Individuation and the Union of Opposites

24/11/2013 21:26


Jung concluded that the pathway to psychological health, which he called individuation, demands a psychological wholeness in which nothing is left out. The less-than-whole life is one of inner conflict where the ego struggles to ignore, repress, or deny a part of the psyche. A man, for instance, becomes overly macho and rejects his tender, feminine side, his anima. Or a woman tries so hard to be “nice” that she ignores her Shadow. Jung argued that this never succeeds. The rejected elements of the psyche invade our dreams and give us nightmares. Or they possess the ego, resulting in an inflation in which a person becomes a dangerous caricature of that which he hides. Or the ego submits to projection, falsely pushing what is rejected in oneself onto others and seeing evil where it is not.

The only solution to the one-sided conflict, said Jung, is the union of opposites (Jung, 1941/1959, p. 168). “The underlying thought,” he observed, “is clear: no white without black, and no holiness without the devil” (Jung 1950/1959, p. 339). Because this is painful, it is exactly what the ego runs from. However—

…real liberation comes not from glossing over or repressing painful states of feeling, but only from experiencing them to the full.… By accepting the darkness, the patient has not, to be sure, changed it into light, but she has kindled a light that illuminates the darkness within. By day no light is needed, and if you don't know it is night you won't light one, nor will any light be lit for you unless you have suffered the horror of darkness. (Jung, 1950/1959, pp. 335, 337)


"It is my conviction that a basis for the settlement of conflicting views would be found in the recognition of different types of attitude - a recognition not only of the existence of such types, but also the fact that every man is so imprisoned in his type that he is simply incapable of fully understanding another standpoint. Failing a recognition of this exacting demand, a violation of the other standpoint is practically inevitable".....Carl Jung

Archetypes of the Unconscious


According to Jung, archetypes - the contents of the collective unconscious - are analogous to instincts. Both are fundamental dynamic forces in the human personality which pursue their inherent goals, in the psychic or physiological organisms respectively. Jung also refers to archetypes as primordial images, "the most ancient and the most universal thought-form of humanity. They are as much feelings as thoughts" ( Jung, 1969, p. 64). Archetypes are not inherited ideas, but the propensity in the human psyche to express itself in specific forms and meaning when activated, or what Jung referred to as "potential forms" waiting to be animated and brought to consciousness.

when working with dreams i often refer to analogies of dynamic force as the patterns we find in human behavior/psychology. recognizing these patterns within oneself often reveals so much one never knew about oneself, to personality, behavior patterns. the universal symbols of myth, analogous to the collective psychological patterns, offer insights into the deeper self, and also the intuitive {Instincts} mind, in the form of tales, stories, myths....Jerry

Dwelling in the upper layers of the personal unconscious and often acting in opposition to the conscious ego, is what Jung referred to as the archetype of the shadow or alter-ego. Being the repository of all that is primitive and unacceptable to the individual ego such as evil thoughts, fears, or uncivilized desires and intentions, the shadow often has an obsessive or negative emotional tone which is frequently projected onto others. The disowned elements of oneself which have been rendered unconscious, or were never present in consciousness, become the projected illusions of one's external reality. There is an echo here of the Buddhist notion that external reality is primarily our own illusory creation. "The more projections are thrust in between the subject and the environment, the harder it is for the ego to see through its illusions" (Jung, 1971, p. 147). The shadow is always of the same gender as the subject.

The shadow archetype is more a manifestation of the personal unconscious whose elements are always projected onto individuals of the same sex, and may be more accessible to conscious awareness. The collective archetypes of the unconscious are the anima in males and the animus in females. The anima and animus are only ever projected onto members of the opposite sex. The anima archetype is the feminine side of the male psyche, the animus archetype is the masculine side of the female personality (Jung, 1959, Vol. 9i). This notion of the polarity within the personality between masculine and feminine energy, and their respective projection bears a striking resemblance to the Tantric yabyum figure so often depicted in the sacred art of India and Tibet. These figures usually depict a male and female deity in ecstatic embrace which is not merely an erotic representation, but acts as a metaphor for the most profound union of opposites and the attainment of wholeness or unitive awareness. The archetypes of anima and animus are primarily unconscious, inherited composites of a "masculine" or "feminine" image based on unconscious ancestral experiences. "Since this image is unconscious, it is always unconsciously projected upon the person of the beloved, and is one of the chief reasons for passionate attraction or aversion" (Jung, 1959, Vol. 17, p. 198). The masculine and feminine archetypes are prone to deflation within the psyche since society seems to prefer conformity to stereotypical notions of what it is to be a man or a woman and to disparage overly feminine elements in a man and vice versa. Consequently, the projections become more pronounced and the need to reintegrate our projections back into our own conscious awareness becomes ever more pressing in our quest for wholeness.

The quintessential archetype in Jung's pantheon is that of the self. As an archetype, the concept of the self represents the potential for unity. It resides in the collective unconscious of everyone's personality and may be an actual identity point in certain fully realized individuals such as Christ and the Buddha (Clarke, 1994). Not to be confused with the ego, the self, according to Jung, is "an unconscious prefiguration of the ego. It is not I who create myself, but rather I happen to myself. The ego stands to the self as the moved to the mover, or as object to subject, because the determining factors which radiate out from the self surround the ego on all sides and are therefore supraordinate to it" (Jung, 1959, Vol.11, p.391).

The self is also a dynamic process encompassing the totality of conscious and unconscious psychic function, all actual and potential forms (Jung, 1959, Vol. 11). The unity of the self archetype is the motivating force behind the quest for harmony and balance between opposing forces within the psyche (Clarke, 1994). Jung used the term individuation to describe the inborn desire to integrate oppositional dynamics within the personality, and this universal archetypal process is represented in various mythologies throughout the world e.g. "the hero's journey", "the alchemical wedding" etc.

The unconscious elements of the psyche embodied in the archetypes of the shadow, anima and animus figures are brought to consciousness through what Jung described as active imagination, and through the interpretation of dreams (Jung, 1959, Vol. 7). Jung likened the process of active imagination to an alchemical operation whereby the raw material of the unconscious is refined through a constant dialogue with conscious awareness into the greater realization of the Self archetype ( 1959, Vol. 12). First a meditative state of mind is induced in the client undergoing psychoanalysis, then the contents of the mind are neutrally observed. The unconscious contents and fantasy fragments which spontaneously emerge are recorded through some method of symbolic representation, e.g. writing, drawing, dance, which provides the basis for a dialogue to begin between the conscious mind and the archetypal images that arise from the unconscious. Jung describes psychotherapy as a process that "transcends its medical origins and ceases to be merely a method for treating the sick. It now treats the healthy or such as have a moral right to psychic health, whose sickness is at the most the suffering that torments us all" (Jung, 1966, p. 75). It is in this respect that he viewed his therapeutic work as the "cure of souls" (Jung, 1961)

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