Funky MBTI

Teaching MBTI & Enneagram through Fictional Characters

1: The Need to be Perfect

“I take issues with any man who views women merely as chattels and breeding stock.”

Kate Sharma, Bridgerton

The second season of Bridgerton sparkles when Kate Sharma enters the scene—a fiercely opinionated woman whose strong views define her, and set her apart from her eventual love interest, Sir Anthony Bridgerton. Kate has come to England to see her sister married, and she will do so, even if it means denying what she wants in the process. She knows it is ‘wrong’ to have feelings for the man courting her sister, ‘wrong’ to be seen in public with him, ‘wrong’ to indulge her fantasies… and so she represses those feelings and denies them, until they grow too strong to ignore.

Enneagram 1s as gut types believe firmly in their own opinions and hold their ground even when they face opposition. They are also driven by duty and honor. Kate feels it is her “duty” and responsibility to look after her sister. She decided to put aside her needs, and just focus on getting her taken care of, because that’s the “right thing to do.” Feeling attracted to the person courting her sister feels wrong, which makes her judge herself as a bad person, and repress her feelings rather than give in to them. She reacts to their kiss not with excitement, but guilt, and tells him “we should feel ashamed of ourselves… there is no world in which this could happen between us.” She beats herself up mercilessly for potentially ruining her sister’s engagement and wedding, because it doesn’t fit her idealized version of who she ‘ought’ to be. She is, in a word, so principled that she almost thwarts her heart.

Read on to learn more about Enneagram 1s.

The Need to Be Perfect

1s are the ultimate idealists, driven by a longing for a true, just, perfect and moral world. They are honest and fair and want to inspire others to grow and improve themselves. They want to set a good example and struggle to accept the imperfections of themselves and others. They were model children who felt a need to be good, behave, try harder, repress their anger, do better, and avoid making mistakes.

They struggle against the harsh internal voices that dictate what is right, wrong, bad, or good in their life. It’s hard for them not to be moralistic, a perfectionist, or frustrated by a lack of dutiful hard work in others. They are masters of self-control and can develop feelings of moral superiority over others more prone to excesses.

Beneath all of this compulsive goodness is a fear of being punished (by God or the authorities) for being “bad” (immoral, inappropriate, or wrong). They hope to avoid the condemnation of others and of their conscience. This means they become their own worst critic and accuser. It is not an objective goodness or self-sacrifice that dogs them, but their own subjective concept of what being good looks like (and how they do not quite measure up to it). They struggle to endure the constant mental onslaught of self-criticism, self-defense, and self-correction. The 1 must learn to call a halt to this internal battle and remind themselves they are not dealing in objective truths.

The 1 has internalized the message they are only all right when they are perfect. This can reflect in the meticulous, detailed nature of their work, in their spotless home, or in their immaculate appearance. They want all things tidy and to bring order to the world. 1s can feel frustrated because life and the people in it are not as they “should” be, and are failing to live up to their full potential, as a more idealized self. Their own imperfection further frustrates them.

They are dutiful, punctual, responsible, and reliable. They can be overly serious and prone to workaholic tendencies, allowing themselves pleasure only when they have completed their task to a high standard. They strive in all ways to improve things and will deny themselves what they want if they feel it is “to excess” (in more imbalanced 1s, this can lead to eating disorders, for example, or needless denial of self with sexual or physical wishes). They may even punish themselves for perceived wrongdoing. It fills them with guilt to accomplish nothing or over-indulge.

Without spiritual growth, 1s can find everyone and everything at constant fault, which places an unnecessary strain on their relationships, because others will not appreciate their constant “harping.” They must learn to observe imperfection and accept it. Their preferred choice, however, is to dwell in their anger over imperfection. They struggle to recognize or acknowledge this deep inner resentment. They see anger as a fault of character, an imperfection, something “bad” that can be dangerous if not controlled. Any accusations of others about their deep resentments, anger, or bitterness toward those who have wronged them or behaved inappropriately will get met with denial. Their instinctual tendency to repress their aggression and anger means they avoid instant reactions. Instead, they often internalize their anger, and turn it over to the internal moral critic for a merciless berating (“why are you angry? Good people are never furious or uncontrolled…”).

Immature 1s can mistake their criticisms for absolute truth and assume they stand on the moral high ground. They can also be virtuous in public and sinful in private, living a dual life of self-denial and preaching morality while over-indulging in hedonism in private. They can be moral prigs, forever accusing, condemning, and criticizing others. They will come across to others as unforgiving, moralistic, preachy, arrogant, and self-righteous.

The 1 can move toward spiritual growth through acknowledging the lies and impossible standards of their internal critic, learning to deal with their anger directly, choosing to take life less seriously, choosing love and acceptance over disappointment and judgment, and by teaching themselves to live with “this is good enough.” They must learn to accept themselves and others as they are, and focus on their own areas of growth-need before fixing others. They especially need to realize their tendency to idealize potential romantic partners, only to fixate on their imperfection and attempt to change them. They must also learn to forgive and move beyond past transgressions, rather than constantly dwelling on or reminding themselves of them—both for themselves and others (self-forgiveness and others-forgiveness). The 1 needs to realize there is not one moral truth, or one way to be, or one method of loading the dishwasher. They must stop wanting all or nothing, and leave perfection to God. It’s all right to ease up on duty, order, and improvement, and learn to play, celebrate, and enjoy life.

Mature and healthy 1s are rational, objective, fair, and balanced. They have well thought-out, reasonable opinions and answers irrefutable in their clarity and purpose. They are good at motivating society and others to desire self-betterment, without having an air of moral superiority, because they have learned improvement is a privilege and not a compulsion.

Anger and Perfectionism

The perfectionism of the 1 has an obsession with “improving things” which can make their lives and those of others worse because it demands all experiences, attitudes, and events match up to a pre-established code of values, standards, tastes, rules, etc. This gives them a character of “angry virtue”—one of general resentment at their own exacting standards. They are proud and hateful of subjectivity, assuming they must measure everything by their own standard. They are critical and demanding rather than consciously hateful or rude. They are people of protest and assertive claims rather than mere irritability. Their obsessive focus lies on “intentional goodness,” or “perfectionism.” This often translates into a compulsive need or desire to focus on deciding what others or themselves feel and how it “should be.”

They possess a well-intentioned and overly virtuous character, formed as a defense against their own anger and destructiveness. Rather than give in, they become controlled in the expression of anger—transforming themselves into a “well-behaved,” civilized type, by repressing their rage. They adopt a pattern of reaction formation against anger—a denial of destructiveness through a deliberate, well-intentioned attitude. The sins of others can irritate them and make them zealous in policing them, by setting themselves up as masters of virtue. Their own imperfections and desire for instant transformation can vex them into “goodness.” In this way, they can be impatient, productive, and lack humility, with an over-controlled, over-civilized, impersonal style.

1s can be exacting, meticulous, hate to spend money, correct, and scrupulous. The closest comparison within Freud is the “anal” character, which loves orderliness and may fall into angry defiance. They feel convinced they can do everything better than other people; “they must do everything themselves” to avoid doing other people’s shoddy work over at the last minute. They hide circumstantial, ruminating thinking, indecision and doubt behind the appearance of strong reserve and self-possession. They are prone to emotional blockage—becoming even-tempered, lukewarm in love or hatred. They are reserved, serious, and arrogant. They may stop oneself from sexual excitement because a “good” person does not debase themselves with such things.

Taken to unhealthy extremes, the 1 can develop into compulsive personality disorder, whose traits are:

  1. Restrained affectivity (humorlessness, emotions kept under tight control)
  2. Conscious self-image (sees self as industrious, dependable, and efficient; values self-discipline and self-denial, loyal, prudent)
  3. Interpersonal Respectfulness (adherence to social conventions and polite formal relationships)
  4. Cognitive criticism (fondness for and strict adherence to rules, hierarchies, dislikes unfamiliar novel ideas or customs)
  5. Behavioral rigidity (strict routines and methodical work)

The 1 feels their high standards and moral integrity gives them the right to look down on others, but hides their arrogant contempt behind polished friendliness, because their own high standards prohibit displaying such feelings. They are dutiful and fulfill obligations, polite, orderly, mannered, and avoid obvious lies. They feel obsessed with making all their conduct flawless, and may insist others live up to their standards of perfection and despite them for failing to do so.

They need respect from others. 1s believe their own fairness and sense of duty “entitle” them to fair treatment in life, and may become frustrated to realize this is not always the case (turning their feelings of frustration into resentment). The 1 needs to “control” their life, to have control over it, and to know its outcomes, to feel secure in it. To the 1, success is the proof of their virtue. They fill their life with “ought’s” and “should.” The healthy 1, for this reason, may play a valuable role in society as a reformer, a purifier of social consciences, a promoter of change on a massive scale, or as an important innovator; but the more rigid the 1 becomes (moving in the opposite direction from growth), the more priggish and puritanical they become, a person who wants to force themselves and others into one rigid “right” worldview. The unhealthy 1 falls into behaviors of compulsive reworking of things, being never satisfied with the results, and of the associated anxiety of feeling unprepared. They may do the same project over and over, because they found one mistake. Looming deadlines aggravate their apprehension, because there is not time to perform the ritualistic “re-doing” and make their work “perfect.” They can be self-critical and ambitious in their desire to be “the best.” In this state, they are ultra-picky, critical, intolerant of anything slipshod, and irritated by clumsiness. They turn their anxiety into drive and thoroughness. They struggle to let others take change under the belief that only they can do it right. If placed on a diet, the 1 will rigidly follow the most Spartan regime.

Identifiable Traits:

Anger: better known as frequent resentment over injustice, but prone to an attitude of “martyrdom” (they feel forced to endlessly self-sacrifice while the rest of the world “has fun”). This can become a “righteous indignation.” They do not express their own irritation, reproach, and hate because of their strong emphasis on a virtuous self-image. Anger pervades the 1 on a subconscious level, leading to criticality, demanding, dominance, and assertiveness, perfectionism, over-control, self-criticism, and self-discipline.

Criticality: explicit fault finding out of a desire to make others or oneself better. They can unconsciously create an atmosphere that makes others feel guilty by being morally reproachful. The 1 will justify their moral judgments on others out of a desire to improve them. They assume what “I want” is actually “you should do.” They accuse others, hoping to change their behaviors toward their wishes. They judge others by their own standards, or the standards of their culture—leading them to want to alter and reform others to fit this belief.

Demanding: is their vindictive response to frustration. This inhibits their spontaneity in pursuit of pleasure and makes them resentful of it in others. They expect hard work and excellent performances. They can sermonize, preach, and teach at others, never considering whether it is appropriate to the time and place. Controlling of their appearance and environment.

Dominance: can possess a haughty, superior, or disdainful, even condescending or patronizing demeanor. Has a sense of entitlement based on their high standards.

Perfectionism: masters in the moral system in which they place their authority (the purest Christian, the most faithful Muslim, the most principled police officer, the most honest politician, etc). They are prone to imposing similar standards on others, because of their strict adherence to chosen authorities. The 1 sees themselves as good and kind. They focus on this to avoid confronting their own anger. The 1 is their own harshest critic, but at their most unhealthy, possesses the view that they are “entitled to break skulls” in virtue of the excellence or moral rightness of their cause.

Over-Control: rigidity, a lack of spontaneity, difficulties functioning in a non-structured situation. Rule-bound thinking; logical, methodical, and alienated from their own feelings. Their self-criticism and inability to accept oneself can lead to self-vilification.

Discipline: a willingness to strive at the expense of pleasure. Can develop a puritanical view of such things.

Defense Mechanisms:

Reaction formation. Covering up something or distracting self from awareness of certain impulses by doing the opposite. The result? Their obsessive drive. The 1 feels an angry desire to let go of control and defend against the forbidden with an over-compensation, over-formal “goody-goodness.”

What forged them: 1s take responsibility early to seek recognition from desired adults. Seeking to be a better person represents a hope of gaining parental or teacher approval or closeness. Later, this may turn into “outdoing” that person in virtuous terms. The search for love that kindled the 1’s perfection becomes the search for right and respectability, which can impede their genuine need for acceptance and tenderness. 1s most need to take to heart Lao-Tse’s statement of “Virtue does not seek to be virtuous; precisely because of this, it is virtue.” One does not need perfect behavior to be a person of outstanding moral character. When the 1s learn to let go of rigidity, they find their genuine goodness.

Enneagram 1 Wings

1s present in two different ways based on the influence of their preferred wing. While it’s possible to have balanced wings, or no wing at all, most people can relate to the traits, fears and defense mechanisms of one wing in particular.

1w9: The Idealist

1w9s are introverted, detached, and relaxed. They are more idealistic and objective than the 1w2, and also more circumspect, thinking before they speak to avoid saying something wrong or factually inaccurate. They will pause before finishing a thought. They are outwardly calm and mull over decisions for a long time—the 9 wing exacerbates rather than helps them with procrastination. Their laid-back, easygoing stance helps them build and maintain relationships, but also adds a level of naïve expectation toward the inherent goodness in others. They find it difficult to assume the worst or to mistrust those whose intentions seem pure (the influence of the 9). They are also highly intolerant of conflict and will repress most of their opinions rather than outright state them to keep the peace with loved ones. They can be scholarly and maintain a dispassionate philosophical stance focused on the “big picture.” Their anger is hard to see, and manifests in stiffness, impatience, and sarcasm.

Character Example: One of the most famous literary 1w9s is Atticus Finch, the father of Scout and the unsung “hero” of the classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Though Scout is much too young to fully understand her father’s actions in the Deep South, her brother and the reader are struck with the depth and level of Atticus’ convictions. When a black man is accused of raping a white woman, Atticus takes on the case out of a sense of moral conviction and duty, despite it being unpopular due to the racist attitudes of the time. He cannot abide not doing what he deems is moral and just, which is to give the man a fair trial. Atticus’ high moral standard teaches his son Jem how to be a man and hold to his own budding ideals. His 9 wing adds a level of calm detachment and idealism to the 1, in a naïve desire to think the best of everyone. 9s are universally forgiving dispositions, want to see the best in others, and not be made uncomfortable by hard truths… and we see this in Atticus’ calm demeanor, his great love for his books (an oasis of calm away from humanity), and his lack of awareness for the danger his own children face, due to an angry neighbor. Atticus calmly tries to ease the frustrations of a lynch mob outside the jail, when he decides to sit there overnight. He is deeply shaken when his children are threatened, because despite being a trial lawyer who sees evils every day, he did not want to face the fact that anyone could do something so horrible as harm innocent children.

1w2: The Advocate

1w2s are extroverted, warm, helpful, and empathetic, but they can also be more critical and controlling. They are effective in problem solving for individuals and groups, generous in their response to church, education, community, government, and family. They may talk too much and try to accomplish too much in a day. They have a rapid pace and can quickly transition from teaching into preaching. They readily sense other people’s needs, but may not feel an obligation to meet them. They are less lofty and more willing to get “into the trenches” to bring about the change they advocate. Others energize and recharge them, helping them refine their ideas, and focus on others as long as they feel they are making a positive impact or a difference. If frustrated, they become critical, irritable, and highly vocal about their displeasure. They are more proactive, fiery, and less afraid of conflict than the 1w9.

Character Example: Jonathan Kent in Smallville is an ideal example of a 1w2. Not only is he deeply principled and firm in his rejection of misbehavior (always training up his adopted son, Clark, in the way he ‘should’ go), he also emphasizes the need to be a moral and good person to others, to look out for their needs ahead of your own, and lend a helping hand to your friends and neighbors whenever they ask for it. Though he butts heads with Lex Luthor a great deal because of his own firm prejudices against his father, he also allows Lex to stay on the farm when his father disinherits him, out of a sense of compassion. He even softens toward Lex over time, whenever he feels that Lex is coming closer to ‘doing the right thing.’

Social Variants:

Social variants determine how we respond to the world around us and where our major priorities in life lie. Attentiveness to bonding, social responsibilities, and how we ‘appear’ to others is in the realm of social (soc). Survival, fulfilling all of one’s needs, and a focus on ensuring one always has enough resources for a comfortable life is self-preservation (sp). Sexual displays, competing for attention, being like a moth to a flame in your pursuit of another person, or competing for a mate falls under the realm of sexual (sx). Read through each to determine which resonates the most with you.

Self-Preservation 1

Self-Preservation Ones seek to experience Essential Integrity through their lifestyle and well-being, and they put a great deal of energy into determining the best way to live in accordance with their values. For them, living with integrity means making sure the choices they make correspond to principles of good. Every area of life is intentionally considered: the right diet, work, hygiene, and even how the day is structured and how time is spent, because creating coherence between their personal values and how they are expressed in micro and macro details help the Self-Preservation One find clarity, orientation, and purpose.

Many Self-Preservation Ones can exhibit a great deal of anxiety around lifestyle choices. Their home, for example, is often the object of emotional fuss. Contrary to stereotypes, it’s not always the case that Self-Preservation Ones’ living spaces are perfectly tidied and ordered, but there is almost always some clear intentionality. It might be aesthetically “just right,” it might represent an ideal environment for caring for a family, or it might be an expression of a particular kind of lifestyle. 

Self-Preservation Ones are also typically quite frugal and have strong boundaries around money and can be surprisingly intense about territory and having control over their sense of autonomy.They can emphasize correct procedures and correct habits, in themselves and in others. For distressed Self-Preservation Ones, there is little room for disruptions or flexibility outside narrow parameters. Therefore, punitive self-control can be met with “leaks” whereby the One tries to release some of the pressure built up around their harsh inner critic, such as being extremely choosy around their diet and then binging on sugar after a lengthy period of “good behavior.”

In attempting to avoid feelings of being flawed, the imbalanced Self-Preservation One will feel a need to justify the correctness of their lifestyle, leading to some rather bizarre rationalizations for the way they live and how others ought to be, especially when physical and emotional needs arise that don’t fit cleanly within their ideals. 

Character Example: The film Black Swan is the perfect illustration of the difficulties faced by an unhealthy self-preservation 1. Its heroine, Nina, feels continually torn by her “all or nothing” attitude toward fulfilling her desires, all of which she deems “bad.” She has “gone without” fulfilling them her entire life, from her starved body in order to achieve a “perfect” ballerina body (her anorexia), to her punishing work ethic (she dances and practices until her feet bleed), to her constant struggle against her lesbian desire for a fellow performer (in her mind, a ‘forbidden’ sexual attraction). She feels torn between a strong drive for gratification (to give in to her need and desire for these things) and her self-policing and rigidity of resistance. The resulting inner conflict is a source of continual stress, in which her fragile mental health deteriorates.

The Social 1

Social 1s look to experience Essential Integrity in relationships, causes, and vocation. They have a great deal of awareness about what’s going on in the world at large. They want to understand their place in it and how they can meaningfully contribute to its betterment. People of this type be reformers, social crusaders, and standard bearers. They have a sense of mission and purpose and wish to set an example of how to live from integrity.

Their sensitivity to context makes them adept at seeing the potential in others and where others fail to live up to it. This gravitates them toward mentoring, teaching, guidance, coaching, or leadership positions where they can foster the growth of individuals. Autonomy conflicts come into play as a desire to become attached to a particular soc set while finding that group to be not quite up to their ideals. Thus, the relationships and connections they seek to foster are in need of improvement. This keeps them engaged, oriented toward particular dynamics and people, yet on the outside. By being critical, they remain autonomous and separate.

Although their impulse to reform is well-meaning, as their ideals become rigid and unrealistic, their judgments become more intense. Unconsciously, the imbalanced social 1 is perpetually striving for moral superiority, which finds an uneasy tension with the desire for connection and the social instinct’s awareness of others’ states. This plays out in chronic frustration and judgment of loved ones and groups as a way to remain separate from them and attached through a negative effect. To keep up the identity, no matter how others actually are, they must find fault and come from a position of judgment and condemnation.

If pathological, they become a zealot for their visions of how society should be, taking on an air of purifying the social climate. An identification with feeling right can prevent them from being willing to see how their ideals may not work out as imagined.

Character Example: The animated film Brave pits a heroine and her mother against each other in a battle of wills between what Merida feels is right for her, and what her mother Elinor believes is “appropriate for a proper young lady.” Elinor teaches, advocates, and moralizes about her daughter’s need to be appropriate in public, maintain the rules of society, and give consideration to her reputation among the Scotsmen. Because she has such a sense of appropriateness and high standards, others easily respect her authority and give way to her (they all stop fighting when she comes into a room). She directs her corrective focus outward, onto grooming her family into having more respectable standards, and on putting their best foot forward (no bows at the table, no talking with your mouth full, etc). Elinor holds strong opinions and convictions, and argues for her perspective. She can expect others to always agree with her and give her what she wants, which leads to a rigidity in her thinking and behavior that slowly unravels through the course of the story, when as a bear, she has no choice but to lower her rigid standards.

An unhealthy social 1 can resemble Hilly Holbrook from The Help. She holds unrealistic standards and expectations for herself, others, and society at large, and falls into extremist political views (her ideas about segregation, her bullying of her friends into adopting racist standards and beliefs, her alienation of those who are not “good” enough to be in her inner circle – a woman she thought ‘cheated’ with her ex). Rather than suppress her anger, she unleashes it against those who will not fall in line with her rigid social views.

The Sexual 1

Sexual Ones seek to experience Essential Integrity in their sexual relationships and attraction displays. The idealism of Type One manifests here most acutely as attempting to be the best kind of romantic partner, to have the best partner, and to have an untouchable kind of chemistry. They’re not so much interested in appearances, though they certainly give it attention; instead, they aim to exemplify traits that make them exceptional and therefore desirable, and, in turn, they look for a partner who shares these qualities and with whom they can have the right kind of relationship.

In contrast to the stereotype of the straight-laced One, Sexual Ones often have hobbies, interests, and careers that may seem out of bounds for a type that is typically perfectionistic. These interests often seem, on the surface, unrelated to attraction, but their “hook” is that they’re usually fascinating, adventurous, or creative, and performed to a high enough standard of excellence that it stands out. By seeming to be rooted in an ideal other than attraction, their attraction-displays also serve the additional purpose of giving the Sexual One’s ego “plausible deniability” that these activities are sought for a higher purpose than just procuring sexual attraction.

Sexual Ones can have an infatuation for the ideal. They may unconsciously create conditions where they either keep a relationship with a potential partner from being consummated or they become obsessed with unobtainable lovers, believing that this person is “perfect” for them.

Autonomy plays a central role in the Type One personality, so the judgment that they direct at themselves, at lovers, and the relationship as a whole unconsciously functions to reinforce separateness. If the partner is too X, Y, or Z to infuse themselves with, or the Sexual One judges themselves to be unworthy or not good enough for their partner, this may present emotional difficulties.

Sexual Ones often have an ideal kind of partner in mind, but their bodies may betray an attraction to people that don’t accord with their ideals. They may seek out partners who hit every box on their checklist but are poor lovers, or vice-versa. This can pit a Sexual One against themself in a clash between standards and reality, and there may be an unconscious dynamic of being turned on by their own frustration toward their partner. In partnerships, Sexual Ones can become ruthlessly critical and controlling of their partners, as if getting a thrill from turning partners into improvement projects.

Character Example: Catharine in Father Goose, the story of a prim school mistress forced to share an island with a grouchy sea captain and a dozen of her school girls, is a good example of the sexual 1. From almost the first moment of their interactions, Catherine finds fault with every single thing about him. She feels justified to kick him out of his own hut, reorganize his things, hide all his booze (so she does not enable his “drunkenness”), and expects him to show up “dressed for dinner” even though they are in the middle of a deserted jungle island. Throughout, Catherine cannot help her attraction to him, which often rears its head in fiery, tense interactions (leading to screaming matches, cold swims, and a few instances of them slapping each other across the face). She wants a perfect husband, not Walter, but cannot “help” herself. She wants him to hold her same high standards and not fall short of her high expectations of what being in a marriage means. The fact that she is still single, despite being an attractive woman, means she has tried out one relationship after another and always come away disappointed.

Claude Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame is the perfect embodiment of the negative variety of sexual 1. Though aroused by the gypsy girl Esmeralda and “burning with desire” for her, his superego about being a moral man, “of my virtue I am justly proud” creates a friction between wanting to give in to his sexual impulses and hating himself because of it. He believes she is the wrongdoer for tempting him, places the blame on others (on her, for being a temptress, and on God, for “making the devil so much stronger than a man”), and tries to appease himself through taking “possession” (attempting to control) the object of his lust.

Spiritual Growth Suggestions

As 1s work on themselves and become more self-aware, they learn to escape the trap of confirming their own unworthiness through excessive criticism by seeing an accepting imperfection, lightening up on themselves and others, and learning what they (and others) are lovable and acceptable as they are.

Notice when you are…

Measuring everything against an internal standard and driving for perfection in yourself, others, and / or the environment through the operation of an “inner critic.” This pattern includes continually criticizing yourself and being judgmental of others. Notice if you are believing that if something is not perfect, it is worthless. Observe yourself devaluing and demoralizing yourself, leading to a cycle of efforts to improve, harsh criticism despite those efforts, and renewed efforts at improvement. Notice if you are procrastinating out of fear of imperfection, black and white thinking, or self-punishing attitudes or behaviors.

Consciously following the rules as part of an overall effort to make mistakes. This tendency can make it hard to see when you’re overdoing it to the point of making yourself more anxious and tense. Being overly rule-bound can make you rigid and inflexible, as part of creating an internal sense of safety (following the rules means you are free from blame).

Repressing and over-controlling feelings, needs, and impulses. You demand too much of yourself. You neglect your deeper needs and vulnerable feelings in your total focus on doing the right thing and working hard to perfect things. Notice if you feel resentful and recognize this suggests repressed needs and feelings. Notice if your internal tension builds when you over-control your natural impulses and repress feelings you judge as wrong or threatening. Recognize and accept your deeper needs, impulses, and feelings.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • How and why did these patterns develop?
  • What emotions are these patterns designed to protect me from?
  • Why am I doing this?
  • How are patterns of rigidity and perfection operating in me?
  • What are my blind spots, because of these patterns?
  • What do they keep me from seeing?
  • What are the consequences of continuing to be this way?
  • How do my coping mechanisms trap me?


To counter-act measuring everything against an ideal standard and striving for perfection in self / others, through your “internal critic.”

  • Observe the “Improvement Paradox.” Stop being so hard on yourself. Your constant striving for improvement keeps you fixated and resistant to real growth. Developing greater self-compassion and acceptance is crucial to your development. Lighten up more in general, relax more, and make more time for fun and pleasure.
  • Accept the “perfection of imperfection.” Actively work to release yourself from the tyranny of internal standards by constantly reminding yourself that imperfection is okay, inevitable, and natural, and that “good enough” is good enough.
  • Relax the inner critic. Learn to question, challenge, and joke with your “inner judge.”

To counter-act following the rules and laws to avoid making mistakes.

  • Understand there are many “right ways” to do things. Focus on learning to open up to shades of gray, and not black and white. Sometimes, rules are misguided.
  • Don’t be so hard on yourself. Ask others to remind you of this. The pressure of perfection can create stress and inner tension.
  • Develop more compassion for and acceptance of yourself.

To counter-act repressing and over-controlling feelings, needs, and impulses.

  • Prioritize pleasure and play. Make an effort to lighten up, relax, and have fun. Take others and yourself less seriously.
  • Incorporate humor and relaxation. You have an excellent sense of humor—learn to cultivate it. Use humor to lighten up situations.
  • Own your positive attributes and value your feelings. Make active efforts to focus on what you or others are doing well, what they excel at, and what positive aspects of their talents and capabilities are being demonstrated. Make efforts to get in touch with, own, and express more of your feelings. Learn to regularly ask yourself, “What am I feeling?”

Using your integration and disintegration numbers for self-growth:

Move to 4 by exploring depth and the consciousness of feeling. Allow yourself to experience the release of letting things surface that you have consciously held back. Exploring your melancholic or depressive feelings can grant you greater emotional freedom. Learn to use the artistic expression and emotional intensity of the 4. Select an artistic medium that “feels right” and give yourself time, space, and permission to express without evaluating.

Move to 7 by reclaiming their playful, spontaneous impulses. Be careful, since you may simply slip into “bad behavior” and over-stimulation, followed by regret and self-berating; instead, use 7 to find a healthy balance between relaxation and respectability. Remind yourself it is okay to have fun, lighten up, and choose pleasurable options.

Sources: Richard Rohr, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, Claudio Naranjo: Character and Neurosis, Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Beatrice Chestnut, The Complete Enneagram: 27 Paths to Greater Self-Knowledge; The Instinctual Drives and the Enneagram by John Luckovich. Sections quoted or paraphrased. Please purchase the original books for more information.

%d bloggers like this: