Part I

Addictive behavior in parents often begets addictive behavior in their offspring. According to Nakken (1988), if a child grows up in a family in which one parent is an addict, the child is likely to develop an addiction. If both parents are addicts, the child's chances of addiction increases. Subsequently, the generational cycle of addiction continues. When adult children of addicts seek relationships, it is usually with people who are similar. This search doesn't happen on a conscious level--it is unconscious.

Adolescents usually live for the moment. Practicing addicts are also living for the moment, using emotional logic. Emotionally, addicts act like adolescents and are often described as adolescent in behavior and attitude. After all, many issues that they struggle with are the same issues that face adolescents. The difference is that addicts stay trapped in an adolescent stage as long as their disease in progress.

It has been suggested that the tendency toward addiction is biological, inherited genetically or a result of chemical imbalances. Cohen (1988) notes that "it is easy to postulate that the reinforcement centers in the ventral teg mentum, the locus ceruleus, the mediolateral frontal cortex, or the nucleus accumbens have an inborn deficiency of catecholamines or that the receptors are hyposensitive. Alternatively, perhaps the endogenous opioids are congenitally in short supply, or the delta opioid receptor is deficient in quantity or quality. Will diagnoses like ‘hypoendorphism' or ‘opioid receptor insufficiency' or ‘hypodopaminosis' ever be made with reliability?" Probably not.

Research reported by Kinney and Leaton (1995) suggest that heredity isn't as simple as what was previously believed. At conception, we receive a unique set of genetic material-- internal instructions that guide growth and development. These instructions set limits in the form of predispositions. The outcome will depend on unique life circumstances and environment. Some people remain thin without effort and others put on weight easily. This example of a genetic predisposition for weight correlates with genetic predisposition for addiction. Combined with life circumstances, addictive behavior is likely. To complicate matters, the media among other causal factors, contributes its share of influence.

No one escapes the media's power to promote excess. Big businesses sell both gluttony and dieting, smoking, eroticism and an exaggerated need for the work ethic. Television commercials convey messages to addict its audience. The commercial of a lady who puts her hand to her pain-wrinkled forehead and complains "Oh, this terrible headache," is generally seen in the next scene chipper and happy, thanking a miraculous wonder drug. Billboards with the Marlboro Man or Joe Camel do their part in influencing us. Other influential media, directed at youth, is the glamorization of reckless lifestyles in movies. Kids grow up in a sea of advertising. Pre adolescents start seeing and hearing beer and wine ads and commercials exhorting them to drink before they are old enough. It can hardly be denied that the overall effect of the advertisements is to glamorize whatever it is being sold, whether it's cigarettes, alcohol or over- the-counter medication, and to encourage the idea that what is being advertised will make them feel better or enhance their lives in some way.

It appears that life events may be mediating factors in the development of psychiatric illness in general, and drug abuse in particular. What if fathers' brother died? What if father lost his job? What if father had to serve a jail sentence? What if mother was an only child--not having the large-family experience, then grew up and had five children? What if she was a full- time housewife, belonged to the PTA, held a part-time job, and expected to participate in civic activities? Could addictive behavior be a coping mechanism for life events such as "father's" and stress such as "mother's"? In Bratter and Forrest, Litz (1979) reported that within a group of alcoholic and nonalcoholic women, the alcoholic group reported the impact of stress to a higher level than the nonalcoholic group. These results can apply to pre alcoholic men and women also, creating need to relieve stress. "It calms me down, helps my nerves. It helps me unwind after a hard day." This explanation, says Kenny and Leaton (1995), can be viewed as the anxiety thesis. Partially a derivative of Freud's work, he stated that during times of anxiety and stress, people look to the past for things that worked for them. Theoretically, he proposed, the security of mom's breast as an infant can later influence the use of the mouth for eating, smoking and drinking disorders.

During puberty and early adolescence there is a need for identity. Young people want to break from their parents. They fall into close associations with peers, and those peers have a profound influence. Peer pressure can also come from the workplace. Bratter and Forrest state that adolescent and occupational research both suggest that drinking is a learned behavior, and that it is learned from those who have the most social influence. To be included in certain subcultures, it is necessary to drink or use drugs. Those who later develop drinking problems are likely to have started using alcohol at an earlier age than is typical for the general population. Also, the presence of a heavy-drinking partner has been found to increase both the amount and rate at which alcohol is consumed. Similar results in the number and rate of cigarettes smoked have been obtained from smokers exposed to a high-rate smoking friend as opposed to a low-rate smoking friend.

Many members of Alcoholics Anonymous claim that influences are only suggestive--it was they who voluntarily picked up the bottle. Nobody twisted their arm and made them drink it. It is their contention that they alone are responsible for their actions. Suggested causes, to them, are excuses that gave them permission to drink. In one of the stories in back of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (1991), a woman states that "the mental twists that led up to my drinking began many years before I ever took a drink, for I am one of those whose history proves conclusively that my drinking was a symptom of a deeper trouble."

Part II

It is widely accepted that people use only a small percentage of their brain; therefore, little is known about what can influence parts of the brain that remains uncharted. The causes of addictive behavior discussed in Part I are also generally accepted. However, It is likely that there are more causes that we are not yet aware of. Causes from a Depth Psychological perspective should be considered. Discussed in Part II is the addiction to perfection, obsession, fear, rebellion, oracular guidance, collective unconscious, principles of reality and pleasure, and the shadow.

Woodman (1982) is convinced that the same problem is at the root of all addictions. The problem being different in each individual. The problem, whatever that may be, presents itself differently in different people. Overeating, alcoholism, gambling, sex, drug addiction, etc., are all likely symptoms of an underlying cause. Some of these causes may never be known. Others should be further investigated.

Many of us, regardless of gender, are addicted because we have been driven to specialization and perfection by our patriarchal culture. Obsession is at the root of perfection. An obsession is a persistent or recurrent idea, usually strongly tinged with emotion, and frequently involving an urge toward some kind of action, the whole mental situation being pathological. The roots of fear can also be pathological.

Without going into the many causes of fear, it must be considered a legitimate reason to lean on something for emotional support. If not properly bonded, for example, fear will most likely manifest in some way. This fear being unconscious, there is not a way to intervene. "The mother," says Woodman "who is in this situation herself because of her own heritage, cannot give her baby the strong bonding to the earth that the mother grounded in her own instincts can." Fear is often anger in disguise, and anger often produces rebellious behavior.

Rebellion encompasses various types of behavior, which include criminality and addiction. Substance abusers are characteristically thought of as rebellious. What causes rebellion? A patriarchal society can cause rebellious behavior in women. Authority figures often create rebellious behavior in both men and women. In contrast, recovery can be viewed as a form of rebellion against addiction. Therefore, rebellion does not have to be negative. Rebellion can result in healing. This form of rebellion is spiritual, and spirituality is an entity that needs to be developed.

Part of a letter published in Pass It On (1984) from Bill Wilson, cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous, to Carl Jung went on to tell Jung how the message reached Bill at the low point of his own alcoholism; it described his own spiritual awakening, the subsequent founding of A.A., and the spiritual experiences of its many thousands of members. As Bill put it: "This concept proved to be the foundation of such success as Alcoholics Anonymous has since achieved. This has made conversion experience . . . available on an almost wholesale basis."

Spiritual experiences can be life changing and Dr. Jung's contribution has since changed the lives of thousands of people. Oracular guidance is also a spiritual experience. Oracular consciousness has to be developed over time; therefore, if enough time isn't devoted in developing it, what may be interpreted as oracular guidance may in reality be some other unknown influence.

"Give me a sign, God!" How often have people, in one way or another, sought guidance this way? But what if one does not believe that God exists? The trigger for addictive behavior is often pulled by stress or life events resulting in looking to the divine for guidance. This trigger might also be pulled by seeking oracular guidance. "To receive an oracle is to receive guidance, knowledge, or illumination from a mysterious source beyond the personal self (Skafte, 1997). Dr. Skafte proposes "that ‘the shadow' may appear in unexpected places when the oracle is sought." Personality traits and genetic idiosyncracies are omnipresent. As is the dark side of our psyche (the shadow). Relying too much on oracular guidance can lead to a road that isn't conducive to spiritual needs. Something as unlikely as a bird flying into a neighborhood tavern, could set into motion a possible solution for a problem. Taking the bird's flight as an oracular sign post, one could meet an old drinking buddy he or she had not seen in a long time. Thinking the "oracle" has again provided guidance, a dependence on alcohol could follow a drinking spree in the bar.

As opposed to the personal unconscious, or analogous to society's ills influencing our behavior--namely addictive behavior, Jung's (1963) definition of the Collective Unconscious is suggestive:

Although we human beings have our own personal life, we are yet in large measure the representatives, the victims and promoters of a collective spirit whose years are counted in centuries. We can well think all our lives long that we are following our own noses, and may never discover that we are, for the most part, supernumeraris on the stage of the world theater. There are factors which, although we do not know them, nevertheless influence our lives, the more so if they are unconscious.

With Jung's collective unconscious a likely contributor to addictive behavior, Ewen's (1989) description of Freud's Reality and Pleasure principles are also contributive.

If Freud's Reality Principle, which delays the discharge of psychic tension until a suitable object has been found, doesn't operate, the Pleasure Principle (to achieve pleasure and avoid unpleasure) does, because indulging in addictive behaviors produces pleasure. These principles can work with the Shadow--two separate areas of the psyche operating simultaneously.

The Shadow is the primitive and unwelcome side of personality that derives from our animal forbears. Unconsciously we project the Shadow onto other people. Here is an example by Johnson (1991):

A young Japanese girl in a small village became pregnant. The villagers pressed her to name the father. After many angry words, she finally confessed. "It's the priest," she said. The villagers confronted the priest. "Ah so," was all he said. For months the people were down on the priest. Then a young man who had been away returned and asked to marry the girl. He was the father of the child. The girl accused the priest to protect him. The villagers then apologized to the priest. "Ah so," he said.

The girl projected her shadow onto the priest and the villagers. The wise priest kept silent and the problem worked out well for everyone concerned. This example demonstrates the Shadow in an environmental setting. Johnson also demonstrates this on a personal level using Marie Antoinette:

The bored queen decided she wanted to touch something of the earth and ordered milk cows so she could become a milkmaid. After the cows' arrival she found this distasteful and changed her mind. The Queen's original impulse was correct: she needed something to balance the formality of her court. If she would have continued as a milkmaid, the history of France might have been different. Instead she was beheaded.

Marie tired to balance her highly refined life with some peasant task, but she didn't see it through. If the Shadow operates in the form of the addictive cycle for years of one's life, then stops through the recovery process, the constructive lifestyle afterwards can be a very rewarding experience for the individual and the Village. Society and the addict benefit from the Shadow.

Whether it is the more widely accepted stimuli discussed in part I or the stimuli gleaned from Depth Psychology, or a combination of each, there are considerably more dynamics involved; therefore, Depth Psychological perspectives should be investigated more vigorously. A spiritual awakening, which Depth Psychology can provide, can lead to wiser choices and a chance to become a more self actualized human being.


Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. 1991. Alcoholics Anonymous. New York City: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. p 544.

Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. 1984. Pass It On: The Story of Bill Wilson and How the A.A. Message Reached the World. New York, NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. p 383.

Bernards, Neal. (Ed.). 1988. The Mass Media: Opposing Viewpoints. St. Paul, Minnesota: Greenhaven Press, Inc. p 210.

Bratter, Thomas E. & Forrest, Gary G. 1985. Alcoholism and Substance Abuse: Strategies for Clinical Intervention. New York: The Free Press. pp 14, 15, 77.

Cohen, Sidney M.D. The Chemical Brain: The Neurochemistry of Addictive Disorders. Irvin, California: CareInstitute. p 57.

Ewen, Robert B. 1988. An Introduction to Theories of Personality. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers. p 29.

Johnson, Robert A. 1991. Owning Your Own Shadow: Understnding the Dark Side of the Psyche. San Francisco: Harper. pp 38, 54.

Kinney, Jean M.S.W. & Leaton, Gwen. 1995. Loosening the Grip: A Handbook of Alcohol Information. St. Louis: Mosby. p 6, 80.

Nakken, Craig. 1988. The Addictive Personality: Understanding Compulsion in Our Lives. San Francisco: Harper & Row. p 74.

Skafte, Dianne Ph.D. Listening to the Oracle: The Ancient Art of Finding Guidance in the Signs and Symbols All Around Us. San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishers Inc. pp 3, 136

Woodman, Marion. 1982. Addiction to Perfection. Toronto, Canada: Inner City Books. pp 9, 10, 52.

Author's Bio: 

After 40 arrests, five formal probations, four country jail sentences, and a prison term (as a result of chemical dependency), I turned my life around. I was released from prison in Dec 1989, and have been clean and sober since. I started at Barstow College in Feb 1990. Received my AA degree in '92 from Barstow College in Barstow, CA; BA in '94 from Chapman University in Orange CA; MHS in 98 from National University in San Diego CA, and finished with a Ph.D. from Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, CA in Feb 2004. I have taught as an adjunct instructor for Park University and Barstow College. I can be contacted through my website or directly to my email account