"Many of us have tried to hold onto our old ideas," we are cautioned each time the "How It Works passage is read out, "but the result was nil until we let go absolutely." Nothing changes. We remain just as "restless, irritable and discontented" as we were before we took that last 'first drink' for just as long as we try to hang on to our old mental life.
But why are our "old ideas" flagged as the only aspect of our former lives that we must let go of lock, stock and barrel - or "absolutely"? The answer, it seems, like so much else - indeed, the entire Twelve Steps movement - has its "taproot" in the work of the psychologist Carl Jung with a single patient, Roland Hazzard. Roland would go on to join the Oxford Group, find a "solution" to his alcoholic addiction, and pass the message of recovery on to Ebby T. who passed the message on to Bill Wilson. And getting rid of "old ideas" is at the heart of the message which Roland indirectly passed on to Bill W.
The crux of the message was that a sufficiently forceful - or "vital" - "spiritual experience" could arrest an almost always fatal alcoholic addiction:
"Here and there, once in a while, alcoholics have had what are called vital spiritual experiences. To me these occurrences are phenomena. They appear to be in the nature of huge emotional displacements and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them."
("Alcoholics Anonymous," page 27; emphasis added.)
|"What man by taking thought ever|
added one moment to his life span?"
We utilize the 12 Steps and its suggested program of "self examination, meditation and prayer" to rid our 'selves' of our 'selves' in essence. Through this process, the "ideas, emotions and attitudes' of our ordinary, egoic 'self-consciousness' are suddenly (or gradually) replaced with a 'higher consciousness,' or what the "more religious" early A.A. members called "God-consciousness," which brings with it a "whole new mindset of "conceptioins and motivations'" according to Jung.
That attainment of this 'higher consciousness' is sufficient to arrest and treat an alcoholic addiction is "no coincidence," Jung would much later point out in a prized letter to Bill W. In the Jung-Wilson correspondence (discussed in Part II of this article) Jung notes that, "Alcohol in Latin is "spiritus" and you use the same word for the highest religious [or spiritual] experience as well as for the most depraving poison. The helpful formula therefore is: spiritus contra spiritum."
And, it is in this continual "self-forgetting" of the 11th Step Prayer that "we find" a higher consciousness and Jung's "new conceptions and motivations" despite the challenge of doing so. Because, let's face it, after several minutes of our egos chewing on it, virtually any thought will begin to grow old and stale.
(Click, here, for "Carl Jung and Alcoholics Anonymous: Part II")