Can we identify some of the characteristics of our true ‘Inner Person’ (Natural Spirit) and the actions, beliefs or thinking of the ‘Adapted Spirit’ which may have resulted from a ‘Wounded Spirit’. 

The natural spirit or natural person can be seen as the way we are in our inner most selves – our real selves. Perhaps we were born with some natural tendencies for the characteristics in this column. We may prevent this natural spirit from being seen by the outside world. We may be suppressing our feelings and spirits. We may even stop ourselves from being aware of impulses or intuitions from our natural spirit. 

We may have experienced a traumatic event or series of events, which hurt us at a very deep level. As a result our spirit may have been wounded. To protect ourselves from further pain or out of revenge, we may have adapted our thinking, beliefs and actions. These adapted mannerisms may have become destructive to us without us knowing it. And they may have become so ‘normal’ to us that we cannot see or believe our behaviours are not OK.


Natural Spirit


Wounded Spirit


Adapted Spirit 

Centre of a safe and loving universe Centre of an unsafe, unloving universe Centre of a world that can be made safe and loving through playing games



Spontaneous Restricted, fearful Reactions restricted to roles and missions



Creative Reactive Reactive, compliant or manipulative



Sees self as maker of joy Sees self as the maker of pain; causing it, responsible for preventing it or fixing it Sees survival as depending on avoiding dreads of ambiguity, abandonment, blame and betrayal



Curious, in awe of life’s mysteries Frightened, suspicious Knows all the answers, has false pride



Relational Fearful, withdrawn Creates barriers to authentic relating; relates to others in terms of scripts and games



Joyful Sad Triumphant when games are working; sad fearful when they are not



Secure boundaries Born in autonomy violations Tends to merge with others, be a victim or perpetrator of boundary violations



Consolable Inconsolable Only happy when compliance, manipulation or reactiveness is successful



Naively grandiose Powerless Obsessed with interpersonal power and its use



Tolerant Intolerant of others Over sensitive



Hopeful, confident and has positive faith Pessimistic Never gives up mission



Momentary fear, anger, guilt, sadness, pain, pride etc. Obsessed with pain; knows that pain means true self is worthless, bad, weak, unacceptable to others; knows he is basically unlovable Uses emotional behaviour to get own way



Confident Low self-esteem Develops self-image in terms of role; gauges worth in terms of reactions of others



Flexible Deals only in blacks and whites; focuses on inevitability of impending doom; never alters world view No tolerance for ambiguity; deals only in blacks and whites; focuses on avoiding of impending doom; never alters world view



Trusting Distrustful, suspicious Sees people, organisations and events as out to ‘get them’



Interdependent Isolated, relies on own resources Dependent, blames others and outside events for problems



Accepting Has unreasonable expectations of others Judgemental, intolerant; views others through his own distorted view; focuses on the shortcomings of others



Humble Has distorted sense of self Grandiose; promotes self in interactions with others, uses the ‘I, Me, Myself’ inflection



Motives, desires and emotions appropriate to age, needs and societal expectations Has motives, desires and emotions of a teenager Mainly seeks to satisfy self; bodily senses, ego and emotions



Open, accepting, realistic Fearful, denying Fails to see how ones thinking, perceptions and behaviour contributes to ones situation 

In Twelve-Step terms the Wounded and Adapted Spirits may be known as Powerlessness (1st Step), Insanity (2nd Step), Wrongs (5th Step), Defects of Character (6th Step) or Shortcomings (7th Step). 

In Alcoholics Anonymous colloquial terms the ‘Adapted’ self would be known as a Dry Drunk.


The Wounded Spirit may have created a WALL of DENIAL of ACCESS to the real inner person – your Natural Spirit. 

Copyright © 2007 Robin Foote  

Alcohol Self-help News and BriefTSF


21 thoughts on “THE WOUNDED SPIRIT

  1. Yes, it does make sense. Glad to hear it others have felt this way and thanks for this blog. I know it will be beneficial to many.

  2. Thanks Paula,
    Years ago I worked with a lawyer who went to weekly AA meetings even though he had never drank alcohol.

    He said he could identify with almost everything AA members said about their disease – except drinking.

    Many family and friends of alcoholics have told me they identify with many of the thinking, spiritual and emotional patterns of alcoholism – again without the drinking.

    For me the ‘ISM’s’ of alcoholism acts an acronym I.S.M. – ‘I’, ‘Self’ and ‘Me’ always reminding me that this disease is one of being self-centred in the extreme.

    Make sense?

  3. As the daughter of an alcohlic mother (mom died in a car wreck 17 years ago) I can relate so well to this even though I myself don’t drink. I’m still somewhat an alcholic. Does that make sense?

    Thanks for posting this info. I pray that it will help others.


  4. Jeannie, I’m glad you wrote what you did. It is startlingly honest and raw. I have never been where you are, so I will not judge you. I don’t know you, but I do believe that your escape from pain and fear is closer than you think. And it is not in a bottle. You are not worthless to me.

  5. Hi Jeannie,
    You just connected with me.

    When I was several years sober I was sitting in a room full of 300 or so people and felt totally alone.

    Alongside me was my partner, next to me was a good friend and his wife, alongside them was another good friend and his wife. I knew almost everyone in the room and knew nobody I could turn to.

    Jeannie, is this a cry for help? If so help is available. Just reply to this comment with the word ‘help’ and any thing else you want to say. I will contact you.

    Can anyone else help Jeannie?

  6. i’m amazed at how people can reduce our pain into a truly concrete 12-step formula. alcohol is my only salvation from pain and fear, and it helps me to gain a spiritual basis to my life, and permits me to help others in true crises every day. without alcohol, i cannot function this well. believe me, i have been sober and totally disconnected for 2 years now, and worthless to myself and others since.

  7. Pingback: One Size Fits All « Out Here Hope Remains

  8. Thanks John,
    A little understanding helps.

    My ‘Natural Spirit’ as indicated above is based on II Tomothy 1;7. “For God gave me not a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of sound mind.” This seems to suggest I was born with a natural spirit of power, love and sanity (avoiding defining these too narrowly).

    Timothy here is talking about being ‘born again’. Possibly moving away from the ‘Adapted/Adopted Spirit’ which is probably a Christian ‘sinful spirit’.

    How does that interpretation sit with your theology?

    From this perspective the progression in my chart is rational.

    1 – We are born with a spirit of power, love and sanity.
    2 – We are wounded (by events or drugs) and left with scars.
    3 – We react to try to avoid / cover up / mask / overcome / cope with / protect ourselves or emotionalise our pain.

    Recovery moves us towards a natural spirit. And, as AA says ‘We are willing to grow along spiritual lines.’ I continue to grow towards my natural spirit.

  9. Thanks for asking, Fred. In Christian theology, a sinful nature is either inherited at birth (catholicism / Calvanism) or assumed at some point during adolescence when the innocence of childhood escapes us (which is my view). This sinful nature is the force which when given a choice, chooses that which is wrong. To overcome the sinful nature, an act of God is required – which He is willing to do at our invitation (faith, repentance, baptism) and give us a new heart. A very good interactive resource using the twelve steps along with Biblical teaching can be found in the Stop The Madness: Addictions book from Serendipity house. So how does your chart relate to the Christian faith?

    Natural Wounded Adapted

    I believe if I were to attach a Christianized worldview on your chart, I would question the place of the “natural” spirit. Is anyone like this ‘naturally’? I am uncertain. I think I would place the Wounded Spirit as the first column. We all carry wounds with us, whether we are addicted or not, and we all react out of those wounds.

    The Adapted Spirit reflects our tendencies to repair life on our own. I like the term ‘adapted’ and may use a play on words to re-label the “natural” column as the “adopted” spirit.

    With a few exceptions, your “natural” column is the well-adjusted life that has balance and peace. I believe this comes from a grounded spiritual relationship with God, thus an “adopted” spirit that originates with Him.

    Thus I think my columns would be:

    Wounded Adapted Adopted (= your Natural)

    This suggests a progression from bad to worse to best; rather than yours which is a progression of good to bad to worse.

    I’m not suggesting that you or anyone else should adopt my perspective, for that is another discussion … but I do want to thank you for allowing me the chance to intersect your very interesting and helpful diagram with my theological viewpoint.

  10. Thanks Pete,
    I am as guilty as the next member when it comes to reading the Big Book. The way I got into it was by attending Big Book study meetings each week.

    In the mean time if you live in America you can down load a searchable Big Book from the internet.

    Go to my page ‘AA Big Book’ under the AA tag at left of this page.

  11. Thanks John,
    In early recovery I went in search of an understanding of theology and was totally confused. Now I accept that I do not know anything about this particular ology.

    How do you think the Christian perspective may be expressed on this?

  12. This article simply highlights the many facets of human emotional traps that we are mostly unaware of at the time, and many of the stages I worked through during my own recovery.
    A very helpful item for anyone battling through recovery and perhaps wondering why they are still at odds with life and those around them,

  13. From a Christian perspective, ‘natural’ tends to be regarded as tending to the urges of our minds/bodies – which is a source of the addiction. Faith in ‘Higher Power’ God leads to a new heart / new spirit / healing (of the wound) which would niether be adapted nor natural. I do understand that you were not making a theological statement here … but I’m just musing over these impressive categories and how the Christian perspective might express them. I think they are very helpful.

  14. Yeah, that about sums it up. I’m ashamed to admit it as someone in recovery, but I’ve never picked up the “Big Blue Book”. It’s too heavy in a literal sense, if not philosophically as well. I think I may read snippets now that it’s posted on line.

    Stay in touch.

  15. The Wounded Spirit is to me captured in the same Big Book para as above; “It may be obscured by calamity, by pomp, by worship of other things, but in some form or other it is there.”

    Does this help?

  16. Thanks Pete,
    See my other post ‘Spirituality is better than cognitive/emotional support for eating disorders.’

    For me there is a spirit ‘beyond myself’. However, I needed a ‘Power’ beyond myself to find my natural spirit, my true spirit. My natural spirit is connected with the spirit of all others through my Higher Power.

    On page 55 of the Big Book of AA it says “ . . . for deep down in every man, woman, and child, is the fundamental idea of God. It may be obscured by calamity, by pomp, by worship of other things, but in some form or other it is there. For faith in a Power greater than ourselves, and miraculous demonstrations of that power in human lives, are facts as old as man himself.”

    I believe that this ‘fundamental idea of God’ is the natural spirit.

    Is this how you see it?

  17. You make some very interesting points and break down the recovery process in a unique language. I’ve been reflecting on my nicotine addiction & recovery journey in recent blog posts and would say that a “Spirit” beyond myself (which I believe to be the Spirit of Christ) has carried me through.

  18. How does God fit into this picture … AA’s ‘Higher Power’ … I do not know if you are a religious person or not … which will direct your answer … but I would like to see what role God plays in either (a) restoring the natural spirit or (b) giving us a new spirit.


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