Individuation - The Richmond Philosophy Pages

The Quest for Integration
 Jung
believed we needed to go through
personality integration
 Personality
integration is embracing the
things that are hidden or blocking our growth
and turning those weaknesses into strengths
 He
believed that a human being is inwardly
whole, but that most of us have lost touch
with important parts of our selves
 Through
listening to the messages of our
dreams (and of our creative imagination) we
can reach the lost or neglected parts of our
selves and reintegrate them
 According
to Jung, this integration is the goal
of life
 He
called it individuation: the process by
which individuals integrate the conscious and
unconscious parts of their personality,
through the acceptance of the various
archetypes into the conscious mind
 In
order to explain the process of
individuation we need to understand Jung’s
concept of the libido
 Jung
viewed the libido as the source of
psychic energy.
 If
its flow was interrupted neurosis would
 The
rejection of the sexual basis of the libido
constitutes Jung’s greatest split from Freud
 What
is your opinion on Jung’s concept of the
 Is
it better than Freud’s?
To maintain health all the features of the personality need
to be integrated
There needs to be a balance between the conscious mind
and the unconscious
There also needs to be a balance among the different
It is the failure to maintain this balance this balance that
is the main cause of mental disorder and neurotic disorder
For example, someone who has an excess of mental energy
concentrated on the unconscious will appear disconnected
from their surroundings, since they will be chiefly aware of
the images generated by the unconscious
Jung argued that whereas the first part of a
person’s life involves a coming to terms with the
outer environment and its challenges – through
work, friendships and relationships – the
emphasis on the second part, from middle age
onwards, is to come to terms with one’s own
Faced with declining opportunities, energies and
possibly health, the individual must find new
purpose and meaning in life through
components. Although ultimately beneficial, it
can be difficult, because it involves accepting
parts of one’s personality which one may prefer
to leave undiscovered
First, individuation as an innate process is one which
is governed by the archetype known as the self. More
precisely, the self is the innate disposition to become
whole. According to Jung’s understanding of religious
experience, any process or attitude that is governed
by archetypes must be termed religious – on this basis
individuation must be a religious process
Second, Jung argued that the self aids the process of
individuation by generating images of wholeness. An
example of this is the religious images of God. Jung
claimed that the images created by the Godarchetype are one and the same as the images
created by the self-archetype. It makes sense
therefore to say that it is through religious images
that the personality achieves its goal of integration
As a result of this, Jung said that the religious
images are used by the mind to individuate the
The value of religion now becomes clear for if
one rejects religion, one is at the same time
rejecting a substantial part of the individuation
Those who reject religion are less likely to
individuate successfully and therefore more
likely to experience neurosis as a result of the
remaining psychological tension
For this reason Jung concluded that religion is a
valuable entity
 What
is your opinion of this theory?
 Although
Jung’s theories are less sensational
than those of Freud, they have nonetheless
been criticised, and not merely by supporters
of Freud.
 The
criticism has centred upon four main
Jung’s methodology
The theory of archetypes
Jung’s concept of religious experience
The role of religion within individuation
Jung has been criticised for his view that we can
never know whether God exists
This view rests upon his assumption that nothing csn
be known of any entity outside the psychic world. For
example, we can never know wheteher a religious
experience is real or merely created by the mind
This assumption has been questioned – scientists, for
example, base their conclusions on empirical
evidence, without worrying that their data are just
figaments of their imagination. It can be argued that
a religious experience should be treated in the same
way, and that if there is empirical evidence to
support it we should accept it as genuine
 How
damaging do you think this criticism is
to Jung’s theory?
It is argued that this theory is simply not required to
explain the ‘evidence’ – namely, the common tendency to
construct uniform images
For example, Geza Roheim states that since all humans
share broadly the same experiences, it is hardly surprising
that we develop myths along similar lines
It has also been pointed out that many religious myths,
such as the Mesopotamian legends, respond to the social
concerns of a particular community, makes it hard to
accept that they come from an impulse that is common to
the whole of mankind
On these grounds it is argued that Jung is not justified in
postulating an archetypal ‘instinct for God’ from the
evidence that people believe in God
A further point which rendered Jung’s concept of
the archetypes less acceptable is the fact that
many people do not believe in God
Jung’s answer to this criticism was that atheism
itself is a form of religion
However, again we see Jung’s reluctance to
allow empirical evidence to count against his
theory; faced with the simple fact that many
people are not religious, he twists this to his
advantage. By manipulating any unfavourable
evidence in his favour, he effectively makes his
theory unfalsifiable. It becomes a necessary
truth, but without justification.
 What
are your opinions on this criticism?
Jung’s theory of religious experience is often
Martin Buber is not convinced that an experience
which stems from the mind, and as such is in no way
external to the subject, can properly be termed
In particular, Jung’s argument that any archetypal
image may be described as religious has come under
The problem is that if a vision of being trapped in
armour is as reliigous as a vision of God, Jung failed
to explain why this type of experience is so
distinctive in the mind of the subject
 What
effect does this criticism have on
Jung’s theory?
for the same reason as religious experience, the definition
of individuation as a religious process may be questioned
If it is governed by the Self-archetype, then it may be
argued that it has nothing to do with God
The image of Christ, for example, is only significant for
Jung inasmuch as it is a symbol of wholeness which can
help balance our minds.
Religious believers, however, would argue that Christ is
more than just a symbol for something else, but rather is
important in his own right, as a historical person and the
Son of God.
Again then, there is an extra dimension in religious
practice which Jung fails to explain

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