Finding Your Self: Self-realization – Individuation Process

“This is a continuation of the previous post, “Archetypes – The formation of the Collective Unconscious”. This post will explain the “Steps” of the “individuation process”, or the process of “self realization”. I will include quotes from C. G. Jung, Archetype and the Collective Unconscious as well as quotes from other sites I’ve found on my research path of the psychology of the self.”

Headers of post include:

Individuation Process

Individuation is a self analysis, a self discovery, in analyzing your own psyche (inner world) and life (external world), and also discovering what truths lie underneath the conscious ego-centric personality. In this search of the unconscious one will confront different aspects of the psyche that influence our human fabric, our behavior and reasons for those behaviors.”

Stages of the individuation process:

  1. Meeting the Shadow Self
  2. Encountering the “soul image” Anima/Animus – Masculine/Feminine Qualities Within the Psyche
  3. Mana Personalities
  4. The Self

If you are interested in learning more about the above information, read the post below.

Enjoy, Happy Reading. 🙂


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Self Realization – Individuation Process

“Once he comes to grips with the anima, her chaotic capriciousness will give him cause to suspect a secret order, to sense a plan, a meaning, a purpose over and above her nature, or even to “postulate” such a thing, though this would not be in accord with the truth. For in actual reality we do not have at our command any power of cool reflection, nor does any science or philosophy help us, and the traditional teachings of religion do so only to a limited degree… It is a moment of collapse. We sink into a final depth. Only when all props and crutches are broken and no cover from the rear offers even the slightest hope of security, does it become possible for us to experience an archetype that up till then had lain hidden behind the meaningful nonsense played out by the anima. This is the archetype of meaning, just as the anima is the archetype of life itself.” (Jung, C.G, pg 32 The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, second edition)

Individuation Process

Individuation is a self analysis, a self discovery, in analyzing your own psyche (inner world) and life (external world), and also discovering what truths lie underneath the conscious ego-centric personality. In this search of the unconscious one will confront different aspects of the psyche that influence our human fabric, our behavior and reasons for those behaviors. Beginning with the ‘Shadow’, the following passages will introduce you to the four different aspects of the psyche that influence, often unconsciously, who we are as individuals and who we are collectively.

Stages of the Individuation Process

  1. Meeting the Shadow Self

The first step taken towards self-realization (individuation) is when one meets their Shadow self: the part of one’s self (psyche) that they have not previously brought into the light of consciousness. It is, for this reason, the “primitive” (undeveloped or underdeveloped) side of one’s personality, and is also known as the so-called ‘negative’ side of one’s personality. The shadow is the opposition to whatever one has so far regarded as “making a positive contribution to my well-being.”

In dreams one’s shadow may be represented either by some type of figure (human or non) of the same sex as one’s self (even an elder brother or sister, a best friend, or some alien or primitive person) or by a person who represents one’s opposite (i.e. someone one wishes to be like that is of the same sex).

An example of the shadow self from a literature perspective is Robert Lousis Stevenson’s ‘The StrangeCase of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in which Mr. Hyde may be seen as Dr Jekyll’s unconscious shadow, leading a separate and altogether different life from the conscious part of the personality. The werewolf motif features in the same way in literature (e.g. Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf) and in folklore.

(Pic 1) Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and (pic 2) Steppenwolf

(Found on google images)



In a Disney/fairy tale perspective, Cinderella is a shadow figure. She is ignored and neglected by her elder sisters. They go out into the world, but Cinderella is shut up indoors. This represents the contrast between the conscious ego (which relates to the outside world) and those parts of the unconscious that have not been allowed any part in one’s conscious activity. However, Cinderella eventually escapes from her imprisonment and marries the Prince. This marriage symbolizes the joining together of conscious ego (Prince) and shadow (Cinderella), which is the end result of the “penetration” of the conscious mind by the unconscious and/or the “penetration” of the unconscious by consciousness.

(found on google images)


Symbolically – in myths and in dreams – consciousness is usually represented as male, the unconscious as female; and the “sexual penetration of female” by male is therefore a common symbol of the descent of consciousness into the dark “cave-like depths” of the unconscious. (Here it is important to note the difference between Freud and Jung: Freud is said to have believed that nearly all dream images were symbols of sexuality, while Jung is said to believe to the possibility that the sexual act itself may be a symbol pointing to something BEYOND itself.)

Other symbols of the encounter with the shadow include the conversion motif. In the New Testament the Greek word that is translated as ‘conversion’ means literally ‘a turning about’. This “conversion” is precisely what happens in the first stage of the individuation process: one looks in the opposite direction – within (internally) instead of without (externally) – and this leads to the discovery and unfolding of a new ‘dimension’ of one’s self; new “powers” begin to work for you and you begin to experience “newness of life”, a dying of an old view and a rebirth of another, so-to-speak.

Both the ritual of baptism and the many Flood myths may be seen as the first stage of the individuation process as well. Water is a common symbol of the unconscious. In baptism a person is plunged into water and is said to be ‘born again’ when he or she rises out of the water. This symbolizes the descent of consciousness into the unconscious and the resulting new and fuller life.

The same applies to stories of a great flood which destroys the face of the earth and then recedes, leaving one “pure human being”. If taken as a symbol of individuation, what is destroyed by the flood-waters (the unconscious) is the persona, that makeshift self-image with which one starts their adult life. This partial self must be dissolved to make way for the appearance of the whole self (e.g. “Pure human being” represented by Noah or Markandeya).

In some cultures there are myths of a diver who plunges to the bottom of the sea and brings up treasure. The water, again, may be seen as a symbol for the unconscious and the treasure as the new self one finds when previously used psychic resources are given appropriate expression in one’s conscious life.


The story of the Frog Prince tells of a young woman who is visited on three consecutive nights by a frog. On the first and second night she is horrified, but on the third night she relents and lets the frog into her bed, and in the moment that she kisses him the frog turns into a handsome prince. For Ernest Jones (a follower and biographer of Freud) the story is an allegorical account of a young woman overcoming her fear of sex. For Joseph Campbell (a disciple of Jung) the frog is just another example of the “dragons and other frightening monsters” whose role in mythology is to guard treasure. The frog, like the dragons and monsters, represent the dark and frightening shadow; the treasure is the true self. The kiss symbolizes a person’s acceptance of the shadow. Thus, the result is the manifestation of the true nature of the shadow, as a bearer of one’s true self-hood.

(found on Google images)

6The Frog Prince

So to speak, In Jung’s words, the shadow is a “tight passage, a narrow door, whose painful constriction no one is spared who goes down to the deep well.” One must learn to know oneself in order to know who one is, because what comes after the door is a “boundless expanse full of unprecedented uncertainty, with apparently no inside and no outside, no above and no below, no here and no there, no mine and no thine, no good and no bad. It is the world of water, where all life floats in suspension; where the realm of the sympathetic system, the soul of everything living, begins; where I am indivisibly this and that; where I experience the other in myself and the other than myself experiences me.”


Overcoming the temptations: Projection and Suppression

In order to reach the second stage of individuation one must resist two temptations. First, one must avoid projecting their shadow on to other people. One’s shadow, because it is their “dark” side, may be quite frightening and one may even see it as something evil. One may therefore want to disown it, and one way of doing this is to make believe it is the property of someone else. On a collective level this is what leads to racism and the persecution of “non-believers” (people whose beliefs are different from one’s own).

The racist and persecutors of the “non-believers” are both examples of the ‘them-and-us‘ syndrome, where we unload our “dark” side on to some other group, which then becomes the scapegoat that carries the blame for everything that is wrong in our lives or our society. Commenting on Jesus’s command to ‘Love your enemy’, Jung remarks: “But what if I should discover that that very enemy himself is within me, that I myself am the enemy who must be loved – what then?” The answer is that one must learn to integrate the “dark” side of one’s self, which means accepting it and allowing it to proper expression under the control of one’s conscious mind. It will then cease to be dark, terrifying and hostile and it will enhance the quality of one’s life, advance one’s personal development and increase one’s happiness.

The second temptation to be resisted is suppressing the shadow, which means ignoring it all together and letting it sink back into the unconscious mind (e.g. if Cinderella never realized her shadow, she would still be locked behind the closed doors which represents her unconscious desires to be free). Whatever pain or unease of one’s shadow may cause them, it consists of precisely those parts of one’s total self that one needs to utilize if they are to achieve full personal growth. To suppress the shadow is merely to go back to the beginning, and sooner or later one will be FORCED to come to terms with this “dark” side of one’s self.

Usually, the first encounter with the shadow leads only to a partial acceptance of it, a mere acknowledgement of its existence. It is best to be aware of what appears as the less desirable – the “dark” aspects of one’s personality – because no further progress can be made unless one acknowledges their shadow self. Acknowledgement (awareness) is only the first step.

(above information related to individuation process, phase I “Finding the Shadow Self” was gathered from here: shadow self)

  1. 2. Encountering the “soul image” Anima/Animus – Masculine/Feminine Qualities Within the Psyche

The second stage of the individuation process means encountering what Jung calls the ‘soul-image’, which is one of the archetypal images. For a man this is the anima; for a woman, the animus. The anima is the feminine aspects of a male psyche: e.g. gentleness, tenderness, patience, receptiveness, closeness to nature, readiness to forgive, and so on. The animus is the male side of a female psyche: assertiveness, the will to control and take charge, fighting spirit, and so on.

One’s soul-image (anima/animus) will lead their conscious ego safely into the unconscious and safely out again. A mythological example could be this: When Theseus needed to enter the labyrinth in Crete in order to slay the monstrous Minotaur, the fair Ariadne, with her thread, enabled him to go in and find his way out again. According to Jung’s theory of archetypes (in psychological terms), the labyrinth is a symbol of the unconscious, the monster is the frightening and threatening neglected aspect of unconscious and that has “gone wild”; the slaying of the monster means “taming” that wild, unruly force and bringing it under conscious control. The slaying can be accomplished, however, only by love (Ariadne – the feminine) – only by accepting the neglected thing, and welcoming it into our unconscious.



The soul-image, then, is a mediator – a go-between or middle-man (or middle-woman) – who establishes communication between the conscious ego and the unconscious and reconciles the two. An example of this could be in religion. In the realm of religion there is the psychopomp, the one who guides human souls safely into the underworld; or – in some cultures – the shaman, who not only leads the souls of the dead to the spirit-world and makes the necessary introductions to spirits who will take proper care of the newcomers and get them ready for rebirth, but also carries the souls of sick people to the spirit-world for healing. The underworld or spirit-world is the unconscious. The unconscious has healing powers and by descending into it the conscious self can attain new life.

Dream significance and archetypes of animus/anima

In dreams Jung said that the animus is more likely to be personified by multiple male figures, while the anima is frequently a single female. One might look on the concept of anima-animus as a kind of yin/yang solution to the duality of human sexuality. Anima/animus are products of the long human experience of man with woman and woman with man: as man has opened to his feminine nature, so has woman as a corresponding male side. Anima/animus also act as collective images which motivate each sex to respond to and understand members of the other gender.

With the exception of the mother figure, the dream symbols that represent the soul-image are always of the opposite sex to the dreamer. Thus, a man’s anima may be represented in his dreams by his sister; a woman’s animus by her brother. Some other symbols of the animus are an eagle, a bull, a lion, and a phallus (erect penis) or other phallic figure such as a tower or spear. The eagle is associated with high altitudes and in mythology the sky is usually (ancient Egyptian mythology is the exception) regarded as a male and symbolizes pure reason or spirituality. The earth is seen as female (Mother Earth) and symbolizes sensuous existence – that is, existence confined within the limits of the senses – plus intuition.

Some symbols of the anima are the cow, a cat, a tiger or large feline, a cave and a ship. All of those are more or less female figures. Ships are associated with the sea, which is a common symbol for the feminine, and are womb-like insofar as they are hollow. Caves are hollow and womb-like. Sometimes they are filled with water, which – as we have seen – is a symbol of the feminine, and are the womb of the Mother Earth or vaginal entrances to her womb.

One common representation of the anima is the figure of the damsel in distress, frequently appearing in so called ‘hero’ myth. Here a recurring theme is that of the hero rescuing a beautiful young woman and some cases marrying her (e.g. the Greek hero Perseus saves the Ethiopian princess Andromeda from a sea-monster and later marries her). In a folktale variant of the same theme, the hero wakes a maiden from the sleep of death with a kiss (Sleeping Beauty).


In logical terms, the damsel in distress is the man’s anima, which, because of neglect or repression, is – metaphorically speaking – either ‘dead’ or in danger of ‘dying’. The rescue or kiss of life means that the man has now lifted his femininity out of its dark imprisonment and welcomed it and submitted to it as an indispensable factor in his life and happiness.

After the prince has succeeded in waking Sleeping Beauty, all the other people in the palace – who have also been asleep for a hundred years – wake from their sleep. This may be seen as a symbol of how the ‘waking ‘ of a man’s anima is the first step towards the ‘waking‘ of all the ‘sleeping’ (repressed, neglected) aspects of his psyche

Another anima figure is the seductive nymph. Ondine (Undine in alchemy) is one such nymph. Ondine has no soul, and can gain one only if she can get a man to embrace her. There are many stories of mermaids who lure sailors to their underwater beds. Here we have a two fold message: Man, give life to your anima; but take care you do not drown in your unconscious depths. Find the treasure that is there, then surface again. In other words, maintain conscious control.



A folktale animus figure is the dwarf. Dwarfs and other ‘little people’ work underground in mines, out of which they bring forth gold and other precious substances. This illustrates the way the animus, if cared for and nurtured by a woman (as Snow White looked after the Seven Dwarfs), will bring up from her unconscious many valuable things that will serve her well in her daily life and her quest for self-realization.

(found on Google images)


Incidentally, marriage or sexual intercourse (or a kiss or embrace) symbolizes the union and intermingling of conscious ego and unconscious soul-image. It may also symbolize that complete union of the conscious and the unconscious which is the final stage of individuation. (A third possibility is that, where the anima or animus has not yet been distinguished -‘rescued’ – from the shadow, soul-image and shadow may be symbolized by bride and bridegroom).

Soul-image characteristics

One’s soul-image has characteristics which are the opposite of those possessed by their persona (the self-image one has constructed for the specific purpose of relating to the external world and for ‘making their mark’ in that world). For instance, if one’s persona is an intellectual one, their soul-image will be characterized by sentiment and emotion; and if one is an intuitive type, their soul-image will be earthly and sensual. This means that if, instead of acknowledging and becoming acquainted with their own soul-image, one will project it on to members of the opposite sex, and then may be led into disastrous relationships. For example, an emotional man may choose a blue-stocking for his partner; or a sensitive woman may be irresistibly attracted by bearded intellectuals. If, however, one accepts and integrates their soul-image, it will make up deficiencies of their persona and will help one become a fuller and more balanced person.

(information on Individuation Process, Phase II, gathered here: Anima/animus

III.            Mana Personalities

Stage three is where man meets the Wise Old Man and a woman meets the Great Mother. These archetypal images are symbols of power and wisdom. Jung calls them ‘mana personalities’, because in primitive communities anyone with extraordinary power or wisdom was said to be filled with ‘mana’ (a Melanesian word meaning ‘holiness’ or ‘the divine’).

Manais the impersonal supernatural force which certain primitive cultures attribute good fortune, magical powers, etc. Best applied here as intuitive powers or symbols of power and wisdom that reside in the depths of our psyche. Mana can attract or repel, wreak destruction or heal, confronting the EGO with a “supraordinate force”. To be ‘possessed’ by these ‘mana’ personalities is dangerous and can result in megalomania. When properly integrated the conscious and unconscious complement each other and unfolding of the wise self arises harmoniously.

Jung warns us to be ‘possessed’ by these ‘mana’ personalities is dangerous (possession meaning letting these powers subdue the conscious mind and ignore all reason). For example, a woman who allows her conscious mind to be invaded and subdued by the Great Mother will begin to believe herself able and destined to protect and nurture the whole world. Similarly, a man who allows himself to be taken over by the Wise Old Man (same as the Great Mother but in masculine form) is likely to become convinced that he is some sort of superman or great guru, filled with heroic power or with superior insight into the meaning of things.

These ‘mana’ personalities are symbols of the power and wisdom that lie deep within parts of our own psyche. Like the shadow and our anima/animus, other aspects of one’s unconscious, the Wise Old Man and Great Mother may be projected. For example, instead of making contact with this inner store of power and wisdom, one may choose to disown it and see it as the property of someone else, some national leader or some superman figure from modern mythology.

The right thing to do with the ‘mana’ personality, however, is to neither project it nor keep it suppressed, but to integrate it into consciousness. This means one enriching their life with a wisdom that is not accessible to intellect but comes from the unconscious. It also means that from now on, conscious and unconscious are no longer seen as opposites, but as two cooperating and complementary parts of one and the same psyche.

Jung speaks of stage three as the second liberation from the mother (the first liberation from mother being stage two, when anima or animus is integrated into conscious life). This second and fuller liberation means achieving a genuine sense of one’s true individuality.

Common symbols of the Wise Old Man include the king, magician, prophet or guru and guide. Common symbols for the Great Mother include a goddess or other female figure associated with fertility (e.g. a nude female figure with large breasts, or many breasts, or broad buttocks, or prominent vagina), priestess and prophetess. The words ‘prophet’ and ‘prophetess’ are used here in the sense of someone through whom a god or goddess speaks.

(information for Individuation Process, phase III, found here: mana personalities )

  1. 4. The Self

In Jungian theory, the Self is an archetype that signifies the coherent whole, unified consciousness and unconscious of a person. The Self, according to Jung, is realized as the product of individuation, which in Jungian view is the process of integrating one’s personality. For Jung, the self is symbolized by the circle (especially when divided in four quadrants), the square, or the mandala.

What distinguishes Jungian psychology is the idea that there are two centers of the personality. The ego is the center of consciousness, whereas the Self is the center of the total personality, which includes consciousness, the unconscious, and the ego. The Self is both the whole and the center, while the ego is a self-contained little circle off the center contained within the whole, the Self can be understood as the greater circle.

The Self draws its power exclusively from the collective unconscious; it is trans-personal rather than personal and is not conditioned by a person’s individual experiences. The Self is both: the “guide” of the process of individuation, the regulating center of the personality, and the “goal” of the process of individuation, the symbol of perfect fulfillment of all potential (this is an unconscious goal, not the goal of the conscious ego).

Self Projection: Because the Self is so powerful, it contains both the concepts of Good and Evil. It is only projected onto transcendental figures, either images of God or the Devil, or religious leaders who are divined by their followers.

Possession by the Self: Because the Self is associated with the deepest levels of the collective unconscious, it is extremely powerful. When possessed by the Self, the ego loses control of the personality through positive or negative inflation (literally meaning “blown into”). Positive inflation results in megalomania as the ego identifies with the power of the Self and is carried away by the unconscious.

In myths, this can be symbolized as deification; Herakles, for example, loses his mortal body in the funeral pyre but his spirit is carried up to Olympus by Athena. Negative inflation results in annihilation of the ego, which is completely overpowered by the Self, resulting in a state of complete withdrawal or catatonia (in myths, this can be symbolized as being swallowed up by a monster, turned to stone, etc.).

Integration of the Self: Because of its unconscious, trans-personal nature, the Self can never be truly integrated by the ego. What the ego must learn to do is to surrender its need to always be in control by recognizing the value of the Self’s guidance and deferring to its superior wisdom. In myths this is often symbolized by the ego-bearer’s learning to trust the mystical figures who are directing him/her even when their advice seems dangerous and contradictory. On the other hand, the ego must always maintain a safe distance from the unconscious, recognizing the dangerous power that can never be defeated or controlled.

Symbolism in Dreams and Narratives: Because the Self is the most complex of the archetypes of individuation, its symbolism is the most rich and varied. All symbols of the Self include the characteristics of power and impersonality; symbols of the Self are never peer figures, nor are they strongly individualized, vividly personal, or strikingly sexual beings. The Self may be symbolized by:

  • Persons: an aged seer or priestess, a wise old man or woman, a young child (i.e., the goal/end, or the beginning); the Cosmic Man, hermaphrodite, or Royal Couple; an inner voice, guardian spirit, demon, or genius

(Wise old man, found on google images)


  • Animals: Phoenix (bird consumed in flames and reborn from its own ashes); Uroboros (snake biting its own tail); Totem



  • Things: items that serve as the guide or goal of a quest—the Holy Grail, the Elixir of Immortality, the Star of Bethlehem, the Philosopher’s Stone



  • Geometric Figures: especially counterbalanced and concentric geometric figures, such as the Hindu mandala, or the peace sign.

(information gathered on Individuation process, Phase IV, found here: The Self )

(Winter Solice Mandala by Kristy Gjesme)


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