In the blog post titled “Leap of Faith,” I touched on the concept known as “Dasein,” which is an integral part of the existential and phenomenological method of research. What overarches “Dasein” – which consists of confronting one’s personal truth through a certain level of detachment from the external world combined with inner-reflection and deep thought – is a psychological process known as “individuation.” Essentially, the principle of “individuation” shapes the process by which an individual becomes distinguished from other individuals.
The goal of individuation is to integrate the “conscious” aspect of the individual’s psyche with the “unconscious” part of the individual’s psyche, which in turn produces a complete and well-functioning personality and “self.” Individuation is essentially a transformation from a fragmented and incomplete self to a complete and whole self through methods such as dream analysis, active imagination, and “free association.”
This transformation from a fragmented and incomplete self to a complete and whole self consists of three basic stages. For one, there is the “shadow” stage, where contents of the unconscious are brought out to the surface in a state of reclusion and isolation, which comes with a certain level of pain and tumult. Then, there is the stage of the “anima” or “animus,” where the individual’s spirit is developed through education. Finally, one arrives at the “Self” or “Self-Actualization,” whereby the conscious and unconscious aspects of the individual are fully integrated after the “shadow” and “anima/animus” are dealt with over a prolonged period of time.
Typically, the individuation process begins when an individual is in their mid-20’s. My individuation process began at the age of 25, which is when I delved deep into philosophy and religion and began isolating myself from others to a certain degree after finishing grad school. Some of the benefits of going into the individuation process are the ability to overcome groupthink and narcissism and becoming a unique individual. Moreover, individuation enables a person to bring out the “inner world” of the unconscious into the “external world” that confounds the conscious aspect of one’s mind. Individuation can also be considered as a process of self-development and the fulfillment of one’s destiny.
Also, individuation fosters balance and equilibrium between the four basic functions of the mind, namely, feeling, sensation, thinking, and intuition. In a sense, individuation removes the “mask” of the conscious mind and reveals the “contents” of the unconscious mind. But overtime, both the conscious mind and unconscious mind are integrated. Bringing out the contents of the unconscious mind through isolation, separation and withdrawal – along with the development of the spirit and the transformation of the self through the integration of the psyche – requires a high-level of self-education in order for the process to be smooth and successful.
Most people do not have the guts or the wherewithal to enter into the individuation process because of the anxiety and depression that it comes with. But short-term pain for long-term gain is a wise investment strategy, and as a result, individuation is perhaps essential for entry into the top 1 percent of people who have attained a true sense of self and self-actualization, which in turn renders an individual as fully-functional and whole.