22 Feb 2011
Addiction and Spiritual Emergency
There are two connections between spiritual emergence and chemical dependency that are based on our informal observations; we hope they will assist in the further understanding of both addiction problems and spiritual emergency.
Some people develop alcoholism, drug dependency, or other addictions during a spiritual emergency. We are increasingly meeting people in a transformational process who have turned to addictive substances in an attempt to ease the stress of that intense period. Alcohol or drugs can provide a temporary escape from the pressures, pain, and chaos of the inner world and from the alienation that one may feel from the external world. This can be complicated if, in a state of unrest, a person seeks help of a sympathetic but uninformed psychiatrist who prescribes addictive tranquilizers. Although the moderate use of tranquilizers might be indicated in certain situations, their frequent use to suppress the process is contrary to the full expression required during a spiritual emergency. And for many people – especialli those with addictive tendencies – such medication can be easily abused. Also, one of the primary manifestations of experiences such as the Kundalini awakening is tremendous energy. Especially during highly aroused states, a great deal of this energy is expressed through physical movement and emotional outpourings, often depleting one’s physical resources. The individual subsequently finds himself or herself craving sweets, needing to replace the carbohydrates that have been expended.
Many addicts and alcoholics have a highly developed sensitivity, intuition, or mystical nature, which, while sought after in other cultures, causes them trouble in the modern world and contributes to their addictive behavior. This becomes apparent when we realized that one of the most frequent statements made by recovering people is " I always felt different, like an outcast. But when I took my first drink or my first drug, the pain of separation suddenly faded and I felt as though I belonged. " As we mentioned previously, for many people this sense of connection may be a sad caricature of the state of mystical union, a pseudo-satisfaction of an intense craving for a larger sense of self. But there might be another reason for this behavior, which is also linked to the innate human impulse toward spiritual emergence.
A large number of people who become addicts or alcoholics have grown up in dysfunctional families, frequently in situations of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, and often with parents who are chemically dependent. These children often retreat to their inner worlds for protection, comfort, and a sense of connection; they might escape into daydreams, create imaginary friends and adventures, or read for hours. They might develop a strong relationship with their creative or mystical nature, and may have true spiritual experiences along the way. For such people, spiritual emergence can begin in childhood – initiated, as are many other transformative processes, by extreme physical or emotional stress.
Then, after years of refining their intuition and creativity, they enter our culture – going to school, forming relationships, and later, finding a job. Here they are forced to live daily within a society in which rationality is the accepted mode of operation and intuition is seen as weak or flaky. They experience terrible pain and constant rejection as they try to fit themselves into a world that is constructed around logic and reason. They may also feel an unidentified longing to return to the inner realms that gave them consolation, security, and a relationship to something beyond their individual suffering. When the first drink or drug comes along, their problems seem to be solved. Their distress diminishes, and their differences become diffused as their individual boundaries seem to melt and they move forward toward a state of pseudo-unity. They become more relaxed socially as they take part in a highly acceptable activity. If they are predisposed to alcoholism or drug dependency, as their parents may have been, they can become addicted within a short time.
These observations regarding the complex relationship of alcoholism, drug addiction, and other dependencies with spiritual emergency are only a beginning; with time, many others will arise that they could also be the subject of serious research. We feel that it is essential in the treatment of either chemical dependency or spiritual emergency for the person in crisis. as well as those surrounding him or her, to be aware of the connection between the two. If a person is in spiritual emergency, it is necessary to look for abuse of drugs and alcohol; if one has problems with chemical dependency, it can be helpful to look for other indications of a spiritual emergence. It is important for professionals who work in the area of addiction to recognize and encourage the intuitive, creative, and spiritual dimensions of their clients and to offer them recovery programmes in which these aspects can be developed.
The fact that alcoholism and drug dependence, as well as other addictions, are in many cases a form of spiritual emergency has far reaching implications. For example there are millions of people in the United States, the Soviet Union, Japan, Europe and Australia, as well as other regions of the world, who are suffering from the ravages of alcoholism and drug addiction.
One of our dreams is that, with loving guidance and understanding, each of the countless addicts and alcoholics who are teetering on the brink of rebirth will make the step into a spiritual way of living; perhaps if these individuals find some degree of serenity within, they will have a positive impact on the global community as it struggles toward peace.