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  • 1: the act or process of individuating: as
a (1) : the development of the individual from the universal (2) : the determination of the individual in the general
b : the process by which individuals in society become differentiated from one another
c : regional differentiation along a primary embryonic axis


The principium individuationis, or principle of individuation, describes the manner in which a thing is identified as distinguished from other things.

The term is used to describe two different (though related) concepts. The first, the philosophical, is the general idea of how a single thing is identified as being an individual thing, able to be identified as not being something else. To give perhaps an overly simple example, it is exploring why it is perceived that a bush is a bush and not a tree; and why it is perceived that that this bush, here, is not that bush, there. This includes how the individual person is thought distinct from the elements of the world, and also how one individual is thought to be distinct from other individuals. The second concept, coming out of C.G. Jung and then analytical psychology, describes the process in which the individual Self develops out of an undifferentiated unconscious. It is a developmental, psychical process, the process whereby the innate elements of personality, the different experiences of a person's life and the different aspects and components of the immature psyche become integrated over time into a well-functioning whole.

According to Jungian psychology, individuation is a process of psychological integration, having for its goal the development of the individual personality. "In general, it is the process by which individual beings are formed and differentiated [from other human beings]; in particular, it is the development of the psychological individual as a being distinct from the general, collective psychology."

'The symbols of the individuation process...mark its stages like milestones', prominent among them for Jungians being '"the shadow, the Wise Old Man...and lastly the anima in man and the animus in woman"'. Thus 'there is often a movement from dealing with the persona at the the ego at the second stage, to the shadow as the third stage, to the anima or animus, to the self as the final stage. Some would interpose the Wise Old Man and the Wise Old Woman as spiritual archetypes coming before the final step of the Self'.

In addition to Jung's theory of the complexes, his theory of the individuation process forms conceptions of a phylogenetically acquired unconscious filled with mythic type images, a non-sexual libido], the general types of introversion and extroversion, the compensatory and prospective functions of dreams, and the synthetic and constructive approaches to fantasy formation and utilization.

Individuation is a process of transformation whereby the personal and collective unconscious is brought into consciousness (by means of dreams, active imagination or free association to take some examples) to be assimilated into the whole personality. It is a completely natural process necessary for the integration of the psyche to take place. Individuation has a holistic healing effect on the person, both mentally and physically.[1]