Thursday, March 31, 2011

Carl Gustav Jung and the process of individuation

I am reading this really great book 'The myth of meaning' by Aniela Jaffe (a contemporary of Jung). It is the best explanation of the concept of 'Individuation' as put forward by Jung I have read yet!

Jung split from the dominant view held by psychology in the mid 20th century, which claimed we are born as 'blank canvas's what Freud termed 'Tabula Rasa' = 'Blank Slate'. 

For Jung, there was far more depth to our psyches than this. He asserted that each individual has access to pre-existing, autonomous contents of consciousness. By this he meant that there are forces that operate 'under the surface' in all of us. These forces he termed 'Archetypes'. He saw this archetypal domain consisting of various layers. Each individual has their own cocktail of personal archetypes. Below this there is an area of our psyches termed the Collective Unconscious. Here there are deities, creative principles and patterns common to all humans and accessible to all.

The meaning of life for Jung is the realisation of the Self. This is achieved by bringing these unconscious archetypal principles into the light of our consciousness. When this is done successfully one feels fulfilled, at ease with oneself and an aura of authenticity is emanated. By turning inward and confronting the forces operating within, we firstly become aware of them; but we also free ourselves from being at their mercy, from being blind puppets. Even more significant is the reward of becoming congruent. By opening a door to the forces of the unconscious we are afforded the opportunity to harmonise these inner images with outer reality. This is what Jung termed the PROCESS OF INDIVIDUATION.

By engaging in the process of individuation you get an inkling into the numinosity of the powers operating behind our thinking and doing. It can be conducive to humility and can facilitate a type of surrender to a deeper driver of your destiny.

Now the thing is in our world today with the preference for externally orientated states of being, this rich inner realm is often neglected and relegated to a gnawing background noise. It never goes away of course and drives our lives whether we are conscious of it or not. Our culture seems to have invited us to adopt far too narrow a criteria of success. Externally derived one dimensional materiality can never be a substitute for authentically coming into alignment with the call of your soul. Each of the 6 billion + people on the planet are each as unique as our fingerprints reflect. Everyone will move towards wholeness in entirely different ways totally unique to each individual. The big house, big job, big car criteria of success will never bring the inner fulfillment we seek. Only by turning inward and honestly opening to the inner forces that long to manifest in our world will we enjoy lives steeped in meaning, authenticity and integrity.