Your Parts, IFS, and War in the Middle East

Oct 18, 2023

Dear Souls and Hearts Member,

Sometimes a week off just doesn’t pan out.  I am back this week despite my planned break.  My writer part couldn’t resist, and a self-led desire to share the fruits of my own interior work has inspired this week’s reflection. Three interconnected life events fueled this week’s (unexpected) reflection:

  • Chronic sleeplessness
  • Correspondence from an RCC member regarding current events in the Middle East
  • Interior exploration and IFS parts work around my reaction to the correspondence

I hope this reflection offers a tangible source of hope in the current moment as well as a touchpoint in your ongoing interior work with your parts.

The no-sleep zone

Starting about 10 nights ago, I began to have chronic trouble sleeping.  Waking up about two hours after going to bed.  Not falling back asleep readily.  Not understanding why.  Doing parts work in the wee hours.  Far from my normal nocturnal experience. Prayers appreciated.

RCC message

I received the following message from a Resilient Catholics Community (RCC) member:

Can you post in the RCC about Israel-Hamas and IFS, Dr. Peter?  I’m just looking for a framework to help process what’s going on.

Acute reaction

I was surprised at the intensity of my reaction — I noticed a heightened sense of irritation, to the point of being annoyed, in a way that was disproportionate, not really connected to this innocent request for guidance.  These kinds of requests are fairly common.  My curiosity let to an inner exploration, asking “Why would this particular request bother me so much?”  This was a trailhead for sure, a place for a calm You-turn to seek clarity and connection with my parts. The answers were not long in coming… my parts were ready to fire off reasons galore for the (seemingly overly reactive) response to the RCC member’s simple request. Some of the answers from my manager parts included:

  1. We don’t address current events in the RCC, or in Souls and Hearts, especially highly-charged and polarized ones.
  2. Conflicts in the Middle east can become really divisive, polarizing people.
  3. That’s not our focus, dealing with the global picture. We focus internally.
  4. I am really, really busy. I don’t have time for all these specific requests.

Given that all of the above is true, my desire for deeper recollection and greater curiosity followed.

I asked myself, “Didn’t I write a weekly reflection with a 35-minute experiential exercise on March 2, 2022, about the invasion of the Ukraine, to help our members work with their parts’ distress?

I pondered, “The RCC member wasn’t asking my opinion about the complexities of conflict in the Middle East, to render some sort of judgement or proclamation.  Wasn’t she rather asking for help to work with her own system, to connect with her own parts?  Isn’t that what the RCC is all about?”

I wondered, “Why am I so blended on this?  Why is recollection so difficult?”

A discovery

After exploring more deeply, I found that my Adventurer part (formerly named my “Fearful part”) has been carrying a huge burden of fear about Hamas, Israel, airstrikes, drones, kidnappings, civilian casualties, ground offenses, and potential escalation, including the involvement of Hezbollah, Iran, the US, and other parties in a spreading regional conflagration with global ramifications. A heavy load to be sure.

I sensed that my innermost self was not listening to (or could not hear) my Adventurer part.  Thus, my Adventurer part, left disconnected in my system, could not figure out his own experience.  He needed my innermost self’s presence and attention to understand and articulate what was going on inside.  In desperation, my Adventurer part resorted to waking me up at night. But my other protector parts were getting in the way of his attempts to communicate, with their own good intentions.

A bit of context

My upbringing included a few environments where showing fear meant becoming prey. Maybe you can relate. Understandably, part of my history (and maybe yours) includes learning to disconnect from fear.

I shared some of my story in the September 2019 IFS magazine Outlook; you can download a PDF of my article Fearlessness vs. Courage.  Even with my extensive IFS training, my own daily IFS internal work, and my years of experience as a therapist, I still readily disconnect from fear in certain situations.

Sometimes disconnecting from my fear is adaptive.  I almost never exhibit the dorsal vagal shutdown response. I am not prone to freeze, dissociate, go speechless, or lose the capacity for effective agency, etc., even in a crisis or in traumatic or emergency situations.

Yet at night, with the feared war zone some 10,000 miles from home, I was struggling with fear and not even aware of it.

Connection

Three nights ago, having gained a bit of clarity about the reasons for my sleeplessness, I connected with the fears, and I worked with my Adventurer part.  We were able to pray the Rosary together, in the loving presence of our Lady, my primary mother.  Afterward, I slept so much more soundly.  I had been unknowingly carrying so many fears; fears that I did not understand and that my innermost self could not even ‘hear.’

Fruits of connection

I often remind members of the Resilient Catholics Community that their interior work, their efforts to connect with their parts and the burdens they carry, will bless the whole world.  I mean it.  I thank them for the good fruits that will surely benefit the entire Body of Christ.

I’m humbled to sense that my interior work will also be a blessing to the world, and will ~ God willing ~ bear good and abundant fruits in the Lord’s vineyard.

In prayer two days ago, I felt a call to respond to that (formerly troubling) RCC correspondence from a much more recollected and inspired place.

And so I offer this bonus 52-minute Interior Integration for Catholics episode 124 titled Your Parts, IFS, and War: An Experiential Exercise.

The primary focus of this bonus IIC podcast is to help your innermost self connect with the parts of you that may be struggling with the ongoing war between Hamas and Israel and to help you be with those parts, to help them meet their primary attachment needs and integrity needs, all in an environment of safety and security.

The experiential exercise has two main parts:

In the first part, I extend an invitation for your innermost self and your parts to connect about any distress within your system about the Hamas/Israeli war and its ramifications.

In the second part, I offer an opportunity for your parts to bring their questions, concerns, doubts, frustrations, anger, fear, and whatever they are experiencing to God and to lay it out before Him, with your innermost self present.  This invitation includes an opportunity to confront and challenge God, and to experience God’s response.  If God seems too much, too distant, too busy, or too scary for your parts, you can direct this internal experience and this intentional connection toward the Blessed Virgin Mary, a holy angel, or a saint.

Disclaimer

What you won’t find in this bonus experiential exercise is any hint of social, political, or moral commentary on the ongoing, highly publicized events happening in the conflict between Hamas and Israel.

Global benefits 

In the words of St. Francis of Assisi, we are seeking to make ourselves channels of peace. We are all one family — the human family — and in our big family, our big system, we can bring so much peace and goodness by loving and caring for our own parts, freeing us to better love God and others, including our enemies. Yes, loving even those who persecute us or whose actions trigger chronic sleeplessness and disconcerting reactions from our parts.

Interior Integration for Catholics series on narcissism wraps up with Dr. Gerry and a live audience

I wrapped up our IIC series on narcissism with the sixth episode, number 123, Relating Well with Narcissistic Family Members with Dr. Gerry Crete.  In this 90-minute episode, I invited licensed marriage and family therapist and Souls and Hearts co-founder Dr. Gerry Crete and a live audience to discuss the best ways to relate with family members with narcissistic traits while still preserving one’s own limits and dignity.  Dr. Gerry addressed the following:

  • Why is it important to prepare yourself for relating with someone with dominant narcissistic parts?
  • How can we recognize our own limitations and the fact that we cannot change another person by our own efforts?
  • How can we understand the positive intentions of others’ narcissistic parts?
  • What to do if you are flooded and agitated by a family member with narcissistic tendencies?
  • How should you communicate your limits and boundaries with such family members?
  • How can you distinguish between standing up and advocating for yourself and just being “oversensitive” or prideful?
  • Are idealizing and devaluing the primary signs of narcissism or are there deeper key features?
  • How does narcissism often play out in a family when an aged parent dies?
  • When is it necessary to temporarily disconnect or separate from the family because of narcissism in other members?
  • How do we maintain “radical acceptance” of others and still hold boundaries and protect ourselves?
  • What kind of IFS groups are available online?
  • How does a lack of empathy present differently in narcissism vs. autism?

Here are the other episodes in our series on narcissism:

  • Episode 118Narcissism: Who, What, Why, and How? The Secular Experts Share Their Views 80 minutes.
  • Episode 119Narcissism: Q & A with Dr. Peter Martin  89 minutes.
  • Episode 120Understanding Narcissism More Deeply with IFS 103 minutes.
  • Episode 121Connecting with Your Own Narcissism Inside   87 minutes.
  • Episode 122: Gaslighting and Narcissism – Catholic Style 98 minutes.

I invite you to download this PDF with links and the full episode descriptions. Please share it with anyone whom you think might benefit.

Get ready for the Resilient Catholics Community (RCC)

It may be the number one predictor of good fit with the RCC is your engagement and response to the experiential exercises in the Interior Integration for Catholics podcast.  If you find today’s IIC episode 124 helpful, if you can connect with your parts in other IIC episodes with experiential exercises (i.e., episodes 93100102104106108110111117, and 121) you may find a home in the RCC, a sense of belonging with other like-minded Catholics.

We have three overarching coals in the RCC:

  1. To tolerate being loved first, and this means all of us, all of our parts being seen, heard, known, understood, and loved – by God, by others, and also by our innermost selves.
  2. To embrace your identity as a beloved little son or daughter of God.
  3. To respond in love to God, our neighbor, and to ourselves, reflecting that love back.

Our whole focus is on solid human formation, shoring up the natural foundation for the spiritual life.  The RCC landing page offers details about our community and what to expect. You are welcome to reach out to me at crisis@soulsandhearts.com or on my cell at 317.567.9594 with questions about the RCC.

Litanies of the Heart

Another concrete way I helped my little Adventurer part was inviting him to pray the Litany of the Fearful Heart with my innermost self. Check out that litany, as well as the Litany of the Wounded Heart and the Litany of the Closed Heart on our litanies landing page.  Downloadable copies are available, or you can order very nicely printed copies. You can stream audio versions, and download the guide to praying the litanies.  All those resources are in both English and Spanish.

Remember that Dr. Gerry Crete, author of the Litanies of the Heart, has a new book coming out on January 16, 2024 from Sophia Press, titled Litanies of the Heart: Relieving Post-Traumatic Stress and Calming Anxiety Through Healing Your Parts.  You can check out his book’s full description and pre-order your copies through Amazon here.

Be with the Word for the 29th and 30th Sundays in Ordinary Time and for All Saints’ Day

For the 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time on October 22, check out our 46-minute episode titled Heads I Win, Tails You Lose. With special guest Jody Garneau, the lead navigator of Souls and Hearts’ Interior Therapist Community, a lively discussion revolves around how so many of us feel trapped in some aspect of our lives, just as the Pharisees attempted to trap Jesus in the questioning found 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.

And for the 30th Sunday of Ordinary time, on October 29, Dr. Gerry and I invite you to enjoy our 40-minute episode titled Understanding Superiority Complexes where we discuss about how people who have superiority complexes are usually trying to make themselves feel better by belittling others. Understand what is behind the condescending attitude and learn to be more compassionate and loving toward them. You can listen to those Mass readings here.

Finally, for All Saints’ Day on November 1, check out our 38-minute episode The Lies We Tell Ourselves in Life Stories where Dr. Gerry and I discuss how Jesus turns the shame-filled, anxiety-ridden narratives of our lives into redemption and transformation. Often, we do not recognize that when we are on that journey, and it takes effort to gain that perspective. Those Mass readings are 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 the themes and contents in these weekly reflections and the IIC podcast with me.

Call to prayer

Please join with me in praying for those in need in the Middle East, recognizing that each person is made in the image and likeness of God.  Each man is precious in the eyes of God, even if he is violent; every woman is loved by God, even when she hates God and foreigner; and every child, regardless of nationality, race, or religion is beloved – “Let the little children come to me…” said our Lord.

And as always, please pray for me and know that I am praying for you.  This weekly reflection, the IIC podcast, the communities in Souls and Hearts, all of our offerings and all of our resources all of it is fueled by prayer.  Thank you.

Warm regards in Christ and His Mother,

Dr. Peter

P.S.  If you’d like to find out more about Internal Family Systems and get to know 10 of my parts (including Adventurer), check out my Interior Integration for Catholics podcast, especially episode 71, titled A New and Better Way to Understand Myself and Others.  If you are interested in understanding IFS from a Catholic perspective, check out episode 72, Is Internal Family Systems Really Catholic?

P.P.S.  Once again, the link to the Interior Integration for Catholics special edition episode 124 is here or wherever you get your podcasts.  Please share it with those you think might benefit. Share buttons are below.

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