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What Is the Individuation Process

Individuation is the psychic process by which one becomes himself, indivisibly, uniquely, a monad, as an expression of uniqueness and self-sufficiency at microcosmic level. It is, in Jung's terms, the realization of the Self .

Jung discovered this process during his confrontation with his unconscious, and especially when he was painting the first mandalas. About these moments of initial uncertainty he even writes in his autobiography. Here are some abstract:

    My mandalas were cryptograms concerning the state of the self which were presented to me anew each day. In them I saw the self - that is, my whole being...

    The self, I thought, was like the monad which I am, and which is my world. The mandala represents this monad, and corresponds to the microcosmic nature of the psyche.

    ... The question arose repeatedly: What is this process leading to? Where is its goal? From my own experience, I knew by now that I could not presume to choose a goal which would seem trustworthy to me. It had been proved to me that I had to abandon the idea of the superordinate position of the ego. After all, I had been brought up short when I had attempted to maintain it... I was being compelled to go through this process of the unconscious. I had to let myself be carried along by the current, without a notion of where it would lead me. When I began drawing the mandalas, however, I saw that everything, all the paths I had been following, all the steps I had taken, were leading back to a single point - namely, to the mid-point. It became increasingly plain to me that the mandala is the center. It is the exponent of all paths. It is the path to the center, to individuation.

    During those years, between 1918 and 1920, I began to understand that the goal of psychic development is the self. There is no linear evolution; there is only a circumambulation of the self. ( Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Vintage Books, 1989, p. 196.)

But as expected, the individuation process is not an event experienced only by Jung. In his famous book Psychology and Alchemy , Jung draws attention to the fact that the psychotherapeutic work can be interrupted when the symptom is remitted, but in some cases, it continues beyond the actual psychotherapy.

It seems that the psyche tends towards a target beyond the conscious interests of the ego, located in a dimension about which the ego does not have any information or intuition. It is, of course, the realization of the Self, of that uniqueness I have already mentioned.

This led Jung to look for the elements specific to the individuation process in the case of other people too - patients or close relatives. The book mentioned above illustrates with the help of dream interpretation this centering process that leads to the Self, in the case of a patient who had no prior initiation in this regard.


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    We find references to the individuation process in Jung's entire work. However the essential books for understanding this concept are:

    - Psychology and Alchemy

    - Memories, Dreams, Reflections

    (Both books can be ordered from Amazon com by clicking the titles.)


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