May 12, 2023

Jungian Analysis: Enhancing Spiritual Growth through the 11th Step

The 11th step of Alcoholics Anonymous states, “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious (italics added) contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us, and the power to carry that out.” Despite being the step with the most potential for long-term spiritual growth, few 12-steppers fully embrace it.

If Bill W. considered AA a spiritual kindergarten, the 11th step enables progression through the grades, deepening the recovering alcoholic’s understanding of God and spirituality. Are there other ways, besides traditional prayer and meditation, to become more conscious?

Jung’s Concept of God as an Experience

Carl Jung, when asked about his conception of God, often implied that God was an experience that happened to him. Many 12-steppers can relate to this notion. They frequently start their recovery journey preoccupied with ideas about belief, faith, and atheism. Jung would agree with 12-steppers who view the struggle with belief as a matter of control.

The step process parallels what Jung referred to as the “religious encounter.” The concept of God, combined with the reality of addiction, challenges the addict to radically rethink their self-perception, worldview, and relationships with others. The question of God arises just as the addict finally admits to being powerless.

The 11th Step: Challenging Ego and Control

Ideally, the 11th step should lead addicts down paths that challenge the illusion of control, characterizing ego consciousness. Practices such as meditation, contemplative prayer, and yoga can achieve this. However, over time and with repetition, these practices can become tools for ego enhancement, losing their spiritual value. In contrast, Jungian analysis is designed to continuously expand consciousness and cannot be transformed into another means of self-improvement or problem-solving.

Continuous Religious Encounter through Jungian Analysis

Embarking on Jungian analysis involves willingly participating in a journey of “continuous religious encounter.” This does not mean that analysis is a new form of religion; rather, it is a unique practice that deliberately engages with the unconscious, which Jung contends is ultimately spiritual in nature. Through analysis, one learns to work with dreams and imagination, forming a relationship with the psyche or soul.

The Benefits of Prior Meditation or Contemplative Practice

Establishing a meditative or contemplative practice before starting analysis can be advantageous, as these skills are helpful when learning to attend to the psyche. In any case, working with the unconscious consistently challenges the ego’s false dominance, expanding consciousness. One gradually cultivates a perspective that includes but is not dominated by the ego.

Therapy and the 12-Step World: A Complementary Relationship

Therapy has been a contentious topic in the 12-Step community. Some believe that the steps make therapy unnecessary, while others think needing therapy indicates inadequate step practice. However, a growing number of individuals in recovery seek something more than or in addition to the traditional AA/NA 12-step program. For many, analysis has proven effective in enriching and amplifying their step experience, leading them to a new crossroads where they can have a fresh experience of God.

Corey Gamberg
Written By

Corey Gamberg

Professional Overview Corey Gamberg, a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor with over a decade of... Read More

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