Addiction can be viewed as a form of dissociation. The dissociative states
are depersonalization, an individual’s separation from a sense of personal
identity, and derealization, a detachment from reality, or the external
environment. Through addiction there is a separation, an estrangement
from both self and environment. It is as though the addiction places a buffer
between the person and their identity, and between the person and
the rest of the world. Lastly, observing the existence of emotion, Carl
Jung stated that emotion “is not an activity of the individual but something
that happens to him or her”
The ego is essentially necessary for the existence of personality. The
ego discerns what psychological experience or information is to be
conscious or relegated to the shadow, distant from awareness. The
ego is what sorts through and categorizes the tolerable from intolerable
in terms of psychological content. However, if dissociation is occurring,
then the individual’s perception of what they are able to tolerate is
actually a façade, because the addiction is masking and convoluting
the individual’s perception and sense of self.
Addiction allows for intolerable experiences to be kept out
of awareness. In this way, dissociative states develop and are
reinforced through the process of addiction. The estrangement from
the environment and from one’s identity depicts dissociation is often
sustained through addiction, which cause a continuous relegation
of psychological content to be diverted towards the shadow; an
occurrence that is continuous and is maintained through the
continued engagement of addiction.
Addiction allows for the ego to remain seemingly functional, existent
in a false belief of volition. The intolerable psychological content is still
being experienced, but it is being diverted to the shadow within the
unconscious. What happens, then, when the dissociative process is
disrupted when the individual stops using? This process will shift
dramatically, and the ego may then find itself flooded by material that
it is perhaps unprepared to manage.
Once no longer using drugs or alcohol, the ego may be overwhelmed by
emotions, memories, or thoughts and sensations that it had previously
been able to relegate to a dark corner and not look at. The crucial
point to take home is that within the addictive process, dissociation is
harboring a deluge of emotional material that has been fermenting,
waiting for a way past the gatekeeper, or the ego.
As unconscious content begins to seep into awareness, dissociation
tendancies and their role on the impact of emotion through the addictive
process becomes more evident. As the ego attempts to maintain its
control and perspective, more and more material is then relegated into
the unconscious, fermenting and held within the shadow. This makes the
ego more vulnerable to the energy of the unconscious, and by attempts to
maintain a sense of balance; the unconscious content is brought into the
ego’s awareness through symptomology.
The psyche attempts to maintain equilibrium, a homeostatic state. In order
to maintain that sense of homeostasis, the unconscious will offset the
psychological imbalance by unbinding thoughts that have accumulated
over time. The individual is striving to avoid such content, resulting in a
psychological tension that inevitably causes symptomatic reactions.
It is the projection of one’s thoughts which separates the individual from
the environment. Aspects of the self are then interpreted as something
separate and other, rather than what is a part of the individual.