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Defense Mechanisms--Type One

Each of us has automatic defense mechanisms that we employ when our anxiety elevates. We use defense mechanisms to overcompensate for the discomfort we experience when what we perceive about ourselves and our reality becomes unacceptable.


Or even hints of becoming undesirable.


Each Enneagram Type has its signature go-to defense mechanism that coincides with the personality structure it forms around its core needs, fears and motives. Recognizing and understanding our Type's defense mechanism provides a pathway of growth and wholeness.


The primary defense mechanism for Enneagram Ones is "reaction formation." Reaction formation is when, in an attempt to cover up feelings we believe to be unacceptable, we behave in the opposite manner.


Ones specifically resort to reaction formation surrounding their anger. Ones have a drive to be good. Perfect is even better.


Ones deem anger as bad and conclude they cannot be a good (perfect) person if they are angry.


Complicating this is the reality that the world hardly, if ever, cooperates with the Ones' demand that things be perfect and go right. Furthermore, what is "right" seems to be a moving target, always changing.


Ones find this intolerable.


A basic definition of anger comes into play. Anger is the feeling and emotion we experience when what we get doesn't measure up to what we want or expect.


What are Ones to do with the resulting anger from this tension? Reaction formation provides the defense mechanism.


Ones bury their anger and smile instead. They stay in cool control on the outside, while their inside is in knots. They work hard at being nice. Ones live with a compelling drive to control themselves in order to be good.


Another form of reaction formation for Ones is going to great lengths to justify their views. Ones allow themselves to be angry if they can be righteous about it. They have to have a justifiable reason for their anger. They perfect their arguments to prove their case that they are in the right and the other is wrong.


This keeps Ones from authentically experiencing anger for what it is--a feeling. It interferes with their capacity to express their anger effectively. Anger gets bottled up, hidden behind forced smiles, putting in extra hours at the office or sacrificing their own needs and preferences.


Anger is reshaped into resentment and irritation.


The manner in which each Type exercises its defense mechanism provides useful insight for other Types on the inner workings of the defense mechanism at play.


Ones aren't the only Types to use reaction formation. We all do it in some situations. But, Ones give us useful insight on how reaction formation takes over.


How does reaction formation operate in your life?

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