Carl Jung and Alcoholics Anonymous: The Twelve Steps as a Spiritual Journey of Individuation

Author(s) : Ian McCabe

Carl Jung and Alcoholics Anonymous: The Twelve Steps as a Spiritual Journey of Individuation

Book Details

  • Publisher : Routledge
  • Published : August 2015
  • Cover : Paperback
  • Pages : 188
  • Category :
  • Category 2 :
    Jung and Analytical Psychology
  • Catalogue No : 37161
  • ISBN 13 : 9781782203124
  • ISBN 10 : 1782203125
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“Show me a drunk and I’ll show you someone in search of God”, is a saying that could be derived from Carl Jung. Jung wrote to Bill Wilson, founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.), about his understanding of Rowland Hazard’s alcoholism: “His craving for alcohol was the equivalent, on a low level, of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness, expressed in medieval language: the union with God”. .

The author visited the archives of the headquarters of A.A. in New York, and discovered new communications between Carl Jung and Bill Wilson. For the first time this correspondence shows Jung’s respect for A.A. and in turn, its influence on him. In particular, this research shows how Bill Wilson was encouraged by Jung’s writings to promote the spiritual aspect of recovery as opposed to the conventional medical model which has failed so abysmally.

The book overturns the long-held belief that Jung distrusted groups. Indeed, influenced by A.A.’s success, Jung gave “complete and detailed instructions” on how the A.A. group format could be developed further and used by “general neurotics”.

Wilson was an advocate of treating some alcoholics with LSD in order to deflate the ego and induce a spiritual experience. He wrote to Jung for his comments on this controversial idea. Jung was stridently opposed to “short cuts”, to transcendent experiences; however he died before he could reply to Wilson’s comprehensive letter.

The author explains how alcoholism can be diagnosed and understood by professionals and the lay person; by examining the detailed case histories of Jung, the author gives graphic examples of its psychological and behavioural manifestations.

By combining the narratives of recovering alcoholics with a Jungian perspective, the author explains how the program of the 12 steps can lead to a journey of spiritual awakening or in Jungian terms, individuation. This book explains in plain words the language of A.A. and takes the reader inside a meeting to show how it works in practice.

The final chapter deals with the criticism that both organisations have “cultish” aspects.

Reviews and Endorsements

‘Ian McCabe’s book on the relationship between Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) and Jungian Psychology is scholarly, well written, well researched and documented, and brings to light a significant historical context. I would recommend it to any serious student of A.A. and Jungian Psychology.’
— David Schoen, New Orleans Jungian Analyst and author of The War of the Gods in Addiction: C.G. Jung, Alcoholics Anonymous and Archetypal Evil

‘Carl Jung’s serendipitous role in the founding and formation of Alcoholics Anonymous is a fascinating story that until this book has never been fully told. Ian McCabe offers a thoughtful and even-handed analysis of the similarities and the differences between Jung’s path to psycho/spiritual integration and Bill Wilson’s 12-step program for sobriety and spiritual rebirth.’
— Don Lattin, author of Distilled Spirits: Getting High, then Sober, with a Famous Writer, a Forgotten Philosopher, and a Hopeless Drunk

‘In the course of discussing Carl Jung’s influence on Alcoholics Anonymous, this book boldly challenges many details about A.A.’s founders and sources, and the varied remarks of those believers and unbelievers who have busied themselves attacking the religious origins of A.A. It enables readers to examine each of a wide number of diverse sources that have often been lacking in coherent research and writing, and helpfully opens the door to A.A. and its roots.’
— Dick B., author of The Good Book and the Big Book: A.A.’s Roots in the Bible

‘This book is essential reading for newcomers and old timers alike. It is a fresh take on the greatest gift that could be given to an addict, which is the 12-step programme. This book rings true and it resonates with a phrase I heard on my first day when I was a newcomer 30 years ago: “Let us love you until you can learn to love yourself”.
— Tom, A.A. member, Kew, London

About the Author(s)

Ian Mc Cabe, PhD, Psy.D is a Chartered Psychologist, Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society and a Zurich trained Child and Adult Jungian Analyst. While training at the Haight Ashbury Alcohol Treatment Centre in San Francisco he studied Alcohol and Drug abuse at the University of California, Berkeley, extension. He has worked as a Clinical Psychologist with Addiction Response Crumlin, Dublin and is the Managing Director of the Irish based Charity, Jung Institute for Free Analysis for Children and Clinical Director of

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