THE REAL ME –
is unique but not alone!
PREVIOUS: S & I – Separation
Review: ‘Autonomy & Attachment’
• Individuation is the ‘normal’ search for our True Self – our essence and the goal of our life. In the past, mystics called it : the ascent of the soul, the alchemy of the soul, or enlightenment. Carl Jung believed that the nature of humans is to constantly develop, grow & move toward a level of completeness, which can only be done from the inside (opposite of co-dependence). It’s the progressive development of our own voice, taking place throughout life by trial and error, involving many successes, as well as failures and frustrations.
Just like Separation – Healthy Individuation includes maintaining our sense of attachment & connection to others (children & parents, mentors & protégés, various friendships, romantic partners & spouses…) without enmeshment & fusion with them, in a delicate balance.
• Being Individuated, with our Self-Actualizing needs in the foreground, is to ‘own’ at least 51% of ourselves, by having combined the Ego & the Shadow, & therefore freed ourselves of the Superego’s tyranny (Negative Introject). The other 49%, or so, is made up of heredity, all of our family & social experiences, traditions & religion. AND, because Individuation is ongoing, there’s a periodic need to return to earlier developmental stages to heal deeper & deeper layers of unfinished business. At the same time, the truer we are to our Real Self, the more INternally motivated we become.
• As mentioned in recent posts, both successful Separation & Individuation require having an intact Ego – the center of our conscious awareness. While giving a sense of uniqueness, the Ego also allows us to understand that we’re just like all other humans – a part of a larger whole. However, the Self is of a higher order than the Ego – made up of both the conscious (ego) & the unconscious (shadow✶). In Jungian terms the Self is the main archetype in our collective unconscious, the archetype of order & organization, unifying the different aspects of personality.
✶ Shadow : For Jung, both constructive & destructive forces exist in the human psyche, so psychological integration means to own both our public face (ego) AND our primitive impulses such as selfishness, greed, envy….. (Shadow.) To become fully actualized – which is at the top of Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”(Read extended description) – we have to be aware of and accept all our parts.
Ironically, for ACoAs, much of what also gets shunted off into our Shadow side are the good parts of ourselves which were not accepted or allowed in our family & society! Having normal human needs such as wanting attention, having intense emotions, our own way of thinking & doing things, being heard &respected…. were punished or so controlled that we end up forgetting them OR hating ourselves when they surface.
• Jung believed that we don’t suddenly make a conscious decision to emancipate ourselves from the herd, with its well-worn paths, in order to go our own way – ie. to Individuate. Instead, the deciding influence is an irrational factor which he called “vocation – like a law of God from which there is no escape”. It’s the Ego’s response to a call from the unconscious, whether we like it or not.
Based on personal & professional experience, Jung understood Individuation to be something that begins in the second half of life, when people reach the pinnacle of their life & suddenly find themselves facing an unknown possibility or unexpected upheaval. However, since then many psychologists argue that while it may be a natural outcome of age & experience, it can also be brought on sooner by deep therapy. Yet basically it’s now considered a life-long journey, which can even be seen in children, in it’s basic form.
• This turning point generally takes the form of a crisis (not necessarily something bad), that upsets the status quo – allowing for a change in perspective & direction:
– a message expressed in powerful dreams and fantasies
– a financial failure – a health problem – a death
– a change of residence or profession
– a deep yearning or call to change direction
– a profound self-doubt – a broken relationship
– a loss of meaning or religious conviction
– a questioning of everything previously held as important, valuable or precious
• Then the essence of the personality moves from the Ego toward the Self, trying to form a new center somewhere between the two. Parts of ourselves that were ignored or under-developed (interests, talents, characteristics, experiences, issues…) may ‘suddenly’ want to be acknowledged. What was:
– fragmented now strives for unity – broken now yearns for wholeness
– neglected now seeks expression – formless now starts to take shape
While these changes can be very surprising & uncomfortable, shifting the ground under us, at the same time we can intuitively feel they’re in keeping with our unique and deeply ingrained individual patterning.
NEXT: Healthy Individuation (Part 2)