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Author Topic: Individuation  (Read 2394 times)

Matt Koeske

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Individuation
« on: May 02, 2013, 10:12:50 AM »

Individuation: I could write a book or two on individuation.  It has been a focal point of my interests and also a lens on the psyche in itself.  I have numerous strong and passionate disagreements with and criticisms of Jungian models and uses of individuation.  I'll try to hit some highlights, but there will be many things left out.

Firstly, I still use the term individuation, 1.) for lack of a better term, and 2.) because Jung's phenomenology of individuation patterns, motifs, and symbols is generally quite useful and correct.  That is, the data are correct (if incomplete, but he carved out the right area of data for the category).  Jung's interpretations of these data are, in my opinion, deeply flawed.  So much so that Jungian models of individuation don't work.  Not at least in the way Jung proposed.  That is, they don't create "individuants" or individuals who have heroically differentiated themselves from "the masses" and transcended "mass-mindedness" like some kind of Nietzschean superman.  Jungian individuation models can be useful for rediscovering a valuated "unconscious", perhaps some glimmer of the Self system in the form of a tribe, and connecting to it.  In other words, Jungian individuation can be useful and somewhat transformative or healing so long as one becomes indoctrinated into the Jungian tribe and its participation mystique . . . where the "sacred unconscious" and "soul" are worshiped and function as identity totems.  This healing indoctrination could function for quasi-Jungian and various New Age tribes that are friendly to Jungian ideas, too.

That is not insignificant or "fake".  Finding a tribe can be extremely healing and uplifting.  It can save a person's life and give them meaning.  It is probably the most effective and reliable way to treat wounds of the identity.  But this is not "becoming a differentiated individual".  Quite the opposite in many ways.  So there is a kind of misrepresentation and even at times a "bad faith" to Jungian individuation.  That model of individuation itself is totemized, so that those people who speak in holy tones about the values of individuation are essentially saying, "I am a Jungian, and here is my tribal tattoo."

Jung himself did seem to pursue a model of individuation that was more genuinely individuating (the model that was totemized by other Jungians and worshiped instead of emulated).  But Jung's individuation was severely hampered by his complexes and especially by his inflation.  I would therefore consider it incomplete.

I like to be clear in speaking out about what individuation is not, especially because Jung failed to either explain or even recognize these things.  It is not about enlightenment, self-transcendence, self-deification, spiritual discipline, nirvana, or obtaining "magical" powers or charisma or special wisdom and insight.  Jung had a very patriarchal and "heroic" notion of the individuant as solar hero and to some degree "conqueror" of "the unconscious".  He did not suggest that this "unconscious" could be utterly conquered and mastered, but he felt the ego could muster its own might and fight for something like an "equal share of resources" so the unconscious didn't completely dominate it.  He felt the individuating ego could illuminate parts of the unconscious with its "solar" consciousness . . . a kind of bringing order to chaos through the power of a "divine", differentiating, organizing mind.  He placed great value on "the unconscious", but still saw it as an unformed potential resource, as dangerous, untamed Nature.  And he felt the only functional response to this was a certain degree of taming and staking of a claim and civilizing a bit of this wilderness.

In my opinion, Jung never overcame his desire to be or become a "Great Man", a man of tremendous insight, self-mastery, and influence.  He was a bit messianic . . . but also somewhat aware of that impulse, making efforts to curtail it from time to time.  Jung's individuation model is still mired in the inflated push to become a "godman" or to sit at the right hand of God as a prophet with special privileges and divine abilities.  And of course, no one ever achieves this grandeur.  Only in moments of delusion does anyone feel even a bit of this elation and transcendence.  So I would say that it is fairly widely "recognized" on at least a semi-conscious level that individuation doesn't really work.  That is one of the reasons why Jungians have made it into a totem to worship and identify with as a group instead.

But other Jungians (mostly post-Jungians) have rejected the broken individuation model altogether.  Their criticism is warranted, but their decision to reject individuation is something of a denial.  Individuation is a genuine, archetypal psychic phenomenon with mounds of data in religion, art, dreams, folktales, etc.  So it is psychologically unsound to write it off as an error or delusion entirely.

In my view, much of this individuation is a matter of the ego's relationship with the Self.  Today we typically have extremely poor relations with the Self.  We don't live in monotribes (or our monotribes are profoundly dysfunctional and ill-adapted to the larger modern world), so there is no readymade symbol of the the Self in reach for moderns.  We are extremely atomized, dissociated.  Initial experiences of the Self can be terrifying, obliterating, and just generally unwelcoming.  Through a process of individuation, the distant and often negative relationship with the Self transforms, and the Self becomes increasingly intimate and attractive.  That can only occur when there is significant dissatisfaction and dysfunction with the state of one's identity.  That is, identity has to begin to dissolve and break down before the Self relationship can start to be reformed.

As the Self becomes valuated and begins to seem attractive (and not merely terrifying or shadowy and off-putting), the figures of the animi will appear and come to represent the valued, attractive, desirable relationship with the Self.  In what I have called the "animi work", the ego's relationship with the animi progresses in a typical pattern of increasing intimacy or "twinning" and eventually a kind of sacrifice both of the heroic ego and the animi.  This is not an utter sacrifice, but what I expect is happening is that there is a kind of organizational push from the Self system toward dissolution and reorganization, and that push infuses the ego with patterns and attitudes of the archetypal hero while also infusing the animi with some of the "divinity" and valuation of the Self.  Eventually, this push must end, because the goal of this ego/Self relationship reorganization is to get the ego to a place where it can help facilitate the Self system instead of standing against the Self.  The Self doesn't always provide manna from heaven.  It does not "want" to redeem the ego (it doesn't have that kind of "mind").  The ego is merely caught up in a movement of the Self's dynamic reorganization, and it (the ego) is plucked out like a stuck cork allowing the Self's natural dynamism to flow more unrestrained.

The ego has to decide if it can exist in this state and preserve (of its own accord) its facilitation of the Self's dynamism.  It has to be a conscious decision.  Only in that way does the conscious will of the ego manage to coordinate with the dynamism of the Self.  And it is not a once in a lifetime decision.  The ego has to act consciously again and again to continue facilitating the Self . . . as often these facilitations are extremely difficult to accept.  They come into conflict with what the world and others and one's worldly ambition want from the ego.

The period of the animi work is finite (although it can be prolonged more or less indefinitely), and it concludes with the eventual sacrifice of the Self-driven heroism and the relinquishment of the residual inflation that sometimes accompanies this stage.  Or at least it concludes after something of what happened has been processed consciously and the whole circuit of the animi work is languaged effectively and brought into a place of permanence and significance in one's memory.  That is, it wasn't just an affair to occasionally think back on wistfully; it is an event that has forever altered one's life and approach to relationships.

The Jungian model of individuation does not make it through the animi work.  There is too much hostility toward the animi, too much inflation that can't be relinquished/sacrificed, and too much lingering fear of and resistance to the Self.  Basically, Jungianism does not have a cure for the inflation that is common at the beginning of the animi work and instead developed rituals and habits of denial and repression of that inflation . . .  a kind of constantly shoving the devil down into the hole it is always trying to escape from.  Moreover, I have come to increasingly feel that Jungianism has a way of stimulating inflation even beyond the norm of early individuation experiences . . . probably because it tends to drape all of these things in such romantic and inflated language.

Interestingly, though, I have found some of the alchemical models (especially the one Jung made most use of from the Rosarium Philosophorum) to be amazingly accurate and useful as descriptions of the archetypal process (even beyond the animi work period Jung focused on and stalled at).  It's curious that Jung was drawn to this key, somehow intuitively recognizing that it held some clue for his psychology.  And yet he still could not overcome the disease and inflation that crippled his individuation model.  He was often a much better "intuitive" than he was a thinker/intellectual.

The final set of things I will say here about individuation pertain to its social significance and history.  Eliade is helpful in differentiating three forms of initiation: adolescent initiation into adulthood in a tribe, initiation into a secret society or elite "mystical" sect of a tribe or tribes, and shamanic initiation.  Jungians could learn a great deal about individuation and themselves by mapping some of this onto their own models and ideas.  What Eliade finds is that the patterns in each form of initiation are structurally similar, involving dissolution and reconstruction.  Yet each form of initiation has a different purpose and context. 

Adolescent initiation means to make an adolescent connected to and supportive/facilitating of the tribe as a whole body.  The initiation is meant to move the adolescent out of absolute self-interest.  It is not meant to make him or her an "individual", but rather a fully capable member of the tribe acting in the tribe's best interest.  That is accomplished by ritually dissolving the initiate's ego and reconstituting it around the tribe's principle of organization.

Secret society initiation is sketchier to me.  It shows aspects of adolescent initiation on a more elite level, but it also takes a few more cues from shamanic initiation involving inner ecstasies meant to open one up to special insights.  But this initiation again does not really seek to make individuals.  It creates an elite class, an intelligentsia . . . and it seems to me especially open to inflation because it relies on the collective power and influence of a whole group.  So each individual can feel as if the power of the entire group is within him (and secret societies have usually been reserved for men only and were/are patriarchal and hierarchical).

Jungianism seeks to function like a secret society . . . or at least it historically did.  So it is especially unaware of its inflation.  Also, it is unaware of its tendency to organize as a secret society, and so lacks self-consciousness of the psychological operation of its sociality.  Where it indoctrinates patients and other "fans", it functions more like an institution of adolescent initiation . . . although without any sense of maintaining and healing its Self principle or tribal identity and functionality.  But for Jungian analysts, the secret society model is more apt.  And I think it is here that the inflation is the worst and most destructive, because so little is understood in Jungianism about sociality, tribal organization and maintenance, identity construction, and the model of initiation.  This all operates in a dysfunctional and unconscious way and is not connected to any kind of healthy Self principle.  It is a decadent process, an unravelling, because there is no legitimate center, no touchstone . . . only personal ambitions, desires, and shared delusions and inflations.

Finally, with shamanic initiation, we are dealing with an archetypal pattern for individuation that does lead to the initiation of an individual apart from a collective or tribe.  My guess is that shamanic initiation defines the fundamental archetype of individuation, and that the other forms of initiation are reconstructions or reenactments of this essential model.  Superficially and historically, shamanic initiations were often the most ritually severe and excruciating.  The sense one gets is that this is the "deepest" form of dissolution and reconstruction . . . and the traditional shamanic fantasies of dismemberment and reassembly in some kind of underworld, often with pieces of iron instead of some of the human flesh or bone, very graphically demonstrate that.

But these rituals were only meant to reenact and elicit what was a natural process of extreme identity dissolution, essentially the failure of identity (which is equally a failure of the tribe's "social contract").  The point is the almost total severing of the individual identity from the tribe on which the Self is imprinted, so that the identity can be re-imprinted more directly on the Self as it is experienced within.  This creates a unique and more immediate and attuned connection to the Self, but it also creates a special sense of relationship and obligation/debt to the tribe.  Falling out of participation with the tribe makes one's selfhood an item of taboo.  A detached identity is "unclean" and potentially toxic, and therefore interactions with the toxic individual must be very carefully controlled with regulations and rituals (in the event that the individual is not simply exiled or killed).  My suspicion is that the shamanic ecstasy rituals developed around this natural and unconscious sense of taboo to help moderate the contact and "contamination" with the toxic shaman.

Archetypally, not only do we see the foundation of the hero's journey in the shamanic initiation and ecstasy fantasies, we also see the earliest and clearest portrait of the animi.  Eliade discusses the not uncommon tendency of tribal shamans to have "spiritual spouses" (sometimes in addition to a material spouse) who were their very intimate companions . . . partners that they met while traveling in the "other world" during ecstatic "flights".

Jung built his model of individuation around a fantasy of what I would consider a shamanic initiation model.  But Jung's model does not actually involve or facilitate shamanic initiation.  It is too resistance to the depth of shamanic initiation, too adverse to the anima and to the process of ego dissolution (which the shaman reenacts with each ecstasy).  Jung projects a kind of solar hero or Nietzschean superman onto this shamanic figure, the master and conqueror of nature, the white European colonialist ripping the natural resources out of the "wilderness" to build his mighty patriarchal civilizations.  Out of the wild energies of the "unconscious", this superman forges a powerful and transcendent ego that subdues and controls his world.  Jung was suspicious and at times critical of this model, but he also never really rejected it.  His solution was that the model was valid, but it required some kind of ethical mediation to make sure that the lust for power and the inflation of mastery did not utterly run away with the ego.

But he did not understand the nature of the shamanic initiate.  The shaman does not form some kind of superhuman ego naturally endowed with magical "mana".  That is a projection of other tribe members upon the shaman.  It is the product of the tribal taboo placed on the shaman's toxicity.  It is a way of regulating and limiting relationship with the shaman and it marks the shaman's "individuated" identity as a dark object not to be emulated.  One of the reasons shamanic initiates had to be subject to horrendous tortures or submit to self-torture was that no one would ever want to go through those things.  If it didn't kill you, it would scar you irreparably.  It had to be severely forbidding to become a shaman.  Any encouragement of identification with the shaman's personality had to be ritually dissuaded.

Psychologically speaking, the shaman's ego was not superhumanly constructed and fortified but incredibly dissolute.  It had to be capable of breaking apart upon "request", dissolving to enter into the ecstasy.  Many modern researchers of shamanism have questioned the mental health of tribal shamans, even sometimes labeling them as psychotics or schizophrenics whose insane fantasies are used by tribes as a method of divination (and not some kind of conscious guidance or advice-giving).  There is probably some truth to this (in some cases more than others).  The "head" of the shaman must be eternally "broken open" to let the spirits come and go.  In fact, in some tribes, shamans practiced trepanation, perhaps on patients, but quite possibly on shamanic initiates.  The shamanic "ego" is a far cry from Jung's fantasy of the "strong ego" that can "balance the opposites" and stand up in negotiations between consciousness and "the unconscious" over the determination of the personality.  Jung was wholly opposed to the kind of ego solubility that is required of a shaman or mystic.

Individuation (in the shamanic vein) is a specific expression of human sociality that may not have much of a place in the modern world because the modern world is generally hostile to monotribalism . . . and shamanic "individuation" belongs to a pattern of monotribalism.  But because moderns are so atomized and socially dissociated (compared to monotribalists of the premodern era), the modern ego is naturally more "dissolute" . . . and some forms of treatment for disorders of ego dissolution become necessary.  Individuation is about as good a method of treatment for such dissolution as trepanning is.  In other words, it should not be prescribed.

In my observation, those people who can individuate have no choice in the matter, nor do they seek individuation as some kind of self-transcendence.  It is rather pursued as an instinctually driven adaptation and method of survival where identity is radically dissolved.  Individuation is chosen over death or totally dysfunctional madness.  Even then, there is no guarantee that an individuant, however "successful" will find a social position in some kind of monotribal group.  There is no individuation that connects one to the modern world.  Individuation alienates the individual from the modern non-tribal or poly-tribal world . . . because that world has no unifying principle or Self that can stand as an emblem for it.  The modern human world is a complex interaction of interdependent social systems without a singular organizing principle.  Inflated fantasies occur not infrequently where the "whole world" is imagined as unified, as a oneness, as possessing a singular "soul", and so "everything is connected".  But this is a projection of monotribalism onto the world, and the real modern world is not a monotribe.  Jungians (among others) have been eager to project an ideal monotribe onto the modern world, but this is, I feel, merely an ignorance and a delusion stemming from Jungian inflation.  The "one world" (unus mundus) that Jungians get so excited about is an idealized vision of a monotribe that Jungians seek to belong to.  Not realizing this, Jungians make no efforts to understand and treat their own tribe, instead getting distracted with puer fantasies about treating the soul of the world.  I see that merely as a way of not being involved in an actual localized tribal community, of being socially irresponsible and intellectualizing and romanticizing very material and political environmental and social issues.

Ultimately, I see individuation as a kind of "useless science" (thus the name of my site).  It has a kind of formula and regular pattern to it that can be observed and studied.  It does something (psychically), but it is not clear that there is any wider value or function of individuation in the modern world.  It creates at least as many problems for the individual as it solves, and it should not be aggrandized, elevated, or romanticized.  Still, as an object of study and lens for insight into psychic healing processes for wounds to and diseases of identity, it is "scientifically useful", I think.
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Multivoxmuse

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Re: Individuation
« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2013, 12:32:27 PM »

Is this an appropriate place for discussion?

If so, I need to better understand a few things:

What is the goal of indivuduation?

Quote
Today we typically have extremely poor relations with the Self... We are extremely atomized, dissociated

Doesn't this mean we're all individuals/individuants? If the goal of individuation is a connection with the Self, then individuation is actually going to bring us in closer contact with the "collective" psychological structures, and as a result, from what I understand of the goal of the Self and the Animi, to valuate otherness in general; again the opposite of "individual".

Can you clarify that point?

Thanks!

-MT
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Matt Koeske

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Re: Individuation
« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2013, 10:58:14 AM »

This is a fine place for discussion, and I always welcome questions, comments, and criticisms.  These are all incredibly helpful to me for thinking through revisions . . . and I hope useful for others interested in these topics as well.

I think the easiest way to approach your question is to clarify that (for me) individuation is not a desirable state or anything like some kind of universal goal for all modern individuals.  I see individuation as a particularly radical adaptation to extreme diseases of identity that has much in common with shamanic initiation (albeit without the monotribal, ritualistic context and containment).  In essence, there is no containment to individuation in the modern environment.  And this lack of "containment" means there is no identity for individuants (which I would differentiate from individuals, which is a name for what we would consider the fundamental social unit of value or unit of identity in our society).

Identity requires a social relationship and a kind of social contract.  Without containment, individuation becomes the severing of such social contracts of identity construction.  The individuant is therefore invisible in society and can only be (very inaccurately) "seen" by others as an adherent to one group or another.  The individuant's individuality is unrecognizable because it is not constructed substantially from associations with groups or tribes, and when understood by others as if it were so constructed, it is simply misunderstood (sometimes very drastically).

As a useful illustration of what I mean, I always refer to Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, which is the best and most honest (albeit fictional and deeply symbolic) portrayal of modern individuation I have yet come across.  Ellison's nameless protagonist is "invisible", because he has individuated himself from all of his group identity constructions (although they are still with him in a consciously related way).  The world and others around him continuously make claims on his personhood, trying to identify him with one group or another . . . and he rebells in various ways against all of these.  As a result, he is simply not "seen" as a distinct identity or person by others.

My feeling is that there is no place for individuants in the modern world because the modern world is not monotribal.  An individuant can only have identity in a monotribe (although, as with shamans, that identity is probably going to be established through rituals, totems, and taboos).  This identity will not be "accurate", but it will give the individuant a social role and connection to the tribe's sociality.

Although Jung was very clear that individuation and individualism were very different things, he still imagined that individuation could be a functional and not uncommon social process ("elite" perhaps, but not extremely rare).  Essentially, the idea was that patients in analysis might experience individuation as a form of "cure".  But Jung didn't understand the relationship between tribe and identity.  Like the romantic he was, he imagined identity as something in-born and probably biological.  And therefore, individuation was a process whereby that inborn identity that had gotten mucked up through various socializations and personal injuries would be restored to some kind of actualized original state, a "true self" if you will.

This romanticism about "true self" was (and is) hardly unique to Jung.  It was common to many forms of romanticism, and it actually went hand in hand with volkisch Germanic ideas of race, blood, and earth.  But the romantic true self idea is not ultimately workable, nor is it compatible with individuation.  It is true, I think, that individuation helps excavate and focus on aspects of genetic predisposition in one's personality, but these predispositions are not, I feel, terribly distinct and definite.  They are by no means "determinisms".

What individuation is more capable of illuminating is the arbitrariness and constructedness of identity . . . the ways in which identity is deeply dependent upon participation.  Also, how identity characteristically breaks down, dissolves, and is reformed.  It tells us not "this is who I really am," but, "who I am is a matter of who and what I am related to."

Although I think Jung and Jungians are wrong in many of their individuation theories, I don't think their theories are untenable.  That's why I would point to an idea like Eliade's where three types of initiation are differentiated yet they all have a similar (we could say "archetypal") pattern of death and rebirth.  One way of psychologizing the difference in Eliade's initiation types would be to say that each relies on a somewhat different construction of the Self.

In adolescent initiation, the Self is understood merely as the tribe, and the relationship to the Self is defined by the responsible relationship to one's tribe.  In secret society initiation, the Self has a more specialized representation, Self as elite.  In shamanic initiation, the Self is individual and accessible within (rather than through a group and its beliefs, totems, and values).  The shamanic initiation may feel that the Self is divine and universal or omnipresent, but the relationship with the Self is entirely personalized . . . and this means that identity in the group/tribe is not the mediator of selfhood or individuality for the shaman.

But the universal initiation pattern that all these modes have in common is a healing pattern for identity.  That is, diseases of identity can be treated through this kind of pattern/process, because they seek to connect dissociated or damaged identities to a Self object (tribe, elite, or personalized Self).  Jungian analysis heals (when it succeeds) by connecting dissociated identity to the Jungian tribe or some kind of spiritualistic tribe Jungianism associates with or in some ways approves of.  In fact, Jung was very clever in his recognition that healing (at least in people in the second half of life) often requires a reconnection to their inherited religion (albeit in some revisioned way).

Jungians seem to take this as a commandment to "get religion" (which means it is a dysfunctional therapeutic system for atheists), but what patients really need is to reconnect their identity to a more or less functional monotribal Self object . . . and religions tend to be more monotribal than just about any other social body in the modern world.  Jung sought to understand universals in religions and to unite them under his generally spiritual approach.  So a lapsed Catholic could return to a meaningful form of Catholicism via a Jungianized path.  A lapsed Jew could rediscover a meaningful Judaism through Jungianism.  As long as you have or had a religion, Jungianism will take you in and mediate your new version of the old religion.

That usually required a movement into the abstract and symbolic.  So the new "social institution" would become Jungianism, and Jungianism would refashion the particular relationship to Catholicism, Judaism, etc.  In this way, the institutional issues that often lead to modern people straying form their childhood religion are softened, and (through Jungianism), the individual can have a non-institutional relationship with the god of their old faith.

What Jungianism has still not realized is that the Jungian "cure" depends largely on the willingness of the patient to become indoctrinated into the Jungian tribe or one of its associates.  That doesn't mean one joins a cult, but one has to accept a body of totemic ideas and a few dogmas.  One may or may not be able to continue on in direct relations with their old faith and its traditional adherents, but there will at least be a Jungian or adjunct Jungian community to "re-experience" Catholicism/Judaism/etc. through.

It is community (even when that community is largely figurative and abstract) that heals identity wounds by connecting the dissociated ego with a Self object.  That may or may not lead to long term "enlightenment" . . . but it is fairly likely to heal the superficial identity wounds of a patients (so long as they don't resist indoctrination).  Freudian and post-Freudian psychoanalysis works the same way (but without the specific emphasis on religion).  Basically, Jungianism is modern monotribalist identity therapy for religious types and psychoanalysis is modern monotribalist identity therapy for non-religious types.  But both religiosity and non-religiosity are entirely arbitrary to the method of cure by indoctrination or the reconstruction of and reattachment to a new, more monotribal Self object.

Of course, this is radically different than individuation, which accepts no external Self objects or totems and is not served by indoctrination techniques.  In individuation proper, these tribal identity affiliations have failed utterly or are in a process of collapse so severe that no re-indoctrination would ever work.  The only solution is to find some sort of system of being directly through relationship to the Self within.  IT is the only Self object left, and relationship with it requires enormous sacrifices that (in the modern world) are not clearly worth the losses they demand.

But life, as a kind of "force", persists.  The Self is chosen and valued because life moves in that direction, because the individual doesn't want to die or give up (indefinitely).  Where the Self system triumphs over injury and adversity in this way, the individual typically becomes a strong advocate (or what I would call a "facilitator") of the Self, embracing the restructuring of personality and identity that serve the Self system (rather than trying to usurp it).  Just as the tribe (as Self object) sustains identity for members that are indoctrinated, so the relationship with the Self individuation engenders serves as the foundation of the individuant's identity.  But that relationship is a kind of work (The Work, I have sometimes called it).  It is neither subservience nor dependence.  It is a state of continuous "custodial" tending to identity and the Self system . . . all done with the Other/others in mind.  The individuant comes to realize eventually that all selfhood is a function of relationship, that it "belongs" to others.  That doesn't mean the individuant transcends selfishness (or anything else).  It just means that the sense of "who I am" is understood to always be highly situational.  We become selves in relational contexts.  That doesn't mean we can determine selfhood (quite the opposite).  But we are always being created and re-created as we relate to others.

The individuant doesn't say, Yahweh-like, "I am that I am."  S/he is always becoming.  Selfhood is always "out there" being forged and constructed.  And that can be terrifying or frustrating at times.  Most people would experience it as a loss of control or too great a vulnerability.  And in truth, there is no real advantage to this fluid selfhood.  It is an extreme adaptation that should really be considered a last resort and not preferable to conventional adaptation and identity construction.

So, when we look at "individuation events" (i.e., movements that follow parts of the individuation process but are not in themselves entire individuations) in the world, we are generally not looking at anything so extreme.  A "complete individuation" is fairly catastrophic and not particularly adaptive to the modern environment.  But many people experience smaller individuation events, often with very positive results.

As I said previously, the condition of the modern individual is very atomized and polytribal.  We have various competing identity systems writhing around in us, and no one of these is complete or self--sustaining (or usually Self-connected) by itself.  But we commonly get involved with tribe-like groups and then "individuate" from them to some degree.  That is, we see through the identity totems of that tribe and become (intentionally or not) dissociated from them.  In doing this, we probably feel like we have differentiated our "true selves" from the group identity somewhat.  In fact, this is quite common (although, regrettably still not common enough) with adolescent groups and identity constructions.  Adolescent identity is strongly peer and participation based (but without any Self principle helping to organize and orchestrate it).  It develops a lot of fairly dysfunctional collective traits that can increasingly strangulate many individuals as they move into adulthood.

Our society has tried to relieve this tension somewhat by taking on increasingly "adolescent" attitudes and ideas (especially in the popular media), so many can live in a prolonged adolescence as long as they have supportive/similar peer groups or enough money.  Still, many (maybe even most) people tire of this identity and tribe and start looking for something more sophisticated and sustainable.  Where we pull off this transition successfully, we often experience some kind of individuation event.  But in almost all cases, we follow this individuation event with the discovery of and indoctrination into a new tribe (the "limbo" between tribal affiliations is typically experienced as hellish, lonely, and depressing).  These tribes are most commonly professional and/or religious.  But dissolving and individuating from the identity constructions of this second, "more adult" tribe may never happen (and may not need to).  One may have a polytribal identity as say, a professor of psychology, a Jungian, a Catholic, a Democrat, a community volunteer of some sort, and a parent.  These identity constructions may be arbitrary in many ways, but they will often sustain us pretty well in most cases (as long as our identity in these tribes is accepted and reinforced and our faith in them remains strong and not too introspective).

But where we might lose faith with these tribes and their identity constructions, we may be in for further individuation events.  Yet even if these further individuation events are carried off pretty successfully, we will typically settle down into other tribal affiliations.  And my point here is that this is okay.  This is preferable.  We only continue to individuate if there is a dire, adaptive need to do so, only when our identity constructions are not sustainable or are not reinforced by our tribal affiliations.  More often than not, this (not uncommon) lack of identity sustainability results in various psychological disorders like depression and anxiety, and we don't fully recover or develop a sustainable identity.  We eke our way through life, at least on many relational fronts (where our identities are more or less dysfunctional).  With any individuation event, some kind of change has to be embraced in order to move through this dysfunctional organization of identity.

In the very rare cases of "complete" individuation, essentially all tribal identity constructions are dissolved and reconstructed.  There is no "tribe hopping" (which is very common in today's polytribal environment) but more of a "de-tribalization" of identity that radically restructures the relationship between the individual and the tribe.  It doesn't end the relationship, but it severs the unconscious or "mystical" participation in which identity is normally constructed.  Conscious relationality (especially with tribes) problematizes relationships with tribes for a number of reasons.  A big one is that consciousness of identity construction (i.e., recognition of its constructedness and its arbitrariness) is considered a taboo violation in tribal contexts  It is a "sin" against the mystique of tribal participation, the "divine" consent and confirmation of the tribe's identity.  One doesn't even need to be directly inquisitive or critical of the tribe's identity.  Just poking around in the tabooed places more or less innocently is enough to generate animosity.

My general conclusion is that "complete" individuation is, if not precisely "pathological", at least typically dysfunctional.  And the only "cure" for that dysfunction is the connection of the individuant to some kind of monotribe that will "employ" the individuant in a task that regulates, treats, or transforms tribal identity.  It should be noted that, although psychotherapists are the heirs to shamanic healing practices, they do no function in a tribe in this way.  They do not treat tribal identity diseases, per se.  They are not therefore, by occupational necessity, "individuants".  They are often in strong mystical participation with their psychotherapeutic tribe's identity constructions . . . and may not even be very well equipped to recognize or treat an individuating person.  That is, they can treat by indoctrination, but those who resist indoctrination go off the map many psychotherapists navigate by.  This is even true of Jungians who are the gatekeepers of individuation theory.

Probably the most common occupation for individuants and individuating people is artist of one kind or another.  That doesn't mean that artists are individuated or have to be.  It only means that artist is one of the only modern occupations where individuants can find a way to treat tribal identity, to treat the "soul", and find a sense of relationship and identity doing it.  But in reality, individuant artists are very rare, too.  The era of the individuant artists is perhaps over.  Today, artists are indoctrinated into artistic tribes and schools.  Academia (a very tribal institution) determines art more and more (as it is one of the only forms of subsidy for the arts) . . . and popular arts are increasingly determined by corporations that profit form the commodification of those arts (where commodification is at odds with individuation).  Even where some individuality shines through in popular arts, the identity of the artist is maintained by a community/audience that may have very basic, perhaps dysfunctional desires from the artist.  They may just want to be entertained or have their prejudices and beliefs reinforced.

Think of music today compared to some of the music of the 60s, especially folk musics that had political messages (early jazz was at least as culturally transformative in the 20s through the 50s until it was contained in either commodifcation or academicization).  Today's popular music doesn't inspire people to change their worlds or themselves . . . and when it tries to it comes across as very particular, narrow, and stunted or tribalistic (e.g., Christian rock, etc.).  It may be that commodification has helped sever popular music's relationship to the modern "soul".  That is really depressing when you think about it . . . but I think that film still has the capacity to influence the "soul" in transformative ways.  It can still bring sociopolitical and psychological issues into consciousness.  Most Hollywood and TV productions are purely distractions and anesthetizations, but good and powerful films are still being made (both fictional narratives and documentaries).

My point is not to make sweeping critiques of the arts today, but to note that the space for individuants to find social roles is not increasing in modern society, it is shrinking.  That is something Jung and the Jungians are not understanding.  The trajectory modern society is on is hostile to individuation because it is hostile to monotribes.  Or more accurately, it is inhospitable to self-sustaining, Self-connected monotribes.  The modern form of monotribes are too tribally dysfunctional and dissociated to tolerate or encourage the participation of individuants in their construction of identity.  But there is no wider environment for individuants.  Individuants need their monotribes . . . are dependent upon their monotribes to grant individuants identity and purpose.

I don't really have some kind of romantic and magical vision about how this will all "work out".  I do think that modern monotribes that can figure out ways to employ individuants are likely to find ways to construct more functional identity in the modern environment.  But nothing like this is going to happen in the huge modern monotribes like Christianity.  I suspect it could only begin in small monotribes . . . monotribes like Jungianism.  If Jungianism could find a way to employ, rather than excommunicate, its individuants, it might even be able to function as a model of a modern monotribe.  Of course, that is more or less useless to say, because there is no indication that Jungianism is interested in making the necessary changes or is even capable of change.
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Matt Koeske

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Re: Individuation
« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2013, 11:55:34 AM »

I may have woven around your questions more than you'd like.  Apologies for that.  My answers are implied in what I wrote above, but I'll try to be more clear here.

What is the goal of indivuduation?

To construct a fluid or adaptable and dynamic identity that can facilitate the self-organization of the dynamic complex system of the Self, which is the underlying organizing principle of the personality.

Also, to adapt to a massive collapse of identity in a way that allows one to become socially and personally functional again.

From a sociological or social psychology perspective, we might say that the goal of individuation is to benefit the tribe an individuant individuates from . . . to better allow that tribe to dynamically revise and heal its identity in the inevitable event of environmental change.

What is the goal of indivuduation?
Quote
Today we typically have extremely poor relations with the Self... We are extremely atomized, dissociated

Doesn't this mean we're all individuals/individuants? If the goal of individuation is a connection with the Self, then individuation is actually going to bring us in closer contact with the "collective" psychological structures, and as a result, from what I understand of the goal of the Self and the Animi, to valuate otherness in general; again the opposite of "individual".

Can you clarify that point?[/quote]

Individuals in the modern environment are atomized and dissociated from the Self system's organizational principles.  Individuants are not atomized (relative to the modern norm).  They are or their identities are, once successfully individuated, organized in accord with the Self system principle.

So it's fair to say that a successful individuation is a "cure" for modern atomization . . . but this "cure" brings with it a side effect of dissociation/invisibility from all tribes which is far more terrible and painful than modern atomization.

No one can individuate in relationship to all modernity, to the "world today".  There is no world "collective" for the individuant.  One individuates from/in relationship to monotribes.  I see any depiction of the relationship between the individuant and the modern world (as is common in Jungianism) as an inflation and a delusion that actual individuation cannot really afford.  It happens, of course, but it has to be resolved and worked through.  It acts only as an obstacle to individuation.

Where one's identity is significantly constructed around the totems of a monotribe, individuation can be pretty significant, and it is likely to carry over to other tribal affiliations.  One might be in the process of individuating from numerous tribes simultaneously.  But it is much more common for the first steps of individuation from one tribe to be "resolved" by indoctrination into another tribe, by "tribe hopping".  This may be more functional at times, but it is not individuation, and it is contrary and destructive to any inklings of individuation that might have preceded it.

Individuation is a monotribal relationship.  It is not about the individual or a "true self".  It's about the restructuring of an identity-constructing relationship with a monotribe.

Where valuation of the Other/other develops there is always a diminution of self/ego/identity . . . or at least a diminution of the rigidity of that identity.  To valuate others is to be influenced and shaped by them (but not to identify pathologically with them) . . . something we generally resist.  Most deeper relationships require us to rearrange our beliefs, expectations, and desires of others.  An individuant would actually welcome this as an avenue to being.  For the individuant, the permanence of identity is not in her or his beliefs, affiliations, ideals, and values, but in the dynamic, facilitating relationship to the Self (which is always experienced as Other . . . and therefore often activated and perceived through others).  Where the facilitating Self relationship is strong, the ego doesn't really fear influence, penetration, affect, etc. brought on by relationship.  Where there is no rigid structure of selfhood to fortify against otherness, selfhood is always growing and evolving through its relationships to others.

But this does not mean an individuant becomes a "collective personality" or "non-indivudal".  The individuant might have a novel, fairly complex personality.  That novelty might be less a reflection of eccentricities and "individualisms" than the complex dynamic combination of various aspects and influences that are, by themselves, recognizable.  The individuant might even be marked by a kind of unrecognizable malleability or complexity that renders her/him "invisible" . . . because we are used to identities being firm, rigid, and consistent.  We like to "know who we're dealing with" . . . and figuring this out with an individuant is somewhat like figuring it out with a schizophrenic (to the outside observer).  When we stop trying to pin down the identity and allow it to be defined by its dynamic complexity, then we can perhaps begin to accept the individuant's fluid identity as legitimate.  But that is a huge, taboo-breaking sacrifice to make.

Probably more commonly, we would assign an individuant (as we might a schizophrenic) a particular identity and then expect her/him to abide by it.  It could be negative or positive.  It might be a pathologization (insane person) or an idealization ("genius").  Neither is really accurate, but this is how we habitually think about identity.

One last thing I should have mentioned earlier.  I do see actively pursued individuation as an act of increasing ethical consciousness.  But that is a kind of conscious interpretation.  Individuation is not some kind of magic transformation that makes one a good person.  One might have to find ways of becoming a better (more ethical) person in order to individuate successfully.  An individuant might become a better person because certain prejudices are dissolved along with ego constructions that support or depend on them.  Sympathy is learned again and again . . . although it is always a struggle to gain it . . . especially when one faces persecution for one's individuated traits and acts.

But ultimately, I don't think an individuant is overtly and recognizably a "good person".  S/he may be too detached from conventional personhood to earn that title.  Being a "good person" usually requires adherence to certain constructions and expectations of what that means.  It can be hard for an individuant to be a "good person" because it might be a struggle just to be a "person", to be visible, to have a socially recognizable and non-toxic identity.  That scenario doesn't really afford "beneficence".  Often, to help another is to help make them more like us or more like our personal ideal.  That isn't facilitation.

To facilitate another might mean aiding their organized dissolution or stand up against their will to power or self-destructiveness.  Rarely will someone doing that be seen as a "good person".  As for "being good" in general, it is often impossible to figure out how.  Life is complex and confusing.  Even trying to do the "least harm" is sometimes impossible to figure out.

My intent here is to demystify the individuant as much as possible.  Think Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man more than, say, Jesus.
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