In concluding our series on the personality, we discuss Jung’s process of Individuation and how letting go of our personality can lead to new awareness of our true divine nature. In this final episode we share:
- The stages of Individuation and how to identify what stage you are in;
- The mistakes people make when trying to individuate or self-realization;
- Why the ego resists letting go of the personality;
- What the wisdom traditions say about the personality and the soul.
Watch the next Soul Session in this series on our YouTube Channel.
Debra Maldonado 00:07
Hello, welcome to another episode of Soul Sessions with Creative Mind. How are you today, Rob?
Robert Maldonado 00:13
Very well, thank you. Today we’re continuing and finishing up our series on personality.
Debra Maldonado 00:20
We’re talking about the true self, the true personality, who is the real you. Because we talked about personality tests, we talked about narcissism, we talked about difficult people. Now we’re going to talk about underneath the layers of this personality that we call ourselves, I, who are we really? Let’s start with who are we? What is the true self? What does Jung say about this?
Robert Maldonado 00:50
We should say that our perspective is definitely based on a Jungian model. We have that perspective. Then the Eastern wisdom traditions, which from my point of view are a lot more sophisticated in understanding what is the mind, what is consciousness. We’re still playing catchup as far as the West goes, in that regard. We’ll talk about that as well. Maybe a little bit of neuroscience, because neuroscience weighs in on is there a personality, is there a real self in there too, that we can talk about.
Debra Maldonado 01:37
A lot of people, when we first start teaching our coach training or people do our work, they’re introduced to Jung and really surprised that they have a persona. It’s something that we’re so aware of ourselves, but we don’t realize what it is. Let’s talk about what is the persona? How does Jung introduce this topic into modern psychology now that we are able to understand ourselves in a different way?
Robert Maldonado 02:07
He was certainly interested in the individual and how they experienced themselves. His work started with people that had severe mental health disorders. But then, as his work evolved, he started being more interested in typical individuals, people he was seeing in his office, people that would come to him and ask questions, people he would meet in seminars that were interested in the mind, but didn’t necessarily have a mental health issue per se.
Debra Maldonado 02:41
They were just interested in understanding themselves and understanding life. I think in that time they only had churches to ask those questions and to use psychology as a way to understand our deeper selves, because psyche is the soul. That’s what psychology is based on, it’s the study of the soul. Lost its ways in some arenas, but Jung really brought that out.
Robert Maldonado 03:09
His writing is vast, you can find a lot of different views and perspectives in there. But in general, I think everyone agrees on his theory of the persona. He saw the persona, the thing we call personality now, as a role that we play, not so much as a fixed set of traits, but more as a malleable, changeable role that we play as ourselves. In essence, we identify as this role, our persona, and we enact things that we think will match that.
Debra Maldonado 03:58
It’s so funny even thinking about that it is malleable. We have a persona that’s at work, we have a persona with our family, maybe our mother, or parents, or relationship, you have a different persona with your best friend. Then in romantic relationships, you have that persona when you go on a date or when you’re in a marriage. How do you present yourself, what do you reveal about yourself, what’s more guarded and what’s less guarded? It’s never really consistent because we have different environments that we interact in. As a parent to a child we may have a different persona than as us to our parents. It’s a different idea, but it really is creating a defense, to hide how we really feel, to hide our vulnerabilities, to disguise our deepest fears. We protect ourselves with a persona.
Robert Maldonado 04:59
Functionally, the ego, the internal ego, meaning our sense of self within our mind, uses reason and weighs things out, uses the persona to hide behind it. It determines what am I willing to show to the public or to people, to friends and family, and what am I not willing to show. Jung says, a lot of the things that we’re not willing to show, but also to admit to ourselves, we push that into the shadow, into the unconscious mind.
Debra Maldonado 05:46
The shadow, a lot of people think it’s this dark, terrible thing, these insecurities or anger. There are some elements that we push away because we don’t want to be angry all the time. We have that smiley face. But we also hide our brilliance, we hide these things that are so wonderful about ourselves. It’s really about your environment, socially what personality fits in and adapts to that environment. In an environment that doesn’t accept you standing out, that doesn’t accept you speaking your mind, that would go into your shadow, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. The environment created it as a bad thing. When we would do this kind of work, we’re getting rid of that positive negative, we’re really looking at what’s adaptable and non adaptable in this situation. Then we create this persona. We forget that we created these defenses and these patterns, then we go in our life, what people do like this surface self, and be impressed by it and to be happy with it and say good things about it, not criticize it, praise it. We make it such an important part of who we are and our happiness that it leads to so much sadness and so much stress and so much suffering, because we think we have to keep proving to the world who we are.
Robert Maldonado 07:11
That’s part of it. I think, in general, the dissatisfaction comes in according to Jung as we start to get into those midlife years, after 30 or 35, we start to feel “Oh my God, is this all there is? Just keeping up this appearance of the persona, shining it up and making it better, gaining new skills, new potential and all that. People start to feel dissatisfied because, he says, that’s not the aim of our life, we have bigger things to do. But because we’re so caught up in the persona, and society applauds building a persona, we often get trapped in that, and just continuously building up the persona, showing to our friends how great we are, showing to our family how good we are.
Debra Maldonado 08:15
Always keep building it up. We keep thinking “I’m gonna listen to a recording that’s going to tell me you’re good enough, you’re strong enough.” It’s building up that persona even more. We think we’re improving ourselves. But we’re just fluffing up that persona. Which some people need, it’s a stage, but there’s a time where we have to say “Who am I beyond this mask, beyond my human life and the way I’ve learned to basically adapt and condition myself to fit in? How do I really truly be my true self?” That is what Jung called individuation.
Robert Maldonado 08:49
Individuation in Jung’s model means, first of all, integrating the shadow. Which is for most people a difficult thing, again, because there’s usually good reasons why the shadow was pushed away. It wasn’t adaptive. It wasn’t helpful for us in our environment. We had to push it away. It was a survival strategy, essentially, to socially survive, socially fit in, we had to push away a lot of those things. Now to bring them to awareness and accept them as part of ourselves, he says, it’s a moral dilemma that shadow places us in because can we accept these things that we pushed away into the shadow as ourselves.
Debra Maldonado 09:43
It’s all the things that you project on other people, that you judge, that are so terrible, imagine saying there’s a part of that in me, or there’s a part of me that fears being perceived that way. It’s like working through that fear. It’s not like you’re an evil person, but maybe the fear of being an evil person or being perceived as an evil person, you’re letting the world decide who you are. Jung says, the world will ask you who you are, and if you don’t know, the world will tell you. In the beginning of life, the world tells you how to be, what’s good and bad. And now you have to decide, if I ask my boss for more money, am I evil? If I set a boundary with a person that’s not being nice to me? Is that being bad or mean? We start to examine what our motivation is. When we say we’re integrating it, we’re not saying now I’m accepting that I’m evil, but we’re accepting that I’m going to do what I want to do at my choice. And if they think I’m evil, I can’t change that, you’re not triggered by it anymore. You’re just really knowing that you’re making the decision inside versus making the decision from what other people think. It’s such freedom, but it gets such a bad rep. Because people think “I have to embrace my dark side.” It’s actually saying “I’m not attached to what other people think” basically. That really is the root of shadow work.
Robert Maldonado 11:13
Of course, Shadow Work is not the end of individuation. A lot of people talk about shadow work as if that was the end of it.
Debra Maldonado 11:23
Like it’s a technique that you use, and then you’re done with it. It’s just an isolated technique. It’s definitely not, like you said, it’s the first stage.
Robert Maldonado 11:32
Individuation, according to Jung, is a much larger process. It begins with shadow work because you have to realize, first of all, that you’ve been projecting a lot of stuff. Being willing to accept that matures you, it puts you to the test. It’s an initiation into a bigger realm of the psyche.
Debra Maldonado 12:02
It’s taking responsibility for your life versus blaming others. If you’re blaming others, blaming anything that happened to you in the past as this is why I’m struggling, or this is why I feel this way, you’re really giving power to the past and other people to define who you are. Shadow work, even though it feels uncomfortable to take responsibility, it’s not self blame. It’s like I can decide now whether I want that past to define me anymore. That’s freedom, the beginning of freedom. But it is so liberating. A lot of people, when they go through shadow work, there’s like “I feel my mind feels more open.” Jung says it’s like going through a narrow passage, the shadow is this tight, constricting place that we lived in reacting to the world. When you step out of it, there’s no up, no down, no good, no bad. It’s more expansive, and weightless, and boundless. That’s really where we want to go. But that tight constriction is scary to let go. I think a lot of people are comfortable in their patterns. It’s predictable, it’s easy. It’s comfortable, I know where my limitations are. But to say that you’re unlimited can feel very daunting for someone to really step into who they’re meant to be.
Robert Maldonado 13:34
Maybe they’re comfortable for a while, but it catches up with us. Because if we don’t do this internal work, we end up in our deathbed, trying to figure these things out, trying to come to terms with these things. That’s not the place to do it. You don’t have time, you don’t have the structure, the energy. It’s not a pretty sight. I’ve seen many people get to that point, and then it’s too late. Basically, you want to do it. when you’re dissatisfied, when you’re in the middle of life, when you’re struggling and asking these deeper questions of who am I? If we’re not the persona, and not really the shadow, although we want to integrate the shadow. But still, that gives us some mellowing, some coming to terms with our past and our conditioning. But it’s not the self yet.
Debra Maldonado 14:38
It’s more of a softening of compassion for yourself and other human beings because we’re not projecting, we’re not like making the world bad anymore. I have my own destiny, I can create now, I get to start to see that softening.
Robert Maldonado 14:57
The next stage is dealing with what Jung called the Anima and the Animus. There’s a lot of confusion around that because people think in terms of masculine and feminine. To some extent that’s true, he was talking about the masculine image in the feminine image, a man and a woman. But if we look at his sources and where he was getting those ideas from, it’s more to do with these cosmic forces that our individual bodies and minds reflect. If you notice in nature, it operates on this dualistic principle, positive and negative, day and night, yin and yang. These forces are definitely within our psyche as well. He was saying, this second stage of individuation, beyond the shadow, is about harmonizing with the universal grading, the visual and the universe or cosmic, the conscious mind and the unconscious mind. It’s going to show up as symbols as the the mind works on. It uses symbolic language, symbolic code. When he’s talking about Anima-Animus, he’s talking about these cosmic forces that are playing out in our own psyche.
Debra Maldonado 16:35
The feminine, the Anima force of compassion, love, intuition, emotion, physical, the material world, and then the masculine, Animus, is the spirit, the force, the will, the yield, the active force in us. We all have masculine or feminine in us, except we take a persona and say I’m a woman, and you’re a man, that’s my persona. What we’re doing is using both, integrating both, but not on a personal level, like I need to be more feminine, so I need to dress with frills, I need to take a bath and go to the spa, or a guy needs to integrate his feminine by loving poetry or something. It’s much deeper than that, it’s connecting to a deeper force within us.
Robert Maldonado 17:29
I think you hit upon something there. When people are applying or trying to apply these ideas, they’re doing it from the persona side, they still haven’t let go of the idea that they’re not the persona.
Debra Maldonado 17:44
They haven’t done the shadow work, so they they’re still operating on the identity of the persona.
Robert Maldonado 17:49
It hits them as “I have to be more masculine or feminine”, they’re thinking in social terms, not symbolic.
Debra Maldonado 18:01
So that’s really good distinction. Social terms are of the ego and symbolic terms are of the deeper psyche, the Universal Mind. The first stage of individuation is realizing you’re the persona and then entering the shadow. Seeing that, then tapping into the universal collective unconscious, which Jung says is beyond the personal. There’s two unconsciousness in Jung’s theory, which is personal and collective. The collective is like the universal, beyond our human experience, something that is ageless and timeless in us that’s a part of us. Anima is the first step. The next stage is really working with other archetypes and working on an archetypal level, creating, seeing the world and more besides “my mom is mean to me or my ex ruined my life.” It’s more “How do I as a spiritual being create and express myself in the world? How do I recognize my connection to all these forces and archetypes through dreams, through visualization, through active imagination?”
Robert Maldonado 19:20
Here you start to see the scope of his work. And because he did study shamans from different parts of the world, it reflects that element, he’s talking about this transformation that’s going on, as a spiritual process, not just bettering your persona, making a better personality, but really pointing to something deeper and human.
Debra Maldonado 19:53
He said, what connects us, if people didn’t communicate, why do we have these similar patterns? I remember when I was in Denver, probably 20 years ago, way before I met you, I went to this seminar with all these indigenous healers from all over the world, Africa, North America, South America, Australia. They all came together and were sharing their rituals. They were all saying, wait a minute, we do that same thing. How do all these different cultures and different belief systems, different spiritual traditions all do the same thing? Why do they all move in the same way? They may be a different variation of it, but the same rituals. There’s something beyond the individual mind, individual thought, this brain and us that’s transpersonal, that’s collective, that’s spiritual. That’s really what individuation gives us access to. Otherwise, if we don’t go through the process, our persona tries to be spiritual, as we talked about spiritual bypassing. We have these intellectual concepts of spirituality. We understand the rules, they make a lot of sense, but we’re not really having a direct experience. That’s what Jung really brought is this direct experience of universal self that is us. It’s very magical, in a way it’s more magical than some of the tricks that you get out there.
Robert Maldonado 21:18
Let’s talk about the the self because that’s what we’re aiming at here. If we’re not the persona, the personality, then who are we? We can say in this regard that individuation is the way to find out and to realize who you are, the true self in you, as Jung says, or the self in Eastern philosophy, especially the Upanishads, which we consider basically the manual of what is consciousness and what is the mind. Because in the West, we’re still struggling to define definitions. The Upanishads essentially say, there is nothing else you can be except the self, you are already the self. But you’ve forgotten that by over identifying with the ego persona.
Debra Maldonado 22:25
It’s not something that you have to build up to become enlightened, it’s more like letting go of the ignorance that you aren’t already enlightened. It’s like taking the the hands away from your eyes. Vivekananda says, you put your hands over your eyes and cry that it’s dark, but you’re unlimited, you’re the one who’s doing that. We just take our hands away from our eyes, we start to see ourselves in the world and the universe in a different way, our dream life and all that richness that comes with it.
Robert Maldonado 22:55
The idea that we’re not the mind, of course, is a strange idea. In the West, we’re not used to thinking in those terms, we were used to identifying with our mind, and when we think about our awareness or consciousness, we point to the brain, of course, to the head.
Debra Maldonado 23:14
Or even our personality, and our body, I’m my history, my credentials, I’m my thoughts.
Robert Maldonado 23:23
But the Upanishads state very clearly, your mind is just like your body, it’s part of your body, part of the human experience, it’s not your true self. It’s not who you really are, it is perhaps, part of who you are. It’s included. And it’s included in your awareness because you’re aware of your body and your mind. But it’s not the observer who is really there. The true self. It says the observer, the true witness of your body, of your life, is that self. That self is pure awareness, pure consciousness.
Debra Maldonado 24:11
When you’re sitting here listening to our talks, either watching it or listening, there’s a part of you that’s aware that you’re listening right now. Like I’m saying you’re aware, you could say I’m aware. That awareness is who you are, not the actual content of the thoughts.
Robert Maldonado 24:28
That’s the mind. The thoughts, the emotions, the sensations would be your mind.
Debra Maldonado 24:35
We spend so much time trying to fix these thoughts, these emotions, I call it rearranging the furniture. It is just rearranging it again and again, and making it better. I feel bad again, so we got to fix that feeling. We’re just like a cat chasing its tail, or I guess cats don’t do that, dogs do. You’re just caught up in it. It’s trying to solve a problem that’s not even a problem. It’s like a puzzle that you can’t solve.
Robert Maldonado 25:06
You’re looking in the wrong place trying to solve the wrong problem. That would be a good way to put it.
Debra Maldonado 25:11
It’s like golf, you can’t really win at golf because you hit the first ball and you’re already at one so you can never have a zero score in golf if you play. This life is, like Arjuna says in the Gita, like a war I can’t win. We’re in this life and we just focus on the ego, it feels like this war we can’t win. Everyone knows golf, every time you hit the ball, it’s a shot. You can never have zero, you can never have a perfect game in golf. You can never really win. Anyway, it’s a very beautiful metaphor for life. We have to play in it, we have to be in it. But what makes us suffer is like I can never win. I find the relationship, and then it’s getting dull, or I get this job, and it’s not as exciting as it used to be. I have these friends, but we’re all changing. We can never freeze time and everything can be just happy vacations. Let’s go on a vacation. Let’s sit on the beach. Gotta go back to work on Monday, it never lasts. How do you come to terms with this moveable life, this movable person, this ever changing persona, and still enjoy the ride?
Robert Maldonado 26:40
It’s definitely not about pushing it away, not about getting rid of the persona, or making it bad. A lot of people, or some people make the ego the enemy. It’s not the enemy. It’s simply the way the mind works. We all have egos, and we all have personas.
Debra Maldonado 27:00
If we didn’t have an ego, we wouldn’t survive.
Robert Maldonado 27:03
It helps us survive. It’s the way the mind evolved, essentially, in the world. It’s not about pushing, getting rid of your persona, or your ego, or even your mind. It’s about understanding the nature of these things that we call, or that we identify with. We identify with our mind, with our persona, with our ego, and we start to think that’s who I am. The Upanishads say that practice practice of self realization is about letting go of that misperception, finding ways to purify your consciousness, your awareness.
Debra Maldonado 27:55
Take your hands away from your eyes, seeing clearly.
Robert Maldonado 27:58
You gradually start to realize you’ve always been the self, there is nothing else you can be. It’s the appearance that has hypnotized you into believing you are this small, conditioned mind and individuals.
Debra Maldonado 28:18
A question for you is what’s the difference between individuation and self-actualization or self realization? A lot of people heard of those terms. What would you say the difference is? Let’s start with self-actualization because that’s Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It’s the top of the pyramid. What’s the difference between those two?
Robert Maldonado 28:41
If you look at the Hierarchy of Needs, Maslow’s definitely talking about the persona. It’s safety needs, self esteem needs. Then you get to the top, to self actualization. I would say self actualization is similar to individuation. But he’s talking about the social pyramid. How far can you take the persona? if we ask, how do we evolve the persona and how do we make it better? Use Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It will show you how to improve your persona, and nothing’s wrong with that, we encourage people to make a better persona if they can. But when they’re ready to realize the self, to go deeper, to individuate as Jung would say, then the inner journey is what’s important. It’s not so much about building up the persona. He does emphasize you need a strong ego to do individuation.
Debra Maldonado 29:56
You can’t have an ambiguous ego and a persona. You don’t really have a strong identity or strong sense of anything like that. It’s the duality, that rigidness that actually helps the process.
Robert Maldonado 30:08
But it is a letting go, realizing the nature of our persona, that it is a role we’re playing, and there’s something deeper in us to access, to identify with.
Debra Maldonado 30:24
Is realizing the self the same? Because I know in Eastern philosophy and yoga philosophy they talk about self realization. How is that with individuation? It’s closer to the mark of individuation than self actualization?
Robert Maldonado 30:42
Much closer. Jung read the Upanishads, he read the Gita, he read some of the Chinese and Eastern Buddhist texts, Tibetan texts as well. He was well versed in how they thought. He was closely allied with Zimmer who was at that time the authority on Eastern texts, the scholar to go to for those kind of questions. He definitely was aware of the Eastern perspective on the self. I think his aim was to develop because he always emphasized: look for these things within your own culture, within your own soul.
Debra Maldonado 31:32
That’s the key. If you go to a temple, and it’s not really fitting with your western world, it’s almost like you’re going there and learning something that might be very high concept, and then you can integrate it into your life. He found a way to make it more practical and integrative into the Western world. Individuation is a spiritual process. It’s just cloaked in psychology.
Robert Maldonado 32:00
We can certainly say that Jung’s paradigm, his worldview was that human beings are spiritual beings. Whether we like it or not, whether we acknowledge it or not, there’s something in us that transcends our biology. That was his aim to bring out some of the important things that he saw in history, in Eastern and traditional cultures, that was missing in our modern world. He wanted to make a psychology that addresses those spiritual needs, transcendent needs, magical needs, whatever you want to formulate it as. But the psyche set is so vast, and it’s a mystery to us, when we approach it, we’re approaching the nature within instead of the nature without the world. The self for him was the totality of the psyche, the things we know, the thing that we’re conscious of, aware of, but also the things we’re not aware of, the unconscious mind, and the things that we can’t even fathom because nature goes so deep.
Debra Maldonado 33:24
Like history from the beginning of time, from the first amoeba on this planet, and then beyond that, billions of billions of years of the universe being. The idea is that’s always been. We have all that history, and just the creating of the planet and all that within us, that’s so amazing.
Robert Maldonado 33:50
The self, the way he formulated, was very close to what the Upanishads are saying, but of course, Jung was very much a man of his time. He studied with Freud, but was also very much influenced by Schopenhauer. Hermann Hesse was influenced by Jung. But Nietzsche was a big influence on him. Definitely trying to take some of these ideas that he saw in philosophy, in cultures and find them in the Western mind in the context of the modern world.
Debra Maldonado 34:40
Because that makes it more accessible to you. It makes more rational sense than trying to bring in something else and then feel like “That’s really a great idea, but I gotta make lunch right now. I don’t know how do I apply that with this person I’m having struggle with.” It’s like “I’m the self”, and if it’s too general, too high concept, you really can’t work with it in human life, I find the shadow work and Anima/ Animus work and the archetypal work, symbolic work, dream work, all helps us see ourselves in these appearances of our experience that help us realize that it’s a direct experience versus just a high concept intellectual “This is a beautiful idea that we’re so beautiful and unlimited.” It’s like “Oh, I get it.” It’s wrestling with our humanity that helps us realize our spirituality.
Robert Maldonado 35:39
In one of his books he frames it like this. If you buy into this idea that the Tibetans have the good stuff, and we are bereft of knowledge, you’re putting your own mind in a very low place. You’re saying those people are capable of wisdom and great spiritual practices, but I’m not or we’re not. All you can do in that situation is mimic or borrow, which is persona, that’s what the persona does. He says to find it within yourself, even if it’s imperfect, even if it’s not those high ideals that we’re talking about. Finding it within your own experience is much more powerful than presenting these high ideas that are foreign, that are not you. He always emphasizes that individuation is finding those elements within your mind, within your history, within your experience.
Debra Maldonado 37:01
I remember doing yoga years and years ago, and hearing the word “namaste”, and I was like “That’s interesting. The divine in me is the divine in you.” It was a nice concept, but I just didn’t really get it, I was a novice at my yoga class. But you got to take it a step further, how does that really impact my life? How am I living? Am I having relationships where I am seeing the divine in that person? Or am I getting triggered? Am I walking the walk or walking the talk, as they say? It’s about integrating these high concepts into the everyday life. What I think Jung really helps us do in the shadow work is that initiation, the entry point into the big world of our really true nature. To sum up, this has been a great series.
Robert Maldonado 37:57
It’s interesting talking about the personality and the persona. There’s a lot to it.
Debra Maldonado 38:03
We hope you enjoyed it, and we’ll continue on for our next series. If you haven’t listened to all of them, please go back. Don’t forget to subscribe to our channel on YouTube. Also subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Soul Sessions with Creative Mind. We’d love an honest review if you’d have one. Love to have a comment below. If you enjoyed what you heard today, have a question about what you heard today, we’ll answer your questions. So please feel free to drop in a comment below. I think I’ll just leave it with let’s remember our pure awareness. Remember who you are, start paying attention to that witness, like a light passenger that’s hanging out with you. And it’s really that part of who you are.
Robert Maldonado 38:54
See you next time. Thanks for watching.
Debra Maldonado 38:57
Take care. Have a great day.