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Children of Alcoholism: The Struggle for Self and Intimacy in Adult Life

Barbara L. Wood
Copyright Date: 1987
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 182
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qfphk
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  • Book Info
    Children of Alcoholism
    Book Description:

    In this sensitive and richly rewarding book Barbara L. Wood, a clinician with many years' experience working with adult children of the chemically dependent, gives clinicians informed and practical advice on how to treat the damaged self of these individuals. She offers strategies for intervention, along with step-by-step principles that tell the therapist how best to create an environment to help patients.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-7051-1
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. 1 ALCOHOLISM AND CO-DEPENDENCE
    (pp. 1-6)

    The prevalence of addictive disorders in the United States today challenges mental health professionals in complex and frustrating ways. Current research and theory in this field are concerned principally with unlocking the riddle of psychic and physical compulsion, but the solution remains elusive. We are confronted with the likely, and intimidating, prospect that there are many addictions—just as there are many cancers—and that treatment must be creatively tailored to individual need and circumstance.

    As professional interest in the addictions increases, while the literature that forms our foundation of knowledge about this problem expands, practitioners of clinical psychiatry and...

  6. 2 CO-DEPENDENT CHILDREN: CAUGHT IN AN INFINITE LOOP
    (pp. 7-13)

    The concept of the infinite loop comes from the field of computer science and refers to a programming error that leads to the perpetual and unsuccessful recapitulation of an algorithm, or problem-solving procedure. This is an apt metaphor for the lives of adult children of alcoholics, who seem to possess, as the unwanted legacy of their childhood experience, an irresistible attraction to an alcoholic lifestyle. This lifestyle may include compulsive drinking and drugging, ongoing destructive involvements with drinking, drugging, or enabling parents, and the acquisition of new life partners who reprise the important psychic themes of the childhood home, including...

  7. 3 A STRUCTURAL APPROACH TO UNDERSTANDING PSYCHOPATHOLOGY
    (pp. 14-38)

    Object relations theory and Self Psychology link psychopathology to adverse conditions in the childhood home that inhibit the maturation of key structures in the psyche. The immaturity of these structures, along with the disintegration and disharmony among them that is the result of ongoing abuse and neglect by parents, makes normal functioning impossible. The structural approach to understanding psychological dysfunction has greatly increased our understanding of the identity and self-esteem problems that trouble modern man, and that so severely afflict children who grow up in alcoholic homes. The unique contributions of this perspective are probably best understood by comparing it...

  8. 4 USING STRUCTURAL THEORIES TO UNDERSTAND ADULT CHILDREN
    (pp. 39-70)

    Many adult children of alcoholics complain that they have little or no sense of themselves as individuals, possessed of a unique self and a purpose that transcends family need. One young nurse, for example, after spending the greater part of her childhood and all of her twenties ministering to the needs of her alcoholic father and her physically disabled mother, succeeded in convincing her father to join Alcoholics Anonymous and sent her mother to live with an aunt. Freed of her massive family responsibilities, she looked forward to moving west and building a new life that would revolve around her...

  9. 5 THE RESTORATION OF PSYCHIC STRUCTURE IN PSYCHOTHERAPY
    (pp. 71-105)

    The british object relations theorists, and Heinz Kohut, proposed models of psychotherapy that aim to uncover, clarify, and strengthen key aspects of psychic structure that have been distorted or badly damaged in struggles with parents. These theorists have all suggested that certain critical aspects of the true self have been driven into hiding (repressed or split off) as a means to preserve them. They thus believed that psychotherapy should aim at the liberation of the hidden self, and its integration into the central sector of the psyche. Their approaches to the unification of the psyche, or as Kohut would have...

  10. 6 CLINICAL STRATEGIES FOR USE WITH ADULT CHILDREN
    (pp. 106-143)

    One of my patients entered therapy in her early twenties in order to work through the suicide of her alcoholic and tranquilizer-dependent mother, who had committed suicide when my patient was 15. This young woman could never adequately mourn her mother’s loss, because her father was completely unable to confront his own grief and deep sense of guilt over his wife’s addiction and suicide. He blocked every attempt by his daughter to express sadness, rage, or fear about her mother’s death.

    This patient had received some brief psychotherapy for anxiety attacks at her university’s counseling center, but she agreed with...

  11. 7 WHEN THE FAMILY HERO TURNS PRO: THE ADULT CHILD IN THE HELPING PROFESSIONS
    (pp. 144-156)

    Many children from alcoholic homes sacrifice a substantial portion of their selfhood in order to minister to the physical and psychic needs of their parents, or parent-surrogates. They are moved to this sacrifice by love and compassion for their parents, by their fear of losing their parents, and by their longing for a satisfying, sustaining self-selfobject relation (see chapter 4). They also greatly prefer the role of a strong helper to that of a dependent, fearful child. Vulnerable aspects of the self are therefore split off, and most of the time are unavailable to conscious awareness. Some of these children,...

  12. REFERENCES
    (pp. 157-160)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 161-167)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 168-169)