Feel Better

Dancing With Our Shadows: Using Personality-Focused Psychotherapy to Illuminate and Address Unconscious Conflict in Relationships

The human personality is a complex constellation of traits, desires, and fears. One of the most effective tools for dissecting this intricate structure is the Enneagram and other Personality-focused models stemming from Ego psychology and depth psychology. While these personality models illuminates our conscious self, they also reveals what Carl Jung referred to as the “shadow,” our less conscious aspects that we often deny or ignore.

The shadow is an integral part of our psyche that remains largely unseen by us, but is often glaringly visible to our partners. These unseen aspects, if left unaddressed, can fuel conflict within our relationships. Understanding the shadow self and its impact on our interactions is a vital step towards improving communication and fostering healthier relationships. This can be best accomplished through work with a trained personality-focused psychotherapist who is well-versed in the Enneagram.

The shadow self, according to Jung, is composed of the parts of ourselves that we fail to see or choose to ignore. It contains our unacknowledged fears, unresolved issues, and suppressed feelings. From the Enneagram perspective, each type has its own particular ‘shadow aspects’ that can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts in a relationship. For instance, Type Two’s shadow may manifest as manipulative behaviour under the guise of helpfulness, while Type Five might unknowingly isolate themselves from their partner in their pursuit of autonomy and self-sufficiency.

Despite being unconscious of our shadow, it greatly influences our behaviours and interactions. In couples, this can often drive conflict as our partner may be reacting to our shadow, leading to arguments that seem to come from nowhere. To resolve these disputes, it’s necessary to bring our shadow into the light and confront it, which is where the Enneagram, coupled with therapy, can be instrumental.

Working with a trained Enneagram therapist can provide a safe and supportive environment for exploring your shadow. They can help you recognise your type’s specific shadow aspects and guide you through the process of acceptance and integration. It is not about eliminating the shadow, but about understanding its influence and integrating it into our conscious personality constructively.

The process may begin with identifying your dominant Enneagram type and exploring the behaviours and motivations associated with it. Next, the therapist will guide you to understand the particular shadow aspects of your type and how they might manifest in your relationships.

From there, you will learn how to acknowledge and confront these aspects. This often involves challenging conversations with your partner, facilitated by the therapist, to expose and discuss the shadow’s impact on your relationship. The therapist may suggest exercises or techniques to increase self-awareness and promote constructive communication.

Finally, the process of integration involves accepting the shadow as a part of your identity rather than a separate entity. This acceptance allows for self-growth and a deeper understanding of your behaviours, which can significantly reduce conflict in your relationship.

In conclusion, the Enneagram’s ability to expose our shadow selves and its potential to incite conflict makes it an invaluable tool for couples. By working with a trained Personality-Focused Therapist, couples can acknowledge, confront, and integrate their shadow aspects, ultimately leading to healthier and more understanding relationships.