Values are the guiding principles by which we live or, at least, they are aspirations that help us align our actions with our principles. Without values, we would be living in an immoral or amoral world of interpersonal confusion and existential chaos. At the same time, too strong an adherence to our values can create a counter-effect of personal and interpersonal difficulties. And too strong an identification with these values keeps our type structures in place, thus inhibiting our growth potential.
Enneagram 1s, who are among the most value-driven of the nine types, emphasize three important values: improvement, honesty and responsibility. Improvement of both self, others, and their specific environment is a hallmark of type 1s. They often think or say the following: “It can always be better.” “I must constantly work on self-improvement.” “I’m not trying to criticize you, I’m only trying to help you improve yourself.” Enneagram 1s also pride themselves for being forthright, yet respectful, and extremely honest. As 1s perceive themselves, they believe that say what they mean and mean what they say. They also view themselves as more honest than most other people; for 1s, not being honest puts them out of integrity. Finally, Enneagram 1s value responsibility. They are rarely late for meetings or with delivering work. They will work the extra hours to get work-products as high quality as humanly possible.
These three values – improvement, honesty and responsibility – support the Enneagram 1 “ego ideal” of being the “good person,” a person who is high integrity and beyond reproach. The “ego ideal,” according to Enneagram author and teacher Jerry Wagner, is the idealized self that people use as a positive definition of self, a partial answer to the question “Who am I?”
The issue is that while our type-based values are positive ones, we can hold onto these values so tightly and narrowly – after all, our idealized self depends on our firm belief in these principles – that these values can become impediments to our growth.
A constant focus on improving self, others and our environment, does not allow for relaxation, ease of being, the experience of fun, or acceptance of self and others. The value of improvement helps explain why Enneagram 1s often having to go away from work and home in order to relax and truly enjoy themselves; enjoyment is different from satisfaction, which 1s may well feel at work. In addition, many 1s discover that they structure their away time as much as their at home or work time, so a vacation doesn’t really feel like a vacation. It’s as if the constant remodeling of the house in order to improve it doesn’t allow any down time to simply enjoy it.
The expectation or value of honesty runs deep in Enneagram 1s and also puts them in a complex dilemma. They hold honesty as a super-value, but they also have a strong orientation to being polite under almost all circumstances. Living in the world of good and bad, always and never, how can 1s be a “good person” and always be both honest and polite at the same time. Sometimes what is honest may not be perceived as polite and what is polite may not be entirely honest. This polite-honest dilemma can cause 1s internal heart-ache, heartburn, or both. In addition, type 1’s primary defense mechanism is reaction formation. Simply defined, reaction formation involves feeling or thinking one thing, but behaving in the exact opposite manner. In reaction formation, 1s are not aware in the exact moment that they are demonstrating the opposite of what they think and feel, but may recognize this discrepancy later on. However, reaction-formation behavior puts type 1s out of integrity with their value of honesty. And when they become aware of this, 1s can be harsh with themselves or self-critical.
Of course, it’s good to be responsible, but is it better to be uber-responsible? Enneagram 1s would say yes; being uber-responsible is what “good people” do. But here are some of the prices 1s pay for this belief; a loss of flexibility to change plans or do something else that might be more effective or enjoyable; countless hours spent at work to get work done right while others are home with their families or doing something to relax; a belief that fun and pleasure are separate from work and that a person must earn relaxation by first being uber-responsible. However, the biggest price paid for being so extra-responsible is the 1s feelings of resentment and even anger. In the world of Enneagram 1s, “good people” do not feel or show their anger. Here’s the paradox; the 1s uber-responsibility sets up a situation where they are going to feel constantly resentful that they are working so much more or at such a higher standard than others. And they then have to suppress their resentment in order to maintain their “good person” status. What is described above requires a great deal of inner control and effort, and the lid will blow eventually.
Values are the foundation of civil communities. Type-based values are organizing principles for people of each type. However, when our values are held too tightly, they limit our development.
Ginger Lapid-Bogda PhD, the author of seven Enneagram-business books, is a speaker, consultant, trainer, and coach. She provides certification programs and training tools for business professionals around the world who want to bring the Enneagram into organizations with high-impact business applications, and is past-president of the International Enneagram Association. Visit: TheEnneagramInBusiness.com | email@example.com