Sometimes, in working with clients, I use the story of the Wizard of Oz to talk about the spiritual aspect of the disease of addiction. You know the story: Dorothy becomes displaced and is looking for a home, Scarecrow needs brains, Tin Man hopes for a heart and Cowardly Lion wants courage. The characters are thrown together in search of a great wizard, Oz, whom they are told can grant them what they desire.

Their journey is a series of adventures and challenges. They even manage to slay the Wicked Witch of the West as directed in order to be granted their wishes. Of course, Oz is incapable of doing so, and their frustration mounts.

In working through their frustration, they are guided to learn and understand that they already have what they need. Scarecrow is not in need of brains; he is only avoiding experiences that would yield knowledge. It is only when he risks making a mistake that he finds he is wise. Tin Man is not lacking a heart; he must be willing to bear unhappiness. His feelings for Dorothy are evidence that he can bear sadness, and he does have a heart. Cowardly Lion is not without courage; he needs to realize the confidence to know that he can face danger even when he is afraid. He does so and surprises himself. And Dorothy? She can go home any time she wants. What she learns is that she has the power to make changes in her life once she is ready to take the responsibility of recognizing and using that power.

The real message of the story lies in the aspect of relationship. Initially, the four characters are isolated even though they are together. Each one sees Oz as the answer. It is only through their struggles and through relying on one another that they discover they already hold the answers within themselves. They already have what they are seeking and what they desire.

Their discovery and realization that they themselves hold the power to do and be all that they want is a type of spiritual awakening. Oz loses power just as addiction loses power when clients recognize their own strength. The story of the Wizard of Oz is really about coming to right relationship – being aware that what a person thinks and does determines his or her world, and knowing that positive thoughts and actions are critical.

Written by Mary Ellen Merrick, IHM, Executive Director

Source: Guru, Metaphors From a Psychotherapist, Sheldon B. Kopp, Bantam Books, 1971