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Misidentifying Individuals as 'Ones' -
and how this reveal a deeper misunderstanding about the relationship between the Enneagram and the MBTI

© Michael Huber - July, 1998

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section one

There appears to me to be somewhat of an ongoing misperception and misunderstanding surrounding the One. This problem has resurfaced most recently in the latest issue of the Enneagram Monthly in contributions by Edward McInnis and Pat Wyman1 .

The mistypings that have occured reveal deeper problems in understanding the nature of the Enneagram. These deeper problems lead also to confusions regarding the relationship between the Enneagram and MBTI type.

Section One: John Howe's Article
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section two

John Howe's article 2, which appears in the same issue of EM as the pieces by McInnis and Wyman, must be acknowledged as one of the finest works that has ever been published there. Howe's public admission to having mistyped himself as a One, and to having lived under that misguided notion for longer than he would have liked to admit, is noteworthy in three respects.

First, it represents what is closer to the true nature of the purpose of the Enneagram -- that is, the spiritual purpose -- which probes the deeper parts of our experience and serves to crush the popular notion of what we call the ego. Howe's excellent statement of personal vulnerability is, I believe, close in spirit to the Beatitudes delivered by Jesus. For several years now it has been my ongoing concern that the modern Enneagram movement is missing, in direct proportion to its rapid expansion and in popularity, the depth of spiritual experience that it was originally intended to offer. I extend my deepest thanks to John for his courage and sensitivity and to EM for publishing his testimony.

Second, John's story demonstrates precisely the kind of error that others are also making. It is quite easy to mistakenly take a relatively non-essential aspect of one's character, like John reports having done, as the defining feature of one's personality. When that aspect is associated with a particular Enneagram type, what results is mistyping.

Third, John's experience demonstrates how easy it in fact is to mistake a Six for a One.

Section Two: McInnis and Wyman
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section three

It has always been a pleasure to read the works by McInnis and I look forward to gleaning new insights from him in the future. However, there continues to be a problem with type One that dates back to the occasion on which he typed Worf, the Klingon, as a One. I thought, mistakenly, that the issue had been settled with the excellent followup letter by Richard C. Trussell, who showed a depth of insight and experiential knowledge of type One that was wanting in McInnis. But now it is McInnis' understanding that the 'Soup Nazi' from the Seinfeld show is a type One, making the exact same mistake that he made in the Star Trek article.

His statement that Soup Nazi 'is a low level out-of-control One, his personality commanded by his ruling passion of anger' is misguided and once again misunderstands the type One. Trussel states, 'Many Ones, especially early in their development, deny the central role of anger in their lives. They attempt to REPRESS this aspect of their life energy and anything that doesn't fit the image of perfection, or being 'good'" (emphasis mine). Thus the main characterological feature of type One from the classic psychological perspective is OVERCONTROL, not undercontrol, of the emotional impulses. The fact that John Howe came to recognize this was certainly a key feature in his 'conversion' to type Six. Howe hits the main point of the problem when he states, 'I get angry often and quickly, so I assumed I must be an anger type'. Both McInnis and Wyman, in her description of 'Paula', have obviously made the same mistake.

There is a deeper problem here that disturbs me more than the simple mistyping of a character in a television show. Both McInnis and Wyman, wittingly or unwittingly, assume that the underlying main 'passions' or 'energies' or 'fixations' that are associated with Enneagram type - whatever you want to call them - are OBVIOUS in nature. The truth of the matter is the exact opposite. The underlying passions are deeply hidden in the depths of the individual and can be extremely difficult to perceive. Time after time I have seen this demonstrated in the intimate details of the lives of my clients, but I only have to go so far as my own life for confirmation of this truth. Despite extensive spiritual practice, insight, experience, and the painful strippings of my ego, if someone, ten years ago, had told me that my life was dominated by envy (which none ever did) I would have responded with disbelief. As far as I was concerned, I hadn't a speck of envy in my makeup. But, needless to say, I did.

If anger is quite obvious in the person's life, the person is likely NOT a One. Howe states, 'I began to see how I had mis-mapped my observed behavior to type One traits. I had mistaken my aggressive reactivity for anger, my skepticism and rebelliousness for criticality, and doubting mind for critical mind. What I thought was the perfectionism of type One was in fact a fear of mistakes reinforced by a grasping need for certainty." No, the Soup Nazi is not a One. Soup Nazi is a blatanly stereotyped character - thus, the name itself, Soup NAZI. The Nazi represents the counterphobic reaction to fear, the excessive need to control the environment in a rigid fashion.

Pat Wyman, in the description she gives of 'Paula' in her Denver workshop paper, commits the same error as McInnis, only this time with the 'obvious' trait of perfectionism rather than anger. She implies that the 'shoulds' also indicate a type One. In my psychotherapeutic practice, in addition to Ones I have had Sixes, Fours and Twos who have all been equally deeply affected by 'perfectionism'. Perfectionism is a characterological trait that can in no possible way define an Enneagram type. Speaking of the third subtype of Six, the 'Prussian character', Claudio Naranjo, in Character and Neurosis, states, '...they retain their basic rigidity and perfectionism'. Riso and Hudson, in Personality Types, describe the level seven Six: 'They are terrified of making a mistake'. Anyone reading these lines without knowing that the authors were actually referring to type Six could have easily thought they were discussing type One. The obsessive-compulsive nature of Paula is also misinterpreted as being Type One.

Paula's poor ego strength, in which her 'self-esteem [was] completely eradicated', is not typical at all of type One, whose ego strength is characteristically quite strong. Listen to statements by Riso and Hudson concerning level 7 type Six:

Sixes become trapped in an unhealthy pattern of self-disparagement and massive insecurity which reinforces intense feelings of inferiority and worthlessness, ...Unhealthy Sixes are convinced that they are incompetent and unable to do anything on their own... They put themselves down constantly, and truly feel inferior to everyone else... Depression becomes a serious problem for unhealthy Sixes.

These statements sound exactly like Wyman's description of Paula. A good example of an Obsessive-Compulsive Disordered type Six is the character Jack Nicholson plays in As Good as it Gets. With respect to Paula's needing to live up to various environmental standards, clearly authoritarian in nature, this is also just as easily diagnosed as type Six. Naranjo, applying Coulter's Sepia woman to type Six, quote's Coulter's woman,

These people love me. They expect something of me. I must live up to their expectations and not disappoint them...

Naranjo goes on to say, 'Coulter describes the Sepia woman as continuing under a 'sense of duty' while struggling against confining conditions, never able to leave her obligations behind...' Why could this not be Paula?

Section Three: The Enneagram and the MBTI
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section four

By taking one specific character trait out of the context provided by the cluster of traits that comprise that individual's personality, it is rather easy, as the examples above illustrate, to mistype that individual. When, in addition to making this kind of mistake, we subscribe to a theory about the Enneagram and MBTI that refuses to acknowledge that there significant overlaps between Enneagram types and MBTI types, such mistakes become harder to detect.

In this regard I must mention Wyman's glaring neglect of the respectable research that has been accomplished regarding the Enneagram and the Myers-Briggs by Wagner, Fudjack and Dinkelaker, Flautt, Geldart, et. al., and the graphs presented in Baron and Wagele's books. While it is certainly true that the Enneagram and the Myers-Briggs do not look at EXACTLY THE SAME aspects of the personality, it is also true that they do have areas of significant overlap at times. This is certainly the case with type One, which research accurately associates overhelmingly with the J type. Statistically speaking, ENFPs are virtually non-existent in type One. But Paula, who is an ENFP, is typed by Wyman as a One.

I find it hard to believe that anyone, even the most casual Enneagram observer, could equate the ENFP description given by Wyman with the average One. Furthermore, this seems to set up an impossible, and potentially self-defeating, scenario for the client. If Paula is not a One, then this goal is much more plausible. This was also the case with Wyman's Korey, who, in a previous article, was typed as an Eight and had scored as an ESFP on the MBTI - again extremely rare, if not non-existent, in type Eight.

The problem is that Wyman's belief that there is absolutely no overlap between the Enneagram and the Myers-Briggs is an unsubstantiated and unproven belief. In addition, Wyman, again either wittingly or unwittingly, goes against the entire established core of writers and theorists in the Enneagram field whose very descriptions of the types describe full-orbed wholistic personality with a complete set of clustered traits with both gifted and self-sabotaging sides.

At some level, Wyman may recognize that her position is problematic. Perhaps this is why she speaks out of opposing sides of her mouth when she theorizes that the Enneagram 'type' is really a defensive strategy of the person, but then also attempts to identify the person using clustered traits that are way beyond a simple defensive strategy. But she cannot have it both ways.

Section Four: Mistyping and Spiritual Blindness
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footnotes and reference

Finally, I would like to mention the Jaqueline Girdner mystery novels brought to our attention by Elizabeth Wagele. If I believed that Girdner's novels were deep, archtypical, Jungian symoblisms of inner violent dynamics I could easily accept her 'talley' of murderers headed by type One. However, since they seem not to be such, her representation of Ones and Fours as the most violent types seem at odds with reality, where counterphobic Six and Eight outdistance the rest by a vast margin. This is not a criticism of the novels, which remain entertaining. But with all the rest of the misinformation concerning Type One, this only seems to add to it.

It is somewhat surprising to me that we have not heard from any Ones - and I mean genuine, converted Ones - on this whole issue of misidentifying the One. I would like to hear from Howe on this topic. Because of the depth and spiritual nature of his experience, even though he is a Six, he should now have excellent capacities for distinguishing One from Six. Howe also affirms a longheld belief of mine, derived from my own experience in psychotherapy and spiritual journeying, that there is a 'blindness' that is spiritual in nature that hides and conceals depth of intuition, particularly as it relates to the very common phenomenon of Sixes being frequently mistaken for other types, especially types One and Four. (In this regard I am also indebted to the EM interview of Richard Rohr, a Type One Catholic Friar, who unequivocally and accurately type casts the Roman Catholic Church as a Six orgranization - this in contrast to a previous suggestion that the Inquisition was a Type One phenomenon. And I continue to be completely befuddled with the ongoing categorizing of the body narcissistic, orerreactionary, antiauthoritarian, counterphobic type Six Dennis Rodman as a Four.) This blindness dynamic, of course, also applies to the numerous other misidentifications among other types. In this regard, Fudjack has done some powerfully insightful and seminal work regarding what he calls 'S-N blindness'. Howe succinctly and powerfully speaks of this blindness.


1. 'Using the Enneagram and the MBTI in Emotional Healing' by Pat Wyman, Enneagram Monthly
'Enneatyping Seinfeld' by Edward McInnis, Enneagram Monthly ' back to text

2. 'Missing the Point' by John Howe, Enneagram Monthly back to text

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