Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Exploring Personality: Part Twelve -- "You're doing it wrong."

"People call me a perfectionist, but I'm not. I'm a rightist. I do something until it's right, then I move on to the next thing." -- James Cameron
Types 8, 9, and 1 make up the intuition triad of the Enneagram, also known as the body triad because of the tendency of people in this group to say things like, "I knew it in my gut." Reactions can be very instinctual, requiring little thought and ignoring emotions. Intuition isn't well understood by science. It's the brain making a "leap of logic" and, while some studies have shown that forcing people to do something like math intuitively generates more correct responses than people who are required to "logic it out," that does not mean that people who rely on intuition are always right. It's very dependent upon the individual. The motivating emotion for this triad is anger, but it manifests differently for each of the three types (unlike for the intellectual triad where their fear is almost always about decision-making).

The Perfectionist

Despite the fact that the One is part of the intuition triad, the One, or the Perfectionist, is actually the most intellectual (rational) of all the types. This is due to the One's drive to be right, and it will drive the One to all sorts of investigation and data digging. The problem, though, is, frequently, the One is not approaching a topic from a neutral position but from his already intuited position of what is "right" (his gut reaction), and his research goal is not actually to find out the truth but to prove his own point. Not that this is different from non-Ones; the issue is that Ones think they are being objective when they're actually working from a bias, a bias other types might freely acknowledge when doing the same thing. It can make dealing with Ones an infuriating proposition.

On the other hand, it is just as likely that the One is trying to prove his position to himself. One's are full of distrust, mostly of themselves. They don't trust their inner instincts and voices to be telling them the correct thing and, since they are scared of doing the wrong thing, they are always second guessing themselves. Research and facts become their way of supporting their decisions. They give great thought to all the possible consequences of their actions so that they can choose not just a good course but the best course, all of that while still holding true to their convictions.

Ones tend to see the world as very black and white. They don't leave much room for grey, which translates into meaning that everything that is not white is black. It can make them seem very harsh and critical, but that harsh and critical judgement is pointed first and foremost at themselves as they strive to live up to their own standards. Standards which are often higher than anyone can meet, even themselves.

Because Ones have such high standards, they mostly live very constrained lives. Strong emotions, of any type, can be dangerous and are held in check. It's okay to be excited but only a little excited. It's okay to be in love but you can't let it control you. Negative emotions, especially anger, are completely repressed. Which doesn't stop them from leaking out as frustration or annoyance or righteousness. In fact, Ones frequently move through their days in a state of constant dissatisfaction: Things could be so much better if only people would do the things they're supposed to do, if people would only do the right thing, if they themselves could only be "better." It all makes that popular question, "Would you rather be right or happy?" laughable to Ones, because you can't be happy if you're not also right.

Overall, Ones live fairly stressful lives. More stressful on an ongoing basis than, probably, any of the other types. Because it is so difficult to constantly hold themselves up to their exacting standards, some ones develop what is called a "trapdoor mechanism." This is, basically, a "secret life" that a One will develop to which he can escape when his real life becomes too stressful to deal with. I say "secret" because it is not actually always secret, though it sometimes is. A trapdoor may be as simple as a hobby or it may be a secret affair. It can also be an entirely secret persona, like going to a place far from where the One lives where no one knows him and he is free to act upon his impulses and desires rather than what he perceives as correct behavior.

Trapdoors, though granting the One temporary relief from stress can, in actuality, increase their stress levels overall as they are overcome with guilt over their bad or wasteful behavior. Even something as innocuous as a hobby can cause a One to be racked with guilt over wasted time. If the trapdoor is something the One actually perceives as bad, he can be unable to reconcile the parts of his being.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, one of the great 19th century poets, is a good example of this. Before becoming a Catholic, Hopkins burned all of his poetry, something he had come to consider almost the equivalent of a sin. At various points in his life, he would return to poetry and, later, burn it. It's a wonder that any of his works remain and, based on the quality of what we have, a tragic loss that we have lost so much of it due to, to put in the language of Ones, its trapdoor quality.

Ones are also known as the Reformer (or Idealist) because they are prone to taking up higher causes and championing them. They frequently have strong beliefs in truth and justice and can become very persuasive in the service of what they see as a worthy cause.

Ones who are able to reconcile their inner desires with their often puritanical views of the world can become wise and discerning and, ultimately, empathetic, able to reach out to others with good counsel while withholding judgement. On the other end of the spectrum, Ones become rigid and dogmatic, often condemning others while engaging in the same behaviors. This is the stereotype of the fire-and-brimstone preacher preaching love and forgiveness while rejecting "sinners."


  1. I'm often a perfectionist, but I don't have most of the One's traits.
    Are you a One?

    1. Alex: That would make you a Two with a One wing, which is what I'd already deduced.

  2. I've been accused of being a perfectionist but I don't think I am in my heart of hearts. (I got individualist when I took the quiz.) I've known a lot of folks, though, who fit your description well. I imagine it's an exhausting way to live.

    1. TAS: Fours and Ones are related which is why you may get accused of One qualities. When Fours (Individualists) are in a place of safety/comfort/emotional growth, they become more like Ones.

  3. Hmmm, recognized a friend of mine in that description. Explains a lot.

    1. L.G.: It's amazing the insight you can get into people when you know why they do the things they do.