10. Two Personas- Who is in Control? - RonaldMah

Ronald Mah, M.A., Ph.D.
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist,
Consultant/Trainer/Author
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Mine, Yours, and Ours, Addiction and Compulsivity in Couples and Couple Therapy
Chapter 10: TWO PERSONAS- WHO IS IN CONTROL?


In addition to therapist grandiosity that he or she is immune to the client or the addict's psychology, the therapist may ironically, also be correct that his or her instincts are sound regarding the veracity of the addict.  The addict and many other individuals have at least a duality of if not more personas within the single person.  The first of two personas is the "good" or "righteous" well-intended aspect of the individual.  This part of the individual may deeply wish to do and be the right thing.  He or she hurts terribly when making bad choices, and is deeply remorseful when a partner, spouse, child, other family member, or other person suffers because of his or her choices.   The individual in this place is most vulnerable to self-deception and truly commits that his or her "good" part has taken over… permanently.  The "good" persona can rise to the surface and assume control, particularly when remorse is high due to dire consequences or conversely, when hope is at its zenith with the positive benefits from the relationship.  The partner and subsequently, the therapist often anticipate and seek to evoke the "good" persona.  What's more, the partner and the therapist want to believe in the "good" persona and in its permanence.  When the individual's "good" persona and the therapist's desire to evoke the "good" persona coincide, then the individual's declarations of commitment and change are "truthful."  It is the truth as much because the individual really believes in it and fully communicates his or her intentions… in the moment and for the moment.  However, the truth or reality is transitory and does not persist beyond the moment or a short period.  The individual's truth does not last for eternity… or even stably for the next week or month.  In all probability, the individual's truth may not exist through the next stress or trigger.  Or, the truth holds only as the individual can hold the "good" persona.  When the "bad" persona or compulsivity reasserts itself, the therapist will discover what the individual's partner, children, other family members, friends, and work associates have encountered repeatedly.  The therapist has been "fooled" by the "truth" from the "good guy."  The therapist can trust and honor the good persona, but should not trust it can maintain or keep control from the "bad persona."  The therapist can evoke the positive well-intended righteous persona, empower it, and help it become more dominant.  At the same time, the therapist should speak to the "bad" persona to address cravings, negative thinking, and manage impulsivity.  The "bad" persona should be accepted as an important aspect of the addict's total humanity.  Much therapeutic work will be about this persona's energy and urges.

The therapist needs to accept that real sustainable change or recovery can take an extremely long time and be extraordinarily difficult.  The process is likely to have major downturns, multiple relapses, and deep disappointments.  The therapist is likely to experience the same roller coaster of euphoric ups and devastating downs that the partner has endured possibly for years.  The co-alcoholic or co-addict has his or her parallel set of personas: the hopeful persona and the defeated/helpless persona.  The hopeful persona includes a denial or self-deception process about the dysfunctionality of the relationship.  The therapist may also look for these personas in the co-alcoholic or co-addict.  They should be evoked and validated in therapy.  The therapist may unknowingly or actively minimize or put off the defeated/helpless persona in session.  The hope and fulfillment in the relationship is brutalized by the defeat and helplessness with further substance abuse and behavioral excesses.  The partner to the addict suffers despair, incompetence, and self-doubt from the relationship.  He or she questions his or her beliefs or values and skills.  Doubts about being worthy or being good enough from failing to change or motivate change in the addicted individual tear at the partner's self-esteem.  Continuing in the dysfunctional relationship despite repeated broken promises, betrayals, and wounds, implicates the co-addict as a fool or worse.  He or she has heard this condemning accusation from family and friends and within his or her own mind from the defeated/helpless persona.  The therapist cannot invalidate this experience of the co-addict by avoiding it.  The therapist must confirm both personas for the co-addict and both personas for the addict, while challenging how they perpetuate collusion and permission for destructive use or behaviors.  Individual work, systemic work, and addiction work must coalesce in the therapist's treatment of the couple with an addict.

ADDRESS:
433 Estudillo Ave., #305
San Leandro, CA 94577-4915
Ronald Mah, M.A., Ph.D.
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, MFT32136
CONTACT INFORMATION:
(510) 614-5641 or (510) 582-5788
fax: (510) 889-6553
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