The Individuation Problem

Why Being Oneself Is So Hard? The Individuation Problem
di Adriana Tanese Nogueira
Being oneself and being “different” is an idea that gained space in general culture. Accusing someone of being stereotyped it’s considered offensive, for that means trivializing his or her personality, and basically it’s calling such person stupid. Stereotypes are always corny.
However, who dismisses easy talks and ventures into the road of “being oneself”, will soon discover that it’s not as simple as words make believe. This question is the core of most of individual problems, of suffering and social misfits. Comprehending it in a proper way is the first step to face the challenge in a constructive way that moves toward a solution.

“Being oneself” means differentiating oneself from the environment and culture in which one has born, grew and live. It means “becoming oneself”, expressing the unique characteristics that make a person be an individuality and not a clone of a given model. This differentiation occurs in many aspects: in the way of thinking, feeling, understanding, proceeding, choosing, and in the priorities and behavior. It’s easy to realize that it’s something complex that doesn’t happen quickly. This process is technically called Individuation.
“The tendency to individuate oneself is spontaneous, as it is however also spontaneous the contrary tendency, to identify with the ways of behaving of the family, group and society one belongs to, conforming to the environment’s uses and customs in which one lives.”

(S. Montefoschi, 1985, p. 85)
Two conflicting tendencies run through our veins: the one to individuate, being “oneself” and the one to conform to the group rules to stay in it. This conflict of tendencies is often represented by the symbol of the cross that appears in dreams:
A woman looks at her wedding ring and see a “hole” in it shaped as a cross.
A man is in a church, during mass. He’s holding two crosses. Suddenly he falls into trance, it’s seems that he is fluctuating and then he doesn’t see anything more.
In the first dream, the symbol of marriage (the wedding band) carries the mark of the cross. In the second, the dreamer carries his own ambivalence and conflicting feeling plus his wife’s. Being the latter very catholic, his carrying of the crosses assume the connotation of an inalienable condition, a necessary imposition that is so heavy that the dreamer falls into trance, thus turning impossible facing the problem, for he losses conscience.
“Inserting oneself in the human consortium in a singular and responsible way bears accepting the burden of one’s own difference, of one’s own ambivalence and conflict with the external world.”
(S. Montefoschi, 1985, p. 85)
Individuating rhyme with becoming responsible. And for what, exactly? For one’s own conflict, for the longing to adapt and don’t think and for the other longing to change the path, to take attitudes and finally being different from external expectations. This is conflict.
“To carry on this ambivalence and solve it each moment in a personal way it is necessary that the individual be able to preserve his esteem beyond any role approved by the collective.”
(S. Montefoschi, 1985, p. 85)
This conflict has solution, but it’s about solutions created in a personal manner to solve each time defined and precise situations. Stereotyped solutions offer patronized behaviors, like, for example, the much common one that states that in a disagreement of choices or ideas one of the persons simply silences in order not to “fight”. In the individualized solution, the moment, the situation, the people involved are closely looked at, their talk, feeling and reactions observed; the picture is elaborated and an attitude is taken.
This option is possible when the person’s self esteem is able to elevate itself beyond the situation in question. That is, the person must be able to keep feeling her or himself valuable even when in friction with another. Any discord generates friction and has the immediate effect to hit the self esteem of the people involved. How they will manage this inner experience determinates the following behaviors.
“If the esteem is linked to the role one represents it’s impossible questioning it and therefore questioning the given solutions to life’s problems thus renovating them and oneself.”
(S. Montefoschi, 1985, p. 85)
Concluding, we can say that they do exist new solutions for ancient problem-situations. Being able to look closely, to analyze the variables and peculiarities of each situations including our being in that moment constitute precisely the movement toward individuation, or better said, it’s individuating oneself.
Silvia Montefoschi, C. G. Jung, Un Pensiero in Divenire. Milano, Garzanti, 1985.



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