Individuation is a process of transformation whereby the personal and collective unconscious are brought into consciousness (e.g., by means of dreams, active imagination, or free association) to be assimilated into the whole personality. It is a completely natural process necessary for the integration of the psyche. Individuation has a holistic healing effect on the person, both mentally and physically.
Defining the Individuation process
In Jungian psychology, also called analytical psychology, individuation is the process where the individual self develops out of an undifferentiated unconscious – seen as a developmental psychic process during which innate elements of personality, the components of the immature psyche, and the experiences of the person’s life become, if the process is more or less successful, integrated over time into a well-functioning whole. Other psychoanalytic theorists describe it as the stage where an individual transcends group attachment and narcissistic self-absorption.
The word itself has roots going back to the 1600’s when it was used to identify a person as an individual or individuation. Here again, Jung (buy his books from Amazon) applied another of the elements of the classic psychology paradigm; the freedom to rename and redefine within a limited scope those terms that apply to the work at hand.
In the broadest possible way, individuation can be defined as the achievement of self-actualization through a process of integrating the conscious and the unconscious. Once again, any accurate understanding of Jung should come from him.
The Purpose of Individuation
The purpose of this individuation process is to increase the individual’s consciousness.
With greater consciousness, individuals can heal the splits in their mind between what’s conscious and unconscious, bringing them to wholeness in their psyche.
In the first half of life, we make our way through the world, doing our best to develop healthy egos.
The first portion of life is mainly external as we seek to meet our basic needs.
From Jung’s outlook, the second part of life can represent a turning inward toward a deeper part of ourselves.
This inward turn starts the individuation process.
Dreams, Jung found, are the gateway through which the unconscious communicates with our conscious mind.
Our inner Wise Old Man or Woman (the Self) knows what’s best for us.
The Self, however, cannot communicate in language. Instead, it uses symbols and images.
The Self cannot communicate directly with our conscious mind. Instead, according to Jungian psychology, it sends us messages through our dreams.
As Jungian analyst Marie-Louise von Franz says in The Way of the Dream, “Dreams are the letters of the Self that the Self writes us every night.”
While in dreams, our dream ego interacts with the unconscious parts of our psyche, in active imagination this interaction takes place while we’re awake.
Instead of going into a dream, we go into our imagination, allowing the images to arise from the unconscious and communicate with us.
Refusing the call of Individuation
Although Jungian psychology and the individuation process can liberate us, it’s not a “safe path.” There’s no safety once we leave the everyday world.
Plus, to achieve success, we must strip away all of our false identities our egos have invested in creating. Doing so triggers fear from our ego.
That’s why most people resist their call to adventure and why, according to Jung (buy his books from Amazon), so few people individuate or achieve psychic wholeness.
Mandala is a graphical representation of the center (the Self at Jung). It can appear in dreams and visions or it can be spontaneously created as a work of art. It is present in the cultural and religious representations.
Examples of mandala can be found in all the ancient cultures. We find it in Christianity under the form of frescos with animal images representing apostles and under the form of the zodiac. The astrologic zodiac and its versions are an excellent example of mandala. Also, in the Indian spiritual practices we find fascinating representative cases of mandala, with symbols of the local pantheon.
Active imagination is intended to bring about a state of hypnagogia. This is the state in between sleep and wakefulness, where people may be partially aware that they are dreaming.
Always remember that the principle is always the same: to allow the unconscious to manifest into consciousness and then trying to integrate its lessons, thus making important progress towards achieving what Jung called individuation.
The persona, for Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, was the social face the individual presented to the world—”a kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and on the other to conceal the true nature of the individual”.
Jung’s individuation process starts from this level, of the persona, of the social mask, trying to break the artificial convention through awareness of its presence and function, and the attenuation of its often oppressive-imperative character.
The term collective unconscious was originally coined by Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) and has been elaborately explained in his book Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. It represents a form of the unconscious ( the part of the mind containing memories and impulses of which the individual is not aware) common to mankind as a specie and it originates in inherited structures of the psyche, passed on from generation to generation.
Anima and animus are gender specific archetypal structures in the collective unconscious that are compensatory to conscious gender identity.
One of the most complex and least understood features of his theory, the idea of a contrasexual archetype, developed out of Jung’s desire to conceptualize the important complementary poles in human psychological functioning. From his experiences of the emotional power of projection in his patients and in himself, he conceived first of the anima as a numinous figure in a man’s unconscious.