Coronavirus and Self-Individuation — Part One
Before I start, I just want to say that I hope that you all are staying safe throughout this terrible epidemic and that you and your families are doing what they can to help others when possible. It is no secret that this time has been tough on all of us and tougher on those who have experienced loss; whether that be loss of friends, family, business, time or money. These losses are certainly not on the same level, but it still always helps us to relate to one another which is important. Shared struggle is the basis for many of our deeper relationships and rewarding experiences. One study found that shared pain and struggle creates a type of social glue that fosters solidarity, possibly explaining how camaraderie develops between soldiers in war. Hence, this painful time can and will actually provide us with greater cohesion and understanding amongst each other once it concludes.
I believe that this time of self-quarantine and social distancing is a very useful time for all of us to make substantial progress not only on our relationships with one another, but with ourselves and on our journeys towards self-realization.
Self-Realization vs. Self-Individuation
Now what is self realization, how does it differ from self individuation, and why the fuck is it important? According to Carl Jung, one of the fathers of psychoanalysis, self-realization is, well, exactly what it sounds like: realizing that one’s self and ego is separate from the collection of everything else that we can perceive. More than that though, it is the end or realization of the process of self-individuation.
So what is self-individuation? “Individuation is the process, simple or complex as the case may be, by which every living organism becomes what it was destined to become from the beginning” (Anthony Stevens, Private Myths). The purpose of this individuation process is to increase the individual’s consciousness, which allows one to connect the divides in their mind between what is conscious and unconscious, bringing them to a sense of completeness and wholeness. To self-realization.
Individuation could therefore be understood as the drive of the Self to consciousness.
It is raising the Self to consciousness; Jung believed the Self was essentially half conscious ( the ‘ego’) and half unconscious (the ‘shadow’). In the Self’s quest for consciousness we must give up ego inflation — the narcissistic delusion that the ego is the Self, while simultaneously embracing our shadow. Jung saw the ego in service to the Self — its representative on earth. Meanwhile, Jung called the Self the ‘Greater Personality,’ and saw it as a universal sense of cosmic unity.
Jung’s conception of the Self is important because it shows that there are not only two sides to every situation, but each person. We all have a side of us that we want to present to others, but also a side that we try oh so very hard to hide and/or reject. Being cognizant of this polarization within you and doing all you can to learn about it, see how it influences you, your desires, relationships with others, and conception of your ‘Self,’ is key in the process of self-realization, and ultimately happiness. Maybe I’m unique, but personally I love learning about myself and understanding myself on an ever deeper level. Continually learning as much as you can about your ‘shadow’ is rewarding, even when it may hurt to confront some of its contents and make you uncomfortable. So what is this ‘shadow’ anyways??
The shadow is the opposite of the ego; while the ego is conscious, the shadow is unconscious and represents all the personality traits and thoughts that we have ignored, denied, or cut off from ourselves; we have usually done so in order to create our personas, or personalities. Individuals must get to know and integrate their shadow as the first step on the path to self-realization. I will not delve further into the ego in this article, as we are all generally aware of what it is and how it operates.
Being stuck inside, quarantined off from the rest of civilization, is the perfect time to learn more about our shadow with no fear or repercussions.
If your hesitation before was that you ignored this part of you because you were afraid of what others may think, then that fear is nonexistent for the time being. Maybe you love the shadow side of yourself. For some, it could be the crazy, creative, energetic side of you that you are afraid to show around others for some reason. Or maybe it’s an angry side that you fear showing because your persona is that of a consistently happy and positive person. We all have a shadow, and learning to integrate it into our lives in a healthy manner is key to our own happiness and realization of our Self. Through the individuation process, one can achieve positive mental health, while also becoming harmonious, mature, responsible adults. You can step outside of the limits of your ego, and achieve that sense of cosmic unity that Jung calls the Self.
In the second article in this two part series, I will discuss the next step in the process of self-individuation: integration of the animus/anima. In short, the anima and animus are the unconscious feminine part of a man and the masculine part of a woman respectively.
We all have a beautiful duality ingrained within us, whether you are aware of it or not. Our goal should not be to repress this side, but rather to become familiar with it. Find a balance within your own psyche and integrate all aspects of it into your persona over time, once you are comfortable with it.
In article two on Self-Individuation and how the Coronavirus has impacted this process, I will delve further into the anima/animus, and the final step on the path to self-individuation and practical tips on how to bring your ‘Self’ to consciousness.