Individuation - The Process

 “The aim of individuation is nothing less than to divest the self of the false wrappings of the persona on the one hand, and of the suggestive power of primordial images on the other[1].”

The process of individuation moves in 2 major parts: 

Understanding, removing, and putting on & off at will:  the Persona

Understanding, coming to terms with, and resolution with: the Archetypes

Dissolution of the Persona

“Before the persona has been differentiated from the ego, the persona is experienced as individuality.  In fact, as a social identity on the one hand and an ideal image on the other, there is little individual about it.”

Firstly, one has to become aware of the Persona.

Secondly, one must dissolve the Persona.

Early personal development is augmented by development of the Persona, allowing us for collective purposes to adapt, get along with others and explore the world, but regarding the Persona: 

“Human beings have one faculty which, though it is of the greatest utility for collective purposes, is most pernicious for individuation, and that is the faculty of imitation

Dissolution of the Persona is a key transition in our development, and thus requires us to ‘separate’ from those qualities of the Persona that we worked so hard to develop and ‘mistook’ to be the qualities of our ‘self’.  Dissolution of the Persona is not only about being able to take off the mask, but more importantly, being able to hang up the mask, while having the ability to put one on when necessary (i.e. social necessity) - though entirely at one’s own bidding. 

 In the movie ‘The Mask’, Stanley Ipkiss says to Ben Stein's character:  

    "I've got to see Tina.  But what do I Do?  Do I go as my self?  Or do I go as –  The Mask!

Like transforming an oil painting to a mirror.  Differentiating one’s own consciousness from the previous personal identities (Persona) creates a conscious wherein new objects of consciousness are no longer subject to subconscious projections and therefore this new found objectivity saves the subject from being at the mercy of the reactive mechanism. 

Upon dissolution of the Persona, one now becomes an entirely different ‘being’.  A being free to express one’s self without the shackles of the unconscious automation of the Persona.  This period is marked by an unfamiliar silence.  The volume of the voices becomes silent, but what one loses in identity, one gains in personal insight.  This silence in the mind is ‘deafening’ so to speak, and one feels awake.  The occurrence is somewhat similar to the initial experience of having your ears pop after they’ve been plugged for some time and you had no idea.  But, unfortunately, the veil is lifted only to be under another and then you are slowly and incrementally welcomed into a new world by: the gods, and your ear is at the mercy of their whispers – psychology calls them – the Archetypes. 

The persona corresponds to a man’s habitual outward attitude, while the Anima/Animus reflects the habitual inner attitude. 


               Disillusion of The Archetypes  

(As) the archetypes, like all numinous contents, are relatively autonomous, they cannot be integrated simply by rational means, but require a dialectical procedure…

…  In the final analysis the decisive factor is always consciousness, which can understand the manifestations of the unconscious and take up a position toward them.

The peace of dissolving the persona's grasp does not last long however and without our noticing – the archetypes (which are the reason the Greeks, Romans, Hindus, etc. came up with “The gods” – to ‘label’/explain the universal whisperings that speak to, inspire, and play tricks on us) become our next psychological challenge. 

“The most intense conflicts, if overcome, leave behind a sense of security and calm which is not easily disturbed, or else a brokenness that can hardly be healed.  Conversely, it is just these intense conflicts and their conflagration which are needed in order to produce valuable and lasting results”[4].

The secret to progress:  humility.  As you progress your ego inflates (and the properties of that development [i.e. Archetypes] will convince that you have 'arrived’ which naturally feels good.  But the doorway to the ‘next level’ is always smaller, prohibiting your ego from "fitting through the door".

“We can never legitimately cut loose from our archetypal foundations unless we are prepared to pay the price of a neurosis, any more than we can rid ourselves of our body and its organs without committing suicide.  If we cannot deny the archetypes or otherwise neutralize them, we are confronted, at every new stage in the differentiation of consciousness to which civilization attains, with the task of finding a new interpretation appropriate to this stage, in order to connect the life of the past that still exists in us with the life of the present, which threatens to slip away from it.”   

“The achievement of a synthesis of conscious and unconscious contents, and the conscious realization of the archetype’s effects upon the conscious contents, represents the climax of a concentrated spiritual and psychic effort, in so far as this is undertaken consciously and of set purpose.” 

“By means of “active imagination” we are put in a position of advantage, for we can then make the discovery of the archetype without sinking back into the instinctual sphere, which would only lead to blank unconsciousness or, worse still, to some kind of intellectual substitute for instinct.” 

“Moreover, they are the unfailing causes of neurotic and even psychotic disorders, behaving exactly like neglected or maltreated physical organs or organic functional systems’ Jacobi

It is a process that requires the patient to face his problems and that taxes his powers of conscious judgment and decision.  It is nothing less than a direct challenge to his ethical sense, a call to arms that must be answered by the whole personality.  Jacobi

“Exclusive self-reliance makes for spiritual pride, sterile brooding, and isolation within one’s own ego   Jacobi

These “archaic vestiges,” or archetypal forms grounded on the instincts and giving expression to them, have a numinous quality that sometimes arouses fear.  They are ineradicable, for they represent the ultimate foundations of the psyche itself.  They cannot be grasped intellectually, and when one has destroyed one manifestation of them, they reappear in altered form.  It is this fear of the unconscious psyche which not only impedes self-knowledge but is the gravest obstacle to a wider understanding and knowledge of psychology. 

Often the fear is so great that one dares not admit it even to oneself.  Here is a question that every religious person should consider very seriously; he might get an illuminating answer.  

“Confrontation with an archetype or instinct is an ethical problem of the first magnitude, the urgency of which is felt only by people who find themselves faced with the need to assimilate the unconscious and integrate their personalities.  This only falls to the lot of the man who realizes that he has a neurosis or that all is not well with his psychic constitution.” 

“Absorption into the instinctual sphere, therefore, does not and cannot lead to conscious realization and assimilation of instinct, because consciousness struggles in a regular panic against being swallowed up in the primitivity and unconsciousness of sheer instinctuality.  This fear is the eternal burden of the hero-myth and the theme of countless taboos.  The closer one comes to the instinct world, the more violent is the urge to shy away from it and to rescue the light of consciousness from the murks of the sultry abyss.  Psychologically, however, the archetype as an image of instinct is a spiritual goal toward which the whole nature of man strives; it is the sea to which all rivers wend their way, the prize which the hero wrests from the fight with the dragon.” 

Taken purely psychologically, it means that mankind has common instincts of imagination and of action.  All conscious imagination and action have been developed with these unconscious archetypal images as their basis, and always remain bound up with them.  Especially is this the case when consciousness has not attained any high degree of clarity, that is, when, in all its functions, it is more dependent on the instincts than on the conscious will, more governed by affect than by rational judgment. 

This condition ensures a primitive health of the psyche, which, however, immediately becomes lack of adaptation as soon as circumstances arise calling for a higher moral effort.  Instincts suffice only for the individual embedded in nature, which, on the whole, remains always the same.  An individual who is more guided by unconscious than by conscious choice tends therefore towards marked psychic conservatism.  This is the reaons the primitive does not change in the course of thousands of years, and it is also the reason why he fears everything strange and unusual.  It might lead him to maladaptation, and thus to the greatest of psychic dangers, to a kind of neurosis in fact.  A higher and wider consciousness, which comes about only through assimilation of the unfamiliar, tends towards autonomy, towards revolution against the old gods who are nothing other than those powerful, unconscious, archetypal images which have always held consciousness in thrall. 

The more powerful and independent consciousness, and with it the conscious will, becomes, the more the unconscious is forced into the background.  When this happens, it is easily possible for the conscious structures to detach themselves from the unconscious archetypes.  Gaining thus in freedom, they break the chains of mere instinctiveness, and finally arrive at a state that is deprived of, or contrary to, instinctConsciousness thus is torn from its roots and no longer able to appeal to the authority of the archetypal images; it has Promethean freedom, it is true, but also a godless hybris.  It does indeed soar above the earth, even above mankind, but the danger of an upset is there, not for every individual, to be sure, but collectively for the weak members of such a society, who then, again like Prometheus, are chained to the Caucasus by the unconscious

“The archetypal representations (images and ideas) mediated to us by the unconscious should not be confused with the archetype as such.  They are very varied structures which all point back to one essentially “irrepresentable” basic form.”   … The latter is characterized by certain formal elements and by certain fundamental meanings, although these can be grasped only approximately.” … The archetype as such is a psychoid factor that belongs, as it were, to the invisible, ultraviolet end of the psychic spectrum.  It does not appear, in itself, to be capable of reaching consciousness.

Strictly speaking, however, the process of individuation is real only if the individual is aware of it and consciously makes a living connection with it.  M&HS 164

(Dorn) sees the healing experience, though it is given by God, not in some outer religious experience or outer teaching, but in a genuine personal inner experience.  Everybody can extract the healing experience from himself.  He even says (and this is interesting, after having repeated the scorn of the body to be found in every meditation text of the time) that the healing medicine is in the (body).  In just that part of the personality which most strongly resists any conscious effort, and which we would call the shadow, is the healing medicine.  It is incorruptible and has to be detected and extracted from there.  AAI 66

[1] Samatha - see page 99

[2] Recall page XX - The Self as an archetype represents the transcendence of opposites.

[1] Basic Writings – The function of the Unconscious, par. 269, page 148

[2] "primordial images"

[3] Basic Writings – The function of the Unconscious, par. 269, page 148

[4] Jacobi page 57 “Energy pg 26/7”