Individuation, Jung’s 2nd Personality, and the Freak

Individuation, Jung’s 2nd Personality, and the Freak

Consider for a moment the utterly and overwhelmingly absurd nature of our existence.

We send our children to school to learn what? Their capacities or their limitations? What they are capable of or incapable of? I would argue the latter. Here I think one must agree with Freud’s very astute analysis of the human condition that psychic castration is an essential developmental stage. Without the recognition of our limitations we become monsters. One has only to encounter a precocious teenager and extrapolate that into the sociopathic adult such a little monster is likely to become, barring divine providence, to appreciate this.  And such divine providence should it occur can only come in the form of disaster (castration) if it is to be a medicament for the hubris of the uncastrated individual.

If you doubt the wisdom of this perspective you need only look around the world today to see the results of the failure to castrate. The disastrous global fallout of capitalist greed over the last decade. The notion that it’s not only okay but necessary that my net worth or the net worth of my bank/company/institution double every five years, extend beyond the merely impressive, to the spectacular or, if you’re a truly committed capitalist, the stratospheric. This in the face of widespread global poverty is a truly special and perverse kind of hubris.

Or, another example, fundamentalism, particularly of the ilk we encounter today, one which disregards the value of human life, is also precisely a failure to be moderated by any normative paradigm. Another instance of a failure to be castrated.

So then we are left with the inescapable conclusion that a “good education” has a castrating effect on the child. Assting him or her to give up childish illusions of infinitude, or endless possibility, of a world filled with nothing but love, enchantment and wonder. Replacing it with a “rational”, measured, limited, scientific, secular world. A world governed by numbers and measurements, where quantity wins out over quality, where substance trumps soul every time. An education designed to crush the soul, or if you prefer the stupid, antiquated superstition that a soul even exists, and elevate the (rational) mind. Who would you rather your daughter marry, a theoretical physicist or a musician, an actuary or an artist?

Where, we may ask, does such a salubrious education lead? This wondrous modern education of ours.

To a life of great love, governed by the principles of truth, beauty and goodness? To profound and deeply meaningful connections with other human beings? To a life of ongoing exploration and enduring curiosity? To harmonious and engaged social cohesion? To a life filled with hope, wonder and joy? To the experience of sublime pathos?

Well, I guess, once can never discount the power of the human spirit to rise above the sea of prosaic, formulaic, reductive and soul destroying world views. I wager however that such individuals constitute a truly small minority. Here I would side with Kafka, in the struggle between the individual and the system always bet on the system.

Possibly I am guilty of being an idealist with these views. Let us consider some more pragmatic trajectories.

Firstly by virtue of the fact that you are reading this, you are a member of the global population who:

Is literate.

Has access to the WWW.

Have sufficient affluence, education and leisure to indulge in the reading of such a post.

Now I’m not sure of the ratio of the global population that these criteria pick out, but there are one hell of a lot of less privileged people out there. People who do not possess the luxury of reflecting on the existential anguish of our existence. People who are either too busy keeping body and soul together and/or lack the education to comprehend such ideas. Not through any choice of their own I assure you.

But let’s leave the fate of those less privileged than ourselves and reflect on our outstanding destinies.

So let’s assume you swallow all the horseshit they feed you at school. That you contort your body, compact your mind and shrink your imagination to please the man. Where does that get you exactly?

Into a half decent university if you’re sufficiently privileged, or otherwise a second rate university, college, trade school or some such. At what pray tell will you learn there? You will learn a trade. You will learn how to become a productive member of society. Any areas of compromise ideology not sufficiently drilled into by your parents and teachers will be corrected at this tertiary level.

Okay so onward and upward! What comes next?

A job, assuming you can find one. That of course is when this idyllic youth terminates in the profoundly abysmal experience of adulthood, with all its commensurate rewards:

Disillusionment, the idealism of youth is remedied.

Loss of wonder.

The anesthetisation of the soul (whatever survived your education).

Typically lots of routine, mundane tasks that have to be endlessly repeated.

I could go on of course, but by now you may thinking me a little cynical so I’ll stop there. In face of this accusation, like Rust for True Detective in defence of the charge of nihilism, I would say I’m less a cynic a more a realist.  Actually I would describe myself as an optimist. To bother writing a post like this, itself an act of existential defiance, can only be motivated by a high degree of optimism.

Here my hypothetical interlocutor may intercede and speak of the joys of marriage and family life. [1]

Yes married with children. This truly is a great joy – and here I am only minimally ironic. Still it comes at a price doesn’t it? Responsibility, loss of freedom, lots of hard work, undoubtedly a loss of romance, a loss of youthful joie de vivre and so on.

But still worth it, definitely worth it. Provided you are willing to watch the long hand of the clock count down the years of your life. [2]

But that is not all life is surely?

There is so much more to look forward to. Buying your first home – and paying the mortgage. Then slowly but incrementally ascending that ladder of social status, respectability, personal achievement, no doubt dreadfully mediocre – but all the same, one can always spin it a little on Facebook, putting the kids through school – now there’s something to really look forward to, to take pride in, recreating our miserable selves in our children – what a wonderful source of pride that is.  The list of these innumerable joys goes on of course, I only list the highlights here. I don’t want to get into the bad stuff, the really grim stuff.

And all this effort, the daily grind of our lives, it has its compensations, there is always TV, retirement, travel. Well perhaps not so much travel these days, the world being what it is. I reminisce about the time, the time before our time, when travel was actually romantic. These days not so much. Unless you find navigating the bureaucratic minefield of mindless and infinite red tape involved in international travel, full body searches at the airport, traveling cattle class and praying you flight is not on the ISIS radar, fun. Some do I guess, not me.

Finally then what?

Old age, decrepitude, loss of our faculties, loss of vitality, loss of the lust for life and then mercifully the anesthetisation of death, not too soon mind you, chances are there will be a good deal of suffering, pain, humiliation and loss of dignity first.

If you remind me, one day I’ll tell you one the story of the old man who died in an old age home in Old Road. I won’t get into that now, but it is a story illustrates the point here quite well.

Do you get it?

We are fed a world view which idealises reason, but live in an irrational world.

This is a rigged game. It cannot be won on its own terms. Rationally there is no happy ending, it’s a simple as that.

A world and a life that worked on or was governed by rational principles, that made sense, a world where the rewards were commensurate with input, efforts, capacities and sincerity, a world where there was a steady, albeit gradual, evolution toward a more egalitarian, harmonious, humane global community would be nice. This however is not that world.

I suggest we have a good case for a class action against life and our progenitors. Some equitable compensation for being thrust into this absurd situation seems only fair. Or in the absence of equitable compensation, we might suggest to our parents that they shove this gift back up where it came from.

Whilst I make these suggestions tongue in cheek to a degree, trying to counter absurdity with absurdity, there are serious philosophical treatise along these lines. Schopenhauer being perhaps the most well-known.

Nevertheless, in the absence of legal remedy and the fact that the primal father and mother have long since departed what are we to do?

Kill ourselves?

That we are already doing, just by being alive we are of course in the process of dying. Every breath you take is one breath close to your last breath. Some may exit before others but we share the destination with an absolute certainty.

Naturally I have no definitive answer to offer. [3]My own philosophical sympathies are with Steiner (man must complete himself)[4] and Sartre (existence precedes essence)[5] on this point. In other words, there is not nor can there ever be a definitive answer to this question. The radical nature of our spiritual freedom is such that no definitive answer to this dilemma is possible.  Were such an answer to be provided we would be un-free, which really is the only fate worse than this one – the absurd nature of our existence.

I can and will however give you the very best answer I have been able to come up with based on my own philosophical investigations, study of psychoanalysis (most especially Jung) and observation of the human condition.

Every rational system in order to be self-sustaining must contain an irrational belief at its core. An axiomatic assumption that is held to be self-evident and from which the consequent rational proofs are constructed.

In the case of your life, that is and can obviously only be you.

In other words, in order for the world to make perfect sense you must of necessity be in-sensible.  In order for your world to be rational and reasonable, you must be irrational and unreasonable. Perhaps at first blush this seems counter intuitive. Because this post is not intended as a philosophical treatise I am not going to provide proofs to support this claim; you can either accept it or reject it.[6]  Either way my life will proceed pretty much as it did before; yours however may be radically changed if you listen to what I have to say and at least create the reflective space for its possible veracity (i.e. consider that it may possibly be true).

The idea that I lay out here is by no means original. It is at best a systemisation of Jung’s original work on this topic.[7]

Let me lay it out as simply and bluntly as I can.

You are not, by nature, a reasonable phenomenon motivated by rational, normative, civilised principles. This is only something you have learnt. [8] We (i.e. society) have socialised you. And such socialisation has, arguably, been done for good and legitimate reasons, for the most part. It seems better to live in a civilised society, than and anarchistic one. Albeit that such civilisation is sustained by an illusion (a heart of irrationality) which is that life makes sense, when as I have tried to show you, it most certainly does not make sense.

The price however for such socialisation is high. In order for it to stick, it is taught as though it were true. In other words, this is truly who you are (a civilised man) when quite clearly, as evidenced by the world, you most certainly are not civilised. Your true nature is primal, instinctive and motivated by the dark grounds of the unconscious, personal and collective. You are at heart, at essence, wholly irrational. You are by nature a type of freak, at least measured against normative social standards, which idealise a normative construct of personhood rather than who you actually are.

Mythological traditions, such the Western religious practise, seek to externalise the irrational element in the form of the existence God and the angels etc.  If you sincerely subscribe to such a belief, then truthfully, this post is not for you. Religious tradition is an answer to this question – life doesn’t make sense on its own terms, but if you consider life framed by this (insert any religious myth here) then it does make sense.

If, however, like so many in the age of science, in modernity and post-modernity, you have ben rudely ejected from participation in these collective myths, how then are you to proceed?

The only answer is to become your own religion. To treat yourself, your personhood, your values, your desires etc. as a religious phenomenon. To recognise the sacred character of your true nature. To take yourself, your nature, seriously. But in order to do this, you need to abandon, or more properly reject, the determination of that nature by rational principles. You need to be the irrational core, the irrational heart, at the centre of the cosmos.

I claim, if you are able to fully embrace your inner freak, as it were, what was not sensible – the world, will start to make sense. This is the intention of the work we do at The Centre for Applied Jungian Studies, and it was the focus of Jung’s approach to psychotherapy. That is our interpretation of his work and its seems broadly consistent with Jungian psychotherapy as it is interpreted and practised in the world today – at least by the Jungian analysts that still subscribe to the notion of individuation.

Jung himself does not use this term “the Freak”, which we have coined for this purpose, he speaks about individuation[9], the second personality[10], the (big) Self[11] (as opposed to the small self – which is the ego identity, prior to its encounter with the (big) Self and the individuation imperative). For my part as invaluable as Jung’s work is, and I do not use the word “invaluable” here lightly, I have found it necessary to rephrase this idea so as to make it more tangible and hopefully more imaginatively provocative. I take this idea very seriously and so the intention of my work as a teacher of Jungian theory is actually help my students plot a way to individuation, as opposed to merely theorising about it.

With is minimal context then, let me rephrase the imperative I gave you earlier on.

The only way this world and this life can ever truly make sense is if you incarnate your freak. If you live from the perspective of your freak. The freak being fundamentally irrational is not governed and constrained by rationality, ergo the irrational nature of existence is countered, balanced and perhaps even transcended.

What exactly it means to live from the perspective of the Freak is our ongoing work at the Centre. I do not propose to give you anything approaching a complete guide to the Freak here. I will however share some of the characteristics that are essential elements of the Freak, in my understanding at least.

  • The freak is analogous to the second personality.
  • A personification of the unconscious.
  • It is a counter position to your ego identity and ideally you are in dialogue with it.
  • It is objective and transpersonal.
  • It is a force of nature, or one could simply say it is nature; it’s a natural impulse or a manifestation of nature.
  • it is a bridge to the collective unconscious.
  • it is the carrier of your myth and authenticity,
  • It is the path to individuation.
  • it is the carrier of your archetypal impulse.
  • It is Non-rational.
  • Distinct somatic character
  • Distinct feeling-tone
  • Stepping into the freak is captured quite well with the metaphor of stepping into the void, another useful metaphor from Žižek on this is the “catastrophe of falling in love”. Both of these metaphors describe a release from a defensive posture.

 

I list below some posts I have written on the topic you may look at if the idea interests you.

 

http://appliedjung.com/jungian-themes/you-are-a-freak

http://appliedjung.com/jungian-themes/individuation-project

http://appliedjung.com/book-and-movie-reviews/man-on-wire

http://appliedjung.com/book-and-movie-reviews/searching-for-sugarman

http://appliedjung.com/jungian-themes/becoming-a-human-being

http://appliedjung.com/practically/becoming

 

Until we speak again I bid you adieu,

Stephen.

 

 

 

[1] Would anyone really do that I wonder, is the nuclear family still normative ideal? Anyway let’s run with that.

[2] Anja said recently time only starts (its countdown) when your first child is born – and I wager anyone who has children would understand this.

[3] Trust me if I did I wouldn’t be giving it away for free, a seminar with a $10 000 entry fee would most certainly be the order of the day!

[4] Rudolf Steiner, The Philosophy of Freedom.

[5] Jean Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness.

[6] Truth be told in a sense I always knew this to be true at an intuitive level. It has taken me a lifetimes study though to fully appreciate its paradigmatic validity.

[7] One may argue that Jung too was not original drawing on earlier influences, which is no doubt true, but such considerations lead to an infinite regress of little interest to us here. I at least trace my own inspiration back to him.

[8] Naturally some learn this better than others.

[9] Collected Works, vol. 16, par 227.

[10] Memories Dream, Reflections

[11] Collected Works. Vol. 9.1, par. 282

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Comments (10)

  • Bing Samsonite Reply

    Why cant you be humble, or humbled without being castrated? Seems an inappropriate analogy.

    December 12, 2015 at 17:11
    • Stephen Reply

      Being “humbled” is in psychoanalytic terms a form of castration.

      December 12, 2015 at 19:43
  • Stephen Johnston Reply

    What an interesting read! Makes a lot of sense too. TY. I shall be looking at some of the links you put at the end of the article, as a starter to learning more.

    December 12, 2015 at 21:09
  • Barry Payne Reply

    For me its about physical constraints built into the system. Whether you are foraging or planting and harvestimg or crunching numbers you have to eat. Some things needs doing. And your experience while doing them is wholly subjective. (which does tend to the bleh but theoretically it needednt be if you could shift your internals around). For me freedom is doing the bleh but but being able to internally explore and grow and individuate.

    December 13, 2015 at 09:45
    • Ali Reply

      But there comes a time when inner exploration simply becomes a futility. It is like the remnants of a dialogue of the “rational mind” with “the rational mind” seeking to make sense of an inner world that cannot be conceptualized at its most primal depth.
      Even individuation becomes more of an unfolding narrative about what is happening to us at a deeper level, without our full participation in the play of existence. And by full participation, I mean one that include that side of of which we have kept in check so to say, because it cannot be expressed in a manner that is considered civilized. It is the “freak”; the part of us that just knows without concepts. It doesn’t know as in it having what we call knowledge, but it knows all that we really need to know: that we a being who we are.

      December 13, 2015 at 10:40
      • Barry Payne Reply

        Individuation and exploration for me is only a means to an end. Life is to be lived in all its glory and pain. Indivuduation puts wheels on the car that takes you on your journey

        December 13, 2015 at 14:24
  • Leslie Reply

    Love it! Here’s Jung saying it:“All the highest achievements of virtue, as well as the blackest villainies, are individual. The larger the community is, and the more the sum total of collective factors peculiar to every large community rests on conservative prejudices detrimental to individuality, the more will the individual be morally and spiritually crushed, and, as a result, the one source of moral and spiritual progress for a society is choked up. Naturally the only thing that can thrive in such an atmosphere is sociality and whatever is collective in the individual. Everything individual in him goes under, i.e., is doomed to repression. The individual elements lapse into the unconscious, where, by the law of necessity, they are transformed into something essentially baleful, destructive and anarchical. Socially, this evil principle shows itself in the spectacular crimes – regicide and the like – perpetrated by certain prophetically inclined individuals; but in the great mass of the community it remains in the background, and only manifests itself indirectly in the inexorable moral degeneration of society.

    It is a notorious fact that the moral degeneration of a society as a whole is in inverse ratio to its size; for the greater the aggregation of individuals, the more the individual factors are blotted out, and with them morality, which rests entirely on the moral sense of the individual and the freedom necessary for this. Hence very man is, in a certain sense, unconsciously a worse man when he is in society than when acting alone; for he is carried by society and to that extent relieved of his individual responsibility.

    Any large company composed of wholly admirable persons has the morality and intelligence of an unwieldy, stupid and violent animal. (….) Society, by automatically stressing all the collective qualities in its individual representatives , puts a premium on mediocrity, on everything that settles down to vegetate in an easy, irresponsible way. Individuality will inevitably be driven to the wall. This process begins at school, continues at the university and rules all departments in which the state has a hand. In a small social body, the individuality of its members is better safeguarded, and the greater is their relative freedom and the possibility of conscious responsibility. Without freedom there can be no morality. (….) the man of today, who resembles more or less the collective ideal, has made his heart into a den of murderers, as can easily be proved by analysis of his unconscious, even though he himself is not in the least disturbed by it.” C.G. Jung. CW7, 240.

    December 13, 2015 at 14:23
  • Simon Wood Reply

    Great article; thanks be from my version of freak.
    Suggest reading The Myth of Sisyphus, by Albert Camus; ref’s ‘absurdity’. I have also been strongly influenced by Jung since reading a book about him/his theories in Laos in 1998.
    My personal myth/religion I have been very haltingly developing over last 10+ years has irrationality at both its centre & periphery, because it is based on that most eternal of irrationality’s – love.
    I call it philerosophi-e.
    It is clearly an amalgam of the Greek philia, eros, to be dealt with sophia/wisely & the ‘-e’ is symbolic of agape a.k.a a gap-‘e. The 3 loves with wisdom, respectively, love/friend, love/body, love/of god= trinity. The ‘e’ is also symbolic of a spiral, that leads us to return to 1, thus “out of the 3rd comes the One as the 4th”; ‘phi’leroso’phi’-e. However, as Jung noted, the ‘missing 4th’ element is tricky, & this is where I am trying to spiral the 3 loves back into the 1, using agap’e’ so that the 4th is written as 1+, making the whole formulation cyclical One Love…& if that makes any sense then I am making progress…!! Phil also signifies as male, eros ‘the body’, sophi female & a-gap’e’ as the ‘communing of humanity in God’.
    The bsic aim is to ‘re-include’ the body/eros back into philosophy, which what with post modernism etc, has often become (alas, once again) somewhat descending into sophism; e.g. neo-conservatism/neo-liberalism.

    December 15, 2015 at 13:24
  • michael Reply

    even to have balls ..we must humble ourselves..in other words to contact
    our essential ball-ness we must lower ourselves…engage the mind as student of the self…gradually lowering ourselves into this vast field of the more suble
    soul..It takes balls to realize the insignificance of our mind identified self..
    the realization of this moves us into a posture of humility..and a posture of
    humility opens us..makes us available to the wisdom of our own souls and the mystery that awaits beneath all of the surface and manufactured selves..The testicles are the houses of primal presence….the boy lives down there.the history of our own sous…our ancestors and the seeds of our own souls potentials…

    December 15, 2015 at 14:08
  • PsychicKathleen Reply

    I named my “freak” years ago (Grisold) and found that really helpful in developing an ongoing conscious relationship with her. It’s helped me to make peace with her and in time (years and years!) come to love her deeply.

    January 7, 2016 at 19:23

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