By defining terms and meaning we develop the potential for understanding. Individuation, a word used since 1660 – was popularised by Karl Jung. It is now used by numerous schools in psychology and personal development. For Jung, Individuation encompassed developing the philosophical, mystical, and spiritual areas of the human being. Individuation is about living your most authentic life.
Jung was initially inspired by Sigmund Freud – but then saw Freuds theory as limiting and flawed for it focused on illness as opposed to a method of lifelong growth. He therefore developed his own process – Individuation which was influenced many Eastern classical books – including the Upanishads from India and the Tao-Te-Ching from China. Jung wrote the forward and reviews of these books.
Individuation – The Definition
Individuation was the process of achieving self-actualisation or self-realisation by integrating the conscious and unconscious aspects of the self.
Jung suggested that from birth, every individual has a sense of wholeness – a sense of Self. We see this sense of wholeness in the spontaneity and fullness of children’s actions. But as children develop and we begin to educate them into social norms – a separate Ego begins to arise from the original wholeness. This Ego differentiation forms the first part of ones life and gives one a stable persona with which to navigate the external world. However as we mature into adulthood we find that over-identifying with this Ego is the seat of much anxiety and inner strife. The only way to overcome this is by rediscovering the original wholeness via the process of Individuation.
The Process of Individuation
The actual process of Individuation is the coming to terms with ones inner centre or Self by acknowledging all aspects of ones personality.
The process generally begins with the wounding of the Ego or Persona – this is aspect of ourselves that we present to the world. When the Ego is wounded – a number of negative emotions or symptoms may present themselves – anger, frustration, guilt, grief. One may allow these to define their lives or may realise the need to search the deeper aspects of their personalities for a solution. As one looks deeper within themselves through the processes of contemplation, introspection and interoception – a personal inner regulating centre may emerge. Jung call this centre – Self.
Self is described as the totality of your whole psyche. Ego is just a small part of the psyche. Ego represents the aspects that we are conscious of. The vast majority of the Self is unconscious. Jung divided the unconscious into the personal and collective unconscious.
The personal unconscious refers to all our personal experiences that we repress. The collective unconscious refers to all the societal, community, global ideas, memes that we have been exposed to. For as long as an experiences remains unconscious – it has the ability to influence our lives without us being able to correct it.
The next step involves the integration of the ego (consciousness) with the personal and collective unconscious. When this process is initiated a series of archetypes emerge.
Jungian Archetypes: Drawn from many of Plato’s ideas Jung proposed that archetypes are patterns of personality. They are formed by an individuals unique experiences and reinforced through collective human knowledge that define these archetypes. These patterns of personality exist and are reinforced within our psyche even if we are unaware of them.
The first archetype to appear which is closest to the ego is the Shadow. The Shadow is the personal unconscious. It refers to the unconscious aspect of our personalities. It is the aspects of ourselves that the conscious Ego does not want to identify with. Many call the Shadow – “the dark side” as it tends to include the least desirable aspects of our personalities . The less the Shadow is embodied into consciousness, the darker it remains and the more it controls our lives.
We tend to project our Shadows onto others. If one is constantly annoyed by a behavioural characteristic in others – very often it is their Shadow that embodies this characteristic.
The Shadow is not just negative – it is also our seat of creativity. Very often the Shadow makes its appearance in dreams. Jung believed that the Shadow appeared to the dreamer as the same sex as the dreamer and often involved conflicting desires and intentions between the dream persona and the dreamer.
To recap – the Shadow represents every aspect of my personality that I refuse to acknowledge within myself. A person possessed by his Shadow always stands in his own light and lives below his won ability. He creates his own traps to prevent the Ego from achieving its Goals. The Shadow presents itself in the silly mistakes we make and the things we unconsciously blurt out that undermines our progress towards goals. Once the Shadow is made conscious, one is able to work towards goals – whole heartedly.
The second archetype to emerge is the Anima/Animus which represents the collective unconscious. The Anima/Animus presents itself as a wise person of the opposite sex to the Ego. Anima is this unconscious feminine side in a male Ego and Animus is the unconscious males side in a female Ego. The key to making conscious the Anima/Animus is recognising it when it manifests.
Anima presents as a wise women who helps a male Ego see the world more completely and the Animus is a wise male that helps a female Ego cultivate a more independent or non-socially conditioned sense of self by encouraging her to embody her deeper world. This does not mean that she becomes more selfish. A woman conscious of her animus is more internally aware of what she believes and feels. And she is more capable of expressing these beliefs and feelings without guilt or self-denial. Acknowledging ones Anima/Animus makes one more aware and receptive to new creative ideas.
The third archetype or unconscious level to emerge is the Self and is the goal of the process of individuation. The Self emerges with the unification of the conscious and unconscious and represents the psyche as a whole.
Ego is the limiting centre of conscious behaviour. Self is the centre of the whole person – including the Ego, Conscious and Unconscious. With awareness of the Self – one is able to express themselves fully and authentically. At this point true Mastery may develop.
Jungian psychology: emphasizes the importance of the personal quest for wholeness.
Archetypes: a better understanding of the archetypes used by Jung can be found in this definition, “An archetype is an original model of a person an ideal example or a prototype upon which self and others can be understood, copied, patterned, or emulated. An archetype is a symbol universally recognized by all. In psychology, an archetype is a model of a person, personality, or behavior.”
For Jung archetypes consisted of universal, mythic characters that reside within the collective unconscious of people across the globe. Archetypes represent fundamental human motifs of our experience as we evolved; and consequentially they evoke deep emotions.
The scope of archetypes is broad. Many different archetypes were described by others however Jung described only a few. He went further to propose that these were sub-archetypes that create three main archetypes which symbolise basic human motivations. Each of the three main archetypes has its own set of values, meanings and personality traits and he called them:
Ego, Soul (Anima/Animus) and Self.
The sub-archetypes within each share common drives, for example types within the Ego are driven to fulfil ego-defined agendas. The types within the Soul drive you to find deeper meaning and the types within the Self are driven by wholeness.
To summarise Jung – most people have several archetypes at play in their personality. However Jung postulated that each person carries three dominate archetypes. It is through Jung’s process of Psychoanalysis that he encourages self-examination to identify them. This is how self-actualization occurs.
Some of the Archtypes described by Jung.
Self: Unification of the individual’s ego, personal and collective unconsciousness.
The Shadow: Base for sexual and life instincts.
Anima and Animus: Male/female identities.
The Persona: Self presentation.
The father: Authority figure; stern; powerful.
The mother: Nurturing; comforting.
The child: Longing for innocence; rebirth; salvation.
The wise old man: Guidance; knowledge; wisdom.
The hero: Champion; defender; rescuer.
The maiden: Innocence; desire; purity.
The trickster: Deceiver; liar; trouble-maker.
Individuation is one method of personal development or self-realisation. For more methods go to the section on Personal Development.
Dr Nitasha Buldeo is an Integrated Medical Practitioner, Entrepreneur, Scientist and Yogi. She created I-Yoga & Organic Apoteke and is Director of the Centre for Exceptional Human Performance. She researches human potential and delivers programs that encourage you to live exceptionally. Nitasha believes that every one of us is striving to be the best we can. Her passion is bringing you experiences that inspire you. Her intention is for you to unlock your genius.