Author Topic: 5 - Problems with Jungian Individuation  (Read 16368 times)

Matt Koeske

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5 - Problems with Jungian Individuation
« on: June 29, 2011, 10:30:38 AM »
Problems with Jungian Individuation

Whereas the first problem of Jungian individuation is that an individual whose ego is consciously engaged in facilitating the Self is not actually "in-divisible", the second problem has to do with in-dividuating from groups and affiliations.  Individuation requires one to become conscious of his or her affiliations and the identity constructions that accompany them.  These identity constructions begin to seem increasingly artificial (more accurately, their absoluteness and fixation become artificial).  The sacredness of tribal identity and tribal participation mystique dissolves, and the individual is left feeling identity is arbitrary.  This generally has the effect of causing estrangement from identity groups.  The individual no longer has the libido to participate, and this is often perceived by other members of those groups who are still in participation mystique with the tribal identity.  Dissolution of participation mystique is felt to be a taboo violation . . . and as a taboo violator, the individuating individual is likely to be ostracized in various ways, increasing the already growing sense of alienation.

It is the terrible feeling of alienation that has gone almost entirely unexamined in Jungian thought on individuation.  There is a very simple reason for this: Jungians don't really individuate (inasmuch as they are "Jungian").  This isn't to say that Jungian affiliations don't dissolve.  But in most cases, the loss of affiliation with one tribe is a component of the gained affiliation with another.  So a developmental Jungian might break some ties with the classical Jungian expression of tribe, but assimilate into a psychoanalytic identity construction.  Consciousness of either identity construction or the nature of identity construction is not increased.  Identity is never felt to be arbitrary or artificial.  It is never lost and therefore never has to become a point of focus and analysis.  As polytribal moderns, we are frequently shifting our tribal affiliations.  But this does not in itself indicate individuation.  Genuine individuation moves toward a state of nearly complete identity dissolution.

As identity dissolves, the individual is forced to begin looking at his or her own identity more objectively.  One looks on one's own identity as if from outside, from the perspective of an other.  Identity is increasingly seen as a medium and vehicle of relationship with others.  At the same time, this more objective look at identity enables one to see characteristics and predispositions beneath the arbitrary identity constructions.  These predispositions are also experienced objectively.  They are not fixed or static, but they are inevitable and unavoidable.  They become the medium of relationship with the Self and are often brought into focus by the animi work.

But the Self-rooted (or genetic) predispositions resist assimilation into subjective identity.  Subjective identity favors scripts and more rigid constructions, and the Self-rooted predispositions to personality are always situational, dynamic, and relative.  They are always Other, and therefore manifest as something to relate to that cannot be determined by conscious will.  At some level "who we are" is something we are forced to contend with rather than something we can be or exercise.

Jungian theories of individuation spend little or no time addressing the problems of individuation in a world defined by sociality.  Instead, they have become more focused on fantasy images with archetypal qualities.  In Jungianism, individuation is often understood only as a parade of such fantasy images and not as actual transformation of identity and relationality (i.e., the transformations of identity are understood only as transformations of fantasy images in dreams and active imaginings).  Nor is individuation understood as an ethical or valuative movement.

Aside from alienation, the other primary problem of individuation is the awakening of conscious Eros it brings.  That is, relationship with others becomes a (a different kind of) problem when identity is dissolved and seen through.  On one hand, one has no fixed identity through which to relate and on the other, one realizes that the identities of others are equally arbitrary (especially in their fixedness).  At the same time, drive to relate and connect with others increases, becomes a high priority of living.  But as individuation progresses, participation mystique is less and less possible.  The Eros of relationality is no longer merely instinctual and automatic or granted by some kind of divine grace.  Instead, it must be cultivated and nurtured.  One does not merely participate thoughtlessly in groups or with other.  One becomes conscious of what one is contributing with one's participation, what one is adding to the stew of sociality.  And the ethical obligation of adding "good ingredients" (as much as possible) asserts itself.

When one is engaged in this form of conscious Eros, it quickly becomes clear that very few others exercise any awareness of their participation.  It is purely automatic and perhaps instinctual.  People constantly add "bad ingredients" to their groups, and when these accumulate, they can ruin the stew.  This is, I believe, why actual tribes use dogma and ritual and sacred participation (rites, etc.) to continuously cleanse the participation solution.  It is also the role of shamans (and sometimes quasi-shamanic elders) to help preserve "soul", the fundamental "good ingredient" or "good medicine" in the tribe.

But modern tribes are not survivable organisms by themselves.  They are interdependent with numerous other tribes, none of which could survive by itself.  And since single modern tribes don't need to be self-sustaining, the ancient evolved system of tribal self-regulation has decayed.  This self-regulating system is equivalent to what I mean by the Self.  And pre-modernity, tribe was, I believe, the vessel into which Self was naturally projected and in which it was contained (via dogma, identity protection, totemization, ritual, and often shamanism).

Although we continue to be instinctually draw to finding Self in our tribes, our tribes no longer have Self to provide.  And our increasingly limited focus on our tribal sociality means we are pursuing our tribes unconsciously and compulsively without actually examining our sociality or analyzing identity.  I suspect that tribalism can't be dissolved.  In fact, if there were some way to bring consciousness and ethical maintenance back into our tribalisms, we may find the quality of life improving.

But there is another possible approach to treating this loss of soul or Self.  Tribe was only the traditional receptacle of Self, but Self is not inherently "in" tribe.  Self originates in the individual as a principle of psychic organization.  In essence, we are all tribes unto ourselves . . . which may be why we have been able to adopt modern polytribalism without having to undergo significant evolutionary change.

This realization (put in slightly different terms) is what is behind Jung's individuation project.  But Jung drastically underestimated the demands and consequences of individuation.  It cannot be prescribed en masse.  Humans were not designed (by evolution) to be conscious in the way they would need to be in order to implement individuation as a social institution.  The greatest proponents of and "experts" on individuation, the Jungians, do not themselves manage any better than non-Jungians at the pursuit of individuation.  It remains to be seen if it is even possible to produce a small modern tribe in which individuation is valued and institutionally upheld.  The Jungians have failed miserably in any such attempt . . . although there is so little focus on group dynamics in Jungianism, "attempt" is probably not the correct word to use.  Yet, one would expect "individuated social behavior" from groups of individuants, and this is simply not evident in Jungian sociality.

Many Jungians have even abandoned the concept of individuation or at least the classical construction of it.  It may seem that this turning away from individuation is unrelated to the lack of tribal consciousness and maintenance in Jungian culture, but they may be parts of the same problem.  Both functional tribe building and individuation are ethically-based, Self-devoted organizations of relationality that seek to keep identity construction connected to Self principles.  Functional individuals are ethical, relational individuals.

But where individuation cannot be institutionalized and tribalism cannot be rendered self-sustaining (and Self-facilitating), there is little we can do with individuation other than use it as an experimental investigation of identity and sociality.  Individuation is not yet practical.  It's a useless science.  But through it, as an experimental project, we can begin to compile data and hypotheses.  Perhaps eventually it will become evident what to make of these data or how we might turn this research into "technology" (i.e., something implemented and institutionalized in a society).

Jung himself was a great experimenter with individuation.  Many of the conclusions he drew from his experiments were, in my opinion, flawed.  But they were still logical and reasonable hypotheses that can give future experimenters a very useful orientation in the construction of further experiments.  One of the best ways to proceed is to investigate why Jung took some of the stances he did.  His "personal equations" are today fairly well known, but little effort has been made by Jungians to reconstruct Jung's theories with these subjective errors factored out.  Instead, as the subjectivities accumulated, Jungians have either defended themselves again recognizing them or else rejected the still viable parts of the theories that had been "contaminated" by Jung's subjectivities.

These equally dysfunctional alternatives probably derive from a generally anti-scientific attitude that pervades Jungianism and promotes a distinct lack of valuation for scientific experimentation.   Most Jungians instead want theories to be truths and not attempts to understand data.  In other words, there is a hunger for "religious answers" in Jungianism, beliefs that can withstand assault and remain perfect and forever static.  Dogma.  Taken dogmatically, Jung was a false prophet.  And that is something Jungians have been trying in various ways to come to terms with.  But taken scientifically, Jung was a useful and clever experimenter that collected and began to analyze a huge amount of psychic data in ways that others before (and after) him have not.


I would like to see a project in Jungian thinking that really tries to grasp individuation.  I have been looking for signs of such a project for some time now, and I have yet to find any clear ones.  In that absence, I have been gradually assembling experimental observations and hypotheses of my own . . . an effort that has taken me farther and farther away from conventional expressions of Jungianism and rendered me increasingly alien and bizarre from these conventional Jungian perspectives.  From beginnings in a careful study of individuation and transformation of the individual personality, I have become more interested in the relationship between individuants and their tribes, as well as what these relationships might tell us about the construction of tribe and identity both collectively and individually.

I've faced a surprisingly large and consistent amount of bad luck in my attempts to sensibly convey my working theories to other Jungians.  The responses I've received are almost always the same.  Most Jungians insist they are not "really Jungians".  They don't like being "lumped in" with other Jungians, taking offense at my tendency to use the pronouns "we" (as in "we Jungians").  They also don't care for my term "tribe" to describe Jungian culture, feeling that the term is inaccurate and offensive.  But in all of this demurring, I have yet to receive a credible counterargument that looks at the same data I am looking at and produces a different, but equally logical, hypothesis.  So, although the obvious negative affect my hypotheses and terminology have generated has led me to constantly reevaluate my own motivations in so "diagnosing" the Jungian tribe, I am ultimately a logical and skeptical creature.  I need a logical and comprehensible reason to change my mind from what seems like a very conservative interpretation of the data I've been looking at.

I have been constantly led to suspect that trying to get Jungians to think about their own culture and tribal identity is like trying to get blood from a stone.  One thing remains clear, I have not yet received rational responses from Jungians to my questions and propositions.  The investigation remains, therefore, a personal one, i.e., one in which I am trying to make sense of Jungian behavior and identity (in both other Jungians and in myself).  It can be difficult to proceed progressively as both a singular thinker and an outsider (non-analyst).  And it may very well be the case that my Jungian outsiderness drives me both to seek understanding of Jungian identity and to view Jungian culture with a passion and perspective that those "more indoctrinated" do not feel.  Perhaps it is a matter of the difference between participation mystique (unconscious participation with a group) and conscious Eros.  But I can't help but hear the refrain of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man as I soldier on in my investigation and speculation: "Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?"
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

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Viking

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Re: 5 - Problems with Jungian Individuation
« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2011, 12:42:25 PM »
I've read through this post only once, but it resonates strongly with me.  I am the leader of a "tribe" - a private non-profit institution of about 100 employees (and a dog.)  I have been associated with this tribe for 40 years, the past 20 as Executive Director.  Obviously, I am approaching the end of a professional career that, to be honest, has been more of a vocation or calling than a job.  I've always thought myself fortunate to have found a vocation that has kept me powerfully engaged for these many years.  That is changing.

During the past year or so I've been in analysis with a Zurich-trained analyst.  I am immersed first in the experience of analysis and coming at theory as a secondary consideration, if that makes sense.  Still, the loss of my tribal "participation mystique" was one of the first casualties of analysis.  As an example, what was a calling feels more and more like just a job!  As tribal "leader" however, I have to contend with the projections, not to mention the expectations, of its members and the controlling Board of Directors that grants me my authority.  Needless to say, this has been uncomfortable.  My emergent identity is not the CEO my title suggests.

At the same time, I have felt the tug of the Jungian tribe.  As an atheist and metaphysical naturalist (as well as an intuitive thinker) I have a natural resistance to the "fuzzier" aspects of the Jungian community.  But to me it is precisely this resistance to the "other" that makes relationship the key to the individuation process as I am experiencing it.  The rub against the other seems to activate my inferior function and provides the opportunity to differentiate that which has been muddy at best.

Of course, when I read Jung in the original I feel comforted by his plain speech and empirical approach.  He seems to be very clear that not everyone can or should undertake the individuation process.  This probably means the Jungian approach to individuation is marginalized to some sort of elite exercise, unfortunately.  Nevertheless, I won't be rushing to join a new tribe and will stick with the feelings of isolation and loneliness that seem to accompany this process.

Matt Koeske

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Re: 5 - Problems with Jungian Individuation
« Reply #2 on: July 01, 2011, 09:21:57 AM »
Hi Gary,

I had hoped to reply to your post before I had to leave town, but regrettably I didn't manage to.  It will be about a week, but I'd like to reply.  Apologies for the delay.

Best,
Matt
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

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Sealchan

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Re: 5 - Problems with Jungian Individuation
« Reply #3 on: July 01, 2011, 03:05:45 PM »
To me the sense of alienation and being awash in a multi-tribal society is a plus in that it is, itself, an indication of a healthy (ie "individuation-friendly") society.  If we want to know if a society or tribe is "individuation-certified" we can simply translate the question as follows:

Is the tribe adaptive and able to be born, adjust and die in a natural way given its greater environment?

In a business context this is "Who Moved My Cheese?" meets "Critical Conversations" meets <add any popular business self-help book here> etc.

A democratic society seems to me to be more individuation friendly than other forms of political organization.  Tribes are now born and die in time and we may experience may of them.  This is, perhaps, equally true of the inner multitude that compose our ego or Self.  Societies, to the extent that they open their individual members to greater degrees of freedom, are more and more individuation friendly.  The consequence is nothing new.  At least now one has a choice (and a burden) of discovering one's tribe.  In the past you were born into the tribe and any choice was probably a life or death matter.

The trick to modern life is learning how to appreciate a tribe as a finite experience and not as an infinite truth.  Our consciousness has been forced to achieve this separation from the group through the evolution of human civilization.  This might involve seeing disparate accomplishments as part of a whole expression of one's self and making meaning from that rather than looking for the meaning of one's life in terms any one tribe's lasting legacy.  This seems to me to be analogous to what I believe is the practical goal of individuation: the acceptance of one's own mortality and personal  identification with non-temporal aspects of reality.  How else can we, with acceptance, shed our physical bodies whether we believe there will be further experiences of consciousness afterwards or not?

For me I only wish I had enough time to participate in the various tribes that draw my attention...

Matt Koeske

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Re: 5 - Problems with Jungian Individuation
« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2011, 10:31:55 AM »
During the past year or so I've been in analysis with a Zurich-trained analyst.  I am immersed first in the experience of analysis and coming at theory as a secondary consideration, if that makes sense.  Still, the loss of my tribal "participation mystique" was one of the first casualties of analysis.  As an example, what was a calling feels more and more like just a job!  As tribal "leader" however, I have to contend with the projections, not to mention the expectations, of its members and the controlling Board of Directors that grants me my authority.  Needless to say, this has been uncomfortable.  My emergent identity is not the CEO my title suggests.

Hi Gary,

I apologize for taking so long to reply.  After coming back from vacation, I was swamped.  To make matters worse, I started writing something long and rambling on this subject.  Well, such is my MO, I suppose.  Here's the first half.  Yes, there's still more coming.

. . .

That's very interesting.  It has occurred to me that businesses could take on tribal expressions of sociality and that most of us live the majority of our waking lives within these "tribes" of our colleagues and/or employees.  And like true tribes, businesses are meant the survive and to thrive.  But at the same time, I'm not sure that many conventional business values are really compatible with the human sociality instinct (as I've been trying to study it).

For instance, most businesses are very hierarchical, but most true tribes lean toward the egalitarian.  A true tribe would never "downsize" its population just so the chieftain and the most elite could remain in greater luxury.  A true tribe is what it is and has to survive as what it is.  The rules and conditions of the market are not the same as the rules and conditions of tribal environments.  Where "Darwinian" notions of survival of the fittest are championed in the business world, it is usually in the name of justifying some harm done to others (and not always competitors).  But in nature, it is the fittest within groups that survive, not the fittest between groups.  I.e., the "more fit" lion does not survive by eating the entire gazelle population.  As long as the environment sustains it, a dynamic balance typically develops among interrelated species.  But if a drought caused a certain vegetation to die, the herbivores that feed on that vegetation dwindle and approach extinction and the lion population probably struggles even more than the herbivores (do to the nature of predation and hunting and the limitations of species like big cats).

That is of course a massive oversimplification . . . but even thus simplified, it presents a much more complex and interrelated model than the "social Darwinism" invoked by some corporations.

And I'm sure there are many other differences between tribes and businesses, but the one that stands out most to me is that true tribes usually have shamans or some form of "psychotherapy" that treats participation in order to keep it healthy and functional (or "soulful").  The only individuals who get cut out of a true tribe are those who fall out of participation, which is a taboo violation (perhaps "heresy", but it could be an "anti-social" crime).

With the absence of shamanism, what is the force in a business "tribe" that keeps it "ensouled" and survivable as a whole social unit.  I wonder if such a "tribe" could be heavily hierarchical and "ensouled" at the same time . . . or does "ensoulment" (what is protected by participation mystique) require relative egalitarianism or at least a sense that every member is worth "saving" and maintaining and keeping functional at all costs?

These are all musings and rhetorical questions.  I don't have any real business experience and therefore not even any speculative replies.  But I have had jobs in which I lamented that the sociality and participation of the employees was not really adequately attended to or treated.  The management theories I've encountered tend to focus on how a company can manage to get more for less from its employees (whether from ruthless demands or from various forms of misdirection, distraction and "bribery").  But is it possible that a tribal model could be employed by a business in the attempt to make a survivable and sustainable enterprise?  How does a company treat the quality of participation in its employees?  How might a company make that participation "mystical" . . . i.e., linked into the construction and maintenance of tribal identity in an instinctual way?

One thing I feel pretty certain about is that each member would have to be "recognized" and actively involved.  If people feel like they are second or third class and have to live on the bottom rung of the status ladder, they don't usually feel genuinely involved.  Hierarchies tend to alienate those with lower status . . . and lower status people (depending on the environment) may develop greater anxiety.  I would hypothesize that it is those employees who feel most alienated and who have least say in the company's operation who are most likely to get "sick" or "lose soul".

Anyways, there are a lot of potentially viable aspects to explore in a tribalistic business model.  Stuff that goes way beyond ridiculous exercises in "team building".  Team building doesn't respond to the problems inherent to hierarchy and so rings false to those forced to do it 99% of the time.


As for being a CEO who has fallen out of participation mystique, that could end up causing a ripple effect, depending on what your company is like and how it is organized.  Where there is a real sense of mystical participation in a group, those in participation can intuitively sense those who have fallen out of it.  And this intuition (usually entirely subconscious) can create paranoia, destabilization, and perhaps overreactions (like trying to authoritatively shove the participation of the tribe into rigid routines, everything running like clockwork in an "anal-retentive" manner).  But this kind of pressure can place severe demands on a dynamic system (like tribe/community).  It's like a defense mechanism, maybe.

In my own lingo, where a leader falls out of participation in the tribe, the "heroic or shamanic spirit" that helps guide a successful leader by allowing for progressive change and adaptation loses its model.  And wherever the hero stumbles, the Demon leaps in to take over.  Rules, rigidity, oppression and abuse of the shadow.  To be even more Jungian about it.  That shamanic spirit is not merely the spirit of the valuating hero archetype (as I have written about it on this site . . . not the same thing as the conventional hero in Jungian thought).  It is the spirit of the Syzygy, the hero/animi pair.  Where the animi/soul is lost, the ego also loses its heroic orientation (and can regain it only by some form of heroic "soul retrieval" or animi-redemption process . . . which is a very common motif in fairytales).  The lost animi/soul has typically been devalued in some way . . . perhaps because too strict a definition was placed on it, it was taken for granted, it was not adequately respected, etc.

The animi/soul is present, albeit more or less implicitly, in participation mystique or in the sense that the sociality one engages in is "good", "real", or even sacred.  But when the animi/soul is lost, the journey to retrieve or redeem it is very often a personal one (which is to say, heroic/shamanic).  The retrieved/redeemed animi/soul is the individual's connection to Self, not the connection of the individual to the tribe (which had previously been the receptacle of Self projections before the loss of soul/failure of participation mystique).  In shamanic tribalism, the shaman may be responsible for soul retrievals.  That is, the shamanic rite is performed in order to re-sanctify participation mystique, reconnect the individual to the group as a valued member.

But in modern society, the shamanic individuation journey is thrust upon us and cannot be outsourced to a shaman.  Even our psychotherapists are not exactly shamans.  We still have to do the work ourselves.  My observation, though, is that these individuation journeys do typically result (when successful) in rejoining a tribe (or joining a new tribe where we feel our participation to be mystical/sacred or ensouled).  If individuation can be abandoned in favor of tribal indoctrination and reconnection, it most likely will be.

And that makes for a very vague and at times complexed relationship between Jungians and the process of individuation.  Jungian and various quasi-Jungian ideas constitute tribal world views, belief systems and value systems.  They are systems of identity construction and participation.  When one "discovers Jung" for the first time (if one is attracted to what Jung suggests), I think it typically comes as a breath of fresh air.  Or perhaps as the discovery of a secret sacred place where one increasing manages to slip off to.  In this secret garden, there is soul food and aqua vitae . . . and we find that our souls have been starving (probably for a very long time, although we just started to realize it).  The connection to this secret garden commonly manifests in the representation of the animi . . . and relationship with the animi becomes equivalent to slipping away into this garden for nourishment.

At the same time, we may have other more "worldly" reactions to this new impulse to slip away to the animi and the secret garden.  It may strike us as inappropriate, addictive, maybe somewhat delusional.  Our new soul hunger may not make sense to us rationally.  It may even be experienced as unwelcome and our subjugation to it as a shameful weakness.  From what I've seen, as we linger in this limbo, we eventually come to a fork in the forest path.  To the left there is gradually accumulating skepticism probably spurred by the growing realization that the animi and the garden, though fascinating and compelling in many ways, don't really lead anywhere.  Certainly not "back to the world" weighed down with spiritual riches and enlightenment to disseminate "altruistically".  We may even ask how our escapes to the animi's garden are any different than drug or drink that temporarily transports us away from our everyday selves.  In this position, one (in this example, a man) is like Odysseus stranded on Calypso's island, enchanted but dissatisfied and stuck . . . within a wonderful but somehow incomplete fantasy.

People who get to this point and take this left hand path are probably likely to abandon Jungian thinking (and maybe Jungian analysis).  They may or may not retain some fondness for Jung, but Jung doesn't significantly define their identities and worldviews.  Or, they may even react more negatively toward Jung and toward what they perceive as a foolish flirtation and temporary delusion where they were sucked up into a bit of nonsense but now clearly know the real from the illusion.

On the right hand path, one moves on to accept Jung and the Jungian worldview as an essential truth and special insight into living.  One wants to always live in the animi garden and dedicates oneself in some way to trying to bring the fruits of that garden to others.  This is what I would consider joining the Jungian tribe, adopting the Jungian values and identity constructions, embracing participation mystique.

There are some notable problems with the right hand path, though.  For one thing, the left hand path that leads eventually out of participation with Jungianism, finding Jungianism not conducive to living in the modern world is entirely valid (not necessarily a "correct" interpretation of Jung, but a wholly valid and logical life choice).  That is, to take the left hand path instead of the right hand path is not a failure of any kind (as right hand path devotees might claim).  Those advocates of the right hand path of indoctrination into the Jungian tribe inevitably sacrifice some degree of skepticism about the functionality of the tribe.  They cease asking (rigorously enough) whether this Jungian tribal garden is an illusion/delusion or some kind of maladaptation.  Instead, they accept belief in the inherent goodness of Jungianism and its worldview.  They often become more concerned with either protecting or promoting Jungianism . . . not reforming or truly progressing Jungianism.

But there is another problematic curiosity about the right hand path.  Jung himself, founder and culture hero of Jungianism, was enormously skeptical of such a path and much more equivocal about relationship with the unconscious or the anima than most (at least classical) Jungians are.  As the first Jungian, Jung did not seek to stay in the anima garden.  He came to study it, and he drank a bit of its living water . . . but then he recoiled at the many temptations this brought up for him.  I'm sure there are historical reasons that bolster Jung's equivocation: his inconsistent/somewhat unstable mother, his relationships with women (Sabina Spielrein most of all), etc.  Whatever the case, Jung was repulsed by his own oscillating attraction to the anima.  He worried that the anima was dangerous and could possess a man.  He recommended treating it a bit like Odysseus treats Circe (go to her bed, but bring a sword, and make sure she meets your "rational" demands and does not turn you into a swine).

The religion of the Jungian tribe is based in the religification of the unconscious.  Jung at times seems to recommend this.  He does locate religious feelings and experience in the unconscious.  But he devotes his efforts to describe the unconscious to descriptions of something chaotic and potentially dangerous.  The unconscious for Jung is like a wild animal that can't be truly domesticated.  If we believe the unconscious can become our pet, we are deluding ourselves (and have unconsciously fallen under its possession, probably acting out its archetypes).  But if we reject it altogether, we have no soul food, no meaning.  Jung felt the only way to juggle the need with the danger of the unconscious was to develop a strong ego.  To use another analogy from the Odyssey (there is no literary character, in my opinion, more like Jung than Odysseus; the Odyssey is THE Jungian myth . . . the personal Jungian myth): Jung wanted to be bound to the mast of his ship as he sailed past the sirens.  He wanted to hear the sirens, but not be drowned trying to embrace them.

But as with Odysseus, Jung's position requires special, elite status.  He is the only one who doesn't have to stuff his ears with wax.  He is the sole guinea pig of his experiment.  We can admire that great curiosity and perhaps bravery . . . but take a closer look at the relationship between Odysseus and his crew(s).  The crews of Odysseus' voyages do not fare very well.  Not infrequently, Odysseus is the only one who survives disaster after disaster.  And recall also that the reason for these disasters is that Odysseus has personally offended Poseidon by blinding Poseidon's son, Polyphemus (and bragging about it).  The reason that Odysseus survives each disaster where most of his crew members do not is that Odysseus is favored by Athena, who manages to protect him.

Somewhat imaginatively, I would suggest that this is also the case for Jung.  He survived his individuation voyages because his anima protected him . . . and this in spite of the fact that he had numerous nasty things to say about her.  An interesting parallel is Jung's wife, Emma.  Not only did she endow Jung with a house and a sizable amount of wealth, she tolerated his affairs with other women (Jung would even frequently bring Toni Wolff to his house where Emma was expected to accept her).  One could say that Jung depended on Emma's enabling in order to "be Jung" . . . in order to hear the siren song without drowning.  Jung lived in special circumstances that few others have access to.  Most people do not have the option of individuating within such a protected and unusual context and with so few worldly repercussions.

It is my opinion that this historical background to individuation theory has left Jungians and Jungian analysands with a highly distorted notion of individuation.  To pursue individuation the way Jung did is impossibly "heroic" (not in the sense I usually use that term) and tends to lead to inflation (as he himself openly acknowledged in CW 7, Two Essay on Analytical Psychology).  And the only Jungian "treatment" for inflation is to "heroically" overcome it with empowered ego consciousness and rational detachment (strapping oneself to the mast again).  It's an unworkable system.
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

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Matt Koeske

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Re: 5 - Problems with Jungian Individuation
« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2011, 11:40:18 AM »
And so, what happens is that individuation in Jungianism becomes conflated with indoctrination into the Jungian tribe.  This is possible (and feasible) because tribal indoctrination CAN cure.  In fact, it is a more reliable and effective treatment for basic psychological ailments like depression and other diseases of identity (for what I often call "dissolution") than individuation proper.  It is abundantly more manageable.  Perhaps this is why a simplified version of Jung's model was adopted for AA rehabilitation programs.  Mystical participation can cure.

But I also hold that individuation proper is possible.  The problem (that Jungians never seem to recognize in the midst of participation mystique) is that for a Jungian to individuate, she or he must individuate FROM the Jungian tribe, not into it.  The Jungian individuant must come to terms with Jungian tribal identity constructions, differentiate him or herself from them, and become conscious of the dynamics and identity history of the Jungian tribe.  This is not the same thing as the "left hand path" I previously described.  It is not simply a losing of one's religion and perhaps substituting for this loss with some other belief system.  The Jungian individuant does not move from being a Jungian to being a non-Jungian with no ties to or feelings for Jungian tribe and identity.  Rather, the individuant comes to wrestle with the stronger angel of Jungian identity in a conscious way.  An individuant from any tribe owes a kind of ethical or "karmic" debt to the tribe s/he differentiates from or relinquishes participation with.  Jung also noted this.

In general, when we individuate from our tribes, we do not move from a position of relationship to one of non-relationship.  I would even say that we really can only individuate from those tribal affiliations that really define who we are.  The increased consciousness of participation that individuation brings certainly complicates participation (and identity construction), but it doesn't dispose of or even reduce the Eros of participation.  That's one gripe I have with some Eastern monastic enlightenment traditions (as they are often expressed, especially in the West): the idea of nirvana, abandonment of self, detachment from the world of "desire" and "illusion".  Maybe that's (very remotely) possible in a monastery or a secluded cave, but while living in the world and with others, we are what we are connected to, who we are connected to.  I agree that this selfhood of affiliation is arbitrary and sometimes even self-deceiving.  But it is not merely an illusion.  We cannot relate (and therefore live) without it.  The real illusion is the fantasy of a "selfless self", of a personality or identity or an I that exists without any affiliation or relationship, without construction from outside.

We may sense and even learn to relate to the capital-S Self, which is in a sense self-contained, but we cannot become that Self.  The best we can do, I feel, is learn to live in its orbit, within its gravity.  Recognizing that, even at its most aware and "evolved", the ego is never more than a satellite of the Self can be felt as a terrible blow to inflated egoism.  It is one of the many scarifications of individuation.

What this all adds up to for me is the very serious tribal problem that Jungians (classical ones, at least) advocate and even totemize individuation as a noble virtue, but these Jungians do not themselves individuate (i.e., they are indoctrinated, not individuated).  That statement needs to be carefully qualified, though.  It is not that one who is a Jungian cannot individuate.  Such a one certainly can.  But not while adhering to the tribal model (rather, totem) of individuation that Jungianism promotes and in some instances worships and prescribes.  The Jungian tribal totem of individuation is not true individuation, but merely a sacred (if abstract) "object" around which a ritual Jungian dance of identity conformation occurs.  It may even be an ecstatic and transcendent dance . . . but the place Jungians transcend to is tribal participation mystique.

It's a very interesting modern tribe, because besides being generally neoprimitivist in its identity organization, the notion of Jungian mystical participation is often not literal.  That is, it doesn't often involve engaging in actual rites with other tribe members.  Of course there are Jungian conferences, analyses, dream groups, training institutes, journals, etc. where more conventional participation does occur.  But I believe the core identity constructions in Jungians are felt to be introverted, individual experiences: confrontations with the unconscious, synchronicities, revelatory dreams, experiences of God or spirit or personified archetypes.  These personal experiences are what enable Jungians to undergo indoctrination.  They are given as evidence for why "Jung was right" or why his insight into the unconscious was especially profound.

I don't mean to dismiss this or devalue these experiences.  This is why (one of the main reasons, at least) I consider myself to be a Jungian, too.  I had introverted experiences of the autonomous psyche that were remarkably profound.  I read Jung and found 1.) that he had had the same kinds of experiences, and 2.) that he had a unique and especially useful language for making some kind of meaningful sense of these experiences.  Using Jung's language, I could see my experience as neither episodes of obliterating madness nor as kins of divine advocacy (to be whatever I already was, but "sanctioned by God").  I could also understand my (ongoing) experience well enough to help direct it more progressively and to become more "sane" and "healed".  Jung helped me feel that what I was going through was if not exactly common, entirely human and quite valuable.  I.e., it was "archetypal" . . . and it was part of a transformative growing process.

Because of the use of Jung's languaging of such "mystical" events and the way this language grounded the experience and relieved some of its anxiety and confusion, I came away from the experience feeling an enormous debt of gratitude to Jung.  I identified with him.  We were brethren of this shared experience, a transformative trauma, the confrontation with and subsequent valuation of the unconscious.  And that shared experience, which is very much like the "conversion experiences" of many (perhaps most) Jungians, is the sacred core of the totem that Jungians call individuation, the totem that constructs the foundation of Jungian tribal identity.

But even from my earliest readings of Jung (and especially as I read other Jungian literature), I had many questions and a few dissents.  I've never been a disciple in search of a guru, though.  So it didn't matter to me that Jung was flawed.  His word was never gospel to me.  I took it as an expression of experience, a journal, field notes from personal experimentation.  I felt enabled by Jung to follow my own path and develop my own experience.  That's something I never would have felt from Freud . . . and perhaps the fundamental reason I never could have been a Freudian.  It was this same reason that Jung split from Freud.  He too could never have been a Freudian.  But that is another point of identification that bolsters my Jungian identity constructions.

Only years later, when I tried to make contact with other Jungians did I find out that my own path, my own field notes and (what I considered) very minor deviations were taken by many other Jungians (essentially all I encountered) as heresy.  Before this time, I had felt profoundly Jungian.  My identification with Jung and adoption of Jungian worldviews and language was so substantial that I struggled as a university student to translate my Jungianisms into academic language (for professors who knew nothing of Jung).  I believed myself to be a Jungian poster boy, and I based this on the great debt I felt to Jung and deep concern I had for his ideas . . . which I made strong efforts to understand in as sophisticated and accurate a way as possible.  In fact, I sought out Jungian groups online in order to "find my true tribe", to finally make contact with others who were "like me", who had the same experiences.  So being treated like a heretic was terribly shocking and devastating to me.

And that shock and component displacement from Jungian participation mystique inaugurated my Jungian individuation journey.  Before then, I had made important steps in my individuation journeys from my other tribes: the tribe of masculinity, the tribe of class, the tribe of Americanness, the tribe of "normalcy", the tribe of poets.  One by one, I differentiated myself (or had differentiation thrust upon me) and grew increasingly invisible.  I tried to find Jungians in the hope that I would be visible in that tribe.  I found instead that my invisibility in the Jungian tribe was a kind of quintessence of my invisibility in all my tribes.  My Jungian invisibility was much more poignant, because the experiences that most defined me were the ones that led me to Jung and were only made any sense of by Jung.

So I started this forum in order to pursue a dual project of, on one hand, exploring my Jungian identity and the nature of Jungian identity itself, and on the other hand, of trying to find a way, as a Jungian heretic and invisible man, of participating in Jungianism and giving back to the tribe (in the hope of honoring my debt to Jung).  I've been exploring the puzzle of why, even as Jung's languaging and model made so much sense of my experience and gave me so much assistance, support, and direction, the other Jungians I've met are almost to a person very, very different and seemingly incapable of recognizing me (my experience and my related ideas) as a "familiar".   In other words, I make no attempt to pretend that I am utterly objective about Jungianism.  Like Jung, I put my subjectivity forward, my personal equation.  But I strive to not be entirely restricted by my subjectivity.  Mostly, I strive to not mistake my subjectivity for objectivity . . . even as I value objectivity.

This may derive from the fact that I am a creative writer and not a real scholar.  I never assume that anything I write can be truly separated from who I am and what I believe and value.  But there is an advantage to thinking more like a poet or novelist in an approach to depth psychology.  Namely, a poet or novelist must be aware of and eternally engaged in a war with his or her subjectivity.  An artist must have a strong "inner critic" and know how to at times "kill" and at other times accept and tolerate his/her "darlings".  Just as Jung and Jungians have their many "Jungianisms", so I have my Mattisms.  They can at times be self-destructive and undermining of the projects we believe in.  We might be able to depotentiate them and bargain with them, but we can't eliminate them and still be who we are, value what we value, pursue the projects we pursue.

My belief and hope is that there is value and integrity in trying to develop progressive Jungian theories and analyses in this way, by keeping my subjectivity front and center, raw and revealed, problematic but entirely real.  It is one of the essential alchemical ingredients in this transformative and analytical process.


I apologize for going on so long.  Your own equivocal approach to Jungianism is, I suspect, in certain ways quite common among those getting interested in Jung and venturing into Jungian analysis (especially with a Zurich-trained and therefore probably more classical Jungian analyst).  I suppose I felt driven to relate my own experience with Jungianism because I was very young when it began, very naive.  And I was swept up into a kind of identification with Jung that an older and more experienced adult would have struggled with or resisted.  I've always had a strong bit of the Fool in me . . . the one that, smiling daftly and filled with wonderment, steps blindly off of a cliff (as in tarot symbolism) to his fate.

I did have about one month of Jungian analysis when I was 19 . . . not long enough to really get anywhere, but I did get a few good Jungian book recommendations from my analyst, as well as a "diagnosis" of depression (which I had never really considered, for some reason).  Although my analyst was not pathologizing, the depression diagnosis was the first bit of languaging for my disease I had come across (that seemed right and at least grounded my suffering).  I choose to wear that diagnosis like an initiation scar.  It was my first step toward a valid, adult identity.  The implications of founding an identity on a wound now strike me as very fascinating.  I even wonder if it can ever NOT be this way.  That is, I wonder if all individuated identity must begin with a wound . . . and begin by embracing that wound.  The wound is like a small plot of land one unexpectedly inherits.  And we build our homes and farms upon it.  We till the soil and plant and fertilize and irrigate.  We suffer and succeed as the weather dictates.  We Work, and then we harvest (and Work and harvest . . .).

Looking back, despite the meaning it had for me then and for many years, I no longer think the diagnosis of depression was technically correct.  What I had was what I have now been calling "initiation illness".  The symptoms are very similar to depression, but with initiation illness, the only treatment is initiation (of which individuation is a modern and rather extreme kind).  I got the feeling even in only a few sessions of analysis that, although there may be a great deal of usefulness in analysis for me, it was never going to treat my initiation illness.  I didn't think Jungianism knew how (it was an intuition with no explanation at the time, but in retrospect, it seems to have been a sound one).  I left analysis to go back to where I had been living in the hope to put my troubled relationship with my girlfriend of the time back together.  And I continued to pour myself into Jungian studies and into what I now call the anima work.


It isn't my intention to try to dissuade you from any Jungian work, reading, or even belief.  It is, I feel, essential for anyone who is suffering to find some source of meaning (transformational meaning, that is).  The autonomous psyche (often in the form of the anima and the shadow) pulls the ego out of its comfort zone, sparks dissolution.  It is a powerful process, and the most conventional reaction is to resist it, to even be terrified.  And there is wisdom in this resistance, I think.  Jung himself tried to walk the narrow path between opposition to the "unconscious" and surrender.  The path to meaning and healing is very difficult, very trying.  It constantly demands sacrifices from us that we are not comfortable making.  And it is easy to get caught up in making the wrong kinds of sacrifices for a the right reasons (as individuation doesn't come with an instruction manual and is, despite being archetypal, also quite unique in each case).

Jungian analysis is typically effective in opening up the door to the autonomous psyche and exposing the analysand to the catalyst.  It is later in the process that one finds certain questions unanswered and must decide what to do about this (find another path? deny the questions?).  Luckily, the most important "healer" in such a process is the analysand's psyche itself.  The healing process is itself "archetypal" and, it seems to me, innate.  A good Jungian analyst, if nothing else, should be adept at "getting out of the way" of this emergent process and the emotions and symbols it throws out without trying to make them into indoctrination tools.

As cynical as I can be about Jungianism, I have confidence that the Jungian method and identity still allow this.  And it is because of this ethic that, if I were to ever consider more psychotherapy, I think I would probably still look for a Jungian.

I wish you continued luck and encourage you to share more of your opinions with us if you'd like.

Best,
Matt
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]