A Narrow Path

In the opening scene of King Lear, Line 108, the aging king asks his daughters for a declaration of their love. It is an emotional contest. Whoever can declare what delights the king most will receive the most of his kingdom as their inheritance. The first two daughters are lavish and rhapsodic about their tender love and devotion. But the third daughter, Cordelia speaks when her father says this:

Lear: "What can you say to draw a Third more opulent than your sisters? Speak!"

Cordelia: "Nothing, my Lord."

Lear: "Nothing?"

Cordelia: "Nothing."

Lear: "Nothing will come of nothing. Speak again."

Cordelia: "Unhappy that I am, am I cannot heave my heart into my mouth. I love your majesty according to my bond: no more nor less."

Lear: "How, how Cordelia! Mend your speech a little lest you may mar your fortunes."

Cordelia: "Good, my lord. You have begot me, bred me, lov'd me. I return those duties back as are right fit. Obey you, love you, and most honor you. Why have my sisters husbands, if they say thy love you all? Haply when I shall wed, That lord whose hand must take my plight shall carry half my love with him, Half my care and duty. Sure I shall never marry like my sisters "to love my father all."

Lear: "But goes they heart with this?"

Cordelia: "Aye, my good lord."

Lear: "So young and so untender."

Cordelia: "So young, my lord, and true."

Here we see Cordelia, a style One, telling the truth, even though it may cost her dearly in her inheritance. You also see her emotionally blunt and appearing to be cold, even heartless. She says love is her duty so she will do her duty. That's not only not what a doting father wants to hear but it also is a cold and linear description of a daughter's affection for her father.

Cordelia, in a high stress, emotionally charged situation reveals both the high and low sides of her habit. Standard Enneagram wisdom says that Ones erase themselves and overidentify with a principle (telling the truth) or cause or tradition. Here, in place of a personal emotional response, she says she loves as a daughter ought to love.

We feel a bit of pity for Cordelia, and we should. She has erased her deepest self and replaced it with duty. It is experienced not as absence by her father, but as cruelty. Hint: do not sign a valentine "dutifully yours." And don't look through the card rack looking for one that says it cleverly.

The poet, Mary Oliver, has a poem that I used to coach style Ones.


You do not have to be good

You do not have to walk on your knees

For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

Love what it loves.


Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

The world offers itself to your imagination,

Calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—

Over and over announcing your place

In the family of things.

Ones find this poem consoling at times because the self-erasure that they substitute with duty alienates them. It is hard for many Ones to allow themselves sensual pleasure, so giving them permission to "love the soft animal of your body" is most welcome. And having the cosmos, announcing through the geese that you belong is most welcome to Ones who have erased themselves.

In the movie, Sense and Sensibility, we see Eleanor as a delightfully healthy One: pleasant, responsible, and the pillar of the family. But 14 minutes into the movie, we see her in a conversation with her sister, (KateWinslet) who is a flaming style 4. Here's the conversation:

Eleanor has a difficult time expressing her affection. The discussion between them is revelatory. The style 4 character cannot believe the reserve and the discomfort with emotional expression. But at the end of the movie, we see how powerful Eleanor's feelings really are. Like a damn that has been waiting to burst, she finally can express really powerful feelings.

If you would like several movies with really noble Ones as heroes, go on YouTube and look either at Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird" or Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons. Ones may at times reduce themselves to duty, but they are often heroic in the execution of that duty.

Sometimes a One can flesh out their ability to do what is right under all circumstances into a philosophy. Emmanuel Kant is one of the greatest ethicists of all times. Nobody can do heavy research into ethics without knowing Kant. By the way, it is astonishingly easy to tell a philosopher's Enneagram habit. They speak from depth and with consistent clarity and when they do, we all see their Enneagram habit.

Not all Ones are heroes, of course. If they are a bit less evolved, they simply assume that they embody the tradition they espouse. Here is Judge Judy, popular for years on TV as the arbiter of what is right. She has no doubts; there are no grey areas and there is no difference between the law and what she thinks. She has become law (and by association, virtue).

When you watch, notice the prevailing disapproval of both sides. Ones have an inner habit of self-criticism in their untiring efforts to be good. They also often export that habit and approach people and circumstances looking for what to criticize. You can see Judge Judy take righteous pleasure in assigning guilt to one or both of the plaintiffs.

When people said that Hillary Clinton was "establishment," they couldn't have been more right. She is a One. She identified with what she thought was the right set of norms, rules, traditions and expectations. Perhaps that's why she was so vulnerable to need for change. Ones erase themselves, as we have said. The criticism levied against her that people didn't warm up to her was a dimly perceived reality. Had she been running as an outsider, as a reformer, she would have been more comfortable and effective. Ones do reform very well.

Speaking of reformers, many of you are familiar with the Jesuit tradition. St. Ignatius, a One, led the post-reformation renewal of the Catholic Church. One of the most important parts of his spiritual exercises is the examination of conscience. Ones do that constantly without encouragement.

The other style One spiritual tradition in the United States is Puritanism. You see the suspicion of pleasure, the rigorous adherence to their understanding of the bible, the intense desire for moral reform and, alas, a dark side of style one, a black and white thinking. The literal interpretation of scripture is still extant among Evangelicals. In the New Testament, the Pharisees are pictured as unhealthy Ones by the gospel writers. When Ones are in the grip of their habit, they unconsciously assume they are good people because they follow the rules. They are "saved" by following the law.

Let me close with a song Karen and I wrote about style One. Listen to "Getting Better."