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Month: December 2014

Individuation and the meaning of stories

From The Portable Jung by Carl Jung, pages 122-123:

Self-alienation in favour of the collective corresponds to a social-ideal; it even passes for social duty and virtue, although it can be misused for egotistical purposes.  Egoists are called “selfish,” but this, naturally, has nothing to do with the concept of “self” as I am using it here.  On the other hand, self-realization seems to stand in opposition to self-alienation.  This misunderstanding is quite general, because we do not sufficiently distinguish between individualism and individuation.  Individualism means deliberately stressing and giving prominence to some supposed peculiarity rather than to collective considerations and obligations.  But individuation means precisely the better and more complete fulfilment of the collective qualities of the human being, since adequate consideration of the peculiarity of the individual is more conducive to a better social performance than when the peculiarity is neglected or suppressed.  The idiosyncrasy of an individual is not to be understood as any strangeness in his unique combination, or gradual differentiation, of functions and faculties which in themselves are universal.  Every human face has a nose, two eyes, etc., but these universal factors are variable, and it is this variability which makes individual peculiarities possible.  Individuation, therefore, can only mean a process of psychological development that fulfils the individual qualities given; in other words, it is a process by which a man becomes the definite, unique being he in fact is.  In so doing he does not become “selfish” in the ordinary sense of the word, but is merely fulfilling the peculiarity of his nature, and this, as we have said, is vastly different from egotism or individualism.

Now in so far as the human individual, as a living unit, is composed of purely universal factors, he is wholly collective and therefore in no sense opposed to collectivity.  Hence the individualistic emphasis on one’s own peculiarity is a contradiction of this basic fact of the living being.  Individuation, on the other hand, aims at a living co-operation of all factors.  But since the universal factors always appear only in individual form, a full consideration of them will also produce an individual effect, and one which cannot be surpassed by anything else, least of all by individualism.

The aim of individuation is nothing less than to divest the self of the false wrappings of the persona on the one hand, and of the suggestive power of primordial images on the other.

From Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor by Joseph Campbell, page 91:

That mythological motif of the atonement with the father, which has come down through the Christian tradition and has been read chiefly in historical terms, is given the sense of an actual experience that anyone of us may have and must have if we are to break past ourselves.  It comes, however, in and through a personal relationship, for only in relationship to another can this experience, with its human costs, occur.

It is in human relationships that the operation takes place—the relationship of me to you, of you to another, of you to your job, of you to Earth—relationship is the field where the individual is in process.  In marriage, for example, when one sacrifices, one is not sacrificing to the other, one sacrifices rather to the relationship.  In the relationship both participate, so you are sacrificing an aspect of yourself in relation to another, and there is no psychological development outside the relationship.  That is what we have in the center.  It is the form of a cross.  Relationship and yielding.  Dark and light together.

Now from a book on screenwriting, My Story Can Beat Up Your Story by Jeffrey Alan Schechter, page 44:

Your hero starts the film as an Orphan.  A crisis arises, throwing your hero’s world out of whack, and he or she leaves or is forced out of Orphan status and begins to wander in order to learn what is needed to answer the central question [of the story].  Around the midpoint of the story, your hero becomes a Warrior and fights with all of his or her might and cunning in order to answer the central question, even to the point of his or her near-death or the near-death of someone close.  And still it isn’t enough.  The central question remains unanswered.  What action is missing for your hero to take?  What more could he or she possibly do?

Sacrifice his or her own life, that’s what!

Your hero must be willing to die and not be reborn in order to answer the central question.  He or she must be willing to be a Martyr, to give up everything for a greater good.  Only by willingness to lose it all can your hero win it all.  Only by giving up what your hero thought he or she wanted can your hero be rewarded with what he or she needs.  Remember in Chapter 3 where we discussed what your hero is wrong about at the start of the story?  It is at this point where your hero must confront and overcome that wrongheadedness.

From another book on screenwriting, Save the Cat! Strikes Back by Blake Snyder, pages 62-63:

And that Dig-Deep-Down point, that “Use the Force, Luke!” beat, is what we’re all looking for whether we are writers of the story or the audience for it.  Yes, this way of looking at the ending of any story also works when the hero or heroes are “Defending the Castle” as seen in the finales of Saving Private Ryan, Shaun of the Dead, and Blazing Saddles—or in “Escaping the Castle” as seen in Alien, Free Willy, and Defiance.  Whether your team is on the offense or defense, the lessons of friendship, teamwork, selflessness, and nobility are the same, and the Dig-Deep-Down moment is key.  No matter what the permutation of your tale, it’s the dynamic we seek, for the need of any story boils down to being touched by powers unseen.

Special effects are fine, great set pieces are wonderful, funny jokes and unique characters are vital.  But if you take me to the divine in your story, I will tell all my friends about it.

That’s what storytelling is really about.

Finally, maybe even a Bible verse, eh?  Jesus speaking, from Matthew 10:39 (New American Bible):

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Go forth and meditate on all this!