Individuation: what it is, and its 5 phases according to Carl Jung
Being an autonomous, independent and capable of surviving by itself adapting to the environment. Reach your own identity, recognize yourself as your own and integrated entity. Complete the development process to achieve being yourself. All these phrases reflect the main objective of human development: the achievement of the individuation process .
There have been many authors who have developed theories around the idea behind this concept, being one of the best known Carl Gustav Jung (father of deep or analytical psychology), who placed special emphasis on how we achieve selfhood through this process. And it is on the concept of individuation on which the present article focuses, from the Jungian perspective, defining it and establishing its phases.
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Individuation: general concept
At a general level, individuation is understood as the process by which a person becomes an integrated individual, becoming one himself and reaching the capacity to be totally autonomous and independent. It is a process that requires the growth of the subject and the development of different psychic abilities, appearing throughout human development and lasting, in reality, a good part of life.
This process is especially relevant and visible during adolescence, when the individuation of the person makes them capable of generating their own identity, differentiating themselves from their parents and beginning to recognize themselves as their own and unique entity. For this, it is also necessary that there be a belonging, a link with the family and cultural environment that allows having a starting point and an environment that facilitates the process. All this will generate future projects coherent with oneself , as well as the possibility of linking or disassociating from the world in a healthy and sincere way.
The individuation process according to Carl Jung
In accordance with the above, Carl Gustav Jung elaborated one of the bases of his analytical psychology: the concept of individuation process. For the author, the term individuation is conceived as a process of differentiation, constitution and particularization of one's essence , in such a way that the subject can discover who he is and allows him to develop the personality. It is also identified with self-realization, being part of a natural and instinctive process towards one's own maturation.
It is important to bear in mind that the process of individuation is eminently conflictive, both in the Jungian vision and in others, given that it involves the integration of opposing elements. In the case of Jung, he proposed that we are dealing with a process in which conflicts between different opposites appear in the person, linked to the conscious-unconscious opposition and individuality-collectivity .
The basis of this whole process is the ego, from which we will be advancing in the understanding of the aspects hitherto denied and little by little accepting them and integrating them. The contents to be developed and integrated are going to be increasingly complex and to advance in this process it is necessary to be able to identify, link and integrate the opposites without identifying with them, differentiating them from the self.
In this sense, the individual personal aspects will be integrated in the first place, working emotional experiences repressed initially before the consideration of its inadequacy or conflict or the experience of traumas, to later also integrate elements of the collective unconscious, adding to the development the elaboration of the culturally inherited archetypes. Likewise, they will also develop and integrate the different basic processes that shape the personality.
It is remarkable that there is also another conception of individuation more focused on the biological evolution of the subject, although unlike in other conceptions, the individuation process proposed by Jung is not limited to adolescence or childhood . In fact, each of the stages that are part of this second interpretation of the process would last about ten years each, not completing the process of conscious individuation until well into adulthood.
First you go through a phase in which the ego starts to be born (previously there is no awareness of individuality), later on when you reach puberty there begins to be a distancing from the environment and a search for identity, adaptation to your role and the integration of the self and finally a fourth stage in which the search for a meaning of the self is given . It would be in the latter when there is a greater probability that the necessary processes are given to finish individuation.
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Stages of the individuation process
The process of individuation, from the Jungian perspective, takes place through a series of four phases through which the subject first complements its conscious and unconscious aspects and gradually integrates the opposites (person and shadow, conscious and unconscious ...) until you reach the sameness of the person: that is, to be yourself, a fully integrated individual .
Although in principle there are four, there are many interpretations and ways to divide them even within the Jungian theory, but in all of them the following ones are taken into account (including in this case a fifth, which would be the end of the process).
1. Dispose of oneself and first approach to the unconscious
The beginning of the process of individuation occurs at the moment when the conscience begins to appear that consciousness itself is not the totality of being. It starts to be aware of the existence of impulses, desires and unexpressed psychic content nor directly observable. The subject realizes that there is a large part of himself that has been ignored by himself and will try to begin to approach his understanding, since there has come a time when his development has made him see that need.
- Maybe you are interested: "The 9 stages of the life of human beings"
2. Encounter with the shadow
Born the awareness that there is something more in the self, the first thing that is detected is that there is not only a conscious part but also an unconscious and a set of aspects that we deny when considering them negative (and that we usually project on others as compensation mechanism): in other words, we begin to be aware of the existence of the duality person (of which we are conscious and that makes us feel individual beings that are related to the external world) and shadow (the hidden and unconscious part of person)
Once you begin to be aware of the existence of the shadow, you will need to begin to value it without judging it: our desires and unconscious impulses They have a great value despite the fact that some are socially bad seen . It is about integrating the denied elements and the personality itself. It is not about yielding to impulses (in fact, repression is seen by Jung as something that in some way allows the birth of consciousness), but to accept the shadow as part of our nature.
3. Encounter with anima / animus
The third great step of the process of individuation is given in relation to the sexual archetypes. So far the child has been integrating aspects of their own, but now must begin to integrate archetypal elements, from the cultural heritage, which are part of their personality and the community and that had previously been denied by the person. Specifically in this stage the subject begins to integrate the masculine / feminine polarity.
This process involves integrating one's own being, in addition to the archetype identified with one's sex, the part of their being traditionally identified with the opposite sex , appearing a link with her. That is to say, man must integrate the anima or feminine archetype (which corresponds to elements such as sensitivity, affection and emotional expression) while the woman does it with the animus or masculine archetype (related to vigor and vitality, strength , reason and wisdom). It is about integrating the sexual archetype in its entirety, both logos and eros, making it mediate and being a source of creativity and inspiration.
4. The integration of light archetype
Once this is done, the dark and unknown areas of our psyche begin to light up, something that widens our awareness of ourselves to a great extent and that can generate a sensation of narcissistic omnipotence that makes us believe superior. But the effect of reality making us see that our capabilities are not so extreme makes "smoke down", returning humility. At this moment, wisdom and discovery appear , symbolized by the magician or the wise man who gives meaning to the unknown, exploring and discovering his own being.
5. The end of the individuation process: coincidentia oppositorum
Little by little, moments appear when the self appears, a few moments when the understanding of one's self begins to exist. The process reaches its culmination when the coincidence or integration of the opposites is achieved supposes the acquisition of the same, the end of the process of individuation.
At this time the set of elements that make up the mind are already integrated (the conscious and the unconscious, the individual and the collective, the person and the shadow ...), having achieved a fully integrated psyche. He is already himself, aware of the different aspects that are part of his being and able to distinguish and separate from the world . The subject is a complete being, individuated and little by little more and more autonomous (even being able to form his own ethical system).
Its importance in the formation of the personality
The process of individuation, understood as the one that allows us to become ourselves, it is of extreme importance in the configuration of the personality . In fact, Jung himself considers individuation as a series of transformations that aims to achieve the midpoint of the personality, that is, the acquisition of an intermediate point that allows approaching the conscious and the unconscious.
Do not forget that the idea of individuation is to become oneself, integrating the different aspects of the personality and the psyche into a complete whole. It means accept the presence of the different features that we have and value them, even those repressed and denied throughout life. The clearest example at an individual level is between the person (the part of our personality that we show), and the shadow (the hidden and rejected one, which remains unconscious).
Individuation allows us to be free, to develop our own way of acting and see the world and not just follow the path set by our predecessors, allowing our way of being, seeing and acting to emerge independently and differentiated. In short, that our personality arises. With this, we can make a life project coherent with who we are and live our lives as individuals that we are.
- Alonso, J.C. (2004). The analytical psychology of Jung and his contributions to psychotherapy. Univ. Psychol. Bogotá (Colombia) 3 (1): 55-70.
- Jung, C. G. (1934). On the formation of the personality. In C. G. Jung, Reality of the soul (pp. 173-200). Buenos Aires: Losada.
- Muñoz, P. (2010). Be one-self: Introduction to the analytical psychology of C.G. Jung. Editorial Kaicron. Spain.
- Sassenfeld, A.M. (s.f.). Human development in Jungian psychology. Theory and clinical implications. University of Chile.