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The journey of finding yourself is long, difficult, and universal. Be grateful for those you encounter, says this post on ‘Individuation’.
As the New Year dawns, here’s something to ponder over: an exploration of the process of “Individuation”, taking characters from recent movies as examples. This process of transformation is difficult, yet beautiful.
A caterpillar needs to transform into a butterfly to spread joy and beauty – would you rather prefer the caterpillar to stay “as is”, because you fear it will fly away if it becomes a butterfly?
The characters of Alia Bhatt in the Bollywood movie “Highway”, and Kangana Ranaut in “Queen” have something strikingly similar. Both movies start with the scene any Bollywood movie would usually end with – the leading lady is all set to marry the love of her life to live happily ever after. The movie then proceeds with incidents that change her life , and herself – in a way that she can never go back to the once “love of her life”.
Fortunately for these ladies, the transformation happened before they got into their committed relationships. What if it had happened after wedlock? Is it possible that she would have never experienced the “transformation” if she had pursued the “normal life” and settled down with the “love of her life”? To find the answers, I tried exploring this transformation-journey.
This form of transformation is termed as “Individuation”. The individuation process is a term coined by the famous psychologist Carl Gustav Jung way back in 1921, to describe the process of becoming aware of oneself, of one’s make-up, and the way to discover one’s true, inner self. It is a search for totality. It is an experience that could be formulated as the discovery of the divine in yourself, or the discovery of the totality of your self.
Individuation should not be confused with “Individuality”. Individuality is all about “me”, but an individuated person feels deeply connected, and feels responsible to support and serve others and to foster peace, wholeness, and integrity in the world. The process of Individuation is not easy. We grow up under the influence of parental and societal conformity, and we strive to become what is expected of us and conform.
The process of Individuation is not easy. We grow up under the influence of parental and societal conformity, and we strive to become what is expected of us and conform.
Individuation requires one to step out of the mainstream conventional reality, and stand out. It also demands one to be self-aware – come to terms with who you actually are. Hence, it does not always happen without pain.
Usually men are more comfortable with the “individuation” process as compared to women. This is primarily because of the physiological difference, as well the difference in social expectations from the sexes. Women in society are often valued for how well they relate with others, where as its more acceptable for men to stand out.
Physiologically boys individuate easily because as a child, early on, they find themselves different from their primary care taker – their mother- and hence they realize they are a different entity. But for little girls, it’s difficult to identify themselves as different from their mothers as they are the same gender. Because of the early age physiological differences and different social expectations, girls find it more difficult to individuate than boys.
For this reason, often, individuation happens very late in their lives for women. Many young women would find themselves married, and would have become mothers, before they realize and embark on their inner journeys.
…often, individuation happens very late in their lives for women. Many young women would find themselves married, and would have become mothers, before they realize and embark on their inner journeys.
This is what happens to Sridevi in the Bollywood movie “English Vinglish” – who starts questioning her identity beyond her social roles of being a good wife and mother. Julia Roberts in “Eat, Pray, Love” in her 40’s does go through the same Individuation process, but because it’s a movie from the West, she leaves her current relationship and embarks on the quest, unlike her Indian counterpart Sridevi in “English Vinglish” who undergoes the journey within the confines of her conscious obligations to her family.
So the quest is universal but how we approach it might depend on our social conditioning.
It might not happen to everyone, as the pre-requisite to this change is self-awareness. But when this happens, understanding that individuation is a natural process is important. In a relationship, being part of your partner’s quest for individuation is critical to the health of the relationship. When a person successfully individuates, they open up to a new level of emotional maturity.
It’s a human metamorphosis – like a caterpillar changing to a butterfly! Wouldn’t one want their loved one to be a butterfly rather than stay as a caterpillar forever?
It’s a human metamorphosis – like a caterpillar changing to a butterfly! Wouldn’t one want their loved one to be a butterfly rather than stay as a caterpillar forever? Now, if we look back at both the movies we referred to (Queen & Highway) they come out as better individuals at the end and the reason they do not go back to their so-called “loved ones” was merely because these “loved ones” never were part of their individuation process.
In this perspective, who can then be called soul mates?
Elizabeth Gilbert puts it very beautifully – each and every soul who comes in your life to reveal another layer of yourself and gets you closer to your “self” is your soul mate. This could be a friend, a teacher, a parent, a sibling, and for the longest part of the journey, a partner.
Thank God for each one of them!
Pic credit: Image of puzzle pieces via Shutterstock.
Sophia is the founder of Soul Cafe, a mom, a travel and life enthusiast. She
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