Discovering One’s Own Individuality

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Miguel Serrano, a Chilean diplomat and writer, developed a friendship with both Jung and Herman Hesse. Serrano met with Jung a few months before his death in 1961, and their conversations are published in the book CG Jung Speaking:

 

Serrano: I’ve also come to see Herman Hesse. He believes that the right road is simply the one which is in agreement with nature.

Jung: That is also my philosophy. Man should live according to his own nature; he should concentrate on self-knowledge and then live in accordance with the truth about himself. . . .  I once knew an old lady who was very aristocratic and noble, and who conducted her life according to the most exquisite ideas of refinement; but at night she would dream about drunkenness, and in those dreams she herself would become hopelessly intoxicated. And so one must be what one is; one must discover one’s own individuality, that center of personality, which is equidistant between the conscious and the unconscious; we must aim for that ideal point towards which nature appears to be directing us. Only from that point can one satisfy one’s needs.

 

While Jung expresses himself in direct and simple language, the concept he is espousing is far from being an uncomplicated or undemanding thing to achieve. Discovering one’s own individuality is a task that, I believe, takes the greater part of one’s life, and then living out our lives according to that “ideal point towards which nature appears to be directing us” requires a moral steadfastness and willingness to grapple with one’s own frailties that few of us possess. Nonetheless, I fully agree with Socrates that an unexamined life is not worth living. That examination can be a journey of utmost adventure and delight when we set about exploring the hidden treasures that lie within us. But the more difficult path of examining the way in which we betray our own natures and that of others is what people more often leave undone, I believe. If we can bring compassion and curiosity to our own failings, how much more would we be able to reach for that “ideal point” and live according to our true nature.

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About Pat Cochran, Psy.D., Jungian Analyst

Pat is a clinical psychologist, Jungian Analyst, and founding partner of LifeWorks Psychotherapy Center. She has been engaged with Jung’s ideas over 25 years ago, and they have informed her clinical practice in settings as different as in-patient psychiatric care to outpatient individual therapy. Pat is the former Executive and Clinical Director of the C.G. Jung Center in Evanston. In addition to psychotherapy with clients, an important facet of her work is providing supervision and mentoring other clinicians. View profile »