Thursday, September 8, 2011

Matt Talbot, Spiritual Surrender, and Addiction

Professor Dyslin has written an interesting journal article on spiritual surrender in the treatment of addictions available at:

Dyslin, Christopher W. "Power of Powerlessness: The Role of Spiritual Surrender and Interpersonal Confession in the Treatment of Addictions, The". Journal of Psychology and Christianity, Spring 2008. Also available at

Whereas this entire article is well worth reading, Professor Dyslin has a section beginning on page 4 titled, “Conceptions of Spiritual Surrender in the Catholic Tradition of the Care of Souls,” that might be of particular interest. In it he reviews..."several historical approaches to spiritual surrender from the Catholic tradition that appear applicable to addictions treatment. The most ancient of these approaches to surrender is that of the fourth century bishop of Hippo and arguably an early Christian psychologist, St. Augustine. His ideas may have provided the psychological basis for later approaches to surrender that I will review in the writings of the 16th century Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross, the 18th century French Jesuit, Jean Pierre de Caussade, and the early 20th century Irish mystic, Matt Talbot.”

The excerpt from page 6 focuses on Matt Talbot:

The ascetic approach to recovery from addiction attributed to the early 20th century Irish mystic, the venerable Matt Talbot (d. 1925), focuses on giving up the addiction "for the love of Jesus" (Maynard, 2000). This approach preceded modern 12-step approaches, and also possesses an underlying focus on spiritual surrender. Although in his commentary on TaIbot’s approach to the problem of addiction, Maynard (2000) reacts to the traditional twelve-step focus on powerlessness, and proposes that it is the recognition of the addict's strong will and an alternate motivation for that will that ultimately leads to sobriety, there does appear to be a necessary element of surrender to God involved in the process. In the "Matt Talbot Way," the love of liquor is given back to God as a gift because there is a greater love for Jesus. The seven steps of this way are predominantly centered on the development of a disciplined prayer life including: a morning offering, Christ-centered prayer (e.g., "breath prayers" using a traditional brief prayer such as the "Jesus Prayer" or another brief, often repeated, prayer), dedication of prayers of the day, spiritual reading, other short prayers during the day (e.g., grace at meals, the Angelus, prayer to the crucified Christ), evening prayer, and Christian living (an intention toward and infusion of the theological and cardinal virtues of faith, hope, charity, wisdom, temperance, fortitude, and justice). It is difficult to imagine how this approach could be lived out without a foundation of spiritual surrender."

Note: Information regarding Maynard’s book can be found at the “Matt Talbot way” link below. We appreciate this article being available online.