Healing Our Parts … So We Can Love Better

Apr 3, 2024

Dear Souls and Hearts Members,

Catholicism is all about love.  That’s the core message of the Gospel, the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ for us in our fallen human condition.  The two great commandment upon which “depend all the law and the prophets” (cf. Matthew 22: 40) name the three loves – loving God, loving neighbor, and loving yourself.

All three loves are necessary and central to our Faith.  All three.  The two great commandments with their three loves are the summary and essence of what our response to God’s love should be:  To love Him back, to love our neighbor, and to love ourselves.

In my podcast Interior Integration for Catholics, episode 98, titled Self-Love: What Catholics Need to Know,” I addressed how much debate and confusion exists among Catholics concerning self-love. Is self-love a terrible, evil sin? Or is self-love not only good, but absolutely essential? One can find quotes to support the entire spectrum of moral judgments about self-love, from it being terribly sinful to wholesome and necessary (and I did just that at the beginning of that episode).

As I noted in my weekly reflection from October 5, 2022, St. Thomas Aquinas: You Must Love You.  First., the angelic doctor argues that the degree to which you love yourself will be the maximum that you can love your neighbor.  Ordered self-love is not an optional thing – it’s essential.  Anthony Flood in his 2018 book The Metaphysical Foundations of Love writes that according to St. Thomas, “[Love of self] is logically prior to love of neighbor, and serves as a template for the latter.”  [p. ix].

Why?  Anthony Flood describes St. Thomas’ thought:  The love of self proceeds from the will as the latter’s first act of self-movement. The love of self, then, structurally precedes the love founded upon union with other things. (p. 14).

In other words, self-love comes first. 

And while volumes and treatises and monographs and commentaries have been written about how to love God and how to love your neighbor, almost nothing Catholic has been written about what it really means to love yourself in an ordered way.

This is shocking to me.  Remember, the whole of the law and the prophets hangs on these two great commandments – yet at the same time we have a dearth of good, practical Catholic information about how to love yourself, one of the three loves in this central summary of what our response to God’s love should be.

Souls and Hearts is here to help you fill that gap.  Souls and Hearts is all about you learning to love yourself in an ordered way, not just so that you can benefit personally, but so that you can love God and your neighbor.  Souls and Hearts provides resources so that you can shore up your natural foundation, your human formation so that you can carry out the two great commandments – which undergird everything else in our Faith.

As Anthony Flood writes:  Self-love is the form (forma) and root (radix) of friendship.  Each person relates to others in a manner shaped and informed by how he relates to himself. Thus, proper self-love forms a key condition for both developing a true friendship and nurturing and sustaining the friendship over time. [p. 117].

If we are going to love another person, if we are going to form a friendship with another, if we are going to enter into a loving union with another person, we have to love ourselves.  There’s no escaping that reality.

So how do we love ourselves?

This is where the understanding of a human person as both a multiplicity and a unity is so helpful.  A single, homogenous, uniform personality can’t love itself because there can be no internal relationality.  I discuss this at length in the Interior Integration for Catholics podcast episodes 116 Why a Single Personality is Not Enough and 117 Discover the Parts Who Make Up Your Personality.

But when we begin to understand ourselves as having both an innermost self and also parts, then the practical options for self-love increase exponentially.  And what are parts?  Here is my definition.

Parts feel like separate, independently operating personalities within us, each with own unique prominent needs, roles in our lives, emotions, body sensations, guiding beliefs and assumptions, typical thoughts, intentions, desires, attitudes, impulses, interpersonal style, and world view.

Synonyms for parts from Richard Schwartz, the originator of IFS include sub-personalities, subselves, internal characters, internal objects, ego states, inner voices, and aspects of oneself.

And here’s the thing: Parts are often felt to be really young.  Like children.  Very little children.  Like the ones about whom Jesus said in Matthew 19:14, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Starting small

So as I was considering how to lay out ways for you to love yourself in your parts, especially those childlike parts of you, I decided to go with Gary Chapman’s very popular and relatable model of the “five love languages.”  While originally developed for married couples in 1992, in 1997, Chapman wrote The 5 Love Languages of Children:  The Secret to Loving Children Effectively with Ross Campbell.

Over the next several weeks in these reflections, I will walk you through the five love languages for children – and yes, we will consider how to love others through these languages, but first we are going to consider how we love our own parts, especially our young parts – not just because that is good in itself and in doing so we imitate God, who loves us in our parts.  But also so that we are much better equipped to love our neighbor in his or her parts, and to love God wholeheartedly, with not just our innermost self, but all our parts, to carry out the two great commandments.

Five love languages:

Chapman and Campbell’ five love languages of children are:

  1. Physical Touch
  2. Words of Affirmation
  3. Quality Time
  4. Gifts
  5. Acts of Service

Over the next few weeks, we will address how you can use of these love languages to work with your parts more effectively in practical, applicable ways.  The love languages are means to be able to fill the unmet attachment needs and integrity needs that parts carry as burdens.  And just to review those in our spiral learning, here are the lists:

Attachment needs

The first five of these are adapted from Brown and Elliott’s 2016 book Attachment Disturbances in Adults and the sixth is my addition:

  1. Safety: My need to feel a sense of safety and protection in relationship — self-protection
  2. Recognition: My need to feel seen, heard, known, and understood
  3. Reassurance: My need to feel comforted, soothed, and reassured
  4. Delight: My need to feel desired, cherished, treasured, delighted in by the other
  5. Love: My need to feel that the other has my best interests at heart, holds a position of benevolence and beneficence toward me.
  6. Belonging: My need to feel included, of being a valued member of a community with an important role

Integrity needs

I have derived these from my own clinical experience and multiple resources:

  1. Survival: My need to exist and to survive. 
  2. Importance: My need to matter in the world, to be significant
  3. Agency: My need for autonomy, to be able to exert influence on others and to make at least a small difference the world
  4. Goodness: My need to be good in my essence, in my person
  5. Mission: My need for mission, purpose, and a vision to guide my life
  6. Authentic expression: My need to share and communicate with others what feels true and real within me rather than pretend otherwise

An invitation

In invite you to join me on this walk through Chapman and Campbell’s book The 5 Love Languages of Children:  The Secret to Loving Children Effectively – each week, we will cover a chapter, but I will be bringing in the parts work to help you love the as-yet-unloved parts of you.  And we will be discussing how to love others in their little parts as well.  For next week, I’ll be addressing the themes in the introduction and Chapter 1 of the book titled “Love is the Foundation.”

There’s no need to buy the book; I’ll cover the key concepts in my own ways, bringing in the extra dimension of how the themes apply to individual parts of us.

When we are able to love our parts more fully, with less of an agenda to change or fix them immediately, with a desire to understand them, when we improve our inner relationships with our own parts – then we can love others in their similar parts much more fully and deeply.  This is critically important in parenting.

As a father, if I reject any part of myself, I will reject similar parts (I call them “counterparts” in other, including my children.  In the Internal Family Systems magazine Outlook, I wrote about how in the past I rejected parts of me that carried fear, mistaking fearlessness for courage, and how that harmed my relationship with my oldest son (download the PDF of the article here).

So parts work, recollection, and interior integration have been so helpful for Pam and me as parents of our children.  And so this series is an invitation to be a better parent (or parental figure) to others.

And we’ll keep these reflections simple and practical.  I promise.


Interior Integration for Catholics: new episode

Episode 135 The Tree of Catholic Personal Formation: An Integrative Model (69 minutes) was just released two days ago…Check out the Video  Audio, PDF of Final Drawing, PDF Transcript What do the roots, trunk, branches, leaves, and apples of a tree have to do with your Catholic formation?  Find out how these, combined with sunlight, water, and soil, bring us an integrated understanding of personal formation grounded in a Catholic understanding of the human person, drawing from Church documents and the sciences of the natural world.

By looking at an apple tree, we can understand our own formation and where we need to change and grow much better – and not just as solitary trees, but together, in community, in a forest.  Join me for this podcast episode, as we learn how to flourish in love and for love, as Catholics journeying together.  And if you’re willing and able, please comment on the YouTube video, subscribe and like, and give ratings and reviews on Apple Podcasts.

Parts mapping workshop by Dr. Gerry

Dr. Gerry and special guests Fr. Boniface Hicks OSB, Pat Molyneaux of the Human Formation Coalition, IFS Coach Ruth O’Neill, and Metanoia Catholic founders and coaches Matt and Erin Ingold recorded a 90-minute parts mapping workshop with live experiential exercises.  This is an excellent resource to learn to work with parts, especially those who are very young and pre-verbal in a new way.  Highly recommended.

Dr. Gerry on the air…

Dr. Gerry was on Mercy Unbound with Dr. Bryan Thatcher to discuss healing hearts, the connection with Divine Mercy and his book Litanies of the Heart in this 40-minute episode.  Also, check out Dr. Gerry on this 57-minute episode titled Learning to Heal our Inmost Self on Jim Havens’ show The Simple Truth.

Be With the Word – Divine Mercy Sunday

Join Dr. Gerry for his 17-minute reflection on the Mass readings for Divine Mercy Sunday titled Christ’s Body Keeps the Score! in which he discusses what it means that Christ is “begotten in water and blood.” Dr. Gerry brings in some insight from Bessel Van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score and discusses the connection between spirit/mind and body in the healing of trauma. Dr. Crete also suggests that we can allow our own sufferings, challenges, and hardships to be transformed through faith into something that brings meaning and changes lives for good.

The Resilient Catholics Community

Learning to love ourselves in order to better love God and neighbor is the central focus of the Resilient Catholic Community. Currently, more than 200 members are journeying together with this goal in mind. We onboard new cohorts every six months with the St. Gertrude the Great cohort beginning in June 2024. Check out the RCC landing page for more information and to sign up on the wait list.

Contacting Dr. Peter

As always, if you’d like to connect with me personally, the best way to do so is during my conversation hours, which are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:30 PM to 5:30 PM Eastern Time. My cell phone number is 317.567.9594 and I’d be happy to talk with you and answer questions. Unfortunately, I cannot provide clinical consultations in this venue and need to limit conversations to about 10 minutes or so.  Leave a voicemail if I do not answer; it just means I’m on another call, but I will call you back. Due to the high volume of email messages, my crisis@soulsandhearts.com box is now being managed by my staff.

Pray for us

Please continue to pray for us; all our endeavors fueled by prayer, which is so necessary to accomplishing our mission. Be assured of our prayers for you.

Warm regards in Christ and His Mother,

Dr. Peter

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