PROCESS OF INDIVIDUATION: INTRODUCTION

INDIVIDUATION: development of one's individual personality through a bringing-to-consciousness and assimilation of unconscious tendencies (both complexes of the personal unconscious and archetypes of the collective unconscious). Individuation is both a goal (one that will never be completely reached) and a life-long process with a twofold movement (see Wehr 50):

1. acknowledging that these unconscious tendencies are part of oneself, of one's personality

assimilation

2. refusing to allow one's personality to be compelled by these tendencies through possession or projection

possession projection

We can understand individuation not only through discussing how it is manifested in our psychological development (see Wehr 58) but also through analyzing how it is portrayed in narratives. Individuation appears in myth, fairytales, literature, film, etc. in the form of a narrative or story because it is a process. Frequently the narrative portrays a journey or quest of a hero/heroine who represents the individual ego in the process of individuation. To analyze such a story, interpret all images, symbols, actions, etc. from the perspective of this individual ego, as personifications of various aspects of his/her unconscious that need to be integrated and/or distanced for the person to move toward wholeness. Click here for Eric Pettifor's diagram illustrating the various symbols of individuation.

actors and masks

PERSONA: The word persona means actor's mask (from personare, “to speak through”). The persona belongs more to consciousness than to the unconscious; it denotes the various masks one wears when relating to the world outside oneself, the social roles we all learn to play. It mediates between one's individuality and the expectations of others. The persona is a necessity, but it should be flexible and adaptable; it is important that the ego does not identify with the persona.

Symbolism in dreams and narratives: masks, clothes, anything one can put on and take off

EGO: symbolized by the quester, the hero or heroine

Eric Pettifor, “Process of Individuation”:

The ego is the centre of consciousness. It is identity. It is 'I'. But it is not the totality of the psyche. Being the king of consciousness amounts to dominion over a small but important land surrounded by a wide world of terra incognita. The more aware the King is of lands beyond his domain the more secure he will be on his throne, but he must not be tempted to open the borders to it all. In Jungian theory the unconscious is far too vast to ever be made fully conscious, poking about in it is not without danger, yet ignoring it is also a mistake since it leads to a brittle fixedness which at best impedes growth, at worst can break when under the pressure of the 'threat' of change.
February, 1999
Barbara F. McManus
Proceed to Shadow
Back to Topics, Assignments, Notes