THE REAL ME –
is unique but not alone!
PREVIOUS: S & I – Separation
• Individuation is the ‘normal’ search for our True Self – our essence & goal of 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, throughout life by trial & error, involving many successes as well as failures & frustrations.
Just like Separation – Healthy Individuation includes keeping our attachment & connection to others (children & parents, mentors & protégés, friendships, mates….) without enmeshment or fusion, in a delicate balance
• Putting Self-Actualizing needs in the foreground, Individuation is to ‘own’ at least 51% of ourselves, by having combined Ego & Shadow, & therefore freed ourselves of the Superego’s tyranny (Negative Introject).
The rest is made up of heredity + all 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
• Successful Separation & Individuation requires an intact Ego – the center of our conscious awareness. While giving a sense of uniqueness, the Ego lets us know that we’re just like all other humans – a part of a larger whole.
In Jungian terms, the Self is the main archetype in the Collective Unconscious, for order & organization, unifying different aspects of personality. Therefore it’s of a higher order than Ego – made up of both conscious (ego = public face) & unconscious (shadow✶ = primitive impulses such as selfishness, greed, envy…..)
✶ Shadow : For Jung, both constructive & destructive forces exist in the human psyche, requiring psychological integration. To become fully actualized – at the top of Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”- we have to be aware of & accept all our parts.
Ironically, for ACoAs, much of what also gets shunted off into our Shadow are the good parts of ourselves which were not accepted or allowed in our family & society! Having normal human needs such as wanting attention, 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 free 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 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, he concluded that Individuation happens in the second half of life, when people reach the pinnacle & suddenly find themselves facing an unknown possibility or unexpected upheaval.
This turning point usually is crisis in mid-life (not necessarily something bad), that upsets the status quo, causing a shift in perspective :
– a financial failure – a health problem
– a broken relationship or a death
– a change of residence or profession
– a message from powerful dreams & fantasies, creating
a deep yearning or call to change direction
– profound self-doubt, loss of meaning or religious conviction
– questioning of everything previously held as important, valuable or precious
• Then the essence of the personality moves from Ego toward Self, trying to form a new center. Parts that were ignored or under-developed (interests, talents, characteristics, experiences, issues…) may ‘suddenly’ want to be acknowledged
– 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, we intuitively feel they fit our deeply ingrained uniqueness
PS: Many psychologists now argue that while Individuation may be a natural outcome of age & experience, it can also be brought on sooner by deep therapy, but it’s mainly considered a life-long journey, which starts soon after birth.
NEXT: Healthy Individuation (Part 2)