Jung Individuation in Jung's Personality Theory Research Paper

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Individuation in Jung's Personality Theory

If one takes a starting point in any form of depth psychology, then one must deal with the effects of the unconscious on personality. While many personality theories dismiss this concept due to its nebulous nature, Jung and others insist that it is valid. Depth psychology begins from the notion that underlying all conscious activity of the soul (psyche) is the great and mysterious ocean of the unconscious. It says that what is irrational or hidden below the surface of the psyche should take priority since it is as important a force in human personality as the rational or conscious. Psychologists like Freud and Jung asserted that what the person is not self-aware of matters just as much as what he or she is aware of.

This reverses the usual emphasis on reason and surface awareness, things like personal freedom, rational thought, and self-determination, which are dominant in other traditions of personality theory. As a result, depth psychologists often focus on dreams, symbols, and archetypes which other traditions ignore. They focus on what is unknown, those images below the perceptible, rather than what is known and measurable. For Jung in particular, the key mission of personality is to explore and integrate the unconscious with consciousness so as to understand a deeper meaning of one's individual existence.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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After a brief overview of two of Jung's concepts, the collective unconscious and the archetypes, this paper will focus on what he calls "the transcendent process" (Jung, 1960). This is seen as crucial to Jung's dynamic view of personality development. Miller (2004) writes, "Jung eventually came to believe that one cannot individuate, that is, cannot become the person he or she is truly meant to be, without conversing with and coming to terms with the unconscious" (p. 3). In other words, the psyche wants to bridge the gap between its two often contradictory aspects. The argument will be that this is one of Jung's major ways of talking about personality development. This paper hopes to show that the process of transcendence, although it relies on dualism and does not conform to modern criticisms of dualism, is at the root of Jungian concepts of psychical growth.

As it presumes the existence of unconscious forces in personality, and since the unconscious is almost inaccessible to empirical study (outside of individual case studies in a therapeutic context), the Jungian theory of personality is difficult to prove on a scientific basis. Most of his view is based on clinical evidence and scholarly meditation rather than empirical research. Nonetheless, it may still be instructive to take a closer look at his understanding of human personality development since his views have been influential for understanding human personality (see Schultz and Schultz, 2008, chapter 2).

Freud thought the unconscious was the repository of repressed events, thoughts, and feelings. It was the place where unbearable things go when consciousness cannot painlessly assimilate them into the ego. Jung's view of the unconscious was more expansive. He accepts Freud's theory as the personal unconscious, but adds to it the collective unconscious and archetypes which are innate, positive, and guiding forms rather than retrograde. They push forward toward purpose, even though unconscious. Miller (2004) summarizes this departure of Jung from Freud:

One of the most significant departures of Jungian psychology from other approaches is its rejection of the notion that psychological manifestations can be reduced exclusively to the effects of events of early life, the so-called reductive view. Rather, the Jungian, synthetic view is that in addition to the push of early life experiences, psychological existence is also influenced by the pull of unconscious, purposive elements of the psyche that guide us forward. (p. 12)

In addition to consciousness (thinking, feeling, sensing, intuiting) and the personal unconscious (repressed ideas, memories, complexes), Jung believed in a collective unconscious full of archetypes. These two structures of personality cannot be conceived separately. They are evolutionary concepts Jung used to break free of a strict environmental determinism.

Formed by evolution, the collective unconscious is the storage reservoir of the impersonal, rather than the personal. It is the psychic place that transmits primordial information inherited from ancestors. About the collective unconscious, Hall and Nordby (1973) write, "The mind, through its physical counterpart, the brain, has inherited characteristics that determine the ways in which a person will react to life's experiences and even determine what type of experiences he will have" (p. 39). The best way to think of it is as an unlearned predisposition. For example, it could contain someone's untaught fear of the dark or the instinct to flee danger -- instincts passed down through generations of evolution.

The actual contents in the collective unconscious are the archetypes. Jung (1959) said, "The necessary and needful reaction from the collective unconscious expresses itself in archetypally formed ideas" (p. 21). As the word archetype suggests, these are models for behavior. They are potentials for action and typical motifs. Jung wrote (1959):

There are as many archetypes as there are typical situations in life. Endless repetition has engraved these experiences into our psychic constitution, not in the forms of images filled with content, but at first only as forms without content, representing merely the possibility of a certain type of perception and action. (p. 48)

The archetype, then, does not have a personal content until it is filled out with the material of experience. Some examples of archetypes are birth, death, the hero, the trickster, the mother, and other natural things like water, trees, fire, and moon. They can even combine with one another to form personality differences. The most influential, perhaps, in shaping human action and personality are the shadow, the persona, the anima/animus, and the self.

Briefly, what are these main archetypes? Jung said, "The meeting with oneself is, at first, the meeting with one's own shadow" (1959, p. 21). The shadow is the archetype that represents the darker, unknowable aspects of a person (see Johnson, 1991). It is where the animalistic nature lies. By contrast, the persona is the facade a person presents publicly so as to maintain a favorable impression with others in the environment. It is the figurative mask one wears when one conforms to a group setting R.A. Johnson (1991) says, "The persona is what we would like to be and how we wish to be seen by the world" (p. 3). Another archetype is dual: anima/animus. These are inward faces of a person and represent the inherited feminine and masculine sides which are projected onto the opposite sex. Jung wrote, "Every man carries within him the eternal image of the woman, not the image of this or that particular woman, but a definite feminine image" (quoted in Hall and Nordby, 1973, p. 47). Finally, the self is described by Hall and Nordby: "The self is the archetype of order, organization, and unification; it draws to itself and harmonizes all the archetypes and their manifestations in complexes and consciousness" (p. 51). It is the archetype of unity and wholeness.

Given the collective unconscious and its archetypal images, how does a person, in Jung's view, develop into a full and healthy individual? What is the core of Jung's view of personality development? The answer lies in his concept of the transcendent function. It is the key to achieving the self archetype, or individuation. Jung (1959) defined individuation this way: "I use the term 'individuation' to denote the process by which a person becomes a psychological 'in-dividual,' that is a separate, indivisible unity or 'whole'" (p. 275). He goes on to explain that wholeness (self) is when the unconscious is integrated into the conscious ego (pp. 275-76). The process by which this integration happens is the transcendent function. By it, a healthy person gradually comes to realize their wholeness and to develop it coherently and harmoniously. Jung describes it thus:

The transcendent function does not proceed without aim and purpose, but leads to the revelation of the essential man. It is in the first place a purely natural process, which may in some cases pursue its course without the knowledge or assistance of the individual, and can sometimes forcibly accomplish itself in the face of opposition. The meaning and purpose of the process is the realization, in all its aspects, of the personality originally hidden away in the embryonic germ-plasm; the production and unfolding of the original, potential wholeness. The symbols used by the unconscious to this end are the same as those which mankind has always used to express wholeness, completeness, and perfection: symbols, as a rule, of the quaternity and the circle. For these reasons I have termed this the individuation process." (1953, p. 110)

Here Jung envisions an unfolding process that begins with psychic conflict and passes through symbol formation.

Jung thought in terms of conflicting opposites. As this long quotation makes clear, he imagined a constant dialogue going on between conscious and unconscious elements in the personality, like mirrored opposites in friction. Miller (2004) points to the splitting… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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