Stacey Shelby, PhD an author, speaker and depth psychotherapist visits us on February 15, 2018, to present on the topic of Individuation: What it Means to Become Whole and In-Divisible. It promises to be an interesting evening with the opportunity for questions and book signing; register now!
A key process in Jungian analysis is individuation. What is individuation and why is it important?
The author’s orientation to this work is through the field of depth psychology, founded by Carl Jung. It is a psychology that serves the soul or psyche. The Greek word for soul is psyche, and study or knowledge of is -logia. Depth psychology then is an exploration of what is going on in a person’s psychological depths, or in the person’s soul. An important tenet of Stacey Shelby’s book, Tracking the Wild Woman Archetype, and depth psychology in general, is the Jungian concept of individuation. One definition of individuation that Jung offered is that it is the process of becoming a whole person who is indivisible—can no longer be divided—as paradoxical opposites become reconciled. It involves becoming our most authentic self, wherein the relationship of the ego to the Self, changes. In other words, the old, egocentric way of life gets reorganized around the Self. For example, as a woman is in the process of individuation—which entails, among other things, differentiation from culture—she is called to explore her authentic, wild and innate: sexuality, relationships, values, and paradigms. As she becomes conscious of the cultural matrix, the dominant paradigm may no longer fit or it may need to be reimagined.
What is alchemy and what does it have to do with individuation?
Alchemy is a complex and mysterious body of knowledge that involves symbolically turning base metal into gold; it is a process of transformation. Simply stated, alchemy is aligned with the Jungian concept of individuation as, in part, it involves becoming conscious of the instinctual sphere. As we lean into the muck of our lives—the hard stuff, the base metal—we engage in a psychological transformation process that actualizes what is valuable, the gold.
Does everyone go through this transformation process?
The depth psychology approach of honouring Jung’s process of individuation takes courage. Some of us simply must do it; the price of ignoring the soul’s call is far too high. Others seem to be able to avoid the path of individuation and transformation—and, who can blame them? The path of individuation is not for the fainthearted. Living—fully and really living—is also not for the fainthearted, for living means feeling the full range of human emotion, coming to accept all of who we are: shadow and all. It means coming to accept others and their so-called imperfections too. It means accepting that, like life, we are perfect in our imperfections, quirks, nuances, sufferings, moods, hurts, and so on; and we have all been dealt some doozies.
Not everyone would agree that we can avoid the call, but we can anaesthetize ourselves by clinging to certainty, medications, and intoxicants to put off answering the call. In relation to Stacey Shelby’s work, to heed the wild woman means that we must endure looking at all of who we are and learn to sit with all of what we feel. We cannot only become receptive to light, love, peace, pleasure, and joy. It seems that the more we relate to the wild woman, the more chaos and paradox we have to become comfortable tolerating; it is the chaos that seems to deepen us into a soulful engagement with the world—at least initially, and later we become aware of what is happening and that makes it easier.
On the Saturday following the Friday lecture, Dr Stacey Shelby is offering a more in-depth workshop, The Eros and Psyche Myth; How it Pertains to the Wild Woman Archetype and How it Can Guide Us Home to Ourselves. You can register here for the workshop.
What exactly is the wild woman archetype?
An archetype is a difficult concept to define, but in short, it is an energetic force that is preexistent and predetermined. As an analogy, an acorn inheres to an oak, just as the wild woman archetype is innate to women. The imprint of archetypal energy is relatively stable and predictable; it is the first or original (arkhe) pattern, model, or type (typos). Archetypes are a priori instinct types, which provide the occasion and pattern for our activities insofar as we function instinctively. The wild woman archetype, then, is the first pattern of a woman—before culturalization or exposure to society. Although it has been around forever, the wild woman was named and brought out of shadow by Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estés (1992) in her best-selling book Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. Something so mysterious and vast does not want to be delimited by definition, but we can think of this archetype as nothing less than the innate instinctual Self and also as the personification of the natural instinctive psyche. She is the soul in women.
What does it mean to awaken?
Many women find that they come into relationship with the wild woman archetype around midlife—something shakes them awake and causes the ground to fall out from under their feet: maybe childbearing, maybe a crisis, there are numerous possibilities. At that point, a woman may struggle and strive to make meaning, to understand, to receive guidance, to wake up! The ego gets jostled about facing challenge after challenge until she becomes conscious of the unconscious—in other words, she awakens to the archetypal forces that are ever acting upon her. After much effort, women learn, ironically, to just be. The aim, if there is an aim, is to simply live one’s life after the hard-won reward of waking up. There is so much wit and wisdom in the simplicity of “just being,” yet it is necessary to go through the discomfort involved in awakening. Ultimately, a woman finds her own personal way of being in the world, and then, with consciousness, she just lives. The transformative journey of individuation is one of paradox and on-going reconciliation of often disparate perspectives; the process impels women towards wholeness and in-divisibility. It is a journey of creating a uniquely ensouled, beautiful life. Engagement with the wild woman archetype offers a way of being in the world that reveres soul, love and beauty.