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IIC 120: Understanding Narcissism More Deeply with IFS


In this groundbreaking episode, Dr. Peter explains how to conceptualize narcissistic “personalities” and narcissistic reactions through the lens of Internal Family Systems. Looking at narcissism through the lens of subsystems and parts is an entirely new paradigm that makes it easier to accept the reality the unmet attachment and integrity needs that fuel narcissistic positions and behaviors. Through four case vignettes, Dr. Peter illustrates how both covert and overt narcissism look and function from a parts and systems perspective.


Narcissism. Narcissism is so prominent in our culture today, and so prominent inside of us, in our own systems. And I want you to have the very best information about narcissism–the kind of information that will help you with your human formation and the kind of information that will help you help others as well. Today I’m offering you the very best I have about narcissism. We are diving deep into a new and better way to understand narcissism, and I am glad that you are here with me and that we can take this journey together.
[00:00:52] Welcome to the Interior Integration for Catholics podcast. I am Dr. Peter Malinoski, clinical psychologist, trauma therapist, podcaster, blogger, co-founder, and president of Souls and Hearts. And I am your host and guide in this podcast. It is both an honor and a pleasure to spend time with you. I am here to help you understand, to help you embrace the height and depth and breadth and warmth and the light of the love of God, especially 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 son or daughter of Mary. That is what this podcast, Interior Integration for Catholics is all about. And we do that in this podcast and in Souls and Hearts by shoring up that natural foundation for the spiritual life. We know from Saint Thomas Aquinas that grace perfects nature and we are all about offering you the very best resources on human formation.I am so glad that you are here with me on this mission to much more deeply understand narcissism from a fresh perspective. This is episode 120–“Understanding Narcissism More Deeply with IFS”–that’s Internal Family Systems, and it’s released on Labor Day, September 4th, 2023.[00:02:35] So let’s just do a little review. Over the last few episodes, we have been looking at narcissism and this sub-series on narcissism is part of our broader series on personality disorders and understanding kind of how to approach personality from a more nuanced and a more informative perspective. We started out with episode 116, introducing this concept of personality. In 117 we got into why a single personality isn’t enough. We introduced how we can begin to understand different personality disorders and different personality styles from a perspective that’s informed by Internal Family Systems and other parts-based and systems-based approaches.We are going to be doing some spiral learning here. We’re going to come back over and over again to certain concepts because there’s a lot to take in. The first time you listen to this podcast, you’re not going to be able to grip on to everything that I’m offering you. So it’s okay if you don’t understand everything. You can listen to the podcast again, and I will also try to get a transcript up on our website at so that you can read it if that’s helpful to you too.[00:04:04] Now, this episode will stand on its own because we will review the important concepts. But this episode is also part of this broader series on narcissism, so if you’re just joining us for the first time ever on this podcast, just know that there are some previous episodes that would also be good to listen to if you want to understand this concept more deeply.Richard Schwartz is the founder, the discoverer, if you will, of Internal Family Systems approaches. A brilliant person. I really think that Freud was the great psychological mind of the 20th century, and I think Richard Schwartz is the great psychological mind of the 21st century. A lot of parallels here between Freud and Schwartz. Freud popularized the unconscious, while Schwartz popularized the idea of us having both parts and systems–systems theory taken inside. Schwartz writes that, “We can enter the unconscious and interact with it directly, asking questions about the desires, distortions, and agendas of the inner system. In response, our parts will answer clearly, take the client directly to crucial scenes from the past, and explain what is most important about their experience, removing the need for us to speculate, reframe, interpret or instruct. It’s a radically different way of understanding how we can work with ourselves and how we can work with other people.So the critical thing about Internal Family Systems is that it’s a synthesis of two paradigms. First, the plural mind and second, systems thinking. Let’s take a look at these. What Schwartz means by the plural mind is that we all contain many different parts within us. He argues that we have this mind in conversation with itself–and so therefore it’s not unitary; it’s a relational mind. We have these internal dilemmas, so there are different parts of us, if you will, and we’ll understand that more deeply in a minute. The second thing is that there is systems thinking. Remember, Richard Schwartz was a family therapist. He was trained in family systems. And he brought that systems thinking inside, which was a tremendous advance, I think, for therapy, again, on par with Freud’s popularization of the unconscious.[00:06:34] So let’s talk a little bit about parts. If you want to learn more about Internal Family Systems, episode 71 of this podcast, which is titled “A New and Better Way of Understanding Myself and Others,” contains more detail on this. Check that out if you’d like. But Schwartz essentially defines parts as separate, independently operating personalities within us, each with its own prominent needs, roles in our lives, emotions, body sensations, guiding beliefs and assumptions, typical thoughts, intentions, desires, attitudes, impulses, interpersonal styles and worldview. Each part also has an image of God. This is a summary–this isn’t a direct quote; this is my understanding of how he looks at parts. Robert Falconer calls these parts “insiders,” and parts have different ways of connecting. They have different attachment styles, they have different ways of relating, and they have different roles within a person’s system.There are three major roles: exiles, managers, and firefighters. Now, some of you that have been following this for a long time, this will be a pretty familiar review. For others, it may be relatively new.

  1. Exiles. These are the most sensitive parts of us. These are the parts of us that have been exploited, rejected, and abandoned in external relationships. These are the parts that carry the burdens from relational traumas or attachment injuries. These are the parts that hold our painful experiences, the experiences that have not been integrated into our narratives of life. These are the experiences that have been isolated from conscious awareness to protect us from being overwhelmed with the intensity of the emotion. Exiles desperately want to be seen and known. They want to be heard. They want to be loved. They want to be safe and secure. They want to be comforted and soothed. They want to be cared for. They want rescue. They want healing. They want redemption. And in the intensity of their needs and emotions, they threaten to take over the system. They threaten to get in the driver’s seat and drive our bus, and that would destabilize our whole being, and that would also potentially harm not only our internal relationships among parts, but our external relationships. And so they carry these burdens of shame, dependency, worthlessness, fear, terror, grief, loss, loneliness, neediness, pain, a lack of meaning or purpose in life, a sense of being unloved and unlovable, a sense of being inadequate, abandoned–all kinds of really powerful emotions, all kinds of really powerful desires and needs. Those are the exiles.
  2. The managers are our proactive protector parts. They work strategically. They have forethought. They are planning to keep us in control of situations, to keep us in control of relationships, and their whole purpose is to minimize the probability of you getting hurt. They work really hard to try to keep you safe. They control, they strive, they plan, they judge. They engage in caretaking behaviors. They can be pessimistic. They can be self-critical. They can be very demanding. But their whole agenda is to proactively keep your exiles from taking over your system and flooding you with the intensity of those burdens. You can think of them like prison guards, if you will, keeping the exiles in their jail cells.
  3. Firefighters. That’s the third role that parts can be in. These get activated when exiles break out of those jail cells, when they threaten to take over the system like in ‘Inside Out.’ Do you remember when those parts, like anger, would take over the control panel? When those exiles are about to break out, the firefighters leap into action because it’s an emergency situation. They take bold, drastic actions to try to stifle, numb, or distract from the intensity of the exiles experiences. So that neediness, that pain, that desperation–they’re trying to distract us. By this time, the managers proactive efforts to contain the exiles have failed. The exiles have broken out of their prison cells, and so now the firefighters are distracting us. They’re numbing us. They’re shielding us from the exiles as those exiles are trying to take over our system. Firefighters can get involved with all sorts of problematic addictions–alcohol use, binge eating, shopping, sleeping, dieting, excessive working or exercise, even suicidal actions, self-harm, violence, dissociation distractions, obsessions, compulsions, escapes into fantasy. There’s all kinds of things that firefighter parts will do to distract us, to numb us, to keep us from being overwhelmed by the exiles once those exiles have broken out.

[00:11:54] The thing to remember about parts is that they have good intentions. They are at least seeking a perceived good for us. They’re trying to help. They’re generating impulses–those different parts are trying to influence our will. Some of those parts are trying to meet the five primary conditions for secure attachment from Brown and Elliot, their 2016 book, Attachment Disturbances in Adults. I look at these as the five primary attachment needs, which are:

  1. A felt sense of safety and protection
  2. Feeling seen, heard, known, and understood.
  3. Feeling comforted, soothed, and reassured.
  4. Feeling cherished, treasured and delighted in.
  5. And feeling that the other person has your best interests at heart.

Those are the five attachment needs. I talk about these a lot. And there are also the five integrity needs:

  1. The need to exist and survive.
  2. The need to matter.
  3. The need to have agency.
  4. The need to be good ontologically good.
  5. The need for mission and purpose in life.

Those are the five integrity needs.[00:12:58] The five attachment needs are more about relationship–the need for connection inside and outside. The five integrity needs are more about integrity. They’re more about the self. They’re more about preserving the dignity of the human person. Different parts are focused on getting different needs met–this is a very important point. Different parts are focused on getting different needs met, and parts have very limited vision–they don’t see the whole picture. And parts also have very young vision. They lack maturity.To illustrate how parts can work at cross-purposes to each other, I use the example of an ocean liner that’s sinking and two people in a lifeboat. One person is busy loading up that lifeboat with supplies–food and water, lots of it, filling up that lifeboat with food and water. The other person is busy throwing all of those supplies overboard–throwing overboard the water, throwing overboard the food. They have the same goal: they both want to exist, they both want to survive. But they’ve had different experiences. The first one has had the experience of being in an open lifeboat for days on end without any water or food. That one’s really focused on not dying of thirst or not suffering with so much hunger. The other person on the lifeboat has had the experience of a lifeboat being too overloaded, capsizing, and then having to deal with the sharks. So they both have the same good intention of survival, maximizing the likelihood of survival, but they are attached to different means.[00:14:48] Now, when Schwartz talks about these parts, he really does believe that these parts are like separate little people inside. He refers to them as complete inner personalities. And I understand that because from a phenomenological perspective, it can certainly feel that way sometimes. But these parts cannot exist independently of the self. Schwartz would say that each part has its own self, and he equates the self with the soul. So he would start arguing that each part has its own soul. He would argue, I think, that each part would have its own intellect and will. He argues that each part has its own body, which is kind of odd. But so you can see, he’s got this very sort of compartmentalized understanding about how these parts are their own separate entities within.I would say, along with our Souls and Hearts philosopher in residence, Monty De La Torre, that parts have accidental form but not substantial form. And if you want to get into the metaphysics of this a lot more, you can go to Monty De La Torre’s April 26, 2023 Weekly Reflection titled “On the Metaphysics of the Human Person.” And you can find that in our archive of weekly reflections at make these important modifications to IFS to allow us to draw the good from it so that it aligns with what we know to be true by divine revelation in the Catholic Church. That’s what we do in this podcast. That’s what we do in Souls and Hearts. That’s what we do in the Resilient Catholics Community. That’s what we do in the Interior Therapist Community and so forth.[00:16:30] So a brief review of the innermost self. The self, according to Richard Schwartz, is the core of the person–the center of the person. This is who we sense ourselves to be in our finest moments, when our self is free, when the self is unblended from any of our parts, when the self governs our whole being. When we are doing really well, our innermost self is governing our whole being as an active, compassionate leader. So we want to be recollected. We want to have our innermost self governing our parts like the conductor of an orchestra leading all of the musicians. And when we are in self, when we’re recollected, we have those eight Cs–calm, curiosity, compassion, confidence, courage, clarity, connectedness, and creativity, that’s the first sign that someone is recollected in the natural realm.The second sign is that there’s not an agenda. We’re not attached to some particular means, like those two persons in the lifeboat, one stuffing all kinds of supplies onto the boat, the other throwing them overboard–they’re very attached to the means. The innermost self has these overarching goals of being able to love primarily, but it’s not particularly attached to any given means.And then the third is that there’s often these experiences inside that help us to know where in self. Some people describe it as a sense of expansiveness or warmth or light inside. There are body sensations that correspond when a person is more recollected, more in self.[00:18:07] But the self can be blended. Richard Schwartz and Martha Sweezy described this as “the act in which a part takes over a person’s seat of consciousness or self.” Jay Earley in an October 17th, 2018 blog post said, “A part is blended with you and has taken over your seat of consciousness when any of the following is true.” And then he describes how the self could be flooded with the parts’ emotions, the self could be caught up in the beliefs of the part, or the self is dominated by the perspective and world view of the part. So that’s what blending is.I just want to take a minute and talk about systems too–systems thinking, systems approaches. Remember that Richard Schwartz has characterized Internal Family Systems as systems theory taken inside. So a brief definition of a system: a system is a group of interacting, interdependent parts that form a complex whole. Every system has causal boundaries. It’s influenced by its context, it’s defined by its structure, function, and role, and it’s expressed through its relations with other systems. This isn’t from Richard Schwartz so much as it is from Dan Siegel. An orchestra, for example, is a system. A system is one, but it’s also many, right? An orchestra is one, but it’s also many. It’s one orchestra, but it’s many, many musicians plus a conductor. A sailing ship with its crew is a system, right? There’s the ship, there’s the captain, there are the officers, there’s the sailors.And then within systems are also subsystems. These are like mini systems that are part of the greater system. And in Internal Family Systems, I usually think of an internal subsystem as consisting of at least three parts–there could be more. For example, an orchestra subsystem might be the brass section. Or it could be all the percussionists, all together. On a sailing ship, there could be a whole subsystem organized around the cooking and the food. The cook and the cook’s mate and his helpers and the kitchen crew, etc. So subsystems are these smaller systems nested within the broader internal system within a person.[00:20:37] Now, let’s start by discussing the benefits of looking at narcissism through an informed lens. So we’ve got these parts, we’ve got the innermost self, we’re bringing in the systems thinking. Why should we do that? Well, I think that it makes understanding our own experience so much easier. It helps us so much to make sense of what’s going on inside of ourselves. That’s the first thing.Second thing is that we are better able to love ourselves when we can think of ourselves in terms of parts and systems. We have this commandment from Our Lord to love your neighbor as yourself. This means that we are supposed to love ourselves. How do we do that? When we think about ourselves in terms of parts, in terms of systems, it becomes much clearer how we can do that. It also helps us to love others, because whatever we reject in ourselves, we are going to reject in another person. So if I’ve rejected some kind of part within me, I am going to also reject a similar part a counterpart in someone else.Narcissism has often been characterized as incurable. There’s a PsychCentral article by Hope Gillette where she writes, “Narcissistic personality disorder can be treated, but no cure exists for this lifelong condition.” Dun dun! Sounds very ominous. Well, it’s also nonsense. It’s nonsense. You need to get to the root of what’s going on.[00:22:25] When I just had training in cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT, narcissism was very difficult for me to treat. This is back in the mid 90s. I didn’t get to the emotion. I didn’t get to the roots of what was going on with CBT. I could only function in the intellectual realm with words and concepts. I was just in the head of my clients. We weren’t getting where we needed to go.Later, when I was trained in psychodynamic psychotherapy, treating narcissism became much easier because, unlike CBT, psychodynamic approaches to psychotherapy have much more complete models of the human person. They bring in the unconscious. They bring in concepts like inner conflicts and ego states and the structure of personality. So it became much easier.And then I learned IFS and that is so much more effective for me in treating and working with people that have these dynamics. Why? Because there are so many advantages to considering the person through the lens of parts and systems. It makes understanding what we do and why we do it much easier when we connect with the parts when we live in a much more integrated way on the natural level. It makes it so much easier to overcome these things. Internal Family Systems helps us to understand what is going on in the unconscious parts that exist, but they’re not seen, heard, known, or understood in conscious awareness. It helps us to address all the nuances of all the activity that goes on inside of our complexity.I just love this quote by L. M. Montgomery from the novel Anne of Green Gables, where she has Anne say, “There’s such a lot of different Annes 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.”[00:24:22] Internal Family Systems helps us to understand the internal conflicts, the polarizations among parts. And when we understand that it’s only part of me that is narcissistic, or only part of me that is so dependent, or only part of me that is so angry–that it’s not all of me, it’s only part of me, and then you can insert whatever impulse, desire, emotion, attitude, belief, intention, thought or whatever in there. If it’s only part of you, it becomes much easier to work with that. I also think that it allows us to accept more readily, more easily, the disorder within us. Again, because it’s just part of me, we’re able to acknowledge what is real.Confucius said that, “The beginning of wisdom is the ability to call things by their proper names.” There’s less of a need to invoke these heavy, broad defenses, these coping strategies that keep so much out of conscious awareness. If we can acknowledge that these things are held by parts, these burdens, these roles, eventually I think we’re going to find that the myth of the single homogeneous personality that is so prevalent in psychology and counseling circles today, I think that myth of the single unitary, homogeneous personality is going to disappear over time.[00:25:56] Alright. So let’s get into this. But I want to continue to review. I know you’ve been really patient. We’re almost a half an hour in. I just want to do a quick review of overt narcissism and covert narcissism. So there’s more about this in Interior Integration for Catholics, episode 118. The title of that one was “Narcissism: Who, What, Why, and How? The Secular Experts Share Their Views.”Brooke Schwartz in her article titled “The 14 Types of Narcissism & What We Know About Them” said,

“Overt narcissists are the prototypical variety of narcissists. They display grandiosity, exaggerate their accomplishments, and engage in activities designed to impress others. Their overly inflated egos lead them to genuinely believe that they are more special and deserving than others. Further, they are incapable of acknowledging any faults or shortcomings in themselves, though they may be quick to point them out in others. Overt narcissism is typically accompanied by an extroverted personality used to gain attention and build the audience for their boasting. Overt narcissists use their charm and charisma to convince others of their greatness. However, their inability to feel empathy results in superficial relationships that lack genuine warmth or longevity.”

And I gave you a lot of examples of overt narcissism in I see episode 118. I opened it by discussing Mr. Toad from The Wind in the Willows, but I thought I’d give you a few more just so that you can wrap your mind around this from figures from the stage and screen, including Frank Poncherello, who went by the nickname Ponch, a Motorcycle Cop in the CHiPs series, which aired from 1977 to 1983. He was played by Erik Estrada. And staying in 1977, the character Tony Manero in the film Saturday Night Fever, played by John Travolta. You know, with the shirt unbuttoned down practically to his navel and the bling and the chains and all of that. Wouldn’t recommend the film, but those of you that did see it would recognize Tony Manero, perhaps as an overt narcissist. Jerry Seinfeld on the comedy that ran from 1989 to 1998–classic example of an overt narcissist. Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. Lady Macbeth who called out, “Unsex me!” because of her drive for power, her ambition, overt narcissist. And then another one is the wizard of Oz–you know, the little man behind the curtain trying to come across as this great wizard.[00:28:48] So I want to start to get into understanding overt narcissism in a more nuanced way. Now, remember, we talked about subsystems and now I’m really getting into my own interpretations here. I’ve not read this anywhere. There’s very little published on Internal Family Systems and narcissism. But I want to start by understanding how narcissism is actually not just in one part, but it’s in subsystems.And so I want you to imagine a triangle. And this triangle is going to represent a narcissistic subsystem within Lynette. She’s an imaginary person. I’m going to make up a little vignette about Lynette. And in this little subsystem, imagine that on each of the corners of the triangle, there’s a different part.So Lynette has an exile who is a shamebearer. And this shamebearer questions whether Lynette is acceptable to God and whether she is loved by God. The shamebearer bears the burden of relational injuries and attachment wounds in Lynette’s history. And this part deeply desires love, affection, nurturance and healing. But it’s often suppressed by other parts. This part of Lynette experiences God as distant, disengaged, and uncaring, and this shamebearer bears the brunt and the effects of the attachment injuries and relational wounds that have been that have been inflicted on Lynette by others. This shamebearer experiences herself as unloved and unlovable. And that shame can come from feeling morally bad or the shame can come from feeling inadequate, not enough. And that’s really what’s going on with this little part of Lynette. This part feels that she’s just not enough.[00:30:51] So that that exile, that shame bearer is on one corner of this triangle. Now, Lynette’s manager part in this narcissistic subsystem is her self-absorbed part. Now, this part is very works very hard to proactively keep the shame bearer out of awareness. Why? Because it doesn’t want to experience any further humiliation, any further shame, any further degradation. It wants to have the admiration, respect, and esteem of others. This self-absorbed part is focused on preserving Lynette’s dignity and integrity. So this part is very inwardly focused, and it doesn’t attune well to anybody else’s internal experience. This self-absorbed part does not readily consider the needs of others. It doesn’t really have the capacity for authentic empathy.Then on the other corner of the triangle, in addition to the shame bearer and the self-absorbed part, we have a firefighter part–the feisty part. This feisty part greatly desires for Lynette never to have to experience shame again. It wants to set protective limits and boundaries. It becomes angry and uses anger to distract from shame when that shame bearer has broken out of the prison, when the shame bearer has escaped from the protective custody of the self-absorbed part. When that shame bearer is on the loose, the firefighter, the feisty part brings up the anger. And this anger is often focused on other people, the people that the firefighter part presumes have activated the shame within. So there can be this aggressive tongue-lashing. There can be aggressive acts that this feisty part engages in to drown out through the intensity of its anger, to drown out any awareness of the shame from the shame bearer.[00:33:24] So let’s imagine–let’s see in our mind’s eye–this triangle. And this triangle is floating in water, right? It’s got one point above the surface of the water and two points below the surface of the water. When things are “normal” for Lynette, the shame bearer and the feisty part are below the water, and the self-absorbed part, the manager, is above the water. Anything that’s above the water can be seen–kind of like the visible part of an iceberg, and anything below the surface of the water is in the unconscious–it can’t be readily experienced. When things are “normal” for Lynette, the manager is running the show and is proactively keeping the intensity of the shame bearer’s experience (that sense of being unloved, the sense of being not enough, being inadequate) out of conscious awareness. But when things start getting stirred up, when that exile, that shame bearer has that pull to be seen, heard, known, and understood, and is trying desperately to be recognized, to be acknowledged, and is coming up to the surface, the triangle is rotating and the manager is now being submerged. The manager is now being suppressed by the exile. But that’s when the firefighter, the feisty part, leaps into action, and tries to rise above, and tries to force the exile, the shame bearer, back into the unconscious by distraction.[00:35:08] So now you’ve got this triangle that’s like spinning in the water. As the different parts vie for control, the different parts try to blend with the innermost self and take over the system and drive the bus. So let’s just take a brief example. Lynette’s at work. Things are going along well. She has a performance review with her boss, it’s a fairly positive review, Lynette’s doing a fairly good job. Her managers are running her system fairly well and so forth (she’s not in self a lot, but most people aren’t, to be honest with you), but there were some criticisms, and so now in response to that, the shame comes up. I’m not enough…. I’m inadequate…. Her shame bearer is activated. It’s starting to come up to the front that the experience is starting to bleed into conscious awareness. Her proactive manager, that self-absorbed part can’t keep everything together. It’s beginning to break down, and then the firefighter comes up, the feisty part.Alright. So that’s the simplest model, this idea of a triangle. But I want to give you an example of something a little more complex. So we’re going to introduce this new character, Thomas, and we’re going to discuss six of his parts in his narcissistic subsystems. So we’re going to go from three to six and we’re going to use the model of a triangular prism. A triangular prism, which is essentially two equilateral triangles connected by three rectangles. I’m going to see if you can visualize this–it looks like a Toblerone box–you know that Swiss chocolate? It’s got comes in that triangular box, you know, that box is in the shape of a triangular prism. There’s basically five sides to it, two triangular sides and three rectangular sides. It looks like the peaked roof of a simple house. If you had like a one room house with a simple peaked roof over it and you just took the roof off, you would have two triangles and then you would have three rectangles. You’d have the one side of the roof, the other side of the roof, and then the ceiling from the house. Those are the the five sides, so six corners.[00:37:46] And in this system, we have an exile. One exile. We’re just going to work with one exile, which is a mistreated part. And this is a part of Thomas who assumes that others will harm him or mistreat him, humiliate him, cheat him, deceive him, manipulate him, exploit him. This part, this mistreated part, generally believes that that harm is intentional, it’s the result of malice, or maybe it’s because of severe or unjustified negligence. But whatever it is, it’s the fault of the other person. This part greatly distrusts other people. It’s suspicious. It’s fearful of others, including God. This part has borne wounds from lots of attachment injuries, lots of relational wounds. This part holds a lot of unresolved grief and loss and distress. That’s the mistreated part. That’s the part that’s going to drive a lot of the energy in this narcissistic subsystem.And then there’s three managers. Not just one manager, three managers in this narcissistic subsystem. Often people who are functioning fairly well don’t just have one manager who is running the show. They have a management team–a team of parts that work in ways that complement each other. They cooperate. They have a certain kind of alignment together. Again, remember, I think that most people are blended to a pretty fair degree. Most of the time it’s relatively rare that you have people that are pretty consistently unblended, even though that’s really desirable. We recognize that there’s a continuum of blending. So the three managers for Thomas are his Catholic standard bearer, his competent manager, and his comptroller.[00:39:43] So a Catholic standard bearer is a part who functions as a good boy in Thomas’s system. It wants to keep Thomas on the straight and narrow road, following a code of conduct that’s designed to make him lovable and good enough in the eyes of God and in the eyes of other people. And this part holds up unrealistic expectations for Thomas that it tries to enforce. The Catholic standard bearer sees God as very demanding, very distant. He tries to make Thomas’s conduct stand up to the strict moral criteria that Thomas believes God wants for him, or at least this part believes that God wants for Thomas. So that’s the first part. That’s on one corner of one of the triangles on this triangular prism.Another corner is a competent manager, and this is a really social and charismatic part. This is a part that has rizz. Do you know what rizz is? Because with regard to pop culture, I live in a hole under a rock. I never even heard of rizz until two days ago, when in the August 30th edition of The Wall Street Journal, Ashley Wong wrote an article titled “Do You Have Rizz? Teen Slang Befuddles Parents Again.” I learn much of what I know about popular culture from The Wall Street Journal.  Ashley Wong wrote of rizz that, “The term describes a mix of confidence, charm, magnetism, attractiveness and a certain je ne sais quoi. You might call it charisma, though some boosters say otherwise.” Now, accuracy in definitions is very important to me, as you know. So I went and checked this definition of rizz out with my local expert, my 17-year-old daughter, Marie, and she essentially confirmed it, though she was surprised that I was bringing up the word at all. She went beyond the content of Ashley Wong’s Wall Street Journal article and explained the various grammatical ways that rizz can be used. Apparently rizz is both a noun and a verb, and it has adjectival and adverbial forms and basically seems to be used in every part of speech except as a dangling participle, which wouldn’t be cool. She was a little surprised that I even heard about it. And she said, “Dad, you know that that’s usually got a romantic connotation to it.” And I said, “Yes.” And she said, “Because I don’t want you to sound like an old man on the podcast.” Now, Marie is the one who edits the transcripts of this podcast. It was really the only way that I could get her to listen to me. She caught on to me eventually. So just a shout out to you, Marie. Hi, beloved daughter. Love you. Thanks for doing this.[00:42:39] All right. Now back to our regularly scheduled operations here. Competent manager. So that competent manager, that competent manager really is focused on the appearances that Thomas has. It’s very effective at getting tasks done, following schedules and planning and organizing to make things work out. And it also makes him look really good. This part can seem very self-like. It’s often rewarded by others with a lot of attention and admiration because this part’s got the rizz.The third manager is the controller, and this one tries to protect Thomas against feeling inadequate and not good enough to enforce a very disciplined control–not only over the other parts of his own system, but also over other people. This part exerts pressure for good performance, for social adeptness, for being fashionable, and so forth. It wants to protect Thomas from being shamed by others or experiencing shame within his own system. The controller imagines that if he can do just everything right, nothing bad will happen. That’s how that controller looks. And it might see God as kind of a drill instructor, or at least that the requirements for getting the needs met are very high.So those three are the managers: the Catholic standard bearer, the competent manager, the controller. They’re on one side of this prism. They’re all on three corners of one triangle within the prism.[00:44:22] And then there are two firefighters. There’s an intimidator part, and this firefighter rises up to protect from any further mistreatment or humiliation by confronting others and attacking them before they hurt or harm himself. This intimidator tries to be powerful enough to ward off perceived threats and to provide a sense of safety and security. And this intimidator can be really threatening to other people. It can hurt or even harm other people and unwillingly and unwittingly compromise and undermine Thomas’s important relationships. This intimidator may disregard God or think that God is on his side.And then the last part, the second firefighter, is the faultfinder part. Now this faultfinder tries to protect the shame bearer from further harm by calling attention to other people’s faults, to the wrongdoing of others, and how those wrongs have been injurious. This part is highly critical of others, prone to treat them with contempt, dismissing them, devaluing them as unworthy of love. This part is prone to reduce others down to one dimension, viewing them as either hurtful or helpful. The faultfinders’ anger and external focus on harmful others also serves to distract from the pain of the mistreated part.So I want you to imagine this triangular prism, this Toblerone box, if you will, and it’s floating with one triangular end up and one triangular end down. So one triangle side is completely below the water and one triangular side is completely above the water. And this is when things are going along ‘normally.’ When things are going along ‘normally,’ Thomas is Catholic standard bearer. His competent manager and his controller are in charge of things, and the mistreated part, the intimidator, and the faultfinder are not in conscious awareness. They’re below the surface.[00:46:41] But let’s say something happens. Let’s say something goes wrong in a key relationship. Let’s say he’s got a conflict going on with his wife and his wife knows how to kind of get him in that mistreated part spot–that soft, tender spot. She gets him somehow right there and that part starts rising up to the surface. All of a sudden, that triangular prism is rotating in the water. Up comes that exile, right? Then–battle stations, the intimidator and the faultfinder! They converge and they go after that wife. What happens then is that Thomas blended with his intimidator, blended with his faultfinder, who are busy trying to distract him from the pain of his mistreated part. They get large and in charge. And his wife is in for it now. His wife is in for it. She’s going to get intimidated. She’s going to have her faults categorized. She is going to be shouted down. Why? Because that mistreated part is so threatening. There’s so much unresolved grief, pain, loss, shame, the deep sense of being inadequate. So you can see that triangular prism is getting unstable in the water. At some points, only the firefighters are above the water. They’re able to distract enough from the mistreated part so that the mistreated part is still below the water. And of course, the three managers are way below the water at that point.[00:48:17] So this is an example of a much more complex and nuanced way of understanding what’s going on inside of Thomas. And ideally, what we would like for him is to be able to lift the entire triangular prism out of the water so that all of these parts can be seen, heard, known, and understood, and they can all work together cooperatively and collaboratively under the leadership and guidance of his innermost self. That’s really what we’re looking for. And so when that mistreated part can be unburdened from all of that unresolved shame and loss and grief, all of the unresolved relational wounds and attachment injuries, then these other parts can give up the extreme roles that they’ve taken on to try to protect him from the intensity of all that unresolved experience, all that unresolved trauma. That’s what we’re looking to do. That’s what his human formation needs.Okay. So those were examples of overt narcissism. I want to give you some examples of covert narcissism as well. So a review of covert narcissism from Interior Integration for Catholics, episode 118. There’s a definition from Eric Patterson that I really liked. In his article, “Covert Narcissists: Traits, Signs and How to Deal With One,” from the Choosing Therapy website, he writes,

“Covert narcissists, sometimes called vulnerable narcissists, are emotionally fragile and sensitive to even limited amounts of perceived criticism. They appear highly stressed and worried, shy, reserved and self-deprecating. They will often compare and judge themselves against what others have in terms of happiness, possessions and relationships.”

[00:50:10] Psychotherapist Karen Dempsey, in her article “How to Spot a Vulnerable Narcissists,” lists these qualities of vulnerable narcissists, also another synonym for covert narcissists or thin-skinned narcissists. She says they are hypersensitive and easily hurt. They’re more introverted than grandiose or overt narcissists. Covert narcissists find it difficult to deal with any failure or trauma. They are more neurotic and will worry and fret over how they are perceived. They can turn on themselves when they are hurt or disappointed, whereas thick skinned narcissists are more likely to turn on others. They feel shame when they are rejected and they will try to agree with the person who has rejected them as a way to reduce the feelings of shame. They can feel depressed, empty and useless. They may withdraw from social situations if they don’t feel they match up to others. They feel afraid of being let down and ashamed of needing others. And they may have rage filled outbursts, followed by feelings of further shame when their demands for recognition are not met. They have a tendency to blame others, and they may feel envy for what they believe should be theirs.We talked about some examples of covert narcissists. I used the example of George Costanza in Seinfeld. His manager parts blaming his parents for what was wrong in his life. In that comedy, there was a grand sense of entitlement, and he was busy idealizing Jerry Seinfeld in that show. Alan Harper of Two and a Half Men, played by the actor Jon Cryer. Judas Iscariot. We made an argument in episode 118 that he had covert, narcissistic elements, a system that included a lot of covert narcissism. And then I’m also going to add the character Carmela Soprano, the wife of Tony Soprano in The Sopranos, who is played by Edie Falco. Tony Soprano could cheat on her, could treat her badly, but he could also buy her off with these expensive gifts jewelry, designer clothing, furs, cars, a plot of land to build a house on. And she engaged in this kind of idealizing of other people, too. She idealized her parish priest had an infatuated sort of emotional affair with him and also this painter decorator guy that was in her house. That’s an example of a covert narcissist. And then Macbeth in Shakespeare. I think he was actually the covert narcissist, and Lady Macbeth was the overt narcissist. Macbeth was the thin-skinned, vulnerable narcissist, and Lady Macbeth was the thick-skinned, grandiose, overt narcissist in the play.[00:52:46] Right. So let’s, let’s let’s do a simple model of this to try to make sure that we’re getting it. I really like to give you these vignettes or these models, so let’s work with Raphael. Now, Raphael has got three parts in his narcissistic subsystem. Three parts. Again, we’re back to the triangle.The exile for Raphael is this deprived part who believes that Raphael’s normal needs for emotional support will not be met and he feels deprived in nurturance, right? He doesn’t get the affection, attention, warmth, and intimacy that he would want from his relationships. He feels deprived of empathy. Where others don’t meet his reasonable needs to be listened to, understood, and shared with. He may have depressed deprivations in a sense of protection. Right, where he just didn’t feel protected as a child, wasn’t protected enough as a child. And so this deprived part carries the burdens of those internal emotional reactions to those deprivations. So that exile, that deprived part is on one corner of the triangle.[00:53:56] On another corner of the triangle is his manager, which is a pessimistic part, who wants to prevent him from experiencing the pain of disappointment and loss again. This pessimistic manager part does not want Raphael’s hopes to be dashed again, and so this part dwells on negative perceptions of life, sees Raphael’s situation through this gloomy lens of suffering and pain and frustration and loss and resentment and regret when considering the future. The pessimistic part focuses on unsolved problems, mistakes that could be made, all the things that could go wrong. And it de-emphasizes the positive or optimistic aspects of Raphael’s life. Because potential negative outcomes are so exaggerated by this manager part, this pessimistic part, there’s worry, watchfulness, dissatisfaction, indecisiveness.And then on the third corner of the triangle, there is a firefighter which is Rafael’s reactive self-soother. And this part works to distract from intense negative emotions. When that pessimistic part can’t contain everything and that deprived part emerges, what this reactive self-soother does is it wants to distract from the intensity of the deprivations that the deprived part carries, wants to distract by that, by using alcohol, by using substances, by numbing out in some immediate physiological way. And those soothing actions can sometimes take on like a compulsive or even addictive quality. Bourbon. That’s the thing for Rafael when his reactive self-soother gets activated because that deprived part is rotating that triangle. The pessimistic part isn’t running things very well anymore. That triangle is rotating. That exile is coming up is broken free of the jail cell that the pessimistic manager has got it in. It’s breaking out. That’s when the firefighter leaps into action, and then all of a sudden, four or five shots of bourbon have settled things down in Rafael system. Cheap bourbon.[00:56:20] Okay, so that’s an example of a simple model, but let’s get into something a little bit more complex. For what’s going on in Juanita’s system, she’s got six parts in her narcissistic subsystem. So we’re back to that triangular prism, okay.And on one corner, the exile. That’s the abandoned part. The firefighters are an avoider and a self-punisher. The managers on one triangle are her approval-seeker, her inner critic, and her hiding parts. So three managers: approval-seeker, inner critic, hiding part. Two firefighters: avoider and a self-punisher. And one exile: an abandoned part.Let’s start with that abandoned part. This abandoned part experiences intense emotional pain and distress. It carries the weight of abandonment, isolation, feeling victimized, frightened, very needy, very hopeless, lost, sometimes even inhuman–not even human. And her emotional experience in this part, this abandoned parts’ emotional experience is not very well differentiated. There’s no words. It’s all pre-verbal. It all happened when she was really, really young before she had any words. This part has a diffuse sense of identity. Feeling really hollow inside. Questioning its own existence. Wondering if she is a nothing. This part bears the burdens of neglect, relational neglect, emotional neglect. And that includes feeling neglected by God.[00:58:08] Her primary management team, this approval-seeker, inner critic and hiding part work together. The approval seeker is a very focused on gaining the approval, recognition, and attention from important other people that the approval-seeker idealizes. This part really wants to fit in to protect Juanita from these deep-seated insecurities, especially the fear of being abandoned again. This approval-seeker believes that Juanita only has value if others recognize her as valuable. It’s very sensitive to rejection. And this dependence that the approval seeker has on other’s opinions leads her to make decisions that are really not healthy. Decisions that can compromise Juanita’s integrity or dignity as a person and that feel really inauthentic to other parts of Juanita. Juanita believes that giving others what they want is the way to get what she needs.Now, Juanita also has an inner critic. And this inner critic tries really hard to keep Juanita on the straight and narrow by insisting on unrealistically high standards of acting and thinking and feeling. This inner critic is really focused on avoiding shame. It tries really hard to follow the rules and the shoulds about loving. This inner critic undermines Juanita’s sense of self-worth because it’s got this nearly constant narrative to try to get Juanita to do what would be most effective in obtaining others’ affirmation. It’s working together with that approval-seeker. It’s following the approval-seeker’s lead. It’s criticizing Juanita when she strays away from what the approval-seeker is telling her has to happen so that she can fit in, so that she can be accepted.[01:00:17] Now the third member of the management team for Juanita is this hiding part. And this hiding part works really hard, proactively, to keep from her the intensity of all the other part’s experiences. Any part that’s not in this primary management team keeps all of those other parts out of conscious awareness–does not want to deal with the sadness and the grief and the anger and the fear and the disappointment. And it makes it really hard for Juanita to understand what’s going on deep inside of her. This hiding part is very focused on guarding the abandoned part in the abandoned parts jail cell.What are her firefighters? Alright, so she has an avoider. When she feels vulnerable, when some other person seems to have rejected her, and it’s bringing up that abandonment part, bringing up all that intense emotional pain, all that distress, all the weight of abandonment and isolation, all that victimization, that avoider leaps into the breach and withdraws, pulls her out of the situation, gets her back into isolation, keeps those exiles from being triggered anymore, working so hard to distract from the floodgates of distress and rage. The avoider does not want anger to be coming up because in other systems Juanita also have some parts that are angry. They’re not so much in this particular subsystem, but this avoider really doesn’t want the anger to come up, because when the anger comes up, it gets so intense and it wrecks relationships. And then how will the approval seeker ever get the approval of those people again?[01:02:11] Then there’s the self-punisher. This is the other firefighter. This is the one that takes that anger from other parts and other subsystems and directs it right back toward Juanita herself. The only safe person, according to the management team to be angry at is Juanita herself. And so when that anger is coming up, because of all the shame, because of the violations of integrity, because of the dignity being compromised, because of the overemphasis on doing what other people want, when that happens, the self-punisher grabs the anger from that and directs it right back toward Juanita. This part can be punitive, hard, unforgiving, and very preoccupied with atonement and reparations and self-sacrifice in order to make things right in relationship again and to blame herself for any difficulties that come up in her idealized relationships. This part really tries to help one to be more adept in social situations and to distract from the pain and distress, especially of the abandoned part.So you can see when things are floating along ‘normally’ for Juanita, the triangle that has at its corners the approval seeker, the inner critic, and the hiding part that’s above the water. That’s what’s in conscious awareness, and below the water is the abandoned part, the avoider and the self-punisher. But if Juanita’s husband, for example, treats her badly, it activates that abandoned part. That abandoned part starts coming to the surface. It’s coming up. The approval seeker, the inner critic, the hiding part, they’re losing control of the situation. The firefighters, the avoider and the self-punisher leap in. The self-punisher starts to agree with her husband in his abusive language toward her, to try to pacify this, to take all the blame. And the avoider wants to get away from You can see how these parts are working together in a system way. They’re all trying to help. They’re all seeking a good for Juanita, but they have very limited vision when they’re blended, when they’re driving the bus. They do not have the whole picture. They do not understand what is best for the entire system is best for each individual part, and that there’s a harmony about what’s best for each individual part that is also best for the system–that is also best for all other people in the universe. There’s a harmony about what’s best.[01:05:14] In this podcast, Interior Integration for Catholics episode 102, “A Story About Receiving Love,” was about this character, Susanna, who is looking for love, and this character, Rey de la Cruz, whose managers composed a narcissistic system. And you can see in that story how Susanna’s parts were drawn into a deep, complicated and problematic relationship with Ray. Ray’s main managers were part of a narcissistic subsystem. Susanna had parts that were willing to idealize Ray’s parts. So when you have these situations where somebody marries another person with a prominent narcissistic subsystem, there are reasons why that happens. People marry at about the same level of interior integration. Let me say that again–it’s really an important point. People marry at about the same level of interior integration, at about the same level of psychological integration. And there’s a complementarity in the manager parts. Usually around this, there’s a hope that the other person will help to complete the system, will help to fill in what’s missing.So what do I mean by this complementarity? This complementarity is about what’s missing or about what’s not well-regulated. Damsels in distress marrying knights in shining armor. Now, the lack of integration is not always immediately apparent. It can be more obvious to the world that the damsel in distress is not well-integrated necessarily. What may not be as obvious is that the knight in shining armor is also dysregulated. It just might be that his managers are able to hide it better. It doesn’t mean that he’s actually healthier. People marry at about the same level of integration.[01:07:43] Now, they don’t necessarily stay there. So if there’s a couple they’ve been married for 25 years, I’m not going to assume that the husband and the wife are at the same level of psychological or interior integration or human formation, because one may have been doing their work consistently and the other one not. So there could be a wide gap after 25 years. It could be a wide gap after 5 or 6 years. But if a couple got married four months ago, they’re pretty much going to be at about the same level of interior integration. About the same level, if you want to look at it from the flip side, of fragmentation inside. Really well adjusted people do not marry poorly adjusted people. It just doesn’t happen.So much in romantic relationships is about the relationship among manager parts–managers attracted to other managers. How aligned is my romantic manager part’s agendas with my manager’s agendas? This is assuming that the relationship is between two people that are relatively well-adjusted. When you get into relationships where there’s greater fragmentation and there’s more blending from the exiles and more blending from the firefighters, then it gets to be more chaotic, more dysregulated, more intense, more unpredictable to outside observers.Once there’s a marriage in which one or both of the spouses have a narcissistic subsystem that’s pretty prominent, eventually there can be this question, “Why did I ever marry my spouse? Why did I ever do this? What were my parts looking for?”[01:09:21] David Gest had this, “I love you more than any words can say. You have made me a complete person. You are everything to me. And I cannot think of living life without you. And I love you forever.” This is what parts do. Managers help invest us in relationships in which they think we will get our needs met. There’s an illusion that the other person can satisfy these deep unmet needs. Needs that ultimately, I think, only God can fill. These are needs that require our spiritual Father, our primary Father, and our primary Mother, but we we look to the spouse to meet those needs. Abbi Glines had this quote: “When I’m with you, my world is complete. When I touch you, I understand the meaning of life. When I lost you, I completely shattered. You own me.” Well, isn’t that special! Yeah, that’s totally distorted. That’s not a mutual reciprocal relationship. That’s more like an infant-parent relationship.An unknown author wrote this quote, which is far more reasonable. It goes like this, “You don’t need someone to complete you. You only need someone to accept you completely.” I like that much better. This whole idea of completing each other reminds me of a man who’s missing his left leg and a woman who’s missing her right leg, and they decide to tie themselves together so that they can hobble through life. Well, that’s inherently unstable. What I would want is for the man and the woman both to have two legs for them, both to be able to stand on their own feet and they can walk together. That’s going to be far more stable than this business of you complete me.[01:11:35] Now, how does this work with the narcissism? Well, there’s an article by Shahida Arabi on the website Thought Catalog titled, “The Real Reason You Get Attached to Narcissists, Based on the Internal Family Systems Model of Psychotherapy,” which I thought was really, really good. If you want to study more about that, I’d recommend that article.But I have a little surprise for you. I have a little surprise for you. I didn’t tell you this, but you know what? Thomas and Juanita are married. They’re a married couple. Oh, yes. They’ve been married for quite a while. Remember, Thomas is the one that is grandiose, overt. He’s got that thick-skinned, narcissistic subsystem. And then we have Juanita. She has the the subsystem that is that thin-skinned, that covert, that vulnerable, narcissistic subsystem. She’s got that going on. Well, you know what? Those two narcissistic subsystems often get attracted to each other. Oh yeah. Happens a lot. Now, remember Thomas. He’s got this mistreated part as the exile. He’s got the Catholic standard bearer, competent manager and controller as his manager team. He’s got firefighters that that are the intimidator and the faultfinder. Juanita, she’s got that abandoned part as the exile. She’s going to cling to Thomas because of the needs of that abandoned part. Because, man, he looks so good. Thomas, he got the rizz. Remember his competent manager? That competent manager got the rizz and he rizzed Juanita.Marie, are you getting into this all? Are you making sure that you’re getting the transcription of this accurate? I want to make sure. All right. All right. Thanks, dear. Appreciate you doing that.[01:13:39] Alright, Thomas has got that intimidator firefighter, that faultfinder. Those two can go after Juanita, and they join up and link up with her self-punisher firefighter when things are hot and heavy between them, when there’s a lot of arguing. And so basically that self-punisher is agreeing with Thomas’ firefighters, it’s agreeing with the intimidation, it’s agreeing with the faultfinding. It’s sacrificing her integrity in order to try to preserve the relationship, in order to not be abandoned by Thomas, in order not to be rejected, devalued. She so wants his approval.Thomas’ managers want to make sure that Juanita’s parts never get to that mistreated part’s pain. His controller–that’s going to control Juanita. That competent manager is going to make sure that other people see him as attractive, that Catholic standard bearer spiritualizes all this stuff, somehow frames it in terms of what the faith requires. That one also gets into some of this “wives obey your husband” stuff and starts begin to distort that. Oh, yeah.[01:15:06] When it comes to loving a person with a narcissistic subsystem, it is so helpful to be able to understand what’s going on inside. Even if the person with a prominent narcissistic subsystem does not understand what’s going on inside of himself or herself, it’s possible (and common) to be able to better understand what’s going on inside of another person.Nancy McWilliams. I talked a lot about her understanding of narcissistic personalities in episode 118. She makes this distinction between narcissistic personalities and narcissistic reactions. This is on page 192-193 of her book Psychoanalytic Diagnosis 2nd Edition. She says,

“Any non-narcissistic person can sound arrogant or devaluing, or empty and idealizing, under conditions that strain his or her identity and confidence…[In medical school and psychotherapy training programs.] Compensatory behaviors like bragging, opinionated proclamations, hypercritical commentary, or idealization of a mentor are common under such circumstances. Phenomena like these are sometimes referred to in the psychoanalytic literature as comprising a narcissistic defense. That one is suffering with narcissistic issues does not make one a narcissistic personality. When situational factors dominate a narcissistic presentation, the interviewer should rely on historical data and the feel of the transference to infer the personality structure beneath the narcissistic injury.”

Okay, so she makes this distinction between narcissistic personalities and narcissistic reactions. Those narcissistic reactions are what are fueled by the firefighters.[01:17:00] The narcissistic personalities are the characterization of the position of the habitual primary management team when the managers are in charge. And those managers exude a kind of narcissistic way of interacting with the world–that’s when people get labeled with a narcissistic personality–because it’s ongoing, it’s pretty consistent. The narcissistic reaction, on the other hand, that’s from firefighter behavior. It’s not consistent. It comes up episodically in response to the injury, the injury activates the exile, the exile is now coming up to the surface. The firefighters rush in with the intensity of their responses, without a lot of concern for the long-term consequences because we’re in a desperate situation and they will be willing to do almost anything to distract from it. And so all kinds of wreckage can happen in that. And that’s the narcissistic reaction that McWilliams is talking about. It’s a different way of conceptualizing the keen observations that McWilliams is making, even as she continues to embrace a single, unified understanding of personality.So Internal Family Systems. Originally, Richard Schwartz conceptualized it as a way of doing therapy, then it broadened out into other domains–parenting, coaching, mentoring, teaching, other things like that. And then it became more of a way of life. It it began to be more of a spirituality. You know, Richard Schwartz, he was raised in an atheistic home. He was culturally Jewish, but raised in an atheistic home. And he said, “My father was a scientist who taught us that religion was at the root of many of the world’s conflicts and slaughters. I maintained a skepticism about anything spiritual until I began exploring my clients inner terrains and encountered their self.” So he came to this understanding of it as a spirituality later on, much later.[01:19:19] He really relied on his own phenomenology, on his own subjective experience to inform the way that he presented Internal Family Systems. Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first person point of view. It’s an approach that concentrates on the study of consciousness and the objects of direct experience. He really wanted to set aside preconceived notions. He didn’t want to come into the way that he described IFS with any kind of preconceived notions, including, and perhaps especially, anything that would be taught by a religion. But now he describes it as a spirituality. And in the upcoming conference in the pre conference day on October 26, 2023. He is presenting this presentation on the nature of self and inner guidance with Zvi Ish Shalom. And I just want to read you the description of that pre-conference all day presentation. So it says,

“As we help clients explore their inner worlds, many report encounters with residents of those worlds that seem spiritual and describe themselves that way. These inner guides often have uplifting or wise messages for the clients or help with the inner work. Over time, these encounters sparked a growing fascination within Dick (that’s Richard Schwartz), compelling him to seek wisdom from those who commune with the spiritual realm and are dedicated to sharing their profound insights with our world. This curiosity led to a collaboration in the past several years with Zvi Shalom, a spiritual teacher who guides groups on journeys into the spiritual worlds. Zvi assumes the role of an emissary facilitating encounters with distinct constellations of primordial light emanations. These emanations, in turn, offer profound guidance, teachings and healing powers. Dick is excited to introduce Zvi to the IFS community and to report on the fruits of their collaboration, including insights into the holistic nature of self and other spiritual themes. This workshop will offer experiential exercises and demonstrations, leaving participants with a richer understanding of the interconnectedness of inner and outer worlds.”

Well, that does indeed sound spiritual, but it also starts to sound like a religion to me. And I already have a religion, and I’m really happy with my religion. I don’t need another religion, I don’t need another spirituality.[01:22:06] You know, I have a lot of respect for Dick Schwartz. As I said, I think he is the the most significant thinker in the 21st century in psychology. I think he’s brilliant. I’m glad he’s now open to spirituality, whereas before he wasn’t. I’m glad that he’s seeking. I’m glad that he’s open to some kind of guidance. But this becomes manifestly inconsistent with a Catholic understanding of spirituality, with a Catholic understanding of religion. And so in Souls and Hearts, what we do is we draw from the best of all of these things.I get into some of these questions and these difficulties and episode 73 of this podcast, which is titled “Is Internal Family Systems Really Catholic?” And in a lot of ways it’s not. There’s a different anthropology that informs IFS than what we hold as Catholics. But there is so much good to be gained from it. And I talk about that in episode 73. I want you to know that we’re doing a lot of that thinking work. That’s why we hired Dr. Monty De La Torre as our philosopher in residence. He’s an expert in metaphysics. We’re sorting these things out. We are reading. We’re studying. I’m super excited that Dr. Gerry Crete will have a book that gets into these anthropological issues that will be coming out in January of 2024, published by Sophia Press called The Litanies of the Heart. We can work together to draw the best of this and apply it to our own human formation. We can help you figure these things out.We utilize the best of all of these resources in the Resilient Catholics Community. There are three central pillars of the human formation program in the Resilient Catholics Community. Those central pillars are relationships, identity and love. Relationships, identity and love understood from a Catholic perspective, firmly grounded in a Catholic understanding of the human person. With those three central pillars are three central tasks for your human formation: 1) tolerating being loved, 2) embracing your identity as a beloved little son or daughter of God, and 3) reflecting love back to God and neighbor.[01:24:56] Let’s look at these a little more deeply. Tolerating being loved first. 1 John 4:19, Saint John says, “We love, because God first loved us.” God says to us, “I love you first.” God initiates. He reaches out. He loves us first. We start with his love for us. That is the foundation of our relationship with God–his love. Not our love, God’s love. We start with God’s love. You can’t give what you don’t have. Nemo dat quod non habet. That’s Latin for “You can’t give what you don’t have.” And I use that word tolerate being loved very deliberately because we recognize that real love is always given freely. If it’s going to be real love, it’s going to be given freely. It can’t be coerced or manipulated or forced or anything like that. But what we don’t readily realize is that real love is not received without cost. In this fallen world, to receive love, we have to tolerate being seen, heard, known, and understood. And as you can see from our examples, Juanita, Raphael, Thomas, Lynette, they had parts that were really concerned about being fully seen, fully heard, fully known, and fully understood, so that they could be loved fully across all their parts. That requires vulnerability. That brings up all kinds of concerns about protection, about exposure. All kinds of concerns that parts through their experience and how they interpreted their experience, are very willing to put up strong walls about real love. It burns away anything that’s sinful, anything that’s disordered. And real love requires us even to give up lesser goods, including the ways that parts have learned how to cope, the ways that parts have learned to live without receiving love without being seen, heard, known, and understood, without all these parts being able to be together, working collaboratively, working cooperatively, being in the presence of God.[01:27:09] Parts are terrified. It reminds me of Hebrews 10:31, “It’s a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Now, that refers to God’s judgment, but I also think it applies to God’s love. It’s an amazing adventure to be loved, but it’s scary. It’s really scary for our protector parts. If you look at what motivates those managers and all of those examples, Lynette, Raphael, Thomas and Juanita, what’s motivates every single one of those managers is fear. They do what they do out of fear, out of fear of what’s going to happen if they lose control of the system. It’s an amazing adventure to be loved, to receive that love. But it’s scary. It requires faith and it requires trust. That’s the first task in the RCC. The first task is to tolerate being loved.The second task is to embrace your identity as a beloved little son or daughter of God. Not just to know it in your head, not just for your Catholic standard bearer to understand that in some sort of abstract way, but to embrace your identity as a beloved son or daughter of God throughout the entirety of your being all of your parts–who you are. Not just a label, not just a concept, this being a son or daughter of God, but being a beloved little child of God in a way that includes all of you, that encompasses all of your parts, that encompasses all your internal experiences, everything within you. A beloved little son or daughter of God, that is your primary identity. It’s when these little parts of us can be unburdened that they can take on these natural roles. Again, these really helpful roles when we can become like little children. “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Those little parts carry essential things once they’re unburdened–awe and wonder and trust and humility and confidence and candor and vulnerability and affection and transparency and reverence and openness. They tolerate dependency. They delight. They play. We need those little parts. We cannot leave them behind. It cannot just be a spirituality dominated by our managers.[01:29:35] That is the case for most pious practicing Catholics. Their spiritual life is dominated by a few parts–their management team. And so many other parts are left out in the cold. That is why this is so important. That is why I give my life to this, to teaching this, to bringing this to you. If this is how we relate to other people, this is also how we relate to God. If this is how we relate to ourselves, this is how we relate to God.Anthony Flood, in his book The Metaphysics of Love, talks about how the way that we interact with ourselves, the way that we love ourselves is the pattern, the template, for how we love others. And he’s basing this all on Saint Thomas Aquinas. He emphasizes how Saint Thomas made so clear that we cannot love our neighbor more than we love ourselves. He brings out how important it is to have this internal unity.What Eleonore Stump talks about as interior integration, this is straight from Saint Thomas. The fact that we need this interior integration, according to Saint Thomas, implies that we’ve got parts within us. How do we understand that? There’s very little commentary that I can find about what it means in Luke 10:27, to “love your neighbor as yourself.” In fact, so many Catholics believe that loving yourself is a bad thing. It’s an essential thing.[01:31:18] Third point. So we have the first two tasks tolerating being loved and embracing your identity as a beloved little son or daughter of God. The third thing is to respond to ourselves, to God, and others in love. We need to love back. We receive the love, we embrace our identity as a beloved little child of God and Mary, and we love back. We reflect the love back so many times. The Blessed Virgin Mary, our spiritual Mother, our primary Mother is compared to the moon because the moon shines with reflected light. The moon doesn’t create any light on its own. The moon reflects the light of the sun. We cannot create love on our own. We can reflect love back. And we are called to love the Lord our God with our whole hearts. And the way I interpret that, that’s the great commandment. The way I interpret that is with all of our parts, with every part of our being, with this interior integration, with our parts, working together under the leadership and guidance of our innermost self.Our Lord tells us that the law and the prophets hang on those two great commandments. This business of loving is what the Resilient Catholics Community is all about. It’s what Souls and Hearts is all about. If you are interested in the Resilient Catholics Community, I encourage you go to our landing page, or just google the Resilient Catholics Community–you’ll find it that way too–and sign up for our interest list. We will take on new applications every December and every June. So our next cohort, December 2023. So sign up for the interest list and we will keep you informed about everything you need to know about applying in December.[01:33:38] I want to tell you about an opportunity. I know that not everybody who listens to this podcast is Catholic, not everybody who listens to this podcast is going to be a good fit for the Resilient Catholics Community. I sometimes get the question, why don’t you have anything for us non-Catholics? Well, the first answer to that is my primary mission is to reach out to those who are Catholic. So I have a question to go back to you with–why are you not Catholic? What holds you back from being a Catholic? Catholicism is for everyone. It’s universal.But I know that not everybody is there. People are at different points in their journey. I have developed what’s called the Initial Measures Kit. It consists of 16 measures. This is part of the standard application process for the Resilient Catholics Community, and those 16 measures take about two hours to complete, sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. But the whole focus of that is to help identify 9-15 of your parts. Anywhere between 3-5 exiles, 3-5 of your managers, and 3-5 of your firefighters. And not only that, but how those parts interact. Now, we can’t really see the parts; what we can see are the roles that parts play. Sometimes a part plays more than one role. Sometimes a role may be shared by more than one part.[01:35:10] This is not psychological assessment. It’s not a clinical service. What we’re really trying to do is shine a light on what’s going on in your human formation. How is your system working? It’s very speculative. We hold it really lightly. It’s more as a starting point for you to begin to think about yourself in terms of parts, in terms of systems. Every single one of the parts that I described in those vignettes, every single one of those parts that I described in Lynnette and Raphael and in Thomas and in Juanita, they came from the IMK. We have a list of about 40 or 50 parts that we very commonly see. I drew every one of those parts descriptions from that list. What we do in the IMK reports, the Initial Measures Kits reports, is that we bring in these parts and we customize them because there’s no two parts are alike. And so these parts’ descriptions are sort of like suits on a on a rack that we tailor to the people that take the IMK.We’ve given these IMKs to more than 300 people already–applicants to the RCC and then also some therapists. We want to make the IMK more available to other people, even if they’re not a good fit for the RCC. We’re networking with Pat Molyneaux and with Jeffrey Yanuck at the Human Formation Coalition. There’s some exciting prospects about a partnership with them. We’re also starting to reach out to see what people are interested in and to see which kinds of people would might be interested in the IMK. So I’m going to invite you to go to, and there’s a form there that you can fill out. We ask for some background data because we’re trying to gather a little data about interest in this to see who is interested in learning about themselves in the way that we’re describing here. Again, this is not psychological assessment. It’s not professional clinical services. But we’ve had so many people asking–we’ve had therapists asking, we’ve had spiritual directors asking, clergy asking, we’ve had so many people asking.[01:37:38] Alright, so what’s coming up in the podcast? Episode 121. Join me. I want you to join me live Thursday evening, September 14th, 2023, from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. EST. We are going to have this episode live. Episode 121 titled “Connecting with Your Narcissistic Parts.” Inside, we’re going to be exploring your own systems, your own subsystems that are narcissistic in one way or another. We’re going to have 15 minutes of question and answer at the beginning about narcissism, understood from a parts and systems perspective, so you can ask questions about this episode. Then we’re going to have a 40 minute experiential exercise, and that’s to help you connect with the parts of you in a narcissistic subsystem. And after that, we’ll have some time to debrief and discuss our experiences together. That episode will release on September 18th, 2023, but the critical date is September 14th, 2023, 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m EST. Go to, and you can register for that zoom meeting. It’s free, but you got to register for it.Episode 122 will come out on October 2, 2023, and it’s going to be about gaslighting. It’s called “Gaslighting–Catholic Style.” Gaslighting is an important topic  in this discussion on narcissism, and we’re going to get into that in that episode.[01:39:08] And then I’m really excited because episode 123 is coming up and there Dr. Gerry Crete, doctoral level licensed marriage and family therapist (this is an expert in dealing with family issues, marriages, parent-child relationships, sibling relationships), is going to present on relating well with narcissistic family members. That’s going to be recorded live on Wednesday evening, October 11th, 2023, from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m EST. You can ask your questions. It’s going to be an amazing experience. He is so, so good. Like I said, he’s got his book coming out in January 2024 on the litanies of the heart. It’s excellent. I’ve read the pre-publication copy. I’ve written the foreword to that book. It’s really, really good. Super excited about that.Sign up for our weekly reflections. We’ve got a series on daydreaming that’s been going on. It’s excellent. You can hear from me in your email inbox every Wednesday afternoon. Go to, click on the blue box. We won’t share your email with anyone else. We don’t sell or rent our email list to anybody. We really protect your privacy and you get those weekly reflections. There’s a lot of really good stuff coming out on daydreaming. You can also get the back issues all of the previous weekly reflections at our archive, which is at have a request for you. If you listen on Apple Podcasts, or even if you don’t, go to my podcast there and leave me a review. I haven’t had hardly any reviews in the last year. Very few, almost none. Leave some reviews. People use that to find out what this podcast is about. A lot of times people read the reviews and if they don’t see anything recent, they’re not going to listen. This is a top of the funnel thing for getting people more involved in Souls and Hearts. Let people know what your experience is. So please, I ask you go to Apple Podcasts, leave me a review, leave me a rating, good or bad, whatever. I would love to see some ratings and some reviews coming up there.[01:41:38] My conversation hours are every Tuesday and Thursday from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. EST. Those afternoons, those early evenings, call me 317-567-9594. We can have a private conversation, 10-15 minutes about anything that’s coming up for you in these podcasts or in the weekly reflections. I can’t give you clinical advice. It’s not a clinical service. I can’t do a consultation with you about your particular issue, but we can talk about the themes. We can talk about the concepts, we can clarify questions in that. So I make that available to you.And with that, we’re going to wrap it for today. This is a really long episode. I thank you for staying with me through the end of it.Let’s 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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