[Text taken from Chapter 11 of Carl Gustav Jung’s Psychological Types, first published in 1921.]
29. Individuation: The concept of individuation plays no small role in our psychology. In general, it is the process of forming and specializing the individual nature; in particular, it is the development of the psychological individual as a differentiated being from the general, collective psychology. Individuation, therefore, is a process of differentiation, having for its goal the development of the individual personality.
Individuation is, to this extent, a natural necessity, inasmuch as its hindrance, by an extensive or actually exclusive levelling to collective standards, involves a definite injury to individual vital activity. But individuality, both physically and physiologically, is already given; hence it also expresses itself psychologically. An essential check to the individuality, therefore, involves an artificial mutilation. It is at once clear that a social group consisting of deformed individuals cannot for long be a healthy and prosperous institution; since only that society which can preserve its internal union and its collective values, while at the same time granting the greatest possible freedom to the individual, has any prospect of enduring vitality. Since the individual is not only a single, separate being but, by his very existence, also presupposes a collective relationship, the process of individuation must clearly lead to a more intensive and universal collective solidarity, and not to mere isolation.
The psychological process of individuation is clearly bound up with the so-called transcendent function (q.v.), since it alone can provide that individual line of development which would be quite unattainable upon the ways dictated by the collective norm (v. Symbol).
Under no circumstances can individuation be the unique goal of psychological education. Before individuation can be taken for a goal, the educational aim of adaptation to the necessary minimum of collective standards must first be attained. A plant which is to be brought to the fullest possible unfolding of its particular character must first of all be able to grow in the soil wherein it is planted.
Individuation always finds itself more or less in opposition to the collective norm, since it means a separation and differentiation from the general, and a building up of the particular; not, however, a particularity especially sought, but one with an a priori foundation in the psyche. The opposition to the collective norm, however, is only apparent, since on closer examination the individual standpoint is found to be differently orientated, but not antagonistic to the collective norm. The individual way can never be actually opposed to the collective norm, because the opposite to the latter could only be a contrary norm. But the individual way is never a norm. A norm arises out of the totality of individual ways, and can have a right to existence, and a beneficial effect, only when individual ways, which from time to time have a need to orientate to a norm, are already in existence. A norm serves no purpose when it possesses absolute validity. An actual conflict with the collective norm takes place only when an individual way is raised to a norm, which, moreover, is the fundamental aim of extreme individualism. Such a purpose is, of course, pathological and entirely opposed to life. It has, accordingly, nothing to do with individuation, which, though certainly concerned with the individual by-path, precisely on that account also needs the norm for its orientation towards society, and for the vitally necessary solidarity of the individual with society. Hence individuation leads to a natural appreciation of the collective norm, whereas to an exclusively collective orientation of life the norm becomes increasingly superfluous : whereupon real morality goes to pieces. The more completely a man’s life is moulded and shaped by the collective norm, the greater is his individual immorality.
Individuation is practically the same as the development of consciousness out of the original slate of identity ( v . Identity). Hence it signifies an extension of the sphere of consciousness, an enriching of the conscious psychological life.