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The first time I read about the Enneagram, I though it looked like some hocus pocus cooked up by a desert father high on shrooms. At first, I completely rejected the idea that there was anything to this wacky personality typing system.
Fortunately, I’m not the sort of person to permanently close the door on an idea just because it doesn’t make sense to me at first. I returned to the Enneagram a couple years later and read Personality Types by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson. When I read the chapter on type five, a lightbulb turned on in my head. Since then, the Enneagram has become the most useful personal growth tool I have ever encountered.
The Enneagram is often mentioned in the same breath as Myers-Briggs, but the two personality theories are very different from each other. The Myers-Briggs cognitive functions constitute a shorthand that describes how your brain works–how you process information, express yourself, and respond to external stimuli.
The Enneagram goes way deeper. It pinpoints what motivates your behavioral and thought patterns. Each Enneagram type has a core fear and a core desire that are the driving force behind certain characteristic attitudes and behaviors. Because the Enneagram focuses on motivation and not behavior, people of different Enneagram types can sometimes look and act alike, even though their types are different. This makes it much more difficult to accurately type other people (and fictional characters) than it is with Myers-Briggs.An Introduction to the Enneagram of Personality + 5 Fictional Ones Who Exemplify Their Type!Click To Tweet
If you don’t know anything about the Enneagram and want to learn more, I highly recommend checking out the Enneagram Institute’s website, where you can read descriptions of each type and take the RHETI (Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator). I also recommend reading the aforementioned Personality Types by Riso and Hudson and/or The Wisdom of the Enneagram, also by Riso and Hudson. Lastly, check out my post “19 Enlightening Books on the Enneagram of Personality” for more recommendations.
Last month I finished up my sixteen-part MBTI in Fiction series and I recently wrote a post in which I typed ninety-nine literary characters according to the Enneagram. Now, I want to dig a little bit deeper into the Enneagram. Over the next nine months, I will explore the Enneagram types through the lens of fictional characters, starting now with type one–the reformer.
Enneagram Type One – The Reformer
According to the Enneagram Institute:
Ones are conscientious and ethical, with a strong sense of right and wrong. They are teachers, crusaders, and advocates for change: always striving to improve things, but afraid of making a mistake. Well-organized, orderly, and fastidious, they try to maintain high standards, but can slip into being critical and perfectionistic. They typically have problems with resentment and impatience. At their best: wise, discerning, realistic, and noble. Can be morally heroic.
Ones have a basic fear of being corrupt, evil, or defective. Their basic desire is to be good and to have integrity.
Ones can easily be mistyped as threes (because of their work ethic and efficiency), sixes (because of their tendency to abide by the rules), and eights (because of their strong-willed nature).
Here are five quintessential fictional ones.
Hermione Granger | Harry Potter
Ones are the true perfectionists of the Enneagram. They like things to be done right. Hermione’s one nature is readily evident from her first very year of Hogwarts.
Hermione also makes it very clear that she disapproves of Harry and Ron’s rule-breaking.
When we first meet her, Hermione is an average one, meaning that she has an average level of emotional health. But as she grows up, she grows emotionally too. Hermione loosens up and isn’t so afraid of breaking the rules. She realizes that defeating Voldemort is more important than being perfect, and she commits her considerable intellectual resources to that end. Her passion for justice outweighs her passion for perfection–that’s what a healthy one looks like.
Hermione is an ESTJ in the Myers-Briggs system.
Atticus Finch | To Kill a Mockingbird
Atticus Finch is another example of a healthy one. He has a passion for justice and he is willing to stand up to the powers that be to defend the innocent. He is also a magnanimous father. Ones can be hard on those they love, expecting an unreasonable level of perfection. Atticus is no pushover with his kids, but he clearly loves them and provides them with an environment in which they can just be kids.
Atticus Finch is an INFJ in the Myers-Briggs system.
Jack Shephard | Lost
Jack is the perfect example of a moderately unhealthy one. He has an overwhelming compulsion to fix things–and people. At his wedding, Jack ad libs his wedding vows, saying “I didn’t fix you; you fixed me.” That has to be the greatest compliment a one can pay.
Unfortunately, Jack’s brief bout of emotional health doesn’t last. His wife cheats on him, then leaves, and he completely unravels. Ones hold themselves to a very high standard, but when they’re unhealthy, that standard can slip and they can conceal their destructive tendencies and become very self-righteous. After his divorce, Jack becomes obsessed with finding his ex-wife’s lover and even resorts to stalking her.
On the island, Jack’s “fix-it” tendencies land him the role of de facto leader. Under such stressful conditions, his repressed anger occasionally surfaces in a yelling match or fist fight.
Jack Shephard is an ESTJ in the Myers-Briggs system.
Buffy Summers | Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy is often mistyped as a six or an eight, but her oneness becomes clearer the longer you watch the series. At first, Buffy is driven by a sense of black and white righteousness–vampires are evil and must be destroyed. As time goes on, this dichotomy is challenged, causing a great deal of confusion about her ideals and guilt for not living up to them.
Throughout the series, Buffy becomes depressed and distances herself from her friends whenever she feels that she’s not living up to her calling as a slayer. This is especially evident in season six, after she is resurrected and begins a secret affair with Spike. She is disturbed by anything that calls into question her “good girl” self-image.
Buffy Summers is an ESFP in the Myers-Briggs system.
Bruce Wayne | Batman
Batman is often mistyped as an eight, but eights are driven by a desire for power and control, whereas Bruce Wayne is driven by intense idealism born out of his traumatic childhood experience.
Ones are usually rule-followers, but when the people who are supposed to uphold the rules fail to do so, ones will often go rogue and become protesters or vigilantes. Even so, they generally won’t turn to vengeance, as eights would. Their idealism shows up even when they’re breaking the rules. In the comic books, Batman refuses to kill the villains he battles, even though in many ways it would be easier, because he does not want to become an executioner. That’s classic one behavior right there.
Bruce Wayne is an INTJ in the Myers-Briggs system.
Are you familiar with the Enneagram? Which type one characters have you spotted while reading and watching?