The Guru Papers
Masks of Authoritarian Power
by Joel Kramer & Diana Alstad
“Who Is in Control?
The Authoritarian Roots of Addiction”
(Chapter 3 in Part 2 of The Guru Papers)
This chapter describes the psychodynamics of addictions involving an inner battle for control within a divided self. It also critiques the disease and responsibility models. It stands on its own and can be read independently. Although the preceding chapter subtitled “Why It Feels Good to Be Bad” on the origin of the divided self can be a useful supplement, so the two chapters could be viewed as a unit.
Comments on “Who Is in Control”
“The chapter on addiction presents an exciting and provocative new concept about the origin and process of addiction. A must read for therapists and addiction counselors.”
—Dr. Ann McKain, past President of the American Academy of Psychotherapists
The chapter on addiction “provides a profound and compelling account of the way that most of us are divided against ourselves; locked in an endless battle between warring aspects of our being. [Kramer and Alstad’s] lucid account of why the vast majority of us are split into two – and how we might become whole – is a fascinating model of the psychology of addictive behavior. It is a tour-de-force that shines a powerful light on a wide range of difficulties in living…[including] self-mistrust….Their writings have been an indispensable resource in my clinical work with troubled souls, helping me liberate people from the self-imposed shackles of imprisoning ideals and behavior; and fostering a life of greater freedom, authenticity and passion.”
— Dr. Jeffrey B. Rubin, Psychotherapy & Buddhism; The Art of Flourishing
Reviews of the chapter
“…[The addiction chapter’s] interesting thesis is that in any so-called self-destructive repetitive behavior, one is never truly out of control, but rather divided parts of oneself are fighting for control. Kramer and Alstad take on the disease model….They also critique what they call “responsibility models”….[arguing] that neither gets at the root of what’s going on. As a long time researcher…of addiction, I found [their chapter] a refreshing analysis of predominant theories of substance abuse. [Their] own model of the divided psyche, and “why it feels good to be bad” was not only original but resonant.”
— Journal of Psychoactive Drugs (review by Dr. Marsha Rosenbaum) pdf of complete review
[The authors argue that a divided self explains the root causes addictive behavior. In their paradigm] “it is the divide itself that is responsible for the loss of control, and it is through the integration of the two selves that true recovery takes place….The basis of their premise is that the individual internalizes an unreachable ideal self which the authors call the “goodself” and the opposite of that called the “badself” which the individual creates because of being unable to attain the unattainable. This “badself” uses addictive behavior to “knock out” or incapacitate the “goodself” so the “badself” is free to express itself in ways it normally can’t. As they say in their book, “Feeling out of control really means the goodself is not in control, but instead an unacceptable part of oneself is.”
….Kramer and Alstad are adding something different [to the notion of a divided self] because they believe that it is the demonizing or devaluing of the “badself” and over valuing the “goodself” that results in the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of addiction and many other human problems.
For instance, our “goodself” may be punctual, orderly, organized and popular with authority figures, but our “badself” may be creative, loyal and democratic. It is because our culture…overvalues the “goodself” and its librarian-like qualities that we need to indulge in the guilty pleasure of the “badself” in the form of drugs, sex and rock and roll. In the process of recovery, therefore, the aim ought to be not the suppression of the “badself” or the glorification of the “goodself”, but rather integration of the two. We can learn that some of the qualities we may find unacceptable in ourselves, such as being judgmental, uncompassionate and hypocritical may come from the “goodself” and that some of the qualities we admire in ourselves come from the “badself”, such as being fun-loving, being brave and thinking outside the box.”
— Web review by Charles Dollins, drug and alcoholism counselor at LifeRing Secular Recovery (12/2012)