Jung’s archetype on addiction

Our previous discussion on addiction became quite serious and heavy…. So let’s change direction for a moment and look at archetypes.

According to Jung, an archetype is a pattern of force that causes external and internal events to constellate around it in specific patterns of meaning. It is thus a “something” that changes both the pattern of events and your thoughts. The result is that your thoughts and the events around you mirror each other. Archetypes are also patterns of creation and are not thought of as causes in and of themselves. Jung believed archetypes existed in a continuum outside of time and space, in an eternal present moment that encompassed all of the past, present and future.

Although archetypes are patterns of influence that are ancient and universal, we see through their work that they become personalised when they are part of individual psyche or when they form part of the collective unconscious. Along these lines, Caroline Myss names the addict as an archetype and states that every one of us is touched by the addict archetype. The question is only really how much of our lives is consumed by it.

There are the usual suspects – drugs, alcohol, food and sex. However, the addict archetype can take many forms: the conspicuous consumer, the glutton, the workaholic, the gambler. One can also be addicted to television, sports, exercise, computer games, negative attitudes, complaining and any other thrill that brings on an adrenaline rush.

Myss continues that the shadow aspect of the addict represents a struggle of willpower and the absence of self-control. This compromises your honesty and integrity. She continues to say “needing a substance or practice or person so intensely or regularly that you compromise relationships, finances, integrity, character, or emotional and psychological well-being, however, indicates that you should look very seriously at this archetype” to see how and where it manifests in your life.

To make matters more interesting, in the English language addiction has two overlapping but distinct meanings. Recently, it has come to refer to a dysfunctional dependence on drugs or on behaviours such as gambling or eating – really what we have been alluding to above. However, surprisingly, this view is only about a hundred years old. For centuries before then – we know at least back to Shakespeare – addiction referred simply to an activity that one was passionate about or committed to. “Sir, what sciences have you addicted yourself to.” Someone asks the knight Don Quixote in the 18th century English translation of the Cervantes classic.

So wellness and well-being comes into the picture. We know our fast-paced lives. We know our addictions and we know how hard we work and play. Therefore, as we learnt how to ride a bicycle or swim or play rugby or soccer, in a similar way we have to learn again how to take care of ourselves. There are many alternative ways that are effective, not only to help us cope, but also to help us live more wholly and fully in the moment. As we grow in consciousness we become more present. As we become more present, we experience a more unified state of awareness, experiencing increased interconnectedness, leading in turn, to reduced anxiety and increased ability to live more fully in the present moment.

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The blending of hard core academic research with ‘spiritual’ topics is refreshing and highly significant in the world today. People in all walks of life are searching for meaning and this thesis goes a long way in providing answers that will aid the everyday man in the street to manage his/her stressors with dignity and purpose.

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