Jung Individuation in Jung's Personality Research Paper

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42). The competing opposites, material in consciousness and in the unconscious, must be reconciled because if there is an imbalance of power one way or the other, the psyche is off-kilter and not unified. For example, the shadow side of a person must be integrated into the conscious ego rather than denied or sliced away. A healthy personality will not allow one side of the self to dominate the other. They will synthesize competing trends in their personality.

How does reconciliation take place? Hall and Nordby describe it in terms of psychodynamics and the progress of psychic energy. "Progression is defined as a person's daily experiences which advance his psychological adaptation (Hall and Nordby, 1973, p. 73). It is continuous because one's surroundings and experiences are constantly fluctuating. They go on to write:

In order for progression of libido to be reinstated, it is necessary that the pair of opposite functions, in this case feeling and thinking, be united. Thinking and feeling must reach a state of interaction and mutual influence, thus preventing the psychic functions from becoming unbalanced in their development. If this is not done, psychic energy comes to a standstill and the pair of opposites cannot be coordinated. (p. 73)

In other words, from a physical standpoint the process involves shifting psychic energy. Corbett (1992) says the process "is motivated by a need to join with whatever is missing from ourselves in order to enhance the wholeness and cohesiveness of the personality" (p. 395).

At the same time, it is a synthetic and dialectical process mediated through symbols rather than through rational ideas. As Samuels, Shorter, and Plaut (1986) make clear, "That which is capable of uniting these two is a metaphorical statement (the symbol) which itself transcends time and conflict, neither adhering to nor partaking of one side or the other but somehow common to both and offering the possibility of a new synthesis" (p. 151). The capacity to move beyond an exclusive focus on either conscious or unconscious aids the psyche in shifting from one psychical attitude to another. This personality change involves fantasy and symbol. Miller (2004) writes, "Jung describes a repeating process by which the opposites are reconciled piece by piece through the production of a symbol from the fantasy function of psyche and the emergence of that symbol for partial absorption by the conscious ego of the deeper, unknown material to which the symbol points" (p. 49). The process is like a rhythmic spiral of interaction, a conversation in which symbols negotiate between the conflicting opposites. Symbols are thus crucial in Jung's orientation and allow the fusion of opposites to occur.

The transcendent function is successful when opposites are held in tension, rather than one or other grabbing full control. The outcome of the struggle between opposites is somehow a third thing, which moves the personality forward and ushers in a resolution of the conflict. Corbett (1992) summarizes its outcome well: "The transcendent function describes the capacity of the psyche to change and grow toward individuation when consciousness and the unconscious join, revealing the essential person (p. 395). The transcendent function does not result in combination. Out of the difficult engagement comes something new. The process mediates a transition, taking the psyche from one stage to the next. For example, individuation through the transcendent function could lead to the integration of male and female aspects of self. The ultimate result of this psychical labor, which includes differentiation and unification, is personal growth. In this example, the woman may make peace with the masculine animus within her.

Is the transcendent function innate as are the archetypes and collective consciousness? Most scholars of Jung seem to think that it is innate, although it can be coached alone. Wholeness (the self) is not a jigsaw puzzle pieced together over time. Humans are born with it. In his critical review of the transcendent function, Dehing (1993) asserts that Jung sees the transcendent function as not only an analytical method but also a natural function of the psyche (p. 222). Thus, it occurs instinctively, but can also be coaxed out methodically. According to Humbert, "The transcendent function, which plays the role of an autonomous regulator, emerges and gradually begins to work as the process of individuation begins to unfold" (1988, p. 125). We see that it is an innate process that waits for activation through the tension of opposites.

In sum, this understanding of the goal of personality is important because it points toward a way for the self to mature. Maturity is more complex than just giving oneself a meaning. It is not like self-help rationalization. A human must self-regulate and individuate through a complex and continuous process of assimilating the unconscious with the conscious. Jung has given a way to conceive of this process and terms it the transcendent function. If we understand it correctly, it means that life is a constant process of synthesizing these two psychical forces -- the rational and the irrational -- into a greater whole, which is the self archetype.


Corbett, L. (1992). "Therapist Mediation of the Transcendent Function." In M.A. Matoon (Ed.), the Transcendent Function: Individual and Collective Aspects (pp. 395-401). Einsiedeln, Switzerland: Daimon Verlag.

Dehing, J. (1993). "The transcendent function: A critical re-evaluation." Journal of Analytical Psychology, 38, pp. 221-235.

Hall, C.S., and V.J. Nordby. (1973). A Primer of Jungian Psychology. New York: Penguin.

Humbert, E.G. (1988) C.G. Jung: The Fundamentals of Theory and Practice. (R. G. Jalbert, Trans.). Wilmette: Chiron.

Johnson, Robert a. (1991). Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche. San Francisco: Harper.

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Jung, Carl Gustav. (1959). "The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious." In R.F.C. Hull (Trans.), the Collected Works of C.G. Jung (Vol. 9, Part I). Princeton: Princeton University Press. (Original work published in 1934)

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Jung, Carl Gustav. (1960). "The Transcendent Function." In R.F.C. Hull (Trans.), the Collected Works of C.G. Jung (Vol. 8). Princeton: Princeton University Press. (Original work published in 1957)

Miller, Jeffrey C. (2004). The Transcendent Function: Jung's Model of Psychological Growth through Dialogue with the Unconscious.…

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