Addiction and healing. Understanding the efficacy of depth psychology


What is addiction?

“Any behavior that becomes a priority replacing over priorities despite negative consequences.”
Patrick Carnes

“Anything, substance or behavior that prevents an individual from coping and functioning successfully in life.”
A. J. Popky

According to Dr. Gabor Mate’, a Canadian physician, the more stress one experiences during the early years of development, the more likely that individual will suffer from addiction as they will seek a substitute for the lack of nurture and personal connections.

“The issue with the addiction is not the external activity, but the internal relationship to it. One person’s passion is another’s addiction.”
Dr. Gabor Mate’

Underlying causes & healing

As research suggests, the underlying causes of addiction are often related to childhood trauma. “While every traumatized child doesn’t grow into an addict, every addict has been a traumatized child.” Gabor Mate’

Trauma is an internal impact, which is essentially a disconnection from the self, our bodies, and our gut feelings. Trauma causes extreme discomfort, leaving one with the inability to be in the present moment as they find the present moment to be too painful.

To heal from addictive behaviors, one must first identify the trauma that lies beneath. To better understand trauma, we can break it down into 2 parts: adverse childhood experiences and relational trauma. Adverse childhood experiences may include emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, parental death, parental incarceration, mental illness (parental), familial violence, neglect, or divorce. Whereas relational trauma may include severe stress, distress, or parental distraction (distractions getting in the way of the parent-child bonding process). Childhood trauma hinders individual development and being a part of an environment that has caused trauma can lead one to search for relief, often in unhealthy places. This is where addiction comes in as it acts as a buffer of sorts in an otherwise chaotic mind. Engaging in addictive behaviors will provide a false and very temporary feeling of euphoria. It is that feeling that causes individuals to return to the source, again and again. According to Dr. Gabor Mate’, a Canadian physician, the more stress one experiences during the early years of development, the more likely that individual will suffer from addiction as they will seek a substitute for the lack of nurture and personal connections.

To heal and facilitate transformation by cultivating awareness and acceptance, one must discover the untapped healing qualities they already possess. Using such an approach to recover from alcohol, drugs, and other addictive behaviors will allow individuals to experience the benefits of being treated in their entirety, as “wholes”, with complete systems requiring attention. “Depth psychological approaches to psychological suffering attempt to help individuals become aware of what has been cast out of consciousness or not yet able to be known. Healing is associated with allowing what has been repressed, rejected, denied or ignored to come forward so that the person can understand, explore its significance and integrate it, allowing for a transformation in consciousness.”

What is depth psychology?

As described by the C.G. Jung Center, “Depth Psychology refers to approaches to therapy that are open to the exploration of the subtle, unconscious, and transpersonal aspects of human experience. A depth approach may include therapeutic traditions 
that explores the unconscious and involves the study and exploration of dreams, complexes, and archetypes.”

Creativity, mystery, and the potentiality that lies in the unknown are the focal points of depth psychology. When ready, the mysteries of the unconscious will unveil themselves. Depth psychology provides an opportunity for one to truly see and feel, freeing the mind from the despair and pain that have prevented light, love, and passion from shining through.

The efficacy of depth psychology

Since everything living strives for wholeness, the inevitable one-sidedness of our conscious life is continually being corrected and compensated by the universal human being in us, whose goal is the ultimate integration of conscious and unconscious.” As adults, we may unconsciously resist confronting buried traumas and emotions, which adversely affect our lives and keep us trapped. Although we know they are in the past and we are better able to deal with them in the present, unconscious childhood programming mistakenly believes those well-hidden traumas are dangerous or painful. As a result, we continue to stuff uncomfortable feelings inside until past hurts create more serious physical and/or emotional pain. Only then do we consider healing the past traumas impeding our freedom to bring our heartfelt intentions into existence. As research indicates, depth psychological approaches have proven to be highly beneficial in healing from past traumas.

Heavily influenced by Carl G. Jung, depth psychological approaches are said to have a “longer-lasting and more profound impact than cognitive or behavioral psychologies alone.” Through the use of depth psychological approaches, individuals gain better awareness into the traumas they have eliminated from consciousness. According to Jung, “ the unconscious is made up of archetypes, autonomous instincts, patterns, or behaviors, which are common across all eras, peoples, and places. Archetypes organize the contents of the unconscious and connect it, at its deepest levels, to nature. Jung believed the language of archetypes, and therefore of the unconscious, is manifest in symbols and images, which entice us with their numinous power to enter 
into a relationship with them and to participate in a reciprocal act of transformation.”

Addiction and depth psychology

The most important factors that influence our personalities are deep within the unconscious and those factors influence our behavior as well. Depending on what lies in the unconscious, those behaviors can turn out to be … addictive. Many cannot see beyond painful images of childhood and are unable to remember the positive things that happened. We have experienced both comforting and unsettling times, yet the comforting memories are blocked from surfacing. In childhood, when safety or security was threatened, we reacted by erecting unconscious defenses and we oriented toward what was difficult or unsettling instead of what was comforting. It’s as though the positive memories are on the other side of the wall (defense) out of reach, and we then come to believe nothing good happened. Sometimes recalling loving and tender moments can cause feelings of vulnerability. So, the very memories that could heal us are those we unconsciously block.

The use of depth psychological approaches to heal from addiction can provide immense benefits as the methods utilized will help “uncover or reveal repressed or hidden aspects of our self, rather like opening a window from inside the limited existence we experience through the everyday self we know and out onto the depths of the soul.”