Health Patterns of the Perfectionist

As a teacher of personality studies and also an acupuncturist, I find it particularly fascinating to observe how temperament really does play a role in our health. Our attitudes and beliefs greatly influence the actions we do or don’t take, the things that upset us, the ways we seek comfort, and the things we are or are not willing to admit to ourselves. You wouldn’t believe what a far net this casts.

For the Type Ones of the Enneagram (a personality-typing system), often called the Reformers or the Perfectionists, there is a natural drive to do everything as well as they possibly can. They have very high standards for themselves, and very ambitious goals, and they spend all of their time doing what they’re supposed to be doing. They care about quality and integrity, and following the rules, and meeting their obligations. These are the pillars of our society, and thank goodness for them.

The problem is, it’s not very easy to be that person. It takes a lot of work, a lot of discipline, a lot of self-control. There is also something else that becomes a major player in their lives: resentment. They often find thoughts bubbling up inside them, like Why is everyone else taking a break when there’s still work to do? Why do they get away with breaking the rules when I have to follow them? Why do I always get left holding the bag?

The smothering of emotions, the repression of desires, the long hours, all take a toll on the Type One. This is actually a personality known as the cancer type, because of how prone they are to develop this disease.

In Chinese medicine, we observe how feelings of anger, frustration, and resentment impact the body, most especially the Liver. The Liver is in charge of making sure all of the body’s energy flows in an easy, rhythmical pattern. When the Liver experiences the dark tumultuous nature of those emotions, the energy of the body, called qi (pronounced chee) becomes disrupted and cramped. We call this Liver qi stagnation.

Common symptoms of Liver qi stagnation include headache, insomnia, irritability, digestive problems, menstrual problems, neck & shoulder tension, and TMJ. Sound like someone you know? These are some of the most common complaints known to man, just about as common as the experience of frustration.

The good news is that acupuncture treats all of these concerns very easily. Smoothing out the energy of the Liver allows a person to feel relaxed and centered. It is an excellent preventative measure against future disease. Eating dark green leafy veggies and drinking warm lemon water are also good ways to promote liver health. Yoga and pilates use postures which wring out the waist and therefore the liver, promoting vitality by strongly circulating the Liver qi.

Meanwhile, it would be so nice if the Ones could learn to let themselves off the hook a little bit. Scheduled time off and vacations are essential for a One to get the recovery time they need. When they get the opportunity to relax with no sense of responsibility looming nearby, they are much more able to put that inner critic to bed, and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Want to know your Enneatype? Take the free 10-minute test here. It’s called the Free RHETI Sampler.

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