Reformers: The Need to be Perfect


Welcome to part two of a series examining the nine types of the Enneagram Personality System.  Today we are discussing type one, the Reformer.  Last week, we explored type nine, the Peacemaker.  To take a free version of the test, go here.

Reformers, type one of the enneagram, espouse the belief that they can find safety and security if they are always working toward perfection in themselves and others.  We all know these people: They are organized, bright, and motivated to change the world by fixing it, one problem at a time.  They are dedicated, conscientious, ethical, fair, and hardworking. While they can be great motivators and teachers when tempered with sensitivity, they can also come across as harsh, judgmental, and controlling when in distress.

The central conflict for the Reformer is resolving their impossible, unmet need for perfection.  Ones have a difficult time accepting imperfection in the world, in their relationships, and above all, in themselves.  Because of this, they may feel caught between the two extremes of self-righteousness (belief in moral superiority) and self-loathing (fear of moral flaws and unworthiness).  And they are driven by a hidden but persistent anger and resentment that no one else works as hard as they do.


Eustace Scrubb, a character appearing in The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, is one of my favorite examples of a one who truly grows and changes into a more healthy version of himself, never losing his “oneness”.  He is first introduced by this famous epithet: “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”  He is insufferable and self-righteous, loving to correct error in others and always failing to see room for difference.  Eustace exhibits many of the Reformer’s worst qualities in the beginning of his story: He is judgmental, jealous, controlling, hard-hearted, inflexible, pushy, and dogmatic.

However, through the course of his story, he is greatly humbled by a number of harrowing adventures, not least of which is the curious experience of turning into a dragon.  Vulnerable and in need of help, Eustace comes into contact with Aslan, the great lion, who saves Eustace by the stripping away the painful dragon scales.


The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. . . .

And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me — I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on — and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. . . .

It is this process of turning into a boy again, self-protective armor removed and vulnerable flesh exposed that healthy ones must go through.  The task for a one is to accept that growth is an imperfect process that nevertheless can be hopeful and can result in goodness if not perfection.  Ones must learn to recognize their own anger and accept it if they hope to be able to stop passing judgment on others and themselves.  This self-acceptance is perhaps the most important aspect of the one’s journey toward growth.  When a one begins to accept himself, he begins to let go of hyper-sensitivity and is able to find peace in imperfection.


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