Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Individu- What???

June 11th, 2008 · 1 Comment · depth psychology, Individuation, Jungian psychology, life passages, Lifestyle, midlife, mythology, Psychology, Psychotherapy

I’m enjoying the process of writing this blog on a regular basis, and having the chance to communicate with all of you about different aspects of what it is to be a therapist and a Jungian in Halton and Peel Regions in this continually surprising "place" that we call suburbia.  I’m really open to any of your comments, either privately via email, or in the comment sections on the blog.

Solitary_pathway_for_blog_2 Carl Jung developed the idea of "individuation" to describe the individual journey that human beings undertake in their lives.  I believe that this is a very useful way of looking at things, and that it helps people to answer the question "What is it that is happening to me in my life?"

Jung’s idea is that the journey of our lives takes us on a more and more individual path.  That we are in the process of becoming more and more uniquely ourselves.  Jung often used the analogy of an acorn and an oak tree, saying that the potential to be an huge oak tree is latent in the acorn, waiting to expand and to become.

© Micheal Armstrong | Dreamstime.com

For Jung, the movement in life is from the more "collective" to the more "individual".  Let me try and explain what I think he means by this.

Jung divides life into two portions.  In the first, all of our energy goes to achieving all the things that society expects of us.  We get an education, move out from the family of origin and start our own independent lives, get into careers, often find a partner and quite possibly have children of our own.  This is important, vital lifework … we have to do it, and in an important sense it is all part of becoming ourselves, and realizing who it is that we are.  Even so, in a fundamental sense, it is about meeting social expectations.  But then we get to a point where we have done all these things, and life confronts us with a whole new set of challenges.

For as we move through life, the challenges start to become much more individual.  There may come a day when we have done all or at least most of the things that society expects of us.  Then we are thrown upon the question, "OK, been there, done that — got a whole closet full of t-shirts!  Now what?"

Sometimes this leads to redoubled efforts at doing what we have already done in life: doing much the same thing, only just more of it.  More business success, more income, more hours at the office, more involvement with the same community organizations, bigger and better houses / cars / vacations / cottages / home theatres …all the things that we are continuously told should be satisfying. The list can go on and on.  But very often, when individuals are able to slow down and reflect they find such concerns to be ultimately not very meaningful, not because these are bad things, but because they don’t reach our deepest yearnings. 

We begin to recognize that the real question is, what is really meaningful or valuable to me as an individual?  And this often takes us on paths that are different from the known way that our culture or community holds up to us as deserving of our passion and our energy.  The path begins to look less and less like a superhighway full of cars, and more and more like an infrequently trodden path that takes us to our own very unique destination, to the heart of ourselves.

Do you feel the stirring of a prompting to a unique path in your life?  What is most uniquely and individually you?  I’m looking forward to your comments on how this relates to your life!

One Comment so far ↓

  • ali Sharpe

    Oh. I am so enjoying reading your articles, and what you describe in “Individu- What???”…… just seems to resonate very closely with my own experiences. Currently my elderly mother is dying in hospital, she has been suffering from numerous conditions for years and her body is finally giving up its struggle…but her mind or something going on which is not at all rational is not giving up. Its terrifying to watch, she cant speak but is trying to take off her clothes and tearing out her hair…. I have just come down with flu and chest infection…so I suppose my body is saying – “Enough!”…but at the same time I’m feeling bad because I can’t visit her… and of course I think it is bringng up all kinds of things from mine and her childhood… I am going through all at the same time a plethora of emotions including terror, feeling overwhelmingly sad, heart hurting love, a lot of regret and some guilt to name a few…any of your wise and perceptive words would be most gratefully received. Thank you for reading Ali

Leave a Comment