Interior Integration for Catholics

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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.

Show Notes

  1. Introduction
  2. The Goals:  We Catholics are to love God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind.  
    1. With every fiber of our being, every last little bit of ourselves.  
    2. To love God in every internal experience -- every thought, emotion, body sensation, intention, impulse attitude, belief, assumption, every desire -- every internal experience oriented toward loving God. 
    3. Nothing within us oriented any other way.  That's the challenge, that's what that commandment means.   
  3. Fr. Jacques Phillipe:  
    1. Searching for and Maintaining Peace  -- may be my most favorite book  
    2. In order that abandonment might be authentic and engender peace, it must be total.  Must put everything, without exception, into the hands of God, not seeking any longer to manage or” to save” ourselves by her own means: not in the material domain, nor the emotional, nor the spiritual.  We cannot divide human existence and the various sectors: certain sectors where it would be legitimate to surrender ourselves to God with confidence in others where, on the contrary, we feel we must manage exclusively on her own.  And one thing we know well: all reality that we have not surrendered to God, that we choose to manage by ourselves without giving carte blanche to God, will continue to make us more or less uneasy.  The measure of our interior piece will be that of our abandonment, consequently of our detachment.  Page 37
      1. No-go Zones.  Wikipedia A "no-go area" or "no-go zone" is a neighborhood or other geographic area where some or all outsiders either are physically prevented from entering or can enter only at risk.
      1. God doesn't come in here.  Compartmentalization, lack of integration.  
        1. Recreational time -- not when I'm watching football, not when I'm playing poker, not when I'm gossiping with my friends.  
        2. Work life -- dog eat dog world, highly competitive business, sometimes we have to do things we're not proud of…
        3. Sex life -- caught between my partner and my beliefs
        4. My private attachments -- drinking, flirting, shopping -- whatever we are attached to.  
        5. Deep shame.  Deep rage.  Deep Sadness,  Deep fear.  Inner darkness.  
        6. Trauma Zones -- betrayal, abandonment, terror, --attempts to seal that all off, from everything and everyone in order to keep functioning, to keep on with daily activities.  

  4. Intro -- Welcome to Interior Integration for Catholics
    1. I’m clinical psychologist Peter Malinoski and I am here to help guide you toward  loving God, neighbor and yourself in an ordered, healthy, holy way.
      1. And how do I do that?
        1. By focusing on your natural level impediments, your psychological obstacles to tolerated being loved and to loving God, neighbor and ourselves in the best ways possible
          1.  it's all about your human formation 

          1. It's all about shoring up your natural foundation for the spiritual life 

          1. So many of our spiritual problems are really rooted in our human formation, our natural foundation for the spiritual life

    1. This is Episode 73, 
      1. Released on June 21, 2021 and titled  Is Internal Family Systems Really Catholic?
      2. I get this question a lot -- Internal Family Systems or IFS has exploded on the therapy scene, especially in the last 10 years and especially as a modality for working with trauma. 
        1. It makes sense -- we don't want anything to keep us from God.  
        2. Great contribution -- 
        3. Synthesis of two paradigms
          1. Plural mind -- we all contain many different parts
            1. A mind in conversation with itself denotes a non-unitary, relational mind
            1. Internal dilemmas

          1. Systems thinking -- Dick was a therapist trained in family systems
            1. Bringing systems thinking inside is a tremendous advance for therapy
            1. On a par with Freud's popularization of the unconscious.
            1. God can reveal the glory of creation to people from all kinds of backgrounds
              1. Watson and Crick Discoverers of DNA -- very hostile toward Catholicism.  

          1. A core self, protected from harm rich in all kinds of naturally endowed resources.  

      3. But Richard Schwartz -- raised in an atheistic home, culturally Jewish -- he writes in the forward of Jenna Riemersma's Book "Altogether You."  
        1. My father was a scientist who taught us that religion was at the root of many of the world's conflicts and slaughters .  I maintained a skepticism about anything spiritual until I began exploring my clients' inner terrains and encountered their self
        2. Phenomenological approach
          1. Definition Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view .-- an approach that concentrates on the study of consciousness and the objects of direct experience.
          1. Setting aside preconceived notions -- "privileging data over pride"
            1. p. 19 IFS Therapy 2nd ed.  We can enter the unconscious and interact with it directly, asking questions about the desires, distortions, and agendas of the inner system.  In response, our parts will answer clearly, take the client directly to crucial scenes from the past, and explain what is most important about their experience, removing the need for us to speculate, reframe, interpret, or instruct.  

      4. This podcast -- authentically Catholic 
  5. Necessity for grounding our understanding of psychology and the human person in a Catholic anthropology
    1. Define Catholic anthropology  Wikipedia In the context of Christian theology, Christian anthropology is the study of the human ("anthropology") as it relates to God. It differs from the social science of anthropology, which primarily deals with the comparative study of the physical and social characteristics of humanity across times and places.
    1. I am responsible for my words and my teaching.  
      1. Scripture verse about teaching
        1. Woe to anyone who leads little ones astray
      3. My day of particular judgement 
      4. What I teach and what I don't teach.  Omissions.  
      5. Catholic with a small c:  The word is from the Greek katholikos, universal, literally in respect of (kata) the whole (holos);
      6. St. Augustine De Doctrina Christiana. Cjapter 40   is a theological text on how to interpret and teach the Scriptures.
        1. Moreover, if those who are called philosophers, and especially the Platonists, have said anything that is true and in harmony with our faith, we are not only not to shrink from it, but to claim it for our own use.
        1. all branches of heathen learning have not only false and superstitious fancies and heavy burdens of unnecessary toil, which we ought to abhor and avoid; but they contain also liberal instruction which is better adapted to the use of the truth, and some most excellent precepts of morality; and some truths in regard even to the worship of the One God are found among them. Now these are, so to speak, their gold and silver, which they did not create themselves, but dug out of the mines of God's providence which are everywhere scattered abroad.
      9. What is the cost of not exploring this?
        1. Omissions vs. Comissions.  

        1. Confidence in God -- we can try things
          1. Like little children
          1. Can we trust we will be redirected -- or do we have parts that believe there are only offramps on the road to heaven, no onramps.

    1. Harmonizing IFS with Catholicism, not the other way around
      1. Catholicism is a revealed religion.   
        1. Catherine Beyer   A revealed religion is one based on information communicated from the spiritual world to humanity through some sort of medium, most commonly through prophets. Thus, spiritual truth is revealed to believers because it is not something inherently obvious or something one could naturally conclude.  The Judeo-Christian religions are all strongly revealed religions. The Old Testament includes many stories of those whom God used to transmit knowledge of himself and his expectations. Their appearance comes at times when the Jewish people have significantly strayed from God's teachings, and the prophets remind them of his commandments and warn them of impending disaster as punishment. For Christian, Jesus arrived as God incarnate to directly minister to the community. 
        2. Church as the guardian of the deposit of faith

CCC 889 In order to preserve the Church in the purity of the faith handed on by the apostles, Christ who is the Truth willed to confer on her a share in his own infallibility. By a "supernatural sense of faith" the People of God, under the guidance of the Church's living Magisterium, "unfailingly adheres to this faith."417
890 The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magisterium's task to preserve God's people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church's shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals.
  1. Issues
    1. Spiral learning.  Definition  of Parts:  Separate, independently operating personalities within us, each with own unique prominent needs, roles in our lives, emotions, body sensations, guiding beliefs and assumptions, typical thoughts, intentions, desires, attitudes, impulses, interpersonal style, and world view.  Each part also has an image of God and also its own approach to sexuality.  Robert Falconer calls them insiders.  
      1. Gave examples of my ten parts in episode 71.  Examples also in episode 61.  
      2. Parts govern these nogo zones.  They defend these territories in an effort to help us -- actions can be really misguided

    1. Definition of Self  The core of the person, the center of the person.  This is who we sense ourselves to be in our best moments, and when our self is free, and unblended with any of our parts, it governs our whole being as an active, compassionate leader.  

    1. Issues --Bill Richardson's article Internal Family Systems Therapy Meets Evangelical Christianity: Integration of Diverse Communities and Theories 2007
      1. Multiplicity
        1. Trinitarian God.  God is one unity in three distinct Persons.  -- Unity and multiplicity
          1. And we are made in the image and likeness of God.  

        1. Self-relationship
          1. We can self-witness 

          1. We can communicate within ourselves
          1. We are to love ourselves
          2. We have consciousness of self.  
          3. Example James 4:1:  Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you?
          4. Example:  Romans 7:15-23

 15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is go0 od. 17 So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. 
  1. In IFS, the self is "Seat of consciousness"   Self=soul  Really unclear how to compare the "self" with the soul.  This is a thorny question
    1. Self is perfect, undamaged, in no need of development
      1. My read is that in IFS, the self is the redeemer of the parts
      1. only the parts are in need of redemption -- the self needs no redemption
        1. Self as an internal attachment figure.  Attachment taken inside.  

      1. Peace, harmony and love reign internally when the self is leading the system
      1. Originally straight out of the Enlightenment -- central focus on man.
        1. Secular Humanism

    1. Self is occluded and overwhelmed by parts with burdens and extreme roles
    1. And so the self is essentially rendered helpless -- IFS does not emphasize this, but it seems to be a correct inference.
    1. Agency seems to be located in the parts, not in the self
      1. Parts need to willingly unblend to allow the self to be free
      1. "We can't…command ourselves to be curious rather than contemptuous of our vulnerable parts.  We can't force ourselves to feel compassion, no matter how much we believe its benefits.  

  4. Self as Redeemer --  Self is capitalized
  5. Agency:  
    1. The self is the one who is to govern our whole systems, an active inner leader
    2. But the self often lacks agency, sometimes almost completely in IFS
      1. parts get to decide when and how to unblend
      1. Negotiating with the parts
      1. What happens when a part just won't cooperate
        1. Like a child not wanting to go to take necessary medicine or not wanting to go to bed. 

    5. So to Catholic ears, the self can sound like it's dominated by the passions.   
  6. Self as the agents
  7. Each part has a subparts and a self.  
    1. Infinite regress.
    2. Self=soul, so this means that each person has multiple souls, one soul -- the self, and a soul for each of his parts.  And because parts have subparts, there might even be subsouls.  
      1. Parts can be conflicted -- that is common
      2. Because I've been trained for decades in the study of personality, I can locate those conflicts within the personality of a part -- no need to invoke other parts.    
  8. Openness to Spiritual World
    1. IFS as a spirituality -- Frank Rogers -- IFS as a Compassionate Spiritual Path
    1. Richard Schwartz:  2010 in Introduction to "The Spirit-Led Life" by Mary Steege
      1. I gradually shifted my view of what I called the Self from being an innate human capacity for self-healing to a being a spiritual essence comparable to Buddha Nature, Atman, the Tao, or the Ground of Being.
      1. Correspondingly, my view of IFS evolved from being a form of psychotherapy to being an integration of spirituality and psychology, or even to being a form of spiritual practice.  (p. xi)
      1. Shift from secular humanism to spirituality.  

  10. Lack of an understanding of sin
    1. Evil is acknowledged in IFS, origins are not explained.  

    1. Harm exists,  Committed by parts that blend with us.  They don't know better, they are seeking the good as they understand it but there is a lack of vision
      1. Acting out of self-protection
      1. No possibility of malevolence, of freely saying no to the good. 

  11. Although Augustine's Christian forbears  believed that we are born blessed, Augustine chose to focus on a Biblical allegory of minor importance at the time, which his contemporaries considered embarrassing.  
    1. Poorly researched and written 11 page book chapter -- Richard Schwartz and Robert Falconer 2017 -- rife with errors.  
    2. Pearls such as 
      1. "Jesus wasn't a highly discipline ascetic"  How could he have suffered the Passion.
      2. The Eastern Christian Church never accepted original sin
      3. In general, Christianity has misidentified parts as sinful urges or tempting thoughts and has encouraged followers to develop managerial parts to fight them.  
  12. Confidence.  Confidence in who? 
    1. Confidence in Self vs. confidence in God.  
    2. Self has many gifts.  Natural level
  13. Clarity -- vision is clear when we see through the eyes of Self and it is distorted when we see through the eyes of extreme parts.  
    1. Role for revelation?  Wisdom?
  14. Lots of Buddhism.  
  15. Parts having varying levels of access to the faculties of the intellect and the will
  16. Parts having varying access to other faculties and Passions.  
  17. Social and Political Positions.  
    1. Bill Richardson:  The IFS trainers were definitely neither religiously nor politically conservative, nor evangelical believers.  Their world view was farther left than most of us knew existed.  
      1. Very LGBTQ+ friendly
      2. Political positions -- very progressive politically
    2. Patriarchy
  18. Driving with the headlights on - we see what we need to
    1. My experience -- desiring to have a philosophy and theology background.  God's response
    1. Confidence in God.  
      1. If we are seeking in earnest -- Seek and ye shall find.  
      2. I could be wrong about a lot of these things.  In humility I have to admit that.  
      3. Talents

  20. So is IFS Catholic
    1. Two answers -- if you're looking for a model of therapy or human formation that you as a Catholic can embrace unthinkingly, without reservation, without any scrutiny or critical thinking -- just swallowing it whole. Lock, stock and barrell, IFS is not for you.  

    1. If you are willing to really make distinctions, parse out what is consistent -- absolute gold mine.   

    1. Implications for therapy
  22. Aids
    1. Two dissertations
      1. One from DMU, I am on the dissertation commuttee as a reader for that one.  DMU 

    1. Philosophers Cafe
  24. Recommended reading
    1. Bill Richardson's article 
      1. Internal Family Systems Therapy Meets Evangelical Christianity:Integration of Diverse Communities and Theories 2007
      2. Reformed Presbyterian tradition, heavily influenced by Calvin  -- total depravity

    1. Two Books
      1. Boundaries for Your Soul -- Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller
      1. Altogether You Jenna Riermersma 

      1. Molly LaCroix Restoring Relationship: Transforming Fear into Love Through Connection

  25. Possible Exercise.  
  26. Communities
  27. Blurb  Join Dr. Peter as 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.   

What is Interior Integration for Catholics?

In the Interior Integration for Catholics podcast, together, we seek fundamental transformation in our lives through human formation, via Internal Family Systems approaches grounded in a 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 check out the Resilient Catholics Community which grew up around this podcast at