Select which content you would like to search on this site:

How to Help Your Parts Get Their Needs Met by Working with Daydreams

Oct 12, 2023

Dear Souls and Hearts Member,

In last week’s reflection, The Eight Steps to Understand Your Parts Through Exploring Your Daydreams, we reviewed a structured way to discover our parts’ underlying unmet attachment and integrity needs which so often fuel our daydreams and fantasies.

As a resource to help you better understand your inner experience, I shared a new Souls and Hearts worksheet: 8 steps to approach and explore your problematic daydreams.  Available for download in Word and also as a PDF, I encouraged you to take advantage of this helpful worksheet and spend some time in reflection, filling it in either electronically or by printing it out and complete it by hand.  Connecting with your parts in this focused exercise will help you to more deeply understand and identify their unmet attachment and integrity needs.

These basic needs for integrity and attachment are so relevant on our journey of human formation, they merit another mention, circling back in our spiral learning.

The six attachment needs:

  • Safety: My need to feel a sense of safety and protection in relationship
  • RecognitionMy need to feel seen, heard, known, and understood
  • ReassuranceMy need to feel comforted, soothed, and reassured
  • DelightMy need to feel cherished, treasured, delighted in by the other
  • LoveMy need to feel that the other has my best interests at heart, holds a position of benevolence and beneficence toward me
  • Belonging: My need to feel included, of being a valued member of a community with an important role

The six integrity needs:

  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, to experience a sense of ontological goodness, not just that my actions are functionally useful
  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 is true and real within me rather than pretend otherwise

For a much deeper dive into these essential needs, I recommend episode 62 of the Interior Integration for Catholics podcast titled Unmet Attachment Needs and Unmet Integrity Needs.

Roy’s progress

In this week’s reflection, the final chapter in our series on the topic of daydreams, let’s take a closer look at our fictional character Roy’s 8 steps to approach and explore your problematic daydreams worksheet; you can download it in Word or as a PDF and see Roy’s step-by-step process in which he traces his violent revenge-seeking fantasies back to his parts’ unmet needs.  

Let’s get curious about what can we learn from Roy’s process of working through angry fantasies of brutal violence and revenge.

It’s very important to remember (although perhaps hard to believe) that Roy’s parts are operating on deep desires for some perceived good, even when prompting morally problematic fantasies of filling his boss with 00 buckshot from a Remington 870.

Specifically, Roy’s Avenger part employs these violent fantasies to avoid intense feelings of shame that originated in early childhood experiences with male authority figures’ harsh criticisms. The Avenger’s good intentions include a desire for Roy’s safety, helping him function under stress, preventing any further shaming, and blocking any similar humiliations from ever happening again.

Roy’s internal work allows him to recognize and revisit his Avenger part’s memories of an intense humiliation suffered in third grade at the hands of a gym teacher named Mr. Figueroa. Derided as a “wimp” and a “weaking” by Mr. Figueroa when unable to climb the big rope, Roy’s classmates laughed at him, mocked him, and made fun of him.

By making a You-turn and spending time in quiet reflection, Roy connects with his Avenger part and understands this part’s unmet needs for survival, agency, and safety.

A little more connection with his Avenger part led Roy to an earlier childhood memory of being brutally shamed by an adult male at a family gathering. Roy learns that his Avenger part’s violent fantasies aim to protect a small exile named Pequeñito, holding deep unmet attachment needs for recognition, reassurance, and belonging as well as an integrity need for a felt sense of ontological goodness.

Roy notices that indulging this problematic fantasy motivated by his Avenger part brings an initial feeling of power, strength, and a sense of agency in the moment. Afterward, however, he notices feelings of emptiness, dissatisfaction, and guilt, as his murderous daydream lacks any real power to resolve the underlying unmet needs of his parts. In fact, Roy recognizes ways that his fantasy creates new problems, being objectively sinful in its vengeful and violent content.

Your progress

I sincerely hope that you are able to find the courage to be curious like our fictitious friend Roy, and carve out a place and time to enter into calm, clear reflection with your parts. Ideally, as a regularly occurring practice for growing in interior integration.

As you work through such an introspective process, you are likely to notice, as St. Ignatius did, that there are two main types of stories in daydreams.  As Fr. William Watson, SJ in his book Sacred Story: An Ignatian Examen for the Third Millennium explains:

Ignatius, while recovering from battle, discovered that his daydreams and fantasies were pulling his heart in two different directions. One direction was toward vain, self-serving, self-indulgent exploits rooted in his wounded human nature. The other direction was toward holy aspirations representing his authentic human nature, and the deepest aspirations of his heart. These later daydreams had been out of view for most of his life. The black noise of temptation, and a false self-portrait painted by thoughts, words, and deeds inspired by the enemy of his human nature, both deafened and blinded his heart. Aided by grace, however, he awoke to his fantasies and daydreams, and by grace, discovered only one of the two story lines expressed his authentic human nature—the deepest dream of his heart. [pp. 198-199].

Meeting the underlying needs of parts

Identifying the underlying needs of your parts marks the first – huge – step toward meeting them.

Your parts have an innate and deep desire to connect with your innermost self as a secure attachment figure. Without an authentic connection with your core self, your ‘managing’ parts will feel forced into roles of leading and guiding your system. But this job is much too big for any part of you, no matter how strong their management skills may be. No part of you has the qualities necessary to govern yourself; leading and guiding is the God given role of your innermost self.

With sufficient recollection, fostering a deep connection with your parts allows them to express their needs and your joint effort to meet those needs can begin in earnest. This collaborative, cooperative process flows from a kind of recollection characterized with 8 Cs. Richard Schwartz, the founder of IFS identified the 8 Cs.  The list below includes some synonyms I have added for greater detail:

8Cs for Recollection:

Calmness:  tranquility, peacefulness, serenity, equanimity, placidity, quietness

Curiosity: genuine interest in all of myself and all of others, wonder, awe

Connection: “being with” the other, rapport, engagement, mutuality, bonding, collaboration

Compassion: kindness, tenderness, benevolence, “suffering with”

Clarity: lucidity, broad perspective, a sense of vision and direction even with unknowns

Confidence: assurance, poise, grace, gravity, security, childlike trust

Creativity: originality, innovation, artistry, inspiration, vision

Courage: fortitude, conviction, spunk, grit, adventuresomeness, stoutheartedness, intrepidness

Aiming for recollection

Operating with these 8 Cs in full effect offers your innermost self a ‘best-case scenario’ for authentic connection and subsequent corrective or healing inner experiences with your parts.  Yet even an understanding of the importance of these 8 Cs and a growing effort to sense when they are active and when they are missing is a very meaningful step toward greater recollection.

However, if you realize that this ideal level of recollection is not yet possible within your own system, consider seeking out another person who does have significant recollection to help you and your parts connect.  It can be surprisingly helpful to work with someone — a therapist, a coach, or a friend who is willing to accompany you in a non-judgmental way as you relate with your parts and connect with their needs.  

Ultimate connection

Parts’ unmet needs can be met through various connections and relationships with the innermost self and with other recollected persons. But most importantly, our parts’ unmet needs are met through relationships with three Persons of the Trinity, with the Blessed Virgin Mary, with holy angels (especially our guardian angels) and with the saints.

I emphasize fostering relationships with God the Father and with Mary, our primary parents.  The August 3, 2022 weekly reflection titled Who’s Your Daddy?  Confusion Over Our Primary Parents, goes into detail about the essential nature of this primary parental relationship.  And as our primary parents, God our Father and our Mother Mary are uniquely suited to meet our attachment and integrity needs, and to re-parent us (or, in some cases, to parent us for the first time).

Ultimately, there are many paths leading toward meeting our parts’ unmet attachment and integrity needs. Did you know that most parts seem phenomenologically very young, usually younger than seven?  Even our manager parts who seem really grown up are generally quite young, usually at the age when they were first forced into extreme protective roles. Life’s most difficult situations, distresses, and traumas would have overwhelmed us if some parts of us were not forced into the burdensome roles of banished exiles.

Helping these little parts of us with their unmet needs is very much like working with little children who are hurt, scared, angry, grieving, ashamed, and/or lonely.  They long for eye contact, uninterrupted, frequent attention and a sense of being authentically loved and cherished.  

Back to Roy

Roy’s recollection allows him to have compassion on his Avenger part.  His Inner Critic part softens and relaxes back, and thus stops condemning his Avenger part and Roy gets curious about his Avenger’s good intentions, his concerns, and his unmet needs fueling the troubling fantasies.

Roy’s Avenger part reveals a sense of being about five years old, having taken on his protective role after feeling mocked by an uncle at a family gathering.  His Avenger’s fantasy of wielding a shotgun like a heroic Clint Eastwood in the 1992 movie Unforgiven, aiming to boldly prevent any additional harm and blast away potential threats.

In recollection, Roy’s innermost self connects with his Avenger part, who also softens.  In the course of their exchange, Roy offers Avenger an opportunity to meet Jesus or God the Father.  But Roy’s history includes repeated experiences with men lording their authority over him, and Avenger is not yet in a place of being open to masculine attention. However, Avenger is willing to connect with the Blessed Virgin Mary as a spiritual confidant.  Through ongoing inner work connected with prayer, Avenger reveals himself as a scared five-year-old willing to accept the love and security of a tender mother.

Avenger, accompanied by Roy’s innermost self in an authentic relational connection, feels a sense of hope that his needs for survival, agency, and safety will be met.  As a result, Avenger willingly hands his shotgun to Mother Mary (represented in the image above).  As this relationship progresses, Roy’s Avenger part experiences the love of his primary mother, Mary, and feels his integrity needs and attachment needs being met for the first time.  Roy’s internal system begins a season of renewal and healing.

In real life

Roy’s interior process closely resembles the kind of structured experiential work we do in weeks 28, 29, and 30 of the first year of the human formation program offered in the Resilient Catholics Community.  This type of ‘parts work’ is ongoing in subsequent formation sessions offered within the RCC’s Formation Fellowship (from year two and on).

The topic of daydreams used in this specific example serves to represent a type of ‘trailhead’ or a specific place to make a You-turn and pay attention to our inner experiences, bringing sufficient self-energy to meet and understand our parts, and grow in our interior integration.

There is no algorithm or “five quick steps” to assure that all our parts will get their various needs met.  Some parts need a long time to develop a felt sense of safety and protection in relationship with the innermost self or some other secure attachment figure.  Some parts respond fairly quickly, and can even be unburdened of their extreme roles spontaneously.  Parts do respond best when contact and an authentic relationship with the innermost self is nurtured and ongoing with some scheduled regularity.  Parts greatly appreciate the sense of being a priority to the innermost self.

The focus of working with our parts should not be on executing a protocol, but rather on connecting deeply with them, bringing our parts into a relationship that is separate from the attachment figure (unblended) and also near enough for there to be connection (not exiled or alienated).  

An alternative view

For another Catholic way of working with daydreams (which is not specifically parts-focused), check out Jesuit Fr. Mark Thibodeaux’s 4-page article Praydreaming: Key to Discernment for 99¢ at Ligouri publication.  Here is a brief review 

Final note

A reminder — this parts work may initially be difficult to facilitate on one’s own, so I highly recommend bringing in the additional help of a secure attachment figure when needed.

As we draw to a close this series on daydreams, I want to thank you for staying with me through it all. My parts are grateful and they are also curious to know how this series and/or the offered experiential exercises and worksheet may have benefitted your connecting with you. Call me during my office hours every Tuesday and Thursday from 4:30 PM to 5:30 PM Eastern time to share your feedback or ask any follow up questions.  Here’s my cell number: 317.567.9594.

Dr. Gerry featured in the National Catholic Register

For World Mental Health Day yesterday (October 10), the National Catholic Register invited our dear Dr. Gerry to contribute, and he wrote St. Dymphna, St. Maria Goretti and the Litanies of the Heart, in which he discusses his parts’ reactions to the sufferings of these two saints and shows how these saints’ love is stronger than death.  I encourage you to check it out.

The Resilient Catholics Community

If this discussion of parts and inner work resonates with you, and if you connect with the experiential exercises offered in the IIC podcast, you are likely a great fit for the Resilient Catholics Community.  Consider joining our growing community of more than 200 like-minded Catholics on a journey toward authentic Catholic human formation.

As the old African proverb says, If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.  In the RCC, we go together, sharing new experiences that re-form us.

The first year of human formation offered in the RCC includes 44 weeks of programming. A PDF document outlining the program can be found here.  In addition to the large cohort group and the small company groups, each member of the RCC joins a pair or triad with “companions” allowing for more intimate connections and solid relational opportunities on a shared pilgrimage to greater human formation.

Go Far Together with us in the RCC; learn more on the RCC landing page.

IFS in greater detail

For more about Internal Family Systems and parts, check out episode 71 of the Interior Integration for Catholics podcast, titled A New and Better Way to Understand Myself and Others.

Be With the Word for the 28th and 29th Sundays in Ordinary Time

Dr. Gerry and I invite you to our conversation about work in this week’s 42-minute episode titled Blind Spots Can Be Deadly.  Dr. Gerry and I discuss the blind spots in our lives that keep us from “attending the King’s wedding feast” just like those in this week’s Gospel. Learn how to identify and begin to heal from your own blind spots so you are ready to accept Jesus’ invitation. You can listen to the Mass readings here.

And for the 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time on October 22, check out our 46-minute episode titled Heads I Win, Tails You Lose where, with special guest and lead navigator of the Interior Therapist Community Jody Garneau, I discuss the fact that many of us feel trapped in some aspect of our lives, just as the Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus in their questioning in this week’s gospel. Just as Jesus had an unexpected answer for them, He has one for us if we are willing to listen. You can listen to those Mass readings here.

Conversation hours

Remember that conversation hours are every Tuesday and Thursday from 4:30 PM to 5:30 PM Eastern time on my cell at 317.567.9594 – these are not for clinical consultations, but they are a chance to discuss with me the themes and contents in these weekly reflections and the IIC podcast.

Prayers requested and offered

And as always, please pray for Souls and Hearts, our staff, our members, for Dr. Gerry, and for me.  Our whole enterprise, our whole outreach is fueled by prayer; without it, we will fail miserably.  So please pray for us.  I am praying for you.

Warm regards in Christ and His Mother,

Dr. Peter

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This


Please share with others whom you think would benefit!