Enneagram Type One
Updated: Feb 12, 2022
~converting vice to virtue on the path of personal transformation
The Enneagram Personality Typology System (EPS) is based on the spiritual principle that each individual has a transcendent nature and that the confines of the conditioned personality do not reflect the innate freedom of being fully present in the moment. The process of liberating this attribute of presence from its hiding place underneath the ego’s machinations is the point of the sacred psychology of the EPS. Riso and Hudson, EPS experts, explained, “Remember, the Enneagram does not put us in a box, it shows us the box we are already in — and the way out.” (p. 99, p. 28)
Ego transcendence is the express intent of the EPS as one actively addresses the compulsions of unconsciousness, aversion, and craving in the process of converting vice to virtue and transcending type. Conversion and transcending type specifically mean recognizing and understanding one’s conditioned pattern of thinking, feeling, and behaving and intentionally choosing to cultivate a calm, curious mind; an undefended, compassionate heart; and attentive, embodied presence. These shifts are accomplished through self-observation, mindfulness, relaxing into the moment, hospitality to experience, and integration of the head, heart, and body through meditation, heart-opening practices, and body-based exercises, such as conscious breathing.
In this series, we will examine the core aspects of each enneagram type.
Type One: The Reformer/Perfectionist or The Need to be Perfect
“Much of this personality may be understood as a reaction formation against anger: a denial of destructiveness through a deliberate, well-intentioned attitude.”
(Naranjo, 1990, p. 21)
Claudio Naranjo, early enneagram theorist, named type One, “Angry Virtue,” and Oscar Ichazo, primary founder of the enneagram as a typology system, called this disposition, “Ego-Resent.” Type Ones are principled, ethical, conscientious, idealistic, and hold a firm belief that there is a right way to do things. They have an eye for reform and can be the prophets that the world needs to transform in a positive way. For Ones, there is always room for improvement, and noting this to family and friends is thought to be a kindness. Impatience and repression of anger are challenges for Ones. Their inner critic works nonstop. A type One may say, “Doubt your natural impulses, and put duty before pleasure. It is important to strive for the most correct way to do and be.” When aligned with Essence, Ones are noble and have heroic morals, displaying wisdom and the capacity for excellent discernment. The invitation for Ones is to live for a larger calling. The holy idea of type One is Holy Perfection, which states that reality as it is, is perfect.
Ones are part of the instinctual triad who try to manage sensations and most readily feel anger. Being located on the edge of the heart triad, Ones can also easily drop into guilt or shame. According to enneagram teachers Riso and Hudson, in childhood, Ones, “. . . most wanted autonomy: they sought independence, the ability to assert their own will and direct their own life” (1999, p. 63). Ego boundaries are important in the instinctual triad, and ones are committed to maintaining their composure, which creates physical tension.
One’s vice or passion is anger (at self-denial and being the one who is responsible), and their mental fixation is resentment or the desire to be acknowledged. Helen Palmer, who studied under Naranjo, described the One’s focus of attention as a comparison mindset and noticing how things could be better. Ones typically repress their anger, which manifests as frustration projected outward, even though the primary frustration (subconsciously) is with themselves. According to Riso and Hudson, the internalized message is, “It’s not okay to make mistakes” (p. 31). In pathological terms, Naranjo correlated unhealthy Ones with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, anal-retentiveness, and the defense mechanism of reaction formation.
One’s basic fear is of being inherently defective, bad, or evil, and their fundamental desire is to embody integrity, which sometimes seems like a criticality and perfectionism that can be off-putting to others. Ones are identified with the superego and want to hear that they are good. They resist admitting any grey areas in a worldview of black and white; desiring, instead, to hold onto their judgment of the way things should and should not be.
Ones attempt to solve inner conflict by being compliant/dutiful to their superegos. They desire to be of service in the world and can make wonderful advocates and crusaders for a cause. Ones defend against loss and disappointment by putting feelings aside and focusing on competence. Organization, sensibility, and having a standard of excellence are priorities for Ones, who tend to manage their emotions through denial and repression. The thought is, “I’m sure we can solve this like sensible, mature adults” (Riso & Hudson, 1999, p. 68).
When Ones handle stress unskillfully, they move toward the unhealthy Four. They become moody, feel misunderstood, and withdraw into a melancholy of envy and resentment, thinking “Everyone is having a better life than me” (Riso & Hudson, 1999, p. 116). When Ones respond maturely, they relax and allow themselves to be playful and spontaneous, like healthy Sevens. At their most mature, they embrace the virtue of serenity and embody integrity.
The path of growth for Ones is to practice moving out of the head and into the heart and instinctual centers. Ones must learn to accept themselves as they are, letting go of the shoulds and should not’s that dominate their thinking. Ultimately, Ones must learn to see perfection in imperfection, going with the flow.
Coming soon: Enneagram Type Two
Almaas, A. H. (2000). Facets of unity: The enneagram of holy ideas. Shambhala Publications.
Chestnut, B. (2013). The complete Enneagram: 27 paths to greater self-knowledge. She Writes Press.
Hudson, R. (2021). The enneagram: Nine gateways to presence [Audiobook]. Sounds True. https://www.amazon.com/Enneagram-Nine-Gateways-Presence/dp/1683645790#:~:text=With%20The%20Enneagram%3A%20Nine%20Gateways,self%2Dknowledge%20and%20spiritual%20attunement.
Lilly, J. C., & Hart, J. E. (1975). The Arica Training. In C. Tart (Ed.), Transpersonal psychologies, (pp. 329–351). Harper & Row.
Naranjo, C. (1994). Character and neurosis: An integrative view. Gateways/IDHHB.
Naranjo, C. (1990). Ennea-type structures: Self-analysis for the seeker. Gateways/IDHHB Incorporated.
Palmer, H. (1988). The enneagram: Understanding yourself and the others in your life. Harper & Row.
Riso, D. R., & Hudson, R. (1999). The wisdom of the Enneagram: The complete guide to psychological and spiritual growth for the nine personality types. Bantam.
May your mind be peaceful and calm, may your body be relaxed and comfortable, and may your heart be filled with love.
Thank you for reading.
Blessings and gratitude, Ani