Interior Integration for Catholics

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Join Dr. Peter as he reviews the five kinds of empathy according to Dan Siegel, and considers the challenges and the ways forward for Catholic spouses to increase mutual empathy, including in their sexual intimacy.

Show Notes

  1. Intro
    1. It is good to have you with us,
    1. Peter Malinoski, clinical psychologist
    1. Weekly Podcast Interior Integration for Catholics 

    1. Part of our Online outreach Souls and Hearts and
    1. Episode 65  Why Catholic Spouses Find it Hard to Empathize with Each Other, Especially About Sex -- with Solutions.  -- we are in the middle of a series on Sexuality in Catholic Marriages, but don't worry if you are not married, there is so much for you in today's episode that applies to any close relationship.  

  5. Definitions of Empathy:
    1. Daniel Siegel:  Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine.  Interpersonal Neurobiology. 
      1. Interpersonal Neurobiology
        1. Wikipedia: Interpersonal neurobiology (IPNB) or relational neurobiology is an interdisciplinary framework associated with human development and functioning. It was developed in the 1990s by Daniel J. Siegel who sought to bring together a wide range of scientific disciplines in demonstrating how the mind, brain, and relationships integrate to alter one another.
      3. Dan Siegel's work is very accessible -- easier for non-professionals to understand, very available.  
      4. Five types of Empathy  -- Short YouTube Video  5 Levels.   There's an order to them.  
        1. Emotional Resonance or attunement
        2. Perspective Taking
        3. Cognitive Empathy
        4. Compassion -- Seigel calls it Empathetic Concern
        5. Empathetic Joy
      5. I am going to expand on his basic presentation.  
      6. Expanded definitions of empathy
        1. Emotional Resonance, attunement, empathic resonance -- receiver begins to feel what the sender is feeling.  You feel the feelings of the other person.  
          1. Attunement ‘is a kinesthetic and emotional sensing of others knowing their rhythm, affect and experience by metaphorically being in their skin, and going beyond empathy to create a two-person experience of unbroken feeling connectedness by providing a reciprocal affect and/or resonating response’. (Clinical psychologist Richard Erksine 1998).
          2. When we attune with others we allow our own internal state to shift, to come to resonate with the inner world of another. This resonance is at the heart of the important sense of “feeling felt” that emerges in close relationships. Children need attunement to feel secure and to develop well, and throughout our lives we need attunement to feel close and connected."  Dan Siegel
          3. Moderation
            1. Emotional contagion.  This really can be overwhelming
              1. Experience of being sucked into the other's experience -- blending or fusing with the other with a loss of boundaries

        1. Perspective Taking:  Let me put myself in the other's skin -- in the other shoes.   Not a fusion
          1. Capacity to enter into your spouse's internal world with your own mind to consider the other's experience
          1. You remain separate from the other person.  

        1. Cognitive Empathy: -- a bit further  -- what does the experience mean for the person.  Memory, emotion, history influences the other.  Empathetic understanding.  
          1. So much of our suffering comes not from the facts of our situation, but from the meaning we make from those facts.  

        1. Compassion:  Empathic Concern -- synonym for compassion.  I feel your pain, I want to reduce your suffering.
          1. You feel the suffering
          1. Take the suffering in
          1. Use of the imagination -- what could I do now to help you feel better.  

          1. Be with the person -- doing flows from that being

        1. Empathic joy -- I get so excited about your success -- delighting in and with the other. 
          1. Joy in who the spouse is, not what the child does -- "delighting in the spouses very being 
          2. Wife believes in the husband's goodness -- the husband is precious, worth sacrificing for and vice versa.  
          3. Song of Songs -- Joy 1:4 We will exult and rejoice in you; we will extol your love more than wine  

      7. Review
        1. Emotional Resonance or attunement
        1. Perspective Taking
        1. Cognitive Empathy
        1. Compassion -- Seigel calls it Empathetic Concern
        1. Empathetic Joy

  6. Empathy is the mattress on our Catholic Canopied Marriage bed, which I introduced in episode 58 -- working with that metaphor.  The mattress on a bed -- we want the mattress to be consistent and solid, firm and not lumpy.  
    1. The frame and box spring -- firm commitment between the husband and the wife, the upholding of the marriage vows Episode 64
      1. It's the charity.  Willing the highest good for one another -- sacrificial love
    3. four legs of the bed.
      1. Leg 1 -- the husband's commitment to his own interior integration, his own human formation, his psychological health, his emotional wellbeing -- removing the beam from his own eye -- last episode. Episode 63
      1. Leg 2.  the wife's commitment to her own interior integration, her own human formation, her own psychological health, her own emotional wellbeing -- her taking on her own personal responsibility for her natural life  last episode. Episode 63
      2. Leg 3.  Attachment Needs and Integrity Needs --  Episode 62,
      3. Leg 4.  Internal Family Systems approaches -- understanding deeply how the human person is both a unity and a multiplicity -- like an orchestra is a unity -- one orchestra, but also has within it multiplicity, multiple musicians -- check out Episodes 60 and 61
    5. The rock-solid floor in the bedroom is the Foundation -- The presence of God -- and an active belief in God's Providence
      1. This is the foundation
      1. Childlike trust, absolute confidence
      1. Reflects the reality of our existential dependence and God's paternal care, Mary's maternal care for us.  

      1. So many Catholic try to solve their marriage issues without bringing in anything spiritual
      1. Or they avoid any meeting between faith and sex.  

  7. Why we lack different kinds of empathy
    1. In General
      1. Lack of interior integration
      1. Lack of benevolence -- good will.  Lack of seeking the good for our spouse and being willing to suffer for it
        1. Conditionality
          1. I'll work on it if my wife does X and Y
          1. I'll start trying again if my husband stops behavior Z.  

          1. Not what your vows say.  

        1. Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way, you'll be a mile from them, and you'll have their shoes. Jack Handey.  

      1. Lack of consistency
        1. Giving up -- Spouse is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma -- Winston Churchill

      1. We are not good at it.  
        1. This is really complex and demanding at times -- it's hard.  
          1. We  don't like to be faced with our limitations
          2. We want to feel competent, we like to know we did a good job
            1. FreeCell online solitaire.  Very good at it.  Clear when I did a good job.  
              1. Levels in a video game
              2. Pam likes Soduku puzzles -- clear when she solves it.  

            1. Often deepening connections with others it's not so clear if we're doing well or not
        2. So we don't practice.
          1. It takes deliberate practice
          1. It takes time that is set aside
            1. Won't happen just by chance.  

      1. I have parts that don't want to give up illusions about my spouse -- idealizations, I have her on a pedestal, she was supposed to complete me, care for me, met my needs, rescue me, redeem me, prove that I am lovable, whatever the underlying needs and hopes and dreams were -- all that can come crashing down. Not a Hallmark Movie here.  Real, gritty, difficult, human, messy relationships

    1. Reasons we lack Emotional Resonance or attunement  --  receiver begins to feel what the sender is feeling.  You feel the feelings of your spouse. -- We want to be able to do this in a regulated way.  A sip, not necessarily the whole barrel.  
      1. Two Categories
        1. I can't -- And can't 
          1. Functional or organic limitations
            1. Brain injury
            1. Also possibly some conditions on the autistic spectrum can interfere with recognizing others' needs.  Biological.  Not psychological -- like having a narcissistic part in command.
          4. Dynamism of ability I can't in this moment --  I am dysregulated, I am in fight or flight mode, I'm in freeze mode.  I'm too angry, I'm blended with a part.  
            1. We need to recognize that dynamism.  

        1. I won't
          1. Also Dynamic.  I won't right now.  I will later.  

      2. Beam in our own eye, reflected as the speck in our spouse's eye. 
        1. Misattribution
          1. What is mine and what is my spouse's issue
          1. Pointing:  1 finger forward, three fingers back at me
          1. St. Francis of Assisi --  I am the problem.  

          1. Externalization 
            1. Degree of externalization is diagnostic -- all the spouse -- likely a lot is also me.  

      3. Distractions
      4. Busyness
      5. Activation of my own experience in parts -- My manager parts won't accept or embrace in my spouse what I reject in my own self -- because I'm afraid of those unacceptable things in me.  
        1. Emotions
        2. Desires
        3. Attitudes
        4. Intentions
        5. Impulses
        6. Self-absorption
      6. Fear
        1. Fear of what is there
          1. Disappointment in me
            1. Part of my spouse may have had high hopes that I will meet needs -- daddy needs, mommy needs, God needs, security needs, mission and purpose and meaning needs, all kinds of attachment needs, all kinds of integrity needs-- we discussed those needs in episode 62 - understanding those needs is one of the legs of the bed.  
              1. Unrealistic, impossible
              2. Can still activate parts of me that want to please, make everything all right
                1. Failure, failure --> shame or helplessness or disappointment -- my spouse is not going to meet my needs.  

          1. Despair
            1. Part of my self may be despairing
            1. What do I do?
            1. I don't want to be married to someone who is despairing
              1. Not aware that it's only a part -- this is really critical.  It often doesn't seem like a part, spouse doesn't seem conflicted.  
                1. That's because the parts has blended and is not allowing any other parts or the core self to come through.  

          1. Rage and hatred toward me
            1. Many, many Catholic spouses have parts that hate the other spouse.  Disappointed, disillusioned
              1. These parts are often buried by protector parts
                1. Act out in passive-aggressive ways
                1. Or explode intermittently

            1. Divorcing spouses often really do hate each other
              1. Enmeshment, co-dependency can really increase the hatred parts of spouses have for each other.  

            1. We don't want to be hated.  Don't touch the ticking bomb.  

            1. We want to protect the children.

        1. fear of overwhelm.  Fear of the intensity of the spouse's part's experience.  
          1. Richard Schwartz and Martha Sweezy call this emotional contagion 
          2. I do not want to be sucked in, that's dangerous. 
          3. I don't want to be overwhelmed by whatever my spouse's intensity activates in me

        1. Fear of my overreaction, being taken over by one of my parts.  And if I get all blended with an activated part, will I do or say something I regret.  Self-protective but also protective of the marriage.  

        1. So there can be an unspoken, unthought agreement "not to go there."  
          1. Can be wise in the short run
          2. Will we ever go there?

    1. Perspective Taking  Capacity to enter into your spouse's internal world with your own mind to consider the other's experience
      1. We have our own needs.  Parts want are needs to be taken care of first, before recognizing anyone else's
        1. Starving waiter syndrome
        1. This is the leg of the bed attachment and integrity needs -- if that is missing or short or otherwise compromised, leads to instability.  

        1. Also the leg on human formation 

      1. Defenses -- coping strategies
        1. Your spouse may not understand this.  Needs another person to help.  

      1. Transferences -- 

      1. Revivification of old issues -- childhood or earlier in the marriage. 

    1. Cognitive Empathy what does the experience mean for the person.  Memory, emotion, history influences the other.  Empathetic understanding. 
      1. Our capacity is not well developed .  We don't try.  
      2. We don't know because we don't ask, we don't engage.  

    1. Compassion -- Seigel calls it Empathetic Concern   I feel your pain, I want to reduce your suffering
      1. Meaning of suffering -- natural pull in our fallen condition to avoid suffering, our own suffering and the suffering of others
        1. Can suffering become redemptive -- can you willingly share your spouse's cross if he or she lets you.  

      1. I can't bear suffering or I won't bear suffering.  
        1. Fr. Justin Huang Our capacity to suffer = our capacity to love = our capacity for joy.

    1. Empathetic Joy
      1. I can't be joyful in anyone else if I feel so disadvantaged.  
        1. Eeyore's attempts to be joyful for others -- they fall flat.  

  8. Unempathetic Sex
    1. Emotional Resonance or attunement -- not caring, not resonating.  No idea what I am experiencing.
      1. Not talking about it

    1. Perspective Taking -- putting myself in her shoes.  Concupiscence -- sex can be very selfish.  I want an experience for me.  I want my needs met.  Gets away from our vow to love and cherish and honor and care for our spouse.  

    1. Cognitive Empathy
    1. Compassion -- Seigel calls it Empathetic Concern -- willing to make sacrifices in some way?  Won't happen if I am blended with a part that needs something from the sex my way.  Tolerating a lot of imperfections.  
      1. Sex is really approximate.  
      2. Precise sex.  Our sexuality is really exact.  It's measured, it's so well regulated, well executed.  

    1. Empathetic Joy -- our needs are met -- joy in the giving.  Mutual giving.  

  10. Solutions
    1. Five types of empathy for our own parts first -- 
      1. Flight attendants:  In the unlikely event of cabin depressurization, oxygen mask will drop from overhead.  Secure your own first before attempting to assist others.  
        1. Can I accept all of what is within me
        2. Am I doing my own work in human formation?  
          1. Checking in with parts
            1. What percentage of my reaction to my spouse is my spouse's behavior
            1. What percentage of it is my old stuff.
      2. My parts' attitudes about sex.  Where did they come from?  What sexual experiences have I not adequately dealt with?
      3. Action item 1.  Time with your parts, time for human formation every day.  
      4. Removing the beam from your own eye.  
      5. Reliance on God to meet our needs.  Our spouses will always fail us in important ways.  God allows that so that we rely on Him.  
      6. Amazing what prayer can do if we really focus in on what our real issues are in human and spiritual formation, if we can get specific.  
      7. We will get answers.  

    1. Where are the real gaps in my empathy for my spouse -- which of the five areas of empathy do I struggle with and why?
      1. Making time each day.  5 minutes to think and consider and make notes about your spouse and about your spouse's parts, the common modes of operating.  Just five minute to live out your marriage vows
        1. Or three minutes
        1. Or a minute?
        1. Be regular.
        1. Netflix video games, TV, shopping, social media.  

      1. Write down your findings.
      1. Consider how your spouse is a beloved child of God and of Mary.  Cherished by them.  Made in God's image and likeness.  

      1. Make a spouse resolution -- what you are going to do for your spouse.  Ask not what your spouse can do for you, but what you can do for your spouse.  

      1. Even if you're not in contact with your spouse.  If you are sacramentally married pray for that spouse, offer up a little sacrifice.  

    1. Talk with your spouse.
      1. Look at her.  Look at him.  If that's hard, be curious -- why is it hard
      1. Don't start with sex if that is a fraught issue.  Start with something easier
      1. Regular time.  Daily.  

      1. If you are having a really hard time, bring in another person to help.  
        1. Individual therapy
        2. Marital therapy --  Catholic's Guide to Choosing a Therapist

      1. Eventually talk with your spouse about sex.  For many that will be awkward, difficult.  But it can be done.  Rarely does one spouse figure out all the answers to sexual issues in the marriage without any communication from the other spouse.  

    1. Human formation issue -- Get on the waiting list Resilient Catholics Community,   join with so many others from around the world like you that also love this podcast.  The RCC is about transformation, about preparing the way for love in our souls. It's about being together as Catholics on a pilgrimage, on a mission to be transformed on a human level, to shore up our natural foundations so we can really enter into an intimate personal relationship with Jesus Christ our brother, the Holy Spirit who is Love Himself and with our spiritual parents, God the Father and Mary our Mother. And so we can love others, especially our spouses.  
      1. Reopening on June 1
      2. Initial Measures Kit -- personalized attention from our staff to create your human formation plan
        1. Workbook with exercises
      4. Lots of personal human connection.  Companion on the journey -- checking in daily
      5. Weekly small group meeting with your company 
      6.  So get on the waiting list at or email me at and I'll help you out.  
      7. Not therapy or counseling, but a great addition.  
      8. About 20-25 minutes per day for your human formation
      9. $99 per month
      10. Many more details at
      11. Open in June and only in June.  Twice per year we take on new members.  June and December.  

    1. For current RCC member  Second Wednesday Zoom meeting on May 12, 2021
    1. I want to be in touch with you, my listeners.  Conversation hours 317.567.9594 -- by my cell phone -- waiting for calls.  Wednesday, April 29 5:15 PM to 6:15 PM eastern time
      1. On all Tuesdays and Thursday -- 4:30 PM to 5:30 PM  Eastern. Call me.  I will call you back if I'm on another call.  Wanting to make myself available to you.  

What is Interior Integration for Catholics?

In the Resilient Catholics podcast, together, we seek fundamental transformation in our lives through human formation. We look for God's providence in all that happens to us, in accord with Romans 8:28, grounded in an authentic Catholic worldview. Join us as we sail through uncharted waters, seizing the opportunities for psychological and spiritual growth and increasing resilience in the natural and spiritual realms. With a clear takeaway message and one action in each weekly episode, you can move from dreading what is happening to you to rising above it. Join us on Mondays for new episodes. You can also join our online community around this podcast at