Jung and his Individuation Process

Jung and his Individuation Process

Words to consider as we prepare to take a closer look at Carl Jung’s unique view of the human condition as expressed in the Jung’s Individuation Process. There have been similar undertakings into the minds of Freud, Rogers, Adler and other forefathers of modern psychology. Each of these theories offer a unique perspective on the human personality.

What is presented is an overview of the thinking from what we call today the classic schools of psychology. These schools of thought or psychological theories were all developed in the first half of 20th century. Most of these theories had a shared paradigm, which is the multi-tier view of the human mind.

That paradigm includes the long-standing acceptance of a conscious/sub-conscious world at work within us. In addition to a shared paradigm, the methodology used by these psychologists includes to varying degree both scientific study and practical case experience. The results of combining their theories are additive rather than paradigm shifting.

With this as the backdrop we enter the world of the Swiss psychiatrist/psychotherapist Carl Jung. He is best known for his work in developing the field of analytical psychology. We will see that the concept of Individuation holds center stage in Jung’s analytical psychology. According to Jung, it is individuation that is the central process of human development

Individuation – A Definition

From a linguistic point of view definition of terms and meaning introduces the potential for understanding. While individuation has become the property of the world of psychology it is worth noting that Jung intended for it to be a much more than that. For him it encompasses the philosophical, mystical, and spiritual areas of the human being.

The word itself has roots going back to the 1600’s when it was used to identify a person as an individual or individuation. Here again, Jung applied another of the elements of the classic psychology paradigm; the freedom to rename and redefine within a limited scope those terms that apply to the work at hand.

In the broadest possible way, individuation can be defined as the achievement of self-actualization through a process of integrating the conscious and the unconscious. Once again, any accurate understanding of Jung should come from him.

Jung and Freud

As we venture forward there is an interesting linking between Jung and Freud. In addition to the obvious one, their close proximity in the time that both were working on their projects, it was from about 1906 until they severed their ties, including their friendship in 1911 that Jung and Freud collaborated on their work. The influence of Freud can be noted in some of Jung’s work.

Understanding Jung

If there were ever an example of a work in progress, Jung provides it. As his work evolved he uncovered more and more subtleties needing development. It is far beyond the scope of this article to go there, but anyone interested in learning more can find it in Jung’s works and on the internet. Here are but a few of his key ideas:

Analytical psychology, or Jungian psychology: emphasizes the primary importance of the individual psyche and the personal quest for wholeness.

Jungian Archetypes: One area of Jungian psychology that can become a bit overwhelming is his use of the archetype model. Drawn from many of Plato’s ideas Jung archetypes are held by the individual and it is their unique experiences and reinforced through the collective unconsciousness that define their archetypes.

A better understanding of the archetypes used by Jung can be found in this definition, “An archetype is an original model of a person, ideal example, or a prototype upon which others are copied, patterned, or emulated; a symbol universally recognized by all. In psychology, an archetype is a model of a person, personality, or behavior.”

For Jung archetypes consist of universal, mythic characters that reside within the collective unconscious of people the world over. Archetypes represent fundamental human motifs of our experience as we evolved; consequentially, they evoke deep emotions.

The scope of archetypes is very broad. With many different archetypes, Jung relied on only a part of the congregate number. He then further divided them into three set that symbolize basic human motivations. Each type has its own set of values, meanings and personality traits: Ego, Soul and Self. The types in each set share a common driving source, for example types within the Ego set are driven to fulfill ego-defined agendas.

Most, if not all, people have several archetypes at play in their personality construct. Jung postulated that each person carries dominate archetypes within. It is through Jung’s process of psychoanalysis that he encourages self-examination to identify them. This is how self-actualization occurs.

While Jung was and remains today an enigma of sorts, his impact on the field of psychology is enormous. When viewed out of context many of his archetype descriptions can bring a smile to the face. Take this one of his many reports. It is about the presence of an unconscious duality within each of us called Anima and Animus, our true selves. Rogers practiced conversations with these figures arguing that each represents gender specific traits to help guide us.

The Jungian Process

What follows is a brief overview of Jung’s process of attaining individuation. It comes about through Jung’s development analytical psychology. That process looks like this:



The next step in the process is the integration of the ego (consciousness) with the personal and collective self.

  1. The ego
  2. Personal unconscious
  3. Collective unconscious

This results in identification of archetypes that shape and define the human experience. Here are a few:

Self: Unification of the individual’s ego, personal and collective unconsciousness

The Shadow: Base for sexual and life instincts.

Anima and Animus: Male/female identities.

The Persona: Self presentation.

The father: Authority figure; stern; powerful.

The mother: Nurturing; comforting.

The child: Longing for innocence; rebirth; salvation.

The wise old man: Guidance; knowledge; wisdom.

The hero: Champion; defender; rescuer.

The maiden: Innocence; desire; purity.

The trickster: Deceiver; liar; trouble-maker.

Offering a unique approach to the practice of classical psychology Carl Jung left us with a comprehensive inter-disciplinary approach to the psychology of the human personality.


Image Credit: flickr.com/photos/h-k-d/6984394425/