This article tries to explore the concept of “Individuation” , taking characters from the movies as examples. This process of transformation is difficult, yet beautiful. A caterpillar needs to transform into a butterfly to spread joy and beauty – would you rather prefer the caterpillar to stay “as is”, because you fear it will fly away if it becomes a butterfly?
The characters of Alia Bhatt in the Bollywood movie “Highway”, and Kangana Ranaut in “Queen” has something strikingly similar. Both movies start with the scene usually any Bollywood movie would end with – the lead lady is all set to marry the love of her life to live happily ever after. The movie then proceeds with incidents that change her life , and herself – in a way she could never go back to the once “love of her life”. Fortunately, for these ladies the transformation happened before they got into their committed relationships. What if it had happened after the wedlock? Or is it possible that she would have never experienced the “transformation” if she pursued the “normal life” and settled down with the “love of her life”? To find the answers, let’s try to explore this “transformation journey”.
This form of transformation is termed as “Individuation”. The individuation process is a term created by the famous psychologist Carl Gustav Jung way back in 1921 to describe the process of becoming aware of oneself, of one’s make-up, and the way to discover one’s true, inner self. It is a search for totality. It is an experience that could be formulated as the discovery of the divine in yourself, or the discovery of the totality of your self. Individuation shouldn’t be confused with “Individuality”. Individuality is all about “me”, but an individuated person feels deeper connected and feels responsible to support and serve others and to foster peace, wholeness and integrity in the world. The process of Individuation isn’t easy. We grow up under the influence of parental and societal conformity, and we strive to become what is expected of us and confirm. Individuation requires one to step out of the mainstream conventional reality, and stand out. It also demands one to be self-aware – come in terms with who you actually are. Hence it does not always happen without pain.
Usually men are more comfortable with the “individuation” process as compared to women. This is primarily because of the physiological difference, as well the difference in social expectations from the sexes. Women in society are often valued for how well they relate with others, where as its more acceptable for men to stand out. Physiologically boys individuate easily because as a child, early on they find themselves different from their primary care taker – their mother and hence they realize they are a different entity. But for little girls its difficult to identify themselves different from their mothers as they are the same gender. Because of the early age physiological difference and different social expectations, girls find it more difficult to individuate than boys.
For this reason, many times individuation happens very late in their lives for women. Many young women would find themselves married and have become mothers, before they realize and embark on their inner journeys. This is what happens to Sridevi in the Bollywood movie “English Vinglish” who starts questioning her identity beyond her social roles of being a good wife and mother. Julia Roberts in “Eat, Pray, Love” in her 40’s does go through the same Individuation process but because it’s a movie from the West she leaves her current relationship and embarks on the quest, unlike her Indian counterpart Sridevi in “English Vinglish” who undergoes the journey within the confines of her conscious obligations to her family. So the quest is universal but how we approach it might depend on our social conditioning.
It might not happen to everyone as the pre requisite to this change is self-awareness. But when this happens, understanding that individuation is a natural process is important. In a relationship being part of your partner’s quest for individuation is critical to the health of the relationship. When a person successfully individuates, they open up to a new level of emotional maturity. It’s a human metamorphosis – like a caterpillar changing to a butterfly! Wouldn’t you want your loved one to be a butterfly rather than stay as a caterpillar forever? Now if we look back at both movies we referred to they come out as better individuals at the end and the reason they do not go back to their “so-called loved ones” was merely because these “loved ones” never were part of their individuation process.
In this perspective, who can then be called soul mates? Elizabeth Gilbert puts it very beautifully – each and every soul who comes in your life to reveal another layer of yourself and gets you closer to your “self” is your soul mate. This could be a friend, a teacher, a parent, a sibling and for the longest part of the journey, a partner.
Thank God for each one of them!