Saturday, July 10, 2021

Meaning of Carl Jung's "Individuation" explained

In 1936, Carl Jung made a trip to India . Discovering Hindu mythology , he fell ill with dysentery and then approached death. During this period, Jung, in a state close to coma, has a series of dreams related to the Holy Grail, a recurring image in his visions. He then said he understood, therefore, that the concept of Self already developed earlier had to overlap with that of a sense of personal existence, represented by the Holy Grail. Of capital importance in his self-analysis, individuation then goes for Jung beyond the classic diagrams of representation of fate (in the sense of fateful, from the Latin fatum ) or Providence , to embrace a process of confrontation with the unconscious, towards a state of total psychic equilibrium within which the categories of Good and Evil are futile:

Jung described individuation as 'a mystery that no one will ever understand'. It was a “solitary quest” somewhat related to “a process of successive deaths”, and to achieve this it was necessary to accept “to confront the impersonal”. "Only a few people can endure such a quest", he believed, attributing his thoughts and his images, vague and curious, to "the distance which separated him from Europe, to this environment so totally different" in which he found himself. was found in India. He believed that the dreams he had had there were linked to the fundamental question he had asked himself: in what way and why was the evil as he had discovered it in India devoid of dimension moral.

The nature of the concept of individuation 

This concept describes a specific process, which must be related to other concepts in Carl Gustav Jung's theory, in order to understand what it is all about. This concept is then said to be limit and dialectical . It is dialectical because on the theoretical and practical level it is intimately linked to another central concept in Jung's theory: the Self and brings into play the integration of unconscious contents.
Very early on, Jung qualifies his theory as circular: each concept can only be understood in relation to the others, the psyche being an indivisible whole. “The complexity of Jungian psychoanalysis is due to the fact that all psychic instances are in close relationship with one another. Describing a concept in isolation gives it a necessarily partial vision because it does not take into account the dynamic relationships with other bodies or the whole psychic system. Everything is linked, everything is in motion."

Jung predominantly defines individuation, during his writings, as the individual path of personal realization: “The path of individuation means: to tend to become a truly individual being and, to the extent that we understand by individuality the form of our most intimate uniqueness, our final and irrevocable uniqueness, it is a question of the realization of his Self, in what he has most personal and most rebellious to all comparison. We could therefore translate the word "individuation" by "realization of oneself", "realization of one's Self" ... ", but without individualism or attachment to the ego.

Just like the Self , the concept of individuation for Jung is a limit concept  : it cannot  completely obscure the consciousness (the self) without which no polarity would be possible. Jung therefore qualifies it as "  dialectic  ":“The whole unfolding of individuation is dialectical, and what we call the 'end' is the confrontation of the ego with the 'emptiness' of the center. This is the limit of all possibility of experience: the ego as a point of reference for experience dissolves. But it cannot coincide with the center because then we would be without consciousness, which means that the extinction of the ego is at best an endless approach. And if the ego attracts the center to itself, it loses the object. 

Individuation then appears in dreams as a necessity, for those who are deeply convinced of it, to know themselves, in all their duplicity and duality. It consists in the meeting of all the psychic instances, autonomous in existence, in a single dynamic, called the Self . Just like the concept of Self, the concept of individuation is an unknowable paradox except by the experience of its feeling and of its reality: "The Self is above all gods and really represents the mystery of the world and of the existence of man ” .

Individuation is therefore both a personal path, present in every human, and whose direction and instinct of progression are mainly provided by dreams, but also an archetype, that of Totality , the archetype which seems to order all the others according to Jung's last thoughts, continued by Marie-Louise Von Franz  : “Ultimately, all life is the realization of a whole, that is to say of a self, which is why this realization can be called “individuation”