How Carl Jung Impressed the Creation of Alcoholics Nameless

There could also be as many doorways into Alco­holics Anony­mous within the twenty first cen­tu­ry as there are peo­ple who stroll by them—from each world reli­gion to no reli­gion. The “inter­na­tion­al mutu­al-aid fel­low­ship” has had “a sig­nif­i­cant and long-term impact on the cul­ture of the Unit­ed States,” writes Worces­ter State Uni­ver­si­ty professional­fes­sor of psy­chol­o­gy Charles Fox at Aeon. Certainly, its influ­ence is glob­al. From its incep­tion in 1935, A.A. has rep­re­despatched­ed an “enor­mous­ly pop­u­lar ther­a­py, and a tes­ta­ment to the inter­dis­ci­pli­nary nature of well being and effectively­ness.”

A.A. has additionally rep­re­despatched­ed, not less than cul­tur­al­ly, a comment­in a position syn­the­sis of behav­ioral sci­ence and spir­i­tu­al­i­ty that trans­lates into scores of dif­fer­ent lan­guages, beliefs, and prac­tices. Or not less than that’s the best way it might probably seem from brows­ing the scores of books on A.A.’s 12-Steps and Bud­dhism, Yoga, Catholi­cism, Judaism, Indige­nous religion tra­di­tions, shaman­ist prac­tices, Sto­icism, sec­u­lar human­ism, and, in fact, psy­chol­o­gy.

His­tor­i­cal­ly, and sometimes in prac­tice, how­ev­er, the (non)group of world­extensive fel­low­ships has rep­re­despatched­ed a a lot nar­row­er tra­di­tion, inher­it­ed from the evan­gel­i­cal (small “e”) Chris­t­ian Oxford Group, or as A.A. founder Invoice Wil­son referred to as them, “the ‘O.G.’” Wil­son cred­its the Oxford Group for the tactic­ol­o­gy of A.A.: “their giant empha­sis upon the prin­ci­ples of self-sur­vey, con­fes­sion, resti­tu­tion, and the giv­ing of 1­self in ser­vice to oth­ers.”

The Oxford Group’s the­ol­o­gy, although qual­i­fied and tem­pered, additionally made its manner into a lot of A.A.’s fundamental prin­ci­ples. However for the recov­ery group’s gen­e­sis, Wil­son cites a extra sec­u­lar writer­i­ty, Carl Jung. The well-known Swiss psy­chi­a­trist took a eager inter­est in alco­holism within the Nineteen Twenties. Wil­son wrote to Jung in 1961 to specific his “nice appre­ci­a­tion” for his efforts. “A cer­tain con­ver­sa­tion you as soon as had with considered one of your sufferers, a Mr. Row­land H. again within the ear­ly 1930’s,” Wil­son explains, “did play a crit­i­cal function within the discovered­ing of our Fel­low­ship.”

Jung might not have recognized his influ­ence on the recov­ery transfer­ment, Wil­son says, though alco­holics had account­ed for “about 13 per­cent of all admis­sions” in his prac­tice, notes Fox. One in every of his sufferers, Row­land H.—or Row­land Haz­ard, “make investments­ment banker and for­mer state sen­a­tor from Rhode Island”—got here to Jung in des­per­a­tion, noticed him dai­ly for a peri­od of sev­er­al months, stopped drink­ing, then relapsed. Introduced again to Jung by his cousin, Haz­ard was informed that his case was hope­much less in need of a reli­gious con­ver­sion. As Wil­son places it in his let­ter:

[Y]ou frankly informed him of his hope­much less­ness, as far as any fur­ther med­ical or psy­chi­atric deal with­ment could be con­cerned. This may­did and hum­ble state­ment of yours was past doubt the primary foun­da­tion stone upon which our Soci­ety has since been constructed.

Jung additionally informed Haz­ard that con­ver­sion expe­ri­ences have been incred­i­bly uncommon and rec­om­mend­ed that he “place him­self in a reli­gious atmos­phere and hope for the very best,” as Wil­son remem­bers. However he didn’t spec­i­fy any par­tic­u­lar reli­gion. Haz­ard dis­cov­ered the Oxford Group. He may, so far as Jung was con­cerned, have met God as he beneath­stood it any­the place. “His crav­ing for alco­hol was the equiv­a­lent,” wrote the psy­chi­a­trist in a reply to Wil­son, “on a low lev­el, of the spir­i­tu­al thirst of our being for complete­ness, expressed in medieval lan­guage: the union with God.”

In his reply let­ter to Wil­son, Jung makes use of reli­gious lan­guage alle­gor­i­cal­ly. AA took the concept of con­ver­sion extra lit­er­al­ly. Although it wres­tled with the plight of the agnos­tic, the Huge Ebook con­clud­ed that such peo­ple should even­tu­al­ly see the sunshine. Jung, on the oth­er hand, appears very care­ful to keep away from a strict­ly reli­gious inter­pre­ta­tion of his recommendation to Haz­ard, who begin­ed the primary small group that might con­vert Wil­son to sobri­ety and to Oxford Group meth­ods.

“How may one for­mu­late such an perception that’s not mis­un­der­stood in our days?” Jung asks. “The one proper and legit­i­mate solution to such an expe­ri­ence is that it hap­pens to you in actual­i­ty and it might probably solely hap­pen to you whenever you stroll on a path which leads you to a excessive­er beneath­stand­ing.” Sobri­ety might be achieved by “a excessive­er edu­ca­tion of the thoughts past the con­fines of mere rationalism”—by an enlight­en­ment or con­ver­sion expe­ri­ence, that’s. It may additionally happen by “an act of grace or by a per­son­al and hon­est con­tact with mates.”

Although most discovered­ing mem­bers of AA fought for the stricter inter­pre­ta­tion of Jung’s pre­scrip­tion, Wil­son at all times enter­tained the concept that mul­ti­ple paths may convey alco­holics to the identical aim, even includ­ing mod­ern med­i­cine. He drew on the med­ical opin­ions of Dr. William D. Silk­value, who the­o­rized that alco­holism was partly a phys­i­cal dis­ease, “a type of metab­o­lism dif­fi­cul­ty which he then referred to as an aller­gy.” Even after his personal con­ver­sion expe­ri­ence, which Silk­value, like Jung, rec­om­mend­ed he pur­sue, Wil­son exper­i­ment­ed with vit­a­min ther­a­pies, by the influ­ence of Aldous Hux­ley.

His search to beneath­stand his mys­ti­cal “white mild” second in a New York detox room additionally led Wil­son to William James’ Vari­eties of Reli­gious Expe­ri­ence. The guide “gave me the true­iza­tion,” he wrote to Jung, “that the majority con­ver­sion expe­ri­ences, what­ev­er their vari­ety, do have a com­mon denom­i­na­tor of ego col­lapse at depth.” He even thought that LSD may act as such a “tem­po­rary ego-reduc­er” after he took the drug beneath tremendous­vi­sion of British psy­chi­a­trist Humphrey Osmond. (Jung like­ly would have opposed what he referred to as “brief cuts” like psy­che­del­ic medication.)

Within the let­ters between Wil­son and Jung, as Ian McCabe argues in Carl Jung and Alco­holics Anony­mous, we see mutu­al admi­ra­tion between the 2, in addition to mutu­al influ­ence. “Invoice Wil­son,” writes McCabe’s pub­lish­er, “was encour­aged by Jung’s writ­ings to professional­mote the spir­i­tu­al facet of recov­ery,” a side that took on a par­tic­u­lar­ly reli­gious char­ac­ter in Alco­holics Anony­mous. For his half, Jung, “influ­enced by A.A.’s suc­cess… gave ‘com­plete and detailed instruc­tions’ on how the A.A. group for­mat might be devel­oped fur­ther and utilized by ‘gen­er­al neu­rotics.’” And so it has, although extra on the Oxford Group mod­el than the extra mys­ti­cal Jun­gian. It’d effectively have been oth­er­smart.

Learn extra about Jung’s influ­ence on AA over at Aeon.

Notice: Notice: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this put up appeared on our web site in 2019.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Carl Jung Affords an Intro­duc­tion to His Psy­cho­log­i­cal Thought in a 3‑Hour Inter­view (1957)

Take Carl Jung’s Phrase Asso­ci­a­tion Take a look at, a Fast Route Into the Sub­con­scious (1910)

Carl Jung’s Hand-Drawn, Hardly ever-Seen Man­u­script The Purple Ebook

Josh Jones is a author and musi­cian based mostly in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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