The Eight Steps to Understand Your Parts Through Exploring Your Daydreams

Oct 04, 2023

Dear Souls and Hearts Members,

Last week’s reflection shed light on the deep interior work of St. Ignatius of Loyola, whose lengthy convalescence from a cannon ball wound grounded his temporal affairs and offered him an opportunity to re-evaluate his modus operandi.  St. Ignatius spent a great deal of time in a healthy YOU-turn, inwardly investigating his daydreams and fantasies which so frequently and powerfully occupied his attention during his worldly life as a soldier. He thoughtfully compared these chivalrous imaginings with the types of daydreams he began to experience after reading holy literature, and the rest is literally history.  The interior investigations of St. Ignatius of Loyola yielded abundant fruit which - to this day - is an enormous blessing to the world.

It is unlikely that any of you are recovering from a cannon ball wound, but I bet that each one of you has an active interior life including daydreams and fantasies.  We are human, our minds wander. But as Catholics on the path to sainthood, we can greatly benefit from a St. Ignatius-like YOU-turn with the goal of understanding the roots, effects and fruits of our daydreams and fantasies.

Typical responses to daydreams

Catholics usually choose one of three primary responses to any given problematic daydream:

  1. Reject the daydream, either through active attempts to suppress it or efforts to distract from it, without serious consideration of its underlying causes or a resolution of unmet needs fueling the daydream. This can lead an experience of psychological whack-a-mole, where problematic fantasies seem to pop up out of nowhere to be forcefully suppressed back into the unconscious. 
  2. Surrender to the morally suspect daydream, allowing the problematic fantasy to take form and flourish. This can potentially lead to habitual sin or a sense of being unable to harness the imagination, fueling feelings of hopelessness for finding freedom.
  3. Approach the dubious daydream without endorsing it or fostering it, in an effort to understand what is causing it and meet the underlying needs in a healthier, more adaptive way. Approaching your daydream can offer a much greater sense of interior integration leading to an authentic inner peace.

As I described in my September 6, 2023 reflection titled Your daydreams reflect your secret, unmet needs, daydreams and fantasies are a portal to better understand the deficits in our human formation, the ways in which we need to heal and grow in the natural realm. 

In today’s weekly reflection, I invite you to a structured, ‘8-step’ process to approach and explore a problematic daydream. I am confident that this interior work will offer you a long-term benefit and that the fruits of your ongoing human formation and interior exploration will bless the world and give St. Ignatius of Loyola a heavenly smile.


Let’s begin with a little disclaimer – the offerings from Souls and Hearts, including this weekly reflection, are not meant to serve as a substitute for professional mental health services.  Rather, these reflections are educational, providing you with means to better understand yourself.  The educational materials are not therapy or counseling.

Eight-step process to approach and explore your own daydreams

  1.  Set aside quiet time in a private space
  2.  Recollect yourself
  3.  Identify a daydream to explore
  4.  Consider when that daydream is likely to arise
  5.  Connect with the parts who animate the daydream
  6.  Listen to what parts want to tell you about the daydream
  7.  Reflect on the underlying needs your parts are trying to have met through daydreaming
  8.  Note any additional details your parts would like to share

Let’s review each one of these steps in some detail:

  1.  Set aside quiet time in a private space

In this first step, we honor a true necessity for fruitful interior work by deliberately scheduling time, even as little as five minutes, in a space that is free from external distractions. There is no substitute for set aside time and a private space for your inner work.  Shut off all electronics, power down the phone, and set aside any other tasks for the allotted time.  This quiet time should be protected from outside interference, and it helps if it is daily.  It is helpful to have pens, pencils, and paper available for writing and drawing.

  1.  Recollect yourself

The Miriam-Webster dictionary states that “’Recollect’ implies a bringing back to mind what is lost or scattered.”  Recollection is an effort to foster internal integration, a gathering of the dispersed and wayward parts of us not in right relationship with our innermost selves.  Recollection, deemed necessary by St. Thomas Aquinas, seeks to help our innermost self assume its rightful leadership role in governing our whole system.  Recollection implies accessing our faculties in an ordered way. 

Although recollection implies relaxation, it offers much more than simply calming down, as it reduces autonomic nervous system arousal.  Some breathing techniques may be helpful, such as this experiential exercise from the Resilient Catholics Community Week 1 formation archive.  The goal of this second step is to prepare you to “go inside” yourself, to turn your focus inward, making a YOU-turn like St. Ignatius. An unblending exercise from the RCC’s Week 6 formation materials might also aid in recollection. 

  1.  Identify a daydream to explore

In the third step, we choose a daydream to address.  This does not mean that we allow a potentially morally problematic storyline with sinful imagery to dominate us -- identification of a daydream does not mean rolling the tape with full-color cinematography and Dolby Surround Sound.  Instead, just name your target daydream with one or two words or key concepts and leave it at that.  Write down the target daydream’s name as a point of reference. 

  1.  Consider when that daydream is likely to arise

This next step involves remembering when you have had the target daydream or similar daydreams in the past.  The arising of the daydream could be associated with any of these factors:

  • A particular time of the day, the week, the month, or the year
  • Distinct bodily states – e.g., excitement, fatigue, hunger, intoxication, sexual arousal
  • Specific emotional states – e.g., sadness, anger, fear, shame, jealousy, etc.
  • Particular kinds of relational interactions – e.g., conflict with spouse, children disobeying, friction with superiors, being complimented or affirmed
  • Special circumstances – e.g., driving in rush hour, waking up in the middle of the night, calling one’s parents, exercising, sitting in the pew during Mass

Write down on your sheet or in your parts journal when your target daydream is likely to arise. 

  1. Connect with the parts who animate the daydream

Step five involves creating a felt sense of safety and protection and allowing your parts to connect with your innermost self relationally.  If that felt sense of trust is present among your parts, they will begin to see your innermost self as a secure internal attachment figure. Then those parts can be separate but near – not blended or alienated. 

The Six F’s of Internal Family Systems are helpful here:

  • Find the part
  • Focus on the part
  • Flesh out the part
  • How do you Feel toward the part?
  • BeFriend the part
  • Assess the Fears of the part

Check out this 15-minute video titled What are the 6 F's of IFS? for more about how to engage in the Six F’s within yourself.  You can put out a call to any parts who are stakeholders in the target daydream.  You can invite these parts into a conference room or a gathering around a campfire within your mind’s eye to bring them together under the leadership of your innermost self. 

  1.  Listen to what parts want to tell you about the daydream

Next, we listen to the stories from the parts’ perspective – their narratives, paying attention to the parts’ fears and desires that serve to energize the daydream.  We connect with parts’ good intentions around the daydream, the ways in which parts are trying to help us, even when the daydreams are maladaptive in one or more ways. 

During this inner conversation, we can ask the parts driving the target daydream, “What do you think would happen if you didn’t impel me toward that daydream?” and taking in the replies of each individual part.  As you write down a summary of each of your parts’ stories, consider using a different color for each part, giving each part a unique and readily identifiable voice in your journal. 

  1.  Reflect on the underlying needs your parts are trying to have met through daydreaming

As you listen to parts’ stories shared in step 6, take note of the underlying attachment needs and integrity needs that parts are trying to have met through daydreaming.  Get specific about these needs.  As a brief review, here are the attachment needs according to Brown and Elliott (2016):

  • Safety: A felt sense of safety and protection in relationship
  • Recognition: Feeling seen, heard, known, and understood
  • Reassurance: Feeling comforted, soothed, and reassured
  • Delight: Feeling cherished, treasured, delighted in by the other
  • Love: Feeling the other has your best interests at heart, holds a position of benevolence and beneficence toward you

Here’s a sixth attachment need that I have been considering for some time:

  • Belonging: A felt sense of being included, of being a valued member of a community with an important role

As you consider unmet integrity needs, remember these are needs for having a secure identity and an integrated, ordered sense of self.  Let’s review a list of the integrity needs:

  • Survival: My need to exist and to survive
  • Importance: My need to matter in the world, to be significant
  • Agency: My need for autonomy, to be able to exert influence on others and to make at least a small difference the world
  • Goodness: My need to be good in my essence, in my person, to experience a sense of ontological goodness, not just that my actions are functionally useful
  • Mission: My need for mission, purpose, and a vision to guide my life

I will add a sixth integrity need which is highly relevant:

  • Authentic expression: My need to share and communicate with others what is true and real within me rather than pretend otherwise

You might need to “read between the lines” of your parts’ stories about their connections to the fantasy to infer their unmet needs; you can hold these inferences lightly and check them out with your parts in ongoing (ideally daily) conversations.

  1.  Note any additional details

As your time of recollection draws to a close, make any additional notes.

After you’ve completed these eight steps, take the time to thank your parts for their trust, input, and cooperation.  If you mean it, let them know that you will meet with them again soon.  Take a few deep breaths if it’s helpful, and perhaps invoke our Lady, Undoer of Knots and St. John the Baptist in a brief closing prayer.

Eight-step process in action ~ shared resources with an example

For those of you with an interested in pursuing this systematic process to approach a problematic daydream with your parts, I’m offering an ‘8-steps’ worksheet that Souls and Hearts staff member Bridget Adams created specifically to assist you with your inner connection work with your parts on their daydreams. The ‘8-steps’ worksheet can serve as a guide and/or a check-list to help with the YOU-turn process outlined in this week’s message.

That worksheet is available for download in Word format and also in a PDF document.

I am also offering a sample, completed worksheet with fictional notes from “Roy,” our 25-year-old daydreamer pictured above, as he worked with his parts and explored his daydreams of revenge against his boss; check that example out in a downloadable Word or PDF document.   

If you find these resources useful and/or have feedback to share about this ‘8-step’ process, send me an email at [email protected] or leave me a voicemail on my cell phone 317.567.9594.  I’m curious to know how this interior work lands with your parts.  

Next week…

Next week, we will go beyond understanding our parts through their fantasies to the next stage – helping those parts get their attachment and integrity needs met.  Stay tuned for that. 

Interior Integration for Catholics – new episodes!

Last Monday, I released episode 122 titled Narcissism and gaslighting: What Catholics should know.  In this 98-minute episode, we review several definitions of gaslighting, discuss the tactics of gaslighting, explore the inner experience of both gaslighters and gaslightees, describe gaslighting in the workplace and with children, and list the four relationship dynamics of gaslighting.  Then we describe how gaslighting and being gaslighted connects to deep, unmet attachment and integrity needs.  We also address the special aspects of spiritual gaslighting with examples.  Finally, we cover how to assess whether you are being gaslighted, describe recovery from gaslighting and address gaslighting from an Internal Family Systems perspective.  Check that out.  Thank you to all the Souls and Hearts members who called or emailed with questions, you made that episode much richer. 

Also, come join Souls and Hearts co-founder and author Dr. Gerry Crete and me for the live recording of Interior Integration for Catholics Episode 123, Relating well with narcissistic family members.  This episode will be recorded live on Wednesday evening, October 11 from 7:30 to 9:00 PM Eastern time and you can register for the Zoom meeting with this link.  Right now, we have 37 signed up, and we can take up to 100.  Dr. Gerry, a marriage and family therapist, will answer questions about how best to relate and connect with those near you who have narcissistic subsystems in a way that preserves your dignity and allows for appropriate limits and boundaries. You can submit questions anonymously during the episode if you would like via the Zoom chat.  Episode 123 will air on October 16, 2023.

Meet me in Denver on October 25, 2023 from noon to 5:00 PM local time…

I will be in Denver later this month, and will host a gathering for Souls and Hearts members at the Augustine Institute from noon to 5:00 PM on Wednesday October 25, 2023.  Catholics who engage with these weekly reflections, listen to the IIC podcast, or are members of the RCC or ITC are welcome to attend, provided they can engage well with experiential exercises.  Here’s the schedule for the afternoon:


12:00 PM to 12:40 PM           Mass at the Augustine Institute

12:45 PM to 1:30 PM             Lunch at the AI (bring your own, or pre-order)

1:30 PM to 1:40 PM               Brief introductions

1:40 PM to 2:00 PM               Group experiential exercise -- connecting with a

(struggling) manager

2:00 PM to 2:15 PM               Debriefing from the experiential exercise

2:15 PM to 2:45 PM               Demonstration of IFS

2:45 PM to 3:00 PM               Debriefing from the demo

3:00 PM to 3:10 PM               Break

3:10 PM to 3:35 PM               Experiential: Five ways to pray the Rosary with your

parts (we will use pray the Glorious Mysteries)

3:35 PM to 4:00 PM               Debrief from Rosary experience and Q&A

4:00 PM to 5:00 PM               Social Hour nearby

Admission is by invitation only as space is limited – if you can make it, reach out to me at [email protected] to reserve a place by October 20, 2023. Put “Denver invitation” in the subject line of the email. 

My guest appearance on The Crab and the Cross

On The Crab and the Cross MaryRose Depperschmidt interviews theologians, philosophers, priests, authors, evangelists, scientists, artists and other Catholic professionals from across the ideological spectrum on topics pertaining to faith, spirituality, and culture. These explorative conversations are meant to surprise, instruct, and inspire the listeners to seek Truth in unexpected places.

In episode 36, released last week and titled Is this a Spiritual or a Psychological Problem? Spiritual Bypassing, Trauma, and Healing with Dr. Peter Malinoski, MaryRose and I discuss the recent shift in psychology towards focusing on trauma, how this connects to the concept of original sin, spiritual bypassing, and how our unhealed wounds can inhibit our relationship with God.  I encourage you to check that out, and thanks again to MaryRose for having me on the podcast. 

Invitation for Catholic therapists, counselors, and graduate students in mental health fields to train with me…

I still have two more spaces open in my Foundation Experiential Group which will meet on Fridays from 11:15 AM to 12:45 PM Eastern Time, starting on October 13, 2023 – this is an opportunity for Catholic clinicians to do their own internal, parts-based integration work, informed by Internal Family Systems and grounded in a Catholic anthropology. The Foundation Experiential Group will run for 10 sessions over the next five months. 

Also, I am starting an Advanced Experiential Group for Catholic clinicians with some IFS experience.  We will work through Alison Cook and Kimber Miller’s book Boundaries for Your Soul, which is the best Christian IFS book that has yet been published.  Find out much more on our Interior Therapist Community landing page, and email me at [email protected] or reach me on my cell phone at 317.567.9594 if you are interested in the FEG or AEG. 

Be With the Word for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dr. Gerry and I invite you to our conversation about work in this week’s 38-minute episode titled How to find peace that surpasses all understanding. In that episode, Dr. Gerry and I discuss how anxiety is often a symptom as well as a barrier to our relationship with God. Learn how our cognitions affect our mood and how turning to meditation and prayer can bring an unsurpassing peace. You can listen to the Mass readings here.

Keep on praying for us!

Every good thing we do at Souls and Hearts is fueled by prayer.  Please keep Souls and Hearts, our staff and members, and me in your prayers as we take on several new initiatives:

  1. We are doing some significant upgrades to parts of our website to make them easier to access and much more searchable
  2. We have just hired Pam Malinoski (my dear bride) as a program manager to help us with some long-needed program development
  3. We are working to get more transcripts of the Interior Integration for Catholics podcast up
  4. We are reaching out to more Catholic professionals to help create Souls and Hearts content
  5. We are developing an exciting experience that we will likely make available in January 2024

And know that we are praying for you as well.  Thank you for being with us on this pilgrimage to much better human formation.

Warm regards in Christ and His Mother,

Dr. Peter


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