Misidentifying Ones and Sixes

Both are among the compliant types of the Enneagram. As noted in Personality Types (434-436), Ones are compliant to the demands of their superegos and their ideals, while Sixes are compliant to the demands of their superegos and other people, especially perceived allies or authority figures. We say that Ones have an “Inner Critic” in their heads, while Sixes have an “Inner Committee.” What these two types have in common is the tendency to feel guilty when they do something contrary either to their ideals (Ones) or to the commitments to allies, beliefs, and authorities they have made (Sixes). Guilt feelings owing to strong consciences and the tendency to strike out either at themselves or at others (or both) are the main points of similarity between them. While Sixes may rarely mistake themselves for Ones or Ones misidentify themselves as Sixes, other people may be confused by some superficial similarities between them. (And, in fact, a Six with a Five-wing will more likely be confused with a One than a Six with a Seven-wing because of the seriousness and intensity that the Five-wing brings to the Six’s overall personality.)

These two types are easy to distinguish, however, by noting the overall emotional tone of each type. Average Sixes are anxious, indecisive, ambivalent, and, above all, reactive. They find it difficult to relate to others with self-confidence as equals, tending either to become too dutiful and dependent or to go to the opposite extreme and become rebellious and defiant. Sometimes they get stuck in the middle and become ambivalent, indecisive, and vacillating.

These traits are almost completely absent in average Ones. Their overall emotional tone is one of self-controlled, impersonal efficiency, orderliness and propriety. Ones are emphatically not indecisive: they know their own minds and have opinions about everything, which they are more than willing to express to others. Ones are certain, and trying to convince others that they know the optimal way to do things. Sixes are uncertain, and rely on reassurance, back-up, familiar procedure, or the sanction of previously tested ideas and philosophies to help them come to decisions.

Average Ones are often so tightly self-controlled that they are able to keep their feelings at bay. They are frequently unaware of the degree of their tensions. Average Sixes struggle with more volatile feelings and have difficulty putting them aside–although they seldom express their feelings to others. Sixes carry considerable anxious tension and are more aware of it. Righteous anger, irritation, and moral indignation are the principal negative emotions in Ones, whereas fearfulness, suspicion, and anxiety are the principal negative feelings in Sixes. Moreover, while lower functioning Ones can be sarcastic and verbally abusive, they almost never let themselves get out of control and are seldom physically violent, whereas low functioning Sixes can more easily lose their tempers, sometimes erupting into hysterical reactions or even physical violence.

When it does arise, the confusion seems to stem from both types’ overactive superegos. Both are “should” and “must” people: both feel obligated to take care of all duties before relaxing or attending to their own needs. Further down the Levels, both types exhibit a legalistic streak: Sixes at Level 6 are The Authoritarian Rebel and Ones at the same Level are The Judgmental Perfectionist. When their superegos are on more severe, both types are quite capable of telling others what to do, although in different ways and for different reasons. Ones moralize and scold, lecturing others in the name of an ideal about whatever issues are of concern to them. (“Do you have any idea how wasteful it is to use an air conditioner?”) Ones do not hesitate to order others around, telling them what they should be doing so to improve themselves or to be more effective.

Sixes can also give orders, not because of rigid inner standards, but because they are afraid of what they see as the erratic, irresponsible conduct of others potentially disrupting the security and stability they are trying to maintain. They are angered and threatened by others “breaking the rules” and becoming more unpredictable. Sixes identify with certain beliefs or authority figures and internalize the values that they have learned from these sources of guidance. Once they have identified with what they have taken to be trustworthy sources of information about the world, Sixes can be aggressive toward anyone who does not accept the same values as they do. This is especially true when Sixes are more insecure–the more anxious they are, the more they want to cling to whatever positions or allegiances they still believe in. The indifference of others to their beliefs may infuriate Sixes as much as outright rejection of them does. Compare the personalities of George Bush (a Six) and Al Gore (a One), Meryl Streep (a One) and Meg Ryan (a Six) for examples of the similarities and differences of these two types.