Individuation in Psychology: Emergence of the Individual Person
The theme of individuation in psychology is crucially important: genuine healing accompanies the discovery of the individual’s unique identity.
Finding your own identity is an individual process, but it’s intimately involved with the collective emergence of consciousness in human societies and human culture. There have been key “hinge moments” in the emergence of individual human consciousness.
Regardless of your view of subsequent American history, one of these key social moments was unquestionably the American Revolution, and the emergence on July 4, 1776 of an unprecedented document: the American Declaration of Independence. This document, proclaimed by a then-emerging nation, was a revolutionary milestone in the history of the human race, and in the emergence of the human individual from the faceless crowd.
Not that the individual did not exist before. She or he had periodically emerged from the murk for brief intervals, such as in the Classical era in ancient Greece.
Yet, for the individual to be acknowledged in the formative document of a political entity such as a nation was a major and bold step forward. The proclamation of the individual’s rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, in our mouths, may often seem as if it is a trite cliche. Yet, in that era, for a society to hold as a foundational principle that these rights were the prerogative of every citizen, placed the individual at the heart of the political process, and was a major development in the conscious awareness of the individual (and, ultimately, of individuation in psychology).
As we sit before this Declaration, with its unapologetic statement that these rights are self-evident and inalienable, it seems to me that we are also greatly challenged by the responsibility that these Rights put on each of us — a responsibility to the Self.
If we each have the Right to Life – How then will we reflect and act — so as to take hold of our lives?
If we each have the Right to Liberty – What then will we each do with this heady and terrible freedom?
If we each have the Right to Pursue “Happiness” – Have we thought in any depth on what it would mean to truly pursue our own “happiness”, or what would give meaning and depth to our lives, in accord with our inmost nature?
I wish American friends and relatives the very best of the 4th of July, and may we all celebrate the value of the individual person, which is right at the heart of /a-midlife-transition .
Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst