Rediscovering the Authentic Self: Jung’s Concept of Individuation in Depth Psychology

In his fascinating book, Coming to our Senses, historian and social critic Morris Berman introduces the terms alienation or confiscation as a “rupture in the continuum of life.” Alienation is experienced as the feeling of an abyss where a sense of self or self-identity is missing or where the self does not feel safe. Many psychologists have speculated that this abyss or gap in the experience of the self may be increased or intensified by a lack of positive mirroring in the infancy stage.

Mirroring, which Berman defines as “the growth of self-recognition through the medium of other people” includes both the touch and gaze of others. Donald Winnicott, a British psychoanalyst, pediatrician, and pioneer in the clinical research of mirroring, developed object relations, the understanding of our separate self, or ego self, in relation to other objects or people around us. He suggested it starts at the time of birth because the infant develops his sense of identity based on what he sees mirrored back to him in his mother’s face. Thus, the quality of the mirroring experience from the mother figure is an important factor in a child’s growing sense of identity or self.

Because, as infants, virtually every one of us found ourselves wanting in some way--perhaps yearning for our caretaker who wasn’t physically available one hundred percent of the time to respond when we cried out of hunger, discomfort or a need for attention--we learned to experience ourselves as separate beings from everything and everyone around us. This led us to an understanding of an “Other” who is “not-me.” We also began to interpret the separate entity as withholding, and thus the universe as not generous, friendly, or giving.

Berman makes reference to an essay by Jean Liedloff, “The Continuum Concept,” in which he describes how the Yequana Indians of Brazil keep their babies in a sling carried by... (Click here to read the entire post on

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Tags: Morris Berman, Winnicott, authentic self, children, ego, ego development, false self, identity, individuation, mirroring


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