Carl Jung and The 12 Steps

Spiritus contra Spiritum 

There are many avenues and theories on addiction and recovery, a majority of which incorporate spirituality into their approach. Carl Jung, founder of Jungian Psychology, discussed recovery in terms of the ego and the self.

To Jung, the Ego can be likened to a flashlight pointing into a dark room, illuminating what it focuses on and having the ability to direct it's awareness into one direction. While this is the Ego's skill, it can also be it's weakness. In this analogy, the Self, then, would be the entirety of the space of the room, including both the conscious and the unconscious, not only what is focused in the Ego's awareness. 

As enter into the world and our lives begin, our ego is submerged into the self. Then, in a healthy development, the Ego and the Self separate, with our Ego being able to discern reality from fantasy, while also being able to channel the ethereal aspects of the Self into manifestation in the material world. While many may perceive addicts to have big egos, Jung proposed that it may also be true that the ego of an addict hasn't developed or differentiated from the Self at all. The result of this is an individual who only knows themselves through the timeless, free and eternal Self. And while it is healthy and beneficial to maintain our connection to our greater Self, to live in this world we must develop Ego consciousness to successfully operate with limitation and facticity. 

So what is the solution? According to Jung, it is crucial to bridge the dialogue between the ego and the greater aspects of the Self. In recovery, addicts must maintain their sense of Self and use it to inspire their actions through Ego consciousness. They need to understand that it is not necessary to completely abandon their connection to the freedom of the Self, but to simultaneously develop their Ego in an effort to live wisely in this world. 

Mark Romano