Shame’s Minions: The Inner Critics

Chapter 6b of Meeting the Voices in My Head and Searching for an Inner Adult

Image from Pixabay

Shame has such an important job to do, to protect me from rejection, that it spawns a horde of minions to do much of its work. These are the Inner Critics, who dominate a great deal of airtime in my mind.

As a writer and a shrink, I’m intimately familiar with the inner critics, both my own and others’. You might expect us to be natural enemies. Most of my clients come to me complaining about their inner critics and asking me to silence them. If only they didn’t have this voice in their head constantly demeaning them, they would be happier than they are.

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A Reflective Eclectic Treatment of Addiction

A Reading of The Urge: Our History of Addiction, Part V

When I was growing up, some people in my life drank, but there was only one instance when someone’s drinking resulted in scary behavior. I grew up in the sixties and early seventies and considered myself a hippie, but drug culture passed me and my friends by. Addiction was not even on my radar the first time I attended an AA meeting, but that meeting changed my life.

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Zero Tolerance or Harm Reduction?

A Reading of The Urge: Our History of Addiction, Part IV

My very first client when I began my career as an intern at a VA Medical Center’s Chemical Dependency Unit, confessed to me that he couldn’t stop thinking about having sex with little girls. He explained that heroin was the only thing that helped him resist that urge. Now that we were telling him to stop using heroin, he didn’t know what he was going to do.

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Get Started On the Road to Reconciliation

Or Personal Peace

I have developed a 2 1/2 hour video course that helps people get on the Road to Reconciliation. You can watch it as many times as you need.

Part one is free, so you can see what it’s like. The cost of the entire course is $25.

Part 1 – How to Get Started on the Road to Reconciliation

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Course Description

1- How to Get Started on the Road to Reconciliation

How to break the Victim-Offender Cycle, assess the damages, and the likelihood of continued harm.

2- Wreckage on the Road to Reconciliation

The mistakes victims make that prevent them from finding peace or achieving authentic reconciliation. Plus supplemental videos on dealing with emotions and immaturity.

3- The Mountaintop Moment

Covers the most delicate part of the journey. This is the part where you go from just feeling like a victim, to finding where your sense of power and agency reside. How to deal with your guilt or shame.

4- Making Reparations

Takes the Offender’s point of view. Covers how to deliver an effective apology and make long-lasting repair.

5- Cultivating Change

Returns to the victim’s point of view. You identified where you went wrong, apologized, made amends, but your partner has done nothing to help you trust him. Is there anything you can do to move him along and make him change? There is, but you must learn how to ask for what you want without asking for trouble.

6- When Problems Take Over

Here, we turn to the toughest cases, when there has been repeated harm and general deterioration of the relationship. How to deal with addiction, personality disorders, or other chronic problems.

7- Personal Peace

How to find personal peace when reconciliation is impossible. Making an escape plan. Dealing with intrusive thoughts about the relationship.

The After Visit Summary

And my take on Dr Melfi and Tony Soprano

Image from HBO via Wikipedia

The best idea I’ve had about how to conduct psychotherapy, I got from visiting my allergist.

Whenever I have tears in my eyes during a session, it might be because of what the client was saying; sometimes I’m deeply moved, but probably my allergies were responsible. I once went to see an allergist to determine if there was something I could do about it. He gave me a bunch of tests and told me there was. All I had to do was…

“Got it?” the allergist asked.

“I understand,” I claimed.

Then he showed me the printed After Visit Summary where he had written out the instructions. I learned I had not understood. Not at all. I was completely confused.

The incident got me thinking about all the times I’ve had people in my office and watched them arrive at an important insight or learn an important skill, only to forget about them as soon as they left. Many of my interventions, interpretations, recommendations, and homework assignments also get forgotten. I might prevent that from happening simply by writing an After Visit Summary just as my allergist had. In this document, he summarized the things I had said about my allergies. He gave the test results. He listed the steps I could take to treat them.

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Is Addiction a Disease?

A Reading of The Urge: Our History of Addiction, Part III

People have debated whether addiction is a disease for as long as I know and have never settled the matter for me, so that I cannot say for certain whether it is or isn’t. It depends on what you mean by disease. The word is inherently slippery, according to Carl Erik Fisher in his book, The Urge: Our History of Addiction.

Fisher is an addiction psychiatrist, bioethicist, and assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University. The book presents the history of the concept of addiction and our consequent response to it, paired with his own history of alcoholism and recovery.

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Chapter 6a of Meeting the Voices in My Head and Searching for an Inner Adult

Image from Pigsels

The other night, I walked into Starbucks, placed an order, and, when I reached for my wallet, discovered I forgot not only my wallet but also my pants. Fortunately, this was only a dream, but I didn’t know it at the time. As it happened, I felt intense shame, as I think you would if it happened to you. That’s because we have social norms that dictate wearing pants, or a dress, when we walk into Starbucks. When we violate those norms, we feel shame. This, I suppose, helps us remember to put something on. It keeps you accepted by society and makes Starbucks a place you can go where you don’t have to see what people look like without their pants on.

If someone was shamelessly without their pants in Starbucks, the person not only would get kicked out of the place, they’d get arrested. No one would feel sorry for them. The desire to avoid all this is so great that if I had actually walked into Starbucks with no pants on, I would be ashamed to even talk about it. If this wasn’t a dream, and a common one at that, I wouldn’t be telling you because I’d be afraid of what you would think of me. You wouldn’t come to me for therapy because you’d imagine I’d counsel you with no pants on; or worse, you’d think I was an exhibitionist and should be locked up.

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The Origin of “Addiction”

A Reading of The Urge: Our History of Addiction, Part II

The first time someone used the word addict in English, he was criticizing the Pope. Since then, the word has been used millions of times about all kinds of people. The meaning has changed. Yet, in a sense, the original meaning remains the same.

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Fear at the Grand Canyon

Chapter 5b of Meeting the Voices in My Head and Searching for an Inner Adult

Image by Joe Shlabotnik

It was an ordinary day inside my head. I was relaxed, happy, and had not a care in the world. All the people in my brain were getting along. I couldn’t ask for any better than that.

Outside my head, it was a beautiful February day in Arizona. I was on vacation with my wife, and twin boys, age twelve or so. We had driven up to the Grand Canyon to show it to the boys. I had been there once before and thought it was one of the best places in the world.

When I had been to the Grand Canyon the first time, I did what everyone does. I gasped at the beauty and enormity of the place. Then I stood as close as I dared and leaned over the edge. There is a sheer drop, a mile deep and no fences. As close was a good three feet away. I’m not a daredevil and there was no risk of falling from where I stood, but it was near enough to that chasm to get a thrill. Being on the brink of annihilation is one of the reasons to go to the Grand Canyon, a feeling you will never get from pictures.

On my second visit, I parked the car and began to walk towards the canyon with my family. As it came into sight and the boys ran ahead, a telegram arrived in the boardroom of my brain. A part of me that always sits by the door intercepted it. The name of that part was Fear. It sounded an alarm and ruined everything. I wasn’t afraid of falling into the canyon myself, I was afraid of my sons falling in. I was concerned they would do as I had done, stand as close to the edge as they dared and plummet to their deaths in front of me.

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The Spectrum of Addiction

A Reading of The Urge: Our History of Addiction, Part I

I’d like to devote a few posts to chew over Carl Erik Fisher’s book, The Urge: Our History of Addiction. Fisher is an addiction psychiatrist, bioethicist, and assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University.

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