By Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes

“Powerlessness” Teaches You to Be A Victim

You’ve probably heard about “powerlessness.” It’s a founding principal of AA, the “First Step” of 12-Steps, and virtually every treatment regimen in the U.S. Believing it is also the biggest predictor of relapse and one reason newcomers to AA have a binge rate 4 – 7 times higher than before they ever walked through the door.

Being smart, you can figure out where this is going. Obviously, if I have a disease over which I am powerless, then I am not responsible for my behavior – past, present, or future. If one drink is all it takes then I have no reason to stop at one. If a “slip” wipes out my “sober” history then I might as well keep on drinking until I can’t manage another swallow. One drink or fifty, it’s all the same in the world of the disease model. And it’s not my fault – I’m a victim – what a relief that is.

It’s A Bad Concept For Women To Adopt

This logic, of course, applies to both men and women. But the results of the belief aren’t, given that men and women generally approach being victims differently. You probably know that men tend to deny being victimized even when it’s true, refusing to admit, much less report, molestation; avoiding doctors regardless of symptoms; rarely acknowledging doubts or failures, or problems. Confronted, they tend to respond actively. Denial may well lead to shorter lives, but it also insulates most men from depression.

Women tend to embrace victim-hood and settle into depression, never addressing underlying problems but merely, at best, substituting alcohol’s temporary relief – and additional depressing effects – rather than actively changing. That’s not surprising.

In the 1970s psychologist and adult development researcher Dr. Jane Loevinger noted women’s tendency to withdraw into conformity when under stress. Unfortunately, conforming to the norm of powerlessness is at least as debilitating as over indulging in alcohol – or any other anxiety reducing consumption or stereotype.

There Are Better Alternatives

Women are far better served by developing their power over their situation and problems, not by agreeing to passively accept artificial limitations, limitations too often reinforced by other women.

Maybe you’ve heard what we hear it all the time when we ask, “When are you going to do something about your situation?”

“I am,” she says, “I’ve been going to therapy for years!”

All too often the same error is made, mistaking talking about a problem for doing something about it.

If you are ready to do something about your alcohol problems, call us at 888-541-6350. We can help you.