What Is Individuation?

What is Individuation? Carl Jung and the Journey of Self

What Is Individuation?

By: new 1lluminati

It was Carl Jung himself who bought the word individuation to psychology. He began using the word to describe what he felt the central and most important concept in his view of human development.

What is individuation?

Individuation is our journey towards understanding ourselves. It involves becoming the most integrated, whole version of our unique self as possible. At its highest level, individuation is the art of personal transformation.

Individuation answers the question, who are you, beneath all of your social roles and responsibilities? If you took off the ‘masks’, or personas, that you hide behind? Who would you be if you faced up to all your hidden secrets and made peace with your darkest corners? And dared to be yourself no matter how different you are from others?

In some ways individuation happens whether we want it to or not. Life itself pushes us to grow up and learn more about who we are and what we are capable of.

But the process of individuation benefits most from approaching it a quest. That is, if we consciously commit to know and understand ourselves, work on ourselves, and seek to embrace all that we are.

A brief history of individuation

We live in an era where we take for granted that we can learn and grow as individuals for all our our life times, right up to the day we die.

By: mimabahor

But the prevailing view in Jung’s time was that all psychological growth took place as children and adolescents. Jung’s colleague then competitor, for example, was Freud. Freud was focused on how childhood is the root of everything.

Jung came up with his then radical concept of individuation through personal experience. He never stopped working on himself, and he had quite a crisis in middle age where he faced up to many things within himself.

Near the end of this crisis Jung became interested in mandalas, ancient symbolic drawings that radiate from a centre point.

Jung realised that all paths in our psyche lead to a centre point of our unique Self. Individuation is taking the path towards this Self. But a mandala, the path is rarely straight, but tends to leave us feeling we are going in circles.

Bringing the unconscious to the conscious.

The view of psychology at the time of Jung was that we have an unconscious mind where things are hidden. Jung differed from Freud in that he felt there was also a collective unconscious. Part of the journey of individuation is to bring elements of the collective and personal unconscious to light, so that we can better understand ourselves.

Of course nowadays we know there is no part of the brain delineated as ‘unconscious’ but that our brain is a complex series of selective networks. But the concept of facing repressed experiences and repressed emotions is still an important part of personal growth.

Facing up to our shadow.

By: David Goehring

Many of the things we repress or deny are the parts of ourselves we deem ‘bad’ or ‘unworthy’. This is what Jung coined the Shadow. When we find the courage to look at our Shadow we often find it holds gifts, and links us to our personal power.

Finding balance in our psyche.

Jung saw the next layer in the psyche after the shadow as the anima/animus, or masculine/feminine sides. In his era, it seemed to him that men must learn to embrace their ‘feminine’ side and women their ‘masculine’ side.

Of course times have changed, as have ideas of what these terms mean. So it can make more sense to think of finding a balance depending on what traits you find within that are over or underdeveloped. Do you need to be more active/accepting? Rational/intuitive?

Acceptance of self and other.

When facing our shadow and our unconscious mind the idea is to learn to accept and integrate all that we are. We essentially ‘crucify’ our ego, and by becoming more accepting of ourselves become more accepting of others.

Jung said, “Individuation is the one-ment with oneself and at the same time with humanity, since oneself is a part of humanity”.


Jung really meant the term individuation to also embrace the spiritual experience of being human. In fact he connected the individuation process to Taoism and Zen Buddhism, as well as Christianity. Which makes sense, as many people discover by default a sense of spirituality on their journey of individuation.

How can we achieve individuation?

By: Surian Soosay

Nowadays we are spoiled for choice when it comes to self-development and learning to be our authentic self.

But Jung recommended things such as the following as a route to individuation:

Working with archetypes. Archetypes represent universally understood motifs and characters. We all have some dominant archetypes within, and learning to recognise and work with them leads to self-actualisation.

Dreamwork. Jung loved using dreams as the unconscious works with images. So for him, it was a necessary route to understanding and processing our unconscious mind.

Shadow work. Again, facing up to the parts of ourselves we deem unacceptable is necessary to achieve individuation.

Creative play. Jung pulled himself his midlife crisis by using creativity. He began, for example, to build model buildings he did when a child. And he drew mandalas.

Imagination techniques. Jung would encourage clients to relax their minds and let words and images rise, writing down or drawing what came up.

Would you to focus on the process of individuation?

You might want to try working with a Jungian therapist. A more modern type of therapy called transpersonal therapy is another option. It focuses on integrating psychology with spirituality, and is very much about the journey of personal transformation.

Still have a question about ‘what is individuation’ or want to share your thoughts? Use the public comment box below. 

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Источник: https://www.harleytherapy.co.uk/counselling/what-is-individuation-carl-jung.htm


What Is Individuation?

Individuation refers to the process through which a person achieves a sense of individuality separate from the identities of others and begins to consciously exist as a human in the world. When difficulty arises in the process of developing and understanding one’s true self, a therapist or other mental health professional may be able to offer guidance, encouragement, and support.

What Is Individuation? 

One's unique self-identity, which is separate from that of any other individual, develops through the process of individuation. Individuation is ongoing and can be considered both a goal and a lifelong process. 

Carl Jung upheld individuation as an important life goal. In Jungian psychology, individuation describes a process of self-realization—the discovery of one's life purpose or what one believes to be the meaning of life, for example.

According to Jungian psychology, when individuals lose touch with certain aspects of their selves, they may be able to reintegrate these aspects of their nature through individuation.

Because individuation contributes to the differentiation and form of the individual psyche, those who do not experience difficulty with the ongoing process of individuation may find it easier to maintain mental and emotional well-being. 

Though Jung saw individuation as a process that largely occurs in the second half of life, the psychiatrist Michael Fordham furthered understanding of the process as one that begins in infancy—after birth, following the early stages of separation.

Margaret Mahler also helped develop this theory of the process of individuation.

According to Mahler, an individual begins life in a symbiotic relationship with the primary caregiver (typically the mother) before recognizing the self as a separate being and forming an independent identity. 

Early Stages of Individuation

According to Mahler, an infant begins life in a state of fusion. In this state, infant and the mother (or other caregiver) essentially exist as one.

The process of separation-individuation begins around the fourth or fifth month of life with the phase of differentiation, in which the infant starts to recognize the mother is a separate being. The phase of practicing begins around the eighth month.

During this period, the baby will typically gain mobility and start spending time away from the mother. Rapprochement, which typically starts around 15 months, involves the baby becoming aware of increasing amounts of separateness from the mother.

The final stage of this process, according to Mahler’s model, begins around the age of 2 years. At this stage, the baby will typically recognize a sense of personal identity and hold a stable mental representation of the mother or other caregiver, even when the mother or other caregiver is not present. 

When the process of separation-individuation is navigated successfully, a child is typically able to have a sense of healthy autonomy and a firm sense of individual identity.

When parents allow increasing amounts of independence, a child will typically be able to develop a sense of self-confidence. If parents are overly protective or anxious, the child may experience feelings of inadequacy and/or self-doubt.

Additionally, parental acceptance of a child’s feelings is considered essential to the process of individuation. 

Individuation in Adolescence and Young Adulthood

The process of individuating from one’s parents takes on great importance in adolescence. Ideally, a family will allow a child room to grow and explore aspects of identity, personality, and self (within reason) in order to discover and develop (even when this contradicts with what the family might wish for the child).

 When parents do not accept the feelings, choices, or identities of their children, the individuation process may be negatively impacted.

Further, children who are not allowed to experience challenging emotions such as sadness, worry, or anger may find it difficult to learn to know or trust their own feelings and thus, may not adequately develop a sense of trust in themselves. 

Adolescents continue to individuate from their parents as they move into young adulthood. They choose their own schools, friends, hobbies, careers, and travel destinations and make a number of other life choices that may be at odds with the choices of their families and/or what their families want for them.

Those who have successfully individuated will ly be able to make these choices with little anxiety. However, the process of individuation may be challenging to some, for a number of reasons, and making choices that veer from family ideals and values may prove difficult.

An inability to individuate, or the suppression or denial of the true self, can both cause distress and negatively impact the development of a defined sense of identity.

Why Is Individuation Important? 

The process of individuation is considered essential to the development of a healthy identity and the formation of healthy relationships with others.

A person who does not adequately individuate may lack a clear sense of self and feel uncomfortable pursuing goals when those goals differ from the wishes of family or significant others. Feelings of depression and anxiety may result.

Difficulty individuating may also lead to increased dependence on others, challenges in romantic or professional relationships, poor decision-making skills, and a general sense of not knowing who one is or what one wants from life. 

Troubled or harmful family dynamics often contribute, at least partially, to a stalled or unsuccessful individuation process. Relationships with both parents and siblings may have an impact on individuation, and the seeds of later challenges may be planted at any stage of the developmental process. 

Individuals whose parents and siblings offer support and encouragement throughout the individuation process are ly to have a developed identity and sense of self and may be better able to make choices and pursue goals with little anxiety or self-doubt.

Individuation in Therapy

Individuation is necessary to the process of self-analysis and discovery. When the process is delayed, mental health issues and difficulties in personal life may result.

Family dynamics, untreated mental health concerns, and environmental factors might all negatively impact the individuation process.

Therapy can help people who are attempting to successfully individuate by helping them work through these and other concerns while allowing for the expression of aspects of the self that may not be acknowledged in other settings. 

Unsuccessful individuation does not necessarily indicate the presence of a mental health condition but may be a contributing factor to the development of depression, anxiety, stress, or self-doubt.

Characteristics of codependency may also develop when the individuation process is challenged.

Unsuccessful individuation may also appear in the history of many individuals who are coping with borderline personality. 

People seeking help with individuation often find therapy a safe place to share thoughts and feelings and express desires without worrying about judgment or societal acceptance.

Mental health professionals can also help individuals explore potential reasons behind disruption of the individuation process and address any mental health issues, if they are present.

In addition, a therapist can provide support as people work toward being better able to set healthy boundaries, communicate assertively, and develop other skills that allow for the expression of personal identity. 

Case Example

  • Exploring the root of romantic relationship challenges: Daria, 26, begins therapy, reporting difficulties with her long-term relationship. Her boyfriend has suggested moving in together several times, and Daria is anxious about making such a commitment. She thinks she loves Steven, but she expresses worry regarding her tendency to go along with her boyfriend's opinions and ways of doing things. Daria explains further, telling the therapist she does not feel ignored or controlled by her boyfriend but simply finds it easier to let him make the decisions because she often has no opinion about what they eat, what movie they see, where they go on a weekend, and so on. She recognizes this uncertainty regarding her own thoughts and desires to be somewhat concerning. She fears she will become trapped in a relationship where she cannot be herself if she moves in with her boyfriend, and she also admits to the therapist she really is not sure who «herself» is. Therapy helps uncover a pattern of codependency in Daria's previous relationships, and she begins to explore her difficulty with finding her voice, asserting her opinions, and becoming comfortable with her own needs and wishes. Daria begins to see connections between the challenges she has asserting herself at work, with her parents, and in other significant relationships. She proceeds in therapy to develop a better sense of herself as a person who is connected to but maintains a separate identity from others in her life.


  1. Amsel, B. (2009). The Separation/Individuation Process: The Struggle to Become an Adult. Retrieved from http://www.beverlyamselphd.com/separation-transition-to-adult 
  2. Jones, K.A., Kramer, T.L., Armitage, T., & Williams, K. (2003). The impact of father absence on adolescent separation-individuation. Genetic, Social & General Psychology Monographs, 129(1), 73-95. 
  3. Lancer, D. (2014). Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You. Center City, MN: Hazelden Publishing. 
  4. Sarche, S. (2010, October 20). Ask an Expert: Mental health issues facing teens today. Retrieved from http://co.chalkbeat.org/2010/10/20/ask-an-expert-mental-health-issues-facing-teens-today/#.VtYlvrKM9 
  5. Schmidt, M. (2005). Individuation: finding oneself in analysis—taking risks and making sacrifices. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 50, 595-616. 

Last Update:09-06-2019

Источник: https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/individuation

Surviving Your Teen’s Individuation Process

What Is Individuation?

The concept of individuation is referenced in many different psychological theories. The growing independence and autonomy of children—most pronounced during adolescence— is a part of normal development.

During individuation, your child is becoming their own person. They’re developing who they are, separate from parental influence.

Individuation starts in early childhood but is most noticeable (and often most distressing for parents) during adolescence.

If your teenage child has recently become more self-focused, this ly means they are individuating. While this is a natural process, it can often seem problematic from a parent’s perspective. Your teen may have become much more self-absorbed, spending an increasing amount of time preening themselves and obsessing over things clothing and hairstyles.

Your teen may also have become very vocal about their opinions, voicing them without being asked (and with an apparent disregard of how they might offend those around them). In fact, they seem to invite conflict with their persistent disagreeableness.

When you show interest in your teen’s life or ask a simple question, they react defensively. They accuse you of trying to control them, leading to arguments. They rebel against anything that doesn’t suit them, but they blame their new rebellious behaviors on you—even though you haven’t changed how you treat them.

As your teen individuates, you may also notice them spending less time with the family and more time with friends. These friendships are incredibly important to them, even if they don’t come out and say so. Your teen may also be trying to hide their romantic relationships from you, making you uneasy. Your child’s self-absorption, rebelliousness, and apparent rejection are difficult to bear.

What triggers individuation?

You may wonder where your teen’s behaviors are coming from and worry that your teen may be on a destructive path. You may even blame yourself for falling short as a parent.

On the contrary, the individuation process isn’t the result of bad parenting, outside influences, or anything else. It is the natural result of your child’s maturation. Your teen’s behaviors are a sign that the individuation process is progressing normally.

As a parent, you can’t—and shouldn’t—try to stop the process. You may be offended by your teen’s rebellious behaviors, hurt by their apparent rejection, and dismayed by their life choices.

If so, it is essential to remember that the development of this autonomy is preparing your child for adulthood.

The only way your child can become a successful adult is to find and pursue what makes them happy and live according to their own values—which won’t necessarily align with yours.

Why is individuation important?

Teens who fail to individuate during adolescence often unquestioningly adopt a parent, relative, or friend’s traits and qualities. When they reach adulthood, they will continue to align with those beliefs without considering whether they believe in them. As a result, they may experience an existential crisis later in life.

They may wake up one day wondering why they chose the career or spouse they did.

Was it truly their own choice, or were they just doing what others encouraged them to do? They might feel an imposter, become disillusioned, or get depressed.

If they have already invested much of their life in a certain career or lifestyle, they will find it much more difficult to change directions than if they had made these decisions earlier.

Their subsequent attempts to individuate as adults may cause risky behaviors at a time when they have no safety net or parental boundaries to protect them. Individuation during adulthood may also result in more parent-child conflict than what would have occurred during their teenage years.

What we often see when teens fail to individuate are emerging adults that get stuck. They are dependent upon their parents to support them in most of their endeavors. These teens feel as if they are not capable of moving forward and becoming truly independent. They are anxious, depressed, or lack self-efficacy. In some ways, they may feel immature for their age.

When does individuation happen, and how long does it take?

If you haven’t been getting along with your teen, you may be hoping that this individuation stuff is just a phase. It’s true that some aspects of individuation are more distressing than others and that certain behaviors will ease over time.

However, individuation is not a quick process. Technically, individuation starts when you’re born and continues into old age. When your toddler learns how to say “no,” that is an early form of individuation.

A fifth-grader expressing embarrassment when a parent shows up in their classroom is individuating.

When an adult divorces their spouse and redefines what they’re looking for in a partner, that could also be considered a form of individuation.

You should also know that it is very difficult to predict how your teen’s individuation will progress.

The most apparent signs of individuation may show up around age 11 or 12, or they may appear much later. If your child is strongly attached to you, they may not individuate much until college.

Health issues, major life events, and other disruptions can also change the individuation timeline.

Surviving your teen’s individuation

Are you wondering how to improve your teen’s individuation process? Here are some ways you can help your teen individuate safely and naturally (while preserving your sanity):

Allow it to proceed naturally

It’s no reason for concern if your late teen still hasn’t shown many signs of individuation. Just give it time, and encourage the process whenever you do see it. Similarly, you should not attempt to slow the process down if it begins earlier than you expect.

Don’t take it personally

I have had upset parents say to me, “My child is rejecting my religion!” or “They are abandoning the sport they’ve been training in for years!” If something this is happening to you, it is only natural that you would feel dismayed and disappointed.

You may even feel betrayed or angry. In such cases, it is important to remember that your children are not supposed to be carbon copies of you.

If they are ever to be truly happy, they must find their own way in the world (aided by the knowledge and moral foundation you have imparted to them, of course).

Reevaluate your expectations

If you are clinging to the belief that your child will do, achieve, or become a certain thing, it’s time to let that belief go. If you teach them valuable life skills through your own example, they will ly internalize much of that.

However, a child is not a ball of clay just waiting to be formed. They are more seeds that require good care to grow up strong.

You can help ensure your child is safe, healthy, and happy, but they will make up their own mind regarding how they want to live their life.

Create a solid moral foundation

Teens’ tendency to become very self-involved and worry about how others perceive them can lead to ethical problems.

Perhaps your teen is gossiping about other girls at school or engaging in risky behaviors in a desperate attempt to fit in.

You must encourage them to consider the moral implications and consequences of their actions, both now and in the future. At the same time, you must also. . .

Empathize with your teen

You may not care whether your teen has the same cool T-shirt as all of his friends, but you better believe it is important to him.

Understanding individuation as you do, you recognize how important it is for your teen to feel comfortable with their appearance.

If they invest a lot of time in it and get upset at perceived inadequacies, validate their feelings rather than brushing them off.

Encourage positive peer relationships

As long as you feel confident that your teen is in a safe environment, allow them to spend time with their peers. It may feel they spend all of their time with their friends (when they’re not shut up in their rooms, of course), but this will ly subside as they feel more secure in their own identities.

Set reasonable boundaries

Don’t just chalk it up to individuation if your child engages in self-harming, using alcohol/drugs, or taking part in other risky activities. Kindly but firmly intervene by letting them know what is and is not acceptable.

At the same time, leave room for your teen’s growing autonomy by avoiding placing too many rules on them. As they navigate challenges and make mistakes, they will acquire skills that they’ll need as adults.

Learn how to set teen boundaries and consequences here.

Support your teen as an individual

Rather than always providing the answer when your teen encounters a challenge, ask them how they think it should be handled. Bring up possible ethical issues and get their thoughts on them. You can also compliment your teen on their choices and accomplishments whenever you get the opportunity.

Adolescent individuation is rife with change and conflict. If you could use some help getting through your teen’s individuation, consider having your teen come in for therapy.

Our resident teen therapist will quickly build a rapport with your teen that will result in a supportive and transformational experience.

For more information on raising a successful teen, visit our teenage counseling page, or book a free 20-minute phone call with Dr. Jenifer Goldman, our adolescent specialist.

Источник: https://laconciergepsychologist.com/blog/surviving-your-teens-individuation-process/

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