How "Perfectionists" Save the World.

Can nature save us from our craziness?

Posted Mar 17, 2010

Since his college days at least, former Vice President Al Gore has been interested in climate change, women's rights, and civil rights. He was against the war in Viet Nam but enlisted in the army because he didn't want to jeopardize his father's Senate campaign by dodging the draft. Nor did he want someone with fewer advantages than he to be drafted instead of him. His strong idealism is consistent with being a Perfectionist type.

Examples of types of famous people are helpful when first learning the Enneagram ( The ideal would be for them to type themselves, but usually we have to guess.

Michael Pollan, for example, criticizes modern agribusiness for losing touch with the natural cycles of farming. He may also be a Perfectionist. In his books, Pollan makes a case for a sustainable system where livestock and crops will be mutually beneficial. He, like other examples of this type, including Ralph Nader and Hillary Clinton, is motivated to improve the world. (Clinton's Enneagram biography is on page 17 of "The Career Within You.") Examples of other types' motivations are seeking knowledge: the Observer, and expressing individuality: the Romantic.

I have a Perfectionist friend who is active in both the ecology movement and the Enneagram community. When I brought up the question of the psychology profession taking an official stand against global warming, he quickly answered, "I'm against that. We Perfectionists have a tendency to be critical of others and ourselves. I'm tired of being overly critical of myself and am trying to learn how to treat myself more kindly," he said. "So I need a therapist who will remain objective and not judge me. My therapist's office must be a trusting, open environment where I feel accepted."

Perfectionists want to do the right thing, but figuring out what is right produces worry. This Enneagram type represents being conscientious as well as anxiety about the sustainability of life on earth. When it comes to the details of how to be good citizens they can easily stew about:
• did I use too much water or other resources?
• what if I eat an endangered fish?
• should I become a vegetarian?
• did I endanger myself using my cell phone?
• am I recycling enough?

Theodore Roszak, the founder of eco-psychology (probably not a Perfectionist) believes we're too disconnected from the natural world. He'd like to find out why we've gotten so out of balance and doesn't think fear and guilt alone will restore the health of the earth. "The madness of cities is an important consideration in eco-psychology," he says. And he asks, "Are we not bonded to this planet by something which is life enhancing and life affirming and which we can appeal to people to find within themselves - a voice of the earth which speaks to them with a sense of love, respect and trust?"

Today we celebrate the special gifts of the Perfectionists among us. We look to them for their idealism, fairness, and the willingness to pitch in to get things done. The other eight styles have equal gifts for helping heal the earth. I think we're all tired of values that put wasting resources and polluting above respecting nature. We're all looking toward nature to teach us how to be less crazy.

About the Author

Elizabeth Wagele was the co-author with Ingrid Stabb of The Career Within You: How to Find the Perfect Job for Your Personality.

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