Healthy, very healthy, average, unhealthy and destructive Enneagram type One traits.

Healthy Ones are truthful, reasonable, ethical and highly principled. They are hardworking,
conscientious, organized and productive. They have a strong sense of morality, of right and wrong,
and live by their principles. They have extremely high standards for themselves but are tolerant of
human shortcomings and foibles, in themselves and others. Healthy Ones are self-disciplined and
strive for excellence at all times. They are service-oriented, want to contribute to others’ welfare and
often have a strong sense of purpose or a mission they want to fulfill. They also practice moderation in
all things. Healthy Ones have strong convictions yet are fair and just, impartial and objective,
respectful of others’ values and open to hearing other peoples’ points of view. Healthy Ones are highly
idealistic, always striving to improve themselves, others and the world. Because of this they are often
advocates, teachers and/or in some way agents for positive social change. Healthy Ones are
constantly looking for better ways to live and do things. They set long-term goals and patiently work
towards them, often delaying gratification and sacrificing rewards for themselves in the short-term.

Very Healthy Ones like Mahatma Gandhi* and Stephen R. Covey* (the best-selling author of “The 7
Habits of Highly Effective People” and “Principle-Centered Leadership”) see the transcendent perfection
in all of life and accept reality on its terms. They are extraordinarily wise, objective, discerning, noble,
visionary and realistic. Deeply in touch with universal values, they help others arrive at their own
truths. They willingly sublimate their own desires to discern the best choice to make or the best thing
to do for the greater good of humanity or a cause they believe in. They are the epitome of integrity in
action and authentic, moral heroes who inspire others to “be the change they wish to see in the world”
by their example.

  • These are my speculations based on their lives and my experience with the Enneagram

Average Ones see imperfection and disorder everywhere OUTSIDE themselves because they don’t
want to deal with their own seeming imperfection and disorder INSIDE themselves. They filter out the
amazing perfection in the world already: the perfect balance of gases in the atmosphere for life to
exist; the sun that radiates just the right amount of heat and light; the ability of the body to regulate
our temperature and secrete just the right chemicals to digest food without our conscious awareness.
Nature is another perfect example. Nature takes the outputs of cellular respiration (carbon dioxide &
water) and makes them the inputs for photosynthesis. Nature takes the outputs of photosynthesis
(oxygen & glucose) and makes them the inputs for cellular respiration. Mother nature is wasting
nothing, while taking care of everyone. The plants take care of the animals. The animals take care of
the plants. The process has an intricate number of detailed steps that have to be perfectly aligned, and
executed in perfect sequence, or the cycle doesn’t work. Average Ones don’t see the possible
perfection in a seeming tragedy or injustice either. For example, perhaps the injustice of the Tibetans
being driven out of their country by the Chinese gave the Tibetan Buddhists the OPPORTUNITY to
serve the divine purpose of bringing Tibetan Buddhism to the rest of the world. Perhaps Helen Keller
being born blind and deaf gave her the OPPORTUNITY to serve the divine purpose of helping millions
of other people with disabilities. Who’s to say what is good or bad, right or wrong?

Average Ones, like healthy Ones, are motivated by the need to live life the right way and improve
themselves, others and the world. However, unlike healthy Ones, average Ones are highly opinionated
about everything. They’re high-minded idealists who feel “better than” other people (more morally
righteous) and believe that it is there job to instill wisdom in the ignorant and show others how to live
righteously. They believe they know what is best for others and that people need their instruction and
guidance. Unfortunately (for average Ones at least), people don’t like being told what to do and how
to live even if there is some truth in what the One is saying. People tend to be resentful of the One’s
unspoken judgmentalness and sense of moral superiority and resist even the One’s good advice. So,
average Ones tend to be chronically dissatisfied with reality, other people and also themselves (for not
being able to live up to their own ideal of perfection). They don’t realize that their own subconscious
beliefs reinforce their life experiences and perpetuate their own frustration. They feel as though
nobody measures up to their high standards (including themselves) and can be impatient with others
seeming incompetence and lack of conscientiousness.
Some average Ones who feel as though they have a mission in life can be single-minded and are very
conscientious about how they use their time and resources. They can be reformers, activists,
crusaders, ministers, politicians, critics or educators who feel that the world’s salvation depends on
them and they often get angry at others’ indifference to their efforts and hard work. They can feel as if
they are working so hard to make positive changes in the world and no one else seems to care. They
can be very vocal, convinced that their views are the right and objective ones and that others need to
shape up and see the error of their ways. Average Ones tend to worry and get overwhelmed easily.
They see disorder everywhere. They can feel like the weight of the world is on their shoulders because
they feel personally obligated to do everything and improve or “fix” everyone. Ones truly believe “if
you want a job done RIGHT, you’ve got to do it yourself.”
Average Ones subconsciously fear getting out of control so they suppress their real feelings, desires
and impulses and discipline themselves to do what they ought to do, what they believe is right to do.
If average Ones are under a lot of stress (as they often are), they will work even harder to keep their
feelings and impulses in check. As a result, they can come across as tense, stiff, repressed, puritanical
and anal compulsive. Average Ones experience a constant internal tug of war between following their
personal desires versus doing what they feel they should do.

Average Ones have a harsh inner critical voice yet are convinced that this inner voice is right and the
voice of reason, no matter how undermining it is of their self-confidence. They can be really hard on
themselves and others, especially when under a lot of stress or feeling overburdened. Ironically,
average Ones are very sensitive to criticism themselves and try to avoid it by doing everything
perfectly. They can also be perfectionistic, nitpicking and fault-finding when under pressure. Average
Ones live by an internal list of rules, schedules and shoulds. Average Ones are meticulous planners.
They can be orderly, methodical and well-organized but they can also be impersonal, rigid and
emotionally constricted. They are afraid of making mistakes so they can be incredibly fastidious,
scrupulous and painstakingly thorough in their work. Unfortunately, this level of detail coupled with a
strong sense of obligation and an idealistic, mission-oriented mindset often causes average Ones to
become driven workaholics. Not surprisingly, time conscious average Ones expect punctuality and can get quite frustrated when people are late. They may or may not say something, however, as they
internally struggle with whether to be nice (and thus more “perfect” themselves) or get angry (to point
out and help correct the other person’s “imperfection”). Average Ones see things in simple
dichotomies of black and white, good or bad, right or wrong. They feel that right is right and so tend
not to be concerned with exceptions or people’s subjective needs. They have a difficult time
accounting for subtlety and individual differences.

Unhealthy Ones can exhibit one of two different behaviors and often both. On the one hand, they
can become extremely impatient and frustrated with anything less than perfection in themselves or
others. They can be closed-minded and convinced that they’re always right, that they know “the
truth.” They begin to reproach others for not living up to their ideals, for not being all that they could
be. They tend to alienate others by being dogmatic, controlling, rigidly inflexible, self-righteous and
intolerant. They can be moralizing and preachy, scolding and lecturing others to try harder lest they
continue to make mistakes or sin. They can become indignant, bitter and angry at others for not
listening to them. This is the kind of person that is a Bible-thumping fundamentalist Christian who
stands on the sidewalk of a busy street yelling, “You must repent for your wayward sins in the name of
our Lord Jesus Christ or you will go to the fiery recesses of hell!”
Some unhealthy Ones can become more depressive and feel alienated. They feel as if nobody
understands them and their ideals. They work so hard and for what? Nobody even seems to care
about their ideals. They can become hopeless, melancholy, withdrawn, resigned and inwardly angry.
They yearn to be free of their responsibilities, burdens and obligations and may spend more time
daydreaming, fantasizing, romanticizing and longing for things to be different (like unhealthy Fours).
They can become envious and resentful of others’ better lives. They can become painfully selfconscious
and socially withdrawn.
Unhealthy Ones may realize, on some level, that life is not working for them. If they can see that
other people don’t share their same beliefs and yet their lives are working for them they may begin to
recognize that their own beliefs and way of viewing the world may be distorted, limited or flawed
somehow. This realization can be a turning point if unhealthy Ones are willing to claim some
responsibility for their lives and seek assistance from a counselor, therapist or other support person. If
unhealthy Ones continue to feel victimized rather than claiming responsibility for their life then they
may deteriorate to the destructive level.

Destructive Ones lack adequate life coping skills. They probably came from a highly dysfunctional
family and/or suffered a severe crisis in life that totally devastated their self-esteem and self-worth.
Their mind torments them and unless they get some kind of help they will continue to live a miserable
existence.
Destructive Ones have intense feelings of disillusionment and severe depressions alternating with
outbursts of rage and condemnation. They can exhibit obsessive thinking and compulsive behavior.
They are extremely self-righteous, judgmental and obsessed about the wrongdoings of others yet they
are hypocritical because they may do the very same things they are condemning in others, or worse.
Destructive Ones can alternate between instinctive self-indulgence and punitive self-control. They
may, for example, get drunk, binge and purge or carry on an affair with someone but then will feel
extremely guilty, berate themselves and repent, only to find themselves acting out the same behavior
again. What is going on is that the destructive One’s unconscious instinctive drives are at war with
their own superego (inner critic). They are unconsciously acting out all their repressed desires and
can’t stop themselves. While doing exactly what they are condemning others for they somehow
manage to rationalize and justify their own contradictory behavior to escape punishment from their
superego. If they come to believe that some part of themselves is responsible for their immoral acting
out they can become masochistically self-punishing or self-mutilating. At worst, they may have a
nervous breakdown, commit murder or suicide.

 

 

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