Individuation and Wholeness

Individuation and Wholeness

Individuation is a process of psychological differentiation and integration, development of the individual personality.

For Jung and those of us who follow him in the practice of analytical psychology, individuation is the central focus of analysis for adults who are in the second half of life.  These two quotes from Jung capture the flavor of the individuation process:

1. In general it is the process by which individual beings are formed and differentiate; in particular, it is the development of the psychological individual as a being distinct from the general, collective psychology.

2. The aim of individuation is nothing less that to divest the self of the false wrappings of the persona on the one hand, and of the suggestive power of the primordial images on the other.

The goal of individuation is wholeness, not perfection; being good enough is optimal, here.

In this entry, I will provide you with an overview of  individuation by means of two schematic maps.  In subsequent blog entries, i will amplify the individual elements of the maps and discuss the role that each plays in psychotherapy, analysis, and the natural process of becoming a whole person.


Attitudes:  Introversion and extraversion.  Inner oriented or outer oriented.  Our society values extraversion, Swiss society introversion.  Of late, there is a spate of articles and books claiming the power of introversion.  Most Jungian analysts are introverts.  Most politicians are extraverts.

Functions:  Thinking, feeling, intuition and sensation.  In Jungian thought, these functions are arranged as pairs of opposites:  thinking and feeling, intuition and sensation.  Introversion and extraversion are a pair of opposites, too.  Opposites play a large role in Jungian thought, which reflects the apparent psychological structure of the psyche.  The color blue is associated with thinking, red with feeling, yellow with intuition and green with sensation.

It is very hard to change your psychological attitude.  Sometimes, a person can really be an introvert, but because of the pressure of the collective try to present as an extravert.  (Or, the other way around.)  In analysis, it becomes clear what the true attitude is.

A person has a dominant function, say intuition, and an auxiliary function from the other pair of opposites, say thinking.  In this example the tertiary function would be feeling, and the inferior function sensation. (The inferior function is always the opposite of the dominant function.)  Here is a way of viewing the individuation process:  Develop the auxiliary function first, then the tertiary function, and finally the inferior function, moving from what is easiest to what is harder.  As you develop these functions, you are integrating them into your conscious psychic position, and as a result you are able to exercise them more skillfully.  You are also becoming less one-sided, more balanced in the process.  Many Jungian analysts have intuition as their dominant psychological function.  Even after recovering their inferior function, sensation, from the unconscious, and working on it for years, they can still on occasion seem to be absent minded or disconnected from mundane reality.  Often these individuals will show the good sense to pair with a partner whose dominant or auxiliary function is sensation.  The Myers-Briggs test purports to measure  the Jungian attitudes and functions ; it is a self-administered paper-and-pencil test used widely in corporate and other collective settings.


Here is an idealized path as set forth by Jung in Two Essays on Analytical Psychology:  Persona, ego, shadow, anima or animus, mana personality, Self.  Practical experience in analysis shows that things do not always unfold in this order or clarity.  Just a few words about each of these elements for our purposes in this entry.  More will follow in subsequent blog entries.

Persona:  The mask we wear in social situations; our social roles.  Two problems:  we can over identify with the persona; no soul, as it were.  Which presidential candidate springs immediately to mind?  Or, we can have an underdeveloped persona which interferes with the skillful execution of our social roles.  Think of the green recruit, fresh out of school.

Ego:  The conscious standpoint of our psyche.  It is a complex, in Jungian thought, but a very special one because consciousness attaches to it and not to the autonomous complexes in the unconscious.  In analysis, we make the other complexes, the autonomous complexes, conscious, say a mother or a father or an Oedipal complex, and resolve them by integrating them with the ego complex.  In that way, the autonomous complex becomes less likely to operate behind our back, so to speak. and weaken our conscious position.  Strengthening the ego complex is important before embarking on the rest of the individuation process, so that the ego complex can withstand the tension of the opposites.  (In psychoanalysis, ego strength is assessed to determine analyzability for similar reasons. In psychoanalytic thought, however, the ego is not considered to be a complex.) It is also important to strengthen the ego complex by addressing other problems and wounds from childhood by means of empathy, containment, education and good therapeutic process.

Shadow:  In simplest terms, shadow is what you don’t want to be. As you grow up, you adapt to what is “good” and disown what is “bad”.  For many people who present themselves for therapy or analysis, being assertive, not to mention aggressive, is a part of the shadow.  In Freud’s time in Vienna, the Victorian era, sexuality fell into the shadow.  Evil — murder, rape, pillage — resides at the deepest, the archetypal, levels of the shadow.   In more general terms, the shadow is what you are not consciously aware of.  When shadow work ends, so does the individuation process.  Beware the person who says that he or she has completed their shadow work.  They have stopped growing as a person.  Better to individuate into death.

Anima, animus:  The contrasexual archetypes.  In a man, the anima is the feminine side of the personality which must be developed as a part of becoming more related and whole.  In a woman, the animus is the masculine side of the personality which must be developed as a part of becoming more authentically positioned and whole.  According to Jung, these are archetypes.  Are they archetypes or complexes?  This question is currently in dispute in parts of the Jungian community.  A complex is developed from personal experience; an archetype is one of the eternal primordial images that forms the core of the personal complex.   For example,at the heart of the mother complex is the Mother Archetype, the Great Mother.  The Greek gods are examples of archetypal images.   How much are anima and animus influenced by development as opposed to being eternal primordial images?  Think about the implications of this question.

Mana personality:  As you work with the shadow and the contrasexual archetypes, and perhaps other archetypal images such as the Wise Old Man, the energy connected with the archetype can flow into the ego complex causing inflation. Archetypal energy does not belong in the ego complex.  In the process of individuation, the inflated ego complex is predictably a product of the Mana, or power, personality.  It must be addressed and analyzed thoroughly before the analytic process can continue safely and effectively.  Think of Adolph Hitler or Jim Jones as prime examples of somebody possessed by the Mana personality.  The individuation process in analysis is not the only route to this destination.

Self:  Think of this as the God image.  At the end of the process of individuation, Jung would say that you circumambulate the Self.  The ego is submitting itself to a higher power, as it were.  The Self is the archetype at the core of the ego complex.  It is the vicar of the God image, to put a religious point on it.  I will say more about this complicated issue in a later blog entry.

So, at the end of the process of individuation, you are differentiated from the collective, more integrated psychologically and more whole psychologically and spiritually.  This a a part of the story, an important part, but not all of it.

Dr. Seth Isaiah Rubin, Ph.D.