IIC 121: Connecting with Your Own Narcissistic Parts: Experiential Exercise
Today with our live audience, we start with 15 minutes of Q&A about narcissism addressing these questions: 1) Does acknowledging our own narcissism makes us more or less vulnerable to exploitation by another person? 2) Are children of parents with borderline personalities more likely to be attracted to narcissistic partners? 3) What is “healthy narcissism”? Then from the 15-minute mark to the 50-minute mark, we engage in an experiential exercise together to encounter and connect with parts of ourselves with narcissistic features. Afterward, we debrief and share our experiences addressing these topics and questions: 1) Can narcissistic approaches be helpful in certain situations or environments? 2) Is narcissism the result of too much self-love or too little? 3) How can we get normal needs for affirmation met in non-narcissistic ways? 4) Why is it important to be gentle with narcissistic parts? 5) Why do narcissistic parts often sense themselves to be aged 2, 6, or 13? 6) Why is there such a “rush” or dopamine “high” when narcissistic parts receive the admiration and idealization that they seek?
[00:00:11] I am Dr. Peter Malinoski, and this is the Interior Integration for Catholics podcast. This is episode 121. It’s titled ‘Connecting with Your Own Narcissism Inside.’ And this is a very special podcast episode because we are recording this with a live audience of about 20 people with us right now who are willing and able to go on this adventure, to go inside and to connect with their own narcissistic issues and narcissistic parts inside. And so we’ll be doing an experiential exercise later, but we’re also going to open up some time right at the beginning of this for some questions and answers.
As most of you know, we have been doing a series on narcissism. It’s a really important topic. It impacts all of us in our fallen human condition in this world that has been infected by sin. There are narcissistic tendencies in every one of us. And so what we want to be able to do is, in a way that’s gentle, in a way that’s kind, in a way that allows for human weakness and human failings, in a way that allows us to be able to love ourselves and to love those parts of us that sometimes bring up impulses or have desires that can get us into trouble in various ways, look within–to remove the beam from our own eye, if you will. A lot of times it’s easy to sense, recognize, and identify narcissism in other people and it’s harder sometimes to identify it within ourselves.
And so I’m super excited that we have 20 people that are willing to go on this journey together. But before we do, I want to make sure that we have some time to really address any questions or concerns–to be able to connect with those parts of us that might have a need for some intellectual information or conceptual knowledge, that have questions about what went before in the series, anything that might make it easier to engage in the experiential exercise later today. So I just want to open that up to our people here, to those members of Souls and Hearts that are with us today. Anything that might come up that you might want to ask.
[00:03:02] Yes, Martha.
“Hi, everybody. This is my very first zoom with RCC, and I have just gotten my IMK back like a week or so ago, and I’ve only been over it a couple times. I haven’t had a big chunk of time to really study it. Honestly, I’d like to print it out and be able to read it on my own, you know. But the thing is, I just showed up tonight because this is a great topic. I love this topic. I know I have narcissism and narcissist parts. I know I do. And so I would love to learn about that and how to grow in holiness on that particular topic. So that’s why I’m here. But I’m just pretty ignorant about what’s gone down with you and the RCC before tonight. So I just wanted to say that and ask if there’s anything, maybe a sentence or two that you could tell me that would say, ‘yeah, you can stay, or maybe…'”
Oh, by all means, stay with us. Stay with us, Martha. You know, if one can recognize some narcissism within oneself, that means that it’s not complete, that you’re not completely blended with parts that are taken over with narcissism and things like that. And so to be able to own and recognize that, there’s humility in that, there’s honesty in that, and there’s often self-energy in that–what we would call a ‘self-energy’ in IFS lingo, which I prefer to call recollection. It’s a capacity to be able to appreciate that we’ve got some of this within ourselves. And so I know in myself and my history, that has been a really prominent issue for me.
[00:04:57] When parts have impulses towards narcissism or when they have some of the characteristics of narcissism, there’s almost always a good intention behind it–often an intention to protect, to guard against being wounded, to guard against shame being activated, to guard against humiliation. And why? Because there’s been experiences that have been humiliating, that have been shaming, that have been painful, and that are unresolved. It’s part of our fallen human condition.
So it’s a lovely to have you with us, Martha. I’m glad you’re in the RCC. Martha was referring to the IMK, the Initial Measures Kits, which is the group of 16 measures that we invite folks that are applying to the RCC to take. And in the IMK we provide a list of usually somewhere between nine to fifteen parts; usually three to five manager parts, three to five exiles, and three to five firefighters, and how those parts interact. I really heartily recommend that.
[00:06:15] We have a question that says,
“I recently spoke with a learned spiritual director who expressed concerns at the idea of saying or believing that everyone has some narcissism due to the dangers of being more injured by actual narcissists.”
Hmm. So I’m wondering if that spiritual director believes that some people are free from narcissism, or if this is really more of a concern about how we put language onto this. I think when people are aware of their own narcissism, it makes it easier to recognize in some ways really what’s going on in the dynamic with other people. I think it’s the people that are unaware of their own narcissism that are more likely to be hurt by folks that are narcissistic.
Let me give you an example. In the relationship between Juanita and Thomas that I discussed in the last episode, episode 120, of this podcast (with Juanita being a covert narcissist and having those dynamics, and Thomas being an overt narcissist), not recognizing some of these characteristics within ourselves actually, I think, can make us more vulnerable, especially when it’s a covert, overt kind of connection.
[00:07:39] And I believe in calling things by their proper names. I think it is much better to acknowledge that one has some narcissistic traits and to know what they are and to know how they operate than to say, “well, those don’t really matter,” or to cover that up. I might not be getting at what that question is really about, so feel free to to post again if that’s not getting at what the question was.
So another one here.
“My mother was diagnosed as having borderline personality disorder, and in listening to you speak about narcissism, I’m realizing that my husband of 40 years is highly narcissistic. I have two questions. Do children of borderline persons often marry those with narcissist issues? And are you going to be talking about how to help someone who has narcissism?”
We will. We will be talking about that, particularly in episode 123, and I’ll talk about that at the end of this episode. Dr. Gerry Crete, who is a doctoral level marriage and family therapist, is going to be joining me. That will be a live episode on Wednesday, October 11th, from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. EST. You’re welcome to join me for that. The title of it is ‘Relating Well With Narcissistic Family Members,’ because, you know, we really want to make sure that we are addressing that topic since it’s such a sticky one. So we’re going to devote a whole episode to how to work with folks in our family or people that we’re close to with narcissistic issues.
[00:09:19] “Do children of borderline persons often marry those with narcissistic issues?” That is true. I think in general, if your parents have good human formation, if they’re better adjusted, the children tend to be better adjusted and tend to marry people that are better adjusted. I think marriage tends be really driven by managers–manager parts who are looking to have underlying needs met. And so if a person has a dynamic where they need to idealize another person and that other person has parts that need to be idealized, then those kinds of dynamics draw toward each other. So that’s why you will have covert narcissistic managers really attracted to overt narcissistic managers. And it can be other types of personalities as well.
Here we have a follow-up to that other question. “In other words, the danger of perhaps accepting harmful or hurtful behaviors of narcissists.” So if there’s a sort of false humility, if it’s (going back to that original question), if there is a concern that if I acknowledge some narcissism within me, then that makes me more susceptible to being abused or to being exploited by somebody else with narcissistic dynamics…again, I don’t buy that. That doesn’t hold water for me in a human formation way, because the more we recognize and admit and state what’s actually within us, the better prepared we are. What I think you get into sometimes is folks have parts that will tolerate mistreatment from other people that are not good to tolerate; that violate their own integrity. But it’s usually not a problem of honesty. It’s not giving things their proper names. It’s not a problem so much of recognizing what’s going on inside, and I don’t think that blindness about our own internal states, or our own internal structure, or our own parts, or what’s going on with us, actually really protects us all that much. I would much rather there be the self-awareness in the self and the self-knowledge and the clarity around those things.
[00:11:36] Do folks have questions that they’d like to say out loud before we kind of continue here?
[00:11:41] “I have one.”
[00:11:44] “When you find or acknowledged narcissistic traits in another individual, does that necessarily mean you’re acknowledging that trait you have within yourself?”
[00:11:54] Not necessarily. Mean sometimes this can be just a lot of externalization–you can see it in another person or projection. So it doesn’t mean that you’ve owned your own narcissism just because you’re accusing somebody else of it. In fact, that can be served to distract. Is that helpful? Does that answer the question?
[00:12:20] “Yes, thank you.”
[00:12:22] Okay. I’d like to have some clarification about how we discuss narcissism when it’s really a serious condition–a personality disorder vs. a normal experience of features of narcissism, which seems to be everyone’s lived experience at some level. That sort of brings up this question of narcissism on a continuum. Everybody has at least some narcissistic tendencies, at least some of the time. It has to do more with how rigid the the internal system is. Do the managers that operate in this way, are they blended and in charge most of the time? And how rigid are those defenses? That’s where you start to see personalities emerge more clearly. And that’s when that rigidity becomes really, really fixed to where there’s not a lot of other ways of managing or coping. When it gets really fixed, then we start to think of it as a personality disorder–if you’re using that language.
[00:13:26] “And can you comment on how to tell the difference between healthy narcissism vs. other forms?” I don’t believe in healthy narcissism. That’s a big thing now to say, yeah, there’s healthy narcissism. That’s sort of like to me saying healthy pneumonia, you know, or something. I don’t believe in a healthy narcissism. I know there’s people that are trying to put out positive spin on that. And I think what they mean by that is, you know, maybe something around appropriate self-assertion or other things like that. But. I think healthy narcissism is a contradiction in terms, and so it’s not a title or a name that I resonate with.
[00:14:09] So especially when those negative narcissistic parts have been prominent ways of coping or functioning in life–in many ways, grandiose narcissism can be highly helpful in some professions or environments. For example, that’s why some managers use different types or styles of narcissistic things to try to get ahead. Sometimes it can be adaptive in the sense of some sort of worldly accomplishment or in some sort of self-protective way. It’s not really good or healthy, but it can get certain short term or in some cases long term objectives achieved. But there’s always an emptiness in it and it never actually satisfies the underlying needs.
[00:14:59] Alright, well, [00:15:00] let’s move on to our experiential exercise. And so I’m going to again emphasize that when we do this, it’s not therapy. We never do any therapy at Souls and Hearts. It’s not what we’re about. This is an experiential exercise, an opportunity to go inside.
[00:15:19] And we really want to prioritize safety. It’s really important. The first primary condition of secure attachment, according to Brown and Elliot, is a felt sense of safety and protection. So we want to work in a way where parts have a sense of feeling safe and secure.
[00:15:37] I’m going to invite you to take what’s helpful to you. You know, if I’m offering something, if I’m inviting something, if I’m inviting you to something that just doesn’t seem to be working with for you, you can skip it. This isn’t something to be, you know, sort of taken in without assessing whether it’s helpful to you. I want you to be able to think about that as we do it.
[00:16:01] We’re going to ask that all parts not overwhelm you. In fact, that’s really important. We’re going to insist that parts not overwhelm you if your managers are willing to unblend. And so if that unblending happens, we’re asking that we’re insisting that parts not rush in and take you over and drive your bus. That’s a safety thing. And it allows us to be able to work with our our entire systems in a way that’s more collaborative and cooperative.
[00:16:31] A lot of gentleness here. One of the things that parts that do have narcissistic dynamics are really in need of is gentleness. And often because of the way a person comes across when they’re in a narcissistic mode, there’s not gentleness that comes back. In fact, there’s pushback, there’s resistance, there’s conflict. And so it can be very surprising and disarming when parts of us with narcissistic dynamics are accepted as they are. You know, whether or not immediate agendas to try to change them or to force them or to make them admit something–that style of interaction is what they’re familiar with. And if we’re really recollected, if we are approaching parts of us that struggle with narcissism, with a big open heart, it can be very disarming. It can really help them to feel more safe and secure and to let down their guard. But it has to be for real, and we’ll talk about that as we go on.
[00:17:38] I’m going to invite you to really notice where you are in your window of tolerance. If you notice that, and I don’t expect this–I don’t want to make too big of a deal out of it–but if you notice that you are exiting that window of tolerance to the upside, you’re getting into fight or flight mode, you’re into hyper arousal. You notice that your heart’s starting to race, breathing is becoming more rapid, things like that, well something’s up. There’s a part that’s up and we need to pay attention to that part and let and that may mean that we disengage from the exercise so that you can care for that part and that you can get regrounded often. That’s because it doesn’t feel safe. We’re not in a place that feels safe to at least one part of us. And then also, if you notice that you’re dropping into that freeze response, shutting down that dorsal vagal response, we want to pay attention to that because that also reflects a part that’s not feeling comfortable with what we’re doing and we want to really want to be aware of that.
[00:18:36] So as we begin, it might be helpful to have a pen or a pencil and paper to be able to write a few things down, if parts want you to give voice to them in writing, if there’s something that they would like you to know and to write down, that can be really helpful.
[00:18:57] And as we begin, I’m just going to invite you into yourself. Just going to invite you into you being you. You being with yourself, which might sound odd. It might sound strange if we’re really accustomed to there being just one personality, one single, unified, homogeneous personality. But this is an opportunity; this is a space where there is this potential for you to love yourself, and especially to love some parts that might really, really need some love. Parts that have narcissistic dynamics that are idealizing and devaluing, that are craving affirmation [00:20:00] from others. They are in need of authentic love. And yes, they need the love of God. And yes, it helps when other people love them in the way of real charity. But they also need the love from you, from your innermost self.
[00:20:30] Sometimes people mischaracterize narcissism as excessive self-love, ad that’s a mistake. That’s wrong. It’s an error. People have narcissistic dynamics when they don’t love themselves enough in an ordered way, when there’s not authentic charity, when they’re blended with parts that hate each other, when they’re so afraid of being shamed and humiliated. It’s not a question of too much ordered love or too much authentic love, but of too little.
[00:21:29] And so I’m wondering if it’s possible for you to have a big, open heart to any parts of you that might have some of these characteristics of needing affirmation, wanting to be admired, wanting to be recognized, one upping others or competing with others, struggle maybe with envy over what other people have…that want recognition or fame. Would it be okay for there to be a space to be with those parts? Or are there other parts that are concerned about that, that are critical, that see accepting those parts as problematic. We don’t want to steamroll any parts here. We really want to work in a way that’s collaborative, that’s cooperative. Where all parts are being valued and heard. You don’t want to try to evade any parts or avoid any parts. Would it be okay for parts with narcissistic tendencies to experience real love? Would that be okay?
[00:23:52] And if it is, then I invite you to notice where in or around your body there might be a part that has some narcissistic qualities–that is critical or devaluing of others or possibly of your own parts, other parts within you. That might need to brag, or name drop, or puff up, or search for compliments.
[00:24:42] And it’s quite likely that there are other parts that have been critical of that part. Could we get some space from those that are critical of that part for you as your innermost self to [00:25:00] just be with that part? The one that struggles with some of this narcissism.
[00:25:40] Parts that have difficulty apologizing, admitting wrong. Do your parts know that those parts with narcissistic tendencies are usually trying to help you? They have good intentions. The means they use might be really harmful, problematic, maladaptive, might lead to sin, but their intentions are good.
[00:26:45] And would it be okay to hear their story of why and how all of this began? What they would like you to know. Would it be okay to hear that story that’s beneath the presentation? We have that space to just be with them and let them tell you their story of why they might need to be big, powerful or entitled?
[00:28:46] And if you notice that you’re having trouble with that, it’s okay. Just work with the parts that might not like the narcissistic parts, the ones that struggle with narcissism work with those parts. To be with whatever part is up right now. Because if a part is up, that means that that part has concerns. They’ve got fears. We want to take that seriously. But if you do have the space to really be with this part, then really invite that part to look at you and for you to look at that part to allow that compassion to be there, the connection to be there. If it’s possible to say, “yes, you are part of me. And you belong with me. You belong in me.”
[00:30:06] And that doesn’t mean that all those impulses or desires or any kind of narcissistic actions are okay. We’re not saying that. We’re separating who that part is as part of you from all these extra things that can change. But that you belong and that you are good, made in the image and likeness of God as part of me. Parts may not know this. That may be really new
[00:31:26] Can we be curious about how old the part feels himself or herself to be? Just ask, “how old are you?” And if the parts in a position to tell us what it’s afraid of, what does it fear? Does it fear will happen if it doesn’t do what it does? If it doesn’t do that thing that it does, if it doesn’t idealize or devalue, if it doesn’t seek that affirmation, if it doesn’t boast or brag about abilities or accomplishments, whatever it is. But does it fear what would happen if it were more small and child-like, more vulnerable? If it didn’t try to protect you in the way that it tries to protect you. What does it fear would happen?
[00:35:17] And does this part know that you have an innermost self that can lead and guide your system? An innermost self that has those qualities of calm and curiosity, compassion and confidence, courage and clarity, connectedness and creativity–that has those qualities to lead and guide. It’s an awfully big job. Too big of a job for any part to lead and guide your system. But parts sometimes feel forced into those roles, those extreme roles of having to take over because of some kind of fear. Something happened that they don’t trust that you as the innermost self can lead and guide.
[00:37:43] Would it be okay to have mercy on parts? Would it be okay to believe that gentleness and kindness will help parts struggling with narcissism more than a beating or criticism or condemnation?
[00:39:12] Is it possible to be close with this part? Might be too early, might not be enough trust, might not feel safe enough, but to see if that part could tolerate a little love from you, if you have that love to give. We want to be gentle with this. Just sometimes little sips of love, just a little bit of understanding, a little bit of compassion.
[00:40:04] And this doesn’t mean that everything that was said or done is okay. It doesn’t whitewash any of our past sins. I just want to be clear about that for parts that might worry that somehow we’re denying something important or minimizing something. We’re focusing on connecting with those parts. And if they’re connected, if they’re integrated, if they’re working collaboratively and cooperatively in our systems under the leadership and guidance of our innermost self, there’s going to be less of an inclination to act out in really negative ways. I see this over and over again. If parts know that they’re included, that they belong, that they are loved, if they begin to sense that they’re indispensable, that you wouldn’t be fully you without your parts–without all of them–that can be really comforting to parts. Parts that are struggling with safety, with the need to be good, the need to matter. The need to be seen, heard, known and understood. All these integrity needs and all these attachment needs.
[00:42:30] And what might that part need from you? Remember, narcissistic parts or parts that have narcissistic tendencies can have a real difficulty making their needs known. It just betrays the sense of weakness or a sense of neediness that is just really threatening to them. So if that part is willing to share that with you, that’s a major thing. There’s trust happening there. And if a part can’t, that’s okay. Let’s give it some time. Let’s be patient.
Acceptance. Belonging. Knowing that there is a place for that part in your heart.
[00:44:53] And what might that part need from you? You as the innermost self? To feel a deeper sense of protection, of safety. What would make it possible for that part to lower that defensive armor, that narcissistic armor, to set down those weapons. What would it need from you as the innermost self? How could you, as the innermost self, step up into that role, bringing with you the calm and the clarity, the confidence and the courage, the connection, the creativity?
[00:46:05] Would you, as the innermost self, be willing to lead and guide your system more regularly, more deeply, so that parts of you don’t have to drive the bus? Would that be okay? Would other parts be willing to support that, and to follow your leadership, or is there some work that needs to be done to help you unblend more regularly?
[00:47:13] And it might be helpful to write down what those parts need. What they’re sharing with you–elements of their story; what they want you to give them voice in a journal or in your notes. If there’s a way that you can connect with them in the future, maybe in checking in with them more regularly–doing some parts journaling, paying attention to them, bringing them into a trusted accompanying relationship, maybe with a therapist or spiritual director or coach or a friend. So there’s some things that you can agree upon with this part that would make it easier for that part to soften and relax back, to trust that you can lead and guide the system.
[00:48:19] Are there any limits or boundaries that need to be set? Is there any outside help that might be really beneficial to look for, a therapist or a coach or someone that can be with you and accompany you more regularly? And an invitation to you to just express some gratitude to your parts for being willing to do this work, to be willing to go inside together, to connect in this way. Just appreciation for parts, trying out new ways of being with new ways of connecting and interacting. Maybe that felt risky and they were willing to do that. A lot of appreciation for the good intentions that parts have, for the ways they try to help.
[00:49:29] And then also just to check in with your parts about what might be good to share–what they might want you to speak for them in our group. And what might really be best kept private just for you as the innermost self to know. We don’t want to overexpose any parts. We don’t want to put parts in a vulnerable position if they’re not ready. We want to honor that. But it might be really helpful to some parts to have this sense of being spoken for, to be acknowledged in our group tonight, in this episode, 121, of the Interior Integration for Catholics podcast.
[00:50:23] And if that’s so, I certainly would like to hear from those parts who would like to be able to hear you speak for them. And with that, we’ll bring this experiential exercise to a close. And there’s no rush, but just an invitation to finish up that work with your parts and to to keep that straddle where you’re staying in touch with your parts, being aware of what’s going on in your own system as you come back and join us in our broader group here tonight together.
[00:51:09] And when you’re ready, you’re welcome to share your experiences–what that was like for you and your parts–and for us to be able to be together in this debriefing of what that experiential exercise meant for us and our parts.
[00:51:40] And yeah, in the chat we had this come up from one of our participants here. “One of my narcissistic parts wants to be idealized by others and especially by others whom it is idealized, so that it can finally feel good about itself. If that’s not a healthy way to go about those needs, where can I go to get those needs met? If the answer is God and Mary, how do I do that? I know they love me in theory, but I don’t feel it on an emotional level.” This is such a great comment. This is so important. This part wants you to be able to feel good about yourself. That is an integrity need–that’s the fourth integrity need–that is to have a felt sense of being good in a sense of ontological goodness. And this drives so much of the behavior that that that comes across as narcissistic in our systems. It’s an attempt to try to know or to feel that I am good. And so the idealizing of others, and we hope that they will idealize us in return or at least respect us and love us in return. So common. How do we get those needs met? Well, some people, especially if they have spiritual parts will immediately go to God and Mary. That that’s where we should start. I don’t start there. I really start by being with that part. Because this part also needs to know that it’s loved by you, by your innermost self, and there’s no one that can take the place of you loving your part. Not even God can do that. Yes, of course we need the love of God. And yes, of course, we need the love of Our Lady, Our Mother. But they cannot just step in and take over you loving you. And sometimes it’s a lot easier for parts that have this deep sense of badness, of inadequacy, of shame, of humiliation. So many times those parts can’t tolerate the love of God yet, directly from God. It’s just too much to ask parts. I have have worked with a number of therapists who immediately want to bring God in, who immediately want to bring Jesus in, who immediately want to take these parts and and expose them to the love of God. And it’s too much for those parts. They can’t bear it. And so I’m like, let’s slow it down. Let’s give these parts a little milk, a little taste I’m thinking about. This is a kind of starvation of love. And when a person has been starving physically–if you look at people who have been malnourished for long periods of time who are starving, you can’t give them a full meal or you’ll kill them. They don’t have yet the capacity to digest a full meal. The gut flora that they have, the different microorganisms in their stomach that we need to be able to digest food, that’s all been killed off because there hasn’t been any food. And so if they eat a full meal, they won’t be able to digest it. And I think when parts of been out in the cold so long and have struggled for decades without the felt experience of being loved, sometimes they have to take it in really slowly and to just sort of like bring Jesus in or bring God in or even bring Our Lady in and just expose him to that right away without understanding how they would experience that. That can be really terrifying, especially if there’s been this felt sense of alienation from God, really negative God images and covert God images. In episodes 23-29 of this podcast, I talked about how every part has a God image. You can imagine how these parts might feel about God. You know this God that is supposed to be all loving and so forth, but people haven’t had that felt experience. So I start with a felt sense of being loved by your innermost self. Not because I want it to end there, because I think that ordered self love is going to save you, as a way to warm parts up to this idea of being loved. Now, if a part is okay, if they’re okay with being with the Blessed Virgin Mary or they’re okay with being with your guardian angel or St. Joseph or with Jesus, okay, great. But don’t assume that they’re going to start there. I want to hear the story first.
[00:57:01] So we have a question. “I’m wondering if it’s common for narcissistic parts to want to be taken care of?” Absolutely. This is what they crave. This is what they desire. These parts are little. They’re usually very young. And it would be great to see in the chat like what age this part may have revealed itself to be at least phenomenologically. How old did the parts say it was? Yes, they want to be taken care of. They want to be nurtured. And if they get that, almost always you’re going to see the problematic impulses, the problematic desires, the maladaptive ways of trying to cope, you’ll see those go way down.
[00:57:48] “During this exercise, it became clear that I get a lot of dopamine from my narcissistic part. I have so many positive associations with this part because she gets love and approval from my system and on a physical level, I get a rush when she is in charge. So she doesn’t want to step aside because what of we feel bad when she does.” Makes so much sense to me. It can be like this hit–in fact, I remember reading that in Facebook when they put that little like button up there, they found that there was a dopamine rush. They found that people really could get hooked on that when their posts got liked or when the content on Facebook is liked. Yeah. It can feel like a substitute–that affirmation or that admiration or that dopamine rush that can feel like a substitute. It can seem like it can make up for a lack of love. Yeah. And so, what what I would be thinking about is how can that part sense that instead of that dopamine rush that there can be something more stable, more ongoing, more relational, more consistent. You know, a position of love. And would it be okay for that part to be able to get that from you and then for you to be a bridge to being able to get that love, to be able to tolerate being loved, to be able to receive love from God, Our Father, Mary, Our Mother, from other people as well.
[00:59:29] I wonder if anybody would like to speak up. We’ve still got some more questions here, but I’m wondering if anybody would like to join us. And have their voice heard through speech to join us in that way. If there’s anybody that would like to say something or offer something out loud.
“I will, Dr. Peter.”
[00:59:51] “I guess the biggest thing that I’m getting, just lately, is how to be gentle with these parts. So I didn’t even, like, stay with you in the exercise very long. Um, I did get a couple trailheads that I’ll follow up on, but what I ended up doing was just kind of listening to you and let you talk to to this part. It feels like my other parts are still kind of, like, unwilling to go there. So just really interesting to be able to like feel that inside finally. I’ve been doing this a long time now it feels like, but yeah, that was me.”
[01:00:34] Well, you know, you bring up a really interesting point that sometimes parts can trust the innermost self of another person more than they can trust one’s own innermost self. And so if they were willing and able to listen to me and to sense me being with you, then I’ll go with that. Especially if they’re not quite ready–you know, if they’re not yet at a point to trust that your innermost self can be there. So that’s where having another person on board can really be helpful because sometimes parts do find it easier to trust another person’s innermost self because the experience that they’ve had of one’s own innermost self has been with that self being blended or being being not really fully free yet. So I love it that you’re modeling taking what’s helpful to you and, you know, not having to try to follow everything that I’m offering, but really being able to provide your parts what they feel like they need in that moment. Does that make sense?
[01:01:40] Thank you. Okay. So we have a question here: “Would the narcissistic part be an exile, a manager or a firefighter? I got the impression that my narcissistic part who likes to deliver sharply worded rebukes is protecting a much younger and more vulnerable part.” Absolutely. When you see protective behavior, whether that’s narcissistically tinged or not, it’s always to protect an exile. It’s always to protect a much younger and more vulnerable part. That’s why these parts do it. We sometimes get this impression that narcissism is all about this disordered self-love, and it’s all about just me getting mine and so forth, that it’s just basically selfishness. But if you start to unpack this, you’ll see that there is a disordered attempt to love oneself. St. Thomas Aquinas talks about how we are going to love ourselves and we’re going to love ourselves either in an ordered way or in a disordered way. And when parts are engaging in this way of trying to protect us, but they’re using harmful means. It’s an attempt to love ourselves. It’s an attempt to try to take care of ourselves and to try to protect our exiles. It’s a way of trying to guard that vulnerability. But it can be really harmful to ourselves and to other people and to our relationship with God too. So typically, if you’re looking at narcissism in an extreme form as a personality disorder, or even a personality style, that’s being driven by managers. If what you’re seeing, on the other hand, is narcissism coming up in a much more episodic way, a much more inconsistent way (just once in a while), but when you’re really revved up, that’s likely to be a narcissistic reaction fueled by a firefighter. Right, because a firefighter is going to come up less frequently. Managers are the ones that run our day to day operations, so if one holds a position of narcissism, that’s likely to be driven by the managers. But if somebody only once in a while has this really intense narcissistic reaction, I would expect that that’s likely to be firefighter behavior or firefighter driven behavior.
[01:04:26] So we have another one here. “I enjoyed the exercise and listening to what I would describe as your kind, compassionate and gentle voice. I noticed, though, that the parts were still guarded when you, Dr. Peter, mentioned the word critical. It seemed to raise issues, perhaps for my nurturer and anticipating an external parental critical voice. Words like trust and doubt come to mind. Would you offer an opinion? Many thanks.” Yeah, sometimes there are hot button words that just really activate us. I mean, I have a hot button word in my system around the word ‘tone’ because when I was little, my mother used to get on me for my tone, and I never really could understand what she meant when she got because I was like, well, what did I say? And she was like, “It wasn’t what you said. It was your tone.” And I’m like, tone…. That could still get activated for parts of me, and I think in some ways it was because mom didn’t like to be criticized. You know, I get it. You know, I mean, and I’m sure that as a child, because I remember a number of different occasions where I would offer criticism and I’m sure my tone was thought was not empathetic. It wasn’t really attuned to the highest good of another person. So yeah, I mean words that come up that might activate things. Even ‘trust,’ right? It could feel like if there’s been relational injuries, especially around betrayal, where parts could feel like, you know, they’re being drawn in and that feels really unsafe because there’s an assumption that somehow something’s going to go wrong, somehow I’m going to turn on them or something like that. So we need to work with those. We need to work with those concerns. Really be accepting of where parts are with those kinds of things.
[01:06:28] So one here, one response about how old the part with narcissistic dynamics might be. And this response was possibly very young, like two years old. Another one might be more like a teenager that protects the very young part, but also wants to be taken care of himself. That’s really common. That’s a really common. It’s a really common to have parts that have narcissistic dynamics; experience the experience themselves as being the age of two, six or about thirteen, maybe fourteen. Because these are the ages of separation and individuation. These are the times that we make these efforts to establish ourselves as separate persons from our parents, from our in our families two, six and thirteen–very typical ages where things can go wrong. You know, where things can go south. You know, the terrible twos. How do parents react when a little one gets the gumption up to say, “I hate you, mommy, you’re a bad mommy.” You know, how does the mother react to that? When the child is trying to communicate and very global and frankly, kind of harsh language can be really hard for a parent to hear. You know that, “Hey, I am not happy with you. I’m frustrated.” You know, and so forth. And they’re not able to put it in a nuanced way. I don’t know of many two year olds that will say, “Mother, I feel like you are frustrating my efforts to separate an individuate and you’re really thwarting these incipient impulses that I have toward my own agency as I try desperately to establish a separate sense of identity from you. Could you help me with that?” You know, most two year olds are not going to speak like that, right? They’re going to be like, “You’re a bad mommy, you know, because I have my own desires.” Right? And so how parents navigate that is really critical to the child’s development. And if hearing that wounds the parent to the point where they have to make that child shut up and they frame it in terms of, you know, respect and they invoke the fourth commandment and they they don’t appreciate that what’s really going on here but they really focus on their own hurt and their own wounding and their own need for respect and their own system being destabilized and so forth. Well, then the child is going to have to really take care of the parent. Now, that doesn’t mean that children just get to, you know, say whatever they want whenever they want, you know, and they don’t have to have respect for their parents, but when we do discipline children, we want to do it for their highest good, not just out of a self-protective position. And my concern is a lot of times there’s parts of parents that are really operating in a really self-protective way in the way that they interact with their kids.
[01:09:46] But, you know, one of the things I want to reassure parents about is that God knew before time began every mistake we would make. Every sin of omission, every sin of commission with our kids. And he willed that we have our children anyway. And he willed that we be the children of our parents anyway. Because if we love the Lord, all those things will work together for good too–Romans 8:28. And our primary parents are God the Father and Mary Our Mother and our children’s primary parents are God the Father and Mary Our Mother. They are our primary parents. And part of the reason is that God wants to be able to make up for any lapses in our own parenting and the parenting that we got by being able to bring his love and to allow our Blessed Mother’s love to be able to fill those gaps as well.
[01:10:56] So we have another one here. “Most psych podcasts regarding narcissism comes from an us vs. them perspective and how to protect us from them. This is different. They are us.” And I just love this. That’s right, they are us. You know, this is a brilliant insight. And if we really understood what was driving narcissism in other people, we would be able to have a deeper sense of compassion. A lot of ink gets spilled in pop psychology books and self-help books. There’s a lot of emphasis on how do you set limits and boundaries? How do you escape from the orbit of a narcissist? How do you how do you fight back? You know, how do you no longer take it but like adequately protect yourself? And it makes sense because a lot of times there is this pairing where there’s exploitation going on, where there’s harm going on, abuse, neglect. And part of what does need to happen is for there to be some good limits and boundaries. It’s not loving a person with strong narcissistic dynamics. It’s not loving to allow that person to exploit you. That’s not love. That’s maybe being nice or being gratifying or something, but it’s not being loving. In fact, it can be a near occasion of sin to enable that kind of behavior. But often these books or podcasts just don’t go far enough. You know, yes, it’s important to set those limits and boundaries. It’s important to have the kind of self-protection so that you don’t be exploited or be injured or be abused.
[01:13:02] But the question is, how can we become grounded enough and stable enough and integrated enough to be able to love the other person anyway? And maybe, you know, in a given moment, we’re not there. Maybe there have been times, for example, where there’s been these kind of dynamics going on in married couples, and I’ve recommended a separation so that one, the one person can heal enough to be able to reengage. You know, to be able to at some point in the future to love the other person–but they need time to not be chronically re-injured.
[01:13:47] Yeah, a lot of times the focus isn’t on loving God, loving self, loving neighbor, but it’s really on pushing back, punishing a kind of concept of freedom from freedom that really is more like license. And we have a different anthropology here. You know, we have a different way of understanding what’s going on. Sometimes, not always, when I’m doing these exercises, I’m not entirely convinced that I’m really communicating with parts and not just creating a little fictional drama in my head. Other times I will be startled by an emotion or realization and believe that there is definitely something real going on. How do we know to trust what’s happening during the exercises? Well, it really does help to get to know our parts. Sometimes there are parts that really doubt this. A lot of times it’s managers that don’t really feel comfortable with other parts being revealed. Sometimes there are parts that say, “Yeah, that’s really not true, or that’s probably that’s probably fake or I’m just making it up.” I get curious about it. I think if you seek, you’ll find. If we begin to engage, we’ll find out if something is real or not. I think sometimes parts that are threatened by other parts want to devalue those parts by saying, “Yeah, they’re just making it up. It’s just a fictional drama. It’s just a tempest in a teapot. It’s nothing.” You know? And then I work with the part that’s really concerned. I work with the part that’s diminishing or devaluing the other part. I wonder what that part is concerned about if the story is true. Like, what would that mean? And I hold these things lightly–just because a part tells me something that doesn’t mean to me that it’s got to be true in the way that the part understands it. And I sometimes use this example, like if a police officer, like a state patrol officer comes upon a car that’s upside down in a ravine off a highway, and let’s say that the driver and all the adult passengers in the car are unconscious, but there’s a three year old and he asks the three year old what happened. And the three year old tells him that a giant was chasing the car and then it picked up the car and it threw it in the ravine. Would we think that that little child is lying? Would we condemn the little child for coming up with a story that made sense of the child’s experience? You know, the little child is told the story that actually accommodates like, you know, that that explains what happened. But but that doesn’t mean we necessarily have to believe that there was a giant, you know, if a tire blew out and, you know, the car like jumped the guardrail and went down the ravine, it could very much feel like it was being thrown down the ravine by a giant. So we hold it lightly. We understand that this is a part’s perspective of what happens, but that a part had very limited vision. It has a very young way of understanding things sometimes. But if we can hear that story and we can bring that story into a much more integrated narrative where other parts can also share, we can hear this from different perspectives, from different points of view. It becomes much more clear how we might understand that. Does that make sense?
[01:17:51] Well, I want to thank everyone for being here today and for our time together. It’s been wonderful to be with you. I want to remind you that we’ll have another one of these where we’ll do it live on Wednesday, October 11, from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. EST. And that’s with Dr. Gerry Crete, who is the co-founder of Souls and Hearts. He’s going to be joining us. And I’m really excited about it because he’s a marriage and family therapist and he is going to be here to answer questions about how to work with other people in our lives that have these narcissistic dynamics. And so there’ll be an opportunity for a lot of Q&A there. And so I’m really excited about that.
[01:18:41] So here’s another invitation in the next Interior Integration for Catholics podcast episode, we’re going to be continuing with narcissism. The title of that episode is ‘Narcissism and Gaslighting: Catholic Style.’ There’s very little out there on gaslighting from a Catholic perspective, and it’s a really important topic. It goes along with, in some ways, spiritual bypassing. We’re going to get into gaslighting in great depth in the next podcast episode, but I want to hear from you. I want to know what your questions are, what your concerns are, what might not be clear about gaslighting. It’s a topic that’s been very popular lately. It’s come up even in Catholic circles, but mostly around different groups or different factions accusing each other of gaslighting. There’s not been an in-depth discussion of it, so here’s an invitation. Call me up on my cell: 317-567-9594, leave me a voicemail with your question about gaslighting that I can use in the next podcast episode. I’ll use that recording, or go ahead and send me a text. You can send me one of those voice texts and I can use that, or you could email me or just text me a question and we’ll bring it in. As long as I don’t have too many of them, I’ll batch them together. Let me know if I can use your first name or your full name, your location, just to really make sure that I’m addressing your questions and concerns. I’m really excited about this next upcoming episode on gaslighting that will be released on October 2, 2023.
[01:20:36] I also want to encourage you to stay in touch with our weekly reflections. Every week I or a guest write a weekly reflection. And the last one, the one that came out on September 13, was all about Thomas, his fantasies, his daydreams, and how parts of him that are in a narcissistic subsystem impact his daydreams, his fantasies. I introduced you to Thomas in the last episode, episode 120. We go into much more depth in that weekly reflection, and next time in the weekly reflection from September 20, 2023, I’ll go into Juanita. Juanita had the covert, narcissistic subsystem and we’ll get into the patterns in some ways of the interrelationships between Juanita and Thomas because they’re a married couple that I made up. And so if you’re not getting those weekly reflections, sign up for them at soulsandhearts.com. On the home page there you can see this blue button that says “Get Doctor Peter’s Weekly Reflections in my Email Inbox Every Wednesday,” click on that. We’ll get you signed up. You’ll start getting those automatically. We don’t spam people, we don’t sell our lists or anything like that. Very private. The other thing is that you can go back to the archive of past weekly reflections at soulsandhearts.com/blog, and you can go back through this whole series that we’ve been doing on daydreams and on fantasies. It’s fun to be able to get a little coordination between the podcast and the weekly reflections. We’re able to do that. They really have the synergistic effect on each other. So just an invitation there.
[01:22:35] I am going to ask that, if you haven’t, to get on Apple Podcasts and just leave a review for this podcast. I asked in the last podcast and like half a dozen people took me up on that, so I’m excited about that because we had gone almost a year and a half with no likes and no comments on the podcast, and that can make it seem like the podcast is dead to people that are like leafing through and they want to see what this is about. So if we get a few more comments up there, that would be great a way that you can help me out with that.
[01:23:09] And then for those that really like this way of doing experiential exercises; I just want to put a word in for the Resilient Catholics Community. We are onboarding our new cohort and and Martha mentioned that she is just coming on board with that. So super excited to have you. We have almost a hundred 100 people joining us. And those meetings will be starting next week. Our waiting list for the December cohort is open. You can go to soulsandhearts.com/rcc and get yourself on the waiting list if you’re interested. We do all kinds of experiential exercises and we have a formal year-long program to walk you through, in a very structured way, all kinds of exercises and different ways of being able to unblend and connect with your parts. The three major pillars of the RCC are relationship, identity, and love. And the three major tasks in the RCC are tolerating being loved, embracing your identity as a beloved little son or daughter of God, and being able to reflect love back–to reflect love back to your own parts, to reflect, love back to God, to reflect love back to your neighbor. So that’s what it’s all about. But we give very practical guidance on how to do that, very actionable plans for being able to do that in the RCC. So if you’re interested in that, go to our soulsandhearts.com/rcc and sign up for the interest list there.
[01:25:05] Before we close, I just wanted to open it up for any final comments, if there’s anything else that anybody would like to say or share. Anything that might be on your heart or that your parts would like you to speak for them before we close for today.
[01:25:18] “Oh, I was just going to thank you, Dr. Peter, for this and for this focused look on narcissism. I appreciate when you take specific topics and do a deep dive and you’ve kind of taken some of the mystery out of narcissism and it just has become a hopeful place, and it’s been helpful to consider what that looks like in my own life. So definitely some new insight tonight around that. So thank you.”
[01:25:43] I’m blessed. Thank you. Well, I’m going to invite you all to to unmute yourselves, because what we’ll do now is, as our tradition is, I will invoke our patroness and our patron. Our patroness is our Lady Untier of Knots and our patron is St. John the Baptist, because he prepared the way for the Lord. And we really, in the RCC and Souls and Hearts, it’s all about preparing the way for the Lord. It’s all about shoring up that natural foundation for the spiritual life. And so we’ll invoke them as our patroness and our patron.
[01:26:26] Our Lady, Our Mother, Untier of Knots, pray for us. St. John the Baptist, pray for us.