Cleaning out the Junk Room - a New Take on Couples' Shadow Work
posted: Mar. 03, 2023.
Cleaning out The Junk Room of the Relationship House.
I learned through Gottman's training that there is no more profound tool than joining with our partners while they bear witness to our healing, Some examples of when Gottman has utilized the couple as a tool towards healing is with addictions or post-traumatic stress, The idea that the validation we receive from our partner can be the ultimate suggestion that we are ok, accepted, loved anyway, or even loved BECAUSE. Kathryn believes the same premise can be applied to a Jungian technique called shadow work. This is about shedding light on those parts of us that we reject or deem unacceptable or shameful, involving bringing these aspects of ourselves to light, examining them, and ultimately integrating them into our sense of self can also be done in the same space as couples therapy as well. Kathryn calls this discovering and battling with these rejected parts “cleaning out the junk room” of the Sound relationship house. (Gottman’s Theory). Uncovering these parts within the partnership is a unique and effective way to bring validation to our partner and the parts that have been hidden away in shame.
Couples therapy can be an effective way for couples to engage in shadow work, exploring their individual shadows and the “junk” within their relationship. One of the primary benefits of engaging in shadow work in couples therapy is that it can help to increase self-awareness and emotional intelligence. By exploring and accepting the hidden away junk, we become more in tune with our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. We can identify patterns and triggers that might contribute to relationship issues. This increased self-awareness can also help us to be more compassionate and understanding of our partner's hidden parts, leading to greater
empathy and a more profound emotional connection.
Another benefit of this work in couples therapy is that it can help to reduce defensiveness and increase vulnerability. When we are willing to explore our shadows /junk with our partners, we trust them enough to show them the parts of ourselves we are most ashamed of. This level of vulnerability can be scary but also gratifying, as it allows us to deepen our intimacy and create a stronger bond with our partner.
One of the challenges of engaging in shadow work in couples therapy is that it can be painful and uncomfortable to confront the parts of ourselves that we have been trying to avoid or deny.
However, couples can learn to navigate these difficult emotions and experiences safely and productively by working with a trained therapist who can provide support and guidance.
One technique Kathryn might use to facilitate a good cleaning in couples therapy is "mirroring." Mirroring involves having each partner share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences while the other partner listens without judgment or interruption. After each partner has shared, the other partner is asked to mirror what they heard to ensure they understand and empathize with their partner's perspective. This technique can help increase communication and understanding between partners and encourage vulnerability and emotional connection. John Gottman believes that finding something their partner said that makes sense to them and expressing this aloud is incredibly validating as it is a statement like “Now that I understand more, that makes complete sense to me.”, This empathetic understanding is the impetus to help open, heal, and integrate the part back in.
Another technique that can be useful in shadow work is called "the empty chair." In this exercise, one partner sits in a chair and imagines that a part of themselves they have been struggling with (such as anger or insecurity) is sitting opposite them. They are then asked to dialogue with this "shadow" part of themselves, exploring its motivations and feelings and working to integrate it into their sense of self. This exercise can be powerful for couples, as it can help them recognize and understand the shadows within themselves and their relationship.
In conclusion, cleaning out the junk room is an essential, deep, and powerful process for exploring and integrating the parts of ourselves that we reject or deny. Couples working on cleaning the junk room together in therapy can deepen their emotional connection and create more robust, resilient relationships.