Couples counseling and subpersonalities

Today I was interviewing a couple when Mary asked me…”Why do I hold back from people and not communicate but push information that is unpleasant back in my mind and let it just sit there? ”

Mary was explaining that she has a split between what negative feelings she has and does not communicate to others vs. what she thinks others want to hear.  These two versions of reality are not comparable, not compatible.

Then I introduced the concept of subpersonalities and self-expression.  In a course by Will Parfitt, I learned that of “all the contributions of psychosynthesis, the sub-personality model is the most well-known.”

I asked Mary to consider first how she likes to come across to others.  She said the behaviors she shows is as a confident, determined and a non-dramatic person.  She said she dampened down her emotional side, thought of it as weak and not useful to show her vulnerable side to others either in her work or with her family.

The psychosynthesis model looks at the start of the subpersonality patterns of interaction being set up in the family of origin.  (Parfitt, Will. Sub-Personalities and Self Expression, Lesson 3, page 3, Course I Elements of Psychosynthesis)

One example , Mary traced her behaviors back to her family of origin as a child when she knew her father had extramarital affairs and she addressed it with him once but then stopped.  She stopped because her inner child felt she would not be loved and be censured when she contacted her father if she kept telling him things he did not want to hear.   She risked rejection from him if she continued.  So, a pattern was started way back in which she buried aspects of herself that she found unacceptable and unable to show for fear of being unacceptable to others in some way or another.  So, it happened that her feeling, vulnerable side was buried and repressed and formed a sub-personality of its own sabotaging her relationships by holding back important negative information about herself.  But Mary’s subpersonality was unconscious not available to her conscious scrutiny.

Then she met Gus.  Gus grew up in a family newly migrated from United Kingdom.  His father was a self-employed businessman in the technical field. Gus was taught never to lie.  He expressed one episode in which in 3rd grade, he lied about doing his homework.  He would tell his parents every school day that he left the homework at school.  This behavior resulted in the pattern that he never did it the whole year-long.  When Gus’s parents had a parent-teacher conference and they found out that Gus never once handed in his homework that school year.  Gus’s father came home with all his unfinished homework and told him that he had all weekend to do it and he would sit beside him the whole time while he was finishing it.  Gus worked all weekend with his father looking on and on Monday, took his finished homework back to the teacher. He anticipated the shame he would feel in giving the teacher the homework and by that act was admitting that he lied to everybody.  Gus was vomiting when he got to school that Monday morning, he was so anxious.  Thus, Gus developed a sub-personality to never lie about anything and he learned to hate this behavior in others.  It was so conscious of a pattern of behavior that it was like a laser in the most formative part of his awareness.  And yet there are hidden parts of Gus that form a shadow subpersonality.

When Gus and Mary got together, they formed a relationship based on emotional intimacy except in one area.  When Mary could not communicate negative facts that did not fit into her self-concept, Gus would eventually find out and see Mary as lying which would infuriate him.  Mary was in fact not lying but withholding information that was negative because that information seemed to her to risk their continued relationship.  At one instance,  she even told a court judge that she had school loans paid off so she and Gus could move away with the custody of her son; when in fact she did not pay them back. When the judge found this out, she was not allowed to move out of the area.  Gus was furious and felt that major trust issues were broken by Mary because she lied.

The shadow is defined as an unconscious part of the psyche that we don’t want others to see.  Mary had conjoined her emotional, feeling side of herself with the shadow part of the psyche because she saw emotional vulnerability as negative to her self-concept; thus, she kept hidden an important part of her feeling side and when Gus repeatedly found out these patterns, he called it lying and told Mary he did not trust her.

I have the goal with this couple of freeing Mary’s sub-personality from her shadow and tampering down Gus’s self-righteous sub-personality which is joined with rage so he can stop projecting onto Mary that she is lying when in fact she is dealing with a splitting of her feeling side into her unconscious which she is not aware of.

Here is an example of Mary and Gus’ subpersonalities:

Mary Subpersonality Name: Image Role Want Need
Drama queen Fanny Weak-kneed emotional weeping mess To avoid risking rejection To be loved even when I’m bad To belong, be loved
Manager Mary Calm, cool collected professional Deal with all problems To be respected Self-Esteem
 Gus Subpersonality Name: Image Role Want Need
Righteous rageful Black Knight A Revengeful warrior  using a  Knife to cut Liars To punish bad ones To have honesty in relationships Self- esteem, respect
Harry Helpful Hospice worker To support others To be accepted Belonging and to be loved


Mary’s Astrological Psychology natal chart

Mary

Mutable shaping : “Such people live for the present and , are happy with a changing world, and easily adapt to situations of crisis.  They can be creative and have the ability to transform their surroundings.”  (Astrological Psychology, The Huber Method, edited by Barry Hopewell, 2017. p. 59).

According to the shaping of Mary’s chart we see a mutable triangle figure encompassing what is known as a dominant learning triangle.  Mary is motivated to be dynamic , able to adapt and is capable of  being change-oriented all in the service of learning life-long lessons and gaining a new perspective on a recurrent problem which is presented by Mary’s Pluto. (Astrological Psychology, the Huber Method, Hopewell, Barry editor, p. 82).  Pluto in the first house is compelling transformation of Mary’s personal outlook which is at first resisted but she is forced to change by a square with (Saturn in the 4th house) challenging her family patterns which make her avoid responsibility yet want to escape from binding ties to her family that burden her.  Her understanding and the slow process of change (Quincunx Saturn and Moon) involves her to think about her inner child (the Moon) which as the tension ruler of her chart, (in Cancer) wants to  resolve these stubborn family insecurities to find freedom and emotional release.  She can realize that her guilt over being independent from her family, only prevents her from finding significance in her life and keeps her constantly depressed.

Mary’s moon is the tension ruler or singleton of her chart.  The can be indicated as the inferior function (Internet Cafe Astrology, Singletons)  and  a sub-personality which is repressed and unconscious.  The Moon as inner child who wants contact with others for love and understanding does not want to be independent from the family and resists.  Thus this understanding to take responsibility and stand on one’s own is delayed but it is such a driving force, it cannot be ignored.  The  resistance to change puts Mary in a situation that causes resentment when she can’t strive for independence. (Pluto 1st house and Saturn in 4th house square).  Yet her dependency on her family and the need to be taken care of are jeopardized by her independence.  It is as if all the energy of the stellium (6 planets in one sign) in Capricorn telling her to be aloof, a manager and independent is thrown up against an extremely dependent inner child who wants to belong and is not emotionally ready for independent thinking.

Gus

Gus’s chart:

Here we have  a pattern of a quadrangular shaping in which he is looking for making things stable, balanced and secure.  In addition he has a Leo ascendant which brings a goal of wanting to be in charge and to express himself fully without limitation.

He has a stressed Sun before the 10th house which according to Hubers:” the ego is strongly emphsized…The cardinal energy wants to be expressed at all costs.  Sometimes the ego is inflated and asserts claims of uniqueness.  Other people who can not keep up may be viewed as rivals, pushovers, idiots”.  Gus’s focus is so much on individual competence that he cannot accept anything but his best” so he sees others as competitors or dummies when they cannot shape up. “( Huber, Bruno and Louise; Transformation, 2008  p. 56)  This subpersonality can engage in actions of power expression when setbacks occur. Then he goes all out to win; and he sometimes wins and sometimes suffers defeats.  Gus can attract a crisis which then brings about a change in his consciousness. Gus has the potential to put his power and will into a more spiritual perspective submitting to a higher power.

Gus has another subpersonality in which he sacrifices his assertiveness for the sake of helping others.  His aggression can be masked by a subpersonality which experiences a passive dissatisfaction in life.  He can take on the persona of the “Incredible Sulk”, a victim who vicariously enjoys violence toward others  through dreams and fantasies of a destructive nature.  This energy can be expressed in deceptive and shocking ways, unconsciously in his shadow personality.
Gus has a trapeze aspect pattern which involves his need for security, his need for love in contact with others and his need for expression of his will which makes him a dominant quadrilateral personality.  “It is an impregnable kind of figure which is like a knight holding two shields.  Such people can be models of self actualization as they tower above others due to their stable, work on the foundations of their personality, and show deep wisdom.” (Aspect Pattern Astrology, Huber, 2006, p.   But this may not show if he does not remain true to himself aligned with his inner convictions.  Thus he can adapt to the outer world without becoming internally dependent. Gus wants to start his own business and he could develop this task depending on a balancing of internal ego issues that would want to be transcended and addressing his shadow side that would beg for understanding.

Taken from Psychosynthesis: the elements and beyond by Will Parfitt, PS Avalon, Gastonbury, UK,2003

  1. Within the person there are many sub-personalities which clashes with one another.

“Our subpersonalities know what they want and are determined to get it.  They really look out for themselves.  This can be all right in itself, but problems arise when what one subpersonality wants is in conflict with the wants of another one.” P. 35

For example, part of Mary wants to be independent yet part of her won’t let that happen because her desire to be loved and popular with everyone so she can’t say anything that increases her separation from others and jeopardizes her popularity.

And Gus wants to be free to be truthful and make decisions on his own but his self-sacrificing subpersonality puts others wants before his

We receive qualities and inspiration from the transpersonal level:

Courage to be independent

Humanitarian help to people in need through service

Morally honest with others

But these qualities become degraded by the use of subpersonalities which always engage our egos.

Courage becomes foolhardiness

Humanitarian help becomes enabling and self- pity

Truthfulness becomes blunt superiority

Many of the conflicts of subpersonalities both within the individual and between couples in disagreement happen as they act out the dynamic between Love and Will.

  1. 2. Conflicts between subpersonalities among individuals

Between people the sub-personality of one person can conflict with the sub-personality of another person; for example,  Mary may act out her need for love and to be taken care of by suppressing any contradictory thought; that would , her subpersonality believes, jeopardize her  want to be included, listened to and be taken care of.  Gus wants to be able to choose, at any given moment, and express his desire for truth and not be restricted from any decision he feels is right.  Yet when he comes up against what appears as lying by another; his Righteous subpersonality kicks in with a bluntness and blame toward the other person that takes on a superior tone.

To harmonize the wants of different subpersonalities, it is necessary to get behind them to a deeper level of needs.  Needs are more inclusive than wants.  “I want you to love and respect me right now” (Mary); I want you to stop lying and tell me the truth even if it hurts. (Gus)”.

Use the hierarchy of needs by Maslow as an aid to determine the real needs behind ego based, wants and desires:

What Mary needs is Love and belonging; and she is responsible for finding intimacy by being self-disclosing, taking risks and letting people hear what she says and still connect with her and accept her.

What Gus needs is self-esteem.   His ego desires for the other to accept his brand of honesty; it is an effort to control others.  What he needs is to recognize his need within for honesty as a form of self-respect rather than desire for others to give him his brand of honesty.

To focus on our own needs moves us to our true self rather than distorting and confounding our wants by expecting changes in others to meet our needs.

“To do subpersonality work, dialogue with each of the conflicting parts of yourself and realize the qualities of each subpersonality; use your will power to stop from slipping mindlessly into different subpersonalities so that you become the driver of the car rather than just the back seat driver. P. 36

This couple has benefitted by understanding their invisible motivations expressed through their sub personalities. This insight can postpone blame and negative judgements which can harm trust and the longevity of relationships. I hope to bring this awareness of sub-personalities to those caught in a web of conflicts so that they can resolve them.

 

Published by

John D Grove

I am a psychotherapist and astrological psychology practitioner. I do dream interpretation as it relates to developmental life issue. I have had published two books: one on Dreams and Astrological Psychology and one on Life Passages, how dreams and Age Point Progression work together to illuminate the Life journey. I do consultations.

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