A group of university researchers found that when a speaker ascribes qualities to another person, a listener will automatically unconsciously attribute those characteristics to the speaker. They called this phenomenon “spontaneous trait transference.” As you study the Enneagram, you will pinpoint particular personality styles that are easy or difficult for you to cope with. These are your shadow styles and they can be experienced in negative and positive ways.

Dark shadows are rejected capacities within ourselves that we see in others. They are evident in the kinds of people we dislike or avoid; who frustrate, threaten, or annoy us. Studying the Enneagram will usually reveal at least one personality style that impersonates your dark shadow.

A Three, for example, may be afraid of a phobic Six’s capacity to self-defeat because it represents the shadowy possibility of failure, something a Three works hard to avoid. Sevens are sometimes frustrated by Fours. The latter’s capacity for habitual lament can feel like a prison to a Seven, who may try to keep life cheery and upbeat.

The same Seven could nevertheless be drawn to the Four’s capacity for unhappiness. While consciously seeking more choices and options most Sevens unconsciously expect that life will deprive them of enjoyment. A Four’s capacity for entrapped misery impersonates and mirrors a hidden part of the Seven’s psyche.

The most frequent kind of dark shadow style is a parental point, followed by a stress or security point, one of your wings or your own Enneagram style. You might also find a dark shadow in an unrelated Enneagram style that represents the opposite of who you want to be within your style.

Generally, people who irritate you are not just trying to get on your nerves. Their actions often flow from a sincere interpretation of events based on their worldview and their self-image. Behavior you take personally isn’t truly directed at you because people treat others the way they treat themselves. Ones who judge you, judge themselves first. Eights who overpower you also internally overpower themselves. Threes who lie to others lie to themselves even more.

Light shadows are positive capacities and potentials that are dormant within us but that we mainly see in others. They are most evident in the kinds of people you admire or emulate, people who are role models, heroes or beacons. As you study the Enneagram, you may find a pattern to your friendships and notice that you are consistently attracted to people with specific Enneagram styles. Twos, for instance, often learn how to be independent and maintain personal boundaries from Fives. Thoughtful Fives and action-oriented Threes often partner because each has something complementary to offer the other.