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IIC 116: Why a Single Personality Is Not Enough


In this episode, Dr. Peter discusses five reasons why the conventional understanding of a single, homogeneous personality is insufficient to more fully understand your internal experience and how alternative conceptualizations of the human psyche that recognize internal multiplicity, parts, and systems are not only more helpful, but also harmonize with our Catholic Faith.


[00:00:01] When I was but a wee psychologist, I was very deeply committed to understanding others. To be invited into their phenomenological worlds, to know them deeply, to be with them. I’m still committed to those things. But when I was a fledgling psychologist, personality theory seemed to offer an excellent way to foster that connection and that knowing and that being with. So, I became a dedicated student of personality, and I took that role as a student of personality very seriously. I studied hard. I spent 20 years of my career specializing in personality assessment. Eventually I became an expert. I researched and used the best personality tests. I specialized in writing top-notch psychological reports. I did psychological assessments for seminarian candidates, candidates for the religious life, I did fitness-for-duty evaluations for the Federal Aviation Administration, and rose up as a contractor for the FAA. I taught personality assessment to clinical psychology graduate students and the local doctoral program in clinical psychology. I taught those students who worked for me in my practice. I was really invested in better understanding others by more deeply understanding their personalities. Occasionally, I testified in court proceedings as an expert witness based on my psychological assessment work. I was a professional member of the Society for Personality Assessment. I even developed my own projective instrument to help assess the spiritual and religious dimensions of personality. And in the end, after all of this, after 20 years, I came to believe that the standard psychological concept of a single personality lacks the power to adequately describe identity and inner experience.
[00:02:21] I abandoned the idea of a single personality. Now, I believe that the idea of a single personality, a homogeneous personality, is not enough. It’s insufficient. It’s lacking. It’s incomplete. It’s deficient. And today, in this episode, Episode 116 of the Interior Integration for Catholics podcast, I am going to give you the why. Why I consider the concept of a single uniform personality to be too little for me and too little for you. Stay with me as we walk through how I came to that conclusion. It is so good to be with you. I am Dr. Peter Malinoski, also known as Dr. Peter. I am your host and guide in this Interior Integration for Catholics podcast. It is so good for us to be together. I am a clinical psychologist, a trauma therapist, a podcaster, a blogger, and the co-founder and president of Souls and Hearts, but most of all, most importantly, I am a beloved little son of God, a passionate Catholic who wants to help you taste and see the goodness of the Lord, to taste and see the height and depth and breadth and warmth and the light of the love of God, especially the love of God, our Father, and Mary, our Mother, our spiritual parents, our primary parents. I am here to help you embrace your identity as a beloved little child of God and Mary, that is what this podcast is all about. That is what I want for you, and to bring this about, to live out our mission, I bring you new ways of understanding yourself, fresh conceptualizations informed by the best of human formation resources and psychology, and always grounded in the authoritative teachings of the Catholic Church.This is episode 116. It’s titled Why a Single Personality is Not Enough. This episode is released on July 3rd, 2023, and I am so glad that you are with me so that we can explore this topic together now. I’m just going to invite you to take what is helpful to you. So when you think about yourself, if you see your personality as uniform, single and consistent over time, and that seems to be most helpful to you. OK. I’m not going to try to take that away from you. Go with that. So many people when they take the Myers-Briggs type indicator, which is pretty big in Catholic circles, they’ll come around and tell me, Hey, Dr. Peter, I am an INTJ or an ENTP or whatever the little four-letter code is, because the description that went with that was so relevant to them, it helped them understand themselves. Sometimes these personality types, sometimes these personality styles are a critical starting point, a place for you to begin to understand yourself. And I laud your efforts towards self-understanding. You would not be listening to this episode, you would not be spending time on this podcast if you didn’t want to understand yourself and others better.[00:05:59] I just want to make the point that people resonate with different resources for understanding themselves and understanding others at different times, and it’s just an invitation to consider some alternatives to that standard conventional model of a single personality, that model that dominates our culture in this particular moment in history. So you know that definitions are really important to me. We need to know what we’re talking about. We need to have a shared language to understand the concepts that we’re addressing. And when we come to personality, the words that Pope Pius the 12th stated in his 1958 address titled Applied Psychology that he gave to the 13th Congress of the International Association of Applied Psychology. Those words hold true today, as they did more than six decades ago. Pope Pius the 12th said, “The expression personality is found today almost everywhere, but with different meanings. It is, in fact sufficient to glance through the abundant bibliography on the subject to realize that many of the concepts regarding the psychic structure of man are expressed in technical terms, which in every case preserve the same fundamental meaning. Yet several elements of the human psyche are still badly described and have not yet been given an adequate definition. The terminology ‘personality’ is one of them in scientific psychology as in applied psychology.”Well, Pope Pius the 12th, you and I, we share this, this demand, this need to define our terms. I just so appreciate him saying that so clearly. In 1958 and six and a half decades later, we still face the same problem with this poorly defined definition of personality. So I’ve started noodling around with Chat GPT. So in preparing for this podcast episode, I typed in a request for Chat GPT to give me definitions of personality from the major personality researchers, the major personality theorists. And so what I’m going to provide for you now is a recounting of what came out of GPT. I was actually shocked, really surprised at how accurate and concise these 1- or 2-line definitions of personality from each of these major resource researchers are. And I’m providing them to you so you can see the ways that different researchers, the ways that different theorists emphasize different things when it comes to personality.So let’s start with Sigmund Freud. According to Sigmund Freud, personality is composed of three parts: the id, the ego and the superego. Personality represents the dynamic interactions among these three components and their influence on an individual’s behavior.Carl Jung. Personality is characterized by individual differences in how people perceive and interact with the world. It includes both conscious and unconscious aspects and is composed of various archetypes and psychological functions.Gordon Allport. Personality is the dynamic organization within an individual of those psychophysical systems that determine their unique adjustments to the environment. It emphasizes the individual’s unique qualities and personal dispositions.[00:09:45] Albert Bandura. Personality is the result of reciprocal interactions between cognitive, behavioral and environmental factors. It emphasizes the importance of social learning and self-efficacy in shaping personality.Raymond Cattell, who was actually one of my favorite personality theorists. Personality is a combination of surface traits and source traits. Surface traits are observable characteristics, while source traits are underlying factors that drive behavior and give rise to the surface traits.Hans Eysenck: Personality is determined by three major dimensions: extraversion versus introversion, neuroticism versus emotional stability, and psychoticism. These dimensions reflect biologically based personality traits.David McClelland: Personality is a set of learned motives and needs that drive behavior. See, he’s bringing in needs now, which I really like. It emphasizes the importance of specific needs such as achievement, affiliation, and power in shaping personality.Karen Horney. Personality is shaped by an individual’s early experiences, particularly in terms of relationships and social interactions. She really focused on early relational experiences, especially with caregivers. Personality focuses on the impact of interpersonal dynamics.George Kelly. Personality is a system of personal constructs that individuals use to interpret and predict events. Personality highlights the roles of cognitive processes.According to personality researcher Theodore Millon, another favorite of mine, personality is a complex and dynamic system that comprises a set of enduring patterns of thoughts, emotions and behaviors that differentiate individuals from one another.I’m going to add one more here. Walter Mischel, who said that personality is the typical behavioral patterns, including emotions and thoughts that characterize a person’s adaptation to the events of life.[00:12:00] Now we can see how these different theorists and researchers emphasize different aspects of personality and how they don’t all agree. There’s like wildly varying definitions of what researchers and theorists think is important when we describe personality. Nevertheless, we can look to some of our major diagnostic classification systems to see how they distill out the nature of personality. So the DSM-5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual number 5, this is the fifth edition defines personality as composed of “enduring patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and oneself.” And the Psychodynamic Diagnostic Manual, second edition, captures the essence of that general definition as well when it says, “We define personality as a relatively stable way of thinking, feeling, behaving and relating to others.” So we’re seeing some convergence here, at least on these main ideas. One, that personality develops in the individual over years, but we’re not born with a personality. A lot of theorists will talk about being born with a temperament that goes back 2400 years all the way back to Hippocrates. But personality is different. It includes temperament, but it’s not determined by temperament. It’s not determined by genetics — education, socialization and life experiences all play a role in forming personality, and those temperamental and genetic factors are also involved. The personality influences behavior, and that while personality can change over time, personality is also relatively consistent and enduring across time and across different situations.[00:14:08] And there is an appeal to the single homogeneous model of personality. The idea that we have one personality. Personality theory provides us a lens through which we can understand ourselves and others better. I remember when I first read Nancy McWilliam’s book Psychoanalytic Diagnosis in the 1990s how that book, which focused on personality styles, how that book opened my eyes, how that book opened my imagination to being able to understand myself and others better. It was really helpful. And so often when I shared concepts about personality with my clients or with friends or with acquaintances, and I presented how an understanding of personality might help explain and contextualize thoughts and feelings and attitudes and beliefs, and especially impulses and desires. The insights would start flowing and people would be amazed. It was like the lights went on. To have a good theory of personality was so helpful. I remember one client of mine who I recommended that book. This particular client was pretty psychologically sophisticated. That client read that book, Psychoanalytic Diagnosis by Nancy McWilliams, and he said, “This is a book about loving other people.” He saw how understanding personality could help him to love others. Personality theory also helps us to predict behaviors that helps us to forecast what we are going to do or what others are going to do in different situations. It allows us to anticipate potential outcomes, and that’s a very valuable thing for a clinical psychologist working with clients.[00:15:54] Now, even Stephanie Tobin and Rosanna Guadagno found that there were personality correlates that predicted podcast listening behaviors in their 2022 article titled Why People Listen Motivations and Outcomes of Podcast Listening. They collected data from 306 adults from 12 countries, and they found that the personality characteristic of openness to experience correlated positively with podcast listening and related to that was the need for cognition. In other words, they were finding that those who listened to podcasts have stronger informational needs. Those are the ones that are more desirous of knowing. Makes sense, especially for a podcast like this. This isn’t primarily about entertainment. This is about learning important things. Also, interestingly, the personality characteristic of neuroticism correlated negatively with podcast listening. So participants who were higher in neuroticism were less likely to have listened to a podcast episode. They also found positive associations between extraversion and social engagement with podcasts and between agreeableness and parasocial relationships with one’s favorite podcast host. And I hope, I hope I am your favorite podcast host. But there’s a sense of connection that can come with being with listening to a podcast. I was also impressed, I was also glad to see in this study that there were some things that differentiated podcast listening from social media use. You find that greater social media use tends to be associated with higher neuroticism? Also, participants in this study who were higher in the need to belong were less likely to have listened to a podcast.[00:18:14] All right. That was counter to what they expected. Higher need to belong, less likely to listen to a podcast. So those two factors differentiate podcast listening from social media use, which is great because I don’t want this podcast to somehow look like TikTok or Instagram or Twitter or Snapchat or any social media platform.So, I’ve talked about some of the benefits here of understanding personality, the single homogeneous personality model. But I want to talk about five problems that I ran into, five difficulties with this single homogeneous model of personality. Number one. The failure to capture the complexity, dynamism, and identity nuances within the human psyche. Number two. Understanding personality styles is insufficient to guide us toward health. Number three. Personality labels are often used to judge and condemn others. Number four. Personality styles are unable to describe one’s relationship with one’s self very well. And number five. The single homogeneous model of personality can hold us back in our relationship with God and Mary. Those five those five concerns. So let’s go through these one by one.The first one, the failure to capture the complexity, dynamism, and identity nuances within the human psyche. Now, I would often see when I was doing psychological testing, I would often see how different psychological instruments would seem to reflect different sides or aspects of a person’s personality in ways that were difficult to reconcile. There were different things coming up in different tests.[00:20:17] And I was noticing how the patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting, how the impulses and desires that a person was revealing in the psychological assessment, how different those were in the same person across time and in different situations, especially in different relational contexts. So I was trying to make sense of this. I was trying to capture this in my reports, and I would write descriptions like, Mr. X’s personality structure is best described as having a hysterical core, which is very nearly completely submerged by his obsessive facade with prominent paranoid defenses, or Mrs. Y’s personality is centered on unmet dependency needs, which she responds to by manifesting both depressive and masochistic traits, frequently utilizing avoidant defenses to self protect. There are all these ways where I was trying to bring together all these different personality qualities, these different characteristics of different personalities into some kind of intelligible, overarching, single homogeneous personality. And it wasn’t working very well.Now, in some ways, the traditional diagnostic systems recognize this problem, at least implicitly. According to the DSM-5. Borderline personality disorder is characterized by, quote, a pervasive pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image and affects and marked impulsivity beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, end quote. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a minute here. So here we have a personality disorder that is described by a pervasive pattern of instability. These personality descriptors, these understandings of the single homogeneous personality are supposed to be enduring over time and across situations.[00:22:25] It’s supposed to be varying so much, but here we have a personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, that negates the central quality of personality, and that is consistency over time. It’s basically saying the consistency in BPD and bipolar personality disorder is its inconsistency. That’s unsatisfying to me conceptually. That’s really unsatisfying and problematic. When we think of personality, we think of enduring patterns, of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and oneself. Actor Ross Lynch in a U.S. Weekly article interview in 2017, was discussing playing the role of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. And he said, “People often only see one side to someone’s personality, but there are levels.”I was attracted to psychoanalyst and self-psychologist Heinz Kohut’s idea about how the psyche could be conceptualized as consisting of three major elements. Kohut talked about how there was a grandiose self. This was the part of the personality that invests in being admired, esteemed, and valued and cherished by others. And then he had this other part of the personality, which was the internalized representations of others, particularly the parents. These are the idealized attitudes, values, and other aspects in the parents, or at least in the perception of the parents, that the that the person would like to internalize and hold on to. And then there was the self, the core of the person, the “authentic” me. And the self or the core of the person develops through empathetic attunement and mirroring provided by caring others.[00:24:21] And that’s according to Kohut. So I like that. I like that more than what Freud was offering with the ID ego and the superego and the drive theory that undergirded that. But I was still troubled by this lack of identity. There wasn’t a sense of what the subjective identity of the person was like being described in most models of personality. There is also. No mention of spirituality. Not a lot of sort of integration of religious experience. These models of personality were no longer satisfying. They just seemed too thin, too superficial. And I want to emphasize how important it is that we get the natural level issues right. Now on May 3rd, 2022 — this is right after the draft of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, his brief, his draft overturning Roe versus Wade that was leaked. And President Joe Biden said, “Roe says what all basic mainstream religions have historically concluded, that the existence of a human life and being is a question. Is it at the moment of conception? Is it at six months? Is it six weeks? Is it quickening like Aquinas argued?” Many of us have heard different politicians, often Catholic politicians invoke Aquinas to deny the personhood of an unborn baby. And there was an article in Catholic Answers called What did Saint Thomas Aquinas Believe About Ensoulment? And the question is, did Aquinas say a baby had no soul until 40 days for a boy or 80 days for a girl after conception? So abortion is okay before those times?[00:26:51] And the answer, according to Catholic Answers, is “This is only half true. Aquinas did say an unborn baby receives a soul 40 or 80 days after conception, depending on gender. But he also said abortion is a violation of natural law and is always wrong, no matter when a soul may be infused into the developing child’s body. The 40/80 day view was based on the writings of Aristotle, who said that a child becomes human at formation, the point at which it first has a human form. That is when it looks human, he said. This was 40 days for boys and 80 days for girls, and probably this distinction was based on the point at which genitals could be observed on miscarried children. Keep in mind that fetal embryology was a restricted science. All observations could only be made by the naked eye. The microscope belonged in the microscope being in the distant future. Aquinas accepted the idea of formation, which he said occurs when a child receives a soul. But since abortion violates natural law, whether or not the child has a soul. Aquinas thought that abortion was always gravely wrong.”The point I’m trying to make here is that because Thomas Aquinas was relying and understandably so on an outdated, inaccurate Aristotelian model of biology, because he got this and this developmental aspect wrong, it had spiritual consequences.[00:28:19] It has consequences that redound to the present day. And this isn’t justifying any politicians twisting of Aquinas and selecting from Aquinas things that they will use in a very — what would be the word — tricky, devious manner to try to lead Catholics astray on this particular issue. It’s not to justify any of that. It’s not to say that that’s OK. It’s just that we want to get the natural level stuff right.There’s another example in the unconscious. Most people think that Freud really was the one that brought the unconscious into the public sphere in 1915. Freud wrote about the unconscious in a structured essay titled The Unconscious that came out in 1915, but he had been writing about the unconscious for more than a decade before that. Lancelot Law Whyte’s 1960 book, The Unconscious Before Freud provides a history of the unconscious prior to Freud. And Whyte says, “The general conception of unconscious mental processes was conceivable in post-Cartesian Europe around 1700. It was topical around 1800 and fashionable around 1870 to 1880. It cannot be disputed that by 1870 to 1880 the general conception of the unconscious mind was a European commonplace and that many special applications of this general idea had been vigorously discussed for several decades.”Now historians debate the nature of the relationship between the Catholic Church and psychology. The book, Psychology and Catholicism Contested Boundaries by Robert Kugelmann is an excellent introduction to this fascinating field.[00:30:24] I struggled to find anything in the official church documents prior to 1952 that dealt with the unconscious. There were references to the unconscious, but that usually meant just something out of awareness or something that was forgotten or something that was neglected. It wasn’t there wasn’t really a treatment of the unconscious until the 1950s. So according to Whyte, we had the unconscious coming into discussion in 1700 becoming topical around 1800 and fashionable around 1870 to 1880. It wasn’t for another 70 plus years that we in the Catholic Church started to deal significantly with the unconscious.1952. In his address, the moral limits of medical research and treatment was given on September 14th, 1952, by Pope Pius XII to the First International Congress on the Histopathology of the Nervous System, he starts to address the unconscious. I’m not going to get into all of that right now. But in 1953, he gives an address. Pope Pius XII gives an address to the Fifth International Congress on Psychotherapy and Clinical Psychology, and he endorses the concept of the unconscious. It’s the first time or maybe the second time all happening in the early 1950s that the church is now saying, yes, the unconscious exists.Pope Pius XII says “Science affirms that recent observations have brought to light the hidden layers of the psychic structure of man and tries to understand the meaning of these discoveries, to interpret them and to render them capable of use. People speak of dynamisms and determinisms and mechanisms hidden in the depths of the soul, endowed with imminent laws whence are derived certain modes of acting. Undoubtedly, these begin to operate within the subconscious or the unconscious, but they also penetrate into the realms of the conscience and determine it. People claim to have devised methods that have been tried and recognized as adequate to scrutinize the mystery of the depths of the soul, to elucidate them and put them back on the right road when they are exercising a harmful influence.”He goes on to say in 1958 that “Even the dynamisms of the unconscious and of the subconscious are not irresistible. There are still great possibilities for mastering them, particularly for the normal subject.” My point in all of this is to say we don’t want to be behind the times. Sometimes by 20 years or 50 years or 100 years, when it comes to evaluating this natural level phenomena, from a Catholic perspective, we don’t want to be just caught in old, outmoded, outdated understandings of what’s happening in the natural realm. And this happens to this day. I don’t know how many people I have had come to me and their understanding of their psyche is really based on the four temperaments, largely as Hippocrates laid them out in the fourth century BC. Really can’t we have some development beyond that? Can’t we go beyond that? I’ll talk about that more as we come to the end.[00:34:14] So let’s move on to my second concern. About the single homogeneous uniform personality being insufficient. The second one is that understanding personality styles is insufficient to guide us toward health. What do I mean by that? Well, modern conceptualizations of personality styles were based are based originally on personality disorders, the extreme dysfunctional and maladaptive enduring patterns, the far end of the continuum where things get really rigid and really locked down. So the far end of the spectrum is the personality disorder. And the near end of the spectrum is the personality style. And so all of the personality styles have this flavor of being disordered if you listen to the list. Of personality styles. They’re all based on the list of personality disorders. So you have depressive, hypomanic, masochistic, dependent, counter dependent, anxious, avoidant or phobic. The obsessive compulsive. The schizoid, the romanticizing the hysteric or histrionic. The narcissistic, the paranoid, the psychopathic, the sadistic and the borderline. Those are from the Psychodynamic Diagnostic Manual second edition. Those all sound problematic and they all sound problematic because they are problematic. So here’s a thought experiment, right? Which “personality” of those would you like to have? What personality according to this list — what personality style did Jesus have as the perfect man? Depressive, hypomanic, masochistic dependent, counter dependent. Anxious. Avoidant. Obsessive compulsive. Schizoid. Romanticizing. Hysteric. Narcissistic. Paranoid, psychopathic, sadistic. Borderline. None of those fit. None of those fit. What about the Blessed Virgin Mary? There’s a problem when we take the personality style from the end of the continuum, the disorder and try to generalize it.[00:36:49] There’s not a way that that guides us toward health except in a negative way. Like not that we don’t want to be those things. The only discussion of a “healthy personality” inn either of these diagnostic systems, the Psychodynamic Diagnostic Manual-2 or the DSM-5, the only discussion of a healthy personality is on page 20 of the PDM-2, which emphasizes the flexibility that someone with a healthy personality has the capacity to adapt. All right. So we want that flexibility. We want to be able to have a wide array of adaptive responses. But that doesn’t tell us anything about an enduring, consistent pattern of thinking and feeling and relating and so on. So you can think of these personality styles. In the PDM-2 and the DSM-5 as describing a lack of something, something missing in the human person. You might think of it as a part or parts that are being suppressed. I think of personality really as the characteristics of the parts of the person who composed the primary management team of that person. What is seen on the surface, the qualities of the parts that are in charge and handling the day-to-day operations. That’s what I think most people mean by personality. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more going on that’s often being suppressed, that’s not being allowed to be shared.[00:38:30] That’s not being allowed, that’s not allowed to be seen, heard, known or understood by others, not allowed to be experienced in relationship. We have very partial presentations of the fullness of our being. And when we strip away so much of the rest of us, what’s left is what’s often called our personality. We want to get this right. We want to understand this on a natural level. Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor, referred to the Catholic Church as an “expert in humanity” an expert in humanity. And St. Pope John Paul II was quoting Saint Pope Paul VI addressed to the United Nations on October 4th, 1965, when Paul VI, described the Catholic Church’s role as a “expert in humanity.” And Pope Benedict XVI used the exact same phrase to describe the Catholic Church in his January 1st, 2010 message for the celebration of the World Day of Peace. The church is an “expert in humanity.” Well, we need to live up to that. We need to live up to that. We can’t just say it. And if we’re going to be an expert in humanity, then we better be an expert in the human aspects of humanity, not just the spiritual aspects. We need to be an experts in the natural level as well as the spiritual level if we’re going to be in the church.[00:40:06] Because frankly, I think lots and lots and lots of people are leaving the Church because of human formation issues, natural issues, things that the Church has not clearly identified, things that the Church is behind the times on. Like it was with the unconscious getting around to that in 1952 after it had been around for 100 years, discussed widely topical according to Whyte. People leave the Church, in my opinion, when they feel like their attachment needs are not getting met and their integrity needs are not getting met. They don’t believe that the church has answers to their immediate problems, to their deep issues, many of which are going on in the natural realm. The Church doesn’t provide a felt sense of safety and protection for them. They don’t feel seen, heard, known and understood. They don’t feel comforted, soothed and reassured. They don’t feel cherished, treasured and delighted in. They don’t feel cherished, treasured and delighted in. They don’t feel like the church has their best interests at heart and they don’t feel like the church helps them with their need to exist and survive. The need to matter. The need to have agency. The need to be good. The need for mission and purpose in life. Some leave the church definitively with a clean, clear break. Others leave the church passively drifting away. We need to be able to see, hear and understand others with compassion and reassurance. I often think about what are the psychological works of mercy.[00:41:46] And we have the corporal works of mercy, which have to do with the body. And we have the spiritual works of mercy that have to do with the soul. What about the psychological works of mercy that have to do with all this other human formation stuff in the natural realm? More than three decades ago. On March 25th, 1992, Pope Saint John Paul II released an apostolic exhortation titled Pastores Dabo Vobis. Translated, “I Will give You Shepherds,” which was the seminal document that provided guidance for the formation of seminarians and priests, and Pastor Dabo Vobis identified four major areas of priestly formation. Number one, human formation, number two, spiritual formation, number three, intellectual formation, and number four, pastoral formation.Now, note the order of those four pillars of formation. Human formation is listed first. Why did Pope John Paul the second do that? Why did he put human formation first? Because according to Pope Saint John Paul II, quote, human formation is the basis. Of all priestly formation. That’s from Pastores Dabo Vobis. Paragraph 43. He quotes the 12th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, emphasizing that “The whole work of priestly formation would be deprived of its necessary foundation if it lacked a suitable human formation.” Human formation is the necessary foundation for spiritual formation. That’s what Pope Saint John Paul II is telling us. This human formation stuff is critically, critically important for our spiritual lives. Also for our intellectual formation, also for our pastoral formation, then this isn’t just for priests.[00:43:41] This particular document, Pastores Dabo Vobis, had to do with the formation of priests, but the human formation being the foundation for the rest of the formation is true for lay people and for religious as well. It’s really important that we get this right. I want us in the Catholic Church to live up to being experts in humanity.Well, let’s move on to the third concern I have, and that is personality labels are often used to judge and condemn others. Now, I think it’s really important that we be able to put concepts into words, to be able to describe the psyches of people and that we don’t always have to be nice about it. We don’t always have to like create safe spaces and make sure that we never say anything that’s critical of anybody. But. And Nancy McWilliams in her book Psychoanalytic Diagnosis, which I mentioned before, describes five interrelated advantages of using diagnostic labels, including labels for personality styles. And one is it’s useful for treatment planning. Two, its prognostic implications. Number three, there’s a contribution to protecting consumers of mental health services, for it enables the therapist to convey empathy and five the role in reducing the likelihood of treatment flight. And I would I would argue also that diagnostic labels and classifications can help clinicians to discuss clients’ internal experiences in a shorthand form. There’s a language that goes with it that allows mental health professionals to communicate with each other and so on.[00:45:22] So. There can be some benefit in using such labels to understand some of the negative dynamics within one’s spouse, especially if it’s early in the journey of understanding problematic marital dynamics. But what I find is that often such labels are used to denigrate, judge, and condemn one’s spouse. This is just an example to justify failing to love the spouse even from afar. Like the diagnostic label can become a club to beat another person with. And to her credit, Nancy McWilliams recognizes the different ways in which diagnostic labels, including personality styles, can be used pejoratively. She quotes Paul Wachtel as saying that diagnosis as saying that diagnoses are quotes are “insults with a fancy pedigree.” And every week I get emails or phone calls from a distressed wife or husband summing up his or her spouse as narcissistic or borderline or paranoid or some other, you know, some other 1 or 2 word diagnostic statement in a very reductionistic way. And I discussed this kind of lack of empathy in episode 65 of Interior Integration for Catholics titled “Why Catholic Spouses Find It Hard to Empathize with Each Other, Especially about Sex with Solutions.” And also in episode 66 of this podcast, “Acceptance versus Endorsement, a Critical Difference in Catholic Marriages.” So that’s the the third concern.The fourth one is that personality styles are unable to describe one’s identity and in particular, one’s relationship with oneself. Our Lord commanded us to love your neighbor as yourself. That’s the second great commandment. Luke 10:27. And it implies that we are to love ourselves, which means that we are to have a relationship with ourselves. But noticeably lacking in the definitions of personality that I gave you before is a discussion of the person’s felt sense of identity, the deep assumptions about one’s own being and how do we relate with ourselves? How do we connect with ourselves? How do we love ourselves? How can you have a relationship with yourself if you understand yourself as a single, homogeneous, monolithic personality? How can you do that? It’s impossible. There’s no potential for internal relatedness within yourself if you just have a single homogeneous personality.And actually, when I looked into this in depth, there’s very little Catholic commentary that specifically addresses what it means for us to love ourselves in an ordered way. There just seems to be an assumption that we simply do love ourselves. It’s just assumed that we love ourselves. But from my more than 20 years as a psychologist, I can say that it would be highly erroneous to assume to assume that most people just love themselves naturally. Not in an ordered way anyway. Over the years, I’ve known many people, many, many people who in various ways have failed to love themselves. In fact, I think most people, including most Catholics, fail in many ways to love themselves, appropriately, properly, in an ordered way.[00:48:44] In many ways, I fail to love myself. So let’s do another little thought experiment. I’m going to invite you. I’m going to ask you this question. If you loved yourself. Well, if you loved yourself perfectly, would you sin? If you had really good ordered self-love, would you sin? No, you wouldn’t. Sinning is the worst possible thing you can do to yourself. That’s because sin separates you from God and from others, harming or even destroying relationships. But we do sin. The just man sins seven times a day according to scripture. So. How do we explain the experience of multiplicity within ourselves if we just have this single homogeneous personality? Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in his Confessions, which he wrote in the late 18th century, he wrote, “There are times when I am so unlike myself that I might be taken for some one else of an entirely opposite character.” He’s describing that multiplicity. He’s describing that multiplicity. And let’s take this forward a couple hundred years to Bob Dylan, who in 2007, in his book Dylan on Dylan The Essential Interviews, he said, “I changed during the course of the day. I wake and I’m one person. And when I go to sleep, I know for certain I’m somebody else.” How do we account for that with our concepts of personality? Unless we’re just going to go around and call everybody borderline personality disorder, which would then somehow account for the instability of personality by negating the definition of personality.[00:50:50] So I’ve got real concerns about this way of understanding oneself because of the importance. Of us. Needing to love ourselves. That’s part of the second great commandment. This is not some sort of minor, you know, disposable, culturally conditioned, no longer applicable dietary restriction in the book of Deuteronomy or Numbers or something like that. This is like central – the second great commandment, the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments – it’s a big deal.And that leads me to my last my last concern about the single homogeneous model of personality. And that is that the single homogeneous model of personality can hold us back in our personal relationship with God and Mary. Here. It’s so much easier to bring in this idea that we have parts and I discuss an alternative model to the single homogeneous model of personality in episode 71 of this podcast. A new and better way of understanding myself and others. I lay it out. I talk about internal family systems. I think it’s so much more helpful if I’m feeling anger at God. To not attribute that to a single homogeneous personality where it would have to be all of me that’s angry at God. But to understand that that could be just a part of me. Not all of me. Many other parts not feeling the same way toward God.Can you see how that makes it easier to approach God? Or if I’m in a conflict with my wife, Pam, you know, and I’ve got a deep sense of disappointment, for example, but I can locate that in just a part of me rather than having to say that that’s all of me that has that experience of disappointment. Or frustration or whatever. It’s a much more nuanced and I would argue, phenomenologically accurate way of understanding ourselves. That can help our relationships. That can help us to love. Our neighbor that can help us to love God, to carry out those two great commandments, which is what this podcast is all about. It’s about forming those deep, personal, intimate relationships. We are called to love. We are called to be loved and we are called to love. And we’re called to love with our whole hearts. What does that mean? If you have a single homogenous personality. How do you understand that? Why would he have to tell us our whole heart? Well, I think that these parts models I think that these parts models help to explain what our internal experience is in a way that facilitates love. I want to light a candle rather than just curse the darkness, right? These parts, these separate independently operating personalities within us, each with its own unique, prominent needs and roles in our lives emotions, body sensations, guiding beliefs and assumptions, typical thoughts, intentions and desires, attitudes. Impulses. Interpersonal style. Their own worldviews, their own coping styles and defenses. Each part has an image of God we can call these modes of operating, if that’s helpful.[00:54:46] Alain de Botton said, “The largest part of what we call personality is determined by how we’ve opted to defend ourselves against anxiety and sadness.” I would say parts of us that carry the anxiety and sadness, the burdens of anxiety and sadness are being defended against by the parts that are trying to keep us safe from that, that are trying to keep us from being flooded. Now, all the effort that I spent in those two decades to understand, “personality” has not been wasted. I really believe that parts have personalities, depending on how you use the word, how you define things, but that parts have enduring. Patterns of behavior, that parts have persistent ways of interacting if parts are not in right relationship with the self. They tend to get rigid in the way that they operate. And it’s the switching of the parts that explains, quote, borderline personality disorder. It’s when different parts have blended and taken over your system, like the little figures in Inside Out, the Pixar film. It’s when different parts in succession take over, that you get that instability, that you get that unpredictability that characterizes “borderline personality disorder.” You can understand that far better from a parts perspective than you can from a conventional model of personality. There have been many new models of understanding the internal experience of people, especially trauma survivors, that have moved away from the traditional understandings of a single personality.[00:56:42] These include Developmental Needs Meeting Strategies, Ego State Therapy, the Structural Theory of Dissociation, Somatic Experiencing, Schema Therapy, parts psychology and certain forms of EMDR, especially Sandra Paulsen’s work and of course, my favorite Internal Family Systems. All of these models conceptualize us as having parts or sub-personalities or modes of operating, emphasizing that there is both a multiplicity within us and a unity within us both a multiplicity within you and a unity within you. You are one person, but with several or many parts. Just like an orchestra is one entity that is composed of many musicians, plus a conductor. And as I mentioned before, when most people describe a distinct, stable, homogeneous single personality, I wonder if they’re really describing just their most prominent parts. The management team of parts that handles the demands of day-to-day life.And let’s look at the examples from the Saints. Do they really reveal a tidy and and homogeneous personality? Saint Paul puzzled about his internal experience in Romans 7:15-19 when he writes, I do not understand my own actions for what I do, for I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now, if I do what I don’t know, if I do what I do not want, I agree. The law is good. So then it is no longer I that do it. But sin which dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me that is in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want. But the evil I do not want is what I do.You can see the conflict there. Right. And he is creating a model of personality, if you will, that includes the flesh. He is creating that multiplicity in his description. He is describing a multiplicity within himself. We can frame that in terms of parts. And one of the things that Internal Family Systems is that parts are always seeking a perceived good. That’s an assumption and that’s an assumption that correlates with what Saint Thomas Aquinas says, that we are seeking a perceived good even when we sin. Saint Teresa of Avila in the Way of Perfection in chapter 19 said, “There are some souls and minds so scattered that they are like wild horses. No one can stop now. They’re running here now. They’re always restless. And if the rider is skillful, there is not always a danger, just sometimes. But even though this life is in no danger, he is not free from some dishonor in mounting the wild horse. And there is always some hardship. This restlessness is either caused by the soul’s nature or permitted by God.” She is talking about the intensity inside.Other examples, kind of staying with the horse theme – Martin Luther King Jr and his work Loving Your Enemies from November of 1957 said, “Personality is like a charioteer with two headstrong horses, each wanting to go in different directions.” You can see that multiplicity. And Maggie Stiefvater in her book The Raven Boys said, “Gansey had always felt as if there were two of him, the Gansey who was in control, able to handle any situation, able to talk to anyone. [That’s the manager part, I would say.] And then the other more fragile Gansey, strung out and unsure, embarrassingly, embarrassingly earnest and driven by naive longing.”Again, our lived experience, our phenomenology, we sense this multiplicity inside. It comes up over and over and over again in literature, in art. And I want to go back to Pope Pius XII in 1958. His address to the 13th Congress of the International Association of Applied Psychology, where he says, “We define personality as ‘the psychosomatic unity of man insofar as it is determined and governed by the soul.’ This definition refers, first of all, to the personality as a unity, because it is considered as a whole of which the parts, though preserving their specific characteristics are not separated but are organically linked between themselves. That is why psychology can take equally into consideration the psychic faculties and their functions separately from the point of view of their individual structure and their imminent laws, as well as from the point of view of their organic whole.”So Pope Pius XII is actually using some parts language here. He’s emphasizing the unity in personality. But also, he is implying this multiplicity, these different faculties and depending on how you conceptualize the psyche. Depending on how you work in those faculties. And we’re doing some work on that right now in the Interior Therapist Community to try to flesh out what does this look like metaphysically? What does this look like philosophically? Depending on how you do that, you can have great consistency here with what Pope Pius XII is offering us.I’m super excited about this and I’m just going to invite you to think about parts working together in collaborative and cooperative ways. And now I’m going to invite you into a thought experiment. I’m going to invite you just for a little while to imagine all of your parts working together in collaborative and cooperative ways, coming together in an internal unity, in a recollection, in an integrated way, working together in collaborative and cooperative ways under the leadership and guidance of your innermost self. What would that be like? How would that be different than what you experience now? Let’s talk about some advantages of parts work. More specifically, I really believe that parts work helps us to understand what we do and why we do it. It helps so much. There’s so many advantages of understanding ourselves in terms of a parts and an innermost self and a system.[01:03:48] This internal system of parts in relationship with each other and the innermost self, parts relating with other people, their parts, their parts, our parts interacting in various ways, polarizing, aligning makes so much more sense than trying to understand relationships with other people as being between two conventional, homogeneous single personalities. These conceptualizations from Internal Family Systems and these other ways of understanding ourselves as both a unity and a multiplicity helps us to understand what’s going on in the unconscious. The parts of us that are not allowed to be seen, heard, known, and understood by our managers. Parts work helps us to understand all of the activity inside the conflict. Sometimes the chaos, the disagreement, the polarizations.And there’s this great quote from LM Montgomery in Anne of Green Gables, where she has Anne say, “There’s such a lot of different Anne’s in me. I sometimes think that is why I’m such a troublesome person. If I was just the one, Anne, it would be ever so much more comfortable. But then it wouldn’t be half so interesting.” Just love that quote from Anne of Green Gables. Parts work. Systems thinking unity in the multiplicity helps us to understand our internal conflicts. Polarizations among parts and Terry Pratchett – in his 1991 fantasy novel, Reaper Man, said, “Where there is personality, there is discord.” I thought that was an interesting quote, recognizing that even if he were referring to it as a single homogeneous personality, there’s still discord, There’s still conflict.[01:05:53] Only part of me is experiencing a illicit sexual desire. Makes it so much easier than to believe that all of me is experiencing that illicit sexual desire. Only part of me is angry at God. Not all of me is angry at God. Makes it so much easier to tolerate. The kinds of things that we are going to have to deal with sooner or later, the kinds of things that are disordered within us. I think that purgatory is not only a place of atonement for sin. This is speculative Malinoski theology here. Speculative Malinoski eschatology. I think purgatory is a place where we are going to have to resolve anything that’s disordered within us, even in the natural realm. Because nothing imperfect enters into heaven. We can’t have those disordered desires and impulses and all of that. And we can’t bring that into into, into, into heaven. We can’t bear to have that and see God face-to-face. So, part of the reason why I want to work on this stuff now is to save us from having to do it later.Pope Pius XII in 1958, had some reservations about addressing what was in the unconscious, and partly that was because of what the state of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis really was at that time. There was a lot of emphasis on getting it all out and these intense cathartic reactions and a lot of flooding. We don’t do it that way anymore. I totally understand what Pope Pius XII was reacting to when he had his concerns about addressing what was going on in the unconscious, given the state of the science in 1958. We have much better ways of working with our parts instead of working with the intensity of their affect, of their emotion, of their desires. We can work with the part. It’s not just some sort of a random epiphenomenon of consciousness or unconsciousness that we’re dealing with. These are parts. Parts with personalities.I think eventually the concept of the single personality will wind up in the dustbin of history. I really do. I think it’s going to go the way of the buggy whip just because it’s not useful anymore, because we have better ways of understanding internal experience. Can we discover? Are we willing to have the courage? Are we willing to accept the graces? Are we willing to engage and to, by God’s grace, learn more about ourselves. Can we bring our soul and our heart into the deep, personal, intimate relationship with God in the three persons of the Trinity, with Jesus, with the Holy Spirit, with God, our Father, and with Mary, our mother, our spiritual parents, our primary parents. Can we embrace that identity? That we’ve been gifted. Can we embrace that identity across all of us? Across every fiber of our being? I find that allowing that concept of the single homogenous personality to just let that go and to understand that we do have a unity.[01:09:47] But we also have a multiplicity that that helps to create the natural human formation foundation for us to be able to love God with our whole being. Can we overcome fear? With trust in God. Can we overcome fear with love? 1 John 4:18 – “There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear.” Can we be on the vanguard? Can we be the tip of the spear? Can you come with me in this? Because the more Catholics get this, the more Catholics that focus on their human formation in a very deliberate way that are doing this work, that are grappling with these concepts, the better it’s going to be for our church, the better it’s going to be for all of us that are on this pilgrimage toward heaven. Or do we have to stay with? An understanding of our internal experience based on the temperaments from Hippocrates from 2400 years ago. Vatican II. The document Gaudium et Spes says, “In pastoral care, sufficient use must be made not only of theological principles, but also of the findings of the secular sciences, especially of psychology and sociology, so that the faithful may be brought to a more adequate and mature life of faith.” That’s what I want for you A more adequate and mature life of faith. I want I would actually frame it differently than that.[01:11:35] I want you to have a deep, personal, intimate relationship with God, our Father and with Mary, our mother, with the Holy Spirit. With Jesus. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops or the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican to be experts in this area. Though so much of this is informed by the secular sciences, I don’t want to have to reinvent the wheel. I’m going to grab that stuff. It’s not the calling of the bishops to become expert psychologists. I just don’t think we’re going to find effective treatments for bulimia by just consulting the writings of the Early Church Fathers or in Saint Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica. I think that’s unreasonable. Think we need to really be focusing. On what pope John Paul II said in Pastores Dabo Vobis about human formation being the basis of all other formation.From the Catechism, paragraph 159. “Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason, since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind. God cannot deny Himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth. Consequently, methodological research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws can never conflict with the faith because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of Himself. For it is God, the conserver, of all things, who made them what they are.”Can we trust that? Can we trust? That if we step out of the old conventional models, the old conventional psychology of personality, if we step outside of that, that God will correct us if we get led astray? Can we trust in that? Saint Augustine in De Doctrina Christiana Book II, Chapter 40, he said. “Moreover, if those who are called philosophers, and especially the Platonists have said anything that is true and in harmony with our faith, we are not only not to shrink from it, but to claim it for our own use. All branches of heathen learning have not only false and superstitious fancies and heavy burdens of unnecessary toil, which we ought to abhor and avoid, but they contain also liberal instruction, which is better adapted to the use of truth and some most excellent precepts of morality and some truths in regard even to the worship of the one God are found among them. Now these are, so to speak, their gold and silver, which they did not create themselves.” You can learn so much more about internal family systems, you can learn more about parts and Episode 71 of this podcast titled A New and Better Way of Understanding Myself and Others.[01:14:43] And also, if you’re interested in more of the sort of theological aspects of this, go to episode 73, which is titled Is Internal Family Systems really Catholic? At Souls and Hearts, we are on the leading edge of this human formation stuff. The leading edge. We cannot do it by ourselves, though. We are supported by you. Because you pray for us. We pray for you. You pray for us. This whole endeavor is fueled by prayer. I’m going to invite you to check out our resources page, which is at Souls and Stands for Table of Contents. Put it in lowercase because our website’s a little finicky about uppercase and lowercase. Put it in. Put it in there to see alphabetical listing of everything that we have. Almost everything we have in alphabetical order.Now I made a mistake and put out some communications. The resilient Catholics community was supposed to close on June 30th for this next cohort, but I made a mistake and put something out there that had a different date in there. So we are going to continue to take some more applications to the RCC for the Saint Edward, the Confessor cohort for the next few days just to allow folks that read that to not feel like they’re being shut out. We have had about 95 people that have already applied. We cannot take more than 108. So we have a little bit of room left.[01:16:23] If you’re interested in that, go to our landing page. Resilient Catholics Community. You can Google that or you can go to A lot of information about that. This is the primary place where I give. The pioneers, really the pioneers in this area where we come together. And I provide a lot of experiential exercises, a lot more material. I can go in far greater depth than I can in a podcast if these human formation concepts, if parts work, the systems thinking, multiplicity, unity, all of that makes sense to you if you resonate with experiential exercises that we’ve done in previous episodes, check out the RCC. Check it out. Just take a look. It’s about a two-and-a-half-month discernment process. So if you apply, there’s lots of time to sort through. Whether the RCC is a good fit for you, we take that really seriously. If you’re a therapist, you might consider also the interior therapist community that is all about the human formation of the Catholic therapists, We will be forming new Foundations Experiential Groups in September. Get on the waiting list. Go to Get yourself on the interest list. Send us that little form so we know to look out for you.Conversation hours with me every Tuesday and Thursday, 4:30 PM Eastern time to 5:30 PM Eastern Time. (317) 567-9594. Don’t hesitate to give me a call. Let me know what you’re what you’re reacting to, what your thoughts are about this podcast or about the weekly Reflections, but make sure you’re getting those too. We just have been experiencing how we can understand. Parts in the luminous mysteries. In the gospel accounts that cover those events that’s been provided by Souls and Hearts CEO and co-founder Dr. Gerry Crete. It’s an excellent series. And over the next few months, we’re going to be going into the individual personality disorders and personality styles. I’m going to be talking about all of these personality disorders and personality styles, what they mean, how we can understand them, and then how we can understand them from a parts perspective, from an Internal Family Systems perspective. That’s going to take us several months to get through these because there’s so much a part of our lexicon, there’s so much a part of our language. The default to the single homogeneous model of personality, this conventional model of personality. And I’m going to provide you with the intellectual foundation to be able to break out of that if you choose to. All right. So with that, we’re going to wrap it for today. Really appreciate you spending the time listening to this. Thank you for being here. Thank you for being on the pilgrimage in this podcast with us. And with that, we’ll invoke our patroness and our patron, Our Lady, our mother. Untier of knots. Pray for us. Saint John the Baptist. Pray for us.

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