What about the guilt of having to break promises and commitments, because the individuating self requires we leave behind even things of great value? As James Hollis puts it, “many have stayed in the most abusive relationships because of what they call guilt, unable to understand that they, too, have a calling to their own separate journey. Such a person is obliged to live out this calling even while bearing the burden of the consequences of guilt. The conscientious objector is another example. History may forgive the transgressor, says James Hollis, but society seldom does, and often the individual cannot either.” (Swamplands, 34) I think of whistle blowers here, as well.
James Hollis takes up many of the dark experiences of life as movements towards Individuation. Another example is betrayal - how can betrayal lead us towards the depths of individuation? “To be in relationship, to invest in it trustfully, is to presuppose the capacity for betrayal as well. If we do not invest at this risk-laden depth, then genuine intimacy is precluded. The paradox of the trust/betrayal dyad, then, is that each is presupposed by the other. Without trust, no depth; without depth, no true betrayal. (Swamplands, p48)
“Betrayal stings us towards individuation. If the betrayal is of our existential naivete, we are driven towards the embrace of a greater wisdom of the universe whose dialectic seems to be attachment and loss; if the betrayal is our dependency, we are driven to face where we long to remain infantile; if the betrayal is one of conscious being towards another, we are driven to suffer and embrace the polarities which are found not only in the betrayer, but in ourselves as well. In every case, if we do not remain behind, stuck in recriminations, we are enlarged, more complex, more conscious”. (Swamplands, 50). More individuated.
“The most bitter pill in betrayal, then, may be our grudging recognition, often years later, that we ourselves were part of the collusive ballet which led in time to betrayal. If we can swallow such a bitter pill, we will have a much larger sense of our shadow. We will not always like what we are summoned to acknowledge. As Jung said, ‘the experience of the Self is often a defeat for the ego.’(C.G.Jung Mysterium Coniunctionis, CW 14, par.778). In describing his own descent into his unconscious in the second decade of last century, Jung tells us how he was forced repeatedly to say, ‘Here is another thing you did not know about yourself.’ (C.G.Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p183). But from such a bitter herb does much consciousness evolve”. (Swamplands, p50).
James Hollis goes on to say, “Jung’s concept of individuation, the idea that the purpose of life is to serve the mystery through becoming an individual, is a profound contribution to our time”. Individuation obliges an ongoing dialogue between ego and the Self. Out of their exchange the splits of the sundered psyche may partially heal. A functional definition of the Self, then, would be the archetype of order within us. That is to say, the Self is an activity of psyche whose function is to further the development of the individual. The Self is both purpose and container. Psyche or soul, then, is simply our word for the mysterious process through which we experience the movement towards meaning.” (Swamplands, p12)