Are we driven by our need to individuate as Carl Jung believed?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As with every other social theory, there is no black and white answer to any question regarding philosophy and theory. Individual responses to  specific situations are the product of both nature and nurture.

However, it is noticeable that in modern society there is a growing trend for individuation that comes as a result of technological advances and social changes.  These have allowed us to create our own worlds, express ourselves, create more and basically become the unique persons we want to become.

Think about it: Back in the day when cyberspace, blogs, and "make yourselves" were non-existent, the lack of choice made us pretty much quite faddish. Imagine now, in the 21st century with a myriad of chances to make our lives exactly how we want it (from online diet plans to looking for your ancestry, to creating blogs, to everything) it is much easier to individuate than to follow.


Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that Jung would argue that in fields such as learning and education, human beings are driven by the need to individuate.  Jung was passionate about this in terms of how individuals learn.  He argued that the individual psychological experience that is triggered when learning helps to individuate content, whether it is chosen or not.  In the end, individuals have to self- differentiate their own experience of learning and understanding in accordance to their own psychology.  Once learners understand this, the manner in which they absorb and demonstrate comprehension is directly impacted by their own psychological experience.  It is within this realm where the need to individuate emerges.

jhuls343 | Student

The need or motivation to individuate largely depends on the culture one is raised in. America is considered one of the most individualistic countries in the world, hence where our idea of the American Dream and pursuing the individual's passion in life. This differs from a collectivist culture like Thailand, which values Buddhist ideals of detachment, yet also shares a strong community and family ideals; their belief in "going with the flow" tends to lean towards a concept of "groupthink," in that the collective desires of the many outweigh the desires of an individual.

Jung was very interested in Eastern philosophy and Buddhism in particular. His theory of the collective unconscious suggests that there is a common network or force uniting the minds of humanity as a whole. His concept of synchronicity suggests that there is a a-causal relationship between all things, meaning that there is a correlation between the individual and the greater community around them. To put it more simply, there are reasons to want to pursue individual freedom if you are in a culture that values freedom of expression and creative pursuits, whereas if you are born into a culture that prefers to stick to a group mentality within an established communal network then the individual will likely prefer to follow the beliefs and guidelines of their parents, elders and authority figures rather than their own personality.

In our postmodern world, it's definitely becoming more popular to individuate and pursue new modes of self-expression with the advent of the internet and the ability to communicate cross-culturally. There is value in pursuing one's individual passion, but it is even more worthwhile to do it in a way that serves the community as a whole in the process.