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Have you ever been going through a painful time in your life, but for the life of you, you cannot figure out why? How you got here or why this particular thing is so painful?

I feel like this happens to me every other day, and has been a huge reason why I sought help in many ways. Since then I have also very much enjoyed learning about the human person from the Catholic perspective and found lots of podcasts along the way. Once in particular is Dr. Peter Malinoski’s podcast Interior Integration For Catholics. The podcast was started as a response to the general freakout during the pandemic lockdown and it is an absolute goldmine of psychological wisdom and teaching through a Catholic world view. 

In Podcast #62, I recently came across a list of needs we have as human beings that can and do go unmet and can be the cause of a lot of pain and dysfunction in our life. When these needs aren’t met, it leads to a foundational crack in our identity and often causes us to seek for the needs to be “met” in the wrong places. Dr. Peter identifies two kinds of needs,  Integrity Needs and Attachment Needs.

Integrity Needs:

1. My need to exist and thrive.

2. My need to matter.

3. My need to have agency.

4. My need to be Good.

5. My need for mission and purpose.

Attachment Needs:

1.My need for felt safety and protection in relationships.

2.My need for a felt sense of being seen, heard, known and understood.

3. My need for a felt sense of being comforted, soothed and reassured.

4. My need for a felt sense of being valued, treasured, delighted in, and cherished.

5. My need for a felt sense of support for my highest good.

I have been spending a lot, I mean, a looooot of time thinking about this lately and how it ties into everything else I am learning about the foundation of the human person through a Catholic lens and I am going to blend what I have learned as best I can here to share my understanding of the concepts.

You see, since I’ve started coaching I’ve been trying my best to notice patterns and common pain points in order to become a more efficient coach and help people flesh out and understand their experience. What I’ve come to realize is that we know when something isn’t right, but we often have trouble describing it, saying it and have no idea where it came from. 

When I came across these identity needs from Dr. Malinoski, in addition to the work of Dr. Bob Schuts with inner healing in relation to emotional wounds, all the training I received from my coaching program, my own personal research and experience, things started to click. I want to try to compile it all here and share it with you all.

Now, when I am working with someone we usually start at the top of a problem and work our way down to the root. However, for the purpose of explaining my understanding of the human person’s progression of life experience, to emotional pain and resulting behaviors that annoy them enough to seek help, I think it’s more helpful to start at the origin and work our way to behaviors you all may recognize. 

So I will break the human person’s emotional experience of life within 5 Categories, very much inspired Dr. Malinoski’s work. I believe there are five core foundational pillars that must be rock solid within the inner knowing of a person for them to function well in daily life and be able to be in relationship with others successfully.

My five pillars are to have knowledge of and conviction of the following: 

  1. My right to Exist 
  2. That I am the one in charge of my life and am not a victim of circumstance 
  3. That I have a unique mission particular to only me that only I can fulfill.
  4. That the purpose of living life well is ultimately to be supremely happy – a saint in the Kingdom of Heaven.
  5. That I am Worthy of Love

#1  My Right to Exist

You have the right to be here. Did you know that? It’s funny but the best way I can think of to sum this one up is the heart warming adage, “Because I said so!”, the “I” being God. We don’t have a say in whether or not we end up here, but He sure as heck has all the say in determining whether or not we exist in the first place!

So yea. I have a right to exist because I exist in the first place, which means I was willed and loved into existence by God Almighty and the only reason I continue to exist is because He continues to choose it. To object to this is to contend with Reality and when we do that, we lose 10 times out of ten. 

#2  I am the one in charge of my life and am not a victim of circumstance.

So much of the time I cannot choose what happens to me in this life, but I can always choose how I respond. Some of you may be nodding along, others, like myself will be thinking, “yea, except when I can’t because of x, y, and z.”  Well, Victor Frankl, tells us that there is a moment of pause between stimulus and response, a moment in which we actually choose what we do, whether we are aware of it or not, and it is our job as emotional adults to cultivate that awareness so we can make our choice with more freedom and intentionality. No one else can choose anything for us unless we have chosen to let them. More on that later…

#3  I have a unique mission particular to only me, one that only I can fulfill.

You have a fingerprint that is unique to only you. You have a particular set of strengths, desires, interests, a particular style and temperament that is only you and just so, God has crafted you for a particular mission. A calling. Some work that no one else can do, no one else would want to do and no one else would think to do just like you.

It’s hard not to fall into the trap of wishing we could do something like someone else or thinking that we should, but the funny thing is we weren’t made for that exact thing and the reason why they are doing it so well as that they were! Your blueprint and genetic make up is something quite different, so not only is the difference okay and good, it’s exactly as it should be!

#4  The purpose of living life well is ultimately to be supremely happy. 

This means sainthood, sharing in Heavenly Glory for all eternity. It’s not just for the lucky few people, this extension of glory is intended for all of us, but that means the challenge to get there is placed on us all as well. This challenge is the call to virtue. 

I think most people get confused about what will make them truly happy. They grow up thinking that the ultimate goal in life is to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. This is I think where the Catholic Church just hits the nail on the head in the most unapologetic but awesome way. Suffering is part of the journey. Suffering in a considerable way is the journey. It’s the part the makes for great stories, for transformation and is the reason for the joy and celebration at moments of breakthroughs and resolution.  

It is the most direct way to the happiness we desire. The problem is that most of us have an internal aversion to discomfort or pain, which causes us to resist the most direct route and find much longer, alternate routes. Unfortunately, most of the time, these detours result in even more pain, increasing the very experience we were resisting. In the most troublesome cases we can even lose our way entirely or forget where we were going!

We are on Earth. We were made to get to Heaven. The fastest way there is the life of Virtue. The life of choosing the hard for something magnificent. The amazing thing is that in doing so repeatedly and habitually, there comes a point where it becomes easy and delightful to choose and do the hard thing so that the hard thing is the easy thing. Ironic isn’t it? We were made for hard things, we just don’t know it.

#5  I am Worthy of Love

This one is a little more complex. In my own synthesis of various sources and theories, I have determined this one to have a three-fold root system of knowing and believing that 1) I am Good, 2) I Matter, and 3) I am Enough. If one can become convicted of all three of these beliefs, then one can believe that they are worthy of love and can then love well in return.

I Am Good.

You are made in the image of God, in the image of goodness itself.

I Matter.

The Creator of the stars decided you were someone worth dying for and did.

I Am Enough.

My strengths and weaknesses are on purpose. I am not the good or evil I do. Everything good is evidence of God in me and evil exists and has an influence on my human nature which is averse to pain and discomfort and will go to great lengths to avoid it. I am enough as I am because He made me that way on purpose, and wherever I lack is a place which God intends to fill when I ask Him to. 

I do not intend for these very short explanations to rock you to your core. Beliefs are not easily formed and not easily broken, especially when it comes to beliefs we have about our identity. Therefore, the work to correct and restore a foundation cracked in this particular area requires tenderness, care, and persistence. For some it takes their whole life, and that’s okay. It takes repeatedly catching the way we talk to ourselves, challenging our thoughts, renouncing any lies we have embraced and bringing them to God to speak truth into our hearts.

When we can finally rest in the Truth of who God is and the unique gift of who we are, we can go forward in life with an unshakeable foundation. We can become more efficient, less defensive, more confident, more self-assured, more compassionate and loving. We find it easier to allow people to be themselves, to give people space to figure “it” out. We realize we don’t need to have all the answers, and we can appreciate the uniqueness of the other and know it doesn’t take anything away from our own. We don’t need to be scandalized by our shortcomings or as irritated with others’. We get to be one among many. We get to be figuring it out along the way, just a fellow traveler on the journey, filled with hope on the march toward our heavenly home. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty great.


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