Amazing Possibilities!

Dr. Greg Bottaro - Interview with Matthew Kelly



Hi, I'm Matthew Kelly. I'm here with Greg Bottaro, founder and director of the CatholicPsych Institute. Greg, it's been a while, it's good to see you again. Thanks for coming to visit us again.



Greg Bottaro:

It's great to be here with you.


Matthew Kelly:

It's been a great partnership over the years, and we've done some amazing things together. I've got some very serious questions to get us started like, what is your favorite food?


Greg Bottaro:

I prefer a really good steak.


Matthew Kelly:

A really good steak?


Greg Bottaro:

Yeah, absolutely.


Matthew Kelly:

You're like an Italian guy.


Greg Bottaro:

I am an Italian guy.


Matthew Kelly:

What would your hundreds, thousands of years of ancestors turning over in their grave as you're like, "I'll take a steak."


Greg Bottaro:

It's true. I can't say I've had really good steak at Italy, but it's not the most amazing thing to do. But I do enjoy good steak.


Matthew Kelly:

Good, good, good. Second and very serious question, are you a coffee drinker?


Greg Bottaro:

Oh, I love coffee.


Matthew Kelly:

So there is some Italian there, right?


Greg Bottaro:

Yeah, there you go.


Matthew Kelly:

Italians do love their coffee.


Greg Bottaro:

Absolutely.


Matthew Kelly:

How much coffee do you drink?


Greg Bottaro:

I'm a little embarrassed to acknowledge that publicly. I probably have four or five espressos before noon, and then I'll have a coffee after lunch.


Matthew Kelly:

Excellent. Good, good, good. What about a favorite movie?


Greg Bottaro:

Ah, favorite movie, great question. Gosh, I have so many good ones. I'm totally drawing a blank right now.


Matthew Kelly:

That's okay. That's okay. It's been a while since we've sat down, what's going on in your life? What are you excited about? Update us a little.


Greg Bottaro:

Well, we have six kids, and my youngest is six months and we are just starting to settle in enough. We decided it's not crazy enough around here so let's get a dog, so last week we got a puppy. So we have six kids under eight, by the way, and now we have a puppy as well. So we've added that to the roster and it's amazing, we're having a lot of fun with it.


Matthew Kelly:

Boys or girls?


Greg Bottaro:

We have three boys and three girls.


Matthew Kelly:

Okay, very good. I hear you love building things.


Greg Bottaro:

That's true.


Matthew Kelly:

What do you like to build? And where did that love of building come from?


Greg Bottaro:

I grew up, my dad was always just tinkering, building, fixing, and we grew up in that environment. If it was something that you could fix or build yourself, then you just did it. And really took on a love for this with my wife. We were on a show, a little known fact, we were on an HGTV television show called Property Brothers. So we were on one of these TV shows where you renovate and fix up a property. And my wife and I caught a bug and we just loved it so much. So as soon as that crew left, we decided to add on another addition to that house. Then when we ran out of stuff to do on that little house, we sold it and we bought a bigger property that was abandoned for a year.


Greg Bottaro:

So we've spent the last year, we had something to do during quarantine, fixing up this new property, bring it back to life. Recently we moved to the outside as it started to warm up. So I cleared a big part of the yard, took down six huge trees, and then put in about a 3,000 square foot garden. So this is our latest project, building a bunch of raised planting boxes and then filling them and laying the whole thing out. Then we're going out and finding vegetables and flowers with the kids and figuring out how to plant it all out there. So that's been the biggest latest project.


Matthew Kelly:

All right. So you're the psychologist, all right? I'll lay that out there you are the psychologist, I am not the psychologist.


Greg Bottaro:

I feel like I'm about to get psychoanalyzed.


Matthew Kelly:

Six kids, the dog, the renovating the house, all of that sounds a little bit insane to me. And I'm just wondering what your professional opinion is as a psychologist.


Greg Bottaro:

Well, psychologists are notoriously good at ignoring our own psychopathology. So I actually don't have even beginning of an answer for you.


Matthew Kelly:

Other thing I hear about you is that you love sailing, used to sail.


Greg Bottaro:

Yes, definitely.


Matthew Kelly:

Don't get much of a chance anymore.


Greg Bottaro:

Yeah, that's true.


Matthew Kelly:

What did you love about sailing and what did it teach you about life?


Greg Bottaro:

Good question. I loved the raw power of nature and being really in tune with it and having to really respect it, but then realizing that by giving yourself over to it, with that respect and reverence, you can also go so much further and faster than anything you could do on your own. And so it became this exhilaration for me, and there's almost nothing more amazing as far as I can think of in nature in this created world than hiking out over the edge of a sailboat, holding nothing but that means sheet with your body flying over the water and hearing the rush and feeling the water slapping up. And that is just heaven to me. So what I learned there is to respect, to reverence the created order and to look for ways that it can help us to become better versions of ourselves.


Matthew Kelly:

So as a psychologist, one of the things I'm curious about in social settings, people inevitably ask, "What do you do?" When they learn that you're a psychologist, what reactions do you get?


Greg Bottaro:

Well, I do the best I can to hide the fact that I'm a psychologist in social settings. Usually I tell people I'm a painter or I'm an electrician. I say something that nobody's going to ask any follow-up questions to. But when people do know what I do, it's really hard. At first, people always assume that I can read their mind. So people are uncomfortable and nervous around me. I tell people all the time, "Listen, I only work when I'm getting paid. I'm not doing my job right now at this cocktail party, so don't worry about it." But then inevitably they want to open up and share, and it's this immediate access to people's interior life. And they're sharing their difficulties or their wounds or whatever else. Sometimes it's a lot to try to navigate when you're sipping on your cocktail and trying to talk about the sports, the Yankees or something else that's going on.


Matthew Kelly:

I can imagine, I can imagine. People come to therapy for all sorts of reasons. One thing I've often wondered is, do people sometimes come to therapy to avoid something rather than to face something?


Greg Bottaro:

Oh, wow. To avoid something, I think so. I think a lot of times people are surprised, if we really hang in there together, at what ends up coming up. And in most cases, what people end up working on in therapy is not what they came on the first day for. So a lot of times in that process, we can uncover things they might be avoiding actually needing to work on. And coming to therapy might just be their way of checking the box, they think they're doing everything they're supposed to do. I think unfortunately in a lot of therapeutic environments, the professional vault might go along with that and they might just get away with that. I know people have spun their wheels for years going to a therapist, but not really working on the deeper issues that need to be uncovered.


Matthew Kelly:

So if someone is thinking about seeing a therapist for the first time in their life, what advice would you have for them?


Greg Bottaro:

Find the right person. You're opening up your heart and your soul and the intimacy of your own interior life and likely your family life and all sorts of other areas to a stranger. And if you drive a nice car, you're going to find the mechanic that knows how to work on that car. if, you drive a piece of garbage car and you have a flat tire or something, maybe you don't care where you take it. But when you're taking your own interior life someplace to be worked on, it requires at least the same amount of effort in finding the right place. The way that we're built is so important when it comes to somebody fixing what might be broken. We need to have somebody who has a blueprint, an understanding of how we're built if they're going to offer some way of actually helping you. And that blueprint is what's missing in most of secular psychotherapy.


Matthew Kelly:

Is it because they've thrown God and spirituality away?


Greg Bottaro:

100%. Without that foundation, there's no grounding in which to really understand anything that we're observing through science. The science is so important, it's about measuring the observable world around us, testing it, proving hypotheses or no hypothesis, these things are important. But without that grounding on that foundation of our spiritual dimension, our eternal dimension, what we're made for, we won't be able to make sense of what we're observing. So these secular modalities are really just shooting in the dark trying to figure out how to make sense of what we're observing. And at the end of the day, if we don't have that spiritual blueprint, if we don't understand we're made in the image of God, that we're headed towards divine union with God, we're not going to be able to really make headway with what we're seeing.


Matthew Kelly:

So in economics, there's a theory, sunk cost bias, where someone buys something, it's no longer worth what they bought it for but they keep investing into it or keep holding onto it thinking that it will one day return to its previous value. Sometimes people will say, "Oh, yes, I've been seeing this therapist for three years or five years or longer." And you asked that person, "Okay, well, what is it about that relationship that works for you?" Or, "Do you feel like your therapist is a really good fit for you?" And they'll often say, "Actually, no. But I've been with her for so long or I've been with him for so long." So they've got this sunk cost bias. They have a sense that it's not really working, but this person knows all about their life, this person knows all about their family, knows the things they struggle with. So they're hesitant to make a shift-


Greg Bottaro:

Yeah, definitely.


Matthew Kelly:

... and move to a therapist who might be able to help them more effectively or in a deeper way. What would you say to that person?


Greg Bottaro:

It's really subtle and it's sometimes not as obvious even as realizing this isn't really going anywhere. Sometimes it feels like this is the best that I can get because that person only knows that one box that they've checked. So they don't even realize that they're missing out on something better. So sometimes I offer an outside perspective of some more objective criteria. if you're with somebody it's not just about... Everybody thinks rapport is important, it is very important, you have to have rapport, but being challenged is also very important. So if you have a therapist that you never feel challenged by, that's going to be a problem. Your therapist is not just your best friend, it's not the person to just always validate everything you do, there should be deep validation of who you are as a person. But then also there should be this momentum moving forward, there's a growth, there's a trajectory. And if you can't see that there's actually a growth and a trajectory happening, then it's probably time to take a step back and reevaluate.


Matthew Kelly:

So this challenging piece that you talk about is a part of every relationship. Whenever we're trying to help other people become the best version of themselves, that there should be challenge, there should be encouragement, there should be both of these things. How do you know how much you can challenge a patient?


Greg Bottaro:

To be totally honest, I don't always know. To be really honest, I make mistakes on that line, and it can be really difficult. So it's a little bit of a give and take in terms of putting myself out there, and then if I make a mistake, also having the humility to acknowledge it and even to apologize if necessary. But at the same time, you develop an insight, a little intuition into having a grounding and some rapport, like there's enough of a connection here. And I also know, based on my own heart's disposition. Because I really love my patients and I can tell what's going on with the relationship based on what's going on inside of me. As I'm growing in understanding of this person and growing in love with this person, I know that we're on solid ground.


Greg Bottaro:

I've had the experience of being more challenged to develop that sense of love within myself for certain patients. So I can also figure out like, "Okay, what's my stuff getting in the way here?" And I'll take that to my own work. I have my own therapy, I have my own colleagues that I go to for support. And then I'll like work on who does this person remind me of? Or what is coming up? What are my fears? What are my insecurities? And then once I move those blocks, then I come back and I can redevelop and try to regain that traction with the patient. So as that's happening, I have that internal compass that lets me know, all right, we're ready to take that next step because I'm ready to take that next step. I'm not going to lose the connection that I've developed or need to develop.


Matthew Kelly:

So you've got your life going on here and then you've got all the lives of your patients that you're intimately involved in. You come home at night, wife, kids, dog, what has having six children taught you about fatherhood?


Greg Bottaro:

Well, I'm still work in progress, still learning a lot. But one thing I realized from training in my doctorate and learning how to be a professional psychologist is how to let go of the things that are not my responsibility to hold on to. I think, I hope that I'm learning little by little how to do that with my kids as well. I pour my heart and soul into my kids, into my marriage, into those relationships as the most important in my life. And yet at the same time, at the end of the day, I can't be responsible ultimately for the decisions that they make. So in some small way, there's a connection there. I think it's a lot harder lesson to learn with family life. But as I continue along, realizing that ultimately God is the one who's responsible for this mess. And whatever we do to make the mess worse, he's definitely more capable than we are of cleaning it up. So just like with my patients, with my family, with my marriage, with everything else, I have to just put it back in his hands at the end of the day.


Matthew Kelly:

So what advice would you have for someone who's about to become a father for the first time?


Greg Bottaro:

Fatherhood for the first time is get on your knees. I think the most important lesson I've learned, and I'm learning still, again, is to be a son first and to understand the fatherhood of God is what gives direction to everything about our life. And the more that I learn, the more that I grow in my prayer life and my spirituality and my work and my family, it all comes back down to being children. I just keep thinking this over and over again, we're just children, we're just kids. We don't have any idea what we're actually doing. It's such a load of baloney that we think we're in control of this so we understand this. At the end of the day, we don't really know what we're doing. And if we can climb up into the father's lap and give it all to him at the end and let him take care of it, whatever part he wants to share with us in leading and fathering and building or controlling, it's going to be blessed because it's only in context with what he actually gives us.


Matthew Kelly:

So juxtaposed to that, what mistake do you see parents making all the time?


Greg Bottaro:

I forget what I just said. And then pretend, I fall into the illusion that I'm in control. And it's like, if the kids aren't following these rules, if dinnertime isn't totally orderly and peaceful, if X, Y, Z doesn't go as planned, I act as if my plan's not happening. I am not in control so I need to try to use anger or frustration or impatience to wrestle back control. And that's when I lose it, that's when whatever I built up is dissipated. It's like that's when it's gone and that's what needs to be repented of and reclaimed.


Matthew Kelly:

When you get into that space, are you aware you're in that space, you catch yourself in that space?


Greg Bottaro:

I've grown in that a lot. A lot of the work that I do professionally, thank God, is very deeply personal. And so it's one of the benefits of what I get to do, walking this walk with so many people. I learn so much for myself, and so I do benefit from that. I think I've grown a lot in that self-awareness. So I can't say that it means that I don't do it anymore or don't have those voices or don't have those parts of me, but I have awareness of those parts in a way that I never did before. And that does give me some sense of being able to step back from it.


Matthew Kelly:

Do you think that parents are more aware today of how their parenting impacts their children forever than they were 20 years ago, 50 years ago?


Greg Bottaro:

I'd like to say yes, but unfortunately, I think the content has just shifted. I don't think awareness has grown. I think we look back on 50 years ago and say, "How did parents not realize that they were doing this to their kids?" But I see the same exact dynamics happening today. I think parents 50 years ago, I can only assume, were just as well intentioned as parents today are. But what we understand content wise changes, but the dynamics of that interior life, of inner awareness, of being there to be a gift for others, those are the eternal truths that we all have to grow in, probably since the beginning of time, probably till the end of time. So I don't think that's really changed.


Matthew Kelly:

Well, what's something that parents are doing today that others will look back 50 years from now and say, "I can't believe parents were doing that 50 years ago?"


Greg Bottaro:

Technology. I think parents have swung the pendulum too far. Whereas before, maybe 50 years ago, there's too much strict harshness. And now I hear parents tell me all the time, "I can never take away Johnny's cell phone, iPad, tablet, whatever." Like, "Of course, I couldn't do that. They'll never be able to communicate with their friends, they'll never this, they'll never that, they'll hate me forever." That's ridiculous. I think once we understand the brain neurology, once we understand the addictions, once we understand the way that technology is warping our understanding of ourselves, of God, of relationship, that's going to be something that 50 years from now, people will look back and say, "I can't believe those parents from the 2000s that they let their kids do all that." So I think we're going to have to answer for that.


Matthew Kelly:

So parents, friends of mine have a 13 year old. They asked me recently what I thought about them giving their 13 year old a cell phone. I asked them to talk about it, I asked them what their opinions were, what their daughter was saying to them, and what her friend was saying to her and what other parents had shared with them as parents. They were approaching it thoughtfully, but you could tell they were really struggling with it. What it ultimately came down to was that all her friends had one. And I asked them, "Okay, let's imagine for a moment none of her friends had one, would you be the first parent to give your child a cell phone in this social group?" And they didn't like that. I think it brought some clarity that was maybe...


Matthew Kelly:

It's like sometimes you go to someone for advice and you want them to tell you what you want them to tell you. And they don't tell you that, so then you go to the next person, and then the next person and then the next person until someone tells you what you want to hear and then you say, "You're a very wise person. I'm really glad I sought your advice because you've told me exactly what I wanted to hear to begin with." So I think parents are in this dilemma. It seems parents struggle to do things that are counter-cultural. How do we encourage parents to have the wisdom, the inner strength, whatever it is it takes to make counter-cultural choices for themselves, and then to teach their children to do the same?


Greg Bottaro:

This is the answer that the parents are probably not looking for, but in order to be counter-cultural, you have to have a culture, and parents are lazy. I give into this myself sometimes too. So this is not pointing fingers, but this is just naming a thing what it is. And if we don't take a step back and have an intentionality to the way we live our life, then we are swept away with whatever else somebody else is deciding should be the way we live our life. Of course, that's not one person, that's a whole movement. And that might be guided by technology, big corporations, media, whatever it is. The point is, we all have the strength, the capacity, and the calling to create our own culture. But it takes intentionality.


Greg Bottaro:

It means we just have to decide at one point to say, "I'm going to take a step back, I'm going to pray and write a family mission statement. I'm going to decide what we stand for. I'm going to give my children something different not because I'm trying to react to culture, but because I'm trying to be procreative and actually create something good. And if it happens to be against something in culture, sure, we'll stand up against what's in culture. Maybe it'll be for some of the things in culture. But we're going to have a justification for why we're doing it."


Greg Bottaro:

If you have that justification, it's not a fight anymore. It means you've grounded yourself in who you believe your mission to be, and then it's easy. But it's impossible to tell a parent to fight against culture when you're not giving them something else to stand on. So I totally understand why parents are frustrated and why they're looking for different answers. So we need to give them that first step, which is to say, "Build your own culture first. And then it's going to make sense why you're going to say no to those things. And your kids have something else that they can believe in you for. And even if it's difficult for them, they're going to have a reason at least to go along with what you're saying."


Matthew Kelly:

Powerful. I'm struck by your comment, "Parents are lazy." I think that looks like a headline to me. I think a lot of parents will hear that an object to that. I think it's like if you say to someone you're stingy, people automatically react to that because most people think of themselves as generous. I think if you say to someone you're lazy, I think people automatically react to that because most people don't think of themselves as lazy. I think that is uniquely true for parents. When you say parents are lazy, say a little bit more about that so that there's not 50 million comments on this video about that one comment.


Greg Bottaro:

Well, listen again, let me say it again, I am lazy and I am stingy and I...


Greg Bottaro:

And I am stingy and I have imperfections and brokenness inside of me. So I'm not at all sitting here saying from a position of perfection, this is what everybody else is doing wrong. This is me saying, I feel that disappointment that parents feel when kids are off track, I feel that way too. And when I look inside myself, this is what I come up with. And I realize that there's a lot more that I can actually affect when I look at myself first. And so I also realize that it's not a general judgment on somebody's identity. When I say I am lazy, I don't mean that I'm identifying myself as a lazy person. What I'm saying is I have parts of me that are lazy and I have parts of me that are stingy and I have parts of me that are selfish.


Greg Bottaro:

And I have parts of me that want to just be in control of everything and not take orders from anybody and not even submit to father and heaven, parts of me. And a lot of times what I find is when people don't accept some of those parts, those negative parts, those distasteful parts, we end up repressing and then sending those parts into the dark where they're going to continue to do battle. And a lot of times they win.


Greg Bottaro:

So sometimes those lazy parts come out, sometimes those selfish parts come out and that's what ends up sort of ruling the day. So none of that is to say that parents don't have certainly plenty on their plate, certainly plenty to fight against, and we need support. We need to support each other. We need to not be name calling, not calling anybody in the name of laziness. But we want to be able to work together, to build community around supporting what is good and actually helping each other with what's not good and building each other up and carrying one another's burdens. But we have to first recognize that there's burdens and there's imperfections so that we can actually present them to each other for that kind of support.


Matthew Kelly:

So when you look at your own childhood and I have these little people running around, how do you absolutely want their childhood to be different to your childhood?


Greg Bottaro:

You know, my childhood was in many ways, very happy. And I came from upper middle class and my parents loved me very much, but they were fighting for a really long time. And eventually when I was 17, they got divorced. And what I realized was, that sort of atmosphere marked their marriage for a very, very, very long time. It's not like something just happened all of a sudden then they got divorced and looking back now I can see that my relationship with my siblings was contentious and relationship with each of my parents was contentious at times. And the parents formed a foundation for the family that was very broken, eventually cracked entirely apart. And I carry that within myself today.


Greg Bottaro:

And so everything that I think about giving to my kids is to restore that crack, to fix that foundation and give them something that they can build on. The greatest joy of my life is seeing my kids be each other's best friend and understand that even though my wife and I fight, we have our issues, we work through them. But in order for our kids to have that kind of friendship with each other, it must mean on some level, we must be creating a solid unified foundation. And so that's what I hope and pray we can give to our kids that I didn't have growing up.


Matthew Kelly:

It's powerful. What, obviously lots of people seek therapy surrounding issues in marriage. What is the most common mistake you see couples making in marriage?


Greg Bottaro:

Common mistake is, Well it's really a deep self centeredness and practically it becomes a matter of wanting one's own self to be known more than wanting to know the other. And all we long for is to be known, we're made to be loved. And then we're bringing ourselves to each other at this most deepest, most intimate level and feeling the terror of not being known by the other and in subtle ways that happens.


Greg Bottaro:

And it takes this heroic act of courage to put that to the side and step out of that terror of the unknown to know the other, takes an incredible act of the will. And it takes somebody like Christ, giving us an example to follow and say, do this and follow me, cause this is the way to life and to happiness, to have any reason to even believe that this is the right thing to do. Otherwise, this is insane. So to put oneself to the side like that, and to enter in with the loving, instead of just waiting to be loved is the way, and when that doesn't happen, it leads to disaster. Two people who are vulnerable to each other, but only looking for their own needs to be filled creates division and disaster 100% of the time.


Matthew Kelly:

When couples come to therapy, how often have they waited too long to come?


Greg Bottaro:

Oh, every time.


Matthew Kelly:

Every time?


Greg Bottaro:

Every time.


Matthew Kelly:

What prevents them from coming sooner?


Greg Bottaro:

The stigma of therapy. I think people think of therapy as, if it's a necessary evil, it's not for us but it's for other people. And there's not a culture of stewardship of our emotional and spiritual lives that is consistent with a fully integrated understanding of ourself. I mean, a lot of people don't even go to a physical checkup enough, but even those people who do it's even less that will say, my spiritual, emotional life deserves a checkup as well. And so we end up in the situation where we only go to the doctor, if we're really really sick, if we're really can't do it on our own anymore. And you only go to a psychologist or a psychotherapist when we're way beyond the point of reason.


Greg Bottaro:

So there's certain people out there that promote, I love listening to Terry Crews and he's got a really beautiful marriage and he struggled with pornography and he talks about this stuff very openly and publicly. And what I love about his platform is that he talks about how it's healthy and natural, and it builds up his marriage to go to marriage therapy every year. And they have like the best sex life, the best love life, the best intimacy, because they see their relationship as something that needs that outside help to continue to build up and work on. And that's what I think is an ideal way to look at it. And so we have to have that humility and that trust in the process to open up to that. Most people don't, they wait until it's all crumbling and on fire, and then they show up and they're like, "Go ahead, fix this." And a lot of times it takes a lot of work on both parts to be able to do something with that.


Matthew Kelly:

In our lives, if we want to be excellent at anything, we usually seek training, counsel, emulate the best in the field, look for best practices, nothing more important in life than relationships. Why do we think we can do it without any of that?


Greg Bottaro:

I think there's a lot of reasons and I don't think it's so simple. I think on one hand, there's a lot of hucksters out there. I think there's a lot of people just capitalizing on emotional difficulty and people are trying to get help and they're not getting help. Their friends are trying to get help and their friends aren't getting help. So think that there's something to be said for going back again to this idea of a blueprint, a lot of mental health doesn't have the right blueprint. So on one hand, it's just a really difficult process. And on the other, I think we have this illusion of self-sufficiency, that we want to be able to take care of it ourself. We know best, we're in control, that's the best way to protect ourselves if we are the one managing control over everything. And it takes a lot of vulnerability and humility to put ourselves out there for somebody else to help us.


Matthew Kelly:

How often is the problem that one person is willing to put themselves out there, but the other person is not in the same space.


Greg Bottaro:

In terms of a marital work?


Matthew Kelly:

Yeah and a couple.


Greg Bottaro:

Yeah, so I mean, pretty much every time that's going to be the case. Usually there's so much defensiveness because of so much hurt and it's one person that will sort of break open to that need first. And then the second person has a long way to go before they believe it's possible that they should drop their defenses, drop their guard and even hope that this can be resolved. So it takes a lot of work and you have to kind of navigate like, which person needs the most attention right now, who to build up rapport and earn trust with first or who's in most need, so that we can sort of go this way and then this way, and like back and forth and figuring out who to work with and in what way to navigate that difficulty.


Matthew Kelly:

I have a friend who's a head coach for NFL team. And I asked him once, like, "Who's the hottest team to talk to?" He said, "team that's winning. They're on a winning streak. They think they know how to do it. That unlisted in the locker room." I said, "Who's the easiest person or who's easiest team to talk to." I'll never forget. He looked me straight in the eye and he said, "Sonny," he said, "Nobody listens like a desperate person." I thought about it a lot since he said it. And I wonder if it's true, because I sometimes think like desperate people, they like, yes, they're desperate, but they still won't listen. You had that experience in therapy?


Greg Bottaro:

Yeah, I think it's probably a little harder, the more interior we're talking and when we get into the desperation that comes from-


Matthew Kelly:

There's something more interior than football. This is America. We cannot-


Greg Bottaro:

I know, I'm treading on dangerous territory.


Matthew Kelly:

Very dangerous conversation.


Greg Bottaro:

We're going to have to just suspend judgment for a moment and just let us go forward.


Matthew Kelly:

Carry on.


Greg Bottaro:

I think we're talking about the inner recesses of our spiritual life, our emotional life, our sense of self identity, the way that relates to the universe and destiny. I mean, these are really powerful realities. And we're opening these things up to the pain and suffering that most of us are constantly protecting against. I mean, this is really dangerous stuff. So it's not just surgery on the table with a scalpel opening and closing the body. This is surgery of the heart opening and closing the soul. So there's a lot of reason to be really guarded and defensive here. And a lot of people suffer with very deep desperation and all it does is cause more defensiveness and guardedness.


Greg Bottaro:

And in many ways I say, "Rightly so, good for you." One thing I do a lot of work with is helping people have more compassion on themselves. Even the parts you don't like about yourself, even your guardedness, your defensiveness, even your anxiety disorder, even your depression, compassion because at the end of the day, thank God you have a survival instinct. That's created a defense mechanism that helps you get through the terrifying things you've lived through in your life. And it doesn't even have to be huge capital T trauma for a child being yelled at by dad can be the worst experience of a person's life. So if we have parts that emerge as a survival instinct, that's how God made us. Thank God. So we have to understand first how to have compassion, compassion for ourselves, for all our parts. And then we established some safe ground. Sometimes I lead the charge and saying, it's okay to talk about these things and we can start to open these things up.


Matthew Kelly:

So you touch on something that I've thought a lot about, spent the last 30 years traveling around, speaking to people in businesses and churches and all sorts of venues, but a lot in churches. And I'm astounded how prevalent self-loathing, shame, lack of empathy for self is, in an environment like church, where the teaching is exactly the opposite of that. What's your reflection on that?


Greg Bottaro:

Yeah, I have a pretty strong opinion about this.


Matthew Kelly:

Lets have it.


Greg Bottaro:

And I hope it's not too bold or too far field.


Matthew Kelly:

There's no such thing.


Greg Bottaro:

But I think that, and it's not even a reflection of our current church or the current anything. This has been hundreds of years of God, trying to tell us over and over again, how much he loves us and we don't get it. We are so thick, especially in the church environment. And we can go all the way back. I mean, we could go all the way back to Jesus Christ himself. I mean, hello, what else do we need? But apparently we needed more. So we need 2000 years of the saints and divine revelation. We need Jesus appearing to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, talking about his sacred heart. The divine love captured within the finitude of his humanity, offered to us to bring us to his divinity.


Greg Bottaro:

We don't get it. We need Faustina to hear the revelation of divine mercy, his ocean of mercy, that will swallow every bit of our imperfection. We don't get it. We need Therese, we need John Paul II. We need the theology of the body. Love, love, love, love. We don't get it. And meanwhile, people are leaving the church. People are wounded by the church. The church lowercase C is wounded is off on all sorts of different trajectories. We don't get it. And at the end of the day, all God was trying to say is, I love you. God is love, but we don't get it. And people say this all the time. They talk the talk, they have a devotion to divine mercy. They pray the Chaplet. They have a devotion to the set. And then it's like, all right, let's just talk about the last hour of your life.


Greg Bottaro:

Tell me the things that went through your head. Just tell me, like, what kind of self criticisms went through your head? What kind of shame are you carrying about yourself, your body, how much money you make, your family life, your vocation, and you just go down the list. And eventually inevitably you list five things. One of them is going to hit, and then they're like, "ah." And then I go like this. What do you feel about yourself for feeling that feeling? Oh yeah, it's terrible. Like, there we go again. You don't even have compassion on your lack of compassion.


Greg Bottaro:

At what point do we realize Jesus came to love us. He went to every corner in every pocket of sinner to love them. He sought the sinners and he didn't show up saying, "Hey, sinner, I'm here for you." He said, "I love you." And then they were captured by his gaze, by his love, by his compassion. And then they want to know more about how to be better. They want to know how to enter into his love. Of course, that's the second step. But we're so bent in our church, on that second step being the first step. We love the sinner, but we hate to sin. So let's make sure we're making every sinner know where they're sinning because we hate that sin. Like, we don't get it. And meanwhile, we're preaching to smaller and smaller and smaller parishes and there's less and less and less money. And the bishops are looking around going, "what's happening here? Oh, must be the culture." Has nothing to do with the culture, has to do with not getting it. Not listening, not hearing God tell us how much he loves us. That's what we need as the church to believe so that we can proclaim that loudly and proudly and bring people into that beauty and give them the healing that they're looking for.


Matthew Kelly:

You spoke earlier about family and we talking now about church, spoke about parents, rejecting the culture, resisting the culture, that sort of thing, and the importance of having a culture and the primacy of that over resisting a culture. How does that relate to what's happening in the church?


Greg Bottaro:

I think it's the same problem. And again, I hate to say this and without pointing fingers, but I worked with different areas of the church institution. And unfortunately, I think even if you were to map out the actual culture, it's always interesting talking to an organization, a body, a family, and mapping out what they say their culture is versus what their actual culture is. If you were to interview the members of that organization and start to glean from that, what their actual culture is. I once asked a bunch of seminarians, a bunch of priests, "When you were in seminary, what did you hold up as the model priest? What were you taught in seminary is the model priest."


Greg Bottaro:

And I asked about 20 different priests in different parts of the country. And I got a theme that came from over half of these priests. And I put it together in a statement of the model priest, as the man who works harder than everybody else and complains the least. That's the culture. That's the cultural mission statement of the church of the priesthood. Now, if you ask any Bishop, what's the cultural mission statement of your seminary, of your diocese, whatever, of course that will never show up on paper, but that's the problem. So we not only do we have to think about what should our culture be, but we have to pray really deeply on what the principles are, and then work really hard to make sure that everybody feels and experiences that to be the culture.


Matthew Kelly:

So you get down some of these paths and they can be paths of hopelessness. They can be paths of that cause people to experience hopelessness. I suspect that many people who show up to therapy are in a place of hopelessness or a place bordering on hopelessness. If we rewind and go back to sort of an earlier place in their life, or maybe a time of great hope, let's say in relation to marriage, what one thing would you encourage someone who is thinking about marrying a person to consider about that person?


Greg Bottaro:

I think in doing marriage prep, I think one of the most important principals to learn during marriage prep, it always kills me when these marriage prep programs are built on, like, we're going to teach you everything you need to know about being married. You're like, this is ridiculous.


Matthew Kelly:

Its dishonest right, it's not possible.


Greg Bottaro:

It's very dishonest, it's not possible. Pope Francis calls marriage the apprenticeship, right. And people think in discerning and dating, once they get married, once they're at the altar, once they make their vows, they get their diploma, like they made it. And I tell people is you just got your acceptance letter. You're now entering in to the university of love. This is your apprenticeship. And you're going to spend a long time until death do you part in an apprenticeship, but the one principle that I think is worth, at least introducing.


Greg Bottaro:

So people know what they're saying yes to is you're the person I'm choosing to be the recipient of my gift of self until death do us apart and whatever that entails and whatever we figure out along the way. So instead of it being like, oh, who's my ideal, this, or my favorite, whatever. And it's, do we like to go hiking together and what's my. You're discerning if this is a person that you believe you can spend the rest of your life dying to.


Greg Bottaro:

And it means you have to be friends. Like there should be some level of friendship. There should be some level of shared trust. It's like we're lined up on the same things in life. We want the same thing out of life. But at the end of the day, that's what you're actually making a vow to. Even if this person becomes paralyzed or sick or cheats on you or any of these other things, it's like you signed up. The vow you made is that you're dying to self to this person, you're making a gift of self to this person. So restoring a sense of that sacramentality of what this vow is actually about, I think is really helpful. Even in a dating person's life to start thinking in that way. And that changes the parameters around what they're thinking and discerning who they're actually going to end up marrying.


Matthew Kelly:

So what should that person consider about themselves before entering into a relationship like that?


Greg Bottaro:

Yeah, I think a person needs to have a certain amount of maturity and a certain amount of self ownership. And I think that age is changing. I think if we look back a hundred years, the age of a young man who had maturity and self ownership is probably much younger than the men we find today and something, I mean, I think there's a lot to this it's cultural, it's technology, it's pornography. It's a lot of these other things from the sexual revolution, all that stuff.


Greg Bottaro:

But what I end up telling young men in college, especially dealing with pornography, culturally, every culture has some mark of entering into manhood, if you study anthropology and the tribes used to send the men out, remember the movie 300, it's like he has to go off into the wilderness and battle the beast and you go kill the beast. And then you return home a man because you've overcome this thing and you've proven yourself. I think pornography and masturbation is the beast of our culture. And I think that that's what young men are being invited to go and conquer. And I think very few are coming back victorious. I think very few are even going out to battle. So we have these young men who are really boys not entering into manhood at all.


Greg Bottaro:

Not entering into manhood at all, and that lack of maturity. Granted, I want to be cognizant of there's a spectrum here. There's a lot of people suffering with addiction, with abuse, with trauma. There's a lot of things happening in this conversation, but in general, men need to be fighting against this evil, and women in their own way have to be fighting against that evil that stands in the breach and they have to go past it. Then some of that is self discovery. Some of that is healing from wounds. Some of that is just deepening a sense of self ownership and self knowledge. I think this is where mentors come in, spiritual direction, therapy, to have a sense of help along the way. What do you think? Am I ready? Do I know myself more? The family itself is where we're supposed to get a lot of that kind of direction. Have I matured enough to start thinking about making myself a gift to somebody else for the rest of my life?


Matthew Kelly:

You talk about maturity. You talk about sort of the gap between where men were 100 years ago and where they are today. I think part of that is that we're slow to put responsibility on young men. As a result of that, we see them seeking all sorts of things. At the same time, we see male enrollment in university plummeting, female enrollment in college skyrocketing, and I feel like you now have whole generations of women standing there looking back at the men and saying, come on guys, catch up. How do you counsel that generation of women?


Greg Bottaro:

It's very painful. It's very painful. I's part of that feminine genius to be more relationally oriented, so relationship, friendship, those kinds of things come a lot easier to the feminine brain and to the feminine genius, to the feminine person. In a lot of ways, I think God established this complementarity between men and women so that we learn from each other. In many ways, the division from the garden where Adam and Eve had to hide from each other is just exponentially amplifying. Men and women are hiding from each other in a lot of different ways. Men from women and women from men, but I think on the surface, what you're pointing to, is just that dimension of community is immediately being dissipated, which is more painful to the feminine genius, which is ordered towards relationally in the first place. There's a lot more that's being lost, but I think at first glance that's the first thing that pops up and that's the most painful, but I think it's equally painful for men and women in different ways, and it's part of the sickness of where our culture is right now.


Matthew Kelly:

They do get married. They do take their vows, but it seems in many cases, this hiding, men hiding from women, women hiding from men, the vows don't magically take that away and it seems to be going on a lot even within marriage. Is that your experience?


Greg Bottaro:

Yes. 100%.


Matthew Kelly:

What is it that draws people out of that hiding?


Greg Bottaro:

Hopefully that's when the desperation and the necessity does bring people, not because they've been so wounded or so deeply hurting each other, but just the normal course of life, I find a lot of people do at some point, realize, I thought I signed up for more than this. At some point, there's some experience that somebody can have. They go to a talk, they have a friend who brings them to a retreat, they read a book, they hear a speaker. Something happens and they're sparked open. Maybe there's something more for me here, but then we have to do a really deep dive because there's so much suspicion and doubt and lack of trust that that's why they've hidden themselves from each other for so long. It's really good to spark that desire for more because we're made for more, but then it also means we have to show up and be ready to do some work because typically that trajectory has buried very deeply whatever those wounds are, those fears of each other.