The 12 Steps – A Spiritual Transformation
Many mental health care professionals do not understand the 12-Step recovery procedure, unless they have participated in a 12-Step program. Although they may encourage their particular clients to do so, they may feel puzzled or intimated, or act making use of. Often, therapists don’t realize that the 12-Steps are not merely an antidote regarding addiction, but are guidelines for free less than a total personality transformation. Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, was influenced by Renowned psychiatrist Carl Jung, whom he or she wrote seeking a treatment for addiction to alcohol. Jung replied that the cure would need to be a spiritual one – an electrical equal to the power of spiritus vivi, or alcohol. He thought that lovers were “misguided ‘seekers for the spirit,’… in the world of Dionysus, the god of renewal through the light from below, from the earth rather than from the heavens… ” (Whitmont, 227)
The 12 Steps provide a spiritual remedy. They outline a process of surrender from the ego to the unconscious, God or perhaps a higher power, and very much look like the process of transformation in Jungian treatment. Jung believed that unity plus wholeness of the personality, which creates a sense of acceptance and detachment, happens when both the conscious and subconscious demands are taken into account – you should definitely the ego, but the Self, reaches the center of consciousness. (Storr, 19) He wrote that his life had been “a story of the self-realization of the unconscious,” and rediscovered, as recommended by the 12 Steps, that God was “a guiding principle of unity.” (Storr, 24-25)
The pursuing is a summary of how the Steps work; however , any linear explanation is misleading, because, like change, the process is circular. Although these types of Steps apply to numerous addictions, whether or not to a person, a substance (e. g. alcohol, drugs, food) or perhaps a process (e. g., sex, gaming, debting), the focus here is on alcoholic beverages and drug addiction and the members of the family who are in a codependent relationship using the alcoholic/addict.
Facing the Problem.
The beginning of recovery is recognizing that there is a problem involving drugs or even alcohol, that there is help outside yourself, and the willingness to utilize it. This also represents the beginning of hope plus trust in something beyond oneself (such as a therapist, sponsor, or the program). Invariably, it has taken years to manage the problem, but by opening the closed family system, and studying addiction, denial starts to thaw.
The first part of “working the First Step” is an entrance of powerlessness. Step 1 says: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives have become unmanageable.” (Other words, such as “food”, “gambling” or “people, places and things” are often replaced for the word alcohol. ) The substance abuser begins to understand s/he is powerless over drugs or even alcohol, and the codependent slowly understands that she or he cannot control the material abuser. The struggle not to consume and the codependent’s vigilance over the abuser begin to slip away. Gradually, interest starts to shift from the substance, plus, for the codependent, the substance abuser to focus on oneself. Before taking this particular Step, endless therapy sessions are usually spent by the alcoholic, wondering, “Why do I drink?” and the spouse complaining about the addict’s behavior.
There are deeper plus deeper levels of working the First Step during recovery. The 1st stage is the acknowledgment that there is an issue with a substance; second, that it is the life-threatening problem over which one is helpless; and third, that actually the problem is not just with the substance, nor with the material abuser or others, but is based on ones own attitudes and conduct.
The acknowledgment of powerlessness leaves a void, which previously was filled with a lot of mental plus physical activity trying to control and adjust the addiction or the substance abuser. Feelings of anxiety, anger, reduction, emptiness, boredom, and depression occur. The emptiness that was masked with the addiction is now revealed. It is definitely an awesome realization when you acknowledge which you or your loved one has a life frightening addiction, subject only to a daily liberation, over which you are powerless. Now, having a modicum of trust, and possibly out of desperation or faith, 1 acquires a willingness to turn to some power beyond oneself. This will be Step 2 . “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
In the guide Alcoholics Anonymous, it states, “Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power–that One is God.” (p. 59). That power may also be a sponsor, therapist, the group, the treatment process or a spiritual power. In working the Steps, reality by itself becomes a teacher, as one is requested to continually “turn over” (to that will Power) an addiction, people plus frustrating situations. More and more, the particular ego relinquishes control, as one starts to trust that Power, the development process and life as well.
What has been happening up until now is definitely an increasing awareness and observation associated with ones dysfunctional behavior and addiction(s) – what is referred to as “insanity” within the Second Step. This is an essential development, because it signifies the genesis of an observing ego. With this particular new tool, one begins to work out some restraint over addictive plus undesirable habits, words, and actions. The Program works behaviorally along with spiritually. Abstinence and forbearance through old behavior are accompanied by stress, anger and a sense of losing control. New, preferable attitudes and conduct (often called “contrary action”) feel unpleasant, and arouse other emotions, which includes fear and guilt. From the Jungian perspective, ones “complexes” are now being challenged.
“We regard and approach life in the light of our childhood values and conditioning, that is, in the light of our complexes. This would explain why our sense of being and of security are so tied to our familiar, personally-actualized frames of reference… Every challenge to our personal habit patterns and accustomed values is felt as nothing less than the threat of death and extinction of our selves. Invariably such challenges evoke reactions of defensive anxiety.” (Whitmont, 24)
Group assistance is important in reinforcing new conduct, because the emotions triggered by these types of changes are very powerful and can quickly retard or arrest recovery. For the very same reasons, family, friends plus lovers may resist change to be able to preserve the system’s homeostasis. The emotional discomfort may be so great that this substance abuser may revert in order to drinking or using. The 12 Steps provide help in Step a few. Here one is asked to give up the ego’s central position since director, and to turn ones existence “over to the care of God as we understood God.” This is the practice associated with “letting go” and “turning it over,” meaning that 1 cannot control outcomes, others’ behaviour, and behaviors, nor daily worries that can trigger a relapse. In Jungian therapy, the individual “comes to change his attitude from one in which ego and will are paramount to one in which he acknowledges that he is guided by an integrating factor which is not of his own making… named the Self – a ‘God-image,’ or at least indistinguishable from one.”(Storr, 19). The idea of surrender can be especially frightening to someone – such as many addicts – who has already been traumatized by abuse or overlook. Building trust is a process, yet as faith gradually grows, therefore does the ability to let go and shift towards more functional behavior.
Inventory; Building Self-esteem.
Now with a little more ego awareness, self-discipline and belief, one is ready to review ones earlier. This is Step 4. It requires a thorough examination (“a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”), having a view towards uncovering patterns associated with dysfunctional emotions and behavior, known as “character defects.” The “exact nature of our wrongs” is after that “admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being,” in Step 5.
For Jung, the shadow “is moral problem that challenges the whole ego personality” (Storr, 91), and “no progress or growth in analysis is possible until (it) is adequately confronted.” (Whitmont, 165) “The shadow personifies everything that the client refuses to acknowledge about himself and yet is always thrusting itself upon him directly and indirectly – for instance, inferior traits of character and other incompatible tendencies.” (Storr, 221) Awareness from the dark aspects of the personality, an important condition for self-knowledge, requires “considerable moral effort,” and “painstaking work extending over a long period.” (Storr, 91). Individuals conscientious in working the Steps often do a few inventories along with one or more sponsors over several years, every time experiencing greater honesty and understanding.
Jung felt redemption was achievable only by facing ones “final guilt,” or “blackest shadow.” (Storr, 279, Whitmont, 226)) Whether in therapy or even with a sponsor, the process of self-disclosure inside a non-judgmental environment required by Step 5 further develops self-esteem plus an observing ego. Through mindful acknowledgment of ones imperfections, 1 discovers his or her frailty and humankind. Guilt, resentments and paralyzing pity begin to gently dissolve, and with this, the false self, self-loathing plus depression. For some, particularly individuals in therapy, this process involves remembering childhood pain and grief function, which is the beginning of empathy for yourself and others.
Self-acceptance and Transformation.
The encounter with the shadow brings inescapable conflict and pain. Following a good acknowledgment of dysfunctional emotional plus behavioral patterns, the person is still confronted with the realization that awareness only is not enough. Change doesn’t take place until old habits are changed with healthier skills, and/or till the purposes they served are eliminated. With greater awareness, the old actions become increasingly uncomfortable, and no more time work. This is the process of give up described in Step 6.
“Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.” It is similar to Step 3; nevertheless , Step 3 is more of a mindful decision and is usually associated with giving up control over situations or things beyond oneself, while Step 6 underscores the psychological process of personal change that evolves throughout recovery. This Step represents a further development of self-acceptance and opens the door to change. Ideally, the person continues, pursuant to Step 10, to examine their patterns plus “defects” with a sponsor or counselor as they show up on a daily basis, to better realize their feelings, motives, consequences as well as other options. Like the movie “Groundhog Day,” tries to change can become frustrating. For provided that one furtively tries to change, plus blames oneself in the process, no motion occurs – not until 1 gives up, in despair. Step 6 asks that one give up handle and ego clinging, and look for an origin beyond oneself. Jung knew there is nothing to be done, but in order to “wait, with a certain trust in God, until out of a conflict borne with patience and fortitude, there emerges the solution destined.” (Storr, 281) Then you are “entirely ready.” There is a parallel within Jungian therapy, where a critical stage is reached.
“We then discover to our dismay that our attempts to solve (our problems) by an effort of will avails us nothing, that our good intentions, as the saying goes, merely pave the way to hell… We are faced up against a paradox that discipline and conscious effort are indispensable but do not get us far enough in our really critical areas… A resolution of this seemingly hopeless impasse eventually occurs by virtue of the awareness that the ego’s claim of a capacity to control rests on an illusion… Then we have come to a point of acceptance that initiates a fundamental transformation of which we are the object, not the subject. Transformation of our personality occurs in us, upon us, but not by us. The unconscious changes itself and us in response to our awareness and acceptance of our station, of our cross… (We) are aware of our limitations, not merely intellectually but in the depths of our bowels, in our feelings and in our despair… The point of hopelessness, the point of no return, then is the turning point… The ways of resolution are usually those which conscious reason could never have discovered.” (Whitmont, 307-308).
This process of working with the darkness leads to the modesty needed to type relationships. “The perfect have no need of others, but weakness has, for it seeks support… ” (Storr, 399-400) It is this humility in relation to God that’s needed is by Step 7, which says, “Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.”
Compassion for Others.
The overview of ones shortcomings in Step five reveals ones effect on others, plus awakens empathy for those one has injured. Steps 8 and 9 claim that one make a list of those people to create direct amends to them. Jung recommends that where it is not possible in order to restrain the expression of the darkness, we can at least mitigate it by having an apology, rather than blame the other person. (Whitmont, 168) This builds humility plus compassion, and self-esteem.
Tools regarding Daily Growth.
Recovery and religious growth are never completed, but the continual process. The 12 Steps provide tools for this ongoing procedure. Steps 10, 11, and 12 are referred to as maintenance steps, in fact it is recommended that they be commenced earlier in recovery.
The 12-Step Programs emphasize moral behavior – doing it right thing. Rather than wait around until one feels like doing the correct thing, it is often said to: “Take the action, and the feelings will follow.” Jung believed that faith alone had been empty, and that the patient needed “justification by works.” He needs “to do the right thing… with all his might.” (Storr, 281) Step 10 recommends one consider an on-going inventory, and when incorrect make prompt amends. This stimulates self-responsibility and integrates awareness of the particular shadow on a daily basis to keep the standing clean in relationships with other people. “Guilt feelings… have to be dealt with by converting them into rational responsibility, by promoting the realization that a law of cause and effect is operating. When someone feels he is wrong or something is amiss, he does have something to do with it and it is his own personal responsibility to act and to control himself – even to change himself.” (Whitmont, 281)
Step 11 suggests meditation and prayer to improve “conscious contact with God.” This strengthens the relationship to the Self and increases Self-awareness. It stimulates new behavior, by reducing reactivity and anxiety accompanying change, through increasing tolerance for the experience of relish, which supports the Self since old behavior and ego constructions fall away.
Step 12 suggests doing service and working with other people, which reduces self-centeredness and improves compassion. Additionally, sharing what you have learned is self-reinforcing. This Step also suggests practicing these concepts in all areas of ones life. This is a reminder that spirituality plus growth cannot be practiced in only 1 segment of our life, without contaminants from other areas. For example, chicanery in any area undermines serenity plus self-esteem, affecting all of ones associations. It also protects against the propensity of many people to switch addictions to cope with the anxiety and depression that may accompany abstinence.
Copyright, Darlene A. Lancer, 2004
Alcoholic Anonymous World Services, Inc. (1976). Alcoholics Anonymous. New York, N. Y Storr, Anthony (1983) The Essential Jung, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University
Press. Whitmont, Edward C. (1969). The Symbolic Quest. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.