Being a one means striving for correctness in all things. If I am a one then it is quite likely that I am a principled, careful person. I probably decide how to act in the world using a set of deeply held beliefs about what is right. This is both a powerful talent and possibly the most dangerous trap I may face in my personal journey.
At my best, I am wise and tolerant, able to see deeply into issues involving moral and ethical dilemmas. My principles serve me as reliable guides because they have been polished by years of careful thought. When I am operating from my real Essence, I can see intuitively and effortlessly the compassionate and ethically correct action that will create the best possible results for everyone, including myself. As my freedom increases, I am more and more able to choose the single best option, so that everyone benefits.
At my worst, I might become overly attached to abstract principles, possibly causing me to make decisions that do not fully take into account the specifics of the circumstance. There can be intolerance for deviation from preconceived ideas of what is “right” that can blind me to the real needs of the moment. When my real Essence is clouded by attachment to ideals, I might become overly critical, turning into an unforgiving, tyrannical, self-appointed judge of what is right and wrong, looking for perfection in a world where nothing can ever be completely free of flaws.
In today’s unpredictable world it’s sometimes necessary to make important decisions, with major consequences if I make the wrong choice. If I am clear about right and wrong, it is often possible to remain “firm and correct” in difficult situations.
But the world grows more and more complex, and the clear-cut rules of the past become increasingly unreliable. Things are changing, not only in the world, but within myself. If I am a one, I might acknowledge that the ideal standards I may hold within might no longer be as correct as I would like. It may be worthwhile to frequently re-evaluate my beliefs, especially the ones that seem invariable.
Am I willing to temporarily suspend judgment in order to re-examine my principles?
How many hidden assumptions do I hold about values, ethics, and standards of quality?
Are those assumptions still valid?
Do my standards automatically apply to everyone else?
control and spontaneity
There is a place and a value to being logical, rational and controlled. In some situations it can mean the difference between life and death. Perhaps that is why so many doctors and judges are ones. Being able to control my emotions is a talent that should be acknowledged, but at the same time it can be a trap.
If I am too controlled, then others might begin to see me as a sort of robot, lacking spontaneity. My reactions might seem over-rehearsed or stiff. In the extreme, I might become extremely rigid and tight.
If I can find in myself the natural spontaneity that comes when I release judgment, then I might relax and enjoy my life more. I might find that life has more “juice.” Being present to myself could become easier, because my reactions would be creative and unplanned. Being spontaneous means letting go of expectations and criticism. It means being ready to “go with the flow.”
I might find that there is more wisdom in being genuinely responsive to the moment than in applying preexisting standards to a situation in an effort to make it fit some preconceived structure. There is a great joy to be found in this moment-to-moment dance of life, but to find it I must let go and flow.
Do I watch for signs of rigidity in my own behavior?
Are there times when I wish I could be more “natural?”
How does it feel when things don’t happen the way I expect?
Real spontaneity does not come from rational thought. If I am a one, then my feelings may be somewhat inaccessible to me at times, especially when there is a chance that something unexpected might happen. But to let go of my tight control, I must let my feelings come out.
Real feelings are never planned in advance. They come from a place that is beyond rational analysis. They simply are. If I am really experiencing my own feelings, then I must accept what comes without critical analysis. I feel what I feel, regardless of whether I think it’s what I should feel.
Am I able to let myself be surprised by the way I feel about something?
How would it feel to be overwhelmed by love? By compassion? By fear? By joy? By gratitude?
When was the last time I shared my deepest emotions?
If I live from my own inner standards, then I may have difficulty being around people who do not share them. I am probably sensitive to whether other people are acting in ways that will benefit them. Sometimes I may be tempted to correct the behavior of my friends and associates, in an effort to show them how they have erred. The first impulse may be to directly confront them, so that they can clearly see their mistake. But that is usually not a useful option, because most people are seldom open to direct criticism.
Tolerance means that I am willing to accept other ways of interpreting reality. It means that I give others credit for having a different past, with different sets of lessons learned from life. As the enneagram clearly demonstrates, the inner experience of other people often differs widely from my own.
Because other people have learned lessons that are different from my own, their ways of handling the problems in their lives may be different. Perhaps there are important lessons they have learned that I have not yet discovered for myself. Perhaps it is my own behavior that is in error.
While it is certainly true that there are many ways of being that are counterproductive and even harmful, it is seldom useful to point out such behavior directly. People who are not ready to hear such criticism will not hear it no matter how loudly it is spoken. They may deny the perceived attack, or blunt it through rationalization or some other defense mechanism.
We are all in this world to learn from our experiences. It is not my place to teach other people lessons that they are not yet ready to learn.
When I see someone who is behaving in a way that I find “wrong,” do I consider whether there are circumstances I do not know about?
Do I let others learn through experience, or do I try to set them straight myself?
Do I let myself learn through experience?
When someone else has acted in error, what course of action can I take that will be most likely to result in the other person deciding voluntarily that he has made a mistake?
If I were to make a serious mistake in judgment, what would be the best way for someone else to help me become aware of my error?
respect for diversity
If I am a one, then I probably have a tendency to expect that what works for me should work for everyone else. I have learned through experience how to live a life that I consider correct, and I might want everyone else to do the same. But other people have different sets of talents (and different psychological traps that go along with the talents) and they must pay attention to different aspects of life in order to live balanced, healthy lives.
The world is made up of a wonderfully diverse and multitalented combination of personalities. Others have different talents, different perceptions, and different beliefs.
Can I respect the freedom of other people to create their own healthy lives?
Can I see how the varieties of different approaches to life work together to create a smoothly functioning society?
Can I remember to grant others their freedom of expression and lifestyle?
Recognizing my own tendency to judge the acts and ways of others, do I remind myself regularly that my way of being is not the only acceptable, effective pattern for life?
I am a human being
I will never be perfect. As a human being I will always be subject to human imperfections. If I have difficulty meeting my own standards, then certainly other people will also find it difficult to meet them. They, too, are imperfect humans.
Do I have a tendency to set unrealistically high standards for myself and others?
Are there ways in which I do not measure up to my own standards?
Do I start projects all over again if something is less than perfect along the way?
Do I ask other people to do things all over again if the results are flawed?
If I am a one, I am probably a hard worker. There is value in discipline, and I apply myself to the job at hand with diligence. Persistence is a great talent, because through it much is accomplished. But does the work ethic ever get out of control?
The bodymind is a powerful, versatile instrument, but if it is forced to run nonstop for too long it can be overloaded. By letting my brains cool down now and then, I temper the instrument so that it has a chance to heal itself of the obsessive or compulsive tendencies that sometimes result from overuse. The time I spend with nothing to do and nothing on my mind will repay me many-fold in greater productivity when I return to work.
Because of my tendency to work too hard, it may be helpful if I can give myself frequent vacations, both small and large. Even a few minutes of relaxation can make an enormous difference in my ability to concentrate. If I stop to look around, to breathe some fresh air, to swing my arms and let the blood flow through my body, I might find that my creativity and attention are both improved dramatically.
There is a danger that I might make my vacations into work. When I am away from my regular activities, I might become obsessive about always having something to do. I might find that if I have been working too long the idea of simply having fun seems strangely repellent. It is as if I have gotten into the habit of always feeling the need to do something productive. I may become uncomfortable if I am idle for too long. If I can remember that the idea of taking a break is to let the system relax and loosen up, maybe the time off will become less of a burden and more of a pleasure.
Do I take frequent breathers when I am concentrating on some difficult task?
When I am not working, do I fill my schedule with tasks?
What would it be like to take some time off without any schedule at all?
Am I capable of spending an entire day completely at leisure? A whole week? A month? Longer?
When was the last time I really had a wonderful time away from work?
compassion and forgiveness
If I can see more clearly how people mislead themselves, I might develop greater compassion for those who make mistakes of judgment. I know that I am not immune to such mistakes myself. Forgiving myself and others, and learning from the mistakes, I may find that I become more tolerant of errors in myself and others.
Do I practice forgiveness and tolerance of other people’s errors?
Do I feel the embarrassment and pain of those who recognize their errors?
Do I share the joy of someone who has successfully conquered an annoying habit, corrected an incorrect belief, or reached a new understanding?
Do I recognize and forgive my own errors?
If I can free myself from myself — if I can let go of rigid beliefs about what I should do with my life — if I can allow myself to be what I really was supposed to become right from the beginning, then a miraculous transformation can begin to happen. A new me will begin to emerge, spontaneously dancing into the light. I will discover what it means to create myself anew every minute, learning and growing into every new experience.
Do I give myself permission to experience as much joy as I can hold?
Do I freely accept (and love) whatever kind of person I am becoming, complete with human flaws and a human heart?
Do I accept everyone with loving tolerance, regardless of their inner or outer state, regardless of their actions, regardless of whether they are enlightened masters or just beginning their own journeys toward self-knowledge?
at their best
Healthy ones are wise and tolerant. Because they do not judge compulsively, the judgments they do choose to make are careful and accurate. Their ability to intuitively know the course of action that will lead to the best results for everyone makes them wonderful advisors, especially in matters that involve tricky moral or ethical questions.
Balanced ones learn how to open up and play. Like balanced sevens, they feel deep, heartfelt joy at simply being alive. They are still careful and correct, but now with less of that serious earnestness. Spontaneous joviality emerges.
Ones in balance are wise and just, always tolerant and patient but also highly discriminating. Disarmingly forgiving, but uncompromising in their disapproval of selfishness and other mistakes, healthy ones are the essence of wisdom and tolerance.
When healthy ones misuse or misunderstand their innate talent of critical judgment, they may begin to fear that some of their judgments might be in error, and that others might judge them negatively. They may begin to use their talent compulsively, at times when it is inappropriate.
They may begin to feel anger at others who do not behave as correctly as they do, but because they see themselves as “good” and “correct,” this anger may be repressed and not acknowledged. Unacknowledged emotions always become stronger, so a deadly spiral can develop in which the repressed anger leads to further critical judgments, both of the self and others. Meanwhile, they are trying ever harder to be the good, morally and ethically upright people they would like to be.
Many average ones are rigid and erect, carefully correct. Most try to keep a properly rational mind and a properly sensible appearance. They feel uncomfortable if anything is out of place, so they might be seen straightening the tie, brushing off the sleeves or pants, picking the crumbs off the table.
The more compulsively they judge, the harder it becomes for ones to live up to the internal critic’s standards. Judgments become increasingly inaccurate, colored by ever-increasing anger at those (including themselves) who do not measure up. Eventually, the self-directed anger can become dominant (because what right do I have to criticize you if I do not live up to my own standards?) and this growing guilt, like the self-hatred of an unhealthy four, can lead to deep depression or even suicide.
When type one‘s balance fails, increased criticality is usually reflected in hardness and tightness throughout the body. The whole spine, particularly the neck, might stiffen up and pull into a straight line. It is painful to look at these rigid, taut people. The frown becomes a permanent, compressed wound in the forehead. Anger bristles from every pore, but the owner of the body might not be aware of it. Harsh, intolerant, and cruelly punitive, unhealthy ones are the essence of anger and punishment.
more questions for ones
Do I value moral and ethical soundness, principles of justice and wisdom, careful rationality, and precise correctness?
Do I see the world as black and white, good and bad?
Does imperfection distract me?
Does immorality distract me?
How do I measure the value of a principle?
Are there times when judgment is inappropriate?
Are there times when right is wrong?
Am I a moral robot?
Do I tolerate other people?
Do other people tolerate me?
Do I make other people into saints and sinners?
Is it possible to love someone who acts immorally?
Do my role models advocate punishment?
Do I find joy through uncritical tolerance?
Do I find perfection through playful celebration?
Does criticality make me hate myself?
Do my own flaws lead me to punish other people?
Do I deserve the rich rewards of hard work?
Am I ready to have some irresponsible fun?
Do I send down stone tablets?
Do I insist on the best when second best would do fine?
Do I pretend to be perfectly rational even when I am seething with emotion?
Am I here to teach others what is right?
Am I here to utter eternal truths?
Am I here to teach acceptance?
Am I a workaholic?
Do I give myself permission to have fun?
Do I feel angry when I see other people enjoying life?
Do I feel guilty for not living up to my own standards?
Do I feel guilty if my life becomes too easy?
Do my judgments accomplish any useful purpose?
Is it okay for other people to live by their own rules, even if they are obviously wrong?
Will I stop to smell the roses?
Will I let myself live easily and lightly?
Will I ever relax?
Is God the ultimate judge?
Does God judge me?
Next in Enneagram 101: type 1 with 9 wing
Previous in Enneagram 101: intro to type descriptions
…or return to contents.