In this episode of “Sex Addictions and Porn Afflictions,” Craig Perra, certified professional coach and Founder of the “Mindful Habit to End Compulsive Behavior,” walks you through the process of confronting and talking to that voice in your head — your addict persona.
Talk to them, listen to them. Ask them questions. Craig talks to his inner addict and offers tips and tricks on how to get the most out of the experience, helping you battle addiction one step at a time.
Listen to the podcast or read the transcription below.
Hello everybody! My name is Craig Perra, and this is Sex Addictions and Porn Afflictions. I am a life coach working with clients all over the world, elevating the disease-based model to help you embrace your power of choice. So honored that you’re here. Today we’re going to talk about one of my favorite topics, and here’s what I need you to do. You need to start talking to yourself. You need to start responding to that voice in your head.
I want you to think about that for a second. It sounds a little crazy, right? Yes. To be crystal clear, you need to start talking to yourself. Let me share with you a story to put this in perspective because this technique continues to have a huge impact on my clients, my practice. It’s responsible for driving significant results fast.
So, early in my recovery I was running an errand. It was a low point. I didn’t have a job. There was no chance of having a job, and my car was a freakin’ mess. I drove a 2000 Mercedes E420 gas-guzzling machine, and my father gave it to me, and my dad was meticulous about taking care of cars.
In this car there were cigarette butts all over the place, ashes everywhere, cigarette burns. I was smoking like a chimney. Garbage piled up maybe a foot high in the passenger’s seat. And I decided to clean up my car. It felt good. I was going to sell it.
There was a little voice that started to trigger because very, very early in my recovery I realized that I was so cavalier with my drugs, that little flakes and pieces would fall down between the cracks and with a tweezer I could pick them up and I could get high all over again. So, there was a time and, yes, I sunk to such a low place I was snorting drugs off my car seat and off the floor of the car, just to put this in perspective for you.
But as I’m cleaning my car, oh my gosh, I saw a bag peeking out. I found a bag of cocaine in my seat. Oh my god. I was so, so excited. It went from, “I’m going to do it. I’m going to be a better person. I’m going to be the best version of myself. I’m going to embrace my power of choice,” to, “Let’s get high mother fucker,” like in a matter of seconds, and that voice in my head that’s like, “Man, listen. It’s just going to make you feel better. Just do it.
Drugs aren’t your main problem. Your main problem is the sex.” And it felt like there was someone else talking to me, and it was at that time in therapy where I was learning this technique called subpersonalities, and this voice dialogue technique.
So, I started to talk back to that voice, like just have a conversation. And I want you, as you’re listening, to think about that voice in your head. So I started to talk back and I would say, “Is that a good idea? Is that going to make you better? Is that really what you’re looking for? Do you really think that drugs aren’t a problem? You did spend a few days in inpatient.” At first, too, and I’m kind of sugar coating it, but my response to that part of myself was pretty aggressive. “What the fuck are you thinking? You stupid son of a bitch.” That’s just the voice dialogue that I was having in my head.
I’m just being honest with you guys. I know some of you don’t like cursing, and I’m sorry, but it is what it is. And it was an aggressive response and before I knew it there was this part of me that’s having a conversation and it was in that moment that I realized that there was a little kid inside who was numbing, coping and escaping and there was no way that sniffing those few lines of coke was ever going to meet my needs on a long-term basis. I stood up. I opened the bag and like symbolism, it was like a scene in a movie and I just like dust in the wind let this little bag just drift away.
It was such a great moment for me. I saw that that addict, that addict part of myself, this big badass, “give me the drugs, give me the sex, fuck the world. I can do whatever I want, complete selfishness, can’t be controlled,” was, in fact, that little boy, that little boy who was abused, touched, that little boy who needed something, he was numbing, coping and escaping.
I saw the mask that addict was wearing. He wasn’t a badass. He wasn’t a scumbag. He wasn’t a piece of shit. He was, in fact, a part of myself, my inner child, this younger version of myself. You know and the drugs and the sex is what he thought he needed to cope. That’s how this part of myself, I’m talking about myself in the third person, that part of myself, he thought that’s what he needed. There’s this part of myself where he thought that’s what he needed, but it’s not. He needed love. He needed connection. He needed empathy. He needed support. In that moment he didn’t need drugs. And I knew that there was another way and I exposed that mask that addict was wearing, and I exposed that mask that addict was wearing and I was able to see a much, much deeper part of myself.
I had done therapy for years up until this point but that simple conversation with that part of myself showed that behind this big, bad person, this dirty, disgusting piece of crap, this badass rebel, whoo, leather jacket, tattoos, rock on, acting out, selfish, was a little child. He didn’t need drugs. He didn’t need sex. He needed another way. If he had to numb, cope and escape, how to do that in a healthy way. He needed love and connection.
So, you need to start talking to yourself. You need to start talking to that voice in your head. Listen, here’s another place where that voice shows up all the time. So, picture the scene. I’m sitting there at dinner. This could be last week. This could be last month. This happens all the time today. That voice doesn’t go away, brothers, just so you know. I’m sitting there at dinner, knock over a cup of water. First thought in my head was, “You piece of shit. You clumsy idiot. You moron.”
This was this little thing, right? Big deal. But I started to engage that part of myself. What did I see? I saw a broken little boy who made mistakes and was punished, who was a bad boy and then guess what? With that belief system that sweet little innocent moment of just self-deprecating, crapping all over myself because I just knocked over a cup of water, well that set in motion a belief system that caused me to numb, cope and escape again and again and again.
So these little things aren’t little. You need to start responding to that voice in your head for everything. Challenge that part of yourself. That part of you is called the subpersonality. The exercise that you’re going to use is called voice dialogue. You’re going to talk to yourself.
Now, listen, I know what you’re thinking. Maybe you’re thinking to yourself this is crazy. This sounds like schizophrenic. I’m not one of these people. I’m not one of these crazy people. This guy is literally asking me to talk to myself. That sounds nuts. I get it, and when I first did it I thought it was stupid. I had a client last week say, “This is silly, man. I just want to let you know.” I said, “Just be patient. You paid me. You get a money back guarantee. Let’s see where this goes.”
Here’s the reality. That voice in your head right now, you are listening to it. It is clearly a separate and distinct part of yourself, that has separate wants, needs, desires and objectives. So, who is that part of you? Where did that part of you come from? Most importantly, what does that part of you need? And for the record, clients have called this technique, clients have equated this technique to 3 weeks of therapy, 3 months of therapy and, in even some cases, years of therapy, because you start to experience the events through the lens of that part of you.
So, how do you do it? How do you do it? Let’s do it together. Find a place where you’ve got a few minutes of time. Just take 5 minutes just so we can introduce this concept. Find a quiet place. I want you to visualize the addict. I want you to visualize that part of you.
Here’s caveat number one. I think there’s a number two. But this is definitely number one. Caveat number one is you may be tempted to demonize that part of yourself. If you are, let it come but just recognize that 99 out of 100 people who do this exercise end up seeing their addict as a younger version of themselves, an inner child, so to speak. So don’t demonize that little kid. Don’t do it. Don’t do it. It is unhealthy and it is deconstructive and it is harmful. That part of you needs love, compassion, empathy, support, motivation, a kick in the ass, but certainly does not need to be shamed and demonized.
So give yourself 3 minutes and picture a light, a chair in front of you, a light shining down on that chair, and you are in a room where it is safe. This is the safest place that you’ve ever, ever been in, the safest place that you’ve ever, ever been in. Whatever attributes of safety are there. You are comfortable. Let me say this.
Here’s caveat number two. When we do this exercise in my one-on-one work I am literally on call for my guys because this exercise gets heavy for some men, and it gets heavy fast because some of you who are listening to this have experienced trauma of a child as a child that would make a grown man cry. I get it brother. You and me both. This gets real, real heavy, so find a safe place. Have a friend that you can reach out to if you’re one of the people who this exercise, boom, punches in the gut and just tears you wide open.
For the overwhelming majority of people, it creates an awakening. No doubt very difficult, brings up lots of painful things. But you need to create that safety.
So, make sure if this opens up something in you that hasn’t been touched before; for example, a client recently learned, remembered for the first time that he had been touched as a kid through this exercise. That means he had suppressed this event for 43 years, and this exercise brought it up. If that’s you make sure you have a support network in place because this can get real, real heavy real, real fast.
So, picture addict. What does he look like? What is he wearing? What’s his energy? Is he scared? Is he happy? Is he apathetic? Does he think this whole thing is stupid? Start to see and connect with that part of you. You’re going to ask him some questions. So, let’s do it. I’m going to talk to my addict right now. I’m sorry guys. My addict is absolutely insane, this poor little kid. He says and thinks all sorts of crazy things. So, I’m just going to be as real as I possibly can. That may offend you. That may also create a culture of safety where you have freedom to express those thoughts in your head because you’ve got to bring that part of you out of the darkness, controlling your subconscious into the light, and that’s what we’re doing by having a voice dialogue with our subpersonality that we’ve named Addict.
So, Addict, it’s time to come out again.
I want to start with this question, and this question is designed to illuminate where did you come from, root cause, family of origin. Input equals output, Addict. There’s no energy in the universe lost. My behavior needs to be explained somehow and I think you can help me do that. Where did you come from? Addict, where did you come from? My addict sometimes responds and what he’s thinking right now is, “Fuck you. I don’t want to talk about it anymore. It’s too painful. Stop using me for financial gain and exploiting me and pimping me out to your audience and exposing me.”
That’s just a thought that he’s having. That’s okay. I don’t attach to them.
(Me) Addict, you’re a part of me and I love you very much. Where did you come from?
I came from a place where first experience with the universe I was given away. I was put up for adoption and cast away like a piece of garbage. I was adopted into a home whose parents did the best that they could. I love them dearly, but typical for most of us, shame-based sexuality and there I was playing doctor with the older neighborhood kid. I think I was 13 the first time that I was anally penetrated, having blow jobs, watching porn, jerking off, having fun, but inside feeling dark, lonely, full of shame and disgust. So, what we did is we continued to numb, cope and escape to get away from the disgust, Craig. We just kept doing it over and over again. Before you knew it I became this demon inside you. I became this dark force that drove your behavior. I became that voice in your head telling you to move closer to the darkness, move deeper into that dark place, and until we fucked everything up together; fired, inpatient, lost a job, same thing as being fired, almost lost my wife and kids.
All of you are going to have a story around where this part of you came from, but there is another question and it is absolutely critical for me to talk about, absolutely critical, and that next question is:
hey, Addict, what do you need? What do you need? Not just a footnote, right. We all have these different parts of ourselves, and remember this, all of your negative behavior is a function of your unmet needs. I want to say that again because it’s that important. All of your negative behavior is a function of your unmet needs. So, why don’t we ask this part of ourselves what, in fact, does he need? How can we mature this part of ourselves? How can we grow this part of ourselves? How can we evolve this part of ourselves and get our needs met in a healthy constructive way? You can’t until you know what they are.
So, let’s ask him, what do you need?
I need to feel proud. I need to feel good about myself. I need to do something fun. Man, all you do is work. You work your job 12 hours a day. You come home. You hate your life. You’re not exercising. You’re not doing yoga. You’re not doing anything that you say you love to do. Of course we’re going to numb, cope and escape, man. Your life sucks. Our life sucks. Help me! Make it better. I need to stop keeping secrets. That’s what I need. I need to be free. I finally want to be free.
So, a little conversation that my addict and I said, “We’re going to start a podcast just like this one, and we’re going to share everything, everything, and we’re going to tell everybody.” At first it was anonymously, but I couldn’t live in that dark space anymore. Yeah, I’ve been a glory hole. Yes, I’ve had sex with lots of different people. Yes, I’ve watched copious amounts of porn. Yes, I’ve used drugs. So, when I walked out of inpatient Addict and I had a little conversation, or I didn’t realize even what I was doing then, but I said to myself, I said to that part of me that I’m never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever coming back to this place. I don’t care what it is. I don’t care if I’ve got to dedicate my life to self-help, but I am never ever, ever, ever coming back to this place. Little did I know, little did I know where it would take me; truly blessed, truly honored.
So, what do you need? How do we move forward together? So, think about it. So, when I first had this conversation with myself about finding the cocaine in the car, I didn’t have the formal structure that I have now, but I knew that wasn’t what I needed. When I knocked over the cup of water and that voice in my head is screaming at me that I’m a clumsy piece of shit idiot, what did I need? In that moment I needed some assurance. Hold on, a little perspective here. You knocked over a cup of water. Big deal. I needed awareness around how negative that vocal MP3 track that was playing in my head really, really is. I needed to elevate my awareness around that part of myself. I had to know where this part of me came from and what this part of me needs.
So, you need to start talking to yourself. So, I want you to really, really, really give yourself some time to first bring awareness to that voice in yo8ur head, think about that voice in your head, leverage your ability to compartmentalize because if you’re listening to this podcast you probably have a gift of compartmentalization. Who are you? Who is this part of myself? This compartment that you’ve put an aspect of your personality into that’s calling the shots; when you are hungry, angry, lonely, tired, bored, exhausted, frustrated, annoyed, defensive, angry, like just blahhhh, happy, right? Triggers come when they’re good. Triggers come when they’re bad.
So, instead of trying to push away, instead of demonizing this part of yourself, instead of trying to kill, severe, excise this part of yourself, do the exact opposite. Bring him in. Bring him or her closer. Take them out of the darkness, into the light. Expose this aspect of your personality which is a subpersonality and talking to yourself isn’t going to make you crazy. It is going to drive you sane. It is going to drive you sane. I want you to think about that.
So, now we want to move into the question and answer component of this program because I want to answer your questions. By the way, if you have a question you can email email@example.com. Put question in the title for podcast and send it along. I would absolutely love to answer your questions.
Here is the question for today. Dear Craig: I get insanely defensive when my partner keeps asking me questions. She repeats the same questions over and over again. None of my answers are good enough. I have absolutely no idea what to do. Please help. Just to put this situation in perspective, I know the person who sent me this question. He has cheated on his wife. He has watched copious amounts of pornography. They are in the disclosure phase.
Let me tell you something about disclosure, brothers. Make it fast. Vomit. Blahh. Throw it up. Throw it up. The longer you dribble it out, contrary to what you may have read online, only makes it worse, only makes it worse. When your partner is asking you these questions, when your partner is saying terrible things to you, when your partner is angry and when your partner is saying angry hateful things to you it’s very easy to fall into the same patterns that brought you to this place; getting defensive, responding with aggression, shutting down.
That is the worst thing that you can do. That is only going to make things worse. So, using this subpersonality exercise I want you now to write down on a piece of paper as best you can, define the subpersonality of your wife or your partner, who’s blowing a gasket, and layering, pounding you with questions, like she’s Barry Scheck, the lawyer from the OJ case, boom, boom, boom. You’re getting pounded, left, right, forward, back, email, texts. It’s coming again and again and again. What you need to do is to understand who’s asking the questions, right? Because is it the bitch partner who just can’t move on? No, that’s probably not it and even if there is an element of that, embracing that belief system certainly isn’t going to make it any better.
You need to translate. You need to translate her words. When she says, “I hate you. I hope you die,” you thank your lucky stars that she still gives a shit and is responding to you and cares, because let me tell you something, brother, when your partner isn’t responding, when your partner doesn’t care, when they’ve like flat lined, “Do whatever you want. I’m done,” It’s over, mostly. That’s a very very very bad sign. So, when she’s jumping all over you or at least that’s how you perceive it, who’s jumping all over you?
So, through that exercise, through that subpersonality exercise, you do it for her, who is it? I hate you means I’m really scared and I’m so angry and hurt and depressed and I don’t know which way is up and which way is down. I don’t know who to trust. I thought the sky was blue and now you’re telling me it’s green. I don’t even know who my husband is or who my boyfriend is or who my fiancé is.
When you get the 50 questions: Did you do this? Did you do that? What are you watching? Where are you going? Where were you? What took you so long? Right? You feel – you’ve got a subpersonality of an inner child who doesn’t want to be controlled, right? But what’s going on with her? Where are you? Where have you been? Why didn’t you get back to me? What are you looking at? Do you know what she’s saying? She’s saying, “I’m scared. I’m scared. I’m afraid. I feel insecure. So, I have to exercise control. I have to know.” Of course she has to know. Because you’ve got to put yourself in a place. You have got to put yourself in a place where you want to make her feel safe.
So, using this subpersonality exercise that we talked about today, you’ve got a couple of opportunities. Number one, use it on yourself. Who is this part of you that gets defensive? And 99 times out of 100 every time she starts asking you questions you make it worse. If you were making it better, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. You wouldn’t be listening as intently as you are right now. You’re making it worse. You have got to translate.
First, understand who that part of you is. Well, there’s a little boy who doesn’t want to be controlled, who feels like he’s being treated like a child. Why do you treat someone like a child? Why do you treat your children like children? Because you care and you don’t think they know better. Right? A lot of times they don’t.
So, if you’re in a place where you just got busted and you just got your spot blew up because you’re doing all sorts of crazy things, maybe, just maybe that extra, those queries, those questions may help you. It gives you an opportunity to understand that part of yourself. And, while you can’t make her do the exercise, what do you know about your partner? What was her childhood like? What is her relationship with sexuality? What’s her relationship? Was she abused? Did she experience any traumatic events? Is she insecure? Welcome to the human race, brother. So, those angry words, those hateful words; number one if she’s hating on you it generally means she still cares. That’s a good sign. I’m not saying it’s pretty, but in terms of saving the relationship.
Number two, you have got to put yourself in a place where you can respond with kindness, compassion, empathy, sympathy and love. Listen, here’s what I do sometimes. I have a part of my subpersonality who’s called Selfish Guy. Selfish Guy is a narcissistic-ish prick. He’s really, really, really selfish. He lacks empathy. Sometimes I just want peace and quiet. I just want Michelle to shut up. I’m not proud of that. I’m just telling you how it is. So, let’s start dealing in reality. So, when I go, “Hey, subpersonality Selfish Guy, what do you want? You want peace and quiet? Well, get it.” Selfish Guy knows if I say something, anything other than something that’s compassionate, kind, loving, empathetic, sweet, nice, this 5-minute conversation is now 5 hours, and if I screw that up it’s now 5 days.
So, Selfish Guy helps me create that bridge, helps me translate when I’m communicating with my partner. So, there’s a really, really, really powerful way for you in that engagement that you’re having with her to number one, elevate your awareness around yourself. Where did this part of you come from and what does this part of you need, and you get to do it for you so you can better, better translate. And, of course, listen to my last two podcasts about creating space.
So, you know you’ve got to start talking to yourself. You’ve got to talk to that voice inside your head. As Victor Frankel said, “Between stimulus and respond there is a space. In that space lies our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Respond well or respond better using the concept of subpersonalities and the voice dialogue technique.
Thank you so much for listening. Please email me any questions that you have at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next week we are going to talk about one of my most favorite subjects and, in fact, one of the most powerful if not the most powerful concepts that I teach. It had a profound impact on my life and it lies at the foundation, the cornerstone of The Mindful Habit System and I look forward to sharing that with you. Again, this is Craig Perra from Sex Addictions and Porn Afflictions. Love you all. Thank you for your support. Have a wonderful, no make it a wonderful day.
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