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Your Shadow Self and the Enneagram

your shadow self and the enneagram

You have a hidden shadow self based on your Enneagram type that is undermining your health, success, joy, and love. It operates in stealth by denying your emotional needs and struggles. If you don’t identify your shadow self, then it will sabotage the strengths of your Enneagram type and keep causing you pain and problems.

Our emotional health approach to the Enneagram reveals nine different shadow self types, a different one for each personality type. When you open yourself to the light of Jesus’ love, then you can see your shadow self and stop it from defeating your best efforts in your relationships and work.

In this article we explore….

  • An example of the Shadow Self from the Bible
  • Understanding your Shadow Self
  • Receiving Jesus’ redemptive grace for your Shadow Self
  • Common Shadows for each of the 9 Enneagram types

Let’s begin to bring the shadows into the light…

What is the Shadow Self?

The Swiss Psychiatrist Carl Jung taught that we all have a shadow self. Your shadow includes the unconscious aspects of your personality. When we deny our faults, weaknesses, hurts, sins, desires, or needs, they lurk in our shadow self.

Other than your sins, your shadow self is not bad — it’s natural, human, even good. But it’s aspects of yourself that you do not like and have judged as bad, banishing them into the dungeon of your unconscious mind. Surprisingly, many of us also repress our good qualities, healthy pleasures, and abilities — especially if we’re insecure, anxious, or feel shame. So your hidden self probably includes some personal strengths and blessings from God.

As Carl Jung taught —none of us are as good as we want to be or imagine ourselves to be. Jung explained, “Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it… But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected” (Psychology and Religion, 1938, p. 131).

In other words, the more aspects of your personality that you deny, the larger and darker your shadow self becomes. Then, because it’s unconscious and attached to shame and emotional distress, it operates with stealth power to defeat your good intentions to excel in your efforts to do work and to love God and people. 

There’s a lot of talk in our world today about the importance of love, but truth and honesty are just as essential. As the prophet Jeremiah pointed out, “God can’t heal what you don’t feel” (Jer. 6:14 paraphrased). Minimizing or dismissing unwanted feelings and qualities always disrupts our connection to God and his grace.

The Shadow Self in Scripture

Jesus’s best friend John had difficulty with his shadow self. He was usually friendly, considerate, and supportive of others, probably a Helper Two on the Enneagram. But when he ministered to some Samaritans and they rejected him, he flew into a rage and wanted God to send lightening to incinerate them! (Luke 9:52-55).

Repressed anger and contempt from his dark shadow took over and undermined his loving doctrines and intentions. He reacted from his stress line to an unhealthy Enneagram Eight.

The Bible teaches, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all… But if we confess our sins to him, he can be depended on to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. And it is perfectly proper for God to do this for us because Christ died to wash away our sins” (1 John 1:5, 9 TLB).

In addition to confessing our sins, we also need to confess our emotional distress, needs, and struggles. The Psalmist is emotionally honest with God and his community in the lament psalms, like Psalm 55. He brings his shadow self into the light of the Lord’s loving presence, which brings healing to his brokenness, strength to his weakness, and health to his whole personality.

You don’t have to be controlled and undermined by your shadow self of denied sin, pain, and needs — you can be set free to increasingly be your best self, created by God and redeemed by Jesus Christ. This requires coming to know your shadow self.

5 Steps to Know Your Shadow Self

When you rely on Christ your Savior to help you understand and receive grace for your shadow self, you experience new vitality, peace, creativity, and capacity to love God and others.

There are many ways to get to see your shadow and bring it to Christ for mercy, insight, healing, and integration into your personality:

  1. Notice what bothers you about other people and realize the projections that are actually about you (Matthew 7:1-5).
  2. Listen to your dreams (see my article on “Interpreting Your Dreams”).
  3. Pray with David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart… and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23).
  4. Talk with a caring and wise guide, like a spiritual director.
  5. Learn your Enneagram Type with its shadow.

Your Shadow Self and the Enneagram

Many Enneagram users today miss its power to help them because they want to focus on the outward and positive aspects of their personality and not the dark side of their weaknesses, sins, or unhealthy emotional habits.

Our approach to the Enneagram focuses on emotional health and becoming more like Jesus. It’s based on what the Bible teaches about personality and relationships.

The key to understanding the Enneagram is to see that each of the nine personality types are based on a pattern of denying root sin and related emotions and struggles. In the 4th Century, the Christian Desert Father Evagrius identified seven deadly sins that later became the nine deadly sins that are the basis of the nine Enneagram types.

Each of the nine personality types are formed around and damaged by the emotional distress of either anger, shame, or anxiety. Related to this, each type has a different root sin or unhealthy passion. Your denied emotions and sins become central aspects of your Enneagram shadow.

Here are the nine Enneagram types and the shadow self for each:

Challenger Eights deny their aggression, lust for power, and need to be vulnerable.

 Peacemaker Nines deny their anger, numb detachment, and need to self-activate.

Reformer Ones (often called Perfectionists) deny their resentment and needs for pleasure and freedom.

Helper Twos (like John above) deny their insecure shame, vanity, and needs for care from others.

Achiever Threes deny their feelings of inadequacy, deceitful image they portray, and need to receive grace for their true self.

Individualist Fours deny their shame of not being special enough, envy of others, and need for emotional balance.

Observer Fives deny their fear of not having enough resources, greed for knowledge or money, and need to be be assertive and expressive.

Loyalist Sixes deny their anxiety, fear of trusting others, and need to take courage and act decisively.

Enthusiast Sevens deny their fear of pain and problems and need to learn grateful moderation.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, searches to find his lost sheep (John 10:1-18). Your Enneagram shadow is an important part of your personality that needs to be found and loved. When he finds you, he puts you on top of his shoulders and skips and sings as he brings you home into his community of beloved friends! (Luke 15:1-7).

By bringing your Enneagram type’s shadow self and related emotions into the light of God’s presence, you can flourish in God’s love, joy, peace, and power.

Learn More about the Enneagram and Your Emotions

Looking for more Enneagram resources? You may enjoy exploring these other articles and video teachings on “The Enneagram as a Tool to Grow in Grace: An Introduction” and “The Enneagram: Sin, Emotions, and Jesus.

I pray that as you discover your shadow self in the Enneagram, you will be drawn closer to Jesus to receive God’s love, grow in emotional health, and become your best self in your work and relationships.

Further Reading

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