As one of the more advanced terms in Jungian analytic psychology, Individuation is the process of integrating one’s conscious self with the unconscious dimensions of the psyche. By bringing into light these unconscious elements, one gets to integrate themselves into the covert and universal aspects of one’s selfhood.
But what does it mean when we need to integrate ourselves into such? For what purpose, anyway?
As individuals, it is normal for us to experience our share of existential struggles. Given the sheer complexity of our human existence, it is normal for us to cast doubts and live with paradoxes that we’ll end-up not resolving.
With that, what most of us do is either face our higher self or be content with what the world has to offer.
As such, if you’ve decided to take the high route, then that’s none other than the Path of Individuation. Thus, in this short article, we’ll give you a quick overview of the whole process.
Individuation: The Path towards Self-Discovery
Seemingly paradoxical, one might ask: why do I need to do self-discovery?
The answer is surprisingly simple: you need to do self-discovery since there are a lot in you that you don’t know.
However, this doesn’t really answer the question: what are these things that I don’t know about myself? Isn’t it the case that I completely know myself, given how I am conscious of my own actions?
Responding to such, Carl Gustav Jung presents to us the concept of the conscious and the unconscious. Generally speaking, the conscious mind is the seat of our Ego, an area of our psyche where all our present thoughts reside.
But apart from such, Jung believes that there is also an unconscious aspect of our psyche. Containing the thoughts that we unknowingly absorb or know that are there, the unconscious mind contains both the repressed and the archetypal images in our head.
Given such, the goal of Individuation is for us to integrate the conscious with the unconscious. In doing so, we get to learn more about who we are on a far deeper level than what the world has to offer.
The Levels of Individuation
In delving deeper into the unconscious elements of the psyche, we’ll approach it using the two main areas mentioned by Jung – the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious. In both areas, there are certain hallmarks that form part of the whole individuation process.
By doing this, we are also undergoing the process of Ego death, as we are defragging our internal hard drives.
Personal Unconscious – The Shadow
Often portrayed as the repressed part of our self, achieving Individuation necessitates that we must confront our shadows. By resolving these unwanted issues that we bury deep down in us, we get to know ourselves on a far deeper level.
Instead of seeing only the Ego as the center of our decisions, confronting the Shadow exposes how repressed thoughts influence our preferences or even choices in life.
Collective Unconscious – The Archetypes
As a level deeper than the personal unconscious, the collective unconscious contains universal thoughts, concepts, and ideas within us. Although we are unable to fully grasp them, the fragments of these ideas, also known as the Jungian Archetypes, influences the core choices that we make.
Innately within us upon birth, these a priori concepts, according to Jung, belongs in the realm of the psyche. As such, these universal responses explain the similarities across cultures, often found in revered spiritual texts and practices.
With that, some of the notable archetypes for us are:
The Anima and the Animus – representing the male and female energies in their respective counterparts, these give us a universal understanding of the opposite sex and its inherent roles.
The 12 Archetypes – comprised of 12 universal images as presented by Jung, these 12 archetypes are primordial responses, more like roles that we play out in our lives. As such, they are as follows
- Caregiver – the altruistic self
- Creator – the perfectionist self
- Explorer – the curious self
- Hero – the noble self
- Innocent – the pure self
- Jester – the paradoxical self
- Lover – the romantic self
- Magician – the transformational self
- Member – the orderly self
- Outlaw – the rebellious self
- Ruler – the authoritative self
- Sage – the knowledge-seeker self
As unique parts of us, these 12 archetypes and how they integrate with us comprises of what the whole individuation process is about. By learning more about the 12 archetypes, we understand more about who we are and how these primordial roles play-out in our lives.
Just remember that the individuation process is always an ongoing one. A constant interplay between the various Jungian archetypes mentioned in conjunction with one’s conscious self, it is an unending push-and-pull that leads to self-discovery.