A Beginning

The Masks
The Masks

I mentioned in my post yesterday that one method of self discovery is understanding how we interact and assign meaning to certain archetypes. A name for this journey is individuation. Individuation is a spirit journey, “the process by which a person becomes a psychological ‘in-dividual,’ that is, a separate, indivisible unity or whole” (Jung).

C.G. Jung underwent a series of self-examinations during a three-year period (1913 – 1916), using creative methodology to find his personal myth. This process of individuation he collected and later put together in one folio he called Liber Novus, better known as The Red Book.

The process he underwent was a deeply personal one, and during that time he continued his professional work, developing his theories on the psychological types introvert and extrovert; and later, partially due to his personal exploration, the idea of archetypes and the collective unconsciousness.

I say we undertake a journey of our own, going through the different archetypes and exploring how we view them. Let’s start at the beginning and work through how each archetype gives us clues as to what is True for us (understanding that Truth is not a singular construct).

Before we get started, however, let me break down some terminology.

Collective Unconscious

“A more or less superficial layer of the unconscious is undoubtedly personal. I call it the personal unconscious. But this personal unconscious rests upon a deeper layer, which does not derive from personal experience and is not a personal acquisition but is inborn. This deeper layer I call the collective unconscious. I have chosen the term ‘collective’ because this part of the unconscious is not individual but universal; in contrast to the personal psyche, it has contents and modes of behavior that are more or less the same everywhere and in all individuals. It is, in other words, identical in all men and thus constitutes a common psychic substrate of a suprapersonal nature which is present in every one of us” (Jung).

This is the home place of archetypes as Jung explained it.

…and just to reiterate.


Ancient mythologies, religious texts, fairy tales and modern media all deal with the SAME kind of forms and images that appear to transcend time and place. Jung says the “archetype is essentially an unconscious content that is altered by becoming conscious and by being perceived, and it takes colour from the individual consciousness in which it happens to appear.”

Archetypes have no inherent meaning, the viewer (the subject, us) assigns meaning, but we know them when we see them. Most anyone has and does attach meaning to the concept of “mother,” “hero,” or “trickster.”  Jung used archetypes in his work with patients, having them “converse” with different archetypes as a way of reducing their psychosis in the way of an alchemist reducing metals into their pure form. He called this active imagination.



“The persona is a complicated system of relations between individual consciousness and society, fittingly enough a kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and, on the other, to conceal the true nature of the individual… Society expects, and indeed must expect, every individual to play the part assigned to him as perfectly as possible…” (Jung).

The persona, the mask, is an essential aspect of society’s health. We must play roles; neurosis develops when those roles overtake the individual self. The Mask has always existed as a Role(s) that is required. We, through interaction and social pressure, assign meaning to the universal image. Often times this meaning is in the form of our gender-based identity as a male or female.


“It is a well-known fact that sex is determined by a majority of male or female genes, as the case may be. But the minority of genes belonging to the other sex does not simply disappear. A man therefore has in him a feminine side, an unconscious feminine figure – a fact of which he is generally quite unaware. I may take it as known that I have called this figure the ‘anima,’ and its counterpart in a woman the ‘animus'” (Jung).

In correlation and intertwining with the idea of the persona, is the idea that we encompass both the masculine and feminine. Like the idea of yin/yang, we combine the male and female to create an individual structure, SEPARATE, from the persona that we present to the world.

The anima/animus are those flashes of “otherness” that take hold on occasion, those quick feelings that are opposite of how we would normally act. Our anima/animus present themselves in dreams (day or sleeping) and in bursts of energy, thought, or even vocalization that is at direct odds to how you would normally act.  

Where to Go From Here

With the persona and the anima/animus in hand, where should we start our exploration, or more specifically, where am I going to start my journey? My persona and my animus are linked, pieces of identity, but as I have talked so much about social expectations and what I am versus what is expected of me, I think I am going to start with the masks… the persona.

This should be interesting.

Where is your jumping off point?

2 thoughts on “A Beginning

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