Jung (1977) rightly points out that our society prepares its youth for
the first half of life in terms of a proper education, but provides little for
the middle-aged to prepare them for the second half of life (he notes that a key
exception is religion for those who accept it). He calls the first half of life
the natural phase, and the second half the cultural phase.
The transition between these two phases is difficult for most people, and
problems often occur during this “dangerous age.” “What youth found and
must find outside, the man of life’s afternoon must find within himself”
(Jung, 1977, p. 74). The tasks of the first half of life are external having
largely to do with establishing a family and career. The tasks of the second
half of life are internal having largely to do with finding meaning in our life
and in our death.
Jung calls the main task that we face during the second half of our life
the individuation process, an open-ended process of psychological maturity.
Jung’s individuation is in fact similar, if not identical, to Maslow’s
(1968, 1971) self-actualization.
Modern psychology addresses successful
aging as measured by:
a. Preservation of good mental and physical health.
b. Vitality (maintenance of active engagement in life).
c. Resilience (ability to bounce back from stressors and setbacks).
Two other modes of aging are normal
aging and pathological aging. (Hock, 1997; Maddox, 1987). Normal aging allows
for some mental and physical problems, and some loss in vitality and resilience.
Pathological aging occurs with the lack of health, vitality, resilience,
or happiness and often includes such problem areas as depression and insomnia,
which are prevalent in today’s elderly. Pathological aging may also result
from a lack of meaning. Pathological aging may be a result of a lack of meaning.
“The absence of meaning in life plays a crucial role in the aetiology of
neurosis” (Jaffè, 1984, p. 12).
Successful aging may be the result of finding meaning in life (Frankl,
1984, 1988; Jaffé, 1984; Maslow, 1968). Meaning is subjective and difficult to
measure, yet closely allied with happiness.
There is no objectively valid
answer to the question of meaning; for, besides objective thinking, subjective
valuation also plays its part. (Jaffè, 1984, p. 12)
Hillman (1979) quotes the Jungian Aniela Jaffé as once saying “The
psychological path of individuation is ultimately a preparation for death” (p.
89). But what is individuation? It is a process of maturation in which the
psyche ages or matures in much the same manner as the physical body. The general
guidelines are summarized by Jacobi (1973) as consisting of four parts:
Becoming conscious of the shadow. The shadow is our dark side, containing
those things that we have repressed or ignored for one reason or another. It
usually manifests to us in dreams as an archetypal figure who is dark and
ominous. Just as the persona is that part of us that we want to present to the
world, so the shadow contains those things that we want to hide from the world,
and from ourselves. This dark side of ourselves must be confronted and accepted,
at least in part, as the first step in the individuation process. Johnson (1991)
emphasizes the need to acknowledge and accept our shadow in order to become a
whole and complete person.
Becoming conscious of the anima or animus. Basically, the anima is the
feminine soul or inner femininity of every man, and the animus is the inner
masculinity of every women. The individuation process is, above everything else,
a process of wholeness. This includes sexual completeness. Jung (1978) wrote
that the anima and animus represent “functions which filter the contents of
the collective unconscious through to the conscious mind” (p.20). Thus when
the ego seeks to find the inner Self, it must look through the anima or animus,
which colors its perception in many different ways. Edinger (1995) distinguishes
four separate progressive states of maturation in the ego’s relation to the
anima: (1) the infantile state, in
which the ego is totally unaware of the anima or animus, (2) the projected
state, in which the anima or animus is projected outward into people of the
opposite sex, (3) the possessed state, in which the ego is possessed or governed
by the anima or animus, and (4) the conscious state, in which the ego becomes
conscious of the anima or animus.
Becoming conscious of the archetypal spirit. This archetype, as I noted
above, is often represented in fairy tales as the wise old man, especially for
men. For women, it often takes the form of Magna
Mater, the great earth mother. The individuation process is primarily one of
uniting opposites. In the first step, we unite good and evil and try to see
ourselves as capable of both. Eastern religions often symbolize this with the
lotus, which has its roots below in the dirty mud and its flower in the clean
air above. In the second, we see ourselves as containing both masculine and
feminine characteristics. Now we must unite matter and spirit, form and
formlessness, body and psyche. Jung (1990) called the archetypes of spirit and
matter “mana-personalities” where mana means extraordinary power. In part,
this step includes liberation of a man from his father, and of a women from her
mother leading, in both cases, to true individuality.
Becoming conscious of the Self. Jung called this final step self-realization--
“We could therefore translate individuation as “coming to selfhood” or
“self-realization”“ (Jung, 1977, p. 173). Jacobi (1973) says “For the
conscious personality the birth of the self means a shift in its psychic centre,
and consequently an entirely different attitude toward, and view of, life--in
other words a ‘transformation’ in the fullest sense of the word” (p. 127).
The Self is often symbolized by a circle or mandala, glyphs which represent
completeness. Each step of the individuation process has its dangers that must
be avoided, and each has its rewards. He (1978) warns that individuation is an
ongoing endless process, and that as it progresses, the chief danger is an
inflation of the ego.
Jung’s (1978) individuation is similar, if not identical, to the
self-actualization of Maslow (1968; 1971). But why does the ego need to approach
the Self, if it is to all end in death? Jung (1991) says “The psyche itself,
in relation to consciousness, is pre-existent and transcendent “ (p. 91). So,
while the ego is born, grows, and dies, in the same way as the body, the psyche
itself, and especially the Self, is not under the same limitations. Jung’s
eternal archetypal Self is probably the chief subject of disagreement with other
psychologists, and one reason why mainstream materialistic psychologists fail to
take him seriously. He is, however, taken seriously by today’s transpersonal