Symbolic Life

[Carl Jung on “Adaptation, Individuation, Collectivity.”]


A. Psychological adaptation consists of two processes:
1. Adaptation to outer conditions.
2. Adaptation to inner conditions.

By outer conditions are meant not only the conditions of the surrounding world, but also my conscious judgments, which I have formed of objective things.

By inner conditions are meant those facts or data which force themselves upon my inner perception from the unconscious, independently of my conscious judgment and sometimes even in opposition to it. Adaptation to inner conditions would thus be adaptation to the unconscious.

B. In neurosis the adaptation process is disturbed, or rather we might say that the neurosis is itself a disturbed or diminished process of adaptation that takes two basic forms:

  1. Disturbance of adaptation to outer conditions.
  2. Disturbance of adaptation to inner conditions.

In the first case we must again distinguish two different and fundamental situations:

  1. Adaptation to outer conditions is disturbed because the subject tries to adapt entirely and exclusively to the outside, while entirely neglecting the inside, thereby upsetting the balance of the act of adaptation.
  2. The disturbance arises from a preferential adaptation to the inside.

Equally, adaptation to inner conditions can be disturbed in two ways:

  1. By exclusive adaptation to the outside.
  2. By neglect of the outside in favor of adaptation to the inside.

C. The Energetics of Adaptation:

These considerations lead to the energetics of the adaptation process.

When the libido invested in a particular function cannot be equilibrated by the exercise of the function, it accumulates until it attains a value which exceeds that of the neighbouring functional system.

Then a process of equilibration begins, because a potential is present.

The energy flows over, as it were, into another system.

When, therefore, adaptation to the inside is not achieved, the libido intended for that purpose accumulates until it begins to flow out of the system of inner adaptation into the system of outer adaptation, with the result that characteristics belonging to inner adaptation are carried over into outer —that is to say, fantasies intervene in the relation to the real world.

Conversely, when the system of outer adaptation overflows into the system of inner adaptation, characteristics belonging to the Y^j\ . former are carried over into the latter, namely, qualities belonging to the former are carried over into the latter, namely, qualities belonging to the reality-function.

D. Adaptation in Analysis:

Adaptation in analysis is a special question. During the analysis, experience shows that, barring quite exceptional circumstances, the analysis is the main thing.

There is no categorical imperative, “The analysis must be the main thing”; it is simply that, judging by the average run of experience, the analysis is the main thing.

Hence the main achievement is in the first place adaptation to the analysis, which for one patient is represented by the person of the analyst, and for another by the “analytical

The purpose in either case is to secure trust: the one who starts off with an unconscious mistrust of his fellow seeks above everything to make sure of the personality of the analyst; the other, whose main desire” is to be instructed about the reliability of methods of thinking, seeks above everything to understand the basic ideas.

As the analysis proceeds, the former must naturally catch up in understanding the idea, the latter in learning to trust the analyst’s personality.

When adaptation has been carried thus far, the analysis is generally held to have come to an end for all practical purposes, in so far as it is assumed that this personal balance is the essential aim and demand.

There is, on the fact of it, nothing to be said against this view.

Experience shows, however, that in certain and not too uncommon cases a demand is raised by the unconscious, which expresses itself to begin with in the extraordinary intensity of the transference, and in the influence thus exerted on the patient’s lifeline.

This heightened transference seems, at first, to contain the demand for a particularly intensive adaptation to the analyst, and for the time being it should be accepted as such, though it is at bottom an overcompensation for a resistance to the analyst that is felt to be irrational.

This resistance arises from the demand for individuation, which is against all adaptation to others.

But since the breaking of the patient’s previous personal conformity would mean the destruction of an aesthetic and moral ideal, the first step in individuation is a tragic guilt.

The accumulation of guilt demands expiation.

This expiation cannot be offered to the analyst, for that would only restore the patient’s personal conformity.

The guilt and its expiation call for a new collective function: just as before the object of faith and love, namely the image of the analyst, was a representative of humanity, so now humanity itself takes the place of the analyst and to it is offered the expiation for the guilt of individuation .

Individuation cuts one off from personal conformity and hence from collectivity.

That is the guilt which the individuant leaves behind him for the world, that is the guilt he must endeavor to redeem.

He must offer a ransom in place of himself, that is he must bring forth values which-are an equivalent substitute for his absence in the collective personal sphere.

Without this production of values, final individuation is immoral and—more than that suicidal

The man who cannot create values should sacrifice himself consciously to the spirit of collective conformity.

In so doing, he is free to choose the collectivity to which he will sacrifice himself.

Only to the extent that a man creates objective values can he and fnay he individuate.

Every further step in individuation creates new guilt and necessitates new expiation.

Hence individuation is possible only so long as substitute values are produced. Individuation is exclusive adaptation to inner reality and hence an allegedly “mystical” process.

The expiation is adaptation to the outer world.

It has to be offered to the outer world, with the petition that the outer world accept

He has to be content with whatever esteem flows to him from outside by virtue of the values he creates.

Not only has society a right, it also has a duty to condemn the individuant if he fails to create equivalent values, for he is a deserter.

When, therefore, the demand for individuation appears in analysis under the guise of an exceptionally strong transference, it means farewell to personal conformity with the collective, and stepping over into solitude, into the cloister of the inner self.

Only the shadow of the personality remains in the outer world.

Hence the contempt and hate that come from society.

But inner adaptation leads to the conquest of inner realities, from which values are won for the reparation of the collective.

Individuation remains a pose so long as no positive values are created.

Whoever is not creative enough must re-establish collective conformity with a group of his own choice otherwise he remains an empty water and windbag

Whoever creates unacknowledged values belongs to the contemned, and he has himself to blame for this, because society has a right to expect realizable values.

For the existing society is always of absolute importance as the point of transition through which all world development passes, and it demands the highest collaborative achievement from every individual.

  1. Individuation and Collectivity:

Individuation and collectivity are a pair of opposites, two divergent destinies.

They are related to one another by guilt.

The individual is obliged by the collective demands to purchase his individuation at the cost of an equivalent work for the benefit of society.

So far as this is possible, individuation is possible.

Anyone who cannot do this must submit directly to the collective demands, to the demands of society, or rather, he will be caught by them automatically.

What society demands is imitation or conscious identification, a treading of accepted, authorized paths.

Only by accomplishing an equivalent is one exempted from this.

There are very many people who at first are altogether incapable of accomplishing this equivalent.

They are therefore bound to the well-trodden path.

If they are pushed off it, they are seized by helpless anxiety, from which only another of the prescribed paths can deliver them.

Such people can achieve self-reliance only after imitating for a very long time one of the models they have chosen.

A person who by reason of special capacities is entitled to individuate must accept the contempt of society until such time as he has accomplished his equivalent.

Only a few are capable of individuating, because individuation rules out any renunciation of collective conformity until an equivalent has been accomplished whose objective value is acknowledged.

Human relationship establishes itself automatically on the basis of an acknowledged equivalent, because the libido of society goes directly towards it.

Without the equivalent, all attempts at conformity are foredoomed to failure.

Through imitation, one’s own values become reactivated.

If the way to imitation is cut off, they are nipped in the bud.

The result is helpless anxiety.

If the imitation is a demand made by the analyst, i.e., if it is a demand for the sake of adaptation, this again leads to a destruction of the patient’s values, because imitation is an automatic process that follows its own laws, and lasts as long and goes as far as is necessary.

It has quite definite limits which the analyst can never know.

Through imitation the patient learns individuation, because it reactivates his own values.

The collective function may be divided into two functions, which from the “mystical” or meta-psychological point of view are identical:

  1. The collective function in relation to society.
  2. The collective function in relation to the unconscious.

The unconscious is, as the collective psyche, the psychological representative of society.

The persona can have no relation to the unconscious since it is collectively identical with it, being itself collective.

Hence the persona must be extinguished or, in other words, restored to the unconscious.

From this arises individuality as one pole that polarizes the unconscious, which in turn produces the counter-pole, the God-concept.

The individual must now consolidate himself by cutting himself off from God and becoming wholly himself.

Thereby and at the same time he also separates himself from society.

Outwardly he plunges into solitude, but inwardly into hell, distance from God.

In consequence, he loads himself with guilt. In order to expiate this guilt, he gives his good to the soul, the soul brings it before God (the polarized unconscious), and God returns a gift (productive reaction of the unconscious) which the soul offers to man, and which man gives to mankind.

Or it may go another way: in order to expiate the guilt, he gives his supreme good, his love, not to the soul but to a human being who stands for his soul, and from this human being it goes to God and through this human being it comes back to the lover, but only so long as this human being stands for his soul.

Thus enriched, the lover begins to give to his soul the good he has received, and he will receive it again from God, in so far as he is destined to climb so high that he can stand in solitude before God and before mankind.

Thus I, as an individual, can discharge my collective function i either by giving my love to the soul and so procuring the ransom I owe to society, or, as a lover, by loving the human being through whom I receive the gift of God.

But here as well there is a discord between collectivity and individuation: if a man’s libido goes to the unconscious, the less it goes to a human being; if it goes to a human being, the less it goes to the unconscious.

But if it goes to a human being, and it is a true love, then it is the same as if the libido went direct to the unconscious, so very much is the other person a representative of the unconscious, though only if this other person is truly loved.

Only then does love give him the quality of a mediator, which otherwise and in himself he would not possess. ~Carl Jung, The Symbolic Life, Pages 449-454.