Chemical dependency has been beaten like a dead horse. There are causal theories from genetic predisposition to various theories of learning, which has contributed greatly to a social construction of reality--a clearing that needs to be re-visioned. Discussed here will be psychological and depth psychological perspectives concerning cause, using analogy, opinions and history. There is a galaxy of treatment methods, various forms of education, self help and scare tactics for prevention. Considerable emphasis on psychotherapy will be examined. Finally offered will be some depth ideas that might help look at this phenomenon in light rather than 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 (p. 9).

Woodman suggests that many of us, despite gender, are addicted because we have been driven to specialization and perfection by our patriarchal culture (p. 10). 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 multitudinous causes of fear, it is often 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 (p. 15)." Fear is often anger in disguise, and anger often produces rebellious behavior.

Rebellion encompasses various types of behavior, which of course, include criminality and/or addiction. Substance abusers are characteristically thought of as rebellious. What causes rebellion? A patriarchal society can cause rebellious behavior in women. Authority figures are often accused of creating rebellious behavior in both men and women. Rebellion can also be looked at as Otherwise: recovery can be viewed as a form of rebellion against addiction. Therefore, rebellion does not have to be negative. Rebellion can result in healing. Depth psychology is often thought of as rebellious--us and them, the familiar and the Other, right and wrong, etc. This form of rebellion is spiritual, and spirituality is an entity that needs to be developed. This form of rebellion invites change; in fact, it seeks it. Change is the only evidence of growth.

Part of a letter is published in Pass It On (1984) from Bill Wilson (cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous), to Carl Jung; the letter went on to tell Jung how the message reached Bill at the low point of his 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 [spiritual experience or spiritual awakening] 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" (p. 383).

Spiritual experiences can be life changing. Though William James wrote about spiritual experience in The Varieties of Religious Experience, Carl Jung introduced it to Bill Wilson and it has since changed the lives of thousands of people in Alcoholic's Anonymous. Oracular guidance is also a spiritual experience. Oracular consciousness has to be developed over time; therefore, if enough time is not devoted in developing it, what may be interpreted as oracular guidance may in reality be another unknown influence.

"Give me a sign, God!" How often have people, in one way or another, sought guidance this way? However, 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. Seeking oracular guidance might also pull this trigger. According to Skafte (1997) "To receive an oracle is to receive guidance, knowledge, or illumination from a mysterious source beyond the personal self"(p. 3).

Dr. Skafte proposes "that ‘the shadow' may appear in unexpected places when the oracle is sought" (p.136). Personality traits and genetic idiosyncrasies are omnipresent. As is the dark side of our psyche. Relying too much on oracular guidance can lead to a road that is not conducive to spiritual needs or healing. Something as unlikely as a butterfly flying into a neighborhood tavern, could set into motion a possible solution for a problem. Taking the butterfly's flight into the bar as an oracular sign post, one could meet an old drinking buddy inside that he or she had not seen in a long time. Thinking the "oracle" has again provided guidance, a recurring dependence on alcohol could follow a drinking spree in the bar. In how many other ways can the "imaginal" cause problems? Transitions from an objective orientation to the imaginal should be approached carefully, especially the chemically dependent who is always (often unconsciously) looking for excuses to return to addictive behavior.

Traditional clinical treatment models in the west are numerous, and these models have been treating various forms of mental illness for over a century. Jung said that "psychiatry is a stepchild of medicine. All the other branches of medicine have one great advantage: the scientific method. In all other branches there are things that can be seen and touched, physical and chemical methods of investigation to be followed" (C.W. 3, par.320).

Psychiatric treatments, including treatments for chemical dependency, were founded on the medical model. How effective has that been? How often have they considered culture? Not nearly enough, because if one thinks about it, culture has a monumental influence says Cushman (1995):

"Nothing has cured the human race, and nothing is about to. Mental ills don't work that way; they are not universal, they are local. Every era has a particular configuration of self, illness, healer, technology; they are a kind of cultural package. They are interrelated, intertwined, interpenetrating. So when we study a particular illness, we are also studying the conditions that shape and define that illness, and the sociopolitical impact of those who are responsible for healing it (p. 7).

Shulman (1997) says that:

Western healing systems for mental illness are ‘ill' because they are suffering from a one-sided gerontomorphy that needs to be corrected. Behind the glass walls of our observation posts, we are concerned more with watching, recording, and diagnosing than with relating (p. 203).

James Hillman (1976), in Re-Visioning Psychology, believes that

Many modern methods of psychotherapy want to retain the spirit of analysis but not its soul. They want to retain the methods and forms without pathologizings. Then the doctor can become a master, and the patient is metamorphosed into a pupil, client, partner, disciple-- anything but a patient (p. 70).

Defining depth psychology would be fruitless as an antecedent to what follows because of its multi-definitional makeup, after all, a depth psychological perspective could well be an irrational one. Hillman (1983) quotes Freud as saying "in all countries into which psychoanalysis has penetrated it has been better understood and applied by writers and artists than by doctors" (p. 3). Freud was not referring to addiction, of course, but that statement does suggest that maybe scientific theories and treatment concerning substance abuse should be examined from those who are not so "supposedly informed" on the subject. Maybe present ideas of irrational will be tomorrow's ideas of rational.

Those submerged in the scientific method often scoff at anything otherwise because they have set the standard for what is the supposedly logical existence. Cushman (1995) explains that "psychologists might dress in white coats, work in what is called a ‘laboratory,' and refer to their work as science, but what they are unintentionally doing is using the approved practices of their era to carry on a disguised moral discourse to justify a particular view about what is the proper way of being (p.333).

Jung, who was himself submerged in the scientific method for a long time said that

While immense progress has been made in cerebral anatomy, we know practically nothing about the psyche, or even less than we did before. Modern psychiatry behaves like someone who thinks he can decipher the meaning and purpose of a building by a mineralogical analysis of its stones (C.W. 3, par. 324).

The tremendous complexity of psyche led Jung to believe that attempts to formulate a comprehensive theory of the psyche was not possible. Therefore, as vast as the psyche is, the points that Freud and Jung makes are well taken.

Psyche may well use addiction as a pedagogical tool in the same way it may use mental illness as a pedagogical tool. It is common for those with mental disorders to turn to helping others with similar problems by becoming therapists, and it is also very common to find recovered addicts and alcoholics in the field of addiction as counselors.

Whether we utilize oracular guidance, consider culture, study clearings of the Other, develop a metaphysical knowledge base, use symbols as metaphors, pray for guidance, or dis identify with the status quo and challenge authority, what is most important is to be happy, whether our means of getting there is accepted by others or not. If one is happy in the presence of animals, why not benefit from them? McElroy (1996) does:

Blessed with a wide assortment of spectacular human and animal mentors, I have always received the counsel I needed if I just waited and watched long and closely enough. Animals have been masters at bringing me examples of courage and joy that cannot be surpassed. Judging from the many responses I received about animals as healing mentors, it's evident that many people agree (p. 83).

Active imagination can be a transcendent function--a living connection to the collective unconscious. Images can be used as metaphors to be used as guide posts. Therefore, why not, in some way use another unconventional activity--the waking dream? With practice, the waking dream can be of service. Watkins (1977) describes "the attempt to dream while awake, itself paradoxical, involves one in a number of paradoxical states, actions, and attitudes." Watkins says "this opus creates a directionality away from the perceptual and the material, to the imaginal and the psychological (p 14).

Music, art, sculpture, sports, education, various spiritual paths, plants, animals, nature, play, children, helping others, reading, computers, crafts, meditation: all these things and more, with what has been previously discussed are not mutually exclusive. So, could the waking dream, for example, in combination with the Internet, find a way into psyche to alleviate the persistent intrusion of addictive thinking?

These last few concepts of light rather than shadow is probably not possible for many of those who live in the world of addiction, but for those who are willing to change old ways of thinking and doing, into new ways of thinking and doing, just about anything is possible.


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.

Cushman, Phillip. (1995). Constructing the Self, Constructing America: A Cultural History of Psychotherapy. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc.

Hillman, James. (1976). Re-Visioning Psychology. New York, NY: Harper Perennial.

Jung, Carl. (1960). The Psychogenesis of Mental Disease. New York, N.Y.: Pantheon Books.

McElroy, Susan Chernak. (1996). Animals as Teachers & Healers. Troutdale, OR: NewSage Press.

Shulman, Helene. (1997). Living at the Edge of Chaos: Complex Systems in Culture and Psyche. Daimon Verlag.

Skafte, Diane. (1997). Listening to the Oracle: The Ancient Art of Finding Cuidannce in the Signs and Symbols All Around Us. New York, N.Y.: Harper Collins Publishers.

Watkins, Mary. (1976). Waking Dreams. Woodstock, CT: Spring Publications.

Woodman, Marion. (1982). Addiction to Perfection: The Still Unravished Bride. Toronto, Canada: Inner City Books.

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