What role do the ego and group unconsciousness have in Jungian "individuation"?

What distinguishes Jungian psychology is the idea that there are two centers of the personality. The ego is the center of consciousness, whereas the Self is the center of the total personality, which includes consciousness, the unconscious, and the ego... Jungians also saw psychic health as depending on a periodic return to the sense of Self... individuation (Source: Wikipedia - Self in Jungian psychology with interpretive liberties)

Though I took some interpretive liberties, this may be inadvisable for wikipedia.

It'd be helpful to know of aything substantial I could read, that is focused on this question, especially if (and I'm not saying it's the case that) individuation involves the externalisation of the ego.


3 Answers 3


Short answer

The ego, the collective unconscious and the persona collectively help the person to self-actualise and reach individuation through the elements of the psyche being in harmony with each other.

Long answer

A lot of what I am providing in this answer has been put together using my knowledge of Jungian Psychology from my 3 year Psychotherapy course I am sudying at Reading University and information within Wolberg (2013). Anything not referenced here is from the Wolberg book.


Let's first of all define the word Individuation

In the broadest possible way, individuation can be defined as the achievement of self-actualization through a process of integrating the conscious and the unconscious. Once again, any accurate understanding of Jung should come from [Jung]. (Source: Journal Psyche)

Self Actualisation is a term coined by Abraham Maslow with his Hierarchy of Needs, and refers to having a fulfilment and mastery of all your needs from the simplest to the more complex.

Jung, the Psyche, and the Collective and Personal Unconscious

According to Carl Gustav Jung, the psyche is compartmentalised in a different way than Freud proposed. He divided the psyche into

  • a superficial part, the persona
    a social mask assumed by the individual, made up of social interests and sanctions
  • a less superficial aspect, the ego
    which is only to some extent conscious and reflects past-personal experiences, and
  • a deeply unconscious part
    which has within it the collective unconscious and contained archetypes (Creator, Caregiver, Ruler, Jester...).

Difficulties occur when there is a lack of harmony among the persona, the ego, and the collective unconscious. Jung conceived of the idea that baser elements of the soul were present in the collective unconscious, and he characterised these as “the Shadow.”

The psychic reality of the situation created by the psychic images, developed in the conscious, create complexes [e.g. Inferiority Complex] and the issues, and their connected experiences are repressed or suppressed into the "shadow lands" of the personal unconscious.

Jung also believed that the collective unconscious contained

creative fountains of energy. Primitive fears and other untoward manifestations of the unconscious invaded the patient’s conscious mind and created tensions and various neurotic symptoms that were attempts at self-cure. The collective unconscious, unleashed, constituted a source of danger for the person.

The 2 different human characters

Jung also evolved a theory of character, whereby people are divided into two types: introverts and extroverts. The introvert’s interests centred on himself or herself; the extrovert’s interests were on the external world.

A human being, said Jung, had an innate religious craving which powered the need for self-realization. There was, he explained, no retreat from life’s burdens other than to find refuge in spiritual strivings with “acceptance of the irrational and unbelievable.” By experiencing the collective unconscious, an individual no longer would experience personal sorrow "but the sorrow of the world, no longer a personal isolating pain, but pain without bitterness, binding all human beings together.” We are brought “back to ourselves as an existing, living something, stretched as it were between two worlds of images, from which forces proceed that are only dimly discerned but are all the more clearly felt. This something, though strange to us, is yet so near, it is altogether ourselves and yet unrecognizable, a virtual middlepoint of such a mysterious constitution that it can demand anything, relationship with animals and with gods, with crystals and with stars.” These ideas were elaborated by Jung (1961) in his last book, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, a fascinating autobiographical document that explains his relationship with Freud and gives us a broader understanding of the essence and meaning of his work.

Putting it together for psychotherapy

During Jungian psychoanalytic therapy...

an effort is made to explore “archetypes” in order to determine how these imprints contaminate the patient’s present life and interfere with self-development and self-realization (individuation). Bringing the individual into contact with his or her collective unconscious is said to help liberate creative forces that will have a constructive effect on adjustment. Once non-conscious elements are recognized, an attempt is made to guide the patient actively into a productive relationship with the unconscious.


Wolberg, L. R., 2013. The Technique of Psychotherapy - Fourth Edition,
Chevy Chase, MD:International Psychotherapy Institute E-Books
Available free from http://www.freepsychotherapybooks.org

For further in-depth information on Jungian Analytical Psychology:

Frieda Fordham (1991) An Introduction to Jung's Psychology, 3rd Revised Edition,
London:Penguin Books Ltd. (ISBN-13: 978-0140135688)

Carl Gustav Jung (1969) The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious (Collected Works of C. G. Jung)
2nd edition translation in 1981 by Gerhard Adler & R.F.C. Hull. Princeton: Princeton University Press (ISBN-13: 978-0691018331)
exact same edition also printed in 1991 by London:Routledge (ISBN-13: 978-0415058445)

  • $\begingroup$ very useful, thanks. specific to my question, the in therapy the "ego" is "harmonised" with the "group unconscious". that may be enough to work with for now... $\endgroup$
    – user7852
    Apr 21, 2017 at 18:25
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    $\begingroup$ I realise it is semantics, but group unconscious is referred to in Jungian terms as collective unconscious. $\endgroup$ Apr 21, 2017 at 20:51

Quoting not only Jung, but Heidegger too.

With Self ≈ Dasein; Individuation ≈ resoluteness

Dasein, as a they-self, gets 'lived' by the common-sense ambiguity of that publicness in which nobody resolves upon anything but which has always made its decision. "Reso­luteness" signifies letting oneself be summoned out of one's lostness in the "they". The irresoluteness of the "they" remains dominant notwith­standing, but it cannot impugn resolute existence. (Being & Time, GA2, H.299)

This should result in an improvement of the ego, not an externalisation. As for group unconsciousness, as groupishness, that is being put in its place, pretty much externalised or dissolved. Alternatively, and more Jungianly, as collective unconscious (to whatever depth and connectivity), there might be consternation, fear and outrage as St. George grapples the dragon.

He is no hero who never met the dragon, or who, if he once saw it, declared afterwards that he saw nothing. Equally, only one who has risked the fight with the dragon and is not overcome by it wins the hoard, the “treasure hard to attain.” – Carl Jung, CW 14, par. 756

from The Heroic Journey – a Jungian Perspective


Jung (1935) stressed that individuation requires the integration of both collective and personal elements.

from Individuation and the Self

Being with the "they", but not being lost in the "they".


Of my vines 2022 I hope It helps

From the perspective of Adler&Jung. The Self, along with the rest of Jung's archetypes, is already present as the germ of the Ego in the Collective Unconscious. He is immersed in the «ecosystemic dialogue initiated, after conception—the fusion of gametes—, within the zygote». As «everything changes and everything flows», the totality advances within the human and ecological community (environment) integrating information for the emergence of the «Pre-consciousness of the Ego». By assimilating lessons, this «Ego» continues to individualize and continues to become a «Person with Identity» up to the «Consciousness», the luminous sphere of the psyche. Now the Ego transports a large amount of data, «encrypted and indecipherable but efficient», due to its roots in the unconscious. When the time comes, the Ego will say «I am who I am, and you are who you are.» In this very first instant, the Ego is externalized.

Desde la perspectiva de Adler&Jung. El Yo, junto con el resto de los arquetipos de Jung, ya está presente como germen del Ego en el Inconsciente Colectivo. Está inmerso en el «diálogo ecosistémico iniciado, tras la concepción —fusión de gametos—, dentro del cigoto». Como «todo cambia y todo fluye», la totalidad avanza dentro de la comunidad humana y ecológica (ambiente) integrando información para el surgimiento de la «Pre-consciencia del Ego». Asimilando las lecciones, este «Ego» se sigue individualizando y se va convirtiendo en una «Persona con Identidad» hasta llegar a la «Consciencia», la esfera luminosa de la psique. Ahora el Ego está cargado de muchos datos «encriptados e indescifrables pero eficientes», por su arraigo en el inconsciente. Cuando llegue el momento, el Ego dirá: «Yo soy quien soy, y tú eres quien eres». En este primerísimo instante se exterioriza el Ego.

Translated by Google from Sp-En

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    $\begingroup$ Please provide a reference for the source of this quote. $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Dec 5, 2022 at 4:21
  • $\begingroup$ Based on the concepts of Jung's theory, this text has been deductively constructed for a thesis. The work of the therapist community is needed to add empirical inferences. <br/> We know that the zygote, since its gametal conception, is exchanging matter and energy with its environment (its mother, and her environment too). Is its psycho-structure independent or uncoupled from its bio-structures (Maturana&Varela), and consequently Watzlawick's non-communicate 1-axiom false in this case? $\endgroup$
    – clarke
    Dec 5, 2022 at 12:56
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    $\begingroup$ You said, "The work of the therapist community is needed to add empirical inferences". I'm sorry, but it is the responsibility of answerers to back claims with reputable sources, not the community. $\endgroup$ Dec 6, 2022 at 8:16
  • $\begingroup$ Only the community of therapists can make inferences from their empirical work, outsiders can only do deductive work from what has been theorized. That is what I have done based on renowned scientists such as Maturana, Varela, Watzlawick, Jung (of course), and... applying Logic. $\endgroup$
    – clarke
    Dec 6, 2022 at 12:55
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    $\begingroup$ Not my downvote, but re. your statement "The Self ... is already present as the germ of the Ego in the Collective Unconscious". Contrast with : "For Jung, the Self is an encompassing whole which acts as a container." ref. Self in Jungian psychology $\endgroup$ Dec 17, 2022 at 22:19

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