The Trinity Within

By Allison Bailey Jorgensen

I want to propose a thought experiment, for the sake of illustrating how we might look at our ‘Selves’ in relation to God. But first, I need to outline a schema that Dr. Dick Schwartz proposes for us on how we define the ‘self.’ The chart below visualizes a way of conceiving the components that comprise the Self. This schema has been labeled “Internal Family Systems.”

We all need (and struggle) to have each of these parts balanced to find our “Self.” If you think about it, the ultimate in mental illness might be thought of as the parts of ourselves becoming estranged and disintegrated from each other (think ‘multiple personalities’). Integrating our ‘parts,’ then, puts us on the path to wholeness and integration. As we allow for integration, balance and acceptance of all of our parts, we become whole…Just as God, the Three-in-One, is whole and integrated with the parts of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (using the traditional words for the Trinity).

Let’s apply the Internal Family System, this tri-part concept, to the Holy Trinity:

• Father or ‘Parent’: (commensurate with ‘The Manager’ part of our Self)

• Son or ‘Child’: (commensurate with ‘The Exile’ part of our Self)

• Holy Spirit: (commensurate with ‘The Rescuer’ part of our Self)

Luke 22:38-39, 41-44 says the following…

Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” and 41-44 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

This time, as you think about Jesus in the Garden, I’m going to have you imagine how this situation might have played out if God was NOT ‘Love Incarnate.’

We might picture this: The ‘Father part’ of the Trinity would’ve looked downat Jesus (without Love), and said: “Dammit, you HAVE to do this! You MUST do this because I am your Father, and I am commanding you to go to the Cross! Get your shit together and just DO it or I will smack you upside the head! In fact, I think you need to punish yourself. Inflict some pain on yourself! Then you’ll be acceptable…And, YOU, Spirit, you’re always excusing him, making him question my authority! You need to stop your whining!”

Maybe some of you have heard that type of communication from your earthly father, or some other authority figures in your life, or even within yourself when you are frustrated by your own behavior.

And then, The ‘Son part’ of the Trinity, would’ve responded (without Love): “You can’t take away my identity this way! How can you ask me to do this, give away my life, turn my life into nothingness and without any personal reality? It’s madness! And meaninglessness! Obviously you don’t love me! I’m outta here! And YOU, Spirit, you’re no help!” There may be times in your life where you responded in this way to others, or even within yourself.

And then, the ‘Spirit part,’ (without Love) would’ve said to The Father: “You are so full of yourself! How dare you ask this of him? And, you, ‘Son,’ look at you! You’re pathetic, such a wimp! What’s wrong with you? Here, have some tequila, that will make you feel better. Or better yet, how about you make a plan to exit this life, the ultimate choice of escape? That will solve it all!” You may have had these words and accusations swirling around in confusion when you are in pain.

But when we bring the addition of Love into this scenario, the picture becomes very different.

God the Loving Parent listens to Jesus’ cry, “Let this cup pass from me.” He gives him time to process, to cry, to actually sweat blood in his agony. And Jesus communicates to his Loving Parent that because of love, he will accept the cross. (“Not my will, but thine be done,” Luke 22:42). And immediately, the Rescuer (Holy Spirit) sent angels to minister and comfort Jesus in his time of need, recognizing and validating his suffering and giving him the strength he needed to face the task ahead. (Luke 22:43) All three ‘parts’ show up, communicate, have a conversation, allow love to come into suffering, and the outcome becomes resilience in the face of pain, reconciliation, redemption, and resurrection.

We spend our lives trying to get the ‘Protector’ parts (the ‘Manager’ and the ‘Rescuer’) to deny the needs and anguish of our wounded, depersonalized Exile parts of ourselves. As the Manager (the self-righteous Pharisaical, judgmental tyrant father part) and the Rescuer (the escapist, desire for comfort, give me drugs and alcohol part of ourselves) duel it out in their desire to create survival and salvation for us, we become brittle. Binary systems are easily broken, are shallow, and eventually disintegrate. To find our way out of the binary, dialectical push-pull of the Manager <> Rescuer parts of ourselves, we need to allow for and embrace the wounded Exile parts of ourselves, as Jesus did, by entering into our suffering as humans so that we might participate in the glory of being human, as Jesus did. 1Peter 4:13.

As we approach the existential angst of the Exiled parts of ourselves, and create a conversation between the Loving Parent, the Comforting Rescuer, and the Wounded Child within, we find the Third Way that Jesus says He is. We find the stability of a triangle, like a mountain, the Rock upon which we stand.

Love changes our pain into something meaningful, makes us real, and valid, and our dying with Him in the human experience becomes His way to create redemption. The only way out of this painful human condition is through the Third Way of Jesus. Love changes giving up, letting go, and the nihilism of the Cross, into something meaningful and full of redemption. God as Love changes everything.

Allison Bailey Jorgensen is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She supports those struggling with suicidality, anxiety and depression, mood disorders, grief, and addictive behaviors by utilizing IFS, Somatic, Inner-Child, and Mindfulness modalities.

To purchase the book from which this essay comes, see Love Does Not Control: Therapists, Psychologists, and Counselors Explore Uncontrolling Love