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On the last track we discussed addiction as a process, the two common behaviors of addicts, acting out and nurturing through avoidance, as well as the three aspects to an addict’s relationship with his or her drug, which are an object’s predictability, misplaced priorities, and confusion of intensity for intimacy, and the Calculating the Costs exercise.
On this track we will discuss the internal struggle addicts face as well as some techniques to get their rational adult voice and feeling child voice to compromise. In clients with addictive personalities, as you are aware, you may often see an internal conflict, struggle, or all-out war.
I have found that this internal war is often between two "voices." As you know, one voice originates in the right-thinking brain; it reflects childlike thought patterns and often is referred to as intuition. The second voice operates out of the left-thinking brain. This voice is rooted in adult thought processes and can be classified as reasoning.
The left-thinking brain voice is often reflective of parental roles and values instilled in the client as a child. Have you found, like I have, that your client’s subconscious is often in a conflict between these two voices? The child’s voice is often locked in addictive thought patterns, and the adult voice is aware that it is in his or her best interest to learn.
In an ideal situation, the adult voice reflects not just rational thought and reasoning abilities, but also reflects parental values. Or as in TA (Transactional Analysis) the parental voice can be though of as separate from the adult. This adult’s voice would take the child’s voice into consideration when reasoning. This adult’s voice that takes the child’s voice into consideration I would term a positive adult voice. When the adult and child voices are constantly battling, though, it is a negative adult voice; the rational side will ignore the needs of the child’s voice, or the intuition. (Self-parenting, Pollard, p. 36-41)
Here’s an example. Amanda, age 35, addicted to cocaine for the last two years, was going through a divorce. She was concerned about custody of her two children. Although Amanda wanted to keep the children, she had not only her addiction to cocaine but a history of alcohol abuse since she was in her early twenties. Amanda found herself in an inner struggle.
Her intuitive or child voice demanded she fight for custody, while her rational adult voice knew and argued that the children would be better off in the hands of her father. "I couldn’t think," Amanda said. "Every time I tried to decide what to do, my mind would jump around. After a while, I would get tired of trying to think about what was best for custody with my kids." Exhausted of thinking about custody, Amanda would be unable to make a decision whether to fight for her kids or not.
As you know, when decisions are reached by the addictive personality, it is often at the expense of the child voice because the adult voice is so authoritative. The person ultimately neglects their inner child. (Self-parenting, Pollard, p. 41) As I have observed signs in clients dealing with inner turmoil between their child voice and adult voice, I have noticed nine common signs of this internal conflict.
9 Common Signs of Internal Conflict
Those with this type of parent, child, adult inner conflict also often suffer from an inability to think clearly, as was the case with Amanda. With voices constantly bickering inside the mind, it is nearly impossible to think clearly, have good judgment, or make good decisions.
A client dealing with an internal conflict between the child and parent voices will never win the war; neither voice can win, and even if one did win, the other voice loses. This leaves the client essentially operating at only half-power. If the child’s voice wins, the more rational voice loses and the client still has difficulty thinking clearly; if the parent voice wins, the intuitive, feeling voice loses and the client will be unable to feel feelings. The only way to resolve an inner conflict is to get the two voices to negotiate and work together. A compromise like this can create what is essentially a team, both intuitive and rational, thoughtful yet feeling.
4-Step Photo Technique
There are a two techniques I have found to help resolve this inner conflict simply by acknowledging the inner child. One technique I have found helpful with clients is what I call the "Photo Technique."
The Drawing Exercise
These exercises can be used with clients like Amanda. Once she acknowledges her child voice and understands its wants and needs, she may better be able to negotiate with it much more effectively.
On this track we have discussed the internal struggle addicts must face. We talked about the nine common signs of internal conflict, as well as some techniques, like the photo technique and the drawing exercise, to get the two dueling sides of their internal conflicts to compromise.
On the next track, we will talk about overcoming resistance, as well as the Finding the Trouble Spot technique.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Loukas, A., Zucker, R. A., Fitzgerald, H. E., & Krull, J. L. (2003). Developmental trajectories of disruptive behavior problems among sons of alcoholics: Effects of parent psychopathology, family conflict, and child undercontrol. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 112(1), 119–131.
Ricardo, M. M., & Henderson, C. E. (2021). The effect of the brain disease model of addiction on juror perceptions of culpability. Translational Issues in Psychological Science, 7(2), 177–185
Ruiz, M. A., Cox, J., Magyar, M. S., & Edens, J. F. (2014). Predictive validity of the Personality Assessment Inventory (PAI) for identifying criminal reoffending following completion of an in-jail addiction treatment program. Psychological Assessment, 26(2), 673–678.
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