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  • Real Alchemy: Jung, Psychological Growth & Individuation


    Here’s a quotation from Jung that’s quite brief, but it says a mouthful:

    “The opus (work) consists of three parts: insight, endurance and action.  Psychology is needed only in the first part, but in the second and third parts, moral strength plays the predominant role…”

    Jung is here describing the individuation process.  What he observes is very important.  For him, the process of psychological growth begins with psychological insight into the situations of our lives, but insight all on its own doesn’t really give us much that makes a difference.

    One of the fantasies that people can have when they enter therapy — I know that I had it — is that somehow, I’m going to have some blinding revelatory insight that in one fell swoop is going to shake me to the very core, and that I’m going to be changed forever more as a result.  Jung is quite right: this doesn’t usually happen.

    It’s quite possible to have huge insights that lead us to see our lives in a very different light.  But we have to make them real, to bring what they teach us right down into the midst of our lives.  And that takes some genuine hard work and courage.

    When we have the insight, we have to hang onto it.  That can be quite difficult.  The whole previous pattern of how we have responded in a certain type of situation, what Jungians call the complexes, will work on us to push us back into the rut of perceiving and reacting to situations in the same old way.  It may even be hard to hang onto or to remember the insight that occurred in therapy when we are back in the all-too-familiar situations in our lives.

    This is where endurance is needed. 


    It can be painful to look at our lives and our situations in the light of the new insight.  If I realize, for instance, that instead of my image of myself as a strong autonomous person who independently solves problems, I actually do a great many things that constitute pleasing people, and that I’m unable to say “No” in situations in my life where I need to establish boundaries, it may be a painful realization.  I may not like to see myself that way.  However, if I want to grow, I have to accept that, yes, this is how I respond in those situations.  I have to know that, and to observe myself in the situation, and then I have to respond.

    Finally, if I want to change things in my life, if I want to become more myself, I have toAlchemy 2 for Vibrant Jung Thing take action.  If I recognize that I truly have tended to please people to the detriment of myself in a certain situation, then I have to change how I am in the situation.  I have to be willing to resist my natural tendency to fall into the old pattern, and I have to enter into something new and unexplored.  This is quite possibly going to be scary, and its entirely possible that I might make mistakes, or do things in ways that I might later decide that I want to correct or change.  But to the degree that I can hold onto my new course, it’s surprising how life can sometimes intervene to help me find my new way.

    This is the pattern that is involved in doing “the work”.  It isn’t easy, but, in the end, it can result in a sense of vitality and meaning in my life, where before, things felt only dead and flat.

    My very best wishes to each of you on your individual journeys to wholeness,

    Brian Collinson

    Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga Practice: ; Email:

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    PHOTO CREDITS:  ©  Pavel Burovnikov|  ; © Viacheslav Dyachkov|



    © 2009 Brian Collinson 

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