Tom CondonYears ago I saw a television program about a convention of people who were skeptical of paranormal phenomena. The group meets yearly to evaluate and generally debunk claims of unusual possibilities and powers including psychic phenomena, spoon bending and the existence of alien spacecraft or UFOs. The skeptics gathering might as well have been a convention of Ones, because what emerged from the program exactly expressed this style’s psychology.

Several of the skeptics said they objected to paranormal claims because they were factually unproven. Beneath this was the assertion of a scientific worldview. As with Threes, Fives and some Eights, the worldview of many Ones is shaded by Scientism – also called Metaphysical Naturalism; it’s related to a belief in rationality and the bedrock sense of order that physical laws and measurable results can bring. Scientists are taught to be rational, objective, cautious, balanced and fair, and such qualities come easily to Ones.

It was clear from the program that the skeptics were dedicated to a cause. They had obviously traveled to the convention at their own expense and, as a group, they seemed honorable and sincere. If you dropped a sack of money anywhere among them you’d likely get every penny back. All of the skeptics cited examples of hoaxes as if to say “evidence has been faked already so none of it can be true.” The litany they returned to was “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.”

High on the group’s list of improbabilities were UFOs, and the possibility that alien spacecraft might have visited Earth. Several of the skeptics weighed in on the subject and as they talked I listened with an open mind, as someone who has no idea if alien spacecraft exist. Clearly there are many cases of conspicuous fakery and some people who argue that flying saucers are real seem like followers of a daffy, paranoid folk-religion. But I’ve also heard strangely compelling stories from professional pilots and ex-employees of NASA, the U.S. space agency. Many peculiar unexplained incidents have been caught on radar and video and some seem genuinely mysterious.

A few of the skeptics said that if undeniable physical evidence were presented to them, they would then believe in the existence of alien spacecraft. That sounded reasonable but as they talked some seemed less open than others; in fact, they sounded closed, biased and adamant. There was an annoyed undertone in their voices, an insistence that said, “visits by alien spacecraft aren’t just unlikely, they’re impossible – they have not happened and will not happen. Believing otherwise is sheer superstition.” It was as if they had already reached a conclusion that no evidence would likely contradict.

The more strongly the skeptics asserted the primacy of science, the more irrational they sounded. Without meaning to, they communicated the position that science should not study strange phenomenon until it’s been proven to exist. Ironically, most scientists would call that an unscientific attitude.

Go to the editorial page of almost any news source and you’ll find a One somewhere, speaking through an opinion piece, advice column or a letter to the editor. Someone will be taking a principled position on an issue important to them, caring enough to criticize, hoping to make the world a better place.

Ones have a strong unconscious tendency to compare reality with what should be. They generally harbor a set of ideals and standards by which they evaluate themselves, the behavior of others and the world around them. It’s as if the person has swallowed a set of scales and carries them everywhere, weighing each fresh thought, feeling and action.

The focus of these standards differs from person to person. Some Ones value etiquette, the correct way to live, the do’s and don’ts of their chosen context. Others hold ideals of social justice, spiritual purity, political correctness or standards of conventional virtue. The content can be nearly anything but the preoccupation is the same: to give the world an absolute order.

Ones excel at evaluation. They are able to cleave clear paths through complex, ambiguous situations to arrive at sober, objective appraisals. More than other Enneagram styles, people with this style can be discerning, dispassionate and fair. In America, for instance, there’s a Oneish magazine called Consumer Reports that evaluates products and services on the consumer’s behalf. The magazine’s sole purpose is to discover the best product of its kind. Their staff is famously incorruptible, and they refuse to take any form of advertising.

Healthy Ones can be selfless and morally heroic; people of high principle. If they have a cause or mission, they will work at it with steadfast discipline and great courage. People with this style place ethics and personal integrity above expediency, profit or easy solutions. As one said, “I’m not here to do a job, earn money and then die. I am here to leave something behind me. At the end of my life I have to be able to look back on what I’ve done and find meaning in it.”

Ones are frequently conscientious and perform well in the service of excellence as well as for a higher cause. An award-winning One actress said, “I have a tremendous use for passionate statement. I choose all my roles carefully so that when my career is finished I will have covered all our recent history of oppression.” A friend of a One affectionately diagnosed her with “goodism.” The symptoms include a near-constant desire to do the right thing.

At their best, Ones temper their high standards and forgive themselves and others for their flaws, accepting the fact that each of us is a work in progress. They are more willing to work with what is rather than insist that the world live up to their high ideals. Paradoxically, accepting the imperfect becomes the basis for a One’s compassionate reforming.

When Ones are less healthy, they embrace principle and order far too strongly. Their talent for evaluation warps into a rigid style of thinking that reduces complex questions into simplistic equations or false opposites. Things are either right or wrong, black or white, this way or that. As a One said, “a man who lies is no good; it’s as simple as that.”

A One’s healthy preoccupation with high ideals now devolves into a more mundane concern with the rules. Overdefended Ones can apply the same inflexible standards to every situation or be prone to taking intolerant moral positions. Some live life in a state of high dudgeon – a steady feeling of offense or indignation.

At Christmas, a woman wrote an angry letter to a newspaper after the paper ran a picture of a charity holiday dinner. The Salvation Army, a Christian organization that ministers to the poor and homeless, had sponsored the meal. The letter writer complained that many of the people pictured at the dinner were still wearing their hats, a violation of all known civilized behavior. The woman was so appalled that she swore never to donate money to the Salvation Army again.

In the trance of their Enneagram style Ones may be unable to acknowledge their own mistakes or forgive them in others. God is in the details and every detail must be perfect. One man arranges his socks in a drawer by color; he also re-irons pressed and laundered shirts to eliminate wrinkles that only he can see. A man whose parents were both Ones said, “I still hear my Dad saying, ‘The only mistake I ever made was once I thought I made one and I didn’t.’ He was perfect. He used pencils that didn’t have erasers on them.”

The son also tells this story about his mother: “At high school graduation I gave a speech. My mother sat in the front row glaring at me. Afterwards, I willed up my courage and asked her, ‘Why were you glaring at me?’ She said, ‘You weren’t enunciating!’” Another person remembered his One mother’s favorite motto: “There’s no play until the work is done and the work is never done.” The son of a One father adds, “It’s easier to be the friend of an idealist than the child of an idealist – because an idealist will make his child an example.”

When deeply entranced, Ones can be cruel in the name of “goodness,” cold and uncaring in the service of humanity as well as aggressively oblivious to feedback. They may cling to stubborn wrong-headed positions, displaying what a One’s spouse wryly described as “a highly developed ability to stand firm on things.” As an arrogant One declared, “If what I think is right, it doesn’t matter if the rest of the world thinks otherwise, does it? It puts me in the company of geniuses such as Einstein and Galileo.”

Very unhealthy Ones can be humorless, puritanical, merciless, and driven to fulfill destructive, ill-conceived missions. They tend towards misanthropy and can harbor a righteous distaste towards the baser, more “animalistic” side of life, taking intellectualized stances against anything they consider irrational, emotional or weak-minded; lumping all artistic and spiritual experience under the label “magical thinking;” going crazy with the remorselessness of their own logic.

Deeply entranced Ones are also prone to obsessive-compulsive disorders as well as religious and political fundamentalism, sometimes in its violent, fanatical form. The criminal extremes of Oneness could include murder inspired by zealotry as well as acts of extreme cruelty in the service of science, religion or a utopian vision of social order.

Anger and Judgment

Ones are part of the emotional trio who tend to delete themselves, are unconsciously angry and have trouble thinking clearly. Ones, in particular, delete their needs and displace their attention onto a preoccupation with rules and morality.

When entranced Ones enter new situations, they don’t ask themselves “Am I comfortable?” or “What do I want?” They focus instead on what is right or wrong, or somehow lacking in the circumstance. Along with Eights and Nines they feel invisible, as if their needs are irrelevant and don’t count.

The anger in Ones flows out of the gap between the way things are and the way they should be. People with this style may or may not appear overtly angry. Some Ones have a clipped, quiet anger and can seem polite, controlled, or formal. In their presence, you may feel judged or disapproved of, and not know why. Other Ones demonstrate anger of the scolding, finger-wagging variety.

Enneagram students often want a way to distinguish between Ones and Eights since both styles can seem overtly angry. The subject of a One’s anger is order and rules; they objectify and depersonalize their anger. Eightish anger, by contrast, is more personalized, more narcissistic and aggressive in the service of a strong self.

However they express it, Ones generally have an ambivalent relationship to their anger. When angry, they feel as if they’re out of control, and out of control people are not Good People. Being angry could also mean being flawed, needy or selfish, any of which the One judges as bad. A lot of Ones defend against hearing their own anger the way a bullfrog can internally block the sound of its own loud voice.

This can lead to contradictory or hypocritical behavior. In a small Canadian mountain village, a Mayor and his council passed a nuisance bylaw outlawing swearing in public. It also banned curse words, shouting and offensive behavior. The law was aimed at rowdy youths who were hanging around the town’s upscale resort.

Challenged at a public meeting for being too repressive, the Mayor lost his temper and shouted, “I’m embarrassed to walk in the village because of the language being used by these kids. I’ll be goddamned if that keeps happening here!”

Ones control through judgment. When feeling uncertain, insecure or criticized, they tend to look for what’s wrong, missing or out of place and find fault with it.

Let’s say a One enters a new situation, perhaps sent to a math seminar by his employer. The class is required for his job but math is something he has never been good at. As a One, he wants to perform well and in this situation he is especially anxious. Feeling pressure to perform, he might enter the seminar feeling nervous and needing reassurance but, instead, he suppresses his feelings and become preoccupied with order.

First, he starts looking around the classroom for what’s out of place. He notices that some of the chairs are disarrayed. Next his eyes go to the casual dress of some class participants; a few are wearing jeans and sandals, others look more formal and have better quality shoes.

Meanwhile, he starts talking to himself, finding fault in the situation: “What’s going on here? The chairs are out of place. What is the correct dress code? And why are there empty coffee cups strewn on the back table? Why is no one here to greet us? Who is in charge? What a sloppy organization! These people couldn’t know very much about math!”

He talks to himself in an angry tone of voice. He tightens his stomach muscles, hunches his shoulders and narrows his vision to see only what’s wrong. He feels physically rigid and tense but also in control. Although this inner state isn’t pleasant, it feels more stable than being worried about his math skills. Through judgment the One arrives at a feeling of (illusory) control.

Ones dissociate from their anxieties and shadows through a defense mechanism called reaction formation, which means building a verbal argument against what you secretly want, desire or feel. A One will use words to judge and suppress their desires in the hope that a good scolding will make them go away. It’s like talking yourself out of what you want, a variation on the old practice of saying “Get thee behind me” to sinful impulses. Whatever Ones disapprove of in their own behavior – especially their angry or libertine impulses – is what they will “reverse project” and condemn in others. This follows the logic of author H.G. Wells’s axiom: “Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo.”

Out for an evening walk with a One friend of mine, we paused before the window of a rock shop. My friend, a geology buff, stood transfixed by a beautiful chunk of amethyst for sale. I could almost feel him yearning to touch the intricate, violet crystal, glowing under the golden display light.

Then he saw the amethyst’s high price. He began to complain that all the stores in town seemed to be catering exclusively to rich people with nothing better to spend their money on. This line of logic broadened into a tirade about the extravagance and gullibility of the population at large, especially all the poor souls duped into believing that they need unnecessary, expensive objects.

After a little while I said, “So I guess this means that you really want that amethyst.” My friend looked surprised and burst out laughing, nodding ruefully.

Once in a workshop I was speaking about the value of intuition when a One raised his hand and angrily said, “I don’t believe in intuition! I think that my capacities are governed by my rational mind!” A woman in the audience turned impatiently to the man and said, “How can you be so sure there’s no such thing as intuition?” Sheepishly he replied, “I don’t know, it’s just a feeling…”

Both judgment and reaction formation rely on a One’s ability to objectify; to mentally turn experiences, feelings and even people into things. This is evident when a One feels threatened, then labels the threat, then condemns the label (“That man is a cheat and cheats are no damn good”). After the threat is subjectively boxed and shelved this way, the One feels in control again.

Supposedly an American baby food company once began to market their products in Africa. For packaging they used a label that had worked well at home: each jar of baby food featured a cameo photograph of a baby’s smiling face. After the product launch, when sales were non-existent, the company realized its mistake. In Africa, labels on jars and cans only illustrate what is  actually inside the jar. Nobody wanted to buy baby heads.

When Ones objectify, they mistake their surface labels for the inner ingredients. A judgmental One might see a person as an example of a category, a type, a representative of a broader generalization. The One is not judging the person but rather an object in his or her own mind.

Polarized Thinking

Defensive Ones distort their thinking by reducing multi-dimensional reality into oversimple black and white categories. In the process, they forget their personal needs and priorities, focusing not on what they want but what should be.

There used to be a magazine published for school children that had a cartoon feature on its back page called, “What’s wrong with this picture?” Each issue featured a drawing of a normal, familiar context, like a modest neighborhood with people doing yard work, children playing and a dog sleeping under a tree. Buried somewhere in the picture was an abnormal, incongruous detail like an upside-down flying cat or a dinosaur peeking out of a garage.

Entranced Ones look for what’s wrong with any picture – not seeing what’s actually present while imagining something that isn’t there.

In Ones, these perceptual habits combine to produce a kind of open-eyed blindness. A One entering a new circumstance might unconsciously search for what’s wrong, comparing reality with an inner picture of how it should be. As the One focuses on what’s wrong, he overlooks what’s right. A One who is active in social causes on behalf of children describes looking at her own kids: “When I look into their eyes I see refugee children from Cambodia, Somalia and Mozambique. And when I am in the refugee camps, I see my children back home.” Another One adds, “My paradox is that though I care a great deal for the masses – the orphans in Vietnam, the starving in India – I seem to care little about the individuals around me. I’ve resisted that accusation. But, quite bluntly, it’s me.”

In Switzerland I was once angrily lectured by a train conductor for wadding up paper money. “This is good Swiss money and look at how you treat it!” he said, as I tried to buy a train ticket. The conductor probably saw a mental image of a pristine, freshly printed 20-franc note and compared it to the crumpled old bill I handed him.

Somewhat defensive I said, “I’m sorry, I was in a hurry.” Waving a dismissive hand, the conductor said, “You should schedule your life better.” Excuses didn’t matter compared to his ideal picture.

Sometimes Ones not only stop seeing what’s present, they also stop listening. A famous One social critic, characterized as “having the fiercest vision when he looked at the world around him, the most timid vision when forced to look at himself,” was also described by friends and associates as someone who “hears no one but himself” and as being “all mouth and no ears.”


Excerpted from The Dynamic Enneagram by Tom Condon

Copyright 2009, 2013 by Thomas Condon

Available as an ebook serial at Tom’s website


Tom Condon has worked with the Enneagram since 1980 and with Ericksonian hypnosis and NLP since 1977. These three models are combined in his trainings to offer a useful collection of tools for changing and growing, to apply the Enneagram dynamically, as a springboard to positive change. Tom has taught over 800 workshops in the US, Europe and Asia and is the author of 50 CDs, DVDs and books on the Enneagram, NLP and Ericksonian methods. He is founder and director of The Changeworks in Bend, Oregon.

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