviour, perfect manners, perfect thoughts. For One children, the world is made of rules, and they believe that if only they could follow them perfectly, they would eventually be rewarded.

Growing up, One kids often do their best to be model children. Other children become their measuring stick of success or failure – One children will spend a lot of time and energy comparing themselves to other kids, competing for being seen as „the good one“. Their eagerness to please makes them usually well-behaved, orderly, neat and diligent in their schoolwork and chores. Order and structure are things that comfort them.

Systems and rituals help One children with their need to control themselves and life. While these things are beneficial in theory, for Ones they only reinforce their false idea that they need to be perfect. When they reach adulthood, this need to always be in control will have firmly established itself.

How did you experience your childhood? Pick 3-5 adjectives like "joyful, sad, adventurous, stressful" etc. to describe it
What are the earliest memories you can think of? Write them down.
What would you call the most decisive moments of the first 12 years of your life?
Which of the patterns you see in yourself today can you already recognize in your childhood?

Relationships

When we look at relationships, we are not talking about romantic partnerships alone. Our type shapes all aspects of how we relate to people, our friends as well as our love interests. Many Enneagram teachings like to focus only on what kinds of problems your type brings into your relationships. But it’s important to us to point out that each type brings their own strengths and gifts into how we interact with our fellow human beings. In this section, we want to look at both sides.

Ones treat love the same way they treat the rest of their lives: With sincerity, reliability and the will to be the best person – and in that case – they can be. They treat their partners and friends with respect and are diligent about providing and caring for others. Their high standards can sometimes be too high though, making others feel unnecessarily criticized and annoyed by the Ones unexpressed anger.

Beautiful things that you bring to your relationships
You are generous with help and advice
You don’t mind the small stuff
You plan ahead and look out for your loved ones
You lead by example, showing what it means to live with integrity
You are committed to yourself and encourage others to do the same for themselves
You are faithful, reliable and stay on task
You are honest and straightforward
A few things that may not be serving your relationships
Nitpicking the people you love in an effort to „make them better“
Thinking that you’re the only one who can do things correctly
Insisting on knowing what’s the „right“ way to do things
Storing up your anger and let it out sideways instead of communicating it directly
Taking it on yourself to do all the work, but resent others when they don’t do the same
Not allowing yourself to show your feelings openly, be they love or frustration
Imposing your own standards on others

When it comes to love, Ones are looking for the same qualities they are working towards in themselves: Consistent behavior, attention to detail, the will to improve and standing by your word. Ones are not afraid of commitment. In fact, they usually encourage it, because that’s the right thing to do. Being faithful is a matter of principle.

Ones don’t turn into couch potatoes after the trial period is over. They have a running list in their head of things that need to be done, and maybe even a second one for their partner that will keep them occupied for at least a year. Ones don’t want to push unreasonable expectations on others, they simply don’t understand why others don’t have the same expectations for themselves as they do.

The hard thing for Ones when it comes to entering and maintaining a partnership is making themselves vulnerable. Perfectionism can be like a shield that protects you from getting hurt: It’s much harder to admit when you made a mistake, to accept the flaws in yourself and your partner and to show your emotions freely, be it happiness or anger. Criticism stings more for Ones than it does for most other people because they are already so harsh on themselves that any further judgement can feel crushing.

This may sound like Ones are oversensitive: Being quick to criticize but unable to deal with it themselves. But in fact, when Ones criticize, they don’t try to be mean. It’s how they show that they care. To them, it feels like they’re helping you.

And to be honest, healthy Ones do indeed help their partners to become better people. But they also know when to let someone be, when pointing out a flaw hurts more than it helps and how to say things so that they lift people up instead of tearing them down.

How would you describe the kind of friend you are to your friends?
Looking back at the romantic relationships of your past and present, can you identify the good and bad things which repeat themselves?
What's the one thing you wish you could improve on when it comes to your relationships?

Work

We spend a third of our lives at the workplace. If we want to admit it or not, in our modern culture, the work we choose and the people we work with have a huge impact on how happy, content, challenged or also frustrated and miserable we feel. While the Enneagram won’t tell you what job or career to pick (that would be not just misleading, but also irresponsible – our type doesn’t limit us in our choice of profession), it can help you find out what kind of work environment you need and how your type shapes your relation to leadership, colleagues and subordinates.

Ones at the workplace are methodical, precise, like protocols and procedures and usually have a better eye for details than almost anybody else. Their inner drive to do things right makes them efficient and hard-working, with high standards for their own work as well as the work of others.

What Ones need at work
A structured and well organized environment with clear rules and guidelines
Regular encouragement that they are on the right track and their work is good, even when it’s not perfect
Leaders who ask non-judgmental questions that help them pinpoint and express their frustrations
A special focus on work-life balance that encourages them to take enough breaks

Many Ones are „people of the book“ – in a very literal sense. If there is a manual for the job they’re supposed to do, Ones will probably be the only ones who read it. If there is none, they will wish to write it themselves. With their diligent, detail-focused mind they keep working until things are right. In a world of duct-tape solutions and barely-good-enough-results, everyone’s workplace benefits from Ones who go the extra mile to build something that actually works.

Ones are also notoriously fair: Consequences for wrong behaviour will be tolerated without protest as long as everybody is treated equally. Ones are lightning fast at pointing out mistakes – unfortunately not just their own, but others too. Ones are convinced that what they see as right is right. The One’s irritation and impatience for others to see things the same way as them often makes it hard for them to communicate their advice in a non-threatening way.

This can lead to them not being the most popular co-workers. What Ones see as helpful advice, others often experience as patronizing. This can make them resist the One even when they would agree in principle, which often frustrates Ones even more.

Seeing what’s wrong and needs to be fixed is the One’s great gift. But when they haven’t learned to differentiate between what’s necessary feedback and what’s micromanaging and nitpicking, people will grow frustrated with Ones just as much as Ones grow frustrated with them.

Healthy Ones, on the other hand, are incredibly supportive, especially when people demonstrate that they want to learn and improve. Ones will never deny your honest request for help. They are generous, if stern, teachers.

Do you feel supported at your current workplace? Do you feel like everyone is pulling their weight, or do you get frustrated often? Write down the feelings that come up inside of you when you think about work. Use adjectives like "content, bored, challenging, energizing" etc.
How would you describe your relationships with your colleagues? Who do you get along better with and who challenges you? Why would you say that is?
If you had to write your own employment reference letter for a new job interview, what would it sound like?
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