Saturday, January 19, 2008

Jung and individuation

Individuation is Jung's term for coming to psychological health, being the product of integration. Individuation as a term has a radically different meaning from what it appears to be about. A person individuates by becoming integrated psychologically.

According to Jung's theory there are many parts of the self that exist scattered in a person's psychology that aren't all conscious at the same time. You may have a part of yourself that represents an experience or way of thinking about things that you had when you were a kid, you may have another part of yourself that existed when you were in a relationship with a certain person, and that consciousness you had as a kid and that of the relationship both constitute parts of yourself, yet you might not be aware of them all of them time. Experiences, feelings, observations, events, sometimes thoughts, can be stored in our memory only to be called up at certain points and then gradually submerged again. But these things that exist within our overall psychology can also exist in opposition to one another, albeit unconsciously.

You may have had a traumatic experience that differs from everything else that you may have experienced, that you can't process, and that you bury in your unconscious mind. That experience is not integrated into your greater self. The self that you experience on a daily basis can't account for the experience in its understanding of the world, yet there may be intense unresolved feelings associated with it. These feelings can cause psychological problems as the event imposes itself on the waking self subconsciously, maybe creating compulsions that you can't account for, or vague fears. The event can also be recalled and relived to an extent, triggered by something in the environment, causing the pain to come back. A way out of this is to somehow integrate your understanding of the event with the understanding of your greater self, to come up with an explanation that both makes sense of the event and is comprehensible in terms of your general understanding of everyday reality.

By doing things like this, by integrating experiences and parts of yourself that may be at odds with each other or with the normal waking self in general, you become more of an authentic individual, you become more individuated. But another thing that Jung points out is that the self that we experience in our daily life isn't static from moment to moment sometimes and really not the same from day to day. Certain times and in certain situations different parts of our selves come to the surface from the unconscious, so that it isn't really a question of an absolute, unchanging, waking consciousness opposed by things that we've repressed.

If we're broken up by a lot of bad experiences spread over the course of our lives, and not many of them have been dealt with in a way that makes sense out of them, our sense of self is weak and fragile, easily challenged by the surfacing of one of these moments in our daily life.


Anna Pap said...

Yes, individuation is "coming to psychological health", The goal of our psychological life.

What's sad, I see so many writings about jung, his work, about individuation. And from what I read people do not have a personal experience, a deep understanding of those issues.

dtbaggins said...

yes but isn't it also true that an event presages this, isnt it also true that something more fundamental occurs, that of awakening your spirituality?

John Madziarczyk said...

To a certain extent, but I think that Jung's definition of what spiritual is can be taken in a way that's valid even if one doesn't see it as corresponding to actual spirituality. The sort of spiritual vision that his work implies could easily be interpreted as an awareness of the whole of life and of the deeper aspects of life in general that lay beneath the surface of normal society. Spiritual doesn't have to correspond to literal spirituality.

dtbaggins said...

perhaps it is because that individuation is such a harrowing event, that a seeking of understanding sends people off into the esoteric or spiritual teachings...