What Is the Individuation Process
Individuation is the psychic process by which one becomes himself, indivisibly, uniquely, a monad, in the words of Jung: one who was supposed to be. It is about the realization of the Self.
Jung discovered this process during his confrontation with the
unconscious, and especially when he was painting the first
mandalas. About these moments of initial uncertainty he even writes in his autobiography. Here are some abstracts:
My mandalas were cryptograms concerning the state of the
self which were presented to me anew each day. In them I saw the self - that is, my whole being...
The self, I thought, was like the monad which I am, and
which is my world. The mandala represents this monad, and corresponds to the microcosmic nature of the psyche.
... The question arose repeatedly: What is this process
leading to? Where is its goal? From my own experience, I knew by now that I could not presume to choose a goal which would seem trustworthy to me. It had been proved to
me that I had to abandon the idea of the superordinate position of the ego. After all, I had been brought up short when I had attempted to maintain it... I was being
compelled to go through this process of the unconscious. I had to let myself be carried along by the current, without a notion of where it would lead me. When I began drawing
the mandalas, however, I saw that everything, all the paths I had been following, all the steps I had taken, were leading back to a single point - namely, to the mid-point. It became
increasingly plain to me that the mandala is the center. It is the exponent of all paths. It is the path to the center, to individuation.
During those years, between 1918 and 1920, I began to
understand that the goal of psychic development is the self. There is no linear evolution; there is only a circumambulation of the self. (Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Vintage Books, 1989, p. 196.)
But as expected, the individuation process is not experienced only by Jung. In his famous book Psychology and Alchemy, he draws
attention to the fact that the psychotherapeutic work
can be interrupted when the symptom is remitted but in some cases it continues beyond the actual therapy.
It seems that the psyche tends towards a target beyond the conscious interests of the ego, located in a dimension about which the ego does not have any knowledge. It is, of course, the
realization of the Self, of that uniqueness we have already mentioned.
This led Jung to look for the elements specific to the individuation process in the case of other people too - patients or close relatives.
The book mentioned above illustrates with the help of dream interpretation this centering process that leads to the Self, in the case of a patient who had no prior initiation in this regard.
We find references to the individuation process in Jung's entire work. However the essential books for understanding this concept are:
Psychology and Alchemy
Memories, Dreams, Reflections
(Both can be ordered from Amazon.com by clicking the titles.)