Have you ever taken a look around your environment and said to yourself, “This ain’t me, man.”? Recognizing the change you want to make in yourself reflects the change you want to make in the world—and THAT’S a sign you’ve entered the individuation process. Stick to the end for a meditation to help move you through this powerful transition in your personal growth.
What is the Individuation Process?
“In the light of the possibilities revealed by intuition, man’s earthliness is certainly a lamentable imperfection; but this very imperfection is part of his innate being, of his reality.” – Carl Jung, Psychology and Alchemy.
The individuation process is a beautiful illustration of the transmutation power within every person. To demonstrate this today, we’re taking a trip down memory lane. Back to when you were young and eager for all the new things life had to offer you.
Back when you weren’t afraid to try new things, or meet new people, or go after everything you ever dreamed of.
You probably smiled more, back then.
The wanderlust wears off eventually, although I can’t quite put an age on it.
(25, perhaps? 19? 30? Can you recall the age when society first made you jaded?)
As you get older you learn a few things about yourself and the world around you. Some of it is good. Some of it is disappointing.
From these learnings your moral fiber begins to wreathe and twist inside of you, uncomfortable in your own skin. It’s asking you to make a decision:
Either adapt and conform to your current environment and way of life, or make a change.
About Carl Jung and the Individuation Process
Has anyone ever said to you, “You’ve changed, man. You’re different now. You’re not who you used to be.”
If so then congratulations – you’ve begun the process of separating yourself from old habits by finding your own values!
Carl Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist who founded analytic psychology and is best known for his theories of the collective unconsciousness. (BTW, he was also an avid researcher of alchemy.) One of the more introspective processes he discovered was that of individuation.
The individuation process is an ugly, difficult, beautiful, and profound process in your personal growth to reach “wholeness.” It’s something that you’ll revisit throughout your lifetime to perfect, and (hopefully) it’ll get easier.
To Jung and other Jungian psychologists, individuation is an autonomous process of becoming your own person. By shedding the false identities you’ve adopted over your lifetime, you develop your own belief system, values, and ideals that separate you from the rest of society.
How To Reach Wholeness
To reach wholeness, there are 5 key phases to move through in the individuation process:
1. The persona. This is who you present to the outside world. When you meet someone for the first time, are you more likely to talk about your occupation, your mortgage, your kids, or any other safe and mundane topic.
Every well-rounded person has several masks that they wear every day. The trouble comes when you identify with one of your masks too much.
2. The ego. This is the center of your consciousness with a capital “I.” Jung pointed out that knowledge of the ego-personality is often confused with self-understanding.
“People measure their self-knowledge by what the average person in their social environment knows of himself, but not by the real psychic facts which are for the most part hidden from them.”—Carl Jung, The Undiscovered Self
The task in individuation then, is to differentiate the ego from the complexes in the personal unconscious, particularly the persona, the shadow, and the anima/animus.
3. The assimilation of the shadow. Think of this as the “dark side” of the ego. The things you may hide away, too embarrassed or ashamed to share with the rest of society.
The more you push away and reject the things you don’t want to see, the harder it will be for you to set them free with love.
The “assimilation” asks you to accept these flaws as your own, be gentle with yourself, and soon the heaviness you carry around with you will become lighter and lighter.
4. Confront the anima/animus. The anima (or animus for women) is the archetype that represents your “true self” as opposed to the self you portray to society.
Jung believed that physiological changes as well as social pressures contributed to gender identities and sex roles.
Together, the anima and animus are known as the divine couple, representing completion, unification; the perfect balance between male and female. (Jung was very adamant that a person’s soul image is gender opposite.)
Frith Luton, Jungian analyst, explains this beautifully:
“The anima is personified in dreams by images of women ranging from seductress to spiritual guide. It is associated with the Eros principle, hence a man’s anima development is reflected in how he relates to women. Within his own psyche, the anima functions as his soul, influencing his ideas, attitudes and emotions.”
“A woman’s animus is more like an unconscious mind. It manifests negatively in fixed ideas, collective opinions and unconscious, a priori assumptions that lay claim to absolute truth. In a woman who is identified with the animus (called animus-possession), Eros generally takes second place to Logos.”
5. The Self. This is the unified psyche as a whole. The marriage of unconsciousness and consciousness of an individual. The final destination of the individuation process.
Where the ego sits in the center of consciousness, it’s the Self that sits in the center of personality.
Cool, But What Does This All Mean?
Here’s the long and short of the individuation process —
It’s about you accepting all of your flaws and gifts. You’re being called to check yourself of all the things you tell yourself you are and realize who you are at your core.
Step out into the world, accept yourself as you are, and reach a state of wholeness that you haven’t allowed yourself to yet.
Allowing yourself to analyze the things that cause you pain will give you great insight into what you value most within yourself and in the world you want to live in (after all, we manifest the realities we believe we deserve, right?)
Here’s the thing: the memories that cause you pain are not enemies. Your triggers are just a part of you, bringing your awareness to parts of your soul that want to heal badly.
Release Limiting Beliefs Self-Care Practice
You know that for you to move on, you’ve got to let this limiting belief go.
The only one who can do it is you.
So tonight, you’re going to give this old thought pattern a proper goodbye so you can step into your individuality.
Have a journal, pen, and white candle handy. You’ll also want a bowl of water. (Check out some of my favorite tools HERE.)
1. Lay out your instruments on a table and allow yourself up to 1 hour of peace.
2. When you’re ready, light your candle.
3. As the flame flickers, invite your blocks, old beliefs, and old thought patterns that have held you back from moving on to sit at the table with you.
4. Don’t shy away from their presence. Ask it to speak one last time and write down what it says in your journal.
5. Once you hear it, thank it for its purpose, because it HAS served you a purpose in some way.
6. Write down your goodbye. Say something like, “Thank you for keeping me safe, and from making hasty moves with my career/relationship/life, but now it’s time for me to better myself. I can only do this alone. I love you. I release you. Thank you.”
7. Sit with this sheet of paper for a minute or two. You can see that the things that have held you back all this time are just words. Your freedom rests in not believing these things anymore!
8. Tear out the paper from your journal and burn it. Watch the words turn to ash and smoke.
9. Before you burn your fingers, throw the rest of the burning paper into the bowl of water. When you go to bed, allow yourself to feel lighter and brighter.
I hope this practice serves you well!