Most have heard about the addicted rats experiment: Rodents with a happy, wholesome social environment took less dope than isolated ones with nothing to do but get high. Countries and communities bold enough to try it have legalized recreational drugs and provided human support systems to fight the good fight. Reforming civil society is a major overhaul, but results have been promising, according to an article in the Huffington Post by Johann Hari.
Still, the individual’s physiology and psychology require attention. This article will explore an alternative approach to addiction, a metaphysical-psychological one called Metapsychiatry. Alternative to what? Alternative to today’s ‘traditional’ drug and alcohol rehab. Pop magazines have adopted enough science-talk on addiction and depression to make ‘dopamine,’ ‘serotonin’ and ‘neurotransmitter’ everyday words. Mainstream rehabilitation is widely understood to involve a combination of replacement drugs – swapping a substitute chemical for the problem chemical – plus a talk component including 12-step meetings or group therapy. Large numbers of addicts return to using their troubling substances. Relapse is the norm.
Treatments considered to be alternative range from disciplines as familiar as acupuncture and hypnotherapy to a lesser-known preoccupation with gut flora. Such common practices as meditation, yoga, pet therapy and gardening make the list, along with the lesser-known neurofeedback, epigenics and cellular modification, gene reprogramming and memory erasure, and the use of hallucinogens. Here is one more.
In juxtaposition to the aforementioned approaches, imagine a thought system asserting that “all problems are psychological, and all solutions are spiritual,” one that suggests that even the most chemically rooted problems can be resolved not within the body or the brain but in consciousness where they find their source. The premise with addictions is that humans aim to control the quality of their inner experience by reaching outside of themselves for external remedies.
According to the MetaWay of Metapsychiatry, practitioner Susan von Reichenbach specifies in her writings that the “external remedies” which addicts reach for can be “persons, places, things, and ideologies, as well as the more obvious remedies of food, alcohol, pills, and drugs. The aim of managing one’s moods and thoughts is to find contentment, happiness, and freedom from undesirable or painful mental preoccupations—from anxieties, past hurts, anger, fear, disappointments, resentments, and frustrations.”
Quoting her mentor, psychiastrist Thomas Hora, MD, and founder of Metapsychiatry, Reichenbach writes, “Man cannot really live without attachments, and mostly we are reaching for the wrong attachment.” Reichenbach explains, “When the effort of personal willpower is required to let go of an idea to which we are attached, it is exhausting. But simply replacing it, overriding it, with a spiritual idea that is health-promoting is not.” Hora held that “only attachment can bring freedom from attachment… and the only attachment that is valid is the attachment to realizing our life in a transcendent context, that of God, which infuses us with a new and transformed purpose for living.”
Reichenbach goes on to comment that treating chemical substance abusers with more chemical substances does not heal addictions, nor does it have a track record of long-term efficacy. Defying simple explanation, Metapsychiatry (that is, “metaphysical-psychiatry,” a teaching that offers only spiritual solutions to human problems), provides an alternative to solving addiction issues by directing an individual back to examining his or her own thoughts in order to uncover the meaning of their ongoing struggles and suffering. Central to Meta-teaching is the idea that thoughts manifest as our reality.
Based on the enlightened understanding that “consciousness is the only reality,” and that in truth, “we live in a mental universe, and everything depends upon the thoughts we entertain,” Metapsychiatry views addictions—like everything else—to be mental in nature, to find their genesis in thought and their correction in thought. It identifies that the addict wants to “feel good” and is self-absorbed in a seesaw of pleasure/pain experiences. Meta guides the addict to gain control of his/her thoughts and, in sobriety, to shift interest toward the direction of transcendent values.
According to Reichenbach, it is a shift to where “God, the Cosmic Consciousness, can get through to him because he is then receptive and available to be reached. We all have the God-given ability to have dominion over our thoughts, to shift our attention from ‘existentially invalid thoughts’ (emanating from the world’s thought system, which mostly misinform us) to ‘existentially valid thoughts’ (spiritually oriented thoughts, flowing to us from the Mind of God, which bless us).
But too often, we are hypnotized, become drowsy, and fall victim to the temptations of the world.” Hora developed the Metapsychiatric approach in his practice in the latter half of the 20th century, drawing from metaphysical studies to lead his patients to the contents of their consciousness to be healed of all afflictions. “There is only one remedy to all addictive problems of man,” Hora said, “it is to return to that [drug-free] condition where life is lived in the original purity of consciousness.” In Reichenbach’s writing, Hora’s ideas are conveyed in an approachable way that also echoes his use of familiar biblical metaphor.
Consciousness and Compassion
Meta is concerned with lifting the veils that dumb down the addict’s awareness, keeping her or him numb to whatever it is s/he does not want to confront or remember. However, “We must remember before we can forget.” Expanding on Hora’s theme, Reichenbach continues, “The work of Meta is to cleanse consciousness of dreams, fantasies, wishful thinking, envy, rivalry, fear, anger, blame, and guilt, to draw out the hidden, misguided thoughts to be healed, so they are no longer repressed and their energies cannot urge an individual toward further destructive behavior.”
In this spiritualized mental climate, an individual is no longer so fearful of becoming cognizant of the thoughts that were previously obscured by the drugs or alcohol and in postponing the necessary, dreaded introspection. The individual has remembered and understood and is now free to ‘forget.’ With this, she writes, “the unwholesome mental clutter has vanished. Such an individual can now begin to appreciate clarity in consciousness. At this stage, things begin to improve. Large doses of forgiveness and compassion toward oneself and others for mistaken choices and a lack of awareness is the Meta Rx and is what gradually heals the addict and promotes freedom from the enslavement of addictions. Learning to be “here for God” is an aspect of the process, which re-directs an individual’s thoughts to dwell in a transcendent domain, where he can taste of peace, assurance, love, goodness, and harmony.”
In contrast to the12-step program’s contention that an addict will always be an addict (and at best is perpetually recovering), Metapsychiatry does not cleave to the concept of the permanency of addiction as a chronic disease. Hora, Reichenbach recalls, commented that while AA was a very helpful process to millions, he perceived a stumbling block: upholding a belief in the permanency of this condition rather like a life sentence, the label denies an ‘alcoholic’ the experience of a full liberation from the past. According to Reichenbach, Carl Jung apparently advised the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous Bill W that in times of deep despair, those alcoholics seeking help need to meditate on Psalm 42. Reichenbach recounts: “The thirsting (referred to in the Psalm), which the alcoholic experiences, is perceived here metaphorically as a longing for union with God (‘seeking to realize our already existing Oneness and absolute reliance on the Cosmic Power we call God’), which is the only solution to alcoholism (and every other problem).
The alcoholic’s craving for alcohol will never slake that existential thirst—it is a misplaced thirst for wholeness. In Meta, a ‘healing’ means a ‘return to wholeness’ — we come to see we are already whole as emanations of the Divine Consciousness and do not need to seek outside of ourselves for anything.”
Prescription: Realizing Oneness
In his published writing, Hora advised addicts and non-addicts alike to learn to “live in the constant conscious awareness of the spiritual qualities of Peace, Assurance, Gratitude, Love, Freedom, Wisdom, Joy, Beauty, Harmony, Goodness, and Truth.” He wrote, “We have the power to be spiritually minded, to turn our attention toward eternal values. We are capable of realizing inspired wisdom and creative intelligence; we can learn the art of the management of our internal affairs [without reaching for external remedies]. There are no solutions without God.” Bodyworker Megan Assaf contributed to this report.