2021 Webinar Series: Why Do I Avoid God? A Catholic, IFS-Informed Approach to Parts’ Problematic God Images - Peter Malinoski

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Richard Schwartz’ Internal Family Systems therapy argues that clinical experience, theory, research, neuroscience and personal reflection reveal that within each person are separate, identifiable and enduring constellations of thoughts, emotions, attitudes, impulses, desires, abilities, interests, relational styles, body sensations, and worldviews that are not just transient emotional states, but rather constitute discrete “parts,” subpersonalities or distinct modes of operating within the person’s larger internal system. The parts can be considered to be roughly analogous to St. Thomas Aquinas’ passions in significant ways. I argue that an important organizing component of the worldview of each part or subpersonality is how that part views God, its God image. Parts have distorted God images for three main reasons: 1) Parts learn via experience and the ways they interpret experience, especially in their spiritual inferences, can be markedly different than what God has revealed about Himself through the Catholic Church -- for example, a part whose role is to be dissociated from the rest of the system so as not to overwhelm the core self and other parts with its burden of interpersonal trauma may see God as distant, disconnected and uncaring, in a Deistic way; 2) Parts may be very afraid of, angry at, disappointed with or disinterested in God and therefore refuse to connect with Him, preventing them from having needed corrective relational experiences of a loving God; 3) Given their limited experience and lack of perspective, parts may need the experience of being loved and cared for by the core self before trusting the self to connect them to God.
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