Join Dr. Peter Malinoski as he guides faithful Catholics on a journey of integration of self. Get to know yourself more deeply, grow in your relationships, and trust God more completely. Travel with us in this podcast as we embrace our opportunities to thrive psychologically and spiritually in these uncharted waters.
Join us LIVE! Episode 110 with another experiential exercise about safety, anger, God and interior integration of parts will be recorded with a live audience on Monday, April 10, 2023 from 8:00 PM to 9:00 PM Eastern Time. Register for the Zoom link here.
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108 Giving up the Idols We Hate -- Experiential Exercise
In this experiential exercise, we invite parts of us to share their stories of why they hold anger toward God. Dr. Peter offers an invitation to parts to see if we can listen to those stories in an open, nonjudgmental way, understanding that there are always reasons for anger at God, reasons that stem from misunderstanding and misinterpretations of experiences. Parts are angry more at their images of God -- their idols -- than at who God really is. Live audience participants share their experiences in debriefing and Dr. Peter also answers questions.
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Our subscription-based membership community participates in active discussions with Dr. Peter and like-minded individuals who are interested in learning more about how to increase resiliency in their own lives.Tell me more!
IIC 107: How to Work Through your Anger at God
Summary: Dr. Peter walks you through the four tracks or pathways Catholics commonly follow with their anger at God, tracks proposed by Michele Novotni and Randy Petersen in their 2001 book Angry with God, and elaborates on them extensively. These four tracks are 1) Trust in God Track; 2) the Cover-Up Track; 3) the Wrestle with God Track; and 4) the Long-Distance / Disconnect Track. We discuss how to better resolve anger issues with God through a wide variety of means with a focus on practical solutions. Dr. Peter emphasizes the importance of God images, felt safety and protection, a sense of trust, the infused virtue of Faith, courage and fortitude, and the critical role of emotional co-regulation in working through anger at God.
IIC 106: God in the Hands of Angry Sinners -- Experiential Exercise
In this episode, informed by Internal Family Systems and grounded firmly in a Catholic worldview, Dr. Peter guides you to connect with your spiritual manager parts who protect you against your own anger at God, getting to know those parts' concerns about why anger at God is dangerous or unacceptable. This is an important step in the journey to working through your anger at God. We discuss how to work safely with your parts, with a spirit of cooperation and collaboration, not rushing. Come join us on an adventure inside. At the end, audience participants debrief, share their experiences with Dr. Peter and he answers questions.
IIC 105: How You Hide from your Anger at God
In this episode, we explore: 1) How anger at God is far more common and intense that you realize; 2) Why you need to work through your anger at God; 3) Your hidden reasons for your anger at God; 4) Why your anger at God is so frequently banished to your unconscious; 5) 16 defense mechanisms that drive your anger at God outside of your awareness; 6) How your anger at God is so often overpowered by your fear of God; and 7) The signs and symptoms of your unacknowledged anger at God.
IIC 104: Connecting with your Angry Parts -- Experiential Exercise
In Episode 104, in an experiential exercise, a guided reflection, Dr. Peter guides you in helping your parts who struggle with anger and also parts who work to protect you against your anger. Come join us on an adventure inside, where we work to overcome the human formation obstacles to our interior integration. At the end, audience participants share their experiences with Dr. Peter and he answers questions.
IIC 103: Your Anger, Your Body and You
In this episode, Dr. Peter reviews the limitations of current Catholic resources on anger, and then reviews secular resources, including interpersonal neurobiology and the structural theory of dissociation. We examine the role of the body in anger responses, and discuss more wholistic ways of working constructive with parts that experience anger, rather than trying to dismiss anger, suppress it or distract from it.
IIC 103 Anger and your Body
"I was angry with my friend; I told my wrath, my wrath did end. I was angry with my foe: I told it not, my wrath did grow", William Blake, from 'A Poison Tree'.
We've all experienced anger, we've all experienced angry people. We know that anger can be a serious problem. Global data suggests that it's getting worse. A Gallup world poll from 2021--people from 140 countries were polled, asked the question, "did you experience the following feelings a lot of the day yesterday? How about anger?" 17% of US respondents agreed. 26% of women worldwide said "yes, I have experienced anger a lot of the day yesterday". That was up from 20% ten years ago. It was 20% of men who agreed with that--and that's flat from ten years ago.
And the thing is that great harm can come from anger--not just for the people that are the focus of the anger, but also for those who are angry. Mark Twain said, "Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured." And from 'The Catechism of the Catholic Church', paragraph 2302, "By recalling the commandment, 'you shall not kill', our Lord asked for peace of heart and denounced murderous anger and hatred as immoral. Anger is a desire for revenge. 'To desire revenge in order to do evil to someone who should be punished is illicit', but it is praiseworthy to impose restitution 'to correct vices and maintain justice.' If anger reaches the point of a deliberate desire to kill or seriously wound a neighbor, it is gravely against charity; it is a mortal sin." The Lord says, "everyone who was angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment." Everyone who was angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment. And who hasn't been angry with his brother--including Jesus himself?
So we have to unpack this. There is so much misunderstanding about anger in the Catholic world. So much of the way that Catholics have approached anger has been limited, misinformed, and misguided. Furthermore, when I think about why the Catholic Church in the US, and Canada, and Europe, Australia, the entire Western world, the entire English speaking world, there are so many reasons why we are hemorrhaging members.
Brandon Vogt in his article 'New Stats on Why Young People leave the church--he was the one that wrote this book, 'How to Draw Your Child Back to the Church'. He presented some statistics: Diocese of Springfield Exit Surveys (2014), 68% of those who left the Catholic Church said their spiritual needs were not met. 67% also indicated that they lost interest in the Church over time. I think one critical factor is that cradle Catholics, especially young Catholics, do not believe that the Church can help them with their problems. Let me say that again. I think that one critical factor for why so many Catholics leave the church, especially young Catholics, is because they do not believe that the church can help them with their problems.
Only 7% of millennials raised Catholic still actively practice their faith today. And by that we mean going to weekly Mass, praying a few times each week, and assert that their faith is extremely or very important to them. Only 7% of millennials have kept the faith. And for every person that joins the Catholic Church, for every convert to the Catholic faith, we lose 6.5 Catholics. We get one coming in, we get 6.5 leaving.
I think if young people--and people in general, if they believed that the Church really had the answers to the deepest questions in their heart, if they knew that the Church had the answers, they wouldn't be leaving. But I believe that the Catholic Church doesn't seem relevant to them because she doesn't seem like she has the answers to the real issues they face. 10% of American adults are former Catholics. 10%--that's one in ten of us in the US, former Catholics. And nearly half of those who fall away from the church become 'nones'. What I mean by that is no religious affiliation. Another quarter become Evangelical Christians. 79% of former Catholics leave the church before the age of 23. 50% of millennials raised Catholic, no longer even identify as Catholic today, so only 7% are really active in their faith--weekly mass attendance, praying a few times a week, and only half of those millennials raised Catholic still identify as Catholics.
Why? I think it has to do with topics like our topic today, topics like anger. I think that we are failing to do a good job in meeting the needs that Catholics have today, and especially their human formation needs.
I am Dr. Peter Malinoski, a.k.a. Dr. Peter, clinical psychologist, trauma therapist, podcaster, blogger, cofounder and president of Souls and Hearts--but most of all, I am a beloved little Son of God, a passionate Catholic, and one who wants to help you to taste and see the goodness of the Lord, to taste and see the height and depth and breadth and warmth and the light of the love of God, especially the love of God, the Father, and Mary our mother, our spiritual parents, our primary parents. To really absorb--to really take in your identity as a little child of God your father and Mary your mother. I want you to enter much more deeply into an intimate, personal, loving relationship with the three persons of the Trinity and with our Lady. That is what this podcast, Interior Integration for Catholics is all about, that is what Souls and Hearts is all about--all about shoring up the natural foundation for the spiritual life of intimacy with God, all about overcoming the natural human formation deficits and obstacles to contemplative union with God, our Father. That's what I want for you. We are on an adventure of love together. And one thing, one major, big, huge thing that gets in the way of receiving the love of God and Mary is anger. Anger. And anger is also a huge obstacle to being able to love God, to love Mary in return, and to love our neighbor, also to love ourselves. This is episode 103 of Interior Integration for Catholics, released on January 2nd, 2023. Happy New Year. As I mentioned, Interior Integration for Catholics is part of Souls and Hearts--our online outreach. Check us out at soulsandhearts.com.
Anger. Alright, let's get into it. Anger. Anger--one of the seven deadly sins. One of the lethal vices that can kill your soul, anger. There is so much confusion about anger. There's an article at catholicdailyreflections.com called 'The Burden of Anger'. It was it was published on June 10th, 2021, and it says, "The first level of sin is simply to be 'angry' interiorly. The sin of anger is an interior attitude of disgust toward another. Jesus says that the consequence of having anger toward another is that you will be 'liable to judgment.'"
Alright, so here we've already started with the confusion--the first level of sin, according to these authors, they're anonymous, the first level of sin is simply to be angry, interiorly, right. So that can lead to a lot of confusion about whether the emotion of anger is sinful or not. They qualify it a bit here because they say that anger is an interior attitude of disgust. So that starts to bring in the will, but you wouldn't necessarily see that at first blush. That's one of the reasons why we really need to unpack what's going on here in anger--anger as a spontaneous emotion rising up outside of the direct purview of the will--that is not sinful. It's what we do with the anger that carries the moral weight.
Now, I want to say that a lot of what I'm discussing, especially when I get into my personal recommendations about how to deal with anger, I could be wrong. I want to start by simply, in humility saying I could be wrong. And if I'm saying something that seems like it contradicts what we know to be true by divine revelation--if it seems to contradict dogma or doctrine, I want you to reach out and tell me. I want you to email me at [email protected] You can call me or text me on my cell, 317-567-9594. I really want to be open to correction, really want to make sure that as we deal with what's actually not really been done before, a real integration of the best of secular psychology, trauma, energy, neuroscience, all of the fields that are now contributing to a deeper understanding of how the human person, how the human body reacts to trauma, and what kinds of physiology goes on behind the emotion of anger. As we bring all that together, there could be some things that are off. So I just want you to know that I'm really open to hearing about this.
I'm going to start by reviewing the offerings from five Catholic writers on anger. The most popular book I could find was a book called 'Overcoming Sinful Anger' by Father T.G. Morrow. It has 303 Amazon reviews, mostly positive. It reached #16 on the list of best sellers, in Catholic Theology, was put out by Sophia Press in 2015. And I don't think it's very good. I hate to say that, alright, but I think we also have to be frank and honest in evaluating these things. And I'll tell you why--it's not just going to be some sort of blatant condemnation. And there are good things in the book as well--we'll try to highlight those. But I can't recommend it.
First off, Father Morrow admits that he doesn't understand why people get angry. He says on page nine, "We've all encountered people who explode when they feel angry. It baffles me how often the sort of anger rears its ugly head in marriages--even in allegedly Christian marriages." The tone of some of what Father Morrow writes is pretty condemnatory, I think, and not helpful to people who are really struggling with anger. You know, 'allegedly Christian marriages', that lands hard with me. He also says, "I am often surprised to discover Christians who pray ardently, who received the sacraments regularly, who attend mass daily, and yet have an anger problem." Well, that doesn't surprise me at all. I don't find that surprising one bit.
First of all, one concern I have is that Father Morrow presumes that there's a homogeneous, single, unified, integrated personality. If that were true, you wouldn't have these disconnects, but because of the effects of trauma, because of the effects of how that disintegrates us inside, how that disconnects us inside, we can be operating in very different modes in different moments, even changing rapidly from moment to moment because of that lack of unity inside--because that lack of integration. It's easy to explain why somebody who goes to Church every day to daily Mass, prays at a holy hour every day, prays the litany of humility every day, why that person could lose their composure, could explode in anger even ten minutes after getting home. Because if we understand what's going on in terms of parts, if we understand in terms of what's going on inside, as they're being these these separate entities inside that have different characteristics and that have access to the different faculties, will, and memory and so forth, and that operate within us, it's not that hard to understand.
Father Morrow, when he looks at what causes anger, I think he's pretty simplistic. He says, "Why do people explode in anger? There are many reasons, but I think the top three are power and control, a refusal to take responsibility, and habit". That's on page 13.
I think he's got a very simplistic view of psychology and no consideration of neurology and trauma allergy. So a lot of confusion about the causal chain in anger--where anger fits in a sequence of events. I also sense that in so many Catholic writers, including Father Morrow, there's a lack of genuine interest in what's actually causing the anger. It's just assumed that it's vice. It's just assumed that it's wrong. It's just assumed that it's irrational, and their anger is essentially just something to be gotten rid of. Not much consideration for the unconscious and for unconscious anger.
Father Morrow does acknowledge that suppressing anger is problematic, but there's still an assumption that if I'm not feeling anger, it's not there. There's a disconnect. He's also very focused on the will, and will training. There's some real naïve assumptions about how the will can overcome just about anything. "Just keep trying! Keep at it!". And there is something to that, there is something to perseverance--no doubt about that. But there are naïve assumptions about what people can do when they are overcome and they are outside their window of tolerance in a state of sympathetic nervous system arousal.
St. Paul gives us an example. He says in Romans 7:15, "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing that I hate."
The other thing that I believe that that Father Morrow does, and that other writers do is called spiritual bypassing.
John Welwood, who was an American clinical psychologist, psychotherapist, teacher, and author, he was known for integrating psychological and spiritual concepts. He coined the term 'spiritual bypassing', and it means using "spiritual ideas, words and practices to sidestep or avoid personal, emotional, 'unfinished business', to shore up a shaky sense of self, or to belittle basic needs, feelings, psychological wounds and developmental tasks."
Blogger Rose Hahn, she stated in her blog post, 'Spiritual Bypassing: What It Is & How To Avoid It', she said, "Bypassing occurs when spiritual ideals get elevated to the realm of absolute truth in such a way that our real, lived experience is somehow denied. Rather than doing the work of healing deep wounds, we may use these ideals to deny, devalue, or avoid meeting our more human needs--such as emotional bonding, love, and esteem. In other words, rather than risk opening ourselves to real human connection, and possibly get hurt, we adopt a more enlightened, spiritual way of relating to the world that doesn't rely on human relationships."
Using spiritual words, spiritual means, spiritual concepts to alter, whitewash or to put a bandaid on significant psychological or emotional problems in the natural realm. We are talking about human formation problems here. Bypassing the natural realm, going directly to the spiritual realm--essentially saying 'you shouldn't feel this way'. And Father Morrow implies that several times in his book that you should not feel this way--labeling emotions as irrational.
As a clinical psychologist, when I work with somebody and unpack what's going on there, the emotions always make sense. If you get to the level of where that emotion is being generated from, it makes sense. Now, it might not always correspond to an accurate perception of reality. I suppose, in that sense, you could call it "irrational". But parts that are struggling with these emotions are often very young--they don't have a mature understanding because when they got locked in to carrying the the burden of anger or the burden of shame or the burden of grief or whatever, they were very, very young. Often the person had not reached the age of reason. And there's this way that trauma freezes us in the past if it's unresolved.
Father Morrow promises, "I will offer some ideas which I consider quite novel, on how to avoid angry explosions." He's focused very much on angry explosions--he repeats that over and over again. I'm much more interested in not just starting at that level and avoiding some sort of behavioral manifestation of it that's extreme. I want to go way upstream, I want to deal with this at the source, not right at the end.
So he's got a bunch of tips and some of them are really quite good, some of them are thoughtful, this book isn't all bad, and if a book like this is helpful to you, by all means, use it. I'm not trying to take something away from anybody if it's helpful to them. So if you've read the book, you found it really helpful, great. But some of the things that he also recommends I just don't think are going to cut it.
For example, 'if you struggle with an anger problem, write on an index card all the negatives of continuing your anger and read that list several times a day'. Most of the time when people are exploding with anger, they're disconnected from their from their frontal cortex. They do not have the capacity to be able to engage their rational processes very readily.
What we need to do instead of using very head-based cognitive approaches, is increase a sense of safety and a sense of protection. And deal with what's causing the anger because there's something underneath that anger--anger so often, and I'll talk about this more in a little bit, anger is so often a defense against overwhelming grief, it's a defense against fear, and most of all, it's a defense against shame.
If you want to address the anger problem, you need to get to the shame--that is so common. And it's interesting because in none of these Catholic authors that I'm going to discuss--Father Morrow never brings up shame. It's not one of the three things that he believes really fuels anger, but I think that's the #1 thing--that's the father or the grandfather of anger. It could be the father of anger in the sense that the anger can defend against the direct experience of shame, or it could be the grandfather of anger because the shame might lead to this deep sense of grief. And it may be the grief that the anger is defending against. So we want to understand what the causal connections are, and there seems to be this very--I don't know how to describe it--this great disinterest, this great lack of interest in understanding what's really going on, phenomenologically, what's really happening within a person. It's just like, 'stop the anger'--working very much at the surface.
So, Father Morrow, "take time to calm down and figure out why you're angry". One of the tactics recommended is to count to ten before deciding what to do, he recommends saying a short prayer, he recommends using humor--which is a good recommendation. He's got this offering your angry feeling as a sacrifice is not suppressing it, but it is doing something with it. Yeah, it could be spiritually bypassing with it that offer it up stuff when it comes to anger is often spiritual bypassing. Not always, but usually what's going on is that some part that's got a legitimate concern that's got something that it really needs to be resolved, that needs attention, that needs love within us, is just getting steamrolled by Catholic moral parts that want it to shut up and stop causing problems inside. There's this sort of power spirituality that just sort of grinds these parts up and try to get them to be silent--imprison them within, and their needs never get addressed. And then there's not a sense of peace. There's not a sense of well-being. There might be a white-knuckling it, and being able to contain the anger or the grief or whatever the intensity is, the anxiety, for a while. But there isn't a sense of really being grounded with it.
So Father Morrow brings in some of the things--"thanking God, praising God"--in chapter seven, talks about "considering your future". He says "one key way to change your behaviors is to work out in your mind what your life will be if you don't change your angry behavior". Well, this can just increase anxiety, because if a person was able to figure it out with that kind of advice, he would have done it already. Most people who have a lot of anger understand, at least at some level--they might not have a full appreciation of it, but they understand at some level that it's harmful.
So I don't think there's a lot new here. Let's go to Father Joseph Esper. He wrote this book, 'Saintly Solutions to Life's Common Problems'. It's got 99 reviews on Amazon, it's a number 138 in Roman Catholic books. The first chapter in it is on anger. And he quotes St. Thomas of Villanova says, "Dismiss all anger and look into yourself a little." Again, this is just this lack of curiosity. "Just dismiss the anger. Just banish the anger." You sometimes hear this still in some sectors of the Church, right. "Cast out the spirit of anger!" Again, very little depth here, very little appreciation or understanding of what the underlying causes of anger are. The quotes from the saints don't seem to be particularly helpful to me. He does have some advice, like 'rehearse possible responses and evaluate which ones might help you'. So there's some a few good things in here at a really behavioral level, though.
And if there's going to be deep change, it's not going to be because these different practices were just put into place without there being some sort of structural shift inside. I'd like to be much more deliberate about that.
Tommy Tighe wrote a book called 'St. Dymphna's Playbook: A Catholic Guide to Finding Mental and Emotional Well-Being'. It was in 2021, it hit number 57 in Christian Pastoral Counseling, it's got 66 reviews on Amazon, mostly positive. And he doesn't ever discuss anger in the book at all. Book on finding mental and emotional well-being doesn't really discuss anger.
He discusses irritability, but he sees irritability as a symptom of depression. He discusses resentment, but he discusses that as a problem in relationships. And again, no discussion of shame at all, which is, again, I think, so critical--I spent episodes 37-49, 13 episodes addressing shame. I think it's 11 or 12 hours that I spend on the importance of the centrality of shame as generating so many of the things that we call 'psychological disorders', what we call psychological disorders--so often that is just the symptom clusters of underlying deeper problems, especially about shame.
So he sees depression as the primary problem and the depression fueling irritability. But I mean, a lot of times it goes the other way around. You know, for example, anger turned inward can lead to depression. So there's a lot of other ways that depression and anger can be related--that grief and anger can be related other than what Tommy Tighe offers us. And he's got some, you know, he's got some good recommendations. He talks about going for a walk, taking time to meditate, watching or reading something that lightens the mood. There's a lot of distraction recommendations that are in these Catholic, that are in these Catholic sources, you know, 'get your mind on something else'. Well, again, that may help in the short term to not lose your emotional containment and lash out at people, but that's not going to get to the deep underlying causes of whatever that anger is for you.
He does have some exercises that are kind of neat about drawing out your emotions on paper, examining what was really behind your emotional response, things like that, but he assumes that depression causes anxiety. He says, "then, after a really brief introspective process, we can catch that the real reason for our irritability is our depressed mood, and we can interject coping skills for depression to stave off irritability." Okay, so I got problems with this, right.
First of all, I don't agree that--as I said before, I don't agree that the causal chain has to be depression first and irritation second. It can go a lot of different ways. And in fact, I see depression and anger as both being caused by shame. So we're missing the main point here, I think. And then there's again, this idea that we just want to stave off the irritability. Can't we get curious about that? Can't we have an understanding of why that's there? Like what might be the injustice or the perceived injustice that generates the anger? Can we be willing to go into ourselves? Can we care about ourselves? Can we love ourselves enough to listen to ourselves about that? You don't see that in these Catholic authors.
They do ask the question, you know, "Okay, what's really going on?" But the way they guide you doesn't seem to me to get to the deepest levels. He's got some steps in a process--he talks about visualizing yourself from the perspective of a compassionate observer, which I think is a really good suggestion--I like that one a lot. And it goes a little bit beyond some of the other authors that we're talking about. He talks about noticing from the outside which feelings are upsetting you and how they're reflected in you. He does try to get at a kind of self-relating when he talks about trying to let the warm feeling of compassion and desire to help arise within you, for you to help yourself. And he does say that you can say to yourself, 'It's understandable that you feel this way. You're experiencing a natural reaction to depressing thoughts'. I wouldn't...I don't like that because, again, he presumes that depression is what's causing the irritability.
Now, that was his experience; he talks about his experience, but his experience isn't the same as everybody else's. And he talks about active listening. And he says, "to fend off resentment, we have to communicate what things are important to us and why". And again, you can spend your life fending off resentment if you're dealing with it only late in the causal chain, but if you go way upstream, there is so much anger that can be resolved, so much rage that can be resolved so that it doesn't trouble you all the time like that. So there we have Tommy Tighe's 'St. Dymphna's Playbook: A Catholic Guide to Finding Mental and Emotional wellbeing.
Rhonda Chevrin, she is the author of over 60 books concerning Catholic thought, practice and spirituality--she's Catholic, author, international speaker, professor of philosophy, EWTN, she's a media personality, gets on the air quite a bit. She wrote a book called 'Taming the Lion Within: 5 Steps from Anger to Peace'. And again, it's the same kind of thing as these other books. She does make some recommendations: to move your muscles to exercise, humor is your best friend, avoid exceptionality--she means by that not having to be exceptional; accept that you can be average in some things, put your own mental health first, recognizing that other people are not doing it to you--they may just be doing it. For example, if somebody cuts you off on the freeway, not to take it personally, things like that. Emphasis on forgiveness, really standard Catholic stuff. It's just another repetition of all these other things. There's nothing in there about shame, nothing about the causal chain, nothing about neurology, nothing about trauma allergy. It's actually not that well-informed.
Father Spitzer, the Jesuit, who I have a lot of respect for, brilliant mind--he didn't write a book on this, but he did a brief interview called 'Angry with God? Here's Father Spitzer's Advice on How to Overcome Anger'. And he says that God understands your anger, but don't dwell on it. He says, 'Don't go there. Don't go to your anger at God. Don't dwell on your anger at God'. He has this three step process that he recommends in this YouTube clip, 'Angry with God', he says, "Stop comparing yourself to the way you once were, stop comparing yourself to others, and stop having expectations for your suffering'. And he says, "offer it up and kind of stop the questioning".
I'm like, "No! No!". As much as I appreciate so much of the brilliance of Father Spitzer in some of his other things, again, he's drawing heavily on his own experience of blindness and progressive blindness. But I think a lot of that is really problematic advice, especially for people who have experienced trauma. It's very invalidating. It's not at all interested in the suffering that one is experiencing. And I agree, we don't want to wallow in self-pity, but that's not what I'm going to be recommending.
And then a variety of different writers will give examples from the Saints. Meg Hunter-Kilmer. She published in Aleteia on September 28, 2017, 'What We Probably Don't Know About St. Jerome is Just What We Need to Know'. And she said, for example, St. Jerome was known to carry about a stone that he would hit himself with, every time he lost his temper.
And I'm just like, 'when writers put this sort of stuff in, are they thinking that we should do this? Are they thinking that that's like a good idea?' It's just because a lot of times what gets quoted about the saints with anger, with other things, are these really idiosyncratic things that I'm not sure are that advisable.
So I want to say that again, if these kinds of Catholic resources are helpful to you, I don't want to put up roadblocks. They might be helpful to many people--lots of positive amazon reviews for many of these books, for example. But I think there's a very simplistic view of psychology, no consideration of neurology, trauma, allergy, all these other fields that I want to bring in. There's confusion about the causal chain of anger, where anger fits in a causal chain in a sequence of events--its a relationship to shame, especially. There seems to be little genuine interest in the anger, in the experience of anger, in the phenomenology of anger. Anger is seen instead as something essentially to be gotten rid of because it's dangerous, because it's bad. Even though they might say that there is such a thing as a just anger--because there is. St. Thomas Aquinas addresses this. And what they really don't understand, not one of them is that anger has a protective function, that it protects us. It protects us against shame, it protects us against grief. Not one of those sources connects anger to shame. And that's the primary connection we need to understand if we want to resolve anger and not just try to shoo it away, just try to dispense with it. Just try to get it to try to deflect it or whatever.
Alright, well, let's get into some definitions of anger. Let's get into some definitions on anger. Now, it's interesting because if you go all the way back to the earliest discussions in the western world about anger, you're going to go back to Aristotle in his book 'Rhetoric', where he defined anger as, "a belief that we or our friends have been unfairly slighted, which causes in us both painful feelings and a desire or impulse for revenge." And the theme of a revenge in anger was picked up in the 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia, which defined anger as "the desire of vengeance". The desire of vengeance. And then it gets into the moral quality of that vengeance. It says its ethical rating depends on the quality of the vengeance and the quantity of the passion. When these are in conformity with the prescriptions of balanced reason, anger is not a sin. It is rather a praiseworthy thing and justifiable with a proper zeal.
Anger becomes sinful when it is sought to wreak vengeance upon one who has not deserved it, or to a greater extent than it has been deserved, or in conflict with the dispositions of the law or from an improper motive. So again, they're looking--both Aristotle and the Catholic Encyclopedia from 1907, are looking at anger as more than an emotion. They're looking at it as an impulse, as a desire, as as more than just a spontaneous emotion. The 'Catechism of the Catholic Church', paragraph 2302 says, "By recalling the commandment, 'You shall not kill', the Lord asked for peace of heart and denounced murderous anger and hatred as immoral. Anger is a desire for revenge." Alright, so that's really critical. That when the Church looks at anger as a capital sin--as one of the seven deadly sins, it's not just the spontaneous emotion of anger. It's this nurturing of anger. It's this harboring of anger. It's this feeding of our anger in terms of what's happening inside of us, in terms of our thoughts, our fantasies, things like that--what we're going with, how we're letting that passion of anger drive our will. The will has to be involved for there to be objective moral guilt.
However, there does not need to be this correlation between the emotion of anger and a desire for vengeance. Aggression or vengeance and anger--they don't have to go together. There's been a lot of research in psychology to tease out anger and aggression and those differences. And this is acknowledged even in Scripture, right? St. Paul, Ephesians 4:26 he says, "Be angry, but do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger." Be angry, but do not sin. So there doesn't have to be sin going along with the experience of anger, with the emotion of anger.
The APA, the American Psychological Dictionary of Psychology, says that anger is, "an emotion characterized by tension and hostility arising from frustration, real or imagined injury by another or perceived injustice. It can manifest itself in behaviors designed to remove the object of the anger, for example, determined action or behaviors designed merely to express the emotion (e.g. swearing). Anger is distinct from, but a significant activator of aggression, which is behavior intended to harm someone or something. Despite their mutually influential relationship, anger is neither necessary nor sufficient for aggression to occur."
I want to spend a little bit more just on some of the benefits of anger. In a chapter called 'The Neurobiology of RAGE and Anger & Psychiatric Implications with a Focus on Depression', by Daniel Guerral, Valentina Colonnello and Jack Panksepp, they write, "As a basic emotion, anger emerges early in life and has a unique adaptive function in motivating, organizing, and regulating behavior. No other emotion can match the consistency and vigor of anger in mobilizing high-level energy and sustaining goal-directed activity. Anger serves a variety of regulatory functions in physiological and psychological processes related to self-defense, as well as to interpersonal and societal behaviors. Through socialization processes, it plays an important role in the development of personality and individual differences in responding to environmental challenges, which can be more or less adaptive." So let's go back and break this down a little bit. 'Anger emerges early in life and has a unique adaptive function in motivating, organizing and regulating behavior.' Anger fuels right action if it's ordered within a person. When our Lord cleansed the temple from the money changers, his anger fueled that action. It didn't control him, but it provided him that high level energy that Guerral, Colonnello and Panksepp were talking about. And that's why we don't want to just shoo our anger away. That's why we don't want to just stave it off (as Tommy Tigue was talking about), or get rid of it. We want that to be integrated into us. That's why we call this podcast 'Interior Integration for Catholics'. We do not want to lose our anger. We do not want to somehow excise that from who we are. We need our anger to be fully human, but we need it to be ordered.
The difficulty I have with the five Catholic sources I cited is that there's not a lot of interest in integrating that anger, and understanding how it could be ordered within us. Aristotle in his Nichomachean Ethics said, "It is easy to fly into a passion--anybody can do that--but to be angry with the right person in the right context and at the right time and with the right object in the right way--that is not easy and it is not everyone who can do it." Aristotle recognized that it's easy for anger to become disordered. It's much harder for anger to be ordered.
The 'Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1767 says "In themselves passions are neither good nor evil", and anger is a passion. Passions are morally qualified only to the extent that they effectively engage, reason and will. It belongs to the perfection of the moral or human good that the passions be governed by reason. And that's what I want for you. That's really what I want for you, which is why I want to engage with the anger in a way that's really constructive, and I want to get to the roots of what it is so that it doesn't constantly gnaw at you. Because all of this suppression and distraction and denial and staving off and all of these things do not resolve that anger--and that anger can be resolved. It's going to have to be resolved, either here on Earth or in purgatory, because if anger is disordered, it's not going to be able to go into heaven with you.
'The Catholic-Christian Meta-Model of the Person' which was put out by Divine Mercy University faculty Paul Vitz, William Nordlinger and Paul Craig Titus, page 294, says, "To remain in the virtuous middle ground requires being disposed to a righteous anger that will stand up to injustice, and to use a good measure of anger in ways that are corrective of the evil, preventive of further injustice, and indicative of a balance to mean between extremes." Alright so, again, these professionals, (two of them are therapists, one is a philosopher) they're recognizing how important it is for anger to be ordered and not just to be eliminated, right? We want that anger to be in the right middle ground. They write, "Emotions are viewed as informing people about their cares and concerns. To prepare the body for action, directing our thoughts to ways that will appropriately address the issues at hand. Emotions can signal and manipulate other people in ways that suit that person's emotional needs. Being disconnected from emotional experience, therefore, means being cut off from adaptive information." Some people really want an angerectomy, an angerectomy, just excising the anger--"Just take my anger away! Just take my anger away, Lord!" Asking to live without anger, but they would again not have the fullness of the human experience.
Alright so I am going to get into some real secular sources here because I think there's so much more helpful than what we've already covered. And the question may arise--"Dr. Peter, as you already noted, anger's been recognized for a long time, it goes all the way back to Aristotle, way before that in sacred scripture, you emphasized that your Catholic psychologist. So why are you even looking at these secular sources like the American Psychological Association?" There's a lot about anger in the scripture and the early church fathers, a lot in the saints about anger and the spiritual life. Well, I'll start by quoting Discalced Carmelite Abbot Marc Foley in his excellent book, 'The Context of Holiness: Psychological and Spiritual Reflections on the Life of St. Therese of Lisieux', he said, "One...misconception is that the spiritual life is an encapsulated sphere, cloistered from the realities of daily living...we have only one life composed of various dimensions. Our emotional life, intellectual life, social life, work life, sex life, spiritual life are simple ways of speaking of the different facets of our one life." We have one life. That's what Discalced Carmelite Abbot Marc Foley is telling us. We have one life. We don't have a spiritual life that is separate from our emotional life. We have one life. If we're angry, that affects our whole life--all the aspects of our life.
And the Church herself encourages us to look at all branches of knowledge and glean what is best from them in order to live our one life better. From the 'Catechism of the Catholic Church', paragraph 159, "Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can any truth contradict truth. Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge provided is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God, in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are." And from the Vatican II document the 'Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World', paragraph 62, it reads, "In pastoral care, sufficient use must be made not only of theological principles, but also of the findings of the secular sciences, especially of psychology and sociology, so that the faithful may be brought to a more adequate and mature life of faith."
We're supposed to be taking advantage of what's going on in psychology. And here's another point: I want you to remember that we are embodied beings. We are composites of a soul and a body. We have a body. And so often writers about the internal life, Catholic writers about the internal life, the psychological life, seem to neglect the importance of the body. There's this sort of idea that Descartes' mind-body dualism really is for real. The idea that the mind and the body operate in these separate spheres disconnected from one another. No, we have one life.
And in the last several years, we're realizing how much of our mental experience, our psychological well-being is linked in various ways to our neurobiology--the way that our nervous system functions. And the relationship between our embodied brain and our minds and our emotional states--that's so important. Our emotional states, our behaviors, they affect brain chemistry. It's not just our mind, it's not just our body, it's not just our soul--it's all of those.
And since scripture, the early Church fathers, the Catechism and so on, they're silent about neurobiology, neurochemistry, neurophysiology, so many areas that impact our minds and our well-being, that as a Catholic psychologist, I'm going to look wherever I can find what I need to help people. I don't expect that bishops and priests are going to be experts on this. I don't expect that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is going to be able to lay out all these things. No, that's my job. And also, I'm going to argue that if you're struggling with these things, it's your job. It's your job, too. That's part of why I'm here for you, is to bring you these things.
St. John of the Cross in his prologue to his book, 'Ascent of Mt. Carmel', said, "I will not rely on experience or science, but I will not neglect whatever possible use I can make of them." So he's recognizing that experience might not be a faithful guide, we can misinterpret our experience, that science can't answer the deepest questions that are the proper realm of theology and philosophy, but he's still going to make use of them.
Father Abbot Marc Foley said in his book 'The Context of Holiness', "As St. Thomas wrote of St. Augustine's use of Platonic philosophy in the Summa 'Whenever Augustine, who was imbued with the doctrines of the Platonists, found in their teaching anything consistent with the faith, he adopted it. And those things which he found contrary to the faith he amended.'" And St. Thomas himself drew so much on Aristotle's thought. He brought Aristotle so much into his writings, brought it into his body of work.
I want to be doing the same thing for you. Drawing from the best of what's out there in the secular world, harmonizing with what we know to be true by divine revelation. Absolutely faithful to what the Catholic Church has taught through the centuries. But bringing in these new ideas, these new concepts, these new findings to support you as you seek their deep and intimate personal relationship with God our Father, with Mary, our Mother. That's what floats my boat.
So let's start talking about biological processes and anger. This is from an article by Heidi Crockett titled 'Anger Management with Interpersonal Neurobiology'. I talked a lot about interpersonal neurobiology in episode 92 of this podcast, which was titled 'Understanding and Healing Your Mind through IPNB'. "In interpersonal neurobiology, anger as an emotion is viewed from the perspective of cognitive neuroscience. And cognitive neuroscience states that cognition and emotion are dynamically combined with physical arousal. When anger is induced as an emotion in humans, it can unconsciously affect physiological and neural resources. Affective states of anger are subsequently expressed in the brain as well as the body, and these neural and physiological changes can influence the cognitive processes. Many studies and resources have been expended on studying the emotions of happiness, sadness and fear which align with psychopathological states of hypomania, depression and anxiety." So we got to remember that this is so much about our body and so much about the electrical activity in our brain and in our nervous system.
Kathy Steele, Suzette Boone, and Onno van der Hart, in their book 'Treating Trauma-Related Dissociation: A Practical, Integrative Approach' said, "Anger is an affect derived from the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, geared to energize the body for maximum effort to fend off perceived danger. Psychologically, anger protects from awareness of vulnerability and lack of control, and therefore from shame." See, they get it. Steele, Boone, and van der Hart, they get how much anger is about shame. They continue, "And fight mode, we are all primed to perceive cues of danger rather than cues of safety and relational connection. In such a heightened state of arousal, it is easy to misunderstand the intentions of others." So they are bringing in the body. Steele, Boone, van der Hart. Anger is an affect; it's an emotion derived from the activation of the sympathetic nervous system. So they are looking at anger as an emotion that is caused by the sympathetic nervous system activation. It starts first in the body for them. It doesn't exist in some sort of rarefied air in our mind-- it starts in the body.
And what is the function of the anger? Why is it perceived at some level within us as a good, as something helpful? It's designed to protect us. And that's what we really need to understand about anger. If you can peel back the anger of a 6'4", 250 pound guy that's raging, you are going to find fear or grief or shame. Those are the primary things that his anger is defending him against. And I think it's so problematic if we don't understand that, because then we can just collapse it into vice. We can just say, "Oh, see, he's being evil!" We can label him, we can condemn him, we can judge his soul. Now, this is not to say that when that 6'4", 250 pound guy is raging, that there's no harm. Absolutely not. We do not want to deny the impact of other's anger, especially on children. Especially on children. It can be absolutely traumatic and devastating to kids to experience their parents uncontained and uncontrolled anger--we're going to talk about that, but I think it's so important to understand that when somebody is in the grip of anger. That that's a young part. I'm going to talk about that more when I get into some of their work a little bit further down. But it's not what it looks like. And it can be so surprising, for example, for wives of an angry husband to realize how scared that husband is, or how much grief that husband has, and especially how ashamed that husband is.
Well, let's get into a little bit more of the neurobiology of this. I'm going to be drawing from an article called 'A Critical Period for Experience-Dependent Development of the Feelings of Safety During Early Infancy: A Polyvagal Perspective on Anger and Psychometric Tools to Assess Perceived Safety'. Wow, that's really long. That was in the Frontiers of Integrative Neuroscience in July 2022.
So a brief primer here on some neurology. Don't worry, I'll keep it simple. But going back to high school biology, or if you had an anatomy course, we've got neurons--these are our brain cells, and neurons are specialized cells that communicate. They send and receive signals in the brain and the nervous system. And some of these neurons have these axons. The axons are like the wire in the neuron, right? And some of those have a membrane or a sheath around the axon, kind of like the insulation on a wire. And some of them don't. That insulation or that sheath we call myelination. So myelinated axons are insulated and unmyelinated axons are uninsulated. Now if you've got a myelinated axon, it fires much more rapidly. And what we're finding is that if there has been a lot of safety, a lot of secure attachment in the first year of life, that you are going to see a lot more myelination of axons in brain cells as an adult. So if there's been this presence of safety in that critical first year of life, we're going to have that ventral vagal complex able to have much greater impact on reducing the sympathetic nervous system arousal, on reducing that fight or flight response. The ventral vagal complex is able to have a much greater impact on calming you down. There's a greater capacity for self-regulation. It goes back to that first year of life. Did you feel safe? Did you feel protected? Did you feel like things were alright? Was mom a secure base? Was dad present in a way that was loving and caring and instilled a sense of safety for you? If you didn't, your wires are stripped. There's not as much myelination. And that leads to a lot less cardio inhibitory activity. In other words, the ventral vagal complex cannot slow down your heart. It doesn't have as great of an impact to help you snap out of, or help you calm down out of those fight responses, or out of those flight responses. That's where the anger is--it's in the fight response. This is not all under the purview of your will. There's this fantasy in a lot of Catholic circles that we can just control all of this by the sheer power of our will--"We just have to will it!"
In fact, Rhonda Chervin, who I mentioned--that book, 'Taming the Lion Within: 5 Steps from Anger to Peace'. Her primary mentor with regard to overcoming anger was Abraham Low and the book that she recommended was published in 1950, and it was called 'Mental Health Through Will Training'. There's only one being who has the power to just will something and for it to be done, and that is God. I think a lot of this will training grossly overestimates what people can do, at least in the moment. There's ways that we can, by working toward greater integration, by having a better sense of what's going on inside of ourselves, having more collaboration and cooperation among the different parts of ourselves that we can really extend our access to our will in ways that allow us to be much more virtuous. Some of that's happening in the natural realm, it's not just all in the supernatural realm, but this idea that you can just will it and this will training is the way to go--that was really popular and the first part of the 20th century among Catholic clinicians, and it turned out to not actually work like that. So get a lot of concerns about that. I am far from convinced that will training is going to overcome unmyelinated axons in your neurons, for example. But you know what? There is such a thing as neuroplasticity. We can actually get some of those axons myelinated if we go back to that sense of security and protection, if we have secure attachments.
When we're compromised that way, when we have adverse childhood experiences, that dampens our ventral vagal complex activity. And so therefore, we're not able to inhibit the sympathetic nervous system as readily. We're not going to be able to calm down that anger as readily. And the big ACE studies, adverse childhood experience studies, young children exposed to five or more significant adverse experiences in the first three years of childhood face a 76% likelihood of having one or more delays in language, emotional or brain development. It affects brain development. These adverse childhood experiences compromise brain development. And we found that as the number of traumatic events experienced during childhood increases, the risk for health problems also increases, including uncontrollable anger. They actually assess that. An article by Donna Jackson Nakazawa at acestoohigh.com called '7 Ways Childhood Adversity Changes a Child's Brain', focused on this brain connectivity, she said, "Dr. Ryan Herringa, neuropsychiatrist and assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin, found that children and teens who'd experienced chronic childhood adversity showed weaker neural connections between the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus. Girls also displayed weaker connections between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. The prefrontal-cortex-amygdala relationship plays an essential role in determining how emotionally reactive we're likely to be to the things that happen to us in our day-to-day life and how likely we are to perceive these events as stressful or dangerous." So these adverse childhood events can weaken the connection between our prefrontal cortex, which is where all that higher level cognition goes, which is where all that thinking happens--all that considering that Father Morrow was recommending. All that's happening in the prefrontal cortex, but if you don't have a good connection between that and your amygdala, if you don't have a good connection between that and the limbic system of your brain, which is a more primitive area of your brain, it's not going to help you, not in the moment.
But we can rewire the brain. We can actually myelinate these axons--there's neuroplasticity. That's the kind of approach that I think we need to be taking. That's much more than count to ten and all that stuff that might be helpful in the moment. I'm not diminishing the importance of that in the moment, but that's a band-aid. That's something to help you get through a particular moment. I want there to be real healing at depth.
There was a study by Olga Klimecki, David Sander, and Patrick Vuilleumier in scientific reports in 2018 called 'Distinct Brain Areas Involved in Anger Versus Punishment During Social Interactions'. They took 25 men, put them in an fMRI. They induced anger using an inequality game. It was designed--the game was designed to be unfair, and they were assessing what areas of the brain lit up when these men experienced anger, especially when the face of the other person, the unfair person in the game was presented to them--what lit up. What you see is that there were activations in the amygdala. That's a part of the brain that's so intimately connected to anger. There was also increased activation in the SDS, which is the superior temporal sulcus and the fusiform gyrus. Those are both related to facial recognition. So we would expect those to light up. But yes, the anger lit up. So we're seeing that there are definite brain correlates for these things.
There's a lot more about the neurobiology of this that I could get into, but the big point, the reason I brought up what I did is because I want you to understand that this is not just about your will, it's not just about your mind, it's not about mind over matter. There is an intimate connection with the body that we need to be considering if we want to take our anger seriously. We want to go deeper than what is typically offered us in Catholic circles about how to manage anger.
So let's start talking about the 'why' of chronic anger. I want to get into this in a more focused way. I'm drawing heavily from the work of Kathy Steele, Suzette Boon, Onno van der Hart, their book 'Treating Trauma-Related Dissociation: A Practical, Integrative Approach'. And again, anger is the primary emotion of the fight defense, they tell us. When parts of you become stuck in this defense, anger becomes chronic. Thus, the first intervention is safety. Really important--the first intervention is safety. When people are acting out in anger, what they're communicating in a really paradoxical and counterproductive way is that they need safety. And what happens, of course, is that when people act out in angry ways, they don't get safety. But that's what actually part of them is seeking.
They go on to say that there are several reasons why anger and hostility become chronic. That happens when people are severely invalidated, when they're ignored, when they're unheard, when they're betrayed--that kind of thing leads to anger and hostility becoming chronic. When that happens over extended periods of time while the person is helpless to stop it, that's enough to generate enormous rage in anyone as part of the naturally occurring fight defense.
Second, as children, patients often had little to no help in learning how to regulate and appropriately express normal anger, much less how to cope with it. So often there was poor modeling. Mom and dad didn't handle their anger very well. They write "Often it was unacceptable for many patients to express any kind of anger as children, while the adults around them were uncontained and highly destructive with their anger. Others had no limits set on their angry behavior." I've seen that over and over and over again, that there was no way for a child to appropriately express anger to the parent that the parent would accept. So the child learned that the anger was bad and they stuffed it down--they suppressed it; they denied it.
These parts of us that are angry are so often feared, and they're avoided internally by other parts of us, particularly those managers that function in daily life. What's at the bottom of this, they say, is, "Angry parts have a deep shame and are highly defended against the strong belief that they are very bad. Their defense is reinforced by the shame of patients that such parts of them even exist. These parts of the patient are terrified of attachment to the therapist and the relationship is dangerous, mainly because they are afraid that the therapist will never accept them." That's how central the shame is here. That's what drives the anger.
The anger doesn't have to be a part of the fight response. It can be a secondary emotion that protects the patient from feelings of sadness, extreme powerlessness, shame, guilt, or loss. And I would also add grief to their list.
So what these angry parts have done is they've developed strategies to try to help them get what they need. Those could be controlling punitive strategies in which they get angry with others in order to try to get what they need, or it could be controlling caregiving strategies so then they punish themselves for being angry or having needs as a way to try to have those needs met.
And there's another way that rage or anger becomes fixed within a person, especially when they've been a victim of abuse. And that is expressed when they write this, "Finally, the rage of the perpetrator is often an embodied experience from which patients cannot yet escape without sufficient realization and further integration. Some dissociative parts imitate perpetrators internally, repeating the family dynamics from the past with other parts and are rather literal way." This is on page 333. So in other words, there's a protective function to having a part take on the role of the perpetrator of abuse, because if a part of a little child takes on the role of the perpetrator of abuse, they can anticipate what that perpetrator might say or do, and that can have a protective function. But what happens is those parts that take on that role of the perpetrator of abuse, they get stuck like a fly in amber--perpetrating and perpetrating sometimes decades after the actual perpetrator is dead. We re-enact those family dynamics within. That's why Richard Schwartz--he called his model 'Internal Family Systems', because we internalize these family members. Parts take on the role of significant family members in our lives. That's what Steele, Boon, and van der Hart are also saying. They have a parts model--it's based off the structural theory of dissociation. It's a different than IFS, but there's a lot of overlap and similarities, and they have done the best work on understanding anger internally in a way that can be effectively worked with, I think. That's my opinion.
They write that "getting the anger out is not really useful, as the problem is that the patient needs to learn how to effectively express anger verbally rather than physically, and in socially appropriate and contained ways, so that the patient can be heard by others. It is less the fact that patients express anger, but how they do so and whether that expression allows them to remain grounded in the present, to retain important relationships, and to avoid being self destructive." So they make this point that expression of anger is not necessarily therapeutic in itself. It's not this cathartic, psychodynamic approach where you just got to let it all hang out, all that primal screaming and all that stuff. No. It's important that the patient learn to experience and express anger in appropriate ways within the window of tolerance, right. Within a way that's safe and appropriate.
So how do we work with our angry parts? Well, we want to begin to understand these parts much more deeply. It is so important for you as your innermost self to connect with your angry parts in a way that allows for secure attachment for these parts of you that carry anger, that are burdened with anger, to know that they can trust you. That they can be heard, that they can be seen, that they can be known in a way that's safe and protected. So we need to take the time to understand the functions of anger, the roles of our angry parts. And that can be hard for our managers because those angry parts can seem like troublemakers. That's what these authors are telling us. But we want to encourage our parts to accept and understand and listen to angry parts instead of just avoiding them, instead of just brushing them off--kind of this advice that we were hearing from some of our Catholic authors.
We want to see if parts all feel the same way as the angry part. Can parts listen to and accept angry parts and their perspectives? Will the angry part be willing to listen to other perspectives from other parts? Can we invite parts to watch and listen if possible? We want parts to work collaboratively, to work cooperatively. We want there to be this integration.
Now, there sometimes has to be limits set with the angry part. Hopefully the innermost self can do that. The angry part and all parts need to learn that healthy relationships do not have to include humiliation. It's really, really important. It doesn't have to include suppression, silencing all the kinds of things that were done to the little person, that were done to the little child by others. When you have a perpetrator imitating part inside, the function of that perpetrator part according to Steele, Boon and van der Hart is, 1) "to protect the patient against threats of the perpetrator, which continue to be experienced as real in the present", 2) "to defend the patient against unbearable realizations of being helpless and powerless as a child", 3) "To re-enact traumatic memories from the perspective of the perpetrator as mentalized by the child", 4) "to serve as a defense against shame through attacking the patient and avoiding the inner experiences of shame", and 5) "to provide an outlet for the patient's disowned sadistic and punitive tendencies", and 6) "to hold unbearable traumatic memories". That's all wrapped up in this for so many people.
Boon, Steele and van der Hart say, "Dissociative parts of a person that are stuck in anger may experience the feeling of anger is vehement and overwhelming, often without words." That's so important. So much of this is preverbal. It was put into you, it was formed into you before you had the capacity for speech, before you could symbolize things in language, before you could symbolize your experience and language way before you had access to reason, way before the age of seven. A lot of this stuff was happening before you were one. We need to have the sense of safety to be able to begin to put these things in words, which is why all of these statements about irrational anger, and thinking about your anger, and reflecting on it all--it's not going to work with something that you haven't even put into words. That's a way too heady. That's a way to intellectual. It's way too verbal for these parts.
Boon, Steele and van der Hart say, "Dissociative parts may have irresistible urges to act aggressively and have great difficulty thinking and reflecting on their feelings before acting. Angry parts have not learned how to experience or express anger in helpful ways. There are two types of angry dissociative parts. The first are parts that are stuck in a defensive fight mode, ready to protect you. Their anger at original injustices may be legitimate and naturally accompanies a tendency to strike out and fight, which is an essential survival strategy. However, such parts have become stuck in anger, unable to experience much else. They really perceive threat and ill-will everywhere and they react with anger and aggression as their only option of response. Although these parts of you might not yet realize it, anger is often a protection against the vulnerable feelings of shame, fear, hurt, despair, powerlessness, and loss." And then the second type of angry part is that perpetrator imitating part that I was talking about before.
So their tips for coping with anger, one, to recognize how to make distinctions among the many gradations of anger. Empathize with your angry parts, recognizing they have limited coping skills, limited vision, that they've been shunned by other parts left alone with their fear, shame, hurt, isolation. When you begin to feel some compassion toward these parts, they can begin to have a more secure attachment with you as the innermost self. It's going to require some unblending. We want to recognize that these angry parts also have strengths that they could use in more positive ways. We really want to be curious about what's going on with the anger about the phenomenological experience. We want to try to be creative and have healthy, non-verbal ways of expressing anger, giving parts ways to communicate that through drawing, through through movement, through other ways. We want to be able to listen to each part of ourselves and how we might help that part with anger. These can be these conversations inside with different parts of us about anger, how to express it.
We also want to be able to capitalize on the positive strength and energy of anger, right? That it can be appropriately assertive like we were talking about before, that it can help us to set clear boundaries, to confront wrongs in the world. And there are different ways that we can titrate the anger inside. We can contract with parts to share only a little bit of the anger, not to overwhelm us with anger, that kind of thing.
In my parts, my feisty part is the one that has carried anger for me for decades. Part of the reason I don't resonate with what Tommy Tighe was talking about is that I don't experience a lot of depression. That's not a very strong experience for me--sadness and depression--I experience a lot more anger, so it's really hard for me to resonate with the idea that anger comes as a function of me being depressed. I don't think that's true for many people. But my feisty part, that part really defends against shame--the shame that my Melancholio part carries. That's a very, very clear protective role that my feisty part has. So that's an example of how this can work. You know, and for a long time, I was not in touch with my shame. For a long time, I was not in touch with shame--I was in touch with the anger, but not with the shame. And I did try to work with the anger. I talked about that with my spiritual director and my confessor, brought it up in therapy dealing with my anger; gotta get to the shame.
Now, it could also be for you, grief. Or it could be fear. But then, if it's grief and fear, I'd want to know what the grief is about. I'd want to know what the fear is a fear of. My feisty part--I didn't experience a lot of anxiety either because if my feisty part got large and in charge, it could it could suppress anxiety as well. It didn't allow my fear to be heard either.
If you have to have a book to try to help you with anger, I would probably recommend the book by June Hunt, she's a Protestant therapist. In 2017, she wrote a book called 'Dealing with Anger', and it's okay. Again, I think it's really hard to address these things in a book, because the parts of us that read books are all engaged with that prefrontal cortex, and if that's not well connected to your amygdala, if those axons are not well myelinated, it's going to be hard to make the connections by reading and studying your way to some sort of progress. We actually have to get into the lived experience. We have to get that felt sense of safety. We have to have that secure attachment--that has to be relational.
That's the kind of thing that we do in our experiential exercises in this podcast--so we've started this series of experiential exercises to help you get in touch with your own experience, to help you be in relationship with yourself. So mark your calendars. The next live experience of this Interior Integration Podcast will be on Friday, January 13, 2023, from 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM EST. We're going to do that on zoom; it's going to be all about working with your anger. We're going to go way beyond what books can do for you in terms of just connecting with the intellectual level. We're going to be in inviting you into a deeper relationship with yourself about anger through a guided reflection. Click the link to register. Those have gone out in our emailed Wednesday Reflections. You can get the link on the IIC landing page as well. You can go to soulsandhearts.com/iic. It also was sent out on December 28th, 2022. You can go to our archive of those weekly reflections and click on 'From Rejecting to Embracing Aging', it's in that post. And also you can sign up for these weekly reflections. Go to soulsandhearts.com, go to our home page, click on 'Get the Weekly Reflection from Dr. Peter', it'll be in that one that comes out this Wednesday and next Wednesday as well. So you can get that link in a lot of ways. You can also reach out to me [email protected]'s my email address. Conversation hours are every Tuesday and Thursday from 4:30 PM to 5:30 PM EST. You can reach me for a private conversation on my cell phone: 317-567-9594. We usually have 10 minutes, maybe 15 minutes, and it's not therapy--we don't do therapy at 'Souls and Hearts'--I don't do therapy in conversation hours, but we can have a conversation about what your questions are about these podcasts or the weekly reflections. Love to be able to connect with you.
And then there's the Resilient Catholics Community. That is where we bring all of this together in a much more focused way. If this stuff makes sense to you, if you want to get in touch with your parts around anger, or around grief, or loss, or sadness, or fear, this is a way that you can do it. Why? It's not therapy, but therapy doesn't have a monopoly on human formation. There are lots of ways that we can work to bring about that cooperation and collaboration inside, to bring about that integration. I bring the best of all those resources into the Resilient Catholics Community. Check that out, soulsandhearts.com/rcc. Now, we just closed the registration for the December 2022 cohort. You can get on the waiting list, though, for the June 2023 cohort will reopen in June and you can check that out, get to know your own parts, get to love your own parts. If you get on the waiting list, we sometimes do need to fast track a few people because we're filling out the rest of the companies, and so sometimes we will get in touch to fill out some companies for the December cohort, which is going to start in March. Otherwise you can join the June 2023 cohort, which will start in September 2023 with the actual meeting.
So with all of that, I want to thank you for listening to all of this. I want to thank you for entertaining these ideas. I want to thank you for going deeper, for not just staying at the surface or at the behavioral level. I really appreciate those that listened to the podcast. I pray for you. I ask you to pray for me. And with that, we will wrap it by invoking our patroness and our patron, Our Lady, Our Mother, Untier of Knots, pray for us. St. John the Baptist, pray for us.
IIC 102: Helping your Parts Get the Love they Need: Experiential Exercise
In Episode 102, Dr. Peter guides a live audience to helping their parts get the love they need in an experiential exercise, especially the parts that may have been unnoticed or even neglected. Come join us on an adventure inside, where we work to overcome the human formation obstacles to embracing God's love for us. At the end, audience participants share their experiences with Dr. Peter and he answers questions.
IIC 101: A Story about Receiving Love
In this episode, Dr. Peter brings together what we have been learning about receiving love in the story of Susanna.
IIC 100: Embracing God's Love for Me: Experiential Exercise
In our 100th episode, we celebrate by going inside in an experiential exercise. Recorded before a live audience, Dr. Peter guides you through an experiential exercise to help you connect with parts of you that resist God's love. We create a space where you can much more deeply understand the negative, distorted God images that some of your parts may have -- mistaken ways they see God, and how those misunderstandings came about. With gentleness, kindness, and love for your parts, your parts might be ready for your innermost self to be a bridge between them and God and Mother Mary. Come join us on an adventure inside, where we work to overcome the human formation obstacles to embracing God's love for us. At the end, audience participants share their experiences with Dr. Peter and he answers questions.
IIC 99: Why We Catholics Reject God's Love for Us and How to Embrace that Love
It is so common for Catholics (and others) to reject the love of God, to not let that love in. Join Dr. Peter for this episode where we explore in depth the eight natural, human formation reasons why we refuse God's love. We also look at what Hell really is and why it really exists. Through examples, quotes, and an exploration of Dr. Peter's own parts, listen to how this critical, central topic comes alive. And then Dr. Peter presents the an action plan for accepting and embracing God's love.
IIC 99 Why We Catholics Reject God's Love for Us and How to Embrace that Love
"It's very hard for most of us to tolerate being loved." That's psychiatrist and Harvard professor George Vaillant. The hardest thing about love for many of us Catholics, is to be loved--to tolerate being loved first. We can't love unless we take love in first. We can't generate love out of nothing on our own. We just don't have that power.
And the truth is, many Catholics make sacrifices great and small in their attempts to love others. Many Catholics go to great lengths to try to please God and to love their neighbor--very busy people, most parishes have a few of these always--volunteering, always working, always making things happen, St. Vincent de Paul, soup kitchens, corporal works of mercy, working so hard to live out the Gospel as they understand it, but it's all external. They are very out of touch with their internal lives. Their prayer lives are shallow and sketchy, and they're often really uncomfortable in their own skin. They will not tolerate silence, which is why they're always on the move--why they're always going, going, going.
The vast majority of us Catholics will not tolerate being loved deeply or fully by God. We shy away from receiving that love. We get so uncomfortable, we skirt around the edges of being loved. Or we allow love into us, but only so far--only so far. We set limits, we set boundaries, we won't let God's love permeate all of our being. We let the "acceptable parts" of us to be loved. Those parts that we allow in the shop window, those parts that we believe others will accept, those parts that we believe God likes. But to allow God to love all of you, including your nasty parts, your shameful parts, your disgusting parts, your hidden lepers, your sinful parts, those tax collector parts, those inner prostitutes and blasphemers, your Pharisee parts, the parts of you that are so lost and so isolated and so angry and hateful, those parts? Most of us will say "no way, no way does anyone get to see those parts if I can help it, let alone love those parts. Love those parts? That's crazy." How about your terrified parts, your desperate parts, your wounded, traumatized parts? The ones that no one seems to want? The parts of you that have been rejected by everybody, including yourself.
This podcast is for us Catholics who understand at least intellectually, that we have those parts. And that those parts need to be loved, and that those parts also need to be redeemed. Now for anyone out there who is saying, "Well, I don't think I have any parts like that, Dr. Peter, I don't have any problems being loved." Well, my response to that is one of two possibilities. Either you are 1) a very special person who has been freed from our fallen human condition, and you've achieved an extraordinary degree of perfection in the natural and spiritual realms, and if so, congratulations. You don't need this podcast. You don't need this episode. You are so far above the rest of us--I'm in awe of you. You don't need what I have to offer. That's the first possibility.
Second possibility? You don't know yourself very well. You are out of touch with yourself and your parts--you are disconnected inside. Unless you've reached a fair degree of sanctity, it is especially hard for you to tolerate being loved by God and our refusal to accept the love of God throughout all of us. That's the primary reason we don't love God back. That's also the primary reason we don't love our neighbor, and why we don't love ourselves. We won't be loved first.
God loved us first. It all starts with God's love, not our love. Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow in his book, 'Shaken' says, "We were created by love, in love and for love." And St. Paul, he tells us in Romans 5:8, "God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." God loved us first.
And the world does not know God. Christianity is the way to discover who God actually is--to discover who love actually is. 1 John 3:1, "See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him." What I want you to remember, St. John in his first letter says, "We love because he first loved us." We love because God first loved us, and it's up to us to take that love in, to let that love come into every corner of our being. And that doesn't sound easy, and it's not as easy as it sounds.
I am Dr. Peter Malinoski, a.k.a. Dr. Peter, clinical psychologist, trauma therapist, podcaster, blogger, cofounder and president of Souls and Hearts--but most of all, I am a beloved little son of God, a passionate Catholic who wants to help you experience the height and depth and breadth and warmth and the light of the love of God, especially God, the Father and our primary mother, Mary. What I want for you more than anything else is that you enter into a deep, intimate, personal, loving relationship with the three persons of the Trinity and with our Lady. This is what this Interior Integration for Catholics podcast is all about. This is what Souls and Hearts is all about--all about shoring up the natural foundation for the spiritual life of intimacy with God, all about overcoming the natural human formation, deficits and obstacles to contemplative union with God our Father, and with our Lady, our Mother.
We are on an adventure of love together. Episode 94 of this podcast focused on the primacy of love in the Catholic life. Episode 95 focused on trauma's devastating impact on our capacity to love. Episode 96 discussed how trauma hardens us against being loved. Episode 97 discussed how trauma predisposes us to self-hatred and indifference to ourselves, a refusal to love ourselves. And Episode 98. the last episode was all about ordered self-love, how we need to love ourselves in an ordered way in order to love God and neighbor, to carry out the two great commandments.
Today, we are going to take a step back. We're going to look at the most critical prerequisite for loving God and others. We are going to discuss being loved first, accepting the love of God first before we try to love. This is absolutely essential. The most critical mistake that most Catholics make is to refuse the love of God. Let me say that again. The most critical mistake, the most devastating, catastrophic mistake that most Catholics make is to refuse to allow God's love to transform us entirely, to make us into new men and women.
Let's start out with the order of love. First thing--God leads with love. God makes the first move. He created us, he moves toward us. We who he created, we who have fallen from grace because of original sin. We don't make the first move. God does. He loved us first, and he continues to love us first, and our whole mission, our whole purpose is to respond to his love in love.
I want to read to you a brief passage from Shawn Mitchell. He wrote an article called 'We Love Because He First Loved Us', and he is with Those Catholic Men. You can find this online. Shawn Mitchell says, "We love because he first loved us. These words from the first letter of John beautifully and succinctly sum up the origin and end of the Christian life--which in a word, is love. 'Being Christian,' said Benedict XVI "is...the encounter with an event, a person which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction." That 'encounter' is our experience of God 'first loving us'. The 'new horizon' that it opens up, the 'decisive direction' that it gives to our lives, is love--our love of God and our neighbor because of His prior love of us. To participate in that endless exchange of love is what it means to be a Christian. It is the center from which all other aspects of the Christian life emanate. I fear that a significant number of Catholic men missed this point in regards something other than love as the central point of being a follower of Christ."
Love is central. This is what Sean Mitchell said so clearly in that article. Love is what Christianity is all about. Love is what Catholicism specifically is all about. It's not about the building of virtues primarily, it's not about self-perfection, it's not about stopping masturbating, it's not about giving up whatever other vice you might have. It is about entering into a loving relationship as you are in your imperfections right now. Right now. Not at some point in the future after you've achieved a certain amount of sanctity because you're not going to achieve a certain amount of sanctity or perfection without entering into that relationship, without receiving the love of God first.
Sean Mitchell goes on to say, "What I did not include from Benedict's quote above is what he says being Christian is not. It is not, he says, "the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea". To state that more generally, being Christian isn't primarily about my will or my intellect or what I do with them--that is making 'ethical choices' and assenting to 'lofty ideas'. Rather, it is first and foremost about my heart, my whole person in all its mystery, and what has been done to it by God. Is it not the case, though, that so many of us fail to understand this? If we're honest with ourselves, I think we would have to admit that it is, that we ourselves are among those men who place something other than love at (or at least close to) the center of our Christian life...even if we don't realize it."
The Jesuit Edward Vacek, in his book 'Love, Human and Divine: The Heart of Christian Ethics' lays out the sequence of love. The sequence of love has seven parts to it. The first one, God affirms us. The second, God receives us.
Alright, so the first one is all about God. It's all about God. God affirms us. The second one, God receives us. We have to allow ourselves to be received. So now we're coming into that. We allow God to receive us, and in the third step, we accept God's love, the fourth step, we affirm God, fifth God forms community with us. Sixth, we cooperate with God and loving God in the world, and finally, the seventh one, we grow in limited co-responsibility with God.
This was all screwed up by the trauma of original sin. Adam and Eve, garden of Eden, Genesis 3. They eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge and good and evil. And they're off into the bushes, hiding, bickering amongst themselves, terrified. God--what was his response? God comes looking for them. God seeks out Adam and Eve; he seeks them out as they're hiding, as they're fleeing from him in their shame and their confusion and their bitterness. All in that trauma of original sin. God calls out to them, "Where are you?" he says.
Think about the gentleness there. God knows exactly where they are. He knows every hair on their head. He knows every molecule in their bodies. He knows their GPS coordinates to 10,000 digits. He doesn't need for them to tell him where they are. He's letting them know he's coming. That's the gentleness. He calls out to them. And he doesn't curse Adam and Eve. He curses the serpent, he curses the ground, but he doesn't curse Adam and Eve. He provides clothing for them to help them with their shame.
And a lot of people don't realize this, but he protects them from eating of the tree of life. Banishing them from the garden was an act of love. Genesis 3:22-24, "Then the Lord God said, 'Behold, the man has become like one of us knowing good and evil. And now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat and live forever"--therefore, the Lord God sent him forth from the Garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword, which turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life." God, in banishing Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, was making sure that they would not be separated from him forever.
St. Ephrem, the Syrian, in his commentary on Genesis, explains, "God did this lest this life-giving gift that they would receive through the tree of life become misery, and thus bring worse evil upon them than what they had already obtained from the tree of knowledge. From the latter tree they obtained temporal pains, whereas the former tree would have made those pains eternal. From the letter they obtained to death, which would have cast off from them the bonds of their pains. The former tree, however, would have caused them to live as if buried alive, leaving them to be tortured eternally by their pains." All of what happened in Genesis 3 in God's interaction with Adam and Eve, was born of love--came from his love for them, even though they didn't understand it.
The basic problem with us entering into this sequence of love is that we don't tolerate enough contact with God to allow him to affirm us, to allow him to receive us, for us to understand him in a radically different way.
And what kind of love is God's love for us? God himself tells us, Jeremiah 31:3, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued my faithfulness to you." Isaiah 54:10, "For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you." And how steadfast is God's love? Deuteronomy 7:9 tells us, "Know therefore, that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations." Psalm 86:5, "For thou, O Lord, art good and forgiving--abounding in steadfast love to all who call on thee."
Now God requires a response from us. Psalm 86:5, "O Lord, thou art good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on thee." We have to call on him. We have to respond to the love that God gives us. And we can only respond to the love that God gives us, if we take that love in and not just in some shallow, superficial way, not just in some intellectual way, not in some cold, sterile, abstract way. We need to allow it to permeate our entire being.
That is what this episode is all about. This is episode 99 of the podcast Interior Integration for Catholics, released on November 7th, 2022, and it's titled 'Why We Catholics Reject God's Love for Us and How to Embrace that Love'.
From the 'Catechism of the Catholic Church' paragraph 221, "But St. John goes even further when he affirms that 'God is love'; God's very being is love. By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange." Catechism, paragraph 221. We are called to take him up on that. That is our mission, that is our purpose on earth, to enter into that eternal exchange of love among the three persons of the Trinity.
How do we know that we are loved by God? Well, I think there are two ways. 1) We know by faith, and 2) we know by lived experience. What are we talking about when we talk about faith? Let's define our terms. The 'Catechism of the Catholic Church', paragraph 153, "When St. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus declared to him that this revelation did not come from, 'flesh and blood', but from 'my Father, who was in heaven'. Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him. 'Before this faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth." Faith. Faith is an infused virtue that helps us to know who God is. Faith.
Second thing, the lived experience of the relationship with God. I'm going to use an example from St Paul here, from his 2 Timothy, 1:12, "But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me." You can feel the love of God in consolations. Part of the beauty and the wonder and the magic of consolations is that we can feel in our lived experience the love of God. That's what makes a consolation a consolation. We can feel the love of God.
But here's the thing--we don't want to engineer emotional experiences of closeness with God, we don't want to try to manipulate our feelings, we don't want to try to somehow engineer a subjective experience. I have a lot of concern about Catholic youth events. These hyper emotional, noisy places using sophisticated psychological techniques of influence to generate contrived emotional experiences in young people. Hyping them up, getting them out of their window of tolerance. This is not a peaceful place where the voice of the Holy Spirit can really be heard. I think so much of how we evangelize our young people is so misguided, because that doesn't last, and some of that, a lot of that I don't think is even real. I don't think it's God acting at all. There's so much of what can be explained at those things has to do with people getting hyped up--techniques of influence. It's actually not that much different than an Amway convention sometimes.
So we don't want to rely on our subjective experience of the lived relationship with God, because that subjective experience of connection with God can vary way too much. Dietrich von Hildebrand writes, "Our confidence in God must be independent of whether we experience his nearness, whether we sense the enlivening touch of grace, whether we feel ourselves being born on the wings of his love." That's so important, and it's really important coming from a phenomenologist, right?
We need to temper what we believe about God, and not have it just be reliant on our personal experience, because that is unreliable as a guide. It just is. Let me give you an extreme example. Mother Teresa in 1957, she confided to her spiritual director, "In the darkness...Lord, my God, who am I that you should forsake me? The child of your love--and now become as the most hated one. The one--you have thrown away as unwanted--unloved. I call, I cling, I want, and there is no one to answer...where I try to raise my thoughts to heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul. Love--the word--it brings nothing. I am told God lives in me--and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul."
David Scott in Chapter 17 of his book, 'The Love That Made Mother Teresa'. He wrote, "For more than fifty years, following her initial visions and locations, Mother Teresa was wrapped in a dark, pitiless silence. She only once more heard the voice of God, and she believed the doors of heaven had been closed and bolted against her. The more she longed for some sign of his presence, the more empty and desolate she became." Extreme example here, people. This is an extreme example. This was an extraordinary person called to incredible heights of sanctity--God chose to not console her in order that her faith grow and that she gain even greater merit than if he had given her the consolations that she desired. She had the faith to persevere, which is what made her so great. Her capacity to hold onto God's love by faith and to receive it into her, even when she couldn't feel it. Even when she couldn't feel it.
Now I want to switch gears. Now I want to talk about needs. Now, in the weekly reflection that I wrote on September 26th titled: 'The Top Ten Needs That Fuel Modern Day Idol Worship'--that's sitting in your email box, if you've registered with Souls and Hearts. I send these weekly reflections out every week on Wednesdays. I do keep an archive of them at soulsandhearts.com/blog. They go up there later when we get around to posting them.
But in that particular weekly reflection, 'The Top Ten Needs That Fuel Modern Day Idol Worship', I talk about the integrity needs. This is my summary of what I think we need from an integrity standpoint. The need to exist--the need to survive. That's the first one. The second one, I need to matter--I need to matter in the cosmos. Third, I need to have agency--I need to be able to exercise my will. Fourth, I need to be good--I need to have a sense of goodness within me. And the fifth, I need to have a mission and purpose in life. Five integrity needs.
Also five attachment needs. These are the primary tasks of secure attachment, according to Brown and Elliott. This is a felt sense of safety and protection. This is feeling seen, heard, known and understood--that's the second one. Third one, feeling comforted, soothed, and reassured. Fourth, feeling cherished, treasured, and delighted in. Fifth, feeling that the other has your best interests at heart.
There is so much resistance to God's love, and to explain that I'm going to weave in these integrity needs and these attachment needs. I have eight major reasons why we resist God's love. Eight major reasons why we resist God's love. And they're all interrelated. 1) our limited vision; our lack of imagination, leading to a refusal to be transformed by God, 2) we don't understand God's love, 3) the costs of being loved by God, 4) poor God images, 5) poor self images, especially self images dominated by shame, 6) the refusal to be vulnerable, to be exposed, to be revealed to God, 7) a lack of courage, and 8) anger at God with rebellion.
Let's go through these again. Limited vision; lack of imagination--that's number one. 2) we don't understand God's love, 3) the costs of being loved by God, 4) poor God images, 5) poor self images, 6) the refusal to be vulnerable, 7) lack of courage, 8) anger at God that fuels rebellion.
Let's go through these one at a time. Limited vision; lack of imagination. We won't even understand this on any kind of intellectual level. Von Hildebrand talks about how we can have an unhealthy satisfaction in far more limited spiritual goals than what God calls us. We settle for something really limited. According to von Hildebrand, the vision of most Catholics is way too small--our sights are set way too low. We're satisfied with way too little in the spiritual life. We are like chickens pecking at the ground when we are called to soar like eagles. What would that look like?
Well, if someone is content with merely getting over a sin, merely overcoming a vice, working on developing this virtue or that virtue--that's way too small. Some Catholics, many serious Catholics, actually pursue the spiritual life basically as a self-improvement project, and they're satisfied with small incremental gains. I talked about this in the weekly reflection from October 26, 2022, 'Why we resist change--and especially radical transformation'.
This is captured in a book by Ransom Riggs titled 'Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children', where his character, Jacob Portman, says, "One day my mother sat me down and explained that I couldn't become an explorer because everything in the world had already been discovered." Keep it small. Keep your vision on the ground. Eyes down, eyes downcast. Don't gaze heavenward.
And Paul Catalanotto, in an article in the Catholic Weekly called 'Refusal to Love is Also a Refusal to Live' said, "Love, in some sense, is nothing other than an invitation to great joy and suffering, so they shy away from it." We see this. We see this in John 6. Our Lord has just given himself body, blood, soul and divinity--he's talking about the Eucharist, and what was the reaction? Let's pick it up in 6:41, "The Jews then murmured at him because he said, 'I am the bread which came down from heaven.' They said, 'Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say "I have come down from heaven?"'" And then 6:60-66, "Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said 'this is a hard saying; who can listen to it?' And after this, many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him." They would not open their imaginations. They had limited vision they would not trust what our Lord was telling them. They were not humble enough to acknowledge that they couldn't see as God sees. And so they left him, to their peril. That's the first one--limited vision; lack of imagination.
Second one, we don't understand God's love. Isaiah 55:8-9. What does God tell Isaiah? "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." I want to give you some understanding of this, because when we think about ourselves in terms of parts, these parts can be really, really young. And there was an article on Proverbs31.org by Sharon Janes called 'When Love Hurts'. She put it out on April 17, 2018. 'When Love Hurts'. I'm going to do a little dramatization of that article.
"Mommy! Mommy! Don't let them hurt me!"
My son, Steven, was about three years old when he contracted a severe case of the flu. His slumped body snuggled listlessly like an old, worn rag doll. When I carried him into the medical clinic, the doctor quickly diagnosed dehydration and immediately sent us to the hospital. My heart ripped apart as the nurses strapped my little boy onto a table and began placing IVs in his tiny arms.
"Mommy, Mommy, make them stop! They're hurting me."
"No, honey, they're going to make you all better."
"Mommy, help me!" Stephen cried, I cried, the nurses cried. I could only imagine what was going through Stephen's little mind. "Why are these people hurting me? Why does it mommy make them stop? She must not love me. She's not protecting me. If she loved me, she wouldn't let them do this to me. She must not care about me."
Standing in the corner watching my little boy cry. I wondered if that's how God feels when I'm going through a painful situation. That's for my ultimate good. I cried out, "God, why are you letting this happen? Don't you love me? Don't you care about what's happening to me? Why don't you make it stop?"
And thanks to my nine-year-old daughter Lucy, for again helping me out with the voice over so much appreciate her being here. You can see how Steven little, three-year-old Steven, how he's struggling with these integrity needs and attachment needs in the situation with the IVs. His very need to exist feels threatened. "I might be injured. I might die. They're poking things into me." These IVs. He also has no sense of being protected--that's an attachment need. That's the first primary attachment need, a felt sense of safety and protection. In fact, Steven feels just the opposite. The little child, he was being protected, but he didn't understand. He didn't feel protected even though if he didn't get those fluids in his system, he actually could die of dehydration. There wasn't a felt sense of being comforted and soothed. The child was not open to it. The third primary condition of secure attachment. There was no felt sense of support for as highest good, the fifth condition of secure attachment. Parts of us are very young, like this three-year-old. They do not understand.
And so many of us have a poor view of anything that frustrates us. We've had bad experiences of being disciplined, of not having been disciplined out of love, but rather being disciplined out of anger or inconvenience or frustration by our caregivers, by our fathers, by our mothers. Hebrews 12:11 addresses this very point. It reads, "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." Freud even recognized this. He talked about how we needed to be both gratified and frustrated in order to grow. That's the second--the second of the eight reasons why we resist God's love. First one, limited vision, lack of imagination. Second, we don't understand God's love.
This third one--the costs of being loved by God. This is huge. This is really huge. Now, real love, whether you call it agape or charity, real love is always given freely. And most of us understand that much, at least intellectually. But real love is never received freely in this fallen world. There are costs to allowing real love into our lives. And there has been very little discussion in Catholic circles about the costs of being loved by God. I find that so strange. So many Catholics don't think this way. It's though Catholics are dominated by parts that believed that being loved by God is one of two things. It either should be really easy and delightful and peaceful, like being the lead character in a Hallmark movie or being a lead character in a romance novel where the love is easy, it just comes naturally--this kind of emotional junk food that just nourishes illusions. And if it's not like that, and it's not going to be like that, not for very long anyway. When it's not like that, these folks conclude that God isn't loving them. They conclude that they're excluded from his love because they have these idealized, distorted ideas of what God's love would be like. This is God as Santa Claus rather than as a loving father. The second way that people consider being loved by God is that being loved by God is terrible. This echoes of Hebrews 10:31, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Now, when the author of Hebrews wrote that he was talking about God punishing evildoers, not those who had embraced his love, but I think sometimes people think that being loved by God essentially means being raped by God, being sucked dry by God, being exhausted by God, being used by God, being exploited by God. What happens when we receive the love of God into our being is that that real love burns away anything that is sinful within us. The love of God in our souls--in our bodies, burns away any vice. And not only that, real love also purifies us from anything that is not morally wrong, but that is disordered, or dysfunctional, or imperfect.
So real love burns away things that are merely disordered--like feelings. We can have, for example, anger at God, and anger at God is always disordered because anger is the proper emotional response to injustice, and God is never unjust with us. But if we begin to really allow the love of God into us, we're going to have to give up our anger at God. And maybe there have been parts of us that have organized our lives around being angry at God. We've built whole narratives around that.
The other thing is that real love is the greatest good. It's greater than all other goods. Real love is God himself. God is love, St. John tells us. And because love is the greatest good, it can require us to give up lesser goods--both perceived goods and actual goods. This includes the coping strategies, the crutches that have helped us in the past. This includes the different ways that we found and navigate the world in trying to survive. 1 Peter 1:7, "So that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." There are so many times in Scripture where love is described as being refined in fire. Isaiah 48:10, "Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction", and not because God is some kind of sadist, but because he knows we need to be purified. Zechariah 13:9, "And I will put this third into the fire and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold as tested. They will call upon my name and I will answer them. I will say, 'They are my people' and they will say, 'The Lord is my God.'" So what specifically goes into that crucible? What specifically is refined in the fire? Well, we know from Proverbs 17:3, the crucible is for silver, the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts. Job. Job was a just man. Job made mistakes. But Job knew more about God than anybody walking the face of the earth in his day. And Job said, "But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold." Refined. Refined as gold.
But can you see the costs? The costs. The costs are immediate. The costs are up front. The benefit of that refining is in the future and we can have parts that if they are not infused with faith, if they are not connected with the truths that that God gives us, if we're not open to that virtue of faith, that helps us to believe that we described in paragraph 153 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we're not going to make it.
And when you are in the crucible, when you are in the purifying furnace, which all of us will be if we are trying to grow in love for God. All of us will be there. We're going to be questioning if we don't have that faith, we're going to be questioning, we're going to be questioning around integrity needs--like is this furnace going to burn me up? Am I going to cease to exist? It's God going to burden me with more than I can handle? Do I even matter to God? Right. This is another integrity need. Do I matter to God or am I just disposable, expendable? I mean, does God even believe that I'm good? Why would he be treating me this way if I were not bad? That was the way that Job's friends interpreted it, right? Job's friends. His three friends trying to get him to fess up, trying to get him to admit to some sin that wasn't true. Job resisted that.
What about attachment needs felt safety and protection? It's hard to feel safe, it's hard to feel protected if you are in the crucible, if you are in the furnace. Again, we need faith. We need to believe that there is something bigger than this. We cannot just take a three-year-old's perspective. We can't just go with the parts of us that interpret the world like Stephen was doing with his IVs. That's the third one. The costs of being loved by God--those costs are real.
Now, it is the most amazing bargain ever to pay those costs for what you get. There is no better investment that you could ever make. But I think we have to acknowledge that those costs are real.
The fourth--poor God images. Alright, I'm just going to lay it out here. We do not understand God very well. We really don't know who he is, and because we don't really know who he is, we have this lack of confidence in God. I'm going to talk about God images--what are God images? God images are my emotional and subjective experiences of God, who I feel God to be in the moment, which may or may not correspond to who God really is. God images: what I feel about God in my bones, my experiential sense of how my feelings and how my heart are interpreting God.
Now, each part of me that is not in right relationship with my innermost self has a distorted God image. These God images are often unconscious--you've got multiple God images, as many God images as you have parts that are not in right relationship with the self. And initially those God images are shaped by the relationship you had with your parents. They're heavily influenced by psychological and developmental factors. Different God images can be activated at different times depending on your emotional states, what psychological mode you're in at a given time, what part of you is blended and driving your bus at any given moment. The thing to remember about God images is that they are always formed experientially--they flow from our relational experiences and they also are constructed from how we make sense of those images when we're very young. My God image can be radically different than my God concept. The God concept is what I profess about God. It's my intellectual understanding of God. It's based on what I've been taught, but also what I've explored through reading. I decide to believe in my God image. And for Catholics, the God image is reflected in the Creed, it's expanded in the catechism, it's there in the formal teachings of the Church. We refuse Mother Angelica's bit of advice. Mother Angelica says, "Allow people to love you as they must love you, not as you want them to love you. Even God does not love us as we wish him to. Learning to love is learning to accept love as it comes." We have to accept love as it comes.
Some people are really concerned about opening themselves to greater love because they're afraid they'll lose the relationship with God if they push the envelope. And you know what? You are going to lose the relationship you have with God if you push the envelope--if you push the envelope, if you really deepen, it's going to be entirely different. It's going to be so much deeper and richer. I did a seven episode series on God images in this podcast from episodes 23-29. Check those out. Really talk about attachment needs in God images in those episodes. So that is the fourth major reason why we resist being loved.
First one--limited vision. Second--we don't understand God's love. Third is the cost of being loved by God and the fourth--poor God images.
Let's go on to poor self-images. Self-images are these emotionally driven, intuitive, subjective ways that we feel about ourselves moment to moment. It's what we know about ourselves in this unarticulated, unspoken, pre-verbal way. It's who we believe ourselves to be at a very primitive level, formed into us again by our experiences and how we've made sense of those experiences. Self-images are not who we describe ourselves to be in our intellectual considered way. It's not what we give sanction to as our understanding of ourselves when we describe ourselves as being a beloved son of God or beloved daughter of God, it's who we feel ourselves to be in the moment. Each part of you who is not in right relationship with your innermost self, in addition to having a distorted God image, has a distorted self-image.
And when you get down deep, when you are able to within your own system or if you have enough access to somebody else's system, you usually find some part that's dominated by shame. And there is no better description that I've ever found about how parts that are burdened with shame can feel about themselves then this sermon given by Pastor Jonathan Edwards in the 1740s, which he titled 'Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God', and Pastor Jonathan Edwards tells us, "The God that holds you over the pit of Hell, much is what holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and has dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire. You are ten thousand times so abominable in his eyes, as the most hateful and venomous serpent is in ours." And he goes on for pages and pages, thousands of words, all this terrible stuff with not leavened by any beloved child of God. Just it's like the perfect description of how so many parts that are exiled believe God looks at them. It was a terrible disservice to mankind here that Pastor Jonathan Edwards rendered. That's what leads us to hide from God. If we really believe that that is who we are, of course we're going to hide from God.
We don't want to find out that we are unlovable. We don't want to find out that we are actually unloved by God, because if we are unloved by God, we are unlovable. We can't bear that. That really hits on integrity needs, right? Especially the need to be good, the need to matter--if we are this disgusting spider, this loathsome insect worthy of just nothing, just being cast into the fire, and if we're seen as this dreadful person by God, how are we going to ever receive love from somebody like that? So many fears come out of that because of our self-image. You can check out episode 24 of this podcast, which is all about God images and self-images--I talk more about self-images there, but we actually need to have a sense of being loved by God. So many people, going back to the first one, lack the imagination. What they're trying to do is be tolerated by God. The idea of being delighted in by God, which is the fourth of the primary conditions for secure attachment, having a felt sense of being cherished and treasured and delighted in well, they're not thinking about that at all. They've got their sights set way too low--they're just trying to be tolerated by God.
You know all this business about, like God not letting people into heaven, but our Lady, letting them sneak in through the backdoor--All of that's crazy. That's crazy talk. There's no there's no conflict between our Lord and our Lady that way. I can understand if people could have a sense that Mother Mary could love them, but God doesn't, and then I would invite them to deepen the relationship with Mother Mary and let Mother Mary help you understand who God really is. Poor self-images. Such a huge thing. That's the fifth one.
Now the sixth one--the refusal to be vulnerable, to be exposed, to be revealed to God. If love is going to be real, and if I'm going to be open to being loved to the to the degree that I'm called, that means I'm going to allow God to love all of me. All of me, all of my parts, my entire being, not just the acceptable parts of me that I put in the shop window, those parts that I allow others to see. Oh, no, it's got to be all of me--which requires a fair amount of vulnerability. The fears of being hurt again, fears of betrayal, fears of abandonment can lead us to, again, want to hide, to protect ourselves. This goes to that integrity need to survive. If I am vulnerable one more time, if I open myself up to God, is he going to be like this person who almost killed me emotionally? Is he going to be like the one who abused me? Is he going to be like the one who neglected me? Is he going to be like the one who forgot about me? We generalize in our God images--we generalize, we project onto God what we've experienced by others in authority, by others that we've actually have lived experiences with. We project all that onto God. That's the sixth, the refusal to be vulnerable. We want to survive. Can we survive being loved by God? And so many parts conclude, no, we can't. And that keeps us from entering into relationship with God.
Seventh Reason--the lack of courage. I mentioned this in episode 96 'Philophobia--The Fear of Love'. All of us have parts that fear real love. There's a comfort in the familiarity of the dysfunction we know. We like things being predictable--change is scary. Erica Jong wrote, "I have accepted fear as a part of life--specifically the fear of change...I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back." Alright, we're going to have parts--they're trying to help us, they have good intentions, they want us to survive. They say "turn back".
Nelson Mandela, he said, "I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear." There is a huge difference between fearlessness and courage. I wrote an article about that for 'Outlook Magazine', which is an IFS magazine, Internal Family Systems Institute magazine. Fearlessness is not courage. The one who is fearless is just disconnected from his fear. Maureen Brady and her book 'Beyond Survival: A Writing History for Healing Childhood Sexual Abuse', said, "For change to occur in us, we must be willing to enter the wilderness of the unknown and to wander an unfamiliar territory, directionless and often in darkness...We do not need to keep every little thing under control. In fact, we find ourselves only by allowing some falling apart to happen." This is what so many people are doing in the spiritual life. It's like you've got a Rubik's Cube and they're able to solve one side of it. So one side of it is all one color, and that's the side that they face outward toward God and toward other people. But there's no way to actually solve the Rubik's Cube without destroying that one side. And in fact, those particular squares only look like they're in the right place, because when you look at what's going on in the other faces of those little cubes, it's not right at all. There actually has to be considerable reorganization of that Rubik's Cube. So many people will not enter into what we are called to--into that everlasting exchange of love among the three Persons of the Trinity, to the gloriousness of our calling because of fear--because they allow themselves to be dominated by fear. That's the seventh, the seventh of the main reasons for resisting the love of God.
First one--limited vision; lack of imagination. Second one--we don't understand God's love. Third one--the costs of being loved by God. Fourth--poor God images. Fifth--poor self-images, including shame. Sixth--the refusal to be vulnerable. Seventh--the lack of courage.
The eighth one--anger at God, leading to rebellion. Why? Well, this goes back to the fourth reason, which is the the poor God images--the distorted God images. Anger at God is always disordered, but it's not sinful. If it's spontaneous, if it's a spontaneous first reaction, we don't endorse it, we don't sanction it with the will, we don't elaborate a whole way of living around it--then it's not sinful. What matters is what we do with that anger at God. So many people basically say to God, "Who do you expect me to believe? The Church, the Scriptures. The Magisterium. The lives of the saints. Who do you expect me to believe? Those or my own eyes? My own lived experience. Because my own lived experience is that you don't love me. My own lived experience is that you have abandoned me, you have betrayed me. You have left me to twist in the wind." This is what people say to God. Most people have parts that feel this way, and the reason they have parts that feel this way is because those parts are exiled with those beliefs so that they don't take over the whole person. Other parts are like, "Hey, we can't hear that. We can't have that. God's not going to tolerate that. Let's stuff that away." And so the parts--the parts that feel like God is perpetrated, injustice upon them, betrayal, abandonment, whatever they get, they get buried deep, right, because if we let that stuff up (this is what the protector parts say), if we let that stuff up, God's going to smite us. That stuff cannot be allowed into our conscious awareness, and there's this whole huge repression of that stuff. I want to love the Lord my God, with my whole heart. That means all of our parts. That means working through this stuff. If you don't work through it here on earth. This is speculative Malinoski eschatology. If you don't work through this on earth, nothing disordered is going to get into heaven. I think so much time in purgatory is spent working through these unresolved disordered emotions--disordered desires, impulses, stuff that isn't necessarily sinful. It's what you do with it. One of the worst things to do with it is to suppress it, because then you can't even think about it, you can't engage the will, you can't engage the intellect. It's suppressed--it's outside of conscious awareness. It can't connect, we can't connect those faculties anymore, and that's where you get acting out. You get the revenge of the repressed. And so much of what goes on in that revenge of the repressed is rebellion against God. That's part of why we don't pray. That's part of why we don't get to Mass on Thursdays, because that's what we'd like to do. We sleep in so all kinds of parts acting out in various ways. That's the eighth anger at God, rebellion against him.
Eight ways that we resist God's love. Eight ways that we refuse to be loved by God--refuse to take it in. Limited vision--we don't understand, costs of being loved by God, poor God images, poor self-images, the refusal to be vulnerable, the lack of courage and anger, unresolved anger at God leading to rebellion.
Now, I've been talking about parts, many of you know what I mean when I'm talking about parts. But I do want to review just a little bit so that before we go on to this next section, people have got it refreshed. If you're really interested in finding out more about parts, episode 71--really an important episode, a new and better way of understanding myself and others. Check that out. Interior Integration for Catholics, episode 71, 'A New and Better Way of Understanding Myself and Others'.
Parts are separate, independently operating little personalities within us. That's one way to think about them phenomenologically. Each part has its own unique, prominent needs, its role in our life, its emotions, its body sensations, guiding beliefs and assumptions, its own typical thoughts and intentions, its own desires, its own attitudes and impulses and interpersonal style, its own worldview. Each part is an image of God, each part has an image of self, and when those parts are not integrated, when they are not under the leadership and guidance of my innermost self, there's all kinds of problems receiving the love of God.
So let me just back up a minute and talk about this innermost self. What am I talking about? When I talk about the innermost self, I'm talking about the core of the person--the center of the person. This is who we sense ourselves to be in our best moments. When our core, when our self is free, when we're unblended with any parts--the self is really who should govern our being. When St. Thomas talks about self-governance, it's this self that I'm talking about that really should be leading and guiding, not any of the parts. Now in episode 71, I went through and described my ten parts, my ten parts--my good boy part, my evaluator part, formerly the critic, my melancholia parts, my adventurer part, my feisty part, which is formally my angry part, my challenger part who was my rebel, my lover part, my collaborator part which was formerly my competent part, that's the one that ran my system most of the time, my guardian part, which was also formerly my intimidator part and my creative part.
Every one of these parts, if they are disconnected from me, is going to have a distorted God image. My good boy part, if he's driving my bus--he's not connected with God. He has this tight code that I need to follow: God is distant, God is demanding, God doesn't particularly care about my sufferings and my trials. He just wants me to get it done. That's what happens with my God image. And I've got to leap to that standard, and I've got to hit that standard, or I will be rejected by God and he won't love me.
My evaluator part--when that part is separated from God, it goes back to that role of being my inner critic, riding me, berating me, driving me. It's really kind of painful. It's really actually quite painful. And this has to do with the shame that my melancholia part has when that part's disconnected from God. That's the part that carries shame for me. "You're not good enough". There are so many efforts to be good enough. Some of my high levels of production in my life have been driven by shame, by an effort to be good enough to be loved by God. If I do enough podcast episodes, if I write enough weekly reflections, if I stretch myself with enough clients, if I lay myself out in trying to love my children, if I burn out, if I become exhausted, if I'm consumed, if I'm curled up on the side of the road, then maybe God will love me.
This goes back to my childhood history. This is a very, very clear--where this came from in my own developmental history. The way that I construed how I would be lovable, driven so much by the shame of my melancholia part. And then the response is from my feisty part. This is my angry part. This is the one that is willing to give the finger to everybody, right. And this part got really suppressed by my good boy part because this feisty part would not hesitate to take on God. That part doesn't feel like it's got anything to lose. This part, this feisty part, when it's really disconnected from my core self. It doesn't want to be in heaven with God. The last place it wants to be is in heaven with God staring into the eyes of this God that so betrayed and abandoned him. Absolutely not. No way in hell. This part would say, when it's disconnected from God that it would rather be apart from God than in relationship with him. Which would mean choosing hell. Actually, what my feisty part really wants when it's really worked up is to be in limbo, to be in a place of natural happiness where there is no God because it doesn't really want to be with Satan, doesn't really want to be down there, but it can't abide this idea of being in God when it is isolated, when it's not in right relationship with my innermost self. And that anger fuels two things, two other parts. One is my guardian part, formally my intimidator part, and the other is my challenger part, that's my rebel. When my challenger part moves back into that rebel role, that part opens me up to all kinds of sinning. Sin driven by anger, sin driven by the fact that this isn't a God worth worshipping. Guardian part, my intimidator part--this is the one that's willing to go hand to hand with God. This is the one, this is the part of me if I allow it to take over, it can dominate attorneys and courtrooms. This is the part of me that chases dogs. This part actually likes it when dogs chase me because it can take over and it can turn the tables on the dog. I've even chased pitbulls away when that part takes over with the intensity of the anger from my feisty part, right, which is a defense against the shame, which is a defense against the intensity of the shame held by my melancholia part.
My creative part generally has more of a positive relationship with God, identifies with God as creator, likes to do creative things, understands that, yeah, we create together, so that one doesn't have as many issues with God, but it can also get kind of manic--really rev me up. And when it really revs me up with a lot of excitement or euphoria, then I get close to the touches of the Holy Spirit. I can't discern what the Holy Spirit would want me to do because it's just too busy inside, there's just too much energy. I'm too wired.
My lover part that is a part of me that when it's disconnected from God, is going to look for God in all the wrong places. It's going to look for surrogates for God. Other relationships. This is the part that led me on a decades long search for a guru that I could sit with under the banyan tree who would impart wisdom to me as a loving parent figure.
When these parts are all in right relationship, though, when there's harmony, when there's collaboration, they see God as my innermost self sees God. Much more oriented towards who God actually is. When there's fragmentation inside of me, when there's fracturing inside of me, whichever part tends to dominate, that's who I start to really feel and act, as though God exists if I'm not resisting that.
So let's talk about consequences if we don't do this human formation work--if we don't address these reasons why we resist the love of God, if we refuse to be loved by God.
First point here is that nothing can separate us from God's love. Romans 8:38-39, St. Paul, "For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ, Jesus, our Lord." What does that mean? Nothing. Nothing can separate you from the love of God. Not trauma, not even demons. Nothing can separate you from the love of God.
With one exception. The one exception--you. Only you can separate you from the love of God. Only you have the power to do that by refusing to let the love of God come into you. That is what sin is. It is separating ourselves from God. Sin is damaging our relationship with God, sin is withdrawing from God, sin is breaking that relationship, and that happens. Jesus wept over Jerusalem in Luke 19:41-44 that reads, "And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it, saying, 'Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you when your enemies will cast up a bank about you and surround you and hem you in on every side and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another; because you did not know the time of your visitation.'" It's not that God would not protect Jerusalem. It's that God could not protect the Israelites, not without violating their freedom, not without forcing himself upon them.
And now for the most haunting words in all of scripture, Matthew 7:13-14. Our Lord says, "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those that find it are few." This has been so ignored in the 20th and 21st centuries. I'm amazed that so many Catholics, so many people familiar with scripture can somehow imagine and think their way to believing that hell doesn't exist. I believe hell exists, because I've seen it. No, I'm not talking about like one of the Fatima children where I've been granted a vision of hell. But I have seen in deep, painful detail what happens in my own life when I've separated myself from God, but also in the lives of so many people who have privileged me by inviting me into their worlds. We need to understand what hell is.
Pope John Paul, the second in a 1999 audience, said, "God did not create hell. Hell is not a punishment imposed externally by God, but a development of premises already set by people in this life." There's an edition of the 'Catechism of the Catholic Church', it was edited by Archbishop Rino Fisichella in 2019, and was put out by our Sunday Visitor, and it's got great commentary in the back of it--I really enjoy that book. And Louis Ladaria, he says, quote, "To be precise, God did not make hell. His free creatures make it, inasmuch as they separate themselves from him. Nor does God send anyone to hell; it is the damned one who separates himself and does not want to enter into the Father's house. God, Saint Irenaeus said, does not really look to punish the damned, but as they are deprived of all good things, it is the penalty that pursues them." "A similar idea in St. Augustine, God abandons the sinner to his evil, he does not, properly speaking, give evil to anyone. Because of this, and despite what is said sometimes, we need to insist on the fact that hell does not say anything against the goodness of God."
Popular authors even get this. Dean Koontz in his 'Book of Counted Sorrows', says, "We make hell real, we stoke its fires. And in its flames, our hope expires." The Catechism, paragraph 1037, "God predestined no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of our faithful, the church implores the mercy of God who does not want 'any to perish, but all to come to repentance.'" God is not trying to catch us, not sitting there with his hand on the trap door to hell, to send people there.
Father Edward McIlmail, in his article, 'Ask a Priest: If God Loves Us So Much, Why Does Hell Exist', he gives this analogy--he says, "Imagine you are on a ship that is searching for survivors from a sunken ocean liner. You see a passenger struggling in the waves behind you. You throw a lifeline to him, but he refuses to grab it. You beg him to take hold of the lifeline, but he ignores your plea. Eventually, he sinks below the waves and drowns. Does his drowning indicate that you were indifferent? When you begged him to grab the lifeline, were you displaying hate? Was this drowning your fault? The answer to all these questions is: no. The person in the water, for whatever reason, refused your help. His drowning was the consequence." Hell is the consequence--it's not something that God wills for us, but because he respects our freedom and because we have the capacity to turn away from him, to go with these eight reasons why we resist his love, because we have that freedom, hell has to exist.
Here's the really, really important thing. It doesn't matter why we flee from God in the final analysis. It doesn't matter why we flee from his love. If we flee from his love and we persist in that flight--if we continue to reject his love, he will not force himself on us. He can't, because he is love. And love doesn't invade, love doesn't intrude, love doesn't dominate. If we persist in refusing to love, if we close ourselves off to love, we will have the consequences, and we'll have them in this life.
What is hell like? Well, hell is isolation. It's utter alienation. Tekla Babyak, in his 2018 article called 'Dante, Liszt and the Alienated Agony of Hell', writes, "Dante Alighieri's Inferno portrays hell as an alienated realm in which doomed spirits must spend eternally in isolation and regret." And John Ciardi in his notes on Canto 32 of 'The Inferno', writes about the deepest level of hell, the ninth circle. "The treachery of these souls were denials of love, which is God and of all human warmth. Only the remorseless dead center of the ice will serve to express their natures. As they denied God's love, so are they furthest removed from the light and warmth of his Son. As they denied all human ties. So they are bound only by the unyielding ice." The deepest level of hell is ice.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer in 'Life Together' wrote, "Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, and the more disastrous his isolation." And what does this sound like? Well there was a character, Melody Brooks, in Sharon Draper's book 'Out of My Mind'. The character said, "It's like I live in a cage with no door and no key. And I have no way to tell someone how to get me out." Sue Johnson, therapist, writer, in her book 'Hold Me Tight', said "Isolation and the potential loss of loving connection is coded by the human brain into a primal panic response."
In my work with my clients, in my private practice, and also in my relationships with the therapists in the Interior Therapist Community and with all the members of the resilient Catholic community that I lead in Souls and Hearts, we talk about the God images that parts have. I have seen so many times the agony--the incredible suffering of alienation from those who have turned away from God. Parts of them still desperately clinging to the Catholic faith. Parts of them, though, dominating them, totally alienated from God. That's where I've seen the most abominable, the most terrible suffering. That's where I've seen the most terrible suffering--the most heart-rending, gut-wrenching suffering is from those who will not accept the love of God.
And for those that will--for those that are open to it, and maybe not immediately from God directly--maybe that's too much, maybe not from our lady directly, maybe through the therapy, maybe through the relationship with someone else that can somehow seem more tangible, seem more real to them. Sometimes people need to experience the love of God--most times, I would say, people need to experience the love of God through another Christian--through another Catholic. And experiencing the love of God through another Catholic can invite parts to believe that maybe, just maybe, love exists for them. It might invite parts to question the certainty that they have in their distorted, terrible God images. It might invite parts to engage the possibility that maybe, maybe, maybe God could love all the parts, all of me, that my whole being could still be a beloved son or daughter of God.
So what are we to do? What are we to do? The first thing--I'm going to start with, the spiritual stuff, is to pray: to set aside the time to pray. There are plenty of aides to praying--I really like the book. 'Personal Prayer: A Guide for Receiving the Father's Love' by Father Thomas Acklin, by Father Boniface Hicks--really practical suggestions in there about how to pray. Very wise, very good grasp of psychology that those two Benedictine monks and spiritual directors have. I found 'Fire Within' by Father Thomas Dubay--that was what launched my prayer life decades ago.
The first letter of St John. That is amazing. Take that to Lectio Divina. And if you're not doing Lectio Divina, I would really hope that you would. There's an online article called 'Lectio Divina: A Guide What It Is & How It Helps Prayer Life' by Dan Burke, it's at spiritualdirection.com, you can check that out. Also, Father Jacques Philippe in his book 'Called To Life' has a really excellent, succinct appendix on Lectio Divina. So Father Jack Philippe--'Called to Life', check out the appendix. There's also a section on Lectio Divina in Father Jacques Philippe's book, 'Thirsting for Prayer', it's titled 'Meditating on Scripture'. He calls it Lectio Divina in the body, but the title of the section is called 'Meditating on Scripture'. That's also really, really good. I'm going to just advise the Nike Model to pray. The 'just do it', set aside the perfection, the desire to do prayer well--when you start praying, you're not going to pray well, you're going to pray badly. The most important things in this life, we either do badly or we don't do at all. St. Teresa of Avila says "he who neglects mental prayer, needs not a devil to carry him to hell, but he brings himself there with his own hands." St. John of the Cross, "Without the aid of mental prayer, the soul cannot triumph over the forces of the devil." Prayer. Engaging in a particular type of prayer, interpersonal prayer, real prayer, coming to God as a little child, a parvulo, a little itty bitty child. "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them. For the Kingdom of God is made up of such as these."
Second thing--do your human formation work. Let's not make excuses about that. Any problem, any difficulties you have in your relationships in the natural realm here on earth, you are going to bring into your spiritual relationships. This is one of the reasons why people do not like relational spirituality--they don't feel competent at it. They've got real issues in their relationships and they bring that into their relationship with God, they bring that into the relationship with our Lady. Somehow they expect that it shouldn't have an effect there, but it's part of who they are.
Interior integration. I'm going to I talk about this at length in my weekly reflection from October 12 2022. Why is interior integration crucial for union with God? I get into St. Thomas Aquinas. What he says about that, you can check that out, soulsandhearts.com/blog, October 12, 2022, scroll down, you'll find it.
Get to know your parts. So many times our parts do not want us to enter into relationship with God because they do not understand who God is. They're like Stephen--they want to run away from the nurses with the IVs. They want to run away from life-saving treatment because they do not understand. We need humility, we need to trust. We need to pray for that, pray for the faith to ground our relationship with God, not to serve as some sort of supplement, not to rely on just our own personal experience and how we construe that experience, because that's so subjective can be so wrong. Pray for faith, do your human formation work, get into therapy or counseling, especially Internal Family Systems therapy with a therapist who is Catholic, or who at least respects your Catholic faith and will not underline it or undermine it.
Now, I'm going to give you something else too. On November 21, I'm going to put out an experiential exercise as a bonus podcast. I'm playing with the idea of breaking apart the main sort of like lecture thing that I do in these podcasts and putting the experiential exercises in a second episode. That way you don't have to pause it if you're driving or working out to do the experiential exercise, you know that the experiential exercise is going to require a different space.
The other thing, because I'm so passionate about this human formation stuff, I want to bring it to the world. I wanted to bring it to as many people as I can--that's why I founded the Resilient Catholics Community. You do not have to be alone in doing this human formation work, and it doesn't require therapy or counseling. Therapy and counseling do not have a monopoly on human formation work. We've needed to get out of some pretty narrow boxes, and that's what the members of the Resilient Catholics Community are doing. They are breaking out of their boxes and they are pioneers. They are really trendsetters and finding out how do we foster human formation in new ways. We do it together. We do it on a pilgrimage. We are in relationship with each other. It's an excellent way to get to know your parts. I've brought together the best human formation resources, the best psychological resources outside of therapy, outside of counseling, concentrated them into a whole program, 44 weekly meetings, company meetings, in small groups where we work through these things together. Daily connections with your companion on the journey, in your company, in your cohort, in the broader Resilient Catholics Community. If you resonate with this podcast, if this makes sense to you, if parts make sense to you, if this moves your heart, if you resonate with those experience exercises, if you have a sense that this is one way that you could really benefit from, sign up on the waiting list, go to soulsandhearts.com/RCC, get on the waiting list. November 10, I'm sending out the first orientation email for the group that's applying, starting on December 1. December 1, we reopen the community to new applications. We do that twice a year in December and June. If you have questions about whether it might be for you, go to our landing page, soulsandhearts.com/RCC, read through the materials, listen to the videos or watch the videos. Got lots of questions and answers--lots of information there. If you still have questions, call me up. Office hours, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 4:30-5:30 p.m. EST, 317-567-9594, private conversation 10 to 15 minutes--I'll just give that time to you. Or you can email me [email protected]
Pray for me, put the word out, let people know about our offerings at Souls and Hearts. This podcast, the weekly reflections. Sign up for those--you can get those weekly reflections in your email box. Go to soulsandhearts.com main page. Click on the button that says 'Get the Weekly Reflections From Dr. Peter In Your Email'. You can also see the archive at soulsandhearts.com/blog. You can check those out if that stuff resonates with you. Do some discernment, see if you might be called to join us in the Resilient Catholics Community.
And with that, we'll wrap it. We'll invoke our patroness and our patron, our Lady, our Mother, Untier of Knots, pray for us. St. John the Baptist, pray for us.
IIC 98: Self-Love: What Catholics Need to Know
Confusion and controversy abound in the Catholic Church about self-love. Learn four ways to understand self-love, why we avoid self-love, the six reasons it is important to cultivate proper self-love, what is appropriate self-sacrifice, and receive two practical spiritual means for growing in proper self-love: The Litany of Self-Love and also an entirely new way of examining your conscience.
IIC 98 Self Love -- What Catholics Need to Know
Today we are talking about self-love: the love of self. There is so much controversy, so much confusion about self-love among Catholics. Is self-love good and holy, or is self-love bad and dangerous? Is self-love necessary for loving others? Is self-love unavoidable? The answers from Catholic writers and thinkers and saints are all over the board with regard to self-love, with so many apparent contradictions that it can make your head spin. And the positions from different reputable Christian sources are extreme; their positions seem irreconcilable.
Here is just a sampling: St. Augustine said, "there can be only two basic loves...the love of God unto the forgetfulness of self or the love of self unto the forgetfulness and denial of God." St. Maximus the Confessor, "Flee from self-love, the mother of malice..." Thomas A Kempis, in the 'Imitation of Christ', "Know that self-love does you more harm than anything else in the world." Father Jean Nicholas Grou, Jesuit priest, "Self-love is the one source of all the illusions of the spiritual life. By its means, the devil exercises his deceits, leads souls astray, drags them sometimes to hell by the very road that seems to lead them to heaven." St. Thomas Aquinas says, "Inordinate self-love is the cause of every sin". And here's from Pope Francis from December 9th, 2015, "The movements of self-love, which make mercy foreign in the world, are so numerous that we often fail to recognize them as limitations and as sin." 'The Catechism of the Catholic Church', paragraph 1850, "...sin is thus 'love of oneself, even to contempt of God'". And St. Paul in 2 Timothy 3:1-5, said this, "But understand this that in the last days there will come times of stress. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. Avoid such people."
Lovers of self. Now we also hear from St Thomas Aquinas that, "Self-love is in one way common to all, in another way proper to good men, in another, proper to evil men." Father, Jacques Philippe, in his book 'Called To Life', with his pastoral approach, says, "Love of God, love of neighbor and love of self grow together and sustain one another as they grow. If one is absent or neglected, the others will suffer. Like the legs of a tripod, all three are needed in order to stand, and each leans on the other." He also says, "Love travels along two paths that are inseparable in the end: love of God and love of neighbor. But as this text suggests, there is another aspect of charity--love of one's self. ("You shall love your neighbor as yourself"). This self-love is good and necessary. Not egoism that refers everything to "me", but the grace to live in peace with oneself, consent to be what one is, with one's talents and limitations." And the Bishop of Sioux Falls, Donald Edward DeGrood, said this, "We are called to love ourselves as God made us and loves us. It is sometimes difficult to know our inherent dignity, to receive God's love and live out of the truth of who we are. And just as God loves us and indeed rejoices and delights in us, so too are we call to rejoice and delight in who we are and who others are." And Catholic moral theologian, Michel Therrien, in a December 3, 2020 article in Denver Catholic said, "...the proper love of self is the foundation for knowing how to treat others."
Alright, so you might be asking me, "Dr. Peter, Which is it? Are we supposed to be loving ourselves or not loving ourselves?" Laura, an Australian Catholic writer, in her blogpost, 'Self-Love for Catholics: What is the Catholic teaching on loving yourself' says this, "Depending on who you ask, the idea of self-love can get some very different reactions. Even the Bible seems a little confused. On the one hand, Jesus calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves. On the other hand, St. Paul condemns those who are 'lovers of self'. I won't like to bag out the Bible but mixed messages much? There is no section in the catechism on self-love. There is no treatise entitled 'Loving Thyself' by St. Bernard or 'The Internal Positive Dialogues" of St. Catherine of Siena. There definitely aren't any ancient meditations on "How Awesome a Monk Am I Today!", or "Eighty Affirmations for the Doubting Deacon" from the Patristic Era. And if I'm honest, this is super frustrating. Maybe you found the same?"
Well, Laura, thank you for bringing this up. I find this whole body of Catholic literature on self-love both fascinating and frustrating at the same time and also so very important. We really need to sort this out because the stakes are so high. So rather than curse the darkness, here is my attempt to light a candle for you, to illuminate the best that I've found on this essential theme: Self-Love.
I am Dr. Peter Malinoski, clinical psychologist, passionate Catholic. And this is Interior Integration for Catholics. The Interior Integration for Catholics Podcast is all about bringing you the best of psychology and human formation and harmonizing it with the perennial truths of our Catholic faith. Each month we take the most important human formation issues head on. We don't shy away from the tough topics, and today we have a tough topic. How do we rightly understand self-love? What is self-love and how should we as Catholics understand it, given this whirlwind of confusion and controversy that has stretched back for centuries? This is episode 98, titled 'Self-Love--What Catholics Need to Know', and it's released on October 3, 2022.
We have been working through a series on trauma and wellbeing--we started that with episode 88. In the last episode, episode 97 titled: 'Unlove of Self: How Trauma Predisposes You to Self-Hatred and Indifference', we looked at the impact of trauma and how it contributes to us not loving ourselves.
Today, we're switching gears. We're looking at what it means to be in an ordered relationship with ourselves. Is self-love a part of right relating with ourselves? We are going to bring so much clarity to this topic today.
It is so good to be with you, thank you for listening in, thank you for being together with me once again. I'm glad you're here and I'm glad that together we're exploring what self-love really means.
Now, I want to do a little introduction here to this topic. About 20 years ago, a theologian friend of mine was encouraging me to get out more. I was pretty sheltered, I was in private practice. I wasn't doing any public speaking, but he was really impressed with some of the things that we were talking about in our conversations. At the time, I was sorting out the psychology thing, too. I was really trying to figure out how to practice as a psychologist and ground that practice of psychology in a Catholic understanding of the human person. I had a keen sense that after I die, on my day of particular judgment I will be responsible before the Lord for every word that I uttered to every client, for everything I taught or said or advised, and I was worried. I didn't want to lead anyone astray. I didn't want to lead my clients astray. And I knew that I was speculating, because frankly, there wasn't a lot out there about how you grounded the practice of psychology and a Catholic anthropology.
Matthew 18:6 rang in my ears. "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." I was like, alright, I don't want to lead anyone to sin. And so, I was pretty quiet--didn't want to get out there. Plus, I was starting a family and I wanted a simple, contemplative life. I wanted a life of prayer as much as was compatible with my duties of state as a husband and a father.
Alright, fast forward 20 years. Now, I have to share. I have a strong sense of a call to be much more public, to be much more vocal. I still am committed to a deep life of prayer, I'm still strongly committed to my wife, Pam, and to my children. But now four of my seven children are grown and gone. And I still know that I'm responsible for every word that I utter in this podcast, every word I write in my weekly reflections. The last thing I want for you is for me to lead you astray. That's the last thing I want. But I also don't want to be like the servant that buried his master's talent out of fear. I also now realize that I'm responsible for the words that I don't say--for the gifts that I don't share with you, for the topics I don't bring to you. But I want to do all of this from an absolutely Catholic position. An unapologetically Catholic, completely Catholic worldview. 2 Timothy 4:2-4, St. Paul says, "preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke and exhort. Be unfailing in patience and in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths." And if there is ever a topic where people reject sound teaching and with itching years, heap up teachers to suit their own likings, that topic has got to be self-love. Self-love is it.
Now you need to know that when I take on these really tough topics, especially a topic like self-love, where so many great souls have been in disagreement, I could be wrong about some of the things that I tell you. I could be teaching something in error. That's entirely possible. I need to be straight up with you about that. I'm not trying to deceive anybody. I'm saying what I think is the truth. But I am very open to fraternal corrections. I'm very open to collegial corrections. And so if you hear something that I'm saying in one of these podcasts or that I write in one of my weekly reflections, and it's wrong, I want you to get in touch with me and let me know; and then give me a source--quote me something from the Catholic Catechism or something from some other authoritative Catholic source of teaching. If you have access to Ludwig Ott's Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma or Denzinger--give me something encyclical, give me something where you're showing me what I say contradicts the truths of the faith, because I really want to be correct in this. So with that said, let's move on.
There is so much avoidance of discussing this topic of self-love. Why? Well, the first reason is because there's so much confusion about self-love. Gene Outka, a Catholic Philosopher who wrote a book on 'Agape', said this, "To say anything very useful about a phrase as generally ambiguous as 'self-love' may well be impossible. For it serves as a classic example of the difficulty already noted: a single word or phrase may shuttle back and forth between distinct experiences in different and sometimes rival concepts." John Lippitt in his article, 'True Self-Love and True Self-Sacrifice' said, "Yet self-love and self-sacrifice are notorious problems in Christian thought, and the tradition is littered with apparently incompatible claims about them." Gene Outka said, "Hence, frequently 'self-love' has several meanings which have to be clarified before one can determine the nature and extent of substantive as contrasted with verbal disagreements." He's going to be really helpful to us in a little bit, Gene Outka, in determining the different types of self-love. Oliver O'Donovan in 'The Problem of Self-Love in St. Augustine' said, "Mutually incompatible assertions about self-love jostle one another and demand to be reconciled. And Augustine himself refuses to undertake this task for us. There is no 'theory of self-love' articulated in his pages. He rarely tells us what he means by the phrase, and when he does, he is misleading." It's really interesting because Oliver O'Donovan argues that St. Augustine was sort of all over the board with his approaches to self-love, and he wasn't very systemic in the way that he treated the topic.
So, for example, these are three quotes from St. Augustine that Oliver O'Donovan put side by side to show us how different even this doctor of the church was in approaching the topic. Quote one: "The primal destruction of man was self-love." The primal destruction of man was self-love. Quote two: "There is no one who does not love himself; but one must search for the right love and avoid the warped." Quote three: "Indeed, you did not love yourself when you did not love the God who made you."
Alright, so in the first quote, we were taught that self-love is destructive--that it destroys man. And in the third quote, that we didn't love ourselves when we didn't love God.
Some of this may also be just limitations in the English language. For example, we've got this one word; 'love', and then we put self in front of it, 'self-love', and it can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. We don't have a wide vocabulary to describe this concept of love.
So I think one reason why there's an avoidance of discussing self-love is because there's just so much confusion about the topic. How many times in the last 10 or 20 years have you heard a homily or a sermon on self-love?
I also think there's a lot of avoidance on the personal level. There's an often a de facto rejection of the concept of self-love by individual Catholics as being just selfishness. Sara Swisher writes, "Many Catholics are raised with the notion that they must serve others without regard for themselves. In order to be a 'true' Catholic, one must deny oneself, and love and care for others."
A lot of times self-love is not discussed--you don't hear about it. So there can be an assumption that self-love is not an important topic. Self-love is sometimes condemned as 'weird'. Self-love is something that those New-Agers are into, along with crystals and karma and reincarnation. Yes, self-love is sort of in that wheelhouse. Self-love is in that kind of category.
And another thing is that it's difficult for us to love ourselves. Father Jack Philippe wrote in his book 'Called To Life', "People today have great difficulty loving themselves--the proliferation of pop psychological books and personal development and the acquisition of self-esteem are symptoms of that." Finally, St. John Chrysostom, in his homily on 2 Thessalonians, said, "There are many things that distract us from love." There are many things that distract us from love--including this question of self-love.
Then also there are certain types of spiritualities that actually don't really focus that much on love, especially self-love. I refer to this one kind of spirituality as a power spirituality or a macho spirituality, that really focuses on the development of virtue and self-perfection--not so much on love. That may be appealing, especially to men; there's a focus on fasting, on cold showers, on becoming like a spiritual special forces warrior. This kind of power spirituality is not particularly relational. It's much more focused on behaviors, on stopping the sinning--whatever the sinning is for that person. And it's not as much focused on loving, including a proper ordered love of self.
Finally, I don't want to omit the importance of shame. So many Catholics are carrying so much shame, and some don't even know it. Shame resists ordered self-love and shame promotes disordered self-love. And you can check out episodes 37-49 of this podcast for a 13 episode series on shame. It's vitally, vitally important that we understand what shame is.
So, let's get into definitions of self-love, because some of the disagreement about self-love is really semantic differences. It's just differences in how we're defining this nebulous, ambiguous term 'self-love', and some of it is more substantive disagreements.
This is where Gene Outka's book 'Agape' is going to be helpful to us. He has four value judgments of self-love--basically four ways that people look at self-love.
One, as wholly nefarious--that it's just bad. Self-love is bad. That's the first one. Second, is to look at self-love as normal, reasonable and prudent. The third way is to look at self-love as justified derivatively from other regard. What that means is self-love is okay, because we need to love ourselves in order to be able to provide other good things to other people. We're not really going to look at it as a good in itself, but it has a utilitarian value--if we love ourselves, then we can love others better. And then the fourth one is to look at self-love as a definite obligation, independent of loving others. So those are the four.
So let's start with self-love as wholly nefarious. Now Outka, he says, that "the single word which best connotes those attitudes and actions characteristic of nefarious self-love is--acquisitiveness." Basically when self-love is being condemned, it's usually because of this quality of acquisitiveness. The person is just trying to satisfy himself or herself, and in that effort is trying to find some state or some possession that is satisfying personally, and that that goal of acquisitiveness dominantly pervades every relation with others. People know that a person is just in relationship to try to get what they want. Bernard Brady says, "Sinners love their sensitive nature at the expense of their rational nature. They love their physical self, thinking it is their essential nature. Their love is misdirected." Okay, so what Brady is telling us is that the love is misdirected. There is self-love in this nefarious way of looking at it, but it's because that love is disordered. Sinners, when they are acting out of nefarious self-love or disordered self-love is they are loving just their sensitive natures--they're just loving their bodies, they're loving their concupiscence desires. And Anthony Flood writes that, "Through wicked love of self, a person seeks the bodily pleasures and material goods at the expense of the goods perfective of his properly personal nature. Wicked or disordered love of self perverts natural self-love away from the full spectrum of goods perfective of human nature, including interpersonal unions toward a more restricted set of goods willed solely for oneself. Through this disordered manner of willing, wicked self-love constitutes the root of all sin." Remember St. Thomas Aquinas said that inordinate self-love constitutes the root of all sin. Here we're seeing it. It's selfishness, essentially--it's pursuing something just because I want it, not because it helps me to enter into a deeper relationship with God, not because it helps me to enter into deeper relationship with anybody else, not because it helps me to love anybody else, but just because I want it. That's destructive, that's disordered, that's the wicked self love. Okay, so one can see why there would be such condemnations by St. Maximus, for example, "flee from self-love, the mother of malice", Thomas A Kempis, "know that self-love does you more harm than anything else in the world." That's entirely consistent with this thomistic understanding that inordinate self love constitutes the root of all sin. St. Thomas writes that in the Summa.
Alright, so that's one way of understanding self-love. And that's maybe the most commonly understood way--as sort of self-love as nefarious; self-love as equivalent to selfishness.
But let's go on to the second one--self-love as normal, reasonable, and prudent. So I'm going to walk you through what Gene Outka has to say, and I'll try to translate this philosophical writing into something a little more understandable. But let's just grapple with the quote first. Jeanne also writes, "The second value judgment is that self-love is normal, reasonable, prudent: it is not especially praiseworthy, but not necessarily blameworthy. One encounters here a relatively straightforward assumption. People do not need just in general to be urged toward concern about their own welfare; we have plenty of attachment to that and of an immediate and unreflective kind. Thus our pursuit of it does not involve moral merit or virtue. Considered in itself it is not an obligation. At most one may call it normal, reasonable, and prudent. On the other hand one need not disparage it altogether." So what Gene Outka is saying here is that--yeah, of course we love ourselves. That's normal. That's natural. We don't need to be urged to be concerned about our own welfare. We have plenty of attachment to that. But it's not inherently sinful for us to be concerned about our welfare. Outka says, "Such an assumption, I think, stands behind one very common interpretation of the 'as yourself' clause in the second great commandment, namely, 'you shall love your neighbor as yourself'". So what he's saying there is--yes, of course, we love ourselves. Everybody knows that, we have an attachment to ourselves and we should love other people like that. Rudolf Bultmann says, "It is stupid...to say that...justifiable self-love a necessary standard of self-respect must precede love of neighbor, since the command runs, 'love your neighbor as yourself'. Self-love is thus presupposed. Yes, it is indeed presupposed, but not as something which man needs to learn, which must be expressly required of him. It is the attitude of the natural man which must be overcome." Alright, so basically this interpretation of the second great commandment is that--yeah, of course we love ourselves, everybody loves themselves; that's the standard of reference by which we should love other people. We should have the same degree of concern for other people as we do ourselves. Loving ourselves is not a virtue, but it shouldn't be condemned either. That's the second way of understanding self-love.
The third way is that self-love is justified derivatively. Let's unpack this a little bit more. This is where we should take care of ourselves; we should actually proactively love ourselves and take care of ourselves because we need to in order to love others. So Outka says "Those who treat self-love as not especially praiseworthy in itself sometimes allow for the deliberate concern about the agent's own welfare, as long as this can be derived from other regard." Alright, so in other words, if I need to take care of myself in some way so that I can take care of others, then self-love is justified as a derivative of loving somebody else. W. G. Maclagan says, "There can be a disciplinary value for others in not permitting them to treat our happiness with indifference. Not only have we no obligation to make ourselves, as it were, 'everybody's doormat'; we have something of an obligation not to do so. Nor is the reason for this adequately given in the form that others considered separately as individuals will be better men and women if they learn to respect interests not their own, though that is true enough. Inseparable from this is the further fact that the realization of a good community, which is the moral concern of us all, is impossible in any other terms." Okay, so let's unpack that. Basically, what Maclagan is saying is that, you know what? Sometimes it's important not to let others treat us badly because that's bad for them. We might be putting them in a near occasion of sin for example, if we allow them to exploit us. And so we protect our own self-interest; we love ourselves, but we do that because we're trying to love them.
In other words, you know, we don't want to be everybody's doormat. We have sometimes an obligation not to let other people wipe feet on us because that's bad for them, but even more that's bad for the community. That's a bad norm to establish in the Christian community. Outka, says, "Another sort of case, already alluded to, which seems to justify the agents asserting his interest at the expense of another's, is one where the interest of third parties are at stake and a sacrifice of his interest would constitute an unjust betrayal of theirs." So this is where, for example, a mother may go in and have a chronic health issue treated so that she could better take care of her children. And that might inconvenience her husband--if she's got to go away and she's got to have a procedure done and spend three or four days in the hospital--that may inconvenience her husband, but she's doing that because there are these third parties, these children, that need her to be taking care of herself, that need her to be to be loving herself. So the focus here is not on the intrinsic good that the mother is seeking for herself in her recovery. It's really the derivative value that's important because it it leads to a good for those third party--for those children.
And finally, Outka says, "The agent may also be obligated to look after his own welfare: negatively, in order not to burden others and then positively in order to most effectively further their good." So this is where someone might love themselves by taking care of themselves so that they don't cause somebody else more trouble. So that they don't unnecessarily burden others, or so that they are able to further others' good. So, a dad that exercises so that he can play ball with his kids, you know--that he can get out on the basketball court and play with them, again is this idea that self-love is justified derivatively.
That's different than the fourth value judgment of self-love, and that's where self-love is a definitive obligation. In this form of self-love, self-love is seen as something that is good for the person to do for his or her own sake. It's not contingent on what it means for somebody else. In other words, if somebody is loving one's self, there is a good just intrinsic in that love. It doesn't depend on what the effect of that love is for anybody else.
Outka writes that, "self-love as self-respect may refer to laudable attitudes and actions, not all of which can be either encompassed under prudence or linked necessarily with a benefit to others." Father Jacques Philippe, in his book called 'Called to Life', said, "Love of God requires the love of self. Not to accept myself as I am means not recognizing God's love for me. And loving me after all, God is not loving some ideal being, the person I 'ought to be' or 'would like to be'. He takes me just as I am, and I cannot fully welcome this love without accepting myself. Pride, perfectionism and the fear of rejection are among the obstacles to that." So just to be clear, I am very clearly in the fourth camp, along with St. Thomas Aquinas, I believe that self-love is a definite obligation. It's something that is good in and of itself--that it is good for you to love you, even if it doesn't have an immediate benefit for someone else.
What are the reasons that self-love is important? Why should we be discussing it? Why should we focus on it? The first one--we are going to love ourselves one way or another. We're either going to love ourselves in an ordered way, or we're going to love ourselves in a disordered way. We're going to love ourselves in a proper way, or we're going to love ourselves in a wicked way. And so let's figure out how to love ourselves in a good way. Second thing, self-love is an antidote to selfishness. Third, self-love brings peace. It helps us with an interior sense of peace. Fourth thing, self-love is essential to loving God. Fifth thing, self-love is essential to loving others. Sixth thing, there are consequences for not loving the self in an ordered way.
So let's start with the first one. We are going to love ourselves in one way or another. Either we're going to love ourselves in a proper, ordered way, or we're going to love ourselves in a disordered way. The question isn't whether you will love yourself. The question is how you will love yourself. Will it be in a nefarious, disordered way or will it be in a reasonably prudent way, or will you justify self-love in a pragmatic, utilitarian sense, because it benefits somebody else, or will you see self-love as valuable, important and essential to loving God and your neighbor?
Anthony Flood in his book 'The Metaphysical Foundations of Love', said, "All actions, both good and sinful, proceed from the will. The basic act of the will is to love, and all actions are motivated by love. Thus, sinful acts will necessarily be motivated by love, must be caused by disordered love." So what kind of self-love will we have? The Dominican father, Paul A. Duffner, in his article 'Two Kinds of Self-Love' says, "So we have the rightly ordered love of self which God commanded, and the inordinate love of self to which we are all inclined by reason of our human nature. The whole of the Christian life is a struggle to overcome the latter in order to attain the former." So what Father Duffer is saying--the whole of the Christian life is a struggle to overcome inordinate love of self.
And how do we do that and why do we do that? We do that in order to have a rightly ordered love of self. And again, not just for its own sake, even though it is a good in and of itself, but because a rightly ordered love of self opens up the door to being able to love our neighbor and ourself. That's very, very clear in St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa.
Secondly, ordered self-love or proper self-love is an antidote to selfishness. Anthony Flood says, "Love of others in general and friendship in particular, for Aquinas, derives from a more basic source--namely a person's love of self. A person does and should love himself more than he loves other human beings. Aquinas is not endorsing selfishness and self-preoccupation. In fact...proper self-love functions as the antidote to selfishness and self-preoccupation." When we are ordered inside--when we are secure inside, when we love ourselves, we are so much more free to get outside of ourselves. We don't have to be so self-absorbed if things are quiet and peaceful inside. The other part of this is that no one can love you in lieu of you. You can't delegate the responsibility for self-love to somebody else. No one else can make up that love for you, not even God, because you are called to love you. And we all know of cases in which somebody was loved by God, by other people, but did not love himself. And you can see what kind of tragic results can happen from that. Ordered self-love, proper self love is an antidote to selfishness. It allows us--it frees us to be able to get outside of ourselves--to turn away from ourselves, to be able to enter into others phenomenological worlds.
The third reason is this sense of peace. Anthony Flood writes, "The roots of benevolence and beneficence and self-love concern willing and seeking true goods that enhance both one's nature and the integrity of one's interior life. Thus, the activity of self-governance itself derives from self-love. In friendship, delight and concord relate to the affective dimensions of the experience of the other. In terms of self-love, they relate to the affect dimension of the experience of one's self." Here's the money quote, "A noticeable absence of inner strife or discord, and in its place, the presence of a consoling interior piece mark the inner heart of a person with a well-ordered love of self." When you have a well-ordered love of self, there is interior integration, there is a sense of peace, there is a sense of calm inside. And I want that peace for you. So ordered self-love leads us to that interior piece. And you can see that theme in Father Jacques Philippe's book, 'Searching For and Maintaining Peace'--excellent book. He's talking about interior integration. He's talking about us being able to relate to ourselves, to accept ourselves.
The fourth reason that ordered self-love is important is that self-love is essential for loving God. So I'm quoting from Eleanor Stump. Her book, 'Wandering in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering". She says, "On Aquinas' views, for every person, internal integration is necessary for the real good of that person, and the ultimate real good is union with God...So, on Aquinas account, love of one's self is in fact necessary for any love of another, including God. A perfect love of God, therefore, cannot compete with the love of one's self. A perfect love of God requires love of one's self." So here we're getting into Aquinas' thought that love of oneself is a prerequisite for being able to love God.
Anthony Flood, in his review of Aquinas' view of self-love says, "A person cannot love God without self-love, but the love of God ought always to be greater than one's love of self." And Sarah Swisher from her pastoral experience says, "Rediscovering the love of self allows for movement to love both God and others more fully."
The next point I want to bring up is that ordered self-love is essential for loving others. Father Jacques Philippe, in his book 'Called To Life', writes, "Love toward others is also supported by love of self. If I do not accept myself as I am, it will eventually be reflected in resentment and conflict. Many conflicts with others are projections of conflicts within ourselves: I refuse to put up with the feelings of others because I do not accept my own. If I am not at peace with myself, I make others pay for my unhappiness." And I'll just say--this is so true. This is where I like Father Jacques Phillip so much is because he has a real pastoral sense. He's not busy citing the Church Fathers and Thomas Aquinas all that much in his writings, but man, does he really nail it. It very much converges with what I see clinically.
Anthony Flood writes, "The ways in which an individual seeks good for himself becomes the model, a template for how he loves other persons--'we do unto them as we do unto ourselves'". So in other words, the way that we relate to ourselves becomes our model, our template for relating to other people. That's really, really important, and I see this all the time. Anything that we reject in ourselves, we will reject in another person. Let me say that over again. Any experience that you reject in yourself, you will reject in another person.
Let me give you an example of this. A number of years ago, my oldest son had just learned how to drive. He spun out on I-465 on black ice; my wife went to pick him up. The car was perfectly drivable, but he was just really shaken up. This is a while ago, and at that time I wasn't tolerating my own fear very well. I didn't like fear within me, and because I rejected fear within me, because I suppress that, because I denied it, because I wasn't able to love myself as a fearful person, and because I confused having courage with being fearless, I wasn't able to connect with my son in his fear because I rejected fear within me, because I wouldn't love the part of me that carried fear. I was not able to be present for him in his fear. I rejected his fear. And we do that all the time. You can see this in the classic example--many of you have witnessed this or you've heard about it, seen it in movies--when a father gets angry with an upset child. Father is there with a toddler or a preschooler and he says, "stop crying. If you don't stop crying, I'll give you something to cry about". Well, what's often going on in those situations is that the father is not accepting the neediness within himself. He doesn't accept that he sometimes feels like that little child. Sometimes he may feel like he wants to cry or to be held or to have needs, and because he's rejected that within himself, he can't accept it in the little child. Why? Because it's activating his own needs. It's activating his own needs, and those seem so threatening to him that they're going to overwhelm him. So what does he do? He shuts it down in the child. He shuts it down in the other person I tried to shut the fear down in my son and tell him things like, "well, come on, buck up. Just do it". You know--you've just got to man up. Not helpful. Not helpful. So anything that we reject in ourselves, we're going to reject in other persons. We need to be able to love ourselves and the things that are within us. That doesn't mean that we endorse everything within us; that doesn't mean that we embrace everything that's within us--because obviously we have concupiscence and things like that, but that we accept that it exists. Father Jacques Philippe is very big on that--accepting what is real within us. So Anthony Flood, "the ways in which an individual seeks to do good for himself becomes the model, the template for how he loves other persons--we do unto them as we do unto ourselves." And if we're not very good at loving ourselves, we're not going to be very good at loving other people. That's just how it is. That's just how it is.
Anthony Flood writes, "union between two persons derives from unity. Two persons seek a union between them that approximates each one's substantial unity. However, union can never reach the intensity afforded by unity itself. Moreover, the love of self, as the most basic activity arising from substantial unity must be appropriately cultivated to allow both for a pleasant interior life and the possibility of true friendships with others...the more a person develops the appropriate level of self, the more he will be capable of and desire to love others appropriately." Alright, that's pretty dense. Let's unpack that. You have to understand that Aquinas makes a distinction between 'unity' and 'union'. Union is between two persons. Unity is the way that he describes integration within one person. And he says basically that if you don't have unity within yourself, you can't really have union with another person. Your level of unity--or your integration, within yourself, sets an upper bound on how connected, how united, how in union you could be with another person. The more that you are able to develop this unity within, the greater your capacity to be able to connect with others in union--the better you're going to be able to love another person. So if you are really fragmented, if you are really disconnected inside, that's going to have a negative repercussion; that's going to have a negative effect on your capacity to connect with another person.
Now, there can be a lot of merit in somebody who's fairly fragmented, loving to the best of their ability, and some people who are more integrated may choose not to love very much. So there's another variable in here when it comes to actually looking at merit. I'm not going to get into all of that, but I don't want folks to go away from this saying, "Oh, no, I've got a lot of internal disconnects, I've got a lot of fragmentation. I'm not able to love other people." No, no, no, no, no, no. There's always a way that you can love, and there's great merit in us loving to the degree that we can. And the more that we love others and the more that we love God, the more that we love ourselves, the more capable we'll be of loving God and others--it's a great adventure of being able to love. And yes, we're going to be bad at it. I'd be very suspicious of somebody who said, "Yes, I've reached the pinnacle of being able to love others and to being able to love God. And of course, I love myself very much." That last part, I would believe, but more in a nefarious way, right. This is something that we are going to continually be challenged by--this challenge of loving. That's the great big challenge of our lives. It's to love God, love our neighbor and love ourselves.
I focus on this theme of really loving yourself with therapists, actually a lot. When therapists become destabilized by a client, when therapists are agitated, when they lose their peace, it is never about what the client is doing. Something is getting tapped within the therapist--some unresolved issue is being tapped within the therapist, and the client is merely opening a portal to that in some way. But it's not what the client's actually doing. It's something that pre-exists within the therapist. When therapists are losing their peace, when they're becoming agitated, it's tapping into something within the therapist, something that's unresolved, something that's unloved, something that the therapist is having difficulty handling in his or her own life, something within the therapist that the therapist is having trouble loving. And so most conventional supervision, most conventional consultation focuses on the client--what the client needs to do, how the client needs to change, the resistance and the client, the defenses of the client-- client, client, client, client.
That's not how I do consultation. I focus on the therapist. If the therapist is losing a sense of peace, if the therapist is being destabilized, there's something going on within the therapist that needs to be addressed. It's not being primarily generated by the client. Now, that doesn't mean that clients can't do terrible things to therapists-- they can cause therapists pain, just like people can cause Jesus pain, right, when he was walking the face of the earth, but he didn't lose his peace over that. Losing your peace is a different thing than experiencing suffering because one is aware of the self-destructive actions that a person is doing.
So I have a webinar on the Catholic Psychotherapy Association website called 'Of Beams and Specks: Therapist-Focused Consultation' that describes how we do that. That's also what I'm doing in the Interior Therapist Community--is working with Catholic therapists to address their own stuff--to actually work on their own human formation. And you know what? That's actually not that easy. A lot of times therapists are very used to looking for the difficulties in other people, right. We need to remove the beam from our own eye. We, as therapists need to be really examining what's going on within us. If we lose our peace, if we are becoming destabilized in some way.
Alright, so the sixth reason why dealing with this self-love is important--is the consequences of not loving the self in an ordered way. There are consequences, and this I talked a lot about this when I dealt with shame and episodes 37 to 49. I also dealt with this in the last episode, Episode 97 'Unlove of Self'. What's the consequence for our bodies, for example.
Anthony Flood says, "For Aquinas, a prideful, improper self-love constitutes the root of all sin. In effect, through improper self-love, a person attempts to forsake his relational identity for one of imminence. Selfishness, self-preoccupation, and self-concern become the norm through pride. However, since this goes against one's true metaphysical identity, the net result is sorrow and self-isolation." In other words, if we don't love the self in ordered way, we get miserable. And think about people who have not loved themselves. I'm just going to appeal to your personal experience--when you have come across somebody that is not loving himself or herself. Is there a joy in that? Is there peace in that? No, there is not. No, there's not. Okay, so Micole Amalu wrote a paper in graduate school called 'The Necessity of Loving Oneself: Healthy Boundaries in the Virtue of Charity' and in reflecting on the virtue of love, in summarizing the literature on love, she's basically said there were five essential elements.
One is the inclination of the heart, two is the action of the will, three is the evidence of its fruits, four is the sacrifice of self, and five is an orientation toward God. If it's a real love, there's going to be a particular inclination of the heart, there's going to be an action of the will, there's going to be evidence of good fruits, there's going to be self-sacrifice. And--I'm not sure about that one, actually. I think sometimes there is, but not necessarily everything is sacrificial, so I'm not entirely convinced of that one. And then the fifth one, an orientation toward God. And she goes through those in that paper--about how those apply to the self. And she concludes that all of those can be evident in self-love. In other words, self-love is real love. That's what she concludes.
It's an interesting paper, but let's talk a little bit about that fourth one, the sacrifice of self. There has been a lot of ink spilled over the last two millennia about the importance of self-sacrifice. And so, in fact, some writers make self-sacrifice basically the central component of Christian self-love. And that's understandable because if we look at Our Savior on the Cross, what do we see? We see self-sacrifice, literally self-sacrifice.
But sometimes that can be taken to an extreme. Outka, in his book, 'Agape', in page 288, said something I think is very important to listen to, and that is that "self-sacrifice must always be purposive in promoting the welfare of others and never simply expressive of something resident in the agent." So this is more philosopher speak here. I get it. He's basically saying self-sacrifice must promote the welfare of another person, alright. And it can't just be something weird within oneself, right? So somebody that does something that seems self-sacrificial, but it's because of something that's very disordered within himself or herself.
An extreme example would be somebody in a psychotic episode who does this really dramatic, self-sacrificial act, but it's not grounded in what anybody else needs--that's actually a problem. That's not real self-sacrifice in terms of love, in terms of loving another.
Micole Amalu, in her paper, wrote, "The view that one should at all time sacrifice one's needs for others without thought is faulty, since love must be directed toward the good. It is prudent to use judgment to consider if sacrifice is the best. Self effacement the complete neglect of self to serve others is not the call of Jesus, nor is it authentically loving towards others or oneself. The call is to consider the good of others first, not to deny that one has needs to." She writes, "...self-sacrifice can never be at odds with one's spiritual needs and relationship with God." Sara Swisher writes that "...self-sacrifice can be taken to the extreme in a negative and detrimental way." And this is absolutely true. This is absolutely true.
I want to talk a little bit about my clinical experience of the kind of part that dominates certain Catholics, and that is a self-sacrificing part. And this is a common definition that I give for self-sacrificing parts, a self-sacrificer is a part who focuses excessively on meeting the needs of others, even at the expense of your own dignity and well-being. The most common reasons are--to prevent causing pain to others, to avoid guilt from feeling selfish, or to maintain the connection with others perceived as in need. This impulse often results from your self-sacrificer's acute sensitivity to the pain and needs of others. This parts inclination can lead to a sense that your own needs are not being adequately met, and to resentment toward those for whom you care and sacrifice, and it can fuel the grievances of an angry part. When you look at this self-sacrificing behavior, you will often find--if you unpack it, if you get deep enough, you will find that there is an implicit hope in the self-sacrificing. It's not done out of some pure kind of charity. There's a hope that if I do these heroic sacrifices, that God will take care of me, or that the other person will take care of me. There's a sort of implicit quid pro quo that the person is going for here, that they may not even be aware of in consciousness. So we want to be really thoughtful about our self-sacrificing behaviors. Are they really oriented toward the good? Sometimes people dominated by self-sacrificing parts get into enabling relationships with other people who take advantage of their self-sacrificial tendencies and exploit them. That is not a good thing, right. So we need to be weighing all of these things in the balance and seeing--are my behaviors bringing me closer to God, are they bringing the other person closer to God, are they really loving?
Bernard Brady says that "self-sacrifice is a required element of love, but not all self-sacrifice is love." He's absolutely right about that. And he goes further and says, "We have a moral obligation not to relate to another person in a way that is truly destructive of ourselves as persons." And that can happen. There can be ways that people sacrifice that are quite destructive of their identity as a person. So Bernard Brady says that "love includes sacrifice, but love is not fully defined by sacrifice." Brady says that "a dominant feature of agape is a readiness and a willingness to subordinate the fulfillment of my needs so as to be able to help the other fulfill her needs. This subordination may, in extreme conditions, call for my life, but it can never demand that I violate my deepest values and my fundamental relationship to God." It's really important.
Sarah Swisher in her Pastoral Synthesis project, which was published (it's online) a part of a master's thesis at Loyola Marymount University in 2013. She describes how she was trying so hard to give of herself in her work, in her graduate program, and in her volunteer ministry work, that she pushed herself beyond reasonable limits. And she writes, "One week before I began my second year in the graduate program at alum you, I walked out of urgent care with a brace on my right wrist. I was just informed that I developed a form of tendinitis, as a result of the way I worked at my job. In the fall semester of 2011, I struggled to keep up with my job, my classes, the additional ministries that I was involved in throughout the archdiocese. I could no longer work at the same pace as prior to my injury, and therefore I felt less productive and more of a burden to people around me. I had come to the realization that in trying to please others, I had stopped taking care of and loving myself. I overworked myself and claimed that I was, 'too busy' to set aside any personal time for myself." And she has recognized that this is a common thing in ministry workers.
She has this great quote--I just love it, "Overwork is a learned skill disguised as a selfless act of putting others first." There are a number of things that masquerade as charity, but they are not charity, right.
So, I like this quote from Frederick Buechner. He says, "...Love yourself as your neighbor. Love yourself not in some egocentric, self-serving sense, but love yourself in a way like you love your friends, in the sense of taking care of yourself, nourishing yourself, and trying to understand and comfort and strengthen yourself."
Alright, so let's have a call to action here. Let's talk about what we can do. Micole Amalu, remember she was the DMU graduate student that I had quoted from her paper. She has written this litany of self-love. You can find it if you just do an internet search, 'litany of self-love'. It's at thefaceofmercy.org. The Mission of the Face of Mercy--this is Micole Amalu's ministry--is to provide mental health advocacy and education within the church, in order to encourage her to love better as we strive to be 'merciful like the Father'. And I met Micole and her husband, Christian Amalu, at the last Catholic Psychotherapy Association meeting, really enjoyed our time together and our conversations--very supportive of her work. And in this area of self-love, this is really a unique prayer. I don't know of any other prayer that focuses on self-love like this one does. Remember, love/charity is an infused virtue. We have to ask for it. And this litany is a great way to pray for greater self-love and to pray about self-love. It can be a really illuminating experience. I've prayed it myself. Highly recommend it. Check it out--Litany of Self-Love, thefaceofmercy.org.
Alright, now I'm going to talk about the examination of conscience--the general examination of conscience. That's the examination of conscience that's done at the end of the day. Now, typical examinations of conscience tend to focus on the Ten Commandments, the Decalogue. The first three Commandments focus on loving God, second seven commandments focus on the love of neighbor. There's a lot of cataloging and counting sins. Did I break any of the commandments, did I violate the rules?
I'm going to invite an alternative way of doing your general examination of conscience at the end of the day--and that is to frame the examination in terms of love. Of how did I love today and how did I not love today in these three areas. How did I love God today, and how did I not love God today? How did I love my neighbors today, and how did I not love my neighbor today? How did I love myself today in an ordered way; how did I love myself today in a disordered way? So basically kind of a grid of six things. How did I love God, how did I love my neighbor, how did I love myself in an ordered way, how did I not love God, how did I not love my neighbor, how did I love myself in a disordered way, not in an ordered way? Looking at it in terms of love relationships--because all of those commands are really about the two great Commandments, right? Loving God, loving your neighbor. So instead of going to the Decalogue, instead of going to the Ten Commandments, instead of going to the rules, instead of writing down the thing that you habitually sinned against, think about the relationships. That's ultimately what we're called to as relational beings, anyway--is a relationship. And don't forget to put down the good things, the ways that you actually did love. So many times we just focus on the negative.
St. Ignatius of Loyola, who was really the saint that advocated and came up with the examination of conscience in a lot of the forms that we use today, advocates for looking at the good--recognizing how grace is working within you, recognizing when there is a greater degree of the infused virtue of charity that allows you to love better and to give praise to God for that, not to take it in some sort of narcissistic sort of self-agitating way, but to be appreciative of that.
The other thing is to have this--not to have this as some sort of accounting of sins and sort of checking boxes, but to make it a conversation. Father Emile Neubert, in his book, 'My Ideal: Jesus Son of Mary', writes in such a way that Mary is telling us Mary is telling the reader this, "In the evening before going to bed, cast a glance back over the day to see what you will have to avoid or do in order to improve matters on the morrow...make this examination in the form of a conversation with Jesus and with me. In this manner you will succeed much better than if you make a dry enquiry into your spiritual work all by yourself. Tell us where you succeeded and where you failed; submit your resolutions to us and ask us to help you live the life of Jesus more fully."
So often people do their examinations of conscience and this really self-enclosed way. They're just doing their own evaluation of themselves--it's actually not involving God that much at all. Or Our Lady that much at all. That's what Father Emile Neubert is offering us. It's a way to enter into our examination of conscience in a conversational way--in a relational way, in a way that looks at this from the perspective of love.
And I'm going to say ask for light to see how you did love God, your neighbor, and yourself. Ask for light to see that. Ask for light to see the failures to love God, your neighbor, and yourself. Ask for the light--get into that dialogue and then wait for the response, wait for the light. Don't just ask it and move on--wait in that receptivity. Wait in that openness for a response. Listen to what the Lord will say. And then, to offer everything of who we are to God, including all of our shame, including all of our junk, including all our disorder, including all the stuff that's wrong inside. To be able to offer all of that in the confidence of a little child to Our Lord, to Our Lady.
We're going to make lots of mistakes. We're going to make lots of mistakes of commission. We need to keep trying and to do this more and more in relationship. And that will work.
Now, in the next episode--in episode 99, I'm going to get into many more specifics of the nitty gritty of how to love yourself better in the natural realm. I gave you some recommendations for spiritual practices today. The next episode we're going to be dealing with much more in the natural realm. I'm super excited about that, we're going to bring parts in--more of a multiplicity of self type of model because that is so helpful in actually learning to love ourselves. So I'll give you lots of examples about how you can love yourself in that next episode. I wanted to lay the groundwork today so that we can understand what ordered self-love really looks like--what we're looking for from the Church, from St. Thomas Aquinas especially, so that we've got that as a base to move on.
Alright, so, if you are a Catholic therapist and you want to really engage with this, if you really want to learn more about loving yourself and you want to do it through experiential exercises and you want to do it with other Catholic therapists, I am starting Foundations Experiential Groups in the Interior Therapist Community. Second and fourth Wednesdays from 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. EST beginning on October 12th, 2022. Join me. I will help you personally with this. I lead these groups--they're small, they're no more than nine. If you're a therapist or if you're a graduate student and you want some of this, let me know. Go to soulsandhearts.com/itc for 'Interior Therapist Community'--that's our landing page. And register--let us know you're out there, or you can send me an email [email protected] You got to move quick though because those are filling up, and we're going to get started in just a little while.
We are in an exciting time. There's a new cohort that's onboarding right now for the Resilient Catholics Community. If you're interested as a Catholic, if you're a Catholic and you're interested in these kinds of issues, if you're interested in learning how to love yourself in a more ordered way, I've put together a whole program that's focused on that. How do you get to know yourself, how do you get to accept yourself, how do you get to care for yourself, how do you get to understand yourself better? All of it oriented toward you being able to love you so that opens the door to you being able to love your neighbor better and you being able to love God better. That's the Resilient Catholics Community. Check that out--soulsandhearts.com/rcc--that's our landing page. Get on the waiting list. We're going to start admitting new people in December. That's when you can go through the onboarding process for that.
If you are a single Catholic woman aged 35 or older, there is still time to get into Anne-Marie Klobe's Ready for Love Masterclass series. It's running from October 3-16. Lots of excellent speakers who are sharing their wisdom. They're opening their hearts to you, helping you in your state of life right now. Check that out. You can register by going back to one of my weekly reflections--there's links in the September 14th or September 21st 2022 weekly reflections. You can get those by going to soulsandhearts.com/blog, going to those reflections and clicking on the link.
One more thing--'Life Giving Wounds', great ministry. Souls and Hearts, we are active supporters of 'Life Giving Wounds'. 'Life Giving Wounds' supports the adult children of divorce or separation. They are doing their annual retreat. It's running from on Thursday evenings from 8:15 p.m. to 10 p.m. That's ongoing--it's already started, but you can still register for another day or two. That's going to run to November 10th. Excellent speakers. Check that out. It's really helpful for understanding the wound that was left by your parents' divorce or separation, even if that divorce or separation happened when you were an adult. Just because you were grown up doesn't mean that that doesn't really, really hurt. You're going to have advice concerning love and trust of others--an experience of Christ and experience of community with other people that have gone through their parents' divorce or their parents' separation that leads to greater understanding--leads to healing. Registration closes on Tuesday, October 4, 2022. So act quick on that.
Don't forget, you can reach out to me in conversation hours every Tuesday and Thursday 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. EST, 317-567-9594. That's my cell phone number--317-567-9594. Conversation hours every Tuesday and Thursday 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. EST. You can also email me [email protected], and let people know about this podcast. So many people do not know about this podcast that could benefit from it. Let them know. Maybe there's a person that you think like, "wow, this could really be helpful". If you were talking about this topic of self love, send them a link, share it on social media, let them know.
And thank you for being here. Thank you for making it through another really long podcast, one of these solo casts where Dr. Peter just goes on and on and on and on. Thank you for staying with me to the end. And with that, we will invoke our patrons and our patron, Our Lady, Our Mother. Untier of Knots, pray for us. St. John the Baptist, pray for us.
IIC 97: Unlove of Self: How Trauma Predisposes You to Self-Hatred and Indifference
In this episode, we review the many ways we fail to love ourselves, through self-hatred and through indifference toward ourselves. We discuss the ways that unlove for self manifests itself, contrasting a lack of love with ordered self-love through the lens of Bernard Brady's five characteristics of love. We discuss the impact of a lack of self-love on your body. I then invite you into an experiential exercise to get to know a part of you that is not loving either another part of you or your body.
IIC 97 Unlove of Self
"Mourn not the dead that in the cool earth lie
dust unto dust
The calm, sweet earth that mothers all who die
As all men must;
Mourn not your captive comrades who must dwell
Too strong to strive
Within each steel-bound coffin of a cell,
But rather mourn the apathetic throng
The cowed and the meek
Who see the world's great anguish and its wrong
And dare not speak!"
--Ralph Chaplain, Bars and Shadows
I am Dr. Peter Malinoski, clinical psychologist, passionate Catholic. This is the Interior Integration for Catholics podcast coming to you from the Souls and Hearts studio in Indianapolis, Indiana. This podcast is all about bringing you the best of psychology in human formation and harmonizing it with the perennial truths of our Catholic faith. In this Interior Integration for Catholics podcast, we take the most important human formation issues head on, without trepidation, without hesitation. We don't mince words. We directly address the most important concerns in the natural realm, the absolute central issues that we need to take on with all our energy and all our resources.
We have been working through a series on trauma and wellbeing. It started in Episode 88, and in the last episode, Episode 96, that one was called 'I Am a Rock How Trauma Hardens Us Against Being Loved', and that episode we discuss the impact of trauma on how we accept love from others, including God. In this episode, we're now going to address how trauma sets us up to refuse to love ourselves.
Welcome to episode 97 of Interior Integration for Catholics titled 'Unlove of Self: How Trauma Predisposes You to Self Hatred and Indifference'. It's released on September 5th, 2022. It is so good to be with you. Thank you for listening in and for being together with me once again. I am glad we are here and that we're exploring the great unlove of self.
The great unlove of self. Sort of like the uncola ads from 7-UP in the late 60s through the 70s, the 80s, even into the late 90s. Unlove of self. What do I mean by that? You might tell me that if I don't love myself, then I'm hating myself. All right, let's go with that. Let's explore self-hatred and self-loathing. Self-hatred. What is self-hatred? Self-hatred is hatred that's directed towards one's self rather than towards others. And there is an article titled 'Self-Loathing' by Jodi Clark. She's a licensed professional counselor at verywellmind.com where she says, 'Self-loathing or self-hatred is extreme criticism of one's self. It may feel as though nothing you do is good enough or that you are unworthy or undeserving of good things in life. Self-hate can feel like having a person following you around all day, every day, criticizing you and pointing out every flaw or shaming you for every mistake". Self-hatred, right? This is a critical thing.
Brennan Manning said, "In my experience, self-hatred is the dominant malaise, crippling Christians and stifling their growth in the Holy Spirit". Now, I'm not sure I agree with that. It depends on your definition of self-hatred. I'm more focused on shame and the fear of shame overwhelming the self. Those are such drivers of self-hatred. And you can see that in that in that definition that we just had from Jodi Clark, right. Undeserving of good things in life: criticizing you, pointing out every flaw, shaming you for every mistake. Shame, shame, shame. And Angel Plotner, the author of 'Who Am I?', Dissociative Identity Disorder survivor says, "Shame plays a huge part in why you hate who you are". Shame is so central. I'm going to invite you. I did a whole 13-episode series on shame episodes 37 to 49 of this podcast all about shame and trauma. So, so good to check that out if you haven't done it already.
Eric Hoffer said, "It is not the love of self, but the hatred of self, which is at the root of the troubles that afflict our world". And Basil Maturin says, "We never get to love by hate, least of all by self-hatred". So this whole topic of self-hatred, so important, so common, even when people don't realize it. Even when people don't realize it because so much self-hatred is unconscious. Laurie Diskin says "We cannot hate ourselves into a version of ourselves we can love". Self-hatred gets us nowhere. Self-hatred brings us to a grinding halt in human development and in spiritual development.
So let's talk about this. What do we mean when we're talking about self-hatred? The primary way that you hate yourself is for a part of you to hate another part of you. I'm talking about intra-psychic hatred. Hatred within you, for you, by you. This is self-hatred.
So I'm going to bring in an internal family system description of parts. Internal Family Systems is an approach to psychotherapy, and it holds that we are both a unity and a multiplicity. And in that multiplicity, we have parts. And parts are like separate, independently operating little personalities within us. Each part has its own unique, prominent needs, its own role in your life, its own emotions, body sensations, guiding beliefs, assumptions. Each part has its own typical thoughts, intentions, desires, attitudes, impulses, its own interpersonal style, its own worldview. Each part of you has a different attitude or position toward other parts of you, and each part of you has different beliefs and assumptions about your body. Robert Falconer calls these parts, "insiders". If you want to learn a lot more about Internal Family Systems, check out episode 71 of this podcast titled 'A New and Better Way of Understanding Myself and Others'. Parts are, in a nutshell, kind of like those little figures in the movie Inside Out. Remember anger and sadness and joy. They're these little personalities, like I said, within us. And every one of your parts has a very narrow and limited vision when that part is not in right relationship with your innermost self. Each of your parts usually has a strong agenda, something that they're trying to accomplish; some good that the part is seeking for you. And what happens when parts are not in right relationship with the self--if they're not working in a collaborative and cooperative way with your innermost self, is that they wind up polarizing with other parts. They wind up getting locked into conflict with other parts. And I gave some examples of polarization among parts in my most recent weekly reflection. That one was titled 'The Counterfeits of Self Giving', and that was published, that was sent out on August 31st, 2022. You can check that out at soulsandhearts.com/blog if you want to take a look at that and it discusses how parts get polarized around the idea of giving of self. And I talked about how a compliant surrenderer part can polarize with a feisty protector part within oneself. Or how a self-sacrificer part can polarize with a rebel part. So, I'm going to invite you to check that out, soulsandhearts.com/blog, go back to August 31st, 2022.
Now Bessel van der Kolk, in his excellent book 'The Body Keeps the Score', devotes all of chapter 17 to Internal Family Systems. This is a really accessible book; I've recommended it before to so many non-clinicians. There are reasons why it has been the top selling book on trauma for the last seven years, running. A book like that comes out once in a generation. In 1992, it was Judith Herrmann's seminal book, 'Trauma and Recovery'. Twenty-three years later, in 2015, it was Bessel van der Kolk's 'Body Keeps the Score'.
To examine unlove, right, this concept of unlove. We're going to contrast unloving with loving. Now Bernard Brady in his 2003 book "Christian Love: How Christians through the Ages of Understood Love". He gives us five general characteristics of love of agape. He draws heavily from the work of Christian phenomenologists, and I introduced these five characteristics of love in episode 94; that's 'The Primacy of Love'. I expanded on those five characteristics of love in episode 95, which was called 'Trauma's Devastating Impact on our Capacity to Love'. Those five characteristics: love is affective or emotional, if you prefer that word. Love is affirming, love is responsive, love is unitive, and love is steadfast. Those are the five characteristics of love that Bernard Brady distilled from his historical review of how Christians have seen love through the ages. Love is affective, love is affirming, love is responsive, love is unitive, love is steadfast.
Alright, so now let's break down what happens when one part of you is hating another part of you, right. Love is affective. What that means is that love is emotional. Love rejoices in the beloved. And Protestant Theologian R.H. Niebuhr wrote in his 1977 book, "By love we mean at least these attitudes and actions rejoicing in the presence of the beloved, gratitude, reverence and loyalty toward him".
So there are many positive emotions that are associated with love. Love is more than an emotion, but it has this emotional component. It has this affective component. Often there's delight, bliss, happiness, a sense of fulfillment, warmth, appreciation.
But let's take a look at what hatred or loathing from one part to another part looks like. How do parts hate each other? Well, self-hatred is also affective. Self-hatred is also emotional, but it's affective or emotional in a very different way than ordered self-love is. And what you're going to find in self-hatred is two primary emotions: disgust and anger. One part holds disgust and anger toward another part. And when you have anger and disgust, and you bring those two together, you get contempt. You get contempt; contempt is anger plus disgust.
So let's, let's have an example here. Let's say that there's a fearful part of you that is very frightened of public speaking. It really doesn't like making presentations in front of other people. And now for your work, you are required to make an important presentation in front of your supervisors and more senior executives within your company. And so another part of you, your perfectionistic part, has led you to rehearse your presentation to the point where you have it almost memorized. Your last performance in front of your bedroom mirror was so good, it was just so good. But now, at showtime, in front of your audience, your fearful part locks you down. You find yourself stuttering and stammering, and then your inner critic gets activated; your inner critic is railing in hatred against your fearful part who is locking you down. That inner critic is saying things like this: "Why are you such a sniveling, frightened little coward? It's just a simple presentation, dumb ass. We've practiced it over and over. We have this down. Get yourself together. This is really important. And you are screwing it up for us. You're making us look bad. Who knows what will happen if we can't pull this off? Do you realize what the consequences are going to be?" And the more intense that your inner critic gets in its hateful attack on your fearful part, the more the fearful part freezes. And after the presentation ends, your inner critic continues to bash the fearful part, ruminating about how poor the presentation was, how it looked bad, how we didn't impress the vice president and so on. Love is affective; love is emotional. Hatred for self is also affective. It's also emotional, but it's very, very different. It's got that disgust, anger, contempt. That's the first quality. Love is affective. Self-hatred is also affective.
Let's go on to the second quality, the second characteristic of love from Bernard Brady. He says that love is affirming. Love says yes to the other, at the same time that love says yes to oneself. So in the way that we understand parts, this is an open hearted yes to all of our parts. Not just some parts, not just the "acceptable" parts of us. All parts are welcome. All parts are invited to the table. In self-hatred, though, one or more parts attack the unloved part and not just superficially. When they get hating, when those hating parts get hating, they go after the identity of the unloved part. The self-hating parts want to destroy the hating part, or at least banish the hating part from having a voice, from having a seat at the table. In our example, you can hear how that inner critic is trying to get rid of the fearful part, trying to drive that part away, trying to suppress that part with its fear. Now, typical self-hating thoughts may include, "I knew we would fail", "Why do I even try?", "I'm a loser", "No one wants to be around me", "Look at me screwing up again", "Why can't we just be normal?", "I hate myself". Those were from Jodi Clarke's verywellmind.com article.
And Richard Bach says, "The worst lies are the lies we tell ourselves. We live in denial of what we do, even what we think. And we do this because we are afraid". When other people affirm the person who is dominated by a self-hating part, the affirmation doesn't sink in. The affirmation doesn't work because the person is all caught up in the self-hatred and can't hear the affirmation. They can't take it in. Richey Edwards says, "People say to the mentally ill, 'you know, so many people think the world of you.' But when they don't like themselves, they don't notice anything. They don't care about what people think of them. When you hate yourself, whatever people say, it doesn't make sense. 'Why do they like me? Why do they care about me?' Because you don't care about yourself at all." Love is affirming and self-hatred is undercutting. It is devaluing.
Alright. So let's go to the third characteristic. Love is responsive. Bernard Brady talks about how love is an active response for the wellbeing of the other. It's about participating in promoting the highest good for the other, the highest potential for the other. How can I help you to flourish? How can I help you towards your highest good. But in self-hatred one or more parts tear down the hated part. There is responsiveness to the hated part, but it's not a positive responsiveness. Rather than attuning to the hated part, the hating parts seek to silence it and suppress it, without ever getting to know the hated part. They are not interested in the hated parts experience. Why the hated part thinks like it does or feels like it does, or why that hated part has the assumptions or beliefs that it does; no interest in that. In our example, the inner critic is responsive to the fear of the fearful part, but in a hateful way. It sees the fearful part as counterproductive, as threatening the well-being of the whole person because of the shame that could come from flubbing up the presentation. And so that inner critic feels justified in the bullying and heavy-handed approach that it takes toward that fearful part. Right. Love is responsive. Hatred is also responsive, but in this really negative way.
Fourth characteristic of love, according to Bernhard Brady, is that love is unitive. He writes, "The fruit of love is unity. Love unites. It is in the very nature of loving. To bring together." Hatred, on the other hand, divides. It polarizes within. And we see that; the fearful part and the inner critic are polarized. They are locked in combat. They have no common ground because of that hatred. Hatred fragments us within. It shatters the self. On the other hand, ordered self-love helps us to integrate all our parts, providing space for all parts to be seen, heard, known and loved. Love integrates parts, inviting them into a collaborative, cooperative relationship with your innermost self and with all the other parts. We give this internal unity a special name. I call it interior integration. That is what this podcast is all about: interior integration for Catholics. Love is unitive, and hatred divides. It polarizes within. That's the fourth characteristic, the unitive aspect of love.
The fifth is that love is steadfast. And steadfastness in self-love requires accepting all parts. We have to accept all parts for there to be resilience. Hatred contributes to the inner system of the self being brittle and fragile.
Now, I want to emphasize at this point that hatred doesn't generally come from our innermost self. That innermost self is the natural core of the person, the center of the person in the natural realm. This is who we sense ourselves to be in our best moments when our self is free, when it's unblinded, not dominated by any of our parts, when our innermost self governs our whole being as an active, compassionate leader. The innermost self is unharmed by trauma, it's unharmed by attachment injuries, by relational wounds, by negative life experiences. The Catholic Church doesn't teach John Calvin's concept of total depravity that we are sinful and morally corrupt through and through. The Catholic Church doesn't teach that we are snow covered dung heaps like Martin Luther taught. The Catholic Church shows us that we're still ontologically good; we are still made in the image and likeness of God, even after the fall of Adam and Eve, with original sin in the Garden of Eden. We're looking to be recollected; we want to have that innermost self govern all our parts, like the conductor of an orchestra leading all of the musicians; like the captain of a ship leading and governing all the sailors. And when we are recollected, when we are in self, we have those eight C's, the eight C's: calm, curiosity, compassion, confidence, courage, clarity, connectedness and creativity. And we also have a capacity for kindness. Now, there may be an exception here that hatred doesn't generally come from the innermost self. It's possible that if someone has committed the unforgivable sin, blaspheming against the Holy Spirit that the innermost self could hate. The catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1864 says, "There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit. Such hardness of heart can lead to final impediments and eternal loss." What happens when somebody blasphemed against the Holy Spirit is that there is this repudiation of life and love and truth and mercy and forgiveness. And that repudiation is irrevocable. There's hardness of heart. Committing of the unforgivable sin, refusing the love of God permanently. That's possible, or Jesus would not have warned against it. And when a person is in that place of having committed the unforgivable sin, they are like the walking dead. They're incapable of engaging with love any longer.
Let's shift now. Let's talk about what self-hatred means for our relationship with our bodies. Now, remember, we're body and soul composites. We are embodied beings. And another way for you to hate yourself, or maybe more specifically another way for a part of you to hate yourself is for that part to hate your body. Let's give some examples of what it looks like when someone is actively hating the body. I'm going to give you four extreme cases. First, Suicidal Acts, second, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, third, Body Integrity Identity Disorder, and fourth, Self-Harm, also called Self-Mutilation.
So let's talk about suicidal acts now. I did a whole series on suicide in this interior integration for Catholics podcast episodes 76-80. A suicidal part is usually desperately seeking relief from intense pain and distress, usually because some fundamental attachment need was not met, and I talked about those in episode 62, or some fundamental integrity need is not met, again, episode 62. There's something so painful and so wrong inside. It just feels intolerable. A part can be impelled; can generate impulses to kill the body. But it's not just for the sake of killing the body. It's again, usually because there's this desperate need for some kind of relief. That part is seeking a good. It's seeking a release. It's seeking some kind of respite from the pain and the distress. Now it's going about it, if it's impelling you toward suicide, it's going about it in an entirely maladaptive and problematic way. Nobody's justifying that, but one can understand that there's still a positive intention there.
Now in body dysmorphic disorder, we see that there are preoccupations with one's physical appearance. The person is preoccupied with one or more non-existent or very slight defects or flaws in their physical appearance. And that can lead to verbally abusing the body. This is where a part gets involved in body shaming. A part of you is calling your body fat or ugly, physically unattractive, calling your body out on all these perceived unattractive features--my eyes are too far apart, my lips are too thin, my skin is too bumpy, and what about that zit that just appeared? Right? Body shaming. That's the first part of body dysmorphic disorder. The second thing is that there are repetitive compulsive behaviors in response to the concerns about one's physical appearance. So constantly checking in the mirror, excessive grooming, picking at one skin, seeking reassurance, changing one's clothes, right. Repetitive behaviors. There also can be repetitive mental acts such as a part of you that's constantly comparing your appearance with that of other people. Getting on TikTok and looking at somebody else's body, which is so gorgeous and saying, "I'm just a pig". Ruminating about what others have said about your body, or what you think they might say about your body, what they're actually thinking about your body. And sometimes that's just all in the realm of fantasy, but for somebody with body dysmorphic disorder, there's a part that is just hammering them about the inadequacy of the body. So that's body dysmorphic disorder.
I want to talk about a relatively rare condition, a really extreme condition called body Integrity Identity Disorder or BIID it's really rare. It's not well studied. It's when there's this mismatch between someone's body image and the physical body. People who suffer from BIID have an intense desire to amputate a major limb, or sever the spinal cord in order to become paralyzed, or to become blind or deaf. They are so dissatisfied with their body they want to cut parts of it off or they don't believe that an arm is actually their arm. There's this, there's this total repudiation of some part of their body.
And then the fourth one is self-harm or self-mutilation. Now, when people get involved with intentional self-harm or self-mutilation, that is so not understood. So misunderstood by so many people. A lot of times self-mutilation is dismissed as something that only a "crazy person" would do. All right, let's try to make this a little more comprehensible, right. Let's first of all, remember that self-harm or self-mutilation is a symptom. It's something that a part of the person is doing to try to help. Let's talk about what forms that can take. These are common forms of self-harm or self-mutilation: cutting, burning or branding, scalding with hot water, picking at the skin, reopening wounds, severe scratching, carving the skin, trichotillomania, which is hair pulling, head banging, hitting one's self, biting oneself, poisoning oneself, deliberately starving oneself, and getting into fights. Those are all different ways that self-harm or self-mutilation can happen.
And what are the reasons for self-harm? Why do parts do this? There was a recent article published by Norwegian researcher Line Indrevoll Stänickel in the August 2021 Volume of Frontiers in Psychology. It was a qualitative study of 19 adolescent girls who were engaged in self-harm, and she found three super ordinate themes. These are three main reasons for self-harm in these research subjects, who engaged in some kind of self-mutilation. The first one, "I deserve pain." Second one, "I don't want to feel anything." The third one, "I'm harmed and no one cares." Those are the three things. Those were the three super ordinate themes. "I deserve pain", "I don't want to feel anything", "I'm harmed and no one cares". Clinicians have identified a number of different reasons for self-harm. I'm going to bring those together. So we've had one research study, but I'm just going to give you what a lot of clinicians who are working in this field see. Eight Reasons for Self-Harm.
First, there is a desire to release unbearable tension or to provide relief from overwhelming emotions. And there was an article on mind.org.uk with some quotes and there was a quote that said "at times self harm also silenced the chaos in my head, briefly pausing the repetitive flashbacks and the body memories." Right,so there can be a release from unbearable tension; there can be relief from overwhelming emotions with self-harm. That's number one.
Number two, a desire to regain control. People who self-harm can sometimes experience the sense of being back in control in that self-harm.
The third one is to fight depersonalization. Some people feel like they are no longer alive, or that they're dead. There's a quote from a client on mind.org.uk that said, "self-harm proved to me that I was real. I was alive". Sometimes when people cut, it's to see the blood flow from their limbs that proves that they're still alive. The blood flowing proves that they're still alive. They need to see that. That numbness can feel like death. The need to feel anything at all is our fourth one.
Fourth--Numbness can feel like death. There's a need to feel anything at all to pierce the numbness.
Fifth, people self-harm as a way of expressing self-hatred. They can feel the need to punish the self. Another client on mind.org.uk said, "I hated my body and blamed it for what I had been through, so I felt it needed punishing". And Marya Hornbacher, in her book 'Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia' said, "I wanted to kill the me underneath. The fact haunted my days and nights. When you realize you hate yourself so much, when you realize that you cannot stand who you are, and this deep spite has been the motivation behind your behavior for many years, your brain can't quite deal with it. It will try very hard to avoid that realization; it will try in a last-ditch effort to keep your remaining parts alive, to remake the rest of you. This is, I believe, different from the suicidal wish of those who are in so much pain that death feels like relief, different from the suicide I would later attempt, trying to escape that pain. This is a wish to murder yourself. The connotation of kill is too mild. This is a belief that you deserve slow torture, violent death". Right, that goes back to that first superordinate theme, that Line Indrevoll Stänickel in her qualitative study found--"I deserve pain". There can be another way that self-hatred plays in here, and that is to blame the body for others actions. For example, if your romantic partner broke up with you, you may have a part that blames your body for not being attractive enough. Or another example might be that a rape survivor has a part that hates her body because it believes that the body attracted the unwanted attention of the rapist. "The body is bad", "the body needs to be punished". That's the fifth self-hatred as a reason for self-harm.
The sixth is to express pain--to communicate or share the internal experience to others; to make visible what is felt within. This is where a part is desperately trying to signal what that part is experiencing, how desperate the internal circumstances are. This is that third superordinate theme from Line Indrevoll Stänickel's study, "I'm harmed and no one cares". It's trying to communicate.
The seventh reason for self-harm is a way to distract from some worse experience, perhaps terrible emotions inside, or intrusive thoughts. It's a way to distract the attention from something even worse than the physical self-harm. And that goes back to the second superordinate theme that Line Indrevoll Stänickel gave us, "I don't want to feel anything". At least, I don't want to feel what I'm feeling. That part is doing whatever it can; a lot of times it's a firefighter part that engages in self-harm behavior. Anything to distract, anything to move our attention away from the intensity of the experience.
And the last one is an interesting one. Number eight is an association with others who self-harm. So if your peer group is also self-harming, that can be another reason for self-harm. That could be some kind of bonding that happens in a peer group where self-harming is one of the group norms.
So five general characteristics of love from Bernard Brady. We're going to review those again--Love is affective, love is affirming, love is responsive, love is unitive, love is steadfast.
Let's look at how they contrast with some parts' hatred for the body. Remember, love is affective, love is emotional, but when parts are hating the body, then you have that disgust and anger. You have that contempt for the body. It could also be fueled by envy of other people's bodies. Love is affective; love is emotional; parts can hate the body.
Love is affirming. That was the second quality or characteristic of agape of love, according to Bernard Brady. But parts who are hating the body are devaluing the body: they're shaming the body, they're seeing the body as evil. This is the opposite of affirming. This is a De-facto Manicheanism. Manicheanism was the heresy that believed that all matter was evil, including our bodies, including our physical bodies. St. Augustine initially adhered to Manichaenism for a while, but after his conversion he strongly refuted it, because the body is actually good.
The third general characteristic of love from Bernard Brady. Love is responsive, and so authentic self-love; ordered self-love is responsive to the body's legitimate needs. But in self-hatred toward the body, bodily needs are often condemned. They're often disparaged.
Fourth: love is unitive. What can happen when one part is hating the body is that there's like this separation of the body from the part. There's this position that "I am not my body", "this is not my body". And again, that's fragmenting inside. That's disconnecting parts from the body.
And the fifth one is: love is steadfast. When we're hating our bodies, there is all kinds of internal tension about that. All kinds of conflict, polarizations and that kind of tension in the system is inherently unstable. There's no steadfastness.
Alright, so that's self-hatred. But you know what? Self-hatred isn't actually the most common, or even the most important form of failing to love the self. What? What are you saying? Self-hatred isn't the most common, or the most important form of failing to love the self. "Alright", you might be saying, "Dr. Peter, what is the most common and most important failure to love the self? What is the great sin against the self, if you will?" I'll sum it up in one word: indifference. The opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference. The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference. This quote has been attributed to dozens of people. The earliest that we can find it in writing is from a prominent Austrian psychologist by the name of Wilhelm Steckel. In his book, 'The Beloved Ego: Foundations of the New Study of the Psyche'. It was published in 1921. The quote was expanded and made famous by Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel in a 1986 US News and World Report article where Elie Wiesel said, "The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. And the opposite of art is not ugliness. It's indifference. And the opposite of faith is not heresy. It's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death. It's indifference".
This indifference is so, so common. We can have parts that are so indifferent to other parts. We can be dominated by those parts and be so indifferent to ourselves and to others. David Mitchell said, "The world's default mode is basic indifference. It would like to care, but it's just got too much going on at the moment". Aristotle said, "Tolerance and apathy are the last virtues of a dying society". And W Somerset Maugham, the British playwright, novelist, and short story writer, said, "The tragedy of love is indifference". And then many of you will know Catholic philosopher, Peter Kraft. He wrote in his book 'Prayer for Beginners' that, "indifference is more truly the opposite of love than hate is, for we can both love and hate the same person at the same time, but we cannot both love and be indifferent to the same person at the same time".
So let's get into this idea of indifference. What does indifference mean? We're focusing on indifference to the self--indifference as a form of unlove and indifference to the self as a form of not loving the self. What does this mean? The biggest form of unlove is indifference. Indifference is an absence of interest in or concern about the emotional, social, spiritual, philosophical or physical life. It is not caring about oneself, disregarding oneself, abandoning oneself, not caring about oneself. Now you might say, "Wait a minute, Dr. Peter, I thought that's what we Catholics were called to do. Aren't we called to forget ourselves, deny ourselves, abandon ourselves?"
This kind of indifference is different. It's about being dead or numb to ourselves. It's an absence of good to ourselves. Evil is the absence of good. That's the privatio boni--the privation theory of evil. This idea was implicit in some of Plato's writings; he never stated it explicitly. Plotinus further developed the idea, and St. Augustine really refined it. That was such a brilliant exposition when he said in the 'City of God': "For evil has no positive nature, but the loss of good has received the name evil". Evil is the privation of good. Evil is the absence of good. And that's what indifference is. We start looking at indifference. We start to see that it is the opposite of these five general characteristics of love from Bernard Brady. Remember, love is affective, love is affirming, love is responsive, love is unitive, love is steadfast. Let's go through these. Love is affective, love is emotional, but indifference is apathetic. Apathy toward the parts, not feeling anything, not caring about them, not interested in them, parts pursuing their own agendas inside with little regard for the being of other parts. Brian Becker says, "trauma begins in terror, but it ends in apathy". And Kang Kijarro Nguyen says, "apathy is as dangerous, invisible and contagious as an asymptomatic virus carrier". Frank Sonnenberg sums it up very succinctly in "apathy is a silent killer". Love is affective. Love is emotional. Indifference is apathetic. It doesn't carry an affective valence. That's the first characteristic.
Second characteristic: love is affirming. "The stronger you cling to your armor of indifference, the more it strips you of your humanity." That's from Abhijit Naskar, 'No Foreigner Only Family'. Love is affirming. Indifference is not even recognizing that you exist. That happens when we are indifferent to ourselves. Parts do not recognize that other parts even exist. They may not even know they exist. They're not interested in other parts. They don't want those other parts at the table. They don't want to know. They don't want to hear. They prefer parts to be exiled, banished, to be not troubling.
Third characteristic of love. Love is responsive. But when there's indifference, Stephanie Roberts in her work, "Rushes from the River Disappointment, says, "there are people capable of eating popcorn at the movie of your agony". Parts can be unmoved by the suffering of other parts and really unaware of it within. Nina MacLaughlin in her work 'Wake, Siren: Ovid Resung' said, "His eyes they held the most and dangerous thing. They held the top of the sins: indifference. Indifference. A vacancy where human care should be." And again, I want to be clear that parts are not simply choosing to be indifferent. They're not choosing to be apathetic. They're not choosing to wear this armor of indifference. They're not choosing to be unresponsive. Ken Wytsma says, "We may not choose apathy, but when we choose anything other than love and empathetic justice, we get apathy by default." These parts that are indifferent do not have bad intentions, but they can be so blind about what other parts of us are experiencing. Our innermost self is far more capable of reaching out with care, with compassion, with genuine interest to other parts. But that self, that innermost self can become totally occluded by other parts. Other parts can so drive our bus.
Fourth characteristic of love. Love is unitive. But when parts are indifferent, we get fragmentation. John Andrews says, "Love is never fragmented. It is an inseparable whole which does not delight in bits and pieces." Love is steadfast, but again, polarizations inside lead to tension and instability.
Well, let's talk about what indifference to the self means to the body. What happens when parts are indifferent toward the body? Bessel van der Kolk says, "Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe within their bodies: the past is alive in the form of annoying interior discomforts. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs and an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings in a numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from themselves."
So let's look at some less extreme passive examples of indifference to the body. These are going to look different than the direct attacks on the body that we saw with self-hatred. Now we're dealing with parts that are indifferent to the body, parts that are driving the bus. And we've all done at least some of these at times, right.
First is problematic in eating or drinking. Too much caffeine; somebody's hooked on energy drinks or coffee. Misuse of alcohol, overeating too much sugar, too much junk food, eating to soothe oneself when upset (sometimes called emotional eating), eating when bored, skipping meals. These are ways of parts being indifferent to the body. Smoking, not exercising at all, getting too little physical activity, maybe too much exercise. Poor ergonomics in the way that your workstation is set up. Overdoing the screen time; 10 hours a day and the computer at work is hard on the eyes. Low activity levels, 9.3 hours of sitting per day is the national average. We spend more time sitting per day than we do sleeping. Allowing yourself to get really sunburned. Now, I am guilty of this. About every three years I get some roaring sunburn because I was not caring for myself. I wasn't; I was indifferent to my body. Other people get dehydrated, get exhausted, not using the bathroom when you need to. Making poor clothing choices, right. Not bundling up in the winter, right. The guy in the hoodie when it's 15 degrees out in wintertime, a woman wearing high heels when it's not a good choice of footwear. Misuse of the smartphone, using your smartphone in bed, poor sleep habits, going to bed too late, misuse of sex, not caring for your body in sexual situations, not getting the medical or dental care for your body that would be good and right. That could be ignoring a treatable condition, ignoring symptoms could be poor hygiene. These are all ways that parts can express indifference toward the body.
Right, the five general characteristics of love. Love is affective, right. That indifference to the body is not caring about the body; apathy toward the body; looking only at the utilitarian functionality of the body; seeing the body as a container or a vessel for your mind or soul or psyche. Not seeing that the body was made good. The body was made good. So there's this apathy toward the body, when we have this indifference.
Second thing love is affirming. This indifference to the body can mimic detachment. It could mimic poverty; it could mimic some kind of virtue. But it's not, because it isn't a healthy detachment. It's a disconnection.
Love is responsive. That's the third one. But there's a lack of awareness about the body when parts are indifferent toward the body and driving the bus. And an extreme form of this is called la belle indifference. The term la belle indifference is a French term which translates to "beautiful ignorance". And la belle indifference is defined as a paradoxical absence of psychological distress, despite having a serious medical illness or symptoms related to a health condition. So something's really, really wrong with the body, but the person is blissfully unaware of it. That's an extreme form. Less extreme form is just again, not being interested in your body, not paying attention.
Love is unitive, but when there is a part that is indifferent to your body, that part does not see your body really as part of you. It's disconnected from your body.
And then love is steadfast. Again, there's not consistent care for the body when there's indifference. St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 33:16-17 says, "Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy. And that temple you are". Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwells within every Catholic who is in a state of grace. And so we have an obligation to care for our bodies.
And now what I'd like to go to is an experiential exercise on this failure to love ourselves. So let's just start with some thoughtfulness here. We could be getting into some difficult material on how and why we don't love ourselves. And this is true for every single one of us. You are no exception. You have parts that do not love other parts of you. And so as we enter into this, I'm going to invite you to really pay attention to where you are in your window of tolerance. If you find that you are escalating, that you're moving into fight or flight, that you're getting into sympathetic activation and you're really revving up, or if you find that you're that you're falling into a freeze response, shutting down, numbing out, that's the dorsal vagal activation, it's the freeze response, I'm going to invite you to stop. To reground yourself, to discontinue the exercise. You don't have to do this exercise; you can stop at any time. We don't want to steamroll any parts of you that are concerned about doing an exercise around self unlove; not loving yourself. It's also good to do this exercise when you have the time and the space and the privacy. This is not something to do while you are driving or while you are working out or engaging in other activities that would require you to divide your attention. This is something that you really want to have special time and space and privacy for. Also, take what's useful to you from this exercise; feel free to go in your own direction if that seems best. You're also free to pause the audio and really settle in and do some extended work, if that seems helpful to you. You can have pens and paper and pencils to write down things that are helpful, like in a journal, or to map out things, to draw things, if that's helpful. And remember, always you can pause the recording at points when you would like to have more time to do your internal work. So as we do this, I just want to invite you to have a lot of gentleness with yourself. A lot of gentleness for yourself. There's a moment here for you really to care for yourself from your innermost self. Luke 10:27 "Love your neighbor as yourself". We're working on loving ourselves in an ordered way, and that means loving the parts of our self that are in need, with that care, and with that compassion. If you happen to get distracted, that's okay. That's common; you can just refocus. And if that doesn't seem possible, then I'm just going to invite you to focus in on that distraction because that's a part that's distracting you. See if we can get curious about why a part of you feels a need to distract you. Alright, so I'm going to invite you to just notice what's going on in your body, as we consider this idea of you having a part that doesn't love some other part. Some part that doesn't love some other part. Parts that are in conflict, parts that are polarized. Just noticing if you can see or feel or sense in your body some tension among two parts of you. Some conflict within you. There might be tension in some muscles somewhere in your body could be stomach pain or headache or fatigue. I'm just going to invite you to notice whatever is going on in your body that reflects some conflict or tension, maybe some hatred between parts or maybe some indifference. Maybe the experience is not a bodily experience. It could be a memory, or an image, or a thought or a belief, or maybe an intense emotion. Something that represents conflict between two parts. And that's what I'm going to call the target sensation. And I'm going to invite you to focus in on that target sensation--that inner experience that reflects some kind of conflict, some kind of tension, some aspect of you not loving you, some part of you not loving some other part of you. It could be some part of you not loving your body; that's another way. So focus in on that sensation, that inner experience, that target sensation that reflects that conflict between a part and the body or between two parts. And I'm going to invite you to focus in on the part that is not loving some other part of you, or maybe a part that's not loving your body. That's your target part. That's your target part. Your target part might be hating another part of you. Your target part might be indifferent toward another part of you. You might be trying to suppress or silence another part. And I'm wondering if we can be curious if you, in your innermost self, can be curious about what that is all about. Can you really notice that target part, that part that has some kind of unlove toward another part, either hatred or indifference. We're going to try to work with one part at a time. You can do this reflection, this guided exercise over again with multiple parts later. But let's see if your parts inside can agree to let you work with just one part that has hatred or indifference. We're going to ask that one part, that target part not to flood you with its intensity. It's a safety thing. We're going to ask that part not to overwhelm you, or to blend with you, or to take you over, but rather to look at you. Your innermost self. To see if you, as the innermost self and that part can have a relationship. We're looking for that target part to be separate but near toward to your innermost self. Separate but near. See if that part can give you space, and see if other parts of you are okay with you as the innermost self connecting with this target part--this part that carries unlove toward other parts in your system. We're going to slow things way down now. Really an opportunity to have a big open heart toward that target part, that part that carries unlove. See if it's okay for you to have a big open heart. There might be some other part that doesn't want that. That doesn't feel safe with that. That might not give you the space to have a big open heart. A lot of times parts don't realize that parts that are hating or parts that are not loving still have good intentions. They're still trying to help. They're trying to do what they know how to do, even though that could be really maladaptive or harmful, but there's still good intentions there. See if your protector parts will allow you, the innermost self, to connect with that target part that has the unlove. And if it's okay to move forward, just see that part or sense that part. However, that part may be becoming more apparent to you. And to really connect with that part and hear that part's story. How old is that part? Some parts of us may be phenomenologically, very, very young, even preverbal. Just ask that part how old he/she is. And I'm going to invite you to listen to what that target part wants to share with you. What does that part want you to know? What are that target part's good intentions? And what is the story that that target part wants you to know? There's a reason for why it does what it does. There's a reason for the unlove. If it's helpful to write down some of that story, you're welcome to do that. If it's helpful to pause for more time to work with this part, you're welcome to pause the recording. And I'm going to invite you to notice how you're feeling toward that target part with the unlove toward another part. How are you feeling toward that part? Is there compassion for that part? Is there curiosity, genuine interest in that part? Is there a desire to connect with that part? Is there a feeling of calm? You know, if any of those are missing or if there are any negative feelings toward that part, there's a concerned protector part that is unsure about you connecting with your target part. And I'm wondering if that's the case, if any concern protector parts could soften and relax back, so that you as the innermost self, can connect with your target part. Sometimes they'll just give you that space so that you, as the innermost self, can connect with that target part with the unlove. And if not, if parts are just way too concerned about that, too concerned about you focusing on the part with the unlove, that's the target part. If that isn't allowed by your protectors, then focus on a concerned protector part. Make that your target part. There's a reason why that doesn't feel safe enough right now. Really get interested in why that concern protector is not ready to let you connect with your target part with the unLove. And so just invite you to go back to your target part and let that target part tell you all about what it's experiencing--what it's experiencing toward the other part. The unloved part. And what kind of emotions are there. What kind of thoughts are there? How does this target part see the unloved part? What is the conflict with the unloved part all about? Why does that part have the impulses that it has? Why does it try to get you to do what it wants you to do? What fears does this target part have? If it stops doing what it's doing, what is it afraid would happen? What's the fear if it stops doing its job? And what does that conflict or polarization between your target part and the unloved part, what does that go back to? Is there something from the past that that conflict connects to--some other situation that your target part is aware of? And I'm just going to invite you to check and see if there's a concerned protector who is trying to speak for your target part like a spokespart, a part that's trying to interpret the part's experience. If that's the case, see if that concerned protector can soften, if that concern protector can relax back and let the target part speak for itself. See if that would be possible. How is that target part doing now? Are you noticing any changes in your body? Can your target part feel love from you? Does it have a sense of compassion from you? Of connectedness? Of curiosity, of calm? Is it okay for you to show gratitude and appreciation to your part? For what it's shared with you and how hard it's tried to help? Its good intentions. And a lot of appreciation from other parts for allowing you to have this space to connect in this way--just a lot of gratitude. Parts all have good intentions. They're all trying to help.
And if it's helpful, you can do this exercise again with a different part, or with the same part. This doesn't have to be the end of you connecting with your target part doesn't have to be a one-off experience. You can check in with that part again. Lot of appreciation for your parts; all your parts are good; all your parts are indispensable.
Alright. So thank you for engaging in that experiential exercise to the degree that was good and right for you. And now we are looking ahead. We are looking ahead. This whole episode, we spent time laying out the problem. What happens when there's self-hatred? What happens when there's indifference toward the self? What happens when there's unlove toward the self?
Next episode, episode 98, we're going to be getting much more into what does ordered self-love look like. Now that we've covered all the ways that we can fail to love ourselves, we are going to be leaning into what it means for us to be loving ourselves in an ordered way. It's going to be starting in the next episode. Episode 98 Father Jack Philippe, in his 2008 book, 'Called to Life', said: "This self-love is good and necessary, not egoism that refers everything to 'me,' but the grace to live in peace with one's self, to consent, to be what one is, with one's talents and limitations. Love of God, love of neighbor and love of self grow together and sustain one another as they grow. If one is absent or neglected the other two suffer. Like the legs of a tripod, all three are needed in order to stand and each leans on the others". I just love that image of the tripod. I think of it as a three legged stool. All three are necessary: love of God, love of neighbor and love of self. All three are necessary.
In the next episode, we're going to bring in some of the work of Dr. Mary Julian Ekman, who is a religious sister of Mercy, one of the RSM sisters. She did a doctoral dissertation on self-love. It's really, really interesting. She argues that St. Thomas Aquinas believes that self-love is the ground of human action, where the conscious choice to love self transforms self-love into self-friendship. Proper self-love is indispensable for perfecting the human person by making the soul more like God. That's really, really important. We'll also get some help from St. Augustine as we explore how disordered self-love regards the self as an end, but ordered self-love sees the self as a means to the proper end of love.
I've got some exciting news. Ann-Marie Klobe is going to be doing this online retreat for single Catholic women over 35 who are ready to connect deeper with their faith the saints, and to find a godly relationship. This is her 'Ready for Love' retreat. So many single Catholics are operating from a place of disconnection. Her goal is to restore their trust in God's plan for their life and help them feel like they have a purpose in the world and to provide training on topics such as the saints, forgiveness, beauty and trusting in God. They 'Ready for Love' retreat airs October 3-17, 2022. And Ann-Marie Klobe, she did an extended experiential exercise with me as part of this retreat. We recorded it and she discovered and explored some hidden reasons that could be obstacles for romantic intimacy. She did some really beautiful work, and she will share that work with the women who attend the retreat. Also, Ann-Marie and I are planning for me to do a 60 minute live Q&A for the 'Ready to Love' retreatants, where the women on the retreat can bring their questions to me about any ways that they reject themselves as persons, the ways in which they refuse to love themselves, what it would mean to be married, and about discovering their primary identity as a beloved daughter of God. The website for the retreat is not yet quite up at the time that I'm recording this, but you can go to Anne-Marie Klobe's website, which is www.anne-marieklobe.com that's www.anne-marieklobe.com. And I will also be letting you know more about the retreat; I'm going to provide links to it in the weekly reflections that I email out on September 14 and 21. And if you haven't been getting my weekly reflections in your email, sign up for them. Have them delivered to your email inbox every Wednesday. Go to soulsandhearts.com, click the box that says, "Get Dr. Peter's weekly reflection in your email inbox each Wednesday". Those weekly reflections are deep dives that I write each week about critical human formation topics, and those weekly reflections are the written companions to this podcast.
Also, I want to bring up the Resilient Catholics Community, the RCC. I am inviting you on an adventure of being loved and of loving. That's what the Resilient Catholics Community is all about. Check it out, soulsandhearts.com/RCC. The RCC is all about working through your human formation issues, the human formation issues that lead to all the unlove that you have for yourself, all that self-hatred, the indifference to the self, the failures to love yourself in an ordered way, so that you can love with all of your being, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength, with every fiber of your being. It's about learning to be gentle but firm with yourself. It's all about integration. It's all about resilience, and it's about restoration. Recovering from being dominated by parts that are driven by shame, fear, anger, sadness, pessimism. Whatever your struggle is in the depths of your human formation. We do this work experientially. So many experiential exercises like the one that we did in this episode. So we work not just at the level of the head, but we also work in your heart. And we do the work step by step in a very clear programmatic way. Check it out, soulsandhearts.com/RCC. We open registration for new members every June and every December. I'm inviting you to join me and more than 100 other faithful Catholics on this pilgrimage to better human formation. Get on the waiting list for the cohort that begins in December 2020. Go to soulsandhearts.com/RCC. Sign up for the waiting list. Also, don't forget, you can always talk with me in conversation hours. Call my cell 317-567-9594, any Tuesday or Thursday from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. EST for conversation hours. I don't do therapy during that time, I don't do counseling during that time, but I'm happy to talk with you about the topics that come up in the podcast or in the weekly reflections. And with that, it's a wrap for today, we'll invoke Our Patroness and Our Patron, Our Lady, Our Mother, Untier of Knots, pray for us. St. John the Baptist, pray for us.
IIC 96: I Am a Rock: How Trauma Hardens us Against Being Loved
Real love (agape) is given freely -- but it is not received freely in our fallen human condition. Join me in this episode as we discuss the costs of opening our hearts to love\and the price of being loved fully, of being loved completely, in all of our parts. We review why so many people refuse to be loved -- and we examine the psychological and human formation reasons for turning away from love. Finally we discuss what we can do to get over our natural-level impediments to receiving love.
IIC 95: Trauma's Devastating Impact on our Capacity to Love
In this episode, we focus on how unresolved trauma undermines and sabotages both our capacity and our inclination to love well. We explore how unresolved trauma impacts each of the five characteristics of love -- compromising our ability to love in an affective (emotional), affirming, responsive, unitive and steadfast way. We also dive into how so trauma pulls us to focus inward, and to protect ourselves, undercutting the vulnerability and willingness to engage that are required for deep love and we discuss hope for change.
IIC 94: The Primacy of Love
In this episode, I discuss the central importance of love as the marker of well-being from a Catholic perspective -- our capacity to live out the two great commandments. We explore how love is the distinguishing characteristic of Christians, we detail the eight different kinds of love, and we discuss Catholic theologian Bernard Brady's five attributes or characteristics of love -- how love is affective, affirming, responsive, unitive, and steadfast. We discuss what is commonly missing from philosophical and theological approaches to love, and we briefly touch on the death of love and distortions of love.
IIC 93: Three Inner Experiential Exercises
In this episode I discuss the crucial role of the right kinds of corrective and healing experiences in our lives. I then offer you three inner experiential exercises to help you understand three questions: 1) In what ways do you not love yourself (with a special focus on inner critics); 2) your inner tension between connection and protection; and 3) your internal battles with rigidity and chaos.
IIC 92: Understanding and Healing your Mind through IPNB
In this episode, I invite you to explore and understand with me neuropsychiatrist Dr. Dan Siegel's Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB) and what IPNB can show us about psychological health. We review the triangle of well-being, the nature of secure attachments, and the basis for mental health from an IPNB perspective. We examine the characteristics of a healthy mind and how it functions, and the two signs that reliable indicate all psychological symptoms and mental dysfunction. We discuss the nine domains of integration, mindsight, and the healthy mind platter. I also share my exchange with Dr. Siegel about whether and how IPNB can be integrated with Catholicism.
IIC 91: Special Episode: The Litanies of the Heart with Dr. Gerry Crete
We discuss the brand new release of Souls and Hearts' Litanies of the Heart. These prayers were composed to be very attuned to the needs of closed hearts, fearful hearts, and wounded hearts, bringing in the best of psychological science around how we trust, how we connect and how we form bonds with others in our humanness -- all to help us better develop a deep, personal relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Join us as we discuss the origin of the Litanies, their development, and recommendations for praying them in a way that suits your particular needs.
IIC 90: Your Well-Being: The Secular Experts Speak
Join us as we review how philosophers and modern secular psychologists understand mental health and well-being. In this episode, we look at the attempts to define what makes us happy, from the 4th century BC to the present day. We cover the thinking of Aristippus, Aristotle, Descartes, Freud, Seligman, Porges, Schwartz, and two diagnostic systems. We take a special look at how positive psychology and Internal Family Systems see well-being.
IIC 89: Your Trauma, Your Body: Protection vs. Connection
Join Dr. Peter as he explains how trauma impacts our bodies, through the lens of polyvagal theory. Through quotes, examples, questions for reflection and experiential exercises, Dr. Peter walks you through a current understanding of how large a role our bodies have in our experience of trauma.
IIC 88: Trauma: Defining and Understanding the Experience
In this episode, we gain a deeper understanding of the experience of trauma, the impact of trauma. we clarify definitions of different aspects of trauma, various categories of trauma, the immediate and delayed signs and symptoms of trauma, and the effects of trauma. Then I share an experiential exercise with you to help you discover potential areas that might be fruitful for future exploration of your own internal experience.
IIC 87: Scrupulosity: When OCD Gets Religion
In this episode, we explore the conventional secular and the traditional spiritual ways of understanding scrupulosity, bringing in the experts to define scrupulosity, tells us the signs of being scrupulous, speculate on the causes of the trouble, discuss that standard remedies in the secular and spiritual realms. Then I share with you my views on it, looking at scrupulosity through an Internal Family Systems lens, grounded in a Catholic worldview. We discuss how parts have different God images and the role of shame and anger in the experience of scrupulosity.
IIC 86: Obsessions, Compulsions, OCD and Internal Family Systems
Join Dr. Peter to go way below the surface and find the hidden meanings of obsessions, compulsions and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Through poetry and quotes, he invites you into the painful, distressing, fearful and misunderstood world of those who suffer from OCD. He defines obsessions and compulsions, discusses the different types of each, and evaluates two conventional treatments and one alternative treatment for OCD. Most importantly, he discusses the deepest natural causes of OCD, which are almost always disregarded in conventional treatment, which focuses primarily on the symptoms.
IIC 85: Perfectionism: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How
Join me as we discover explore all the elements of perfectionism, from its root causes to its surface manifestations, through an Internal Family Systems lens, grounded in a Catholic world view. Through poetry, quotes, research findings, personal examples and the current professional literature, I pull together many strands into a unified whole to help you deeply grasp the internal experience of perfectionism.
IIC 84: The Who, What, Where, When, Why and How of the IIC Podcast
In this episode, I lay out the whole mission and purpose of the Interior Integration for Catholics Podcast -- answering the six central questions so that you can make an informed decision about whether this podcast fits you and your needs. Get the latest in my discernment about this podcast and the Resilient Catholics Community, where we are going.
IIC 83: The Internal Dance of Healthy Grief
Join me for a deep exploration of the ways our parts process grief in healthy ways, the back-and-forth alternating between focusing on the loss and looking at restoration. Guided by the work of IFS therapist and author Derek Scott and by using a dramatized story of loss with resulting grief, we will explore the internal interactions among our parts that lead to such a multifaceted experience of grief. We also examine the two paths of grief that Catholics can choose.
IIC 82: The Many Faces of Grief Inside Us
Through a dramatic representation, quotes, and examples, I walk you through how six dimensions of what it means for you to love yourself and others. By bringing in the pioneering work of IFS therapist Derek Scott, we will explore how different parts within you respond to grief and loss in so many different ways.
IIC 81: Grieving is the Price We Pay for Loving
If we love deeply, we're going to grieve deeply. It's inevitable. And it's that simple. So together, let's understand and experience grief better in order to love better. In this episode, I review the popular models of grief with their strengths and limitations, illustrating them through poetry, quotes, and evaluating them with the best of the psychological research.
IIC 80: How to Help a Loved One Who is Suicidal
Through dramatic reenactments, experiential exercises and the best of available resources, Dr. Peter brings you critical information to help you better love those near you who are struggling with suicidal thoughts and impulses. Learn how to be a much better first responder in these situations and to be a bridge to additional resources for your loved ones who are considering suicide.
IIC 79: Suicide's Devastating Impact on Those Left Behind
Dr. Peter brings you inside the inner world of so many parents, spouses, children, and siblings of those who died by suicide. Through an imagination exercise, research, quotes from family members, and the Internal Family Systems model of the person, he invites you to a deeper understanding of other others experience a loved one's suicide.
IIC 78: The Desperate Inner Experience of Suicidality
Through poetry, stories, quotes, theory, research and clinical experience, Dr. Peter invites you into the dire, terrible world of suicidality. He makes the case that almost no one, including therapists and those who have attempted suicide understand suicide very well. And he brings in perspectives from Internal Family Systems to clarify how different parts of us have different beliefs, attitudes, feelings and desires about suicide, leading to inner conflict and turmoil.
IIC 77: Suicide on Sacred Scripture
Dr. Peter walks with you through what Sacred Scripture has to teach us about suicide, exploring the major episodes of suicide in the Bible from a historical and psychological perspective, grounded in a Catholic worldview.
IIC 76: The Darkness of Suicide -- What Do the Secular Experts Say?
Through stories and examples, Dr. Peter reviews the best of secular approaches to understanding suicide. He discusses suicide statistics, the different kinds of suicide, the risk factors for suicide, the warning signs for suicide and myths about suicide. He covers the "reaction trio" and then the deep roots of suicide, the first causes
IIC 75: The Blue and the Orange: Reconsidering Depression and Mania Through the Lens of Parts
Join Dr. Peter as he describes how Internal Family Systems informed thinking can help you understand yourself and others so much better than the common understanding of a unified, homogeneous personality. Understanding yourself and other better is critical to being able to love yourself and others and God in more ordered and healthy ways. Dr. Peter gives examples from his own life and his own parts in his system and also leads an experiential exercise to help you connect with your parts.
IIC 74: Internal Chaos and Blending vs. Internal Peace and Integration
Through stories, poetry, many examples, and an experiential exercise, Dr. Peter invites you inside yourself to much more deeply understand what it means to be blended vs. integrated, and the implications of blending vs. integration in loving yourself and others all in the service of having a much deeper sense of peace and well-being.
IIC 73: Is Internal Family Systems Really Catholic?
Join Dr. Peter in a deep look at how Internal Family Systems approaches to therapy and to human formation are consistent and inconsistent with the perennial teachings of the Catholic Church. We explore the multiplicity and unity of the human psyche, the role of the core self, the nature of "parts" and the question of sin in this episode.
IIC 72: What Keeps You from Loving? Is it Really Only Your Vices? (Spoiler Alert: No!)
Dr. Peter goes right to the core of the Catholic life, our mission to love God and love neighbor and how those depend on us loving ourselves in an ordered way. He discusses seven levels with six dimensions of understanding others, ranging along a continuum of developmental maturity and closes with an experiential exercise to help you discover why you lack interior peace.
IIC 71: A New and Better Way of Understanding Myself and Others
Join Dr. Peter as he describes how Internal Family Systems informed thinking can help you understand yourself and others so much better than the common understanding of a unified, homogeneous personality. Understanding yourself and other better is critical to being able to love yourself and others and God in more ordered and healthy ways. Dr. Peter gives examples from his own life and his own parts in his system and also leads an experiential exercise to help you connect with your parts.