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By Dr. Margaret Paul

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Addictions and Internal Power Struggles

By Dr. Margaret Paul
December 31, 2006

This article describes the Internal power struggles that often go on regarding addiction: one part demanding to stop the addiction and another part resisting being controlled.

Often, with substance abuse and process addictions, there is an authoritarian wounded self who tries to control the situation with declarations and rules. A resistant wounded self responds and an internal power struggle is created.

The authoritarian wounded self, believing it can have control by just laying down the law, sets rigid limits:

"Today I am starting on my new diet. I will only eat a prepared liquid food for breakfast and lunch and I will have a normal dinner."

"From now on, I'm cutting out fats."

"I'll start writing down everything I eat."

"No more drinking. It's ruining my marriage and it's time to stop. I'm just not going to drink anymore."

"I'm finished with these drugs. I'm flushing them down the toilet and never buying anymore."

"This is my last cigarette."

"No more coffee. This is killing me."

"No more spending. We're going to cut up the credit cards and start to save money."

"I'm done with gambling - never again."

What generally happens when you set rules like this? Often, as soon as the authoritarian wounded self moves in to control, the resistant, indulgent wounded self takes over and resists:

"You can't tell me what to do. I can eat whatever I want."

"One drink won't hurt. We'll stop tomorrow."

"Go ahead and flush down the drugs. I can get them again whenever I want."

"I'm the boss of me. I don't have to do what you say. I like to smoke."

"I can't work without my coffee. We'll start cutting down on the weekend."

"I really do need some new clothes. I can't go to work looking like this."

"Gambling gives me the rush I need. You can't take it away from me."

An internal power struggle gets set up: one part of you is saying "Don't eat," while the other part of you is grabbing food, saying "Don't tell me what to do." Or one part is saying, "No more alcohol," and the other part is saying "I really need a drink." Or one part is saying "Smoking is going to kill us," and the other part is saying "I don't care. Life is not worth it if I can't smoke."

The problem with these controlling decisions is that the authoritarian wounded self does not have the power to carry them out for long. You may be able to follow through for a few days or even for a few weeks, but without a disciplined loving Adult whose power comes through you from your Guidance, the permissive, indulgent, resistant wounded self takes over and you find yourself bingeing or eating junk, drinking, using drugs, smoking, or spending once again.

The authoritarian wounded self tries to have will power by setting rigid inner boundaries, but will power does not come from the wounded self. The will is within the loving Adult, and the power comes from your Higher Guidance. Will power really means using your will to bring through the power of your Higher Power.

Your wounded self may have a set of false beliefs that govern your behavior regarding substance abuse and process addictions.

The authoritarian wounded self often believes that:

"I have power. I can control what and how much I eat, drink, smoke cigarettes, smoke grass, snort coke, gamble, and so on. I can do this by myself without help." (With anorexia, the wounded self actually does manage to control eating, but the consequences of this are deeply wounding and even life-threatening to oneself).

The permissive, indulgent, resistant wounded self often believes that:

"I am nurturing myself and rewarding myself when I eat whatever I want, drink whenever I want, use drugs whenever I want, or watch TV whenever I want."

"I can avoid my pain by numbing out with substances or processes." (Addictions do work to numb out the pain for the moment but in the long run causes more pain as it erodes self-esteem and health.)

"The only way I can be my own person is to resist what someone else wants from me, even if I am resisting myself."

These false beliefs come into constant conflict with each other as the inner power struggle goes around and around.


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