A recent podcast on this topic.
We all have a little of the Addict archetype in us. It would be hard not to in a capitalist society whose sole purpose is to manufacture need and desire. I know when I say addict, you are thinking of your alcoholic uncle or some using crack who can’t function without their drug of choice. But I’m talking about the Addict as an archetype, and everyone has a little bit in them.
How many times have you checked your phone today? Facebook? What about binge-watching Netflix? Have you ever found yourself hitting the ‘play next’ button because you didn’t want to wait the few seconds for it to happen naturally? Have you ever called shopping your retail therapy? Or headed for the ice cream after a particularly emotional day? You see the Addict can be as obvious as the junky getting high under the bridge or as insidious as revisiting your Instagram post every time it pings.
Carl Jung described archetypes as universal patterns of behavior that are embedded in our collective unconscious. These models or ‘inherited potentials’ become activated through interactions and experiences. Most of our movies and contemporary literature are shaped after the plight and triumphs of the Hero. Most of our personal tragedies are processed at some point by our Victim. In our collective experience, we witness the Villains, the Bullies, and even a few with a Messiah complex. I won’t mention any names.
It’s worth noting that not all engagements with substances or activities are unbalanced. If you go to a bar and have a couple of drinks to shoot the shit with a friend, that isn’t necessarily the Addict’s work. It is the attachment or the need/desire of something that is used to alter your current experience. If you take a breath and think about it, you know the difference.
The Addict’s desire has a palpable feel to it, and there is noticeable relief once we indulge.
My Addict has had different afflictions over the years; some have passed, and some are still at the forefront of my experience. But regardless of the vice of choice, my Addict still holds some sway, though less and less as I figure out what makes her tick.
I realized that my Addict had two main functions in my life. The first being to disrupt order. My Addict thrives in chaos and actively tries to recruit people to join me in it. And trust me, she is pretty convincing. But as I went down this rabbit hole, I realized that employing chaos was just a ruse for the real mission. And that mission was to protect my Victim. It is no secret that people use vices as a means of distraction or escape from despair, trauma, or stress. Humans are uncomfortable being uncomfortable, and the Addict is an expert at distraction. But my Addict, though good at distraction, was really about keeping me small.
I found in my coaching work that people either feared success or feared failure, and the root cause was really the same. They had a desire to stay small. The masculine perversion of this is to remain small so that one stays unnoticed, and there will be no damage to the ego. If you don’t try, you can’t fail or succeed, and either way, there will be no scrutiny and no criticism. The feminine perversion stays small and seeks enablers to join her pity party. This isn’t an either-or proposition, sometimes we have perversions of both. My Addict wanted everyone to hang out in the chaos, so none of us needed to try. And also wished to promote inconsistency and non-commitment to ensure my Big Self didn’t draw any unnecessary attention. Whatever the strategy, my Addict remained the humble servant of my Victim.
The fun thing about archetypes is that they aren’t all bad. There are empowered versions of them too. Once we reach into our subconscious and explore how they show up and impact our lives, they move from the shadows into the light. They have the opportunity to reach their inherent potential. We gain conscious choice and choice is powerful. The empowered Addict also brings with it a deep sense of compassion. Especially once we acknowledge that its primary mission is protection. We’ve all experienced suffering and trauma at the hands of someone else. We all know what it feels like to want to distract or escape from our pain.
We all make mistakes.
The light side of our Addict knows this and can show support and compassion for those that are struggling.
So the next question for me was, if the Addict protects my Victim, then how do I heal it? When I sat with this question in meditation, the message was simple. Stop protecting it. The only way for my Victim to become healthy and strong was to incrementally put myself out there. To sit with the uncomfortable feelings of scrutiny and potential critique and let it be. And when the sense of ‘not-enoughness’ shows up, I acknowledge it and surrender.
I let in and let go.
And when I feel the itchy energy of my Addict arising wanting to distract or dissuade, I use the tools I have, namely meditation and exercise, to transmute that energy. Those are the jewels of my Victim in her empowered state. She knows how to set healthy boundaries, has tools to deal with difficult feelings, and can re-write her story, so it serves my highest and best self.
So I will keep my focus and intention on consistency and commitment to those things that serve my Big, and best self. I chose those words because they seem to be the opposite intention of my disempowered Addict and Victim. I know I still have work to do. I just binged watched the entire season of 13 Reasons Why before I got around to writing this post. Clearly, I’m still a work in progress. But I’ll continue to do my best and use compassion when I don’t.
Who does your Addict serve? And what are they afraid of?