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Enneagram Type One Explained

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

A Complete Guide to Enneagram Type 1

If you or someone you know is driven by a sense of purpose, has a deep passion for justice, is really self-critical and struggles with good amount self-righteous anger, then they might be an Enneagram Type One Reformer.

If you’ve tested or been told by others that you’re a Type Three, Five, or Six, but you're not quite sure, then this may help confirm or change your thinking, as those three types often mistype themselves as Ones and vice versa. You can also reach out to schedule an Enneagram type consulting call.

Major Personality Traits

Type Ones are called "The Reformer" because they are driven by a deep desire to improve the world around them. A lot of Enneagram teachers refer to Type One as “The Perfectionist,” but so many other types can be perfectionists in some area of their life. Sixes are perfectionists when it comes to their daily work, Three's are perfectionists when it comes to their public image, and Fours are highly perfectionistic when it comes to their artistic creations.

But the reason Type Ones are labeled perfectionists is because at their core they believe there is a right way, and a wrong way, to do everything. They have a neurotic desire for integrity caused by an overactive superego. The superego is the part of the brain that comments on your personality and makes moral judgments about your behavior. The problem is their superego doesn’t just point inwards, it also points outwards to everyone around them.

And Type Ones are usually incapable of withholding critical comments. If they see something, they say something, and then they usually do something about it. Reformers are hands-on people that want to control their environment to avoid pain and punishment.

It’s important to understand that most Reformers's don't actually want to make people feel bad with their judgments; in fact, it's the complete opposite.

Ones can't help but see the best possible version of everything, and so they naturally spot potential ways to fix people or situations in order to manifest their grand vision for a brighter future and better, healthier you.

Healthy Ones will make deeply personal sacrifices for the good of others because they feel like it's their entire life’s purpose, and Ones crave having a purpose in life. Their core identity is wrapped up in feeling like they've been called by a higher power to do something good in the world. Feeling is actually the key word there. This may surprise some because Ones try to look objective and rational in all things, but they are in fact highly emotional people.

Ones deal with a ton of anger, which they repress because it feels morally wrong. But repressing their emotions just makes them look rigid, stoic, and detached. If you want to see the type Ones true emotions, just criticize something they did. Anything! Their intense self-criticism makes them super sensitive to critique. It’s easy for them to be objective and rational when they’re telling someone else how they messed up, but when you turn the tables, get ready for some pent up rage because you’re tapping into their greatest fear, which is that their beliefs--which should be their north star guiding them to an honorable life--are actually causing more harm than good. They’re terrified of being the bad guy, and that’s because at their best, Reformers want to be wise, benevolent people that change the world through their passion for justice and personal growth.


As we explore Enneagram childhood experiences, we take into account both nature and nurture. We are all born with a specific temperament, psychologically speaking. But the way our primary caregivers raise us has a great deal of influence on how that temperament is expressed as adults.

In their earliest years, Type One children can look a lot like Type Seven Enthusiasts because they’re highly energetic, playful, and outgoing. However, Ones quickly realize that life is not all fun and games. Typically, Ones notice that something is off with their relationship to the protective figure in the home, which is traditionally the father. Ones experience their father as harsh, unfair, or even corrupt. Ones begin to notice that their father’s rules just seem unnecessarily strict, which is why Ones have incredibly high standards as adults. As children, they reacted to unfair rules by going above and beyond the rules in a subtle attempt to like prove them wrong, by being undeniably good. And that's where the little rebellious Reformer spirit starts to grow.

As a Type One, I 100% identify with this experience. I was punished for every tiny thing I did, like not walking up the stairs quietly enough or not lining up my shoes perfectly by the back door. A lot of Ones, myself included, react to this by doing everything extra perfect in life as a way of saying "How could you punish such a good kid?"

Ones often get straight A's, excel in sports, volunteer for community service projects, and so on and so forth. This is actually a big reason why Reformers can get mistyped as Type Three Achievers and Type Six Loyalists: because they have a need to protect their image like a Type Three and a weird relationship to authority like a Type Six. It all comes back to their childhood experience of anger towards the father figure and their desire for fairness. As Ones grow up, they continue to have issues with their authority figures because of a fear of punishment mixed with a desire to do things the right way.


Every Enneagram type has what’s known as a “wing”--it’s simply an overlap of traits with the personality type directly to the left or to the right of your primary type. So Type Ones can either have a Nine wing or a Two wing.

The Idealist

Enneagram 1 wing 9

Ones with a Nine wing are called The Idealist. That's because both Nines and Ones prefer their ideal world over their actual real world environment. Ones are very attached to their beliefs about how the world should be, while Nines are more attached to an idealized or romanticized version of the people around them. The result is that this subtype is more impersonal, cerebral, and disconnected from others, than the One with a Two wing.

Idealists are filled with inner turmoil because Nines want to avoid conflict and create harmony in their environment, while Ones definitely don't mind stirring up conflict to make necessary changes. This paradox pushes Ones outside of mainstream society and they become more focused on critiquing culture than being a part of it. This introversion mixed with idealism can make One wing Nines (1w9) mistype as Type Five Investigators.

When they’re healthy, Idealists are like a sweet, approachable professor that’s as playful as they are insightful. They just have to remember to sacrifice the comfort of their ideals in order to remain in healthy, active relationships with other people that way they don’t become too obsessed with their dream version of reality.


Enneagram 1 wing 2

Ones with a Two wing (1w2) are called The Advocate and they are far more action-oriented about the changes they seek to make in the world than the 1w9. Both Ones and Twos are concerned about being "good people" so this type has an even more active superego. The Two wing makes Ones more sociable and interested in cultivating loving, committed relationships.

However, the Two wing can also make Ones a bit more intense in their interactions with people since they still want to be right, but now they're extroverted rather than introverted. At the same time, the Two wing brings a sense of warmth and a desire to serve their community.

The Advocate's major problem is with their need for control, because Ones want to control themselves through a rigid sense of morality and Twos want to control others by meeting their needs. This can make them rather obsessive people in every sense of the word, and those close to them can feel a never-ending sense of manipulation through peer pressure, guilt, and moral shaming.

Overall, 1w2's should keep an eye out for their aggression towards other people--be it active or passive aggression--and make sure that the noble desire to improve the lives of others doesn’t deteriorate into constant, self-righteous criticism.

Integration & Disintegration

The concept of a movement toward integration and disintegration is a central teaching of the Enneagram. It’s the idea that we embody the traits of other personality types depending on how healthy we are.

Disintegrated Ones

Enneagram 1 disintegration to type 4

When Ones are unhealthy, they disintegrate to the worst characteristics of Type Four Individualists. They start contradicting all their rigid morality and they become moody, irrational, and super self-indulgent. Ones start to slip into a fantasy life where they can do whatever, whenever they want without repercussions. If Ones actually start to live into these fantasies, they become plagued with intense moral shame and guilt. At their lowest, disintegrated Ones take the rage they normally point at others and turn it inwards on themselves.

Ones can become very depressed if their attempt at creating a good life has actually lead to a rather painful and lonely existence. This experience stirs up their core fear that everything they believed was good and right was actually wrong and harmful. As bleak as it sounds, it can be a real opportunity for some necessary change to the Type One's arrogant and immature worldview.

Integrated Ones

Enneagram 1 movement of integration to type 7

When Ones are healthy, their movement of integration is to the Type Seven Enthusiast. This is a pretty drastic shift for the rigid Type Ones because they become spontaneous, carefree, and an all-around good time. Ones spend so much time and controlling their energy so they can do the right thing, that when they transcend this basic operation system of the ego, all that energy is now available to bask in the beauty of life.

Integrated Ones still have a deep connection to their values, but they’ve become more mature and flexible in their ability to navigate the grey areas of life. They finally become warm and accepting enough for others to finally seek out the wisdom they’ve spent a lifetime cultivating.


The Enneagram instincts describe the most basic ways we function in our daily lives. The pattern normally goes that we operate out of one primary instinct, then our secondary instinct really just serves the first, and the last instinct is usually repressed due to some formative experience we had growing up.

The three instincts are the self-preservation instinct, the social instinct, and the sexual instinct.


Self-Preservation Ones are focused on hard work that brings material security, like a nice home, a reliable pay check, and physical health. They tend to suffer from anxiety a lot more than other Type Ones, and this can make them look like Type Six Loyalists. However, Ones are afraid that their security will be threatened by making a bad decision rather than the Six's fear that they have no one to protect them from external threats.

Self-preservation Ones are also by far the most stereotypically clean and tidy. They obsesses over personal hygiene and wellness practices, like taking lots of vitamins, supplements, or joining exercise programs. However, when overstressed, the self-preservation instinct can lead to self-sabotage, and Ones will start binging on late night fast food, ice cream, alcohol, and other serious drugs depending on their level of health. This creates a push-pull lifestyle that's often driven by a system of rewards and punishment. "You ate that pint of ice cream, now go punish yourself on the treadmill."

The idea of "pleasure for the sake of pleasure" makes Self-preservation Ones very uncomfortable. They much prefer long periods of poverty or adversity because it gives their anxiety something real to focus on.

When they get comfortable or achieve some level of success or luxury, they can be filled with a sense of impending doom or "foreboding joy," as Brené Brown calls it, and that's because they expect life to be inherently difficult.

Self-preservation Ones can often get caught up in catastrophic thinking, which means they feel like one mistake could lead to a massive, permanent setback (e.g., thinking that if they quit a job that they hate, they could end up living out of their car and never recover financially). This is one behavior that stems from their disintegration to the unhealthy side of Type Four Individualists.

Ultimately, Self-preservation Ones can create a stable home that they use to launch out into the world and help those in need of hospitality, generosity, and warmth.


Social Ones are highly motivated to promote their beliefs amongst their friends, family, and broader community. They believe more than any other instinctual variant that their beliefs are objectively good and right and true. They like to speak up for people they feel are being mistreated, or for causes they believe will benefit others. All of the social issues they fight for are rooted in the Social One's strict sense of morality and their attachment to rules and procedures. Social Ones are the true crusaders of the bunch. They're like to expose and attack injustice.

While all Ones are strongly opinionated, Social Ones will more readily argue their perspective and can be seen as downright combative. They may seem like they can never be wrong, but they actually do value others with strong convictions, which is why they can often be found partnering with Eights. However, when it comes to intimate relationships, Social Ones do expect that those closest to them will agree with all of their core values. In their unhealthiest state, Social Ones use their strict moral code and well-defined belief system to keep others away and protect themselves. Sometimes they can wind up in extreme political or religious groups that condemn others in mainstream society, and can be filled with outrage to the point that they never stop ranting about the imperfections of humanity.

Oddly enough, Social Ones are the most sensitive to critique. They really want to be seen as "good boys and good girls" by their community. Their greatest fear is of being caught doing something privately that they said publicly they were against--essentially, being a hypocrite. Ultimately, Social Ones have a gift for building and mobilizing groups of people to do great things in society, as well as being able to create long-lasting friendships with quality people.


Sexual Ones are all about having the perfect soulmate. They have unrealistic expectations about what their romantic partner should be as well as what their best friends should be. They're also relational minimalists--they only need the perfect one or two people to carry them through life. This is why their standards for relationships are so much higher than other Type One subtypes. They dream of a partner that will help build the perfect, committed relationship where both parties are equally hell bent on personal growth.

Ironically, Sexual Ones will often find a mate that they believe they can fix or mold into the perfect person. And so, in lower levels of health, which is almost always Ones in their younger years, they tend to date or marry Type Fours because they recognize all of their weaknesses in the Four--since that's where Ones go in unhealth--and they try to fix the Four as a way to avoid fixing themselves.

Sexual Ones will constantly project their high moral standards and work ethic onto those around them, and that's because they fear the flaws of their loved ones will destroy the perfect harmony they seek to create in their relational environment. Sexual Ones can be extremely jealous and possessive as they merge their identity with those they have chosen. They can be both serial daters constantly breaking off relationships in the earliest stages, or perpetually single because no one is ever good enough. Sexual Ones use their keen eye for flaws to control their partners with constant criticism. At lower levels of health, Sexual Ones become frightened by relational freedom, so they obsess over their partner's activities and constantly check in on them.

Much like the self-preservation instinct can swing between periods of intense dieting and binge eating garbage food, so does the sexual One swing between lavish sexual activity then strict suppression of sexual desires. This behavior stems from a chronic, well-hidden sense of loneliness. Ultimately, the Sexual One is capable of building the most committed, enduring relationships possible once they find a sense of security in their own sexual identity.


There are actually three triads within the Enneagram. These triads all group personality types based on shared behaviors that can really help you to understand why you’re so similar in one area and so different in another. The three Enneagram triads are the Triad Centers, the Harmonic Triad, and the Hornevian triad.

Enneagram 1s as part of the Gut or Body Triad Center

Triad Centers

When it comes to the Triad Centers, Ones are in the Gut Center along with Type Eight Challengers and Type Nine Peacemakers. All gut types struggle to acknowledge or accept their instinctual reactions and instead try their best to resist or control reality. This tendency to fight reality causes Ones to avoid being still and makes them incapable of enjoying the present moment. Instead, they often live in the nostalgia of the past or the anxiety of the future. All of this tension and resistance causes a great deal of anger for Type Ones, which they try to suppress because Ones see anger as morally wrong. If Ones cannot accept and transcend their anger, they become blinded by extremely judgmental thoughts when their anger festers into bitterness and resentment towards others.

Harmonic Triad

The Harmonic Triad is all about the way we cope with pain, loss, or trauma. Ones are in the Competency Group along with Type Three Achievers and Type Five Investigators. The Competency Group doesn’t feel comfortable with emotional pain, so they make it a thinking issue.

Ones cope with trauma by rationalizing what happened and raising their moral standards even higher to prevent future pain. Ones do not readily accept sudden trauma or chaos, instead they seek a reason for their pain like cosmic karma or divine wrath, rather than accepting that life is just unpredictable and most things are simply out of our control or beyond our comprehension. Ones, at their best, transcend this cause-and-effect mentality and embrace the natural paradox of life as both beautiful and tragic.

Hornevian Triad

Ones are in the Compliant Group along with Type Two Helpers and Type Six Loyalists. The Compliant Group believes there’s a proper way to behave in every social situation based on who is in charge. Ones have a natural sense of propriety and believe in being respectful and self-controlled. However, Ones comply to what they believe the rules and standards should be rather than what they are. So they may go above and beyond expectations in a certain area that they approve of, and then disobey the rules completely in another area if they seem unfair or counterproductive to the greater good.

Practical Exercises

The Enneagram is incredibly critical and it touches on the most sensitive areas of our lives. That’s because it’s foundational belief is that the ego, or what most people call your personality, is just the YOU you’ve become to survive in this world.

There’s a layer below your ego called your essence, or your “true self.” Think about it like becoming the best version of your personality. Either way, the only process to get that true self out of you is to become aware of that top layer of your ego so that you can make healthy choices to either identify with it or transcend it.

Here are a few ways Type One Reformers can choose work on transcending their ego:

  1. Meditation & Yoga: One of the biggest things Ones need to learn how to do is to recognize the voice of their superego. The superego is your conscience, and it's very helpful for figuring out what the right thing to do is in many situations, but it can also be hard to turn off, especially for Ones. Ones are at their best when they release their need to control or fix things, but the superego is not wired to release control or to not have an opinion about what should be. Ones can benefit from a meditative practice that allows them to release judgement and accept what is. Since Ones are in the Gut Triad, something like yoga can be extremely beneficial as it releases built up tension in the body through conscious breathing and stretching.

  2. Get Into Your Body: Taking long walks while repeating a mantra of some kind can also help Ones get into their body while shutting off that dualistic part of your brain that wants to judge every action and anticipate every possible outcome. while I love journaling, as a One, I've actually found that freeform writing without a prompt or gratitude focus of some kind, can actually keep Ones in the same mental loops they need to escape.

  3. Practice Forgiveness: Another practice that is profoundly healing for Ones is the practice of forgiveness. Ones need to first forgive themselves for all their flaws and imperfections so that they can actually begin to heal, rather than just creating artificial structures or adding another discipline to help "fix" the problem. If Ones are able to forgive themselves for not living up to their impossibly high standards, then they can finally stop holding others to those same standards and allow people to just be who they are / where they are today. Releasing this obsession with high standards is also tied to the One's inability to affirm others. Ones are super stingy with compliments, so they can grow by making a concerted effort to compliment others and use their power of perception to give really specific, powerful encouragement to those around them. It's vitally important for Ones to balance out the ratio of critiques to compliments, because subconsciously they'll always lean in favor of critiques.

  4. Acknowledge the Deeper Feelings: Ones can also grow by learning to use their anger as a sign post, rather than reacting to it impulsively or suppressing it. If Ones can identify when they're feeling angry and pause long enough to trace their anger back to it's source, then they can speak and act from a clear-headed, whole-hearted place. Ones don't like to say things like "I felt embarrassed when you did that" and they much prefer to say things like "I can't believe you did that. You're so immature." Ones need to acknowledge their feelings rather than rationalizing them and blaming others.

Bonus Fluff

🇨🇭Country: When it comes to a country with a culture that reflects the core traits of the Type One Reformer, think clean streets, clear rules, and a love of timeliness, hence the birthplace of those perfect watches. If you guessed Switzerland, then bravo, you’re 1 for 1.

🐕 Spirit Animal: Think of something that attacks any threat to protect the greater good - and if you guessed the Hornet or a Barking Dog - you’re 2 for 2.

✨ Famous Type Ones: This is really an open field for discussion, but The Enneagram Institute lists Michelle Obama, Plato, Confucius, Ghandi, Martin Luther, Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Maher, Meryl Streep. My hero Richard Rohr is also a fellow Type One.

🦸 Marvel: In the in the Marvel Universe, my Enneagram collaborators say that Black Panther is probably a solid Type One Reformer.

SOURCES: Much of this information comes from an amalgamation of sources, but the primary source of this information comes from the works of Russ Hudson and Don Riso of the Enneagram Institute (The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Personality Types, Understanding the Enneagram), followed by Richard Rohr's The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, and Helen Palmer's The Enneagram in Love & Work.

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