In the Shadow of Type 1: Anger

Angry Talk (Comic Style)

Angry Talk (Comic Style) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Be right, do right, and show others the way. 1s see themselves as being good, responsible, ethical, upright, firm, principled, visionary, dedicated, self-controlled, idealistic, moral, and hard-working. Lots of other people see them that way, too.

It’s admirable to be principled, to have goals to work toward, to want to better oneself—and by extension the world—to hold oneself to high standards, to maintain a strong work ethic, and to envision a better world. At least it’s admirable when these are authentic choices, when they are not forced on either others or oneself. When they are part of the compulsion, however, they can become destructive influences, creating more harm than good.


According to Jerome Wagner (The Enneagram Spectrum of Personality Styles) reaction formation is the primary defense mechanism of Type 1.

To keep your angry impulses out of your awareness, you do the opposite of what you are inclined to do. For example, instead of confronting someone, you are nice to him/her; or instead of being sexual, you become puritanical.

It’s not hard to understand why 1s would have angry impulses. For them, there’s an ideal of perfection for everyone, everything, and every situation to live up to or at least try to achieve. There’s a right way to be, a right way to do things, and a right way that things should be. 1s notice the ways in which things are not as they should be. And there’s a lot to notice, since seldom do people (including them) or situations live up to the ideal. Furthermore, it must appear as though most of the rest of us are not even trying to live up to it.

Not My Way, The Way

1s don’t see these ideas of perfection as emanating from or being determined by themselves. They just are. 1s may not particularly want to have to live up to them, either. But gosh darn it, they are doing their best to live up to them and are only too aware and self-critical when they feel they miss the mark. The rest of us ought to be doing the same.

Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.

–Salvador Dali

Some people believe that everything is already perfect. Others think that nothing and no one is or ever will be perfect. Certainly one person’s definition of perfection isn’t going to be the same as another’s.  The notion that there is one right way to be and to do things creates a type of psychic rigidity that leads to paying attention to what’s missing and what’s wrong instead of seeing the truth and beauty in what is.

That particular focus of attention—along with the compulsion to always be good—creates a great deal of resentment and anger that can’t be acknowledged. Experiencing and expressing this anger would be inappropriate (bad and wrong). So anger and all of its variations and permutations exist in the shadowland of 1s. The longer it is denied and festers, the less 1s are able to achieve wholeness and integrity.

Becoming Aware

In The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Riso and Hudson suggest 1s learn to recognize and process their anger.

While you do not act out your anger or pretend it is not there, you hold a lot of it in your body, so any kind of therapeutic massage or energy work can be extremely beneficial for you. Similarly, yoga or simple stretching exercises can do wonders for your physical and emotional well-being. You can also become aware of ways that you unconsciously hold your body in certain postures, or how you may use more tension than necessary when performing even simple tasks.

This is a good approach, since 1s are “body” types (in the Doing center).

I’ve always remembered this bit from Angeles Arrien’s book, The Fourfold Way, which is a good set of recommendations for anyone:

Show up.
Pay Attention.
Tell the Truth.
Don’t be Attached to the Outcome.

As a practice for 1s, it could be slightly rephrased as:

Be authentic and fully engaged.
Be present with what is–as it is–not as you think it should be.
Be honest rather than judgmental, first with yourself and then with others.
After you’ve done your best, let go of the results.

~ ~ ~

Perfection is a trifle dull. It is not the least of life’s ironies that this, which we all aim at, is better not quite achieved. 

–W. Somerset Maugham


9 responses to “In the Shadow of Type 1: Anger

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