Carl Gustav Jung on Individuation ☼1. Develop, self-reflect, consolidate former attainments, assert yourself amiably, and much may go well
A mature person develops individuality
In my naturally limited experience there are, among people of maturer age, very many for whom the development of individuality is an indispensable requirement. Hence I am privately of the opinion that it is just the mature person who, in our times, has the greatest need of some further education in individual culture after his youthful education in school or university has moulded him on exclusively collective lines and thoroughly imbued him with the collective mentality.
"On Psychic Energy" (1928). In CW 8: The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche. P. 112
Alienation has outside aspects and also takes place within
He who is rooted in the soil endures. Alienation from the unconscious and from its historical conditions spells rootlessness. That is the danger that lies in wait for the conqueror of foreign lands, and for every individual who, through one-sided allegiance to any kind of -ism, loses touch with the dark, maternal, earthy ground of his being.
"Mind and Earth" (1927). In CW 10: Civilization in Transition. P. 103
The outer conflicts and the inner ones tend to be related
It even seems as if young people who have had a hard struggle for existence are spared inner problems, while those who for some reason or other have no difficulty with adaptation run into problems of sex or conflicts arising from a sense of inferiority.
"The Stages of Life" (1930). In CW 8: The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche. P. 762
To remain infantile makes one's future regrettable
Infantilism, however, is something extremely ambiguous. First, it can be either genuine or purely symptomatic; and second, it can be either residuary or embryonic. There is an enormous difference between something that has remained infantile and something that is in the process of growth. Both can take an infantile or embryonic form, and more often than not it is impossible to tell at first glance whether we are dealing with a regrettably persistent fragment of infantile life or with a vitally important creative beginning. To deride these possibilities is to act like a dullard who does not know that the future is more important than the past.
"The State of Psychotherapy Today" (1934). In CW 10: Civilization in Transition. P. 345
Social responsibility that is devoid of self-reflection, may be all too hypocritical
Every individual needs revolution, inner division, overthrow of the existing order, and renewal, but not by forcing these things upon his neighbours under the hypocritical cloak of Christian love or the sense of social responsibility or any of the other beautiful euphemisms for unconscious urges to personal power. Individual self-reflection, return of the individual to the ground of human nature, to his own deepest being with its individual and social destiny here is the beginning of a cure for that blindness which reigns at the present hour.
"On the Psychology of the Unconscious" (1912). In CW 7: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology P. 5
The creative impulse may not get wholly depleted throughout one's life. It is possible to conduct it wisely and replenish it too
A person must pay dearly for the divine gift of creative fire. It is as though each of us was born with a limited store of energy. In the artist, the strongest force in his make-up, that is, his creativeness, will seize and all but monopolize this energy, leaving so little over that nothing of value can come of it. The creative impulse can drain him of his humanity to such a degree that the personal ego can exist only on a primitive or inferior level and is driven to develop all sorts of defects-ruthlessness, selfishness ("autoeroticism"), vanity, and other infantile traits. These inferiorities are the only means by which it can maintain its vitality and prevent itself from being wholly depleted.
"Psychology and Literature" (1930). In CW 15: The Spirit in Man, Art and Literature. P. 158
Stiffening and clinging is not all there is to develop throughout life - personality may be developed too
The nearer we approach to the middle of life, and the better we have succeeded in entrenching ourselves in our personal attitudes and social positions, the more it appears as if we had discovered the right course and the right ideals and principles of behaviour. For this reason we suppose them to be eternally valid, and make a virtue of unchangeably clinging to them. We overlook the essential fact that the social goal is attained only at the cost of a diminution of personality. Many - far too many - aspects of life which should also have been experienced lie in the lumber-room among dusty memories; but sometimes, too, they are glowing coals under grey ashes.
"The Stages of Life" (1930). In CW 8: The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche. P. 771
It should be worthy of praise to consolidate our former great attainments, as long as it does not make draining inroads into the soul life and make us sinister
If we wish to stay on the heights we have reached, we must struggle all the time to consolidate our consciousness and its attitude. But we soon discover that this praiseworthy and apparently unavoidable battle with the years leads to stagnation and desiccation of soul. Our convictions become platitudes ground out on a barrel-organ, our ideals become starchy habits, enthusiasm stiffens into automatic gestures. The source of the water of life seeps away. We ourselves may not notice it, but everybody else does, and that is even more painful. If we should risk a little introspection, coupled perhaps with an energetic attempt to be honest for once with ourselves, we may get a dim idea of all the wants, longings, and fears that have accumulated down there-a repulsive and sinister sight. The mind shies away, but life wants to flow down into the depths. Fate itself seems to preserve us from this, for each of us has a tendency to become an immovable pillar of the past.
Symbols of Transformation (1952). CW 5: P. 553
It should help to get well unified and develop realisation
Since the aims of the second half of life are different from those of the first, to linger too long in the youthful attitude produces a division of the will. Consciousness still presses forward in obedience, as it were, to its own inertia, but the unconscious lags behind, because the strength and inner resolve needed for further expansion have been sapped. This disunity with oneself begets discontent, and since one is not conscious of the real state of things one generally projects the reasons for it upon one's partner. A critical atmosphere thus develops, the necessary prelude to conscious realization.
"Marriage as a Psychological Relationship" (1925). In CW 17: The Development of the Personality. P. 331
Adult life has several stages too; each with its own peculiar challenges and possible outcomes or good or bad - or mixed
It is not possible to live too long amid infantile surroundings, or in the bosom of the family, without endangering one's psychic health. Life calls us forth to independence, and anyone who does not heed this call because of childish laziness or timidity is threatened with neurosis. And once this has broken out, it becomes an increasingly valid reason for running away from life and remaining forever in the morally poisonous atmosphere of infancy. [Compare Erikson]
Symbols of Transformation (1952). CW 5: P. 461
The afternoon of human life naturally forms part of the growth of human life
A human being would certainly not grow to be seventy or eighty years old if this longevity had no meaning for the species. The afternoon of human life must also have a significance of its own and cannot be merely a pitiful appendage to life's morning. The significance of the morning undoubtedly lies in the development of the individual, our entrenchment in the outer world, the propagation of our kind, and the care of our children. This is the obvious purpose of nature. But when this purpose has been attained - and more than attained - shall the earning of money, the extension of conquests, and the expansion of life go steadily on beyond the bounds of all reason and sense? Whoever carries over into the afternoon the law of the morning, or the natural aim, must pay for it with damage to his soul, just as surely as a growing youth who tries to carry over his childish egoism into adult life must pay for this mistake with social failure.
"The Stages of Life" (1930). In CW 8: The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche. P. 787
Suffering tends to isolate you. However, understanding of it may lift you up somewhat
In the case of psychological suffering, which always isolates the individual from the herd of so-called normal people, it is of the greatest importance to understand that the conflict is not a personal failure only, but at the same time a suffering common to all and a problem with which the whole epoch is burdened. This general point of view lifts the individual out of himself and connects him with humanity.
Analytical Psychology: Its Theory and Practice: The Tavistock Lectures. (1935). In CW 18 (retitled) "The Tavistock Lectures" P. 116
Often-repeated dream-series talk for a developmental process that is needed
If, as happens in long and difficult treatments, the analyst observes a series of dreams often running into hundreds, there gradually forces itself upon him a phenomenon which, in an isolated dream, would remain hidden behind the compensation of the moment. This phenomenon is a kind of developmental process in the personality itself. At first it seems that each compensation is a momentary adjustment of one-sidedness or an equalization of disturbed balance. But with deeper insight and experience, these apparently separate acts of compensation arrange themselves into a kind of plan. They seem to hang together and in the deepest sense to be subordinated to a common goal, so that a long dream-series no longer appears as a senseless string of incoherent and isolated happenings, but resembles the successive steps in a planned and orderly process of development. I have called this unconscious process spontaneously expressing itself in the symbolism of a long dream-series the individuation process. ◇
"On the Nature of Dreams" (1945). In CW 8: The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche. P. 550
Sexuality that is neurotically repressed, means unsuitable sacrifice, and possibly descent from what is truly proper
Obviously it is in the youthful period of life that we have most to gain from a thorough recognition of the instinctual side. A timely recognition of sexuality, for instance, can prevent that neurotic suppression of it which keeps a man unduly withdrawn from life, or else forces him into a wretched and unsuitable way of living with which he is bound to come into conflict. Proper recognition and appreciation of normal instincts leads the young person into life and entangles him with fate, thus involving him in life's necessities and the consequent sacrifices and efforts through which his character is developed and his experience matured. For the mature person, however, the continued expansion of life is obviously not the right principle, because the descent towards life's afternoon demands simplification, limitation, and intensification - in other words, individual culture.
"On Psychic Energy" (1928). In CW 8: The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche. P. 113
The youth phase is far from all there is to life well lived
An inexperienced youth thinks one can let the old people go, because not much more can happen to them anyway: they have their lives behind them and are no better than petrified pillars of the past. But it is a great mistake to suppose that the meaning of life is exhausted with the period of youth and expansion; that, for example, a woman who has passed the menopause is "finished." The afternoon of life is just as full of meaning as the morning; only, its meaning and purpose are different.
"On the Psychology of the Unconscious" (1912). In CW 7: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology P. 114
Many slowly find out to indulge less in egoistic, childish cravings through some fit involvement in the world
If we try to extract the common and essential factors from the almost inexhaustible variety of individual problems found in the period of youth, we meet in all cases with one particular feature: a more or less patent clinging to the childhood level of consciousness, a resistance to the fateful forces in and around us which would involve us in the world. Something in us wishes to remain a child, to be unconscious or, at most, conscious only of the ego; to reject everything strange, or else subject it to our will; to do nothing, or else indulge our own craving for pleasure or power. In all this there is something of the inertia of matter; it is a persistence in the previous state whose range of consciousness is smaller, narrower, and more egoistic than that of the dualistic phase. For here the individual is faced with the necessity of recognizing and accepting what is different and strange as a part of his own life, as a kind of "also-I."
"The Stages of Life" (1930). In CW 8: The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche. P. 764
The young neurotic cowardly shrinks back from some cultural values
The discovery of the value of human personality is reserved for a riper age. For young people the search for personality values is very often a pretext for evading their biological duty. Conversely, the exaggerated longing of an older person for the sexual values of youth is a short-sighted and often cowardly evasion of a duty which demands recognition of the value of personality and submission to the hierarchy of cultural values. The young neurotic shrinks back in terror from the expansion of life's duties, the old one from the dwindling of the treasures he has attained.
CW 4: Freud and Psychoanalysis. P. 664
At whatever cost assert yourself well, says Jung
There would appear to be a sort of conscience in mankind which severely punishes every one who does not somehow and at some time, at whatever cost to his virtuous pride, cease to defend and assert himself, and instead confess himself fallible and human. Until he can do this, an impenetrable wall shuts him off from the vital feeling that he is a man among other men.
"Problems of Modern Psychotherapy" (1929). In CW 16: The Practice of Psychotherapy. P. 132
2. Reflect and carry what is within yourself, and the future may get better or worse for it. Choose the former upon reflection
After attaining the greatest possible height, a descent may begin
Take for comparison the daily course of the sun - but a sun that is endowed with human feeling and man's limited consciousness. In the morning it rises from the nocturnal sea of unconsciousness and looks upon the wide, bright world which lies before it in an expanse that steadily widens the higher it climbs in the firmament. In this extension of its field of action caused by its own rising, the sun will discover its significance; it will see the attainment of the greatest possible height, and the widest possible dissemination of its blessings, as its goal. In this conviction the sun pursues its course to the unforeseen zenith-unforeseen, because its career is unique and individual, and the culminating point could not be calculated in advance. At the stroke of noon the descent begins. And the descent means the reversal of all the ideals and values that were cherished in the morning.
"The Stages of Life" (1930). In CW 8: The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche. P. 778
One is to reflect well to find out what is individual
To find out what is truly individual in ourselves, profound reflection is needed; and suddenly we realize how uncommonly difficult the discovery of individuality in fact is.
"The Relations between the Ego and the Unconscious" (1928). In CW 7: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. P. 242
What good and evil folks carry within themselves!
Our personality develops in the course of our life from germs that are hard or impossible to discern, and it is only our deeds that reveal who we are. We are like the sun, which nourishes the life of the earth and brings forth every kind of strange, wonderful, and evil thing; we are like the mothers who bear in their wombs untold happiness and suffering. At first we do not know what deeds or misdeeds, what destiny, what good and evil we have in us, and only the autumn can show what the spring has engendered, only in the evening will it be seen what the morning began.
"The Development of the Personality" (1934). In CW 17: The Development of the Personality. P. 290
Individual sides to us should not be all overshadowed by so-called individual psychology, but instead nourished well by such as attention
On closer examination one is always astonished to see how much of our so-called individual psychology is really collective. So much, indeed, that the individual traits are completely overshadowed by it. Since, however, individuation is an ineluctable psychological necessity, we can see from the ascendancy of the collective what very special attention must be paid to this delicate plant "individuality" if it is not to be completely smothered.
"The Relations between the Ego and the Unconscious" (1928). In CW 7: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. P. 241
Future generations may benefit a whole lot from attentive individuals of yesterday and today
It is the duty of one who goes his own way to inform society of what he finds on his voyage of discovery, be it cooling water for the thirsty or the sandy wastes of unfruitful error. The one helps, the other warns. Not the criticism of individual contemporaries will decide the truth or falsity of his discoveries, but future generations. There are things that are not yet true today, perhaps we dare not find them true, but tomorrow they may be. So every man whose fate it is to go his individual way must proceed with hopefulness and watchfulness, ever conscious of his loneliness and its dangers. ◇
"On the Psychology of the Unconscious" (1912). In CW 7: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology P. 201
3. Personal power is far from ideal, but may assist social achievements all the same
You may adapt to the larger world as your internalised smaller world dictate. Eric Berne's life scripts serve as examples
The small world of the child, the family milieu, is the model for the big world. The more intensely the family sets its stamp on the child, the more he will be emotionally inclined, as an adult, to see in the great world his former small world. Of course this must not be taken as a conscious intellectual process. On the contrary, the patient feels and sees the difference between now and then, and tries as well as he can to adapt himself. Perhaps he will even believe himself perfectly adapted, since he may be able to grasp the situation intellectually, but that does not prevent his emotions from lagging far behind his intellectual insight.
"The Theory of Psychoanalysis" (1913). In CW 4: Freud and Psychoanalysis. P. 312
Outer concerns may grow and multiply and overcrowd personal power and propriety till they become intolerable burdens
The middle period of life is a time of enormous psychological importance. The child begins its psychological life within very narrow limits, inside the magic circle of the mother and the family. With progressive maturation it widens its horizon and its own sphere of influence; its hopes and intentions are directed to extending the scope of personal power and possessions; desire reaches out to the world in ever-widening range; the will of the individual becomes more and more identical with the natural goals pursued by unconscious motivations. Thus man breathes his own life into things, until finally they begin to live of themselves and to multiply; and imperceptibly he is overgrown by them. Mothers are overtaken by their children, men by their own creations, and what was originally brought into being only with labour and the greatest effort can no longer be held in check. First it was passion, then it became duty, and finally an intolerable burden, a vampire that fattens on the life of its creator.
"Marriage as a Psychological Relationship" (1925). In CW 17: The Development of the Personality. P. 331
You had better solve a problem before it ties you down somehow or fragments you too
Neurosis is intimately bound up with the problem of our time and really represents an unsuccessful attempt on the part of the individual to solve the general problem in his own person. Neurosis is self-division.
"On the Psychology of the Unconscious" (1912). In CW 7: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology P. 18
The bed of Procrustes is not ideal for rest and recuperation
To be "normal" is the ideal aim for the unsuccessful, for all those who are still below the general level of adaptation. But for people of more than average ability, people who never found it difficult to gain successes and to accomplish their share of the world's work - for them the moral compulsion to be nothing but normal signifies the bed of Procrustes - deadly and insupportable boredom, a hell of sterility and hopelessness.
"The Principles of Practical Psychology" (1935). In CW 16: The Practice of Psychotherapy. P. 161
Much unprepared, most people embark on the afternoon of life
Wholly unprepared, we embark upon the second half of life. Or are there perhaps colleges for forty-year-olds which prepare them for their coming life and its demands as the ordinary colleges introduce our young people to a knowledge of the world? No, thoroughly unprepared we take the step into the afternoon of life; worse still, we take this step with the false assumption that our truths and ideals will serve us as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the programme of life's morning; for what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening have become a lie.
"The Stages of Life" (1930). In CW 8: The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche. P. 784
Handling of a person's id (libido, lust) is age-related
Our life is like the course of the sun. In the morning it gains continually in strength until it reaches the zenith heat of high noon. Then comes the enantiodromia: the steady forward movement no longer denotes an increase, but a decrease, in strength. Thus our task in handling a young person is different from the task of handling an older person. In the former case, it is enough to clear away all the obstacles that hinder expansion and ascent; in the latter, we must nurture everything that assists the descent. ◇
"On the Psychology of the Unconscious" (1912). In CW 7: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology P. 114
Progress of culture begins with individuals and their attainments, including individuation
Every advance in culture is, psychologically, an extension of consciousness, a coming to consciousness that can take place only through discrimination. Therefore an advance always begins with individuation, that is to say with the individual, conscious of his isolation, cutting a new path through hitherto untrodden territory. To do this he must first return to the fundamental facts of his own being, irrespective of all authority and tradition, and allow himself to become conscious of his distinctiveness. If he succeeds in giving collective validity to his widened consciousness, he creates a tension of opposites that provides the stimulation which culture needs for its further progress. ◇◇
"On Psychic Energy" (1928). In CW 8: The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche. P. 111
Individuation is not had by massive, unsound and wicked suppression
We do not sufficiently distinguish between Individualism and individuation. Individualism means deliberately stressing and giving prominence to some supposed peculiarity, rather than to collective considerations and obligations. But individuation means precisely the better and more complete fulfilment of the collective qualities of the human being, since adequate consideration of the peculiarity of the individual is more conducive to better social achievement than when the peculiarity is neglected or suppressed.
"The Relations between the Ego and the Unconscious" (1928). In CW 7: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. P. 267
Assert yourself wisely and well, and the future may get better for it, and the personally and individually may develop and not stagnate.
Fruits of former attainments are within. Some worsen our fare, others help it. And personal power is limited because the personality is limited as compared to everything that matters and wants to manifest by stages or otherwise in a life.
Carotenuto, Aldo. The Vertical Labyrinth: Individuation in Jungian Psychology. Toronto: Inner City Books, 1985.
Gray, Frances. Jung, Irigaray, Individuation: Philosophy, Analytical Psychology, and the Question of the Feminine. Hove, East Sussex: Routledge, 2008.
Jung, Carl Gustav. Collected Works. Vol 7, Part 2, Individuation. New York: Pantheon (Bollingen Series, Vols 1-20), 1957-1979.
Cw: Jung, Carl Gustav. Collected Works. New York: Pantheon (Bollingen Series, Vols 1-20), 1957-1979.
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