The Process of Individuation


Jung warns in a letter to Herr Werblowsky on March 28, 1951 about pushing the process of individuation..”I should propose a somewhat carl_jung_videodifferent wording: instead o saying ‘pushing the process of individuation’—exactly the thing you cannot do because it instantly leads into an inflation or into an identification with archetypes—I should recommend something like ‘becoming too recklessly selfish.’  The term individuation ought to be reserved for the legitimate evolution of the individual entelechy.’ (meaning the presumptuous encroachment on the rights of others, particularly the gods, leading to the tragic downfall of the transgressor).  Individuation is an ongoing process, sometimes very time consuming, sometimes even ignored.   It is a process of maturation in which the psyche ages or matures in much the same manner as the physical body. The general guidelines are summarized by Jacobi (1973) as consisting of four parts:

  1. Becoming conscious of the shadow. The shadow is our dark side, containing those things that we have repressed or ignored for one reason or another. It usually manifests to us in dreams, fantasies, or as various symbols, as an archetypal figure who is dark and ominous. Just as the persona is that part of us that we want to present to the world, so the shadow contains those things that we want to hide from the world, and from ourselves. When working with self and others in this shadow revealing connection, we look for projections, introjections,  retroflections and confluence (in Gestalt section of this site) as indicators as to the presence of the shadow.shadow
  1. Becoming conscious of the anima or animus. Basically, the anima is the feminine soul or inner femininity of every man, and the animus is the inner masculinity of every women. The individuation process is, above everything else, a process of wholeness. This includes sexual completeness. Jung (1978) wrote that the anima and animus represent “functions which filter the contents of the collective unconscious through to the conscious mind” (p.20). Thus when the ego seeks to find the inner Self, it must look through the anima or animus, which colors its perception in many different ways. Edinger (1995) distinguishes four separate progressive states of maturation in the ego’s relation to the anima: (1) the infantile state, in which the ego is totally unaware of the anima or animus, (2) the projected state, in which the anima or animus is animaanimusprojected outward into people of the opposite sex, (3) the possessed state, in which the ego is possessed or governed by the anima or animus, and (4) the conscious state, in which the ego becomes conscious of the anima or animus.  Again we look to some of the gestalt processes when listening to our inner dialogues in regards to these conditions as to where an individual or self is in the process.




  1. Becoming conscious of the archetypal spirit. Jung speaks to the archetype as it is contained in the individuation process in a letter written to Bernet in 1955 speaking of bringing the archetypes into consciousness, he warns: “the archetype is increasingly detached from its dynamic background and gradually turned into a purely intellectual formula.  In this way it is neutralized, and you can then say ‘one can live with it quite well.’  But you overlook the fact that the self constellating archetypes and the resultant situations steadily gain in numinosity, indeed are sometimes imbued with a archetypespositively eerie daemonism and bring the danger of psychosis threateningly close.  The upsurging archetypal material is the stuff of which mental illnesses are made.  In the individuation process the ego is brought face to face with an unknown superior power which is likely to cut the ground from under its feet and blow consciousness  to bits.  The archetype is not just the formal condition of mythological statements but an overwhelming force comparable to nothing I know.”  Working with one’s archetypes and the mana persona that often is caught up in the inflation while doing so, is a work in progress that takes great care and responsibility for one’s own visions, fantasies, dreams and projections.



  1. Becoming conscious of the Self. Jung called this final step self-realization— “We could therefore translate individuation as “coming to selfhood” or “self-realization”“ (Jung, 1977, p. 173). Jacobi (1973) says “For the conscious personality the birth of the self means a shift in its psychic centre, and consequently an entirely different attitude toward, and view of, life–in other words a ‘transformation’ in the fullest sense of the word” (p. 127). One of the most important concepts of self as involved in ego regarding one’s plight, is in a letter written to Arvind Vasavada on November 22 1954, exemplifying how Jung’s later ideas about self influenced his growing philosophy as it applied to individuation. “The ego receives the light from the self. Though we know of the self, yet it is not known.  You may see a big town and know its name and geographical position, yet you do not know a single one of its inhabitants  You may even know a man through daily intercourse, yet you can be entirely ignorant of his real character. jungSelf The ego is contained in the self as it is contained in the universe of which we know only the tiniest section.  A man of greater insight and intelligence than mine can know myself, but I could not know him as long as my consciousness is inferior to his.  Although we receive the light of consciousness from the self and although we know it to be the source of our illumination, we do not know whether it possesses anything we could call consciousness………”  He goes onto say:  “Even if the ego should be (as I think) the supreme point of the self, a mountain infinitely higher than Mt. Everest, it would be nothing but a lilttle grain of rock or ice, never the whole mountain………If the self could be wholly experienced, it would be a limited experience whereas in reality its experience is unlimited and endless.”

Becoming conscious is gradual and incomplete, at best, however the trek toward the individuation process must take this into account when one is moving toward self-consciousness and realizing that all cannot be known.  The journey is full of new and interesting dialogues…..a sort of ‘art of becoming’.

One must relate to others, connecting and communicating in order to further one’s path toward indivuation.  Jung, reinforced this idea, a year before his death, in a letter to Mr. Robert M. Rock on 11 November 1960.

“…without relatedness individuation is hardly possible.  Relatedness begins with conversation mostly.  Therefore communication is indubitably important.”




Integrating and assimilating our individuation path into our consciousness is ongoing and process oriented.  Further questions and conversations about this are welcomed on this site.



Speak Your Mind