The Path to Individuation and Wholeness

There are thousands of pixels in an image that appears on your computer screen, in images in magazines and newspapers, or in the photos in your frames. At first glance, there is just a picture, but as we look closer, we can see that it is made up of pixels. Finally, when we zoom in close enough, we see that there is nothing but pixels. Imagine individuation in a similar way. When we are in the first half of life, we typically want to know how we as individuals fit into the world around us. As we get older, we want to know how we are different. We are part of the whole - but what makes us special? Distinct? Unique? Through individuation, we seek to zoom in and find our individuality.

How does individuation work? Every person is unique, and so every process will be unique. There are two frameworks, though, that can be useful in guiding us along the way. Remember, "The goal of the individuation process is the synthesis of the self" (Jung). That is what we are trying to "find."

Jung's Process of Finding the Self

Are you ready to take off your mask and examine it? Are you ready to wrestle with your dark side? In Jung's Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, he discusses the various elements of the psyche and how we can come to terms with the self. Let's take a quick look at these elements and why they are important in the process of individuation:

· Persona. What types of masks are you called on to wear? Are you a shy person who must wear the mask of someone outgoing for work? Are you someone who is very caring but must put on a stern front? Masks are important, but come with the danger of over- or under-identifying with our personas. This is not who we are.

· Ego. The ego is often described as the center of consciousness, but the ego is not who we are either. It is a complex by which we can make sense of ourselves. In other words, this allows us to distinguish ourselves from others as we get closer to the self.

· Shadow. Our dark side, the shadow is that which we want to hide. We may not be consciously aware of these attributes, but they are there in all of us to varying degrees.

· Anima/animus. In every man, there is the energy of the feminine; in every woman, there is the energy of the masculine. These influences help to balance out typically "male" or "female" traits. Like yin and yang in Eastern thought, this must be in balance.

· Mana. What happens when this energy is not balanced? Sometimes, the archetypal energy of the Old Woman or the Old Man can flow into the ego, overwhelming it. We may have "too much" of that energy, becoming effeminate or contemptuous of women, aggressive, or power-hungry. The mana personality needs to be addressed before the process is to continue.

· The Self. You have integrated different sides of your personality and psyche; you are balanced, coherent, and whole. You are both and neither: good, bad, shadow, ego, feeling, sensing... these opposites have been reconciled within your psyche. It's a good thing individuation is a lifelong process: this is a hard concept to wrap one's head around!

Individuation: Attitudes and Functions

Are you an INTJ? ENFP? At some point in your education or career, you have probably had to take a Myers-Briggs personality test. It is designed to reveal your dominant attitudes and functions. What does this mean?

Are you:


These traits are paired as opposites: you are introverted or extroverted, feeling or thinking, intuitive or sensing? These are very difficult to change, even if one wanted to. Sometimes, we must put on an extroverted mask if we are introverted, or an introverted mask when we are extroverted.

By working on these attitudes and functions, one can progress with individuation. Just as making sure the persona, anima/animus, etc., are balanced, you want to make sure that your attitudes and functions are in balance. You start by working on your dominant areas, strengthening your strengths to build energy and confidence for the next step.

You would then start to work on the subordinate attitude and functions. An individual who is extroverted, feeling, and sensing, for instance, might work on becoming more able to work independently, more thoughtful, and able to concentrate internally. He might work on evaluating and logical analysis, seeing systems, structures, and patterns, or learning about things that are new and unusual. These are the traits which do not come as naturally. As we integrate these skills into our consciousness, we find greater balance. The need to evaluate very logically may, for instance, be balanced by evaluating based on ethics or emotions, or vice versa.

Both of these frameworks addresses the dominant aspects of our personalities and psyches, but also emphasizes developing our subordinate traits and skills. In this way, we work to become more balanced. Jung wrote, "The goal is important only as an idea: the essential thing is the opus which leads to the goal: that is the goal of a lifetime." The work itself is what is important and valuable.

Article Source: Dr. Seth Isaiah Rubin


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